New Testament High Priests

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Who were Israel's High Priests during the time of the New Testament? This office, established by God, was meant to be a lifelong position filled by those in the bloodline of Aaron (Exodus 29:9, 29). Jewish religious leaders, when death required them to act, would select someone to serve in this important responsibility based on a variety of factors. What we find, however, as we approach and enter into the time of the New Testament, is that the position of High Priest began to be treated far as a political appointment rather than a solemn duty of heredity.

Herod the Great, who began to rule over Judea as the "king of the Jews" just before the New Testament era, started the trend of replacing High Priests at his own pleasure. The Romans, after his death, would continue this practice. Herod's first appointment to this position was a man named Ananelus (Ananel), whom the Jewish historian Josephus describes as "an obscure priest out of Babylon" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 15, Chapter 2, Section 4).

In 36 B.C., Herod makes Aristobulus III, who was only 17 years old at the time, the High Priest. In less than a year, however, he has him murdered through drowning (Book 15, Chapter 3, Section 3). He then reappoints Ananel to the position he once held. Herod will end up appointing four other High Priests up to the time when the New Testament record begins.

Only two High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, are mentioned by name in the New Testament (Luke 3:2). They were both alive during Jesus' ministry and were instrumental in causing his murder (John 11:51, 18:12 - 14, 24, etc.). Caiaphas was also instrumental in the persecution of Christians after Jesus' resurrection (Acts 4:6, 5:17, 21). He aided a young Saul by granting him authority to persecute Christians in foreign lands (9:2). Years later, one of the High Priests presided over a council that tried the Apostle Paul (22:5, 23:4).

Timeline of the New Testament

Map of Palestine under Herod the Great

Who were the Maccabees?


High Priests from Herod the Great
to the temple's destruction

Appointed by Herod the Great
King of the Jews

Name
Period Served

Ananel (Hananeel)

37 to 36 B.C.

Aristobulus III36 B.C.

Ananel (Hananeel) (reappointed)

36 to 30 B.C.

Jesus, son of Phabes30 to 23 B.C.

Simon, son of Boethos

23 to 5 B.C.

Matthias, son of Theophilos5 to 4 B.C.

Joazar, son of Boethos

4 B.C.

Appointed by Archelaus
Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, Edom

Eleazar, son of Boethos

4 to 3 B.C.

Jesus, son of Sie3 B.C.

Joazar, son of Boethos (reappointed)

? to 6 A.D.

Appointed by Quirinius
Roman Legate of Syria and Judea

Ananus (Annas), son of Seth

6 to 15 A.D.

Appointed by Valerius Gratus
Roman Prefect of Judea

Ishmael, son of Phabi

15 to 16 A.D.

Eleazar, son of Ananus16 to 17 A.D.

Simon, son of Camithos

17 to 18 A.D.

Joseph (Caiaphas)
son-in-law of Ananus
(condemned Christ to die)
18 to 36 A.D.

Appointed by Vitellius

Jonathan, son of Ananus

36 to 37 A.D.

Theophilos, son of Ananus37 to 41 A.D.

Appointed by Agrippa I
Roman Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea

Simon Cantheras, son of Boethos

41 to 43 A.D.

Matthias, son of Ananos43 A.D.

Elionaios, son of Cantheras

43 to 44 A.D.

Appointed by Herod of Chalcis
Tetrarch of kingdom north of Judea

Jonathan, son of Ananus (reappointed)

44 A.D.

Joseph, son of Cainus44 to 46 A.D.

Ananias, son of Nedebaios

46 to 52 A.D.

Jonathan52 to 56 A.D.

Appointed by Agrippa II
King of Chalcis

Ishmael, son of Phabi (reappointed?)

56 to 62 A.D.

Joseph Cabi, son of Simon62 to 63 A.D.

Ananus, son of Ananus

63 A.D.

Jesus, son of Damnaios63 A.D.

Jesus, son of Gamaliel

63 to 64 A.D.

Matthias, son of Theophilos65 to 66 A.D.

Appointed by
the people during the last war

Phannias, son of Samuel67 to 70 A.D.

Additional Study Materials
How powerful were New Testament High Priests?
What gemstones were in the priest's breastplate?
Why did Paul CURSE Israel's spiritual leader?

New Testament High Priests
Bibliography

Antiquities of the Jews
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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