Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ossuary of Caiaphas Daughter-In-Law Authenticated

The Helek Tov blog links a news story about recent authentication efforts for the ossuary of Miriam, daughter-in-law of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest infamous in the New Testament for his participation in the condemnation of Jesus two thousand years ago. In reading this article I was reminded of probably the best portrayals of the man I've seen on-screen. This was in the 2008 BBC production called The Passion, with Caiaphas being played by actor Ben Daniels. This was the first time I recall seeing Caiaphas as being a complex person with real depth, and not the 2-dimensional stereotypical villain twirling his moustache as he places a bound and hapless Jesus on the railroad tracks to meet His fate from an oncoming locomotive (cue sinister laugh).

Or something like that.

Daniels made Caiaphas come alive to me, a real person with all the passions and human weaknesses that make him who he is. He is shown as a being a family man, a devoted Jew and leader of an oppressed people suffering under foreign occupation. All of these things put together make the story of Caiaphas that much more appealing in one sense because to me it warns each of us how easily we can allow that which we are most passionate about and seek to protect the most regardless of the cost, deceive us and lead us down a very bad path. As Simon Round from the UK's Jewish Chronicle reportedly wrote about this:

In the Gospel according to Stafford-Clark [The Passion’s producer], Caiaphas is portrayed sympathetically. He presides over a volatile Jerusalem (some things never change) where the balance of power is threatened not only by the arrival of Jesus but also the appearance on the scene of violent terrorists (the Judean People’s Front?), all of whom threaten the tenuous autonomy of the Jews in the Holy City.

But however sensitively Caiaphas is treated (we even see him stroking his pregnant wife’s stomach), he still hands Jesus over to the Romans...

What this portrayal of Caiaphas brings home to me at least is that in a sense we are all Caiaphas, easily just as capable of doing what he is reported to have done or worse even if our own particular reasons why might differ somewhat. Now that's a sobering thought.

As for the news linked at Hekel Tov about this ossuary from Caiaphas' daughter-in-law, I'm glad to see this and hope we discover more about the man and those around him whom he loved. I suspect that the more we learn about the real Caiaphas the more we may learn about ourselves.