Caiaphas’ Prophecy


How could Caiaphas have the charism of prophecy (John 11:51) when he was not a valid High Priest because he was not a descendent of Aaron?


What is your source for saying he was not a descendent of Aaron?

Scripture says:
Acts: 4:6 with Annas the high priest and Ca’iaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.

This Scripture verse is noted in the Jewish Encyclopedia in its entry for Caiaphas – and they do not challenge its veracity.


Aaron’s descendents had indeed continued as successive High Priests for many generations, as the scriptures required, until about 175 years before the birth of Christ when Antiochus IV, a Syrian ruler, replaced them with a man of his own choosing who was not a descendent of Aaron. Following this initial break from the Scriptural requirements, several others held the office of High Priest who were not descendents of Aaron over the next 140 years or so. Finally, when Herod came to power under the authority of Rome 37 years before the birth of Christ, he arbitrarily appointed any person he pleased to the position of High Priest. Furthermore, the appointed priests were no longer anointed with the holy oil described in the Laws of Moses.



Furthermore this is from the Jewish Encyclopaedia:

After the Exile, the succession seems to have been, at first, in a direct line from father to son; but later the civil authorities arrogated to themselves the right of appointment. Antiochus IV., Epiphanes, for instance, deposed Onias III. in favor of Jason, who was followed by Menelaus (Josephus, “Ant.” xii. 5, § 1; II Macc. iii. 4, iv. 23).



All of the Israelite/Jewish high priests (in fact, by the Law, all priests, period) were decended from Aaron.

The problem was that, starting in the Maccabean age, the high priests weren’t decended from Zadok. After the High Priest Abiathar was deposed by King Solomon, Zadok became High Priest, fulfilling Samuel’s prophecy to Eli. Abiathar was the last of Eli’s line to serve as High Priest.

As God had promised the kingship to David’s line in perpetuity, it was assumed that, from then on, the high priesthood was then to be given to Zadok’s line in perpetuity. However, by the time of the Maccabean age, the priests who were not in Zadok’s line were plotting against the legitimate High Priest, Onias III.

The priest Jason plotted against Onias III, having Antiochus IV exile Onias (Onias would be killed in exile), and Antiochus named Jason high priest. Alcimus then plotted against Jason, and usurped the high priesthood from the usurper. Alcimus and Jason then both died in battles. As none of these priests had an heir, the high priesthood lay vacant for several years. It was assumed by then that the Greek rulers had the right to name the high priest. Eventually, Jonathan (one of the brothers of Judas Maccabeus) was named high priest. When Jonathan died, his brother Simon became named both high priest and ethnarch.

After this, the high priesthood and rulership was passed down the Hasmonean line, until Hyrcanus II and Astrilobus II ended up fighting a civil war over the high priesthood and “kingship” (one of the brothers was named high priest, and the other “king” - each wanted what the other brother had). The brothers called on the Romans (up until then, a strategic ally of Judea) to settle the dispute. The Romans did - by deposing both, naming Herod as a client king, and naming Annas as High Priest. Caiaphas was the son of Annas. Even so, all of these men were decended from Aaron.

Regardless, though, it was commonly believed that the High Priest, whether decended from the Zadokite line or named by a ruling power, had the gift of prophecy. The gift lay in the office itself, and the high priest was often known for giving prophecies without even knowing that he was prophecying (as was the case in Caiaphas’s prophecy that “It would be better for one man to die than the whole nation” - he thought having Jesus executed would prevent the Jews from revolting against the Romans, and thus being decimated by the Romans; he didn’t know that God wished for Jesus’s death so that God’s people could have a chance to go to Heaven and be saved from eternal death in Hell).

It looks like to me that the tradition lay in the institution of the high priesthood, where the priest was originally given the Urim and Thummim - divination items that were held in the high priest’s breastpiece. However, the practice of using these items seems to have disappeared sometime during Solomon’s reign (their actually use isn’t mentioned in the Bible after King David), and no one knows what they looked like.


Thanks for the rundown of history, it was very informative :thumbsup:

I don’t know about your post I’ve quoted above. It’s like saying President Barak Obama instituted a female pope and this female pope was able to exercise some of the Pope’s gifts by virtue of the office she held. It’s doesn’t sound right to me…


The High Priest was thought to be semi-divine, occupying a place between man and God. Only through the High Priest would God make his wishes known to the common people. And only the High Priest could communicate the wishes of common men to God.

At least, that’s what the High Priesthood wanted the common people to believe!

The Jews kept meticulous track of their High Priests, as did Josephus in his writings.

Josephus said that the lineage went back 4,000 years- and this was 2,000 years ago!

The High Priests were appointed for life until Pompey entered the scene in 62 B.C. and shook things up.

Antipater, Herod the Great’s father, took de facto power first, and then eventually it was given over to Herod the Great in 41 B.C. as the Roman’s battled the Parthians for control of Jewish territory.

Herod the Great appointed High Priests at his discretion. He even murdered one- his own brother-in-law Aristobolus, who was only 17 or so.

But Ananus entered the scene much later in A.D. 6-7. This was well after Herod the Great had died, and he gained the power after the Romans removed Archelaus, Herod the Great’s son who had ruled in Judea for 10 years.

So Ananus owed his power to Rome.

But reputedly Ananus was a good man and treated the high-born and common Jews alike.He and his family largely dominated the High Priesthood up until the Jewish revolt, over half a century.

Ananus was likely from the tribe of Aaron. He had to be, in order to be accepted.

Caiaphas married into the Ananus family and became High Priest maybe around A.D. 26-7.

While the Roman Prefects had power over the Second Temple and the High Priesthood, they pretty much let the High Priesthood run things as Jewish law was so complicated.

So Ananus had great power, and he knew who to bow and scrap before in order to keep it. And you can bet that the Roman Prefect benefited greatly from the lucrative operations of the Second Temple and its festivals. Ananus would have made sure of that!


source Hagan “Year of the Passover”


The author makes the statement, but gives no source reference (at least not that I could find).


I also quoted the Jewish encyclopedia for you post #4, did you read it?


Yes, I did. And it contains the following:
The author of the Book of Daniel regards the period from 536 to 171 B.C. (Joshua to Jason) as inaugurated by the first, and closed by the last, “anointed”; that is, Jason, deposed in 171, was for the writer in Daniel the last of the line of legitimate high priests. I’ve been busy subsequently trying to find out where Daniel speaks about Jason being the “last of the line of legitimate high priests”. I’ve been unable to locate any mention of Joshua, Jason, or even “priest”. Do you happen to know?
Maybe it’s a typo in the online copy and should have been some other OT book. Or perhaps the Jews have some other writing called the Book of Daniel in addition to the one in the Old Testament.

EDIT: Just did a search on “anointed” and that word occurs twice in Daniel. Perhaps these are the verses the encyclopedia statement is based on.Daniel 9:25 Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an **anointed **one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 9:26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed.


As regards the charism of prophecy, it was not limited to descendants of Aaron or even the other Levite priests. .


The Old Testament has several examples of common Jews who were prophets, whom God spoke through.

The Second Temple High Priesthood were experts in Astrology, as were their brethren in Babylon. All their writings on the subject were lost in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the High Priesthood itself outlawed.

The Essenes were diviners as well, and were famous for their accurate predictions.

Not sure what the OP wants answered.


Yes I agree with you both regarding men other than the Levites had prophesied. However we are explicitly told in John 11:51 that Caiaphas prophesied by virtue of the High Priestly office he held. My question is the office Caiaphas held was not legitimate because he was not an Aaronite, therefore how could he prophesy? He certainly was not a man of God, when know this because he rent his garment which was against the law in the book of Leviticus.


This is what I was thinking. I’m sure that most of the prophets were not of the tribe of Levi.

The Midrash and Talmud record that Jonah’s mother was from the tribe of Asher and that his father was from the tribe of Zebulin. Similar Jewish writings record that Elijah was from the tribe of Gad.

God did not choose only descendants of Aaron to be prophets. Being a prophet and being a priest had little to do with each other.



The office was legitimate even tho opinions may have differed as to whether or not Caiaphas was a valid holder of that office. Some OT laws changed (adaptations made) as circumstances changed. This may have been considered a legitimate change/adaptation by the majority of the Jewish leaders. I’m unaware of any OT or NT Scripture passages that challenge or call on the people to ignore all of the high priests after Jason died. The nation does seem to recognize them as holding that office. (Even the list given in the Jewish ency. link you gave.)

I cannot find a Scripture passage that specifically states** only **direct descendants of Aaron may serve as high priest. I’m not disputing that Aaron and his sons were initially appointed, but there were exceptions to that direct lineage far earlier than 171 BC and Menelaus’ obtaining the office. The succession was to be through one of his sons, and was to remain in his own family (Lev. vi. 15; comp. Josephus, “Ant.” xx. 10, § 1). Failing a son, the office devolved upon the brother next of age: such appears to have been the practise in the Maccabean period. In the time of ELI, however (I Sam. ii. 23), the office passed to the collateral branch of Ithamar (see Eleazar). But Solomon is reported to have deposed Abiathar, and to have appointed Zadok, a descendant of Eleazar, inhis stead (I Kings ii. 35; I Chron. xxiv. 2, 3).

He certainly was not a man of God, when know this because he rent his garment which was against the law in the book of Leviticus

It reminds me in some ways of God’s protection of the office of the papacy during times when the Church had “bad” popes.


I should have specified that it was an adaptation of the regulation that the high priesthood should pass from father to son. (Both Eleazar and Ithamar were sons of Aaron. Ex. 28:1)


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit