Caiaphas, the High Priest, is mentioned 9 times in the Gospels and is one of those before whom Jesus appeared before being condemned to death by Pilate (Matthew 26; John 18). A few years ago a “bone box” (ossuary) was found, along with 11 others, in a Second Temple tomb located two miles south of Jerusalem on a hill that today is called “the hill of Evil Counsel” (John 11:49–50). On it the name “Joseph “son” of Caiaphas” was inscribed!
The Joseph “son” of Caiaphas Ossuary. In the Israel Museum. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download. See below for the inscription.
The ossuary has a slightly curved cover that is etched with designs. The front of the soft limestone ossuary is beautifully carved with rosette and leaf designs. Note the red paint is still visible in some places.
The bones of six(!) individuals were found inside of the ossuary: 2 infants, 1 child, 1 teen aged boy, 1 adult woman, and a man—approximately sixty years old.
View of one of the Aramaic inscriptions on the Ossuary [bone box] of “Joseph ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”
On one of the short sides, and on the back, the name Caiaphas had been etched into the stone with a nail—see the image. It is evident that the ossuary was prepared in a workshop, but then when the bones were placed inside the name was inelegantly scratched on to it.
The Aramaic inscription on this side of the ossuary reads “Joseph the ‘son’ of Caiaphas.”
יהוסף בר קפא
Most scholars believe that the Caiaphas mentioned here is the same one that is mentioned six times in the New Testament as well as in Josephus. Ronny Reich argues that the person was named “Joseph” and had a nickname “Caiaphas.” Caiaphas was High Priest from 18 to 36 CE and was the one before whom Jesus was tried and is famously quoted in John 12:50
For an accessible discussion of the name Caiaphas, plus others appearing on ossuaries, see Reich, Ronny. “Caiaphas name Inscribed on Bone Boxes.” Biblical Archaeology Review 18, no. 5 (September/October 1992): 38–44.
Many Christian tour groups to the Holy Land will visit the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. This church is located on the eastern slope of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem—south of the Old City wall, on present day Mount Zion.
View looking west southwest at the church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. Below and to the right of the church note the excavations and the staircase the leads up and down the hill that dates to the Second Temple Period.
According to a sixth or seventh century tradition this is the site of the Palace of Caiaphas before whom Jesus was questioned (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament; Matt 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65; Luke 22:54). According to the Gospel accounts, Peter, in the courtyard denied any association with Jesus after which the “rooster crowed” (= Latin: galli-–cantu; Matt 26:69–76; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:55–65; John 18:25–27).
The church was completed in 1931 and the Assumptionist Fathers serve there. The church is built on three levels, the bottom of which contains a series of rock cut caverns that are said to date to the time of Jesus.
View looking west at the steps that ascend the western hill (Mount Zion) from the central Tyropoeon) Valley.possible that Jesus walked on these steps.
Excavations to the north of the church have revealed a variety of rock cut remains along with a flight of steps that leads up and down the hill—it is said to date to the time of Jesus (= Second Temple Period).
View of one of the underground rock cut chambers located on the lowest level of Saint Peter in Gallicantu.
Supposedly the church is build over/near the house of Caiaphas the High Priest (mentioned 9 times in the New Testament), before whom Jesus was questioned. According to tradition, Jesus was imprisoned here during that time and later Peter and John were imprisoned here as well (Acts 5).
The caves/chambers evidently date to the Second Temple Period.
For 16 images of Saint Peter in Gallicantu Click Here.