As one who continuously examines the reasons why resistance to Yeshua in the Jewish community is as strong as ever we must also be willing to go back to the original players in this 2000 year drama. After the events surrounding the execution of Yeshua occurred, the New Testament, Antiquities of Josephus, and the Talmud were codified. The New Testament was compiled using the recall of events including the Life of Yeshua and the travels of Rabbi Saul/Apostle Paul and the other Apostles. The New Testament writers use the Tenakh/Old Testament to prove their argument that Yeshua is the Messiah. Josephus illustrates Jewish history and the politics that were at play between Israel and Gentile nations. The Talmud codified rabbinical Judaism after it became impossible for the worlds scattered Jews to practice biblical Judaism. The Talmud also included a rabbinical response to the claims made by the New Testament authors and contemporary Church leaders. In addition, nearly 2000 years have passed with large Jewish communities living in a Christian-professing Europe. This history was largely disastrous for the Jewish community. The Jews suffered at the hands of the Orthodox Byzantines, Roman Catholics, Crusaders, the Spanish, German Lutherans, Russians, Poles, and Nazi’s.
Around 2000 years ago, one person more than any other was responsible, and insured that generations of Jews could not accept the claims of Yeshua of Nazareth. That person was Joseph Caiaphas. To be sure, before Caiaphas the High Priest grew to dislike Yeshua, Yeshua already had many enemies in Galilee and in the south at Judea. In Nazareth, where he was raised, Yeshua was thrust out of town for applying Isaiah 61 to himself. Scribes and Pharisees who left Jerusalem to encounter him at a synagogue in Capernaum, considered Yeshua possessed. Another time in Nazareth, the people had no faith in him. After being invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s house with scholars of the Torah, they felt insulted when Yeshua rebuked them publically. Herod Antipas wanted to kill Yeshua. A group of Jews in Jerusalem wanted to stone him for saying he is One with the Father. The Jewish merchants outside the Temple were angry with Yeshua after he disrupted their commerce, and Scribes and Pharisees in the Temple were angered after Yeshua accused them of being hypocrites. For sure, all of this negativity got back to Caiaphas. However, all the accolades about miracles, people being healed, and masses of people following him and hailing him as Yeshua Ben David also reached the seat of Jewish religious power. Therefore, before the trial Caiaphas had to weigh between the negatives and the throngs of Jews that were following him.
Let’s look behind the scenes. How did Joseph Caiaphas earn the honored position of High Priest? In 18 AD Valerius Gratus was sent by Emperor Tiberius to replace Annius Rufus as Governor of Judea. The new governor Gratus appointed Joseph Caiaphas to be High Priest after Simon Camithus was terminated from the office after less than one year. In 26 AD Pontius Pilate, who married Emperor Tiberius’ daughter, was sent to Judea to replace Valerius Gratus as Governor. In 36 AD Pontius Pilate relinquished his governorship to Vitellius Governor of Syria who ordered Pilate back to Rome after Pilate slaughtered Samaritans after an uprising. In the same year, Vitellius fired Joseph Caiaphas as High Priest and replaced him with Jonathan son of Ananus.
What this establishes is that the Jewish High Priest at Jerusalem was appointed by the Roman governor and could be relieved by the Roman governor. The Roman governor also had to know something about the person he would appoint to the High Priest position. Is it conceivable that the person appointed as the High Priest did not know or did not have conversations with the Roman governor? No! The appointed High Priest was in charge of Jewish religious matters. They were not to stir the people towards a rebellion and were not to interfere with the collection of taxes for the Roman state. The average Jewish person in Judea, the Galilee or Samaria knew that this position was a Roman appointment. Tax collectors for the Roman state in Judea, the Galilee and Samaria were also Jews. Wouldn’t these Jews have to be motivated to be trustworthy by the Roman governor? One would think that if they stole tax money, the Jews paying the tax and the Romans would come after them. According to the New Covenant, these Jews were despised by the Jewish people for collecting Jewish money and providing it to their Roman conquerors. As for the High Priest, would this person feel at all obligated towards the Roman Governor who appointed him? In reality, was remaining under the heavy hand of Rome best for the Jewish people? In order for the High Priest to maintain that position, a person needed to act according to the wishes of the Roman governor or be removed from the position. With this backdrop, Joseph Caiaphas would encounter Yeshua.
From the Gospels what do we know about Caiaphas?
John 11: 38-54 Yeshua brought Lazarus back from the dead. When word reached Caiaphas he told the Sanhedrin that one had to die for the nation. The Sanhedrin feared that Rome would crush them given the notoriety of Yeshua. Therefore they plotted to arrest and have Yeshua killed. Some Pharisees witnessed this miracle. They convened with Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Maintaining their position was more important than violating the commandant “Thou shalt not kill”. The High Priest of Israel appointed by Rome, Caiaphas, was planning and plotting the demise of another Jew who was performing miracles. To this point does any of this make Caiaphas righteous? John 12: 9-11 states the Chief Priests also wanted to kill Lazarus. He had risen from the dead and the High Priest wanted him dead. Why? Because the Jews were leaving the authority of the Chief Priest for Yeshua. The Chief Priest of Israel was plotting to murder two Jews (John 12:41-43). Even some Jewish authorities began to believe in him but remained silent lest the Pharisees expel them from the synagogue.
Did the Chief Priest conspire to Kill Yeshua? Yeshua was beaten by Temple guards while waiting for the High Priests. He was struck by a guard while speaking to Annas and was beaten by the Sanhedrin mob after Yeshua told Caiaphas that he was the messiah. Caiaphas demanded Yeshua’s death before Pilate and helped frenzy the crowd to yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” After Yeshua was scourged and crucified, Annas and Caiaphas, the chief Priests, mocked Yeshua. Yeshua was shredded and impaled on the tree yet they still felt the need to make him feel worse. They hated Yeshua. While being nailed to the cross Yeshua forgave them and his Roman executioners.
I have shown here that Caiaphas was an unjust person. He was the High Priest. Therefore, for many Jews he could not have been wrong. His opposition continued against the Apostles as one can read from the Book of Acts. Was Caiaphas righteous before the Torah: (1) when he plotted the death of Yeshua; (2) when he plotted the death of Lazarus; (3) when he threatened to expel some Jews from the synagogue for believing in Yeshua; (4) when he allowed Temple guards to beat Yeshua; (5) when he demanded Yeshua’s crucifixion at the hands of the Romans; (6) when he demanded the release of a Jewish murderer Barabbas instead of Yeshua; (7) when he mocked Yeshua while Yeshua was dying on the cross; (8) when he bribed Jewish Temple guards and told them to lie and state that the Apostles stole Yeshua’s body from the tomb; (9) when he threatened Peter and John and forbade them to speak of Yeshua to other Jews; (10) when he had the Apostles arrested for preaching; When he wanted to put the Apostles to death for preaching about Yeshua; When he had the Apostles flogged; (11) when he permitted the stoning of Stephen because Stephen upset the Sanhedrin by accusing them of being betrayers and murderers. Stephen accused them of being murderers so they murdered him.
Dear Israel, where did the High Priest observe the Torah in how he dealt with Yeshua and these messianic Jews? A non-righteous Jewish High Priest rejected Yeshua so the Jewish nation also does not recognize him. In these events, who behaved more godly, Yeshua and the Apostles or Caiaphas?
As Christians, we know that Yeshua came to die for us. He also came to die for his own people. Sadly, 2000 years later most of Israel wants nothing to do with Yeshua. They are told that if they accept the Jew Yeshua as the Messiah, they would not be considered Jewish any longer. If they accept Yeshua, they become traitors to their people. The grace offered for the remission of sin from the blood of the crucified messiah—this atoning sacrifice for sin once and for all—is rejected in favor of Rabbinical Talmudic Judaism. Yeshua claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Caiaphas made sure Yeshua died largely due to these remarks. According to the Torah, who got it right?
Kindly permit me to leave you with this thought. Had Caiaphas accepted Yeshua and persuaded the Sanhedrin to accept him, what would have been the Jewish perspective in the generations after the advent of the common era? Would Jews have been told to reject Yeshua if Caiaphas accepted him? Given the track record of Caiaphas as portrayed in history, was he qualified to know who was the true messiah of Israel? Was Caiaphas really trying to determine if Yeshua was the messiah or was the trial a sham just to place Yeshua in front of the Romans for termination? Caiaphas feared Yeshua, otherwise he would not have hated him so much, even to his death on a cross. The official Jewish version is that Yeshua was guilty of blasphemy. Where does the law prescribe crucifixion as the penalty for blasphemy? Was Yeshua the Jewish Messiah? Read Isaiah 53 and decide. Shalom. Joe