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Don Stewart :: Who Were the High Priest's Annas and Caiaphas?

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Don Stewart

Two High Priests are mentioned during Jesus public ministry - Annas and Caiaphas. The high priest was taken from the Sadducees They figure prominently into the events of His death.

1. Annas

Annas had been high priest from A.D. 6 to 15. The Romans had removed him from office yet he still wielded considerable power behind the scenes. Five of his sons succeeded him as high priest. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas - the high priest who was in office at the time of Jesus ministry.

In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness (Luke 3:2).

Annas is still called "high priest" even though he was not serving in that capacity at the time.

Jesus Was Brought To Annas First

His power was obvious. When Jesus was arrested He was brought to Annas first rather than Caiaphas.

And led him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people (John 18:13,14).

The examination before Annas was unproductive.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said. When he had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, "Is that the way you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike me?" (John 18:19-23).

Annas then sent Jesus away to Caiaphas the current high priest.

So Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:24).

Caiaphas then conducted the next phase of Jesus' trial.

2. Caiaphas

Caiaphas was the ruling High Priest at the time of Jesus ministry (A.D. 18-36). He was the son-in-law of Annas.

Caiaphas Predicted Jesus' Death

Caiaphas predicted the necessity of the death of Jesus.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that he might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill him (John 11:49-53).

He is the one who plotted to kill Jesus.

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they were saying, "Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people" (Matthew 26:3,4).

Caiaphas Charged Jesus With Blasphemy

Caiaphas is the one whom charged Jesus with blasphemy.

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus ^said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!" (Matthew 26:63-66).

Caiaphas Sent Jesus To Pilate

Caiaphas sent Jesus to Pilate to have the death sentence carried out.

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled (John 18:28-32).

The Chief Priests Complained About The Title

Not content with merely having Jesus put to death the religious leaders watched the crucifixion. They complained to Pilate about the title he placed above the cross.

So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews;' but that he said, 'I am King of the Jews.' Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written" (John 19:21).

They Persecuted Jesus' Followers

After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, we find Annas and Caiaphas interrogating Peter and John about a miracle they performed.

Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" (Acts 4:6,7).

The Bones Of Caiaphas Have Been Found

There was an exciting archaeological discovery in November 1990. Workers constructing a water park south of the Old City of Jerusalem accidentally uncovered a burial cave. In the cave were a dozen limestone chests that contained bones. These types of chests, known as ossuaries, were primarily used in the first century A.D. One of the chests had the word "Joseph, son of Caiaphas" carved on it. The bones were that of a man that had died at approximately the age of sixty. Because of the lavish decoration on the burial chest there is a high probability that these were the bones of Caiaphas the high priest - the one who charged Jesus with blasphemy. This would be the first physical remains ever discovered of a person mentioned in the Bible.


Annas and Caiaphas are the two High Priests mentioned during Jesus' ministry. Caiaphas was high priest during the ministry of Jesus. He was son-in-law to Annas who had previously been the High Priest. Caiaphas prophesied that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the nation. When Jesus was arrested He was led to Annas first, then Caiaphas. Caiaphas charged Jesus with blasphemy and sent Him away to Pilate. After Jesus' death and resurrection Caiaphas persecuted Jesus' disciples. It seems the bones of Caiaphas have been found in Jerusalem in November of 1990. If true, this would be the first physical remains ever discovered of a person who is mentioned in Scripture.

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