Bauckham: The Caiaphas Family

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(Larry Hurtado)  The latest issue of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus (vol. 10, 2012) leads with a large article by Richard Bauckham on evidence from ossuaries and inscriptions about the family of Caiaphas:  “The Caiaphas Family,” pp. 3-31.  The jump-off point in his essay is an inscription on an ossuary announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2008, which reads “Marian daughter of Yeshua bar Qayafa, priest from Ma’aziah from Bet ‘Imri”.  But Bauckham also includes in the scope of his discussion a larger body of references in ancient texts (NT, rabbinic, Josephus) and other artifacts that have been, and must be, considered in drawing a picture of the family connected with the name “Caiaphas”. 

Bauckham contends that “Caiaphas” originated as a nickname given to an ancestral figure in the Jewish priestly clans, which then became a family name of one particular line.  He proposes also that the name (“Qayafa”) comes from a word designating “the jelly or crust that forms on boiled meat,” suggesting an obvious possible derivation of the term from the temple practice of boiling meat from sacrificial offerings.  But he grants that “just what it was about the progenitor of the Caiaphas family that earned him this nickname we shall probably never know” (18).  (With “Hurtado” [Spanish:  “stolen”, from “hurtar”] as my surname, I can identify well with how a nickname can come to be a family name!)

Bauckham’s study is a model in measured but focused analysis of a wide-ranging body of data, from which PhD students (and not a few established scholars as well) can take lessons.  I’ll also be keen to see what my colleague, Helen Bond, makes of his argument, given her own published interest in the Caiaphas priest mentioned in the Gospels:  Helen K. Bond, Caiaphas, Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus? (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

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About larryhurtado

I'm a scholar in New Testament and Christian Origins, currently Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the University of Edinburgh (since 1996), and previously Professor in the Department of Relgiion, University of Manitoba.

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