Who was High Priest—Annas or Caiaphas?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible speaks of Annas as “high priest.” It also applies the title to Caiaphas. How can there be two high priests?

  • Luke 3:2: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
  • Matthew 26:3,57: “[3] Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,…. [57] And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
  • John 11:49: “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,….”
  • John 18:13-14,24,28: “[13] And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. [14] Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people…. [24] Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest…. [28] Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.”
  • Acts 4:6: “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.”

According to Jewish history, Quirinus, the imperial Governor of Syria (cf. “Cyrenius,” the Greek form of the name, in Luke 2:1-2), appointed Annas to the office of High Priest circa A.D. 6. Annas served for approximately 10 years, before the Roman Procurator Valerius Gratus unseated him and replaced him with his son-in-law (full name Joseph Caiaphas). Caiaphas held the office until about A.D. 36, within a few years after Calvary. While Caiaphas really was the High Priest, his father-in-law Annas evidently still exercised a considerable amount of the power he had formally held. Pagan rulers and corrupt politicians pervaded Israel’s government during this time anyway, so we need not be surprised at the convolution. Annas lived to be quite an old age, supposedly having five sons who became High Priests!

The Lord Jesus Christ stood before both Annas and Caiaphas during His trial. Both men were unbelievers, bitter enemies even of His 12 Apostles in the early Acts period.

Also see:
» Who was “Herod?”
» Who was “Caesar?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”