What You Should Know About The Caiaphas Ossuary

As a new Christian I was hungry for more information about the Bible and Jesus.  I attended every Bible study and lecture I could attend.  One of the first lectures I attended was that of Dr. Paul Maier.  It was at this lecture that I first heard about the Caiaphas Ossuary.  Hearing about the Ossuary for the first time, I was stunned that I had not heard about it before. Here is what you should know about the Caiaphas Ossuary. 

What Are Ossuaries?

Ossuaries were a form of burial used in Jerusalem in a very narrow time period.  They were used in the second temple period, and only in Jerusalem proper.  The process was to bury the body temporarily in a tomb until the body decayed, and only the bones remained.  The bones were then placed in a stone box and entered with the rest of the family in the family tomb.  Their use ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. 

The Original Tomb Where the Caiaphas Ossuary Was Discovered.

So where did the Caiaphas Ossuary come from?  It’s one of the stranger stories in the field of archaeology.  If you’re looking for an Indiana Jones type story, you’re going to be disappointed.  This was not a carefully researched find.  No one was actively looking for a tomb.  It was found while constructing of all things, a water park.

How Was The Caiaphas Ossuary Discovered?

In November of 1990, workers were clearing the ground to begin construction on a new water park on a slope just south of the old city of Jerusalem. As a dump truck (not your typical tool for an archeological dig!) was clearing the ground, it crashed through the ceiling of a tomb containing 12 ossuaries. Construction was immediately halted, and an archeological team was brought in.  

One of the limestone bone boxes discovered was decorated with intricate carvings, which is unusual.  Most bone boxes found to date are not decorated or inscribed. The fact that this box was decorated denotes that the occupant would have been a person of great importance or high status. 

Why Do We Think This Is THE Caiaphas?

But that was only the beginning of the evidence linking this box to the Caiaphas of the Gospels.  An inscription was also found on the box.  Inscribed in Aramaic “Yehosef bar Qayafa” appears on the outside of the ossuary The inscription translates to “Joseph, son of Caiaphas”.  Among the bones found inside the box were those of a sixty-year-old man. 

Taking into account the relatively short time span these boxes were used, and the ornate carvings on the box itself, there is a very high probability that these are the bones of the Caiaphas mentioned in the Gospels.  The high priest that presided over Jesus trial Caiaphas. This means that with a high probability, we have actually discovered the remains of a person mentioned in the Bible.

What Does This Mean?

So what can we draw from this?  Does this show that the Bible is true?  Not quite. It does show that the Bible was relaying information about actual historical people.  Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate have both been confirmed by archeology and contemporary sources outside the New Testament.  This means the authors were not setting their stories in a fictional world with fictional characters.  They meant their works to be understood as historical.  And if these events actually took place in history, then we have to do something with that information.  We have to determine if the story is true. And if it is true, what implications does that have for our lives?  

The Caiaphas Ossuary is one more piece in the puzzle of Christianity.  As we have said many times, there is no one piece of evidence alone that proves Christianity is true.  This is a cumulative case drawing from many different pieces of evidence.  When added together, these pieces offer up convincing proof that Christianity is true. 

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