Perspective on the Caiaphas Tomb

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At the end of December 1990, one of the most significant New Testament-related archaeological discoveries ever made came to light in Jerusalem. Park construction workers accidentally exposed a Second Temple-period tomb, which archaeologist Zvi Greenhut of the Israel Antiquities Authority was called to excavate. Some of the ossuaries found in the tomb were inscribed with the name "Caiaphas," and it soon became clear that this was a tomb belonging to the Caiaphas family.

At the end of December 1990, one of the most significant New Testament-related archaeological discoveries ever made came to light in Jerusalem. Park construction workers accidentally exposed a Second Temple-period tomb, which archaeologist Zvi Greenhut of the Israel Antiquities Authority was called to excavate. Some of the ossuaries found in the tomb were inscribed with the name “Caiaphas,” and it soon became clear that this was a tomb belonging to the Caiaphas family. Inside a magnificently decorated ossuary inscribed with the name Joseph bar Caiaphas were bones of a 60-year-old male. These are almost certainly the remains of the high priest mentioned in the New Testament and referred to by Josephus as “Joseph surnamed Caiaphas.”

Map of the souteastern part of Jerusalem showing where the Caiaphas tomb was found.

Jerusalem Perspective has been given the unique opportunity to publish the first comprehensive description and discussion of this archaeological discovery. The official publication of the discovery will appear in the forthcoming ‘Atiqot XXI. Because of the find’s significance for New Testament research and the life of Jesus, the Antiquities Authority has generously allowed Jerusalem Perspective to present its readers with a preliminary report of this exciting discovery in advance of its formal publication.

The goal of Jerusalem Perspective is to report on current research relating to the Gospels and the New Testament. Few discoveries could be more relevant to New Testament research than what is presented in the pages of this issue: the tomb of Caiaphas, high priest in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death. If indeed this tomb can be attributed to the Caiaphas mentioned in the New Testament and Josephus’s writings, we have before us the remains of the most important Second Temple-period Jewish personality ever discovered. Because of the new information provided by this exciting discovery concerning Caiaphas, his family and the times in which he lived, we have decided to devote an entire double issue to the Caiaphas tomb.

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*The above article was the introduction to Jerusalem Perspective‘s Caiaphas Family Tomb issue. The chance find of Caiaphas’ tomb was one of the twentieth century’s most important archaeological discoveries. Jerusalem Perspective was honored to be the first to publish photographs of the tomb, its ossuaries and its important inscriptions. The double issue (July-October 1991) included archaeologist Zvi Greenhut’s “Discovery of the Caiaphas Family Tomb,” archaeologist Ronny Reich‘s “Ossuary Inscriptions from the Caiaphas Tomb,” and David Flusser’s “…To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him.”

This article originally appeared in issue 33/34 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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