The high priests Annas and Caiaphas (Acts 4)

From the reign of Herod onward, several high-caste priestly families (“houses”) in Israel competed for the high priesthood. Since high priests were regularly deposed by the political authorities (whether Herod or the Romans), numerous individuals undoubtedly served in the capacity of high priest during the first half of the first century A.D. To make matters even more complicated, it appears that even if an individual did not actually serve as high priest, he might still adopt the title if he belonged to one of the high-priestly families.

Annas (high priest from A.D. 6 to 15; five of his sons held the position after him) and his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas (high priest from A.D. 18 to 36) were of the house of Hanan. The Gospels indicate that while Caiaphas was the official high priest during the time of Jesus, Annas still wielded considerable power. It is noteworthy that Ananus, one of the sons of Annas, was the high priest who engineered the execution of James, Jesus’ brother, in A.D. 62 (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1). According to Josephus, those who were “strict in the observance of the law” (likely the Pharisees) were so disturbed at this action that they protested to King Agrippa and to the procurator Albinus. As a direct result, Ananus was deposed as high priest after only three months in office.

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