Crucifixion of the Jews: Book 2

Historian Schiffman on Caiaphas the High Priest

“The exclusivist nature of the Jewish religion and the organization of Judea as essentially a Temple state around Jerusalem meant that the Romans had to govern with the help of some kind of Jewish leadership. That is why they had tried the Herodian dynasty. This time, they decided to select high priests from families originating outside the land of Israel, to place them in charge of the Temple, and to use them as a bridge to the Jewish population. This scheme, however, meant that the high priests whom the Romans selected had little support among the populace, for their status was dependent only on their wealth and closeness to the Roman authorities.

In Jesus’ time, the high priest appointed by Pontius Pilate was Joseph Caiaphas, whose tomb was recently found in Jerusalem. He had married into a family that, together with related aristocratic Sadducean families, controlled the priesthood generation after generation. Caiaphas lasted in office for about eighteen years (c. 18–36 CE). Most high priests lasted no more than a year, and one lasted one day! How did he manage to hold on to his position for so long? In fact, he was essentially a collaborator. His job was to keep the peace, especially at the festivals, so that the Roman Empire could pursue its policy in the East, untrammeled by trouble from the Jews…

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