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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Caiaphas, or Joseph Caiaphas, was appointed high priest in a.d. 18 by Valerius Gratus, and held office till a.d. 36, when he was removed by Vitellius (Jos. Ant. xviii. ii. 2, iv. 3). He was son-in-law of Annas (cf. article Annas). Like most of the priests at this period, Caiaphas was a Sadducee in religion. By his masterly policy of conciliating his Roman masters he was able to retain his office for an unusually long period. His craft and subtle diplomacy as well as his supreme disregard for justice and religion are revealed in the advice he gave to the assembled Sanhedrin after Jesus had won the people by the raising of Lazarus-‘It is expedient that one die for the people’ (John 11:50). Caiaphas saw clearly that if a popular movement in favour of Jesus were aroused, his power and position under Rome would be at an end, and he sought at once to give effect to his own advice. The trial of Jesus in his presence was a travesty of all legal procedure. Failing to obtain evidence from witnesses, he adjured the prisoner to declare whether or not He was the Messiah; and on Jesus declaring He was, the pious hypocrite rent his clothes, shocked at the blasphemy of the answer. Caiaphas is a type of the wily ecclesiastical opportunist, who places the success of himself and the institution he represents before all claims of truth or justice. Such a character is always ready to persecute, and in the Apostolic Church Caiaphas appears as a bitter persecutor of the apostles (Acts 4:6). He is probably the high priest referred to in Acts 5:17-21; Acts 5:27; Acts 7:1; Acts 9:1 who imprisoned Peter and John, presided at the trial of Stephen, caused the persecution recorded in Acts 8, and gave Saul of Tarsus letters to Damascus to apprehend the Christians there.

Literature.-Josephus, passim; Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] 4 ii. [1907] 256, 271; article ‘Caiaphas’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) (M‘Clymont) and Dict. of Christ and the Gospels (C. A. Scott); E. Nestle, ‘The Name “Caiaphas,” ’ in Expository Times x. [1898-99] 185; W. M. Clow, In the Day of the Cross, 1898, p. 9ff., J. B. Lightfoot, Sermons in St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1891, p. 75; A. Maclaren, Christ in the Heart, 1886, p. 255.

W. F. Boyd.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Caiaphas'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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