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She Belonged to the Family of Caiaphas

She Belonged to the Family of Caiaphas

At times, an archaeological discovery directly or indirectly confirms the existence of a Bible character. In 2011, for instance, Israeli scholars published information regarding a find that does so. It is a 2,000-year-old burial ossuary—a decorated limestone chest into which the bones of a deceased person were placed after the flesh had decomposed.

This particular ossuary bears the inscription: “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Ma′aziah from Beth ′Imri.” The Jewish high priest involved in Jesus’ trial and execution was Caiaphas. (John 11:48-50) Historian Flavius Josephus refers to him as “Joseph, who was called Caiaphas.” This ossuary evidently belonged to one of his relatives. Since the inscription on a previously found ossuary thought to belong to the high priest himself calls him Yehosef bar Caiapha, or Joseph, son of Caiaphas, * Miriam was related to Caiaphas in some way.

According to information provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Miriam’s ossuary was seized from thieves who had plundered an ancient tomb. Analysis of this artifact and its inscription confirms its authenticity.

The ossuary also tells us something new. It refers to “Ma′aziah,” which was the last of the 24 priestly divisions, or courses, serving in rotation at Jerusalem’s temple. (1 Chron. 24:18) The inscription on this ossuary reveals that “the Caiaphas family was related to the Ma′aziah course,” says the IAA.

The inscription also mentions Beth ′Imri. There are two possible interpretations of this part of the inscription. “The first possibility is that Beth ′Imri is the name of a priestly family—the sons of ’Immer (Ezra 2:36-37; Nehemiah 7:39-42) whose descendants include members of the Ma′aziah course,” says the IAA. “The second possibility is [that Beth ′Imri is] the place of origin of the deceased or of her entire family.” In any case, Miriam’s ossuary provides evidence that the Bible speaks of real people who belonged to real families.

^ par. 3 Regarding the ossuary of Caiaphas, see the article entitled “The High Priest Who Condemned Jesus,” in The Watchtower of January 15, 2006, pages 10-13.