Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest during Jesus’ earthly ministry. (Lu 3:2) He was the son-in-law of High Priest Annas (Joh 18:13; see ANNAS) and was appointed to office by the predecessor of Pontius Pilate, Valerius Gratus, about the year 18 C.E., although some say as late as the year 26 C.E. He held the office until about the year 36 C.E., longer than any of his immediate predecessors, this being due to his skillful diplomacy and cooperation with Roman rule. He and Pilate were reportedly good friends. Caiaphas was a Sadducee.—Ac 5:17.
A ringleader in the plot to do away with Jesus, Caiaphas prophesied, though not of his own originality, that Jesus would shortly die for the nation, and to that end he gave his wholehearted support. (Joh 11:49-53; 18:12-14) At Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas ripped his garments and said: “He has blasphemed!” (Mt 26:65) When Jesus was before Pilate, Caiaphas was undoubtedly there crying: “Impale him! Impale him!” (Joh 19:6, 11); he was there asking for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus (Mt 27:20, 21; Mr 15:11); he was there shouting: “We have no king but Caesar” (Joh 19:15); he was also there protesting the sign over Jesus’ head: “The King of the Jews” (Joh 19:21).
The death of Jesus did not mark the end of Caiaphas’ role as a chief persecutor of infant Christianity. The apostles were next haled before this religious ruler; they were sternly commanded to stop their preaching, were threatened, and were even flogged, but to no avail. “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup,” Caiaphas notwithstanding. (Ac 4:5-7; 5:17, 18, 21, 27, 28, 40, 42) The blood of righteous Stephen was soon added to Jesus’ bloodstains on the skirts of Caiaphas, who also armed Saul of Tarsus with letters of introduction so the murderous campaign could be extended to Damascus. (Ac 7:1, 54-60; 9:1, 2) However, not long thereafter Vitellius, a Roman official, removed Caiaphas from office.