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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Caiaphas (2)

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CAIAPHAS (Καιάφας; according to Josephus, ‘Joseph Caiaphas’) was appointed high priest of the Jews in or soon after a.d. 18, and held office until he was deposed by Vitellius about a.d. 36 (Josephus Ant. xviii. ii. 2, iv. 3). He is referred to as the high priest in Luke 3:2 (with Annas), Matthew 26:3; Matthew 26:57, and is mentioned along with Annas, John, and Alexander among the heads of the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:6. The length of his rule, compared with the short periods allowed to his immediate predecessors, suggests that he proved a satisfactory and submissive agent of the Roman policy. By two of the Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. John, Caiaphas is specially connected by name with the procedure which led to the condemnation and death of Jesus. When, after the raising of Lazarus, the ‘high priests and Pharisees’ held a meeting of the Sanhedrin (informal, as Caiaphas does not appear to have presided), it was Caiaphas who gave the ironically prophetic advice that it was expedient that one man should die for the people (John 11:50). ‘St. John, contemplating that sentence years after, could not but feel that there was something in those words deeper than met the ear, a truth almost inspired, which he did not hesitate to call prophetic’ (F. W. Robertson, Sermons, i. 134). In saying that ‘being high priest that same year he prophesied,’ the Evangelist does no more than claim for the theocratic head of the nation the function which might be supposed to be latent in his office (cf. the remark of Philo quoted by Westcott: ‘the true priest is a prophet’; see also the remarks of Dale, The Atonement, p. 169 ff.), and had, as a matter of fact, been exercised by some of his predecessors in the office (Numbers 27:21). The threefold repetition by St. John of the statement that Caiaphas was high priest ‘that same year’ (Authorized Version; Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘that year’) has been made the ground of charging the Fourth Evangelist with ignorance of the fact that the high priest might hold office for more than one year. But this criticism rests on a misapprehension of the phrase (τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἐκείνου), which emphasizes not the date, but the character of the year = ‘that fateful year’ (cf. John 20:19, Mark 4:35).

The resolution thus prompted took effect in the arrest of Jesus; but, as son-in-law to Annas, Caiaphas permitted the prisoner to be taken first before him (John 18:13) for a private examination. Whether this took place in the ‘palace’ of Caiaphas, where Annas was living, or elsewhere, is not clear. It is also uncertain whether the Fourth Gospel contains any record of an examination of Jesus by Caiaphas. According to the reading and interpretation of John 18:24 in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885, it does not; but it is held by some (e.g. Meyer and Edersheim, against Westcott) that Authorized Version may be correct, and that the high priest referred to in John 18:15; John 18:19; John 18:22 was Caiaphas. According to the narrative of the Synoptists, it was to Caiaphas the ‘high priest,’ or the ‘house of Caiaphas,’ that Jesus was led, and there, at the (irregular) meeting of the Sanhedrin at daybreak (Matthew 26:59, Mark 14:55, Luke 22:66), Caiaphas presided; and it was he who brought the trial to a conclusion by declaring Jesus guilty of blasphemy, and demanding sentence upon Him.

Caiaphas appears again in Acts 4:6 in company with Annas and others, as initiating the persecution of the Apostles, and in the later proceedings is probably the ‘high priest’ referred to in Acts 5:17; Acts 5:21; Acts 5:27; Acts 7:1; Acts 9:1.

Literature.—On the name, Nestle in Expos. Times, x. [1899] p. 185. On the historical circumstances, Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 182 f., 199; Andrews, Life of our Lord, 137, 505. On the ethical significance of Caiaphas’ attitude to Christ, F. W. Robertson, Sermons, i. 132; J. B. Lightfoot, Sermons in St. Paul’s, 75; A. Maclaren, Christ in the Heart, 255; E. H. Gifford, Voices of the Prophets, 73; W. H. Simcox, Cessation of Prophecy, 278; H. H. Henson, Value of the Bible, 294; Expos. Times, iv. [1892] p. 49.

C. A. Scott.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Caiaphas (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/c/caiaphas--2.html. 1906-1918.

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