Crucifixion of the Jews: Book 2

Historian Jules Isaac* on the High Priest “they do not even know his name?”


“The name of the high priest in office is unknown, or incorrectly known, to the Evangelists [i.e. Gospel Writers]. What? The high priest, to whom they assign the leading role and the gravest responsibilities, they do not even know his name? Their uncertainty is especially strange in that the high priest then in office—who according to Josephus was Caiphas—held his position for eighteen years (18–36), a tenure that is quite extraordinary and implies great submissiveness toward the Roman Procurator (who from the year 26 up until 36 was Pontius Pilate: of this name not one of the Evangelists has any doubt: Paul Winter’s On the Trial of Jesus.*A

No name is given to the high priest in the Gospel of Mark, acknowledged to be the oldest of the four. No name is given to the high priest in the account by Luke of the passion. Later, as anti–Jewish prejudice grew in Christian circles, it became necessary to fill an awkward gap, and to name the high priest involved; this, each of the writers did in his own way. Only Matthew, better informed on Jewish affairs than the others, belatedly gave the name of Caiphas. If we examine closely the Gospels according to Luke and John, we find the name inaccurately given as Annas. For the sake of consistency the name of Caiphas was later added to that of Annas in Luke 3:2 and in Acts 4:6. In the Gospel of John, the name Caiphas has been interpolated as being that of the son–in–law of Annas, but it is obvious that in John 18:19–33 Annas is the officiating high priest who interrogates Jesus; everything relating to Caiphas has been rather ineptly added.

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