The Ossuary
of Joseph Caiaphas

Photo by Mark Christianson ©1994
used by permission
Language Aramaic
Medium limestone
Approximate Size 37 centimeters high
75 centimeters long
Length 1 line of writing
Genre Ossuary Inscription
Date 1st century CE
Place of Discovery The Peace Forest, Jerusalem
Date of Discovery December 1990
Excavator Zvi Greenhut
Israel Antiquities Authority
Current Location Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Inventory Number IAA 91-468
Reburial of bones Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Yehosef bar Qayafa'

Yehosef bar Qafa'
Joseph, son of Caiaphas
*The name is actually scratched twice in these two different spellings.


1. How would one go about authenticating such an ossuary and inscription?

2. What reasons did the ancient Judeans have for "secondary burial" in ossuaries (bone boxes)?

3. In which of the four New Testament Gospels is Caiaphas mentioned? How is he depicted in each? What would account for the differences?

4. What is the importance of such an archaeological find for the history of first-century Judea? For New Testament interpretation?

Avni, Gideon, and Zvi Greenhut, editors. The Akeldama Tombs: Three Burial Caves in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem. Volume 1. IAA Report no. 1. Jerusalem: Ahva Press, 1996.

Chilton, Bruce. "Caiaphas." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by D. N. Freedman, 1:803-6. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Crossan, John Dominic, and Jonathan L. Reed. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

Greenhut, Zvi. "Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family." Biblical Archaeology Review 18.5 (Sept/Oct 1992) 29-36, 76.

Greenhut, Zvi. "The 'Caiaphas' Tomb in the North of Jerusalem." 'Atiqot 21 (1992) 63-71.

Greenhut, Zvi. "Discovery of the Caiaphas Family Tomb." Jerusalem Perspective 4.5-6 (July/Oct 1991) 6-12.

Hanson, K. C., and Douglas E. Oakman. Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.

Reed, Jonathan L. Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Reassessment of the Evidence. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 2000.

Reich, Ronny. "Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes." Biblical Archaeology Review 18.5 (1992) 40-44, 76.

Reich, Ronny. "Ossuary Inscriptions from the Caiaphas Tomb." Jerusalem Perspective 4.5-6 (July/October 1991) 13-21.

Rousseau, John J., and Rami Arav. Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

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Last Modified: 19 July 2010