When did Judaism stop having high priests?

There mentioned sometimes in the Bible but I wonder at what time is it that the only Jewish clerics were rabbis?.

With the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.

They have, to this day, kept track of the people who are of Aaronic decent (and therefore eligible for the Priesthood).

Something similar happened with the Temple Sacrifice, I believe it is Daniel even speaks of that ceasing during the inter-temple period.

My question is, how did the priesthood and the sacrifice come to be so closely connected with the temple, when both predate the temple?

I assume you’re referring to the high priest as in the first born of Aaron. The Old Testament refers to three offices of the priesthood of Aaron. The high priest is the first born male descendent of Aaron. The priests are the male descesdents of Aaron. The Levites are the descendents of Levi (obviously). Each of the three offices had different responsibilities. The last high priest who was a direct descendent of Aaron held that office around 175 BC. After that several apostate/illegitimate high priests (including Caiaphas) occupied that office - that last one being Phannias. The information I have indicates an end of the apostate high priest line when jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Scholarly additions and/or corrections to my meager post are welcome!

What made them apostate/illegitimate? First I’ve heard of this. Even Christ didn’t call into question their legitimacy.

Not during Christ time. The issue arose after the destruction of the 2nd temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans during the ruling of emperor Titus.
The problem is that in order to reestablish the levites you need to have to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that you are in fact a descendant from Aaron, Moses’s brother.
The Romans surely persecuted the levites with particular zeal as they where viewed as the rulers of the Israely and Jew people and therefore responsible for the revolt that had lasted 4 years and preceded the destruction of the Temple and was it’s direct consequence.
The Romans were not big on patience so they must have made an example of the Levites.
Some people claim today that they are descendants but there are quite a few obstacles and hurdles in order to achieve this.
There have been a few documentaries on the History channel, BBC on the subject.

Should not confuse Rabbi with Levite. Levites is the only tribe that can accede to the High Priest position and the High Priest is the only one that can offer the sacrifices to GOD. Of course in the Hebrew understanding. Rabbis are Teachers and function in the sinagogue.
Jesus is our High Priest of course.

A follow up comment on this issue.

Do you believe that GOD would have allowed the continuation of the Old Law after HE had sent them HIS Only Begotten SON?

ASV: Matthew 24:2. But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Christ was here prophetizing the destruction of the Temple in 74 AD

There cannot be 2 High Priests.

It’s interesing how some protestants are even today seeking to resurrect the High Priest Office and there is talk of restarting the sacrifices of the old Law.

Fools they are!

First off, rabbis are technically not ‘clerics’ even if they might look like and are treated as such. They are ‘ordained’ (which is more like a formal authorization than a conferral of priestly status) lay teachers.

As others mentioned, the high priesthood ended with the destruction of the Temple.

Some questions I’ve had:

I understand the Ark had long since disappeared from the temple way before Christ’s birth. So what was the reason for the temple without the Ark in it?

If the temple were to be rebuilt, what would be placed in it since the ark has long since disappeared?

I understand that animal sacrifice can only occur in the temple. Is this something that could realistically happen if the temple were to be rebuilt? Personally, I can’t see that as a possibility.

I asked a Jewish friend if the Jews have prophecies. He responed that God stopped talking to them two thousand years ago. Of course, this immediately brought to mind that God stopped because he sent His Son and that is the One they’re to be listening to. Seemed obvious to me but…

I might misunderstand your wordage “lay teachers”. I’ve always considered a Rabbi to be someone who went through a special school that teaches the Hebrew bible and possibly also some things about Christianity. It must be extremely difficult to pass this school as they probably need to know everything that’s in the Hebrew bible (I mean that is written there) and the oral teachings on top of it all, and all about Jewish law :eek: which must really be a whole lot. So my respect for these persons is immense just like it is for (our) Priests.

Rabbi’s are teachers. Jesus was a rabbi, but he was by no means a Jewish priest. After the destruction of the temple, the Jewish religion went through a profound change. It went from being a religion of animal sacrifice centered at the Temple in Jerusalem to a religion with no geographical center, no priesthood, and no ritual sacrifice. Adherence to the moral law and doing good replaced sacrifice. The rabbis were the ones who led this transition, but they are not a priestly class. They have no sacred powers or mediatorial role. They are much more comparable to low church Protestant clerics.

They are not fools. They aren’t trying to rebuild the Temple so that they can worship in it. They are helping rebuild it because they believe that Bible prophecy foretells that it will be rebuilt anyway. It will be rebuilt in the end times by the Jews, and later the anti-Christ will desecrate it by placing the image of the Beast inside the Temple. After that, the Jews will refuse to worship the anti-Christ and will be slaughtered, etc. etc. etc.

I was specifically referring to Gazelam’s contention that the priestly line had been illegitimate since 175 B.C.

I know this. I apologize, I thought you were talking about todays Rabbis.

That is an excellent question. Why can they not make sacrifices elsewhere like before the temple? Hopefully someone knows the answer.

one of the reasons could have been that when emperor Julian Proposes to Rebuild Jerusalem, 362-363:

To The Community Of The Jews
This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war with Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem [closed to the Jews since Hadrian, 135 CE], which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein.

The Failure To Rebuild the Temple, 363

  • Though the emperor hated and oppressed the Christians, he manifested benevolence and humanity towards the Jews. He wrote to the Jewish patriarchs and leaders, as well as to the people, requesting them to pray for him, and for the prosperity of the empire. In taking this step he was not actuated, I am convinced, by any respect for their religion; for he was aware that it is, so to speak, the mother of the Christian religion, and he knew that both religions rest upon the authority of the [biblical] patriarchs and the prophets; but he thought to grieve the Christians by favoring the Jews, who are their most inveterate enemies. But perhaps he also calculated upon persuading the Jews to embrace paganism and sacrifices; for they were only acquainted with the mere letter of Scripture, and could not, like the Christians and a few of the wisest among the Hebrews, discern the hidden meaning [the allegorical meaning, through which the Christians could prove the validity of Christianity from the Old Testament].

Events proved that this was his real motive; for he sent for some of the chiefs of the race and exhorted them to return to the observance of the laws of Moses and the customs of their fathers. On their replying that because the Temple in Jerusalem was overturned, it was neither lawful nor ancestral to do this in another place than the metropolis out of which they had been cast, he gave them public money, commanded them to rebuild the Temple, and to practice the cult similar to that of their ancestors, by sacrificing after the ancient way. [Sacrifice was permitted by Jewish law only in Jerusalem.]

  • The Jews entered upon the undertaking, without reflecting that, according to the prediction of the holy prophets, it could not be accomplished.

  • it is said that on the following day when they were about to lay the first foundation, a great earthquake occurred, and by the violent agitation of the earth, stones were thrown up from the depths, by which those of the Jews who were engaged in the work were wounded, as likewise those who were merely looking on.


  • This fact is fearlessly stated, and believed by all; the only discrepancy in the narrative is that some maintain that flame burst from the interior of the Temple, as the workmen were striving to force an entrance, while others say that the fire proceeded - directly from the earth. In whichever way the phenomenon might have occurred, it is equally wonderful.

A more tangible and still more extraordinary miracle ensued; suddenly the sign of the cross appeared spontaneously on the garments of the persons engaged in the undertaking. These crosses looked like stars, and appeared the work of art. Many were hence led to confess that Christ is God, and that the rebuilding of the Temple was not pleasing to Him; others presented themselves in the church, were initiated, and besought Christ, with hymns and supplications, to pardon their transgression.

hope this helps

God Bless

I’m not sure that answers why the Priesthood and the sacrifice require the temple. It only tells us why they haven’t tried rebuilding the temple.

I wouldn’t even put it that way. For one, a rabbi has no special abilities or some such. AFAIK rabbi is not required to perform functions like weddings or circumcisions or whatever, although some secular laws make the presence of a rabbi obligatory for the marriage to be legally valid.

Because all three go hand-in-hand in the ancient world. The temple is the house of the deity; priests are the mediators of the divine and the human; sacrifices were technically a ‘symbolic’ meal shared with the deity.

Priestly Authority

Line of the High Priests of Israel

From the Exodus to the Babylonian Exile
Azariah IV

After the Babylonian Exile

Joshua, son of Jehozadak
Joiakim, son of Joshua, ca. 490-470 BC
Eliashib, son of Joiakim, ca. 470-433 BC
Joiada, son of Eliashib, ca. 433-410 BC {A son married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite for which he was driven out of the Temple by Nehemiah}
Johanan, son of Joiada, ca. 410-371 BC
Jaddua, son of Johanan, ca. 371-320 BC, during the reign of Alexander the Great. Some have identified him as Simeon the Just.

The five descendants of Joshua are mentioned in Nehemiah, chapter 12, 10f. The chronology given above, based on Josephus, however is not undisputed, with some alternatively placing Jaddua during the time of Darius II and some supposing one more Johanan and one more Jaddua in the following time, the latter Jaddua being contemporary of Alexander the Great.

Onias I, son of Jaddua, ca. 320-280 BC
Simon I, son of Onias, ca. 280-260 BC
Eleazar, son of Onias, ca. 260-245 BC
Manasseh, son of Jaddua, ca. 245-240 BC
Onias II, son of Simon, ca. 240-218 BC
Simon II, son of Onias, 218-185 BC
Onias III, son of Simon, 185-175 BC, murdered 170 BC
Jason, son of Simon 175-172 BC
Menelaus 172-162 BC
----Onias IV, son of Onias III, fled to Egypt and built a Jewish Temple at Leontopolis (closed in 66 CE)
Alcimus 162-159 BC


Jonathan Apphus, 153-143 BC
Simeon Tassi, brother of Jonathan Apphus, 142-134 BC
John Hyrcanus I, son of Simeon Tassi 134-104 BC
Aristobulus I, son of John Hyrcanus, 104-103 BC
Alexander Jannaeus, son of John Hyrcanus, 103-76 BC
John Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, 76-66 BC
Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, 66-63 BC
John Hyrcanus II (restored) 63-40 BC
Antigonus, son of Aristobulos II, 40-37 BC
Aristobulus III 36 BC-last of the Hasmoneans; paternal grandson of Aristobulus II and brother of Herod’s wife Mariamne (second wife of Herod).

High Priest under Herodians and Romans

Ananelus 37-36 BC
Aristobulus III 36 BC-last of the Hasmoneans; paternal grandson of Aristobulus II and brother of Herord’s wife Mariamne (second wife of Herod).
Ananelus (restored) 36-30 BC
Joshua ben Fabus 30-23 BC
Simon ben Boethus 23-5 BC (his daughter Mariamne was third wife of Herod the Great)
Matthias ben Theophilus 5-4 BC [6]
Joazar ben Boethus 4 BC (Sadducee)
Eleazar ben Boethus 4-3 BC (Sadducee)
Joshua ben Sie 3 BC - ?
Joazar ben Boethus ? - 6 CE (Sadducee)
Ananus ben Seth 6-15
Ishmael ben Fabus 15-16
Eleazar ben Ananus 16-17
Simon ben Camithus 17-18
Joseph Caiaphas 18-36 Son-in-law of the high priest Ananas or Annas,
Jonathan ben Ananus 36-37
Theophilus ben Ananus 37-41
Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus 41-43 (Sadducee)
Matthias ben Ananus 43
Elioneus ben Simon Cantatheras 43-44 (Sadducee)
Jonathan ben Ananus 44 (restored)
Josephus ben Camydus 44-46
Ananias ben Nebedeus 46-52
Jonathan 52-56
Ishmael ben Fabus 56-62 (restored?)
Joseph Cabi ben Simon 62-63
Ananus ben Ananus 63
Joshua ben Damneus 63
Joshua ben Gamaliel 63-64-his wife Martha belonged to family of Boethus (Sadducee[citation needed])
Mattathias ben Theophilus 65-66

During the First Jewish-Roman War

Phannias ben Samuel 67-70

Because as the OT shows, staunch Yahwists had begun to stress how the Temple in Jerusalem was the only licit place of worship - the place God had chosen. Remember Jeroboam’s sanctuaries at Dan and Bethel? Heck, the Jews back in Palestine did not welcome the temple built by the Jewish community living at Elephantine in Egypt!

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