More on Yosef Bar Caiaphas

The recent discovery of an ossuary containing the bones of Miriam, the daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, has provided new historical information that was unknown before this discovery.  According to the inscription on the ossuary, the family of Caiaphas was a member of the twenty-fourth division of Jewish priests.

Below is an excerpt from an article detailing the discovery of the ossuary and the significance of the finding:

The bone box itself was plundered from a Second Temple-era grave by looters. But when archaeologists finally got their hands on it some 2,000 years later, they guessed its inscription could possibly shed light on one of the major figures surrounding the death of Jesus.

The inscription in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jews at the time, reads, “Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri.” Yeshua was not the Caiaphas of the Gospel, whose name was Yosef (Joseph), but a less famous relative. Nevertheless, the ossuary sheds important light on the famous family.

“Until yesterday, Miriam the daughter of Yeshua was unknown. Now we know that there was such a person. And Caiaphas is a well-known character and we remember his role in the judgment of Jesus and here we have a Yeshua mentioned as the son of Caiaphas,” the archaeologist said.

According to the New Testament (Mark 26:62), a high priest named Yosef Bar Caiaphas interrogated Jesus and then handed him over to the Romans. While a pivotal character in the New Testament, little is known of his origins.

“So Caiaphas is related to this 24th priestly course, which is something new. We never knew what were the origins of this family,” he added.

According to the Bible, the priestly courses were established 3,000 years ago by King David, who divided the priesthood into 24 divisions, each serving two weeks a year conducting services in the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, the priestly courses ceased to exist.

“The facts link this woman’s father Yeshua with the high priest at the time of Christ’s death Yosef Bar Caiaphas,” Zissu said. “Maybe they were brothers? Or maybe not? Maybe there is another link. At this stage we don’t know exactly. But Caiaphas is a rather rare name.”

You can read the article in its entirety here.

The reference to the division of the Jewish priesthood into twenty-four divisions is found in the book of 1 Chronicles 24:7-18.  Yeshua, the son of Caiaphas was a priest of the twenty-fourth division, the division of Maaziah (1 Chronicles 24:18). It is possible that Maaziah may be related to a priestly family that served as a signatory to the covenant of Ezra (Nehemiah 10: 8).

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was from the eighth division, the division of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10). Luke 1:5 says: “In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah.”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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