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The Caiaphas Family

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In June 2011 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced details of an ossuary that they acquired c. 2008 and which bears the inscription: ‘Mariam daughter of Yeshua‘ bar Qayafa, priest from Ma‘aziah from Bet ’Imri’. The ossuary is unprovenanced but was reported to have come from the vicinity of the Elah valley. This is the first time that the name Qayafa (Caiaphas) has been found on an inscription other than those on ossuaries in the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb in North Talpiyot, Jerusalem, thought to be the tomb of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas and members of his family. The new inscription offers an opportunity to correlate its information about the Caiaphas family with that from the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb and with references to the high priest Caiaphas and the Caiaphas family in Josephus and rabbinic literature. This article argues that the epithet ‘bar Qayafa’ attached to Yehosef on the ‘Caiaphas’ ossuary and to Yeshua on the ‘Mariam’ ossuary, is not used as a true patronymic but as a family name, equivalent to Josephus’ use of ‘Caiaphas’ as the quasi-surname of the high priest. Caiaphas is a nickname, probably originally borne by the progenitor of the family and then used as the family name. The most obvious meaning in Aramaic of the name Caiaphas (‘the jelly or crust that forms on boiled meat’) may well be the actual meaning, comparable with some other derogatory nicknames of the period. The ‘Mariam’ inscription informs us that the family belonged to the Ma‘aziah priestly course and to the sub-division (‘fathers’ house’) Bet ’Imri. If the reported place of origin of the ‘Mariam’ ossuary is correct, it helps us to locate the family home, which the Tosefta records as Bet Maqoshesh. It may well be modern Khirbet Qeiyafa (the settlement would later have been named after its powerful local family). The discovery that the family had a burial place near its home in the country, as well as the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb near Jerusalem, may help to explain why the latter is relatively small and overcrowded. These conclusions help to fill out our increasingly accurate picture of the powerful priestly aristocracy of the late Second Temple period.

Affiliations: 1: St Mary's College, University of St Andrews, St. Andrews, UKRidley Hall, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK rjb@st-andrews.ac.uk

10.1163/174551911X618867
/content/journals/10.1163/174551911x618867
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In June 2011 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced details of an ossuary that they acquired c. 2008 and which bears the inscription: ‘Mariam daughter of Yeshua‘ bar Qayafa, priest from Ma‘aziah from Bet ’Imri’. The ossuary is unprovenanced but was reported to have come from the vicinity of the Elah valley. This is the first time that the name Qayafa (Caiaphas) has been found on an inscription other than those on ossuaries in the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb in North Talpiyot, Jerusalem, thought to be the tomb of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas and members of his family. The new inscription offers an opportunity to correlate its information about the Caiaphas family with that from the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb and with references to the high priest Caiaphas and the Caiaphas family in Josephus and rabbinic literature. This article argues that the epithet ‘bar Qayafa’ attached to Yehosef on the ‘Caiaphas’ ossuary and to Yeshua on the ‘Mariam’ ossuary, is not used as a true patronymic but as a family name, equivalent to Josephus’ use of ‘Caiaphas’ as the quasi-surname of the high priest. Caiaphas is a nickname, probably originally borne by the progenitor of the family and then used as the family name. The most obvious meaning in Aramaic of the name Caiaphas (‘the jelly or crust that forms on boiled meat’) may well be the actual meaning, comparable with some other derogatory nicknames of the period. The ‘Mariam’ inscription informs us that the family belonged to the Ma‘aziah priestly course and to the sub-division (‘fathers’ house’) Bet ’Imri. If the reported place of origin of the ‘Mariam’ ossuary is correct, it helps us to locate the family home, which the Tosefta records as Bet Maqoshesh. It may well be modern Khirbet Qeiyafa (the settlement would later have been named after its powerful local family). The discovery that the family had a burial place near its home in the country, as well as the ‘Caiaphas’ tomb near Jerusalem, may help to explain why the latter is relatively small and overcrowded. These conclusions help to fill out our increasingly accurate picture of the powerful priestly aristocracy of the late Second Temple period.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-05

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