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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Caiaphas the High Priest
Reinhartz, Adele

Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013 pp. x + 254. $39.00

Series Information
Studies on Personalities of the New Testament


Description: As the Roman-appointed high priest who had a hand in orchestrating Jesus' crucifixion, Caiaphas secured his place in infamy alongside Pontius Pilate. But who was Caiaphas really? Adele Reinhartz offers a thorough reconsideration of Caiaphas in the Gospels and other ancient texts as well as in subsequent visual arts, literature, film, and drama. The portrait that emerges challenges long-held beliefs about this New Testament figure by examining the background of the high priesthood and exploring the relationships among the high priest, the Roman leadership, and the Jewish population. Reinhartz does not seek to exonerate Caiaphas from culpability in the crucifixion, but she does expand our understanding of Caiaphas's complex religious and political roles in biblical literature and his culturally loaded depiction in ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue. Traditionally Caiaphas has been viewed as the dramatic foil to Jesus, representing the corrupting influences of greed and power. This, coupled with the exaggerated Jewish features often attributed to him in depictions from the Middle Ages to modern times, has made Caiaphas frequent fodder for anti-Semitism. By clarifying the role of the high priest in Second Temple Judaism and by explicating the historical evidence on Caiaphis as the longest serving high priest of post-Herodian Judea, Reinhartz offers a more balanced assessment of his motives and role in the death of Jesus. This insightful reevaluation of Caiaphas also allows for a new appreciation of the challenge Jesus posed to the high priest's authority under Roman rule, and thus Reinhartz's work advances our understanding of both Caiaphas and Jesus as biblical and historical figures.

Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Judaism

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Review by Thomas Bergholz
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Published 8/27/2013
Citation: Thomas Bergholz, review of Adele Reinhartz, Caiaphas the High Priest, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2013).


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