Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest during Jesus’ ministry. (Luke 3:2) He was the son-in-law of high priest Annas (John 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. He held the office until the year 36 or 37, 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.—Acts 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 whole-hearted support. (John 11:49-53; 18:12-14) At Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas ripped his garments and said: “He has blasphemed!” (Matt. 26:65) When Jesus was before Pilate Caiaphas was undoubtedly there crying: “Impale him! Impale him!” (John 19:6, 11); he was there asking for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus (Matt. 27:20, 21; Mark 15:11); he was there shouting: “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15); he was also there protesting the sign over Jesus’ head: “The King of the Jews.”—John 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, and they were sternly commanded to stop their preaching, were threatened and even flogged, but to no avail. “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup,” Caiaphas notwithstanding. (Acts 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 (Acts 7:1, 54-60; 9:1, 2) However, not long thereafter Vitellius, a Roman official, removed Caiaphas from office, whereupon this humiliated man, unable to bear the reproach, reportedly committed suicide.