Tag Archives: Caiaphas

Miriam… Caiaphas Ossuary

The Israel Exploration Journal (Vol. 61) recently published an article by Zissu and Goren which summarizes the importance of and confirms the genuineness of a decorated ossuary bearing an engraved inscription. The Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery acquired the ossuary three years ago from antiquity robbers who had plundered a Jewish tomb from the Second Temple period. Although the provenance of the ossuary is unknown investigations have led the IAA to determine that the ossuary came from a burial cave in the area of the Elah Valley.

The front of the ossuary that was found is decorated with a stylized floral motif above which is a long Aramaic inscription engraved in Jewish script:

מרים ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהן דמעזיה דבית עמרי

‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest[s] of Ma’aziah from Beth ’Imri’
or, an alternative reading
Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua Bar Qayafa, Priest of (the course of) Ma’aziah of the House of ‘Omri

In the conclusion of their study Zissu and Goren write, “the prime importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased – Miriam daughter of Yeshua – of the Caiaphas family, indicating the connection to the family of the Ma’aziah course of priests of Beth ’Imri”. Caiaphas is the name of Yeshua’s father, and Miriam‘s grandfather.

Ma’aziah is the last of the twenty four priestly courses (service shifts) that served in the Temple in Jerusalem (the list of courses was formulated during King David’s reign and appears in I Chronicles 24:18). This is the first reference to the Maʽaziah course in an epigraphic find from the Second Temple period. For the first time we learn from an inscription that the Caiaphas family was related to the Ma’aziah course.

The ending “from Beth ’Imri” can be interpreted two ways:

  1. 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 descendents include members of the Maʽaziah course.
  2. The second possibility is that Beth ’Imri is the place of origin of the deceased or of her entire family. The name of the ancient settlement was probably preserved in the name Beit ’Ummar, a village in the northern Hebron Hills. In that village and in nearby Khirbet Kufin, remains of a Jewish settlement were identified from the Second Temple period and the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. It is possible that the village of Kufin preserves the name of the Caiaphas family.

Since the ossuary in question was not found in a controlled archaeological excavation and because of the importance of its inscription, it was subjected to microscopic examinations using an environmental scanning electron microscope/energy dispersive spectrometer (ESEM/EDS), the purpose of which was to evaluate its authenticity. The patina covering the sides was checked, with emphasis on the patina covering the inscription. The examinations determined that the inscription is genuine and ancient.

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Archaeological Artifacts with Names

Of the myriad names of people that are familiar from the Bible and I’ll expand it to include the New Testament, Josephus and the Talmud, we have very little confirmation from archaeological evidence, inscriptions, papyrus or parchment, that these figures actually existed. I am excluding, for the moment, the names of rulers who appear on coins minted during their reign or names on bullae or seals.

Here are some of the names that have been found on archaeological artifacts:

  • The name Nicanor, from Alexandria who brought 2 large bronze gates to the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem, recounted in the Talmud Yoma 38a, was found on an ossuary in a burial cave on Mt. Scopus.
  • The name of the priestly family of Hezir, mentioned in the Bible (Nehemiah 10:20; 1 Chronicles 24:15), was found in an epitaph in the family mausoleum in the Kidron Valley.

  • The name of the priestly family Qatros, mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, was inscribed on a stone weight, found in the basement of the Burnt House, a private dwelling on the Western Hill in Jerusalem.
  • The name of the priestly family Caiaphas, mentioned in the New Testament, Josephus and the Talmud was found on two ossuaries found in Jerusalem.
  • The name Yehohanah, a granddaughter of the high priest Theophilus nominated high priest in 37CE the year Herod became king mentioned in Josephus was found inscribed on an ossuary.
  • The name “tzaddan malka” and “tzadda malkata,” the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek “Queen Helena”,  spoken of in Josephus and the Tosefta for her giving of charity to the poor of Jerusalem during a period of famine (Peah 4:1) was found inscribed on a sarcophagus from the Tomb of the Kings in Jerusalem.
  • The name Simon bar Kosiba or Bar Kokhba, the leader of the Second Jewish Revolt (132–135CE) against the Roman was found on letters in caves at Wadi Murabba’at and Nahal Hever and 4 lead weights. You can see images of these weights at this site: http://www.archaeological-center.com/en/monographs/
  • The name David was found in the excavations at Dan when a piece of basalt, part of a victory stele describing how the Aramaean King Hazael was victorious over the House of David was found in the wall by the outer outer gate.
  • The name Pontius Pilate was found on a stone inscription, part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar in Caesarea.
  • The name James (brother of Jesus) was found on an ossuary with the Aramaic inscription Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” as recorded in the New Testament and Josephus; the authenticity of the inscription has been contested and is the subject of ongoing scholarly debate.