Caiaphas the High Priest

caiaphasAs the Roman-appointed high priest who had a hand in orchestrating Jesus’ crucifixion, Caiaphas secured his place in infamy alongside Pontius Pilate. But who was Caiaphas really?

Adele Reinhartz offers a thorough reconsideration of Caiaphas in the Gospels and other ancient texts as well as in subsequent visual arts, literature, film, and drama. The portrait that emerges challenges long-held beliefs about this New Testament figure by examining the background of the high priesthood and exploring the relationships among the high priest, the Roman leadership, and the Jewish population. Reinhartz does not seek to exonerate Caiaphas from culpability in the crucifixion, but she does expand our understanding of Caiaphas’s complex religious and political roles in biblical literature and his culturally loaded depiction in ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue.

The always generous folk at Fortress have sent along a copy for review.  My review is up here.

Rollston on the ‘Miriam Ossuary’

In an essay which just appeared in IEJ. Here’s the abstract-

In this article, the author suggests that the ‘Mariam Ossuary inscription’ should be read ‘Mariam daughter of Yeshuaª son of Caiaphas, priest of Maªaziah from Beth ºImri’, that this inscription is Aramaic and not Hebrew, and that the preposition min occurs twice and not once. The author also notes that ‘Mariam’, rather than ‘Miriam’, is the ancient vocalization and suggests that although we cannot know with certainty if the Caiaphas of this ossuary is the high priest himself, it is surely a member of the same family.

It’s vintage Rollston.  I commend it to your attention.

The Telegraph and the Guardian on the Question of ‘The Jesus Nails’

The Telegraph reports Simcha’s suggestion that the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion have been found.  Dan Bahat responds

“Nails can be for example of a wooden sarcophagus in which the deceased was laid until his body decayed and decomposed and then put into an ossuary. So the possibility of finding nails […] is not something which should have too much meaning.”

More than that, the suggestion is nothing more than supposition piled on top of fantasy.  There’s just NO WAY that a couple of nails found in the back drawers of the IAA can be connected with Caiaphas’ ossuary and EVEN if they could be- there’s NO WAY to connect those nails to the crucifixion of Jesus.  It’s all just nonsense.

And why’s it being mentioned again unless there’s a TV special coming out or a book about to be published?  This nonsense was debunked by everyone 8 moths ago.

It’s nothing more than the misuse of archaeology for the sake of personal profit.  There’s no way to spin it otherwise.

The Guardian (back in April) did a better job than the Telegraph in showing this absurdity absurd, cleverly linking these nails with such rubbish as the Turin Shroud and the Jesus Towel.

Canadian-Israeli director Simcha Jacobovici’s The Nails of the Cross is the veteran investigator’s second film claiming to have discovered artefacts linked to Christ. He also directed 2007’s The Lost Tomb of Jesus. But experts have poured scorn on the latest findings, suggesting that the film is little more than a publicity stunt. However, this time around, Jacobovici says he has historical and archaeological context for his claims.

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he told Reuters. “Do I know 100% yes, these are them? I don’t.”

The Nails of the Cross suggests the artefacts were found in the grave of Jewish high priest Caiaphas, who according to the New Testament sent Jesus to his death after handing him over to the Romans. They disappeared centuries ago but were later tracked by Jacobovici to the Tel Aviv laboratory of an anthropologist who is an expert on ancient bones.


The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the excavation of the tomb – it has since been resealed – cast doubt upon suggestions that the grave was definitively the burial place of Caiaphas, and said nails are commonly found in such locations.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre,” said a spokesman. “But the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research.”

The last sentence says it all.  So if you want to buy Simcha’s theory go ahead.  Just know, it’s a cotton candy spun whole cloth out of a non-naked non archaeologist’s imagination.  It is the equivalent of von Daniken’s ‘Chariots of the gods’ as legitimate interpretation of the evidence.

Shut Up, Shut Up, Just SHUT UP!

It really is beyond tiresome that news organizations continue to talk about the ‘Miriam Ossuary’ as a ‘clue to the crucifixion of Jesus’.  It DOESN’T.  And those researching it have NEVER said that it does.  EVER.    So, news outlets, please, please for the sake of my sanity, SHUT UP about biblically related things.  It would be preferable for you never to report them than to report them wrongly (as you do 99% of the time).

More on the ‘Miriam Ossuary’, Or at Least Catching Up

An interesting piece which commences

In Jerusalem and Judah, ancient limestone burial boxes containing skeletal remains — called ossuaries — are fairly common archaeological finds from the 1st century BCE to the 1st century AD period. Forgers have also added inscriptions or decorations to fraudulently increase their value. So three years ago, when the Israel Antiquities Authority confiscated an ossuary with a rare inscription from antiquities looters, they turned to Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology to authenticate the fascinating discovery.   Prof. Goren, who worked in collaboration with Prof. Boaz Zissu from Bar Ilan University, now confirms that both the ossuary and its inscription are authentic. The ossuary’s inscription, which is unusually detailed, could reveal the home of the family of the biblical figure and high priest Caiaphas prior to their exodus to Galilee after 70 AD. Caiaphas is infamous for his involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus.  Prof. Goren’s finding has been reported in the Israel Exploration Journal.

I’m not sure why this is just now being mentioned by the Eureka Alert people.  The IEJ essay came out in July as I noted then.  But at least the Eureka people aren’t peddling lead.

[Joel’s not sure if the story is new.  I think he’s intentionally trying to hurt my feelings].

More from Rollston on the ‘Miriam Ossuary’

Chris looks a little further into the inscription in a new post, which you ought to read.

The editio princeps of the new Mariam Ossuary (on the spelling “Mariam,” rather than “Miriam,” see previous post) is really quite masterful, a model publication in numerous ways (see Zissu and Goren, 2011). This note of mine is simply intended to be a modest refinement (correction) of word division in the editio princeps (and also, thereby, the resolution of a grammatical difficulty implicit in the editio princeps, as well as the resolution of the actual language of this inscription). Here is the relevant segment of this inscription: “khnmm’zyhmbyt’mry.” The authors of the editio princeps divide the inscription this way: khnm m’zyh mbyt ‘mry and render it: “priests of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri.”

However, I am confident that this inscription must be divided in the following way: khn mm’zyh mbyt ‘mry.

I love ‘howevers’. Enjoy it.

Joe Zias on ‘Nails in Jewish Tombs’

In which he demonstrates that recent claims to have found the ‘souvenir nails of Jesus’ crucifixion on the ossuary of Caiphas’ are bogus.

Following the Jesus Nails film by Jacobovici in which he attempted show that two nails found in the tomb of the Caiaphas family were those used in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, after the remorseful High Priest, according to Tabor and Jacobovici, became a messianic Jew, L.Y. Rahmani phoned me to discuss the totally absurd premise of the film. Rahmani, as many of you know, a man of integrity,  intellectually brilliant, now 92 years of age, had written the standard reference for Jewish ossuaries, a work that will remain a classic for generations to come.  We arranged a meeting at his apartment and in but a few minutes he was able to explain clearly and concisely the most probable reason for the finding of nails in Jewish tombs. Had Jacobovici and Tabor, who quoted freely from the catalog of Jewish ossuaries, read the short (61 pages) introductory remarks of the catalogue, they would have been able to see that A, the finding of nails in Jewish tombs is not all that rare; B, the most obviously reason why; and C, while the nails in question, from an unknown context, were most likely to have come from a Jewish funerary context.

Read the rest.

Bob Cargill’s Take on the ‘Miriam Ossuary’

Nicely done, per usual.

"Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas" Inscription Announced This morning, archaeologists from Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University announced the discovery of an ossuary (burial bone box) in Israel, which was recovered from thieves who had robbed a tomb. The ossuary is unprovenanced – that is, because it was not discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, its origin and context are unknown. However, further investigation (which I understand to be interrogation of the thieves) has led resea … Read More

via XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill

The ‘Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiphas’ Ossuary

This is the first I’ve heard about this ‘discovery’-

Israeli scholars say they have confirmed the authenticity of a 2,000-year-old burial box bearing the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas of the New Testament. The ossuary bears an inscription with the name “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri.” An ossuary is a stone chest used to store bones. Caiaphas was a temple priest and an adversary of Jesus who played a key role in his crucifixion. The Israel Antiquities Authority says the ossuary was seized from tomb robbers three years ago and has since been undergoing analysis. Forgery is common in the world of biblical artifacts. The IAA says in Wednesday’s statement that microscopic tests have confirmed the inscription is “genuine and ancient.”

Here’s the photo, which you’ll want to click to enlarge- it’s quite a big file, courtesy Bar Ilan University- Dr. Boaz Zissu (who also has now been interviewed and the video is available-  as Joseph Lauer reports- The Jerusalem Post added a 2:40-minute video interview with Dr. Boaz Zissu to its article (published June 29, 2011) “2,000-year-old ossuary authentic, say researchers”.   The article, which was at, is now at ) :

Here’s the transcription by Antonio Lombatti


מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן דמעזיה דבית עמרי

Maria, figlia di Gesù figlio di Caifa sacerdote di Maaziah di Bet ‘Imri

UPDATE:  Joseph Lauer sends along the IAA press release- which you can read below – and he also sent along the photos here:

I’ve also asked Yuval Goren for any information he might have.

An English Version of the IAA Press Release Concerning Silly Simcha’s ‘Jesus Nails’ Mockumentary

Via Joseph Lauer

Essentially (and forgive me for any errors in my rough translation) the release states that

Dr. Zvi Greenhut of the IAA revealed that the nails from the anthropology laboratory of Tel Aviv University’s medical school are not the nails missing from the Caiaphas cave. The two nails displayed in the video of director Simcha Jacobovici had until the late 70s been in the laboratory of Prof. Nico Haas at the medical school in Jerusalem and their original site is unknown.

Dr. Greenhut rejected Jacobovici’s claims made at the April 13 press conference that he found the nails that had been used in Jesus’ crucifixion in an ossuary in a burial cave in Jerusalem. Dr. Greenhut explained that following the severe injuries suffered by Prof. Haas in a traffic accident in 1975, Mr. Joe Zias, the then-curator of the national treasures and IAA’s head of physical anthropology, was requested to transfer them at the end of the 70s from Dr. Haas’s laboratory to the State treasures under the responsibility of the Department of Antiquities and Museums in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.

These nails were under the supervision, responsibility and custody of this collection for 15 years, until they were transferred at the beginning of the 90s, in accordance with the orders of the then-director of the IAA, to the anthropology department of Tel Aviv University, where they were till now.

The fact that the nails in the video are without any registration or identification sign, in contrast to the initial report describing the excavation of the site, reinforces the fact that the nails were not from an organized excavation. Therefore, the argument presented in the video, that the source of the nails found in the Tel Aviv University anthropology laboratory was the Caiaphas cave discovered in the Peace Forest in 1990 has no support or factual basis, and the data show exactly when and from where they came to the laboratory.

The release ends by noting that for details one may contact the Acting IAA Spokesperson Itzhak Rabihiya at 054-7999209. As usual, Hebrew readers should read the original!

So, again, the rubbish notions of Jacobovici and his supporters are proven without merit. How long will this guy be given a platform from which to spew his misinformation?