Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The High Priest who compared Jesus to the Scapegoat.

Who was Caiaphas?

First, let me introduce you to the central player in this drama – a man named Caiaphas.

According to Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 3), Caiaphas was appointed High-Priest of the Jews by the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, the predecessor of Pontius Pilate, about A.D. 18 (Ant., XVIII, ii, 2), and removed from that office by the procurator Vitellius, shortly after he took charge of affairs in Palestine, A.D. 36 (Ant., XVIII, iv, 3) So he was High Priest for about 18 years.

Born of the tribe of Levi, he’d married the daughter of the High Priest, Annas. But because the Romans had become disenchanted with Annas, Rome offered the office to the highest bidder every year. The winner this year was Caiaphas (John 11:51). And although he was the official High Priest, Annas continued to be the power behind the throne.

He belonged the party of the Sadducees, and the Sadducees were a very secular group.

A little detail about the Sadducees.

During the time of Christ and the New Testament era, the Sadducees were aristocrats. They tended to be wealthy and held powerful positions, including that of chief priests and high priest, and they held the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They worked hard to keep the peace by cooperating with the decisions of Rome, and they seemed to be more concerned with politics than religion. Because they were accommodating to Rome and were the wealthy upper class, they did not relate well to the common man, nor did the common man hold them in high opinion. The common man related better to those who belonged to the party of the Pharisees. Though the Sadducees held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin, history indicates that much of the time they had to go along with the ideas of the Pharisaic minority, because the Pharisees were popular with the masses.

Religiously, the Sadducees were conservative in one main area of doctrine. The Pharisees gave oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God, while the Sadducees considered only the written Word to be from God. The Sadducees preserved the authority of the written Word of God, especially the books of Moses . While they could be commended for this, they definitely were not perfect in their doctrinal views. The following is a brief list of beliefs they held that contradict Scripture:

1. They were extremely self-sufficient to the point of denying God's involvement in everyday life.

2. They denied any resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8).

3. They denied any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, and therefore denying any penalty or reward after the earthly life.

4. They denied the existence of a spiritual world, i.e., angels and demons (Acts 23:8).

Because the Sadducees were more concerned with politics than religion, they were unconcerned about Jesus until they became afraid He might draw unwanted Roman attention. It was at this point that the Sadducees and Pharisees united and conspired to put Christ to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53; 15:1). Other mentions of the Sadducees are found in Acts 4:1 and Acts 5:17, and the Sadducees are implicated in the death of James by the historian Josephus (Acts 12:1-2).

The Sadducees ceased to exist after A.D. 70. Since this party existed because of their political and priestly ties, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, the Sadducees ceased to exist.

So, we can see that Caiaphas was somewhat religious but he was not spiritual.

We shall go into some detail regarding Caiaphas.

On several occasions Caiaphas is referred to as a “high priest” (Mt. 26:3,57; Jn. 11:49; 18:13). On the other hand, Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas (Jn. 18:13), is also called a “high priest” (Acts 4:6). Curiously, Luke states that John the Baptizer was preaching in the wilderness “in the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Lk. 3:2). He held this office during the whole of Pilate's administration. Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin had no power to inflict the punishment of death, and therefore Jesus was sent to Pilate, the Roman governor, that he might duly pronounce the sentence against him (Matt. 27:2; John 18:28). This was to fulfill prophecy indicating the type of death he would undergo - John 18: 29-30. At a later period his hostility to the gospel is still manifest (Acts 4:6).

Annas had been high priest (A.D. 7-15) until he was removed by the Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus. It is likely that the Jewish people still regarded him as the legitimate holder of the office, which according to the Law of Moses was for life. Thus, even though he was out of office, Annas played a major role in the religious affairs of Israel and in Jesus' trial.

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