Journal of Religious Education

, Volume 65, Issue 1–3, pp 69–80 | Cite as

Two perspectives on the high priest Joseph Caiaphas: challenges for religious educators presenting Jesus’ Passion

  • Maurice Ryan


Along with Pontius Pilate, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas takes centre stage when the most dramatic events of the Christian story unfold—the arrest, interrogations and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite his central role in the unfolding drama, the gospel authors present Caiaphas as a shadowy figure and offer little context which might assist readers to judge his character, motivations and intentions. As a result, most Christians remain unaware and uninformed about Joseph Caiaphas. Christian tradition has presented Caiaphas as vengeful, jealous, self-serving and misguided. These characteristics of the key Jewish leader have profound implications for the way modern Christians understand Jesus within his Jewish culture. Contemporary understanding of the relationship between Jesus and Caiaphas also has implications for the course of relationships between modern Jews and Christians. This paper outlines the gospel and historical evidence for Joseph Caiaphas and suggests ways that religious educators might proceed when presenting the story of Jesus’ Passion.


Caiaphas High Priest Jesus Passion 


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© Australian Catholic University 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HamiltonAustralia

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