Caiaphas: High Priest of Israel


Caiaphas was the leader of the religious group called the Sadducees. Educated and wealthy, they were politically influential in the nation.  As the elite group, they were on fairly good terms with Rome. They hated Jesus because he endangered their secure lifestyles and taught a message they could not accept. A kingdom in which leaders served had no appeal to them.

Caiaphas’s usual policy was to remove any threats to his power by whatever means necessary. For Caiaphas, whether Jesus should die was not the question; the only point to be settled was when his death should take place. Not only did Jesus have to be captured and tried; the Jewish council also needed Roman approval before they could carry out the death sentence. Caiaphas’s plans were unexpectedly helped by Judas’s offer to betray Christ.

Caiaphas did not realize that his schemes were actually part of a wonderful plan God was carrying out. Caiaphas’s willingness to sacrifice another man to preserve his own security was clearly self-sacrifice. Caiaphas thought he had won the battle as Jesus hung on the cross, but he did not count on the resurrection.

Caiaphas’s mind was closed. He couldn’t accept the resurrection even when the evidence was overwhelming, and he attempted to silence those whose lives had been forever changed by the risen Christ (Matthew 28:12-13). Caiaphas represents those people who will not believe because they think it will cost them too much to accept Jesus as Lord. They choose the fleeting power, prestige, and pleasures of this life instead of the eternal life God offers those who receive his Son. What is your choice?

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Strength and Accomplishment

  • High priest for 18 years

Weakness and Mistakes

  • One of the most directly responsible for Jesus’ death
  • Used his office as a means to power and personal security
  • Planned Jesus’ capture, carried out his illegal trial, pressured Pilate to approve the crucifixion, attempted to prevent the resurrection, and later tried to cover up the fact of the resurrection
  • Kept up religious appearances while compromising with Rome
  • Involved in the later persecution of Christians

Lessons From His Way of Life

  • God uses even the twisted motives and actions of his enemies to bring about his will
  • When we cover selfish motives with spiritual objectives and words. God still sees our intentions

Vital Statistics

  • Where: Jerusalem
  • Occupation: High Priest
  • Relative: Father-in-law: Annas
  • Contemporaries: Jesus, Pilate, Herod Antipas

Key Verse for Caiaphas

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish’ “ (John 11:49-50)

Further Study for Caiaphas

Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus? by Helen K. Bond. Bond delves into the historical context and presents a balanced view of Caiaphas, exploring his role in the events surrounding Jesus’ trial.

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Jesus and the Last Supper by Brant Pitre. While not solely focused on Caiaphas, this book examines the historical and cultural context of the Last Supper, shedding light on the events leading up to Jesus’ trial, in which Caiaphas played a significant role.

The Trial of Jesus: From a Lawyer’s Standpoint by Walter M. Chandler. This classic work examines the trial of Jesus from a legal perspective, discussing the roles of Caiaphas and others in the context of Jewish and Roman law.

Click here to print or download the scripture character study “Caiaphas: High Priest of Israel

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