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Caiaphas meaning


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🔼The name Caiaphas: Summary

Basket Man, Cryptographer
Rock Man
From the noun קופא (qopa'), big round container.
From the noun כף (kep'), rock.

🔼The name Caiaphas in the Bible

The name Caiaphas belongs to the high priest at the time of Jesus' trial and crucifixion. He had married into the family of Annas, who governed temple affairs (i.e. tax revenue) for the Romans, and whose five sons and son-in-law are obviously commented upon in Luke's story of the rich man (i.e. Caiaphas) and the poor Lazarus (Luke 16:28). Besides having an unfortunate servant named Malchus and being the face of those who had turned the temple into a den of robbers, Caiaphas also embodied the idea that the good of the many outweighs the good of the one (John 18:14). This idea is of course wholly contradicted by the gospel, which declares that the good of the many derives solely from the good of the one (Luke 15:7).

At the risk of reducing complex issues to the level of slogans and bumper stickers, Caiaphas and Annas represent socialism and communism: the subjection of the individual to a "benevolently" tyrannical state. This is the polar opposite of the gospel of Christ, which insists that a perfect society is contingent on freedom-by-law (ελευθερια, eleutheria), and that personal sovereignty (i.e. being a χριστος, christos, from the verb χριω, chrio, to anoint) results in a perfect republic that is governed by a senate of godly freemen (εκκλεσια, ekklesia).

The familiar story is the ultimate social archetype: the socialistic state will always imprison, accuse and murder the free individual. But an individual is only truly free when he truly controls his own life, and lays down his own life on his own initiative, and does not allow the state to claim the initiative or authority for his death (John 10:17-18). The free individual freely gives up his own life in service of a free state of freemen, in which the free individual rises again. Ultimately, the free state overwhelms the socialistic state, and lives happily ever after, while the socialistic state vanishes into bleak and well-deserved oblivion.

Caiaphas is mentioned by name 9 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

🔼Fun with the name Caiaphas in Greek and Latin

It's not immediately clear where the name Caiaphas comes from, but that's largely because it means so many things at once. The authors of the New Testament allowed themselves considerable poetic freedoms in regard to names (see our article on Onesimus). And this is a tradition that went all the way back to the liberty with which Jewish scribes had transliterated Babylonian and Assyrian leaders — which is how Nabu-kudurri-usur became known as Nebuchadnezzar, and Tukulti-apil-Esarra as Tiglath-pileser. As we will see below, Caiaphas' native name was Joseph bar Qayapa'. The authors clearly had a blast with that.

To a learned audience, the name Καιαφας (Kaiaphas) possibly reminded of the noun κεκαφηως (kekapheos), a breathing forth, and particularly the Homeric term κεκαφηοτα θυμον (kekapheota thumon), breathing forth one's spirit in exasperation (Il.5.698, Od.5.468), which is a idiom repeated in texts such as 1 Kings 10:5, Luke 23:46 and John 20:22, and most specifically in Acts 9:1.

The very frequently occurring particle και (kai) means "and" and often serves in so-called crasis forms to mean "too" or "also". The noun αφασια (aphasia) describes the condition of speechlessness, and comes from the adjective αφατος (aphathos), not-uttered or unnamed (from φημι, phemi, to convey verbally). That means that the name Caiaphas, or Kai Aphasia sounded like He Who Was Also Mute, or The One We Don't Speak Of Either. This idea reminds of a name like Ish-bosheth: Man of Shame.

The Latin name Gaius (which, conveniently, was the first name of Julius Caesar) also occurred as the variant Caius, whose feminine counterpart was Caia, and these two names were used as slang terms for bride and groom at weddings. That means that the name Caiaphas also sounded like Gaia-phasis, or Voice Of The Bride, or Voice Of The Land.

🔼Fun with the name Caiaphas in Hebrew

In Numbers 19, God introduces a set of regulations that involve a red heifer. Numbers 19:3 speaks of priest Eleazar, which is Hebrew for Lazarus. A certain tractate of the Mishnah (specifically: Tohorot.Parah.3) records elaborate discussions of the red heifer laws.

This same tractate tells of a post-exile high priest named Eliehoenai ben Ha-Qop (אליהועיני בן הקוף), who slaughtered one of seven red heifers, and who partook in the construction of a ramp from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, with arches upon arches to protect from the graves below, "whereby the priest who was to burn the cow, the cow itself and all who aided in its preparation went forth to the Mount of Olives" (Parah.3.3). This ramp isn't mentioned explicitly in the Bible, but Jesus preached in the Temple by day and spend his nights on Olivet (Luke 21:37), which pretty much equates him with Eleazar and thus with Lazarus.

Caiaphas' full name was יסף בר קיפא (yoseph bar qayapa'), or Joseph son of Qayapa', and although we can't be certain that he was indeed a descendant of Eliehoenai ben Ha-Qop, the chances are excellent that he had drawn his name from him (not unlike the Sadducees, who probably had named themselves after high priest Zadok, or even the historian Flavius Josephus, who had adopted the family name of emperor Vespasian).

The name הקוף (Ha-Qop) combines the definite article ה (he), "the", with the noun קוף (qop), which is also the name of the 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet (whose numerical value was 100; see our article on κεντυριων, kenturion, for some obvious wordplay). This name comes from a root קוף (qop) that expresses a circular motion. The derived noun תקופה (tequpa), describes the "turn of the year" (Exodus 34:22), or the "turn of the day" (Psalm 19:6), and both obviously have to do with the various journeys of the sun through the heavens. This links the name Caiaphas rather immodestly to the name Augustus, which means Sunrise or Increasingly Bright One (and read our article on the noun שחר, shahar, for some thoughts on that).

A more common Hebrew verb that expresses a circular motion is גלל (galal), from which comes the name Galilee. This verb is also the root of the name Golgotha, which actually means skull, and that is rather striking because our noun קוף (qop) could also mean head (still does in Dutch: kop means [animal-] head). The only time our noun actually occurs in the Bible is in 2 Chronicles 9:21, where the ships of Tarshish are reported to have brought apes (round-heads) to king Solomon. Why Solomon needed apes isn't clear, but the name Simon is strikingly similar to the adjective σιμος (simos), meaning flat-face, and may very well have denoted flat-faced Africans (hence Simon Niger).

The ancients understood that black-and-white is not the same as light-and-dark: black and white are equally dark, and the difference between the two is that white rejects light and dark receives light. This is why in the Bible, great things always happen in the dark (Genesis 1:2, 15:12, Matthew 27:45), and whiteness of skin was considered a sickly affliction to do with arrogance and lunacy. There are quite a few "black" people mentioned in the Bible, most notably the second wife of Moses, who was a Cushite (Numbers 12:1), the Bride of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:5 — and this is why everybody knows that God's celebrated Bride is not white but black), and probably the queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1, see Matthew 12:42) and the Ethiopian official of Candace whom Philip baptized (Acts 8:27).

In Biblical times, the nonsense of race theory hadn't been thought up yet, and everybody worked outdoors and everybody was deeply tanned, so one's stock was not so much estimated by one's skin color (with the possible exception of absurdly white Celts; hence the proverbially "foolish" Galatians, Galatians 3:1, from γαλα, gala, milk), and much rather whether one's ears and nose stuck out or not, and whether one had squinty eyes or robust round ones, or whether one's head was round like that of a baby or cut and grooved like that of an old man. Perhaps contrary to the dictates of modern folklore, the Jews and Blacks have always considered each other as kin, as much as ears and eyes are kin, or as much as Levi and Simeon were. Their cooperation and cultural exchanges have lasted until the modern era: in the early 20th century, Jewish owned record labels began to publish black rhythm and blues, and that was the catalyst for the emergence of the modern music industry.

But all this suggests that the name Caiaphas also means Round-Head, and implied both intellectual immaturity and obedience to a master (Annas, specifically, or Rome in general).

🔼Fun with the name Caiaphas in Aramaic

By the time of the New Testament, people in Judea spoke Aramaic, in which the root קוף (qop) had expanded into a broad bouquet of words having to do with round things — the noun קוף (qop) still meant ape and also occurred as the variant קופא (qopa'). An identical noun קופא (qopa') meant trunk (the round stub of a chopped off vine), carrying pole (to hang something from: monkey bars), an arching doorway, or a big round basket.

The Talmud even mentions a family named בית קופאי (beth qup'ai), Beth-Quppai (House of Round-heads, or perhaps House of Baskets) of [the town?] of בן מקושש (ben meqoshesh), Ben M'kosheh (Son of the Aged One, or Part of That Which Gathers), living in Jerusalem, and reports that this family was one of two families to produce high priests for service at the altar (Yevamot 15b). That means that Beth-Quppai was quite likely the same as the family of Eliehoenai ben Ha-Qop, and they were possibly originally trappers, or else basket-makers:

Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary
כפף  כף

The verb כפף (kapap) means to bend or curve, and most often speaks of curving around something, and particularly in order to contain something, or to apply pressure so that the contents come out. Noun כף (kap) describes an opened hollow hand, or a utility vessel, or anything that contains something in order to pour it out or otherwise produce it. Noun כף (kep) describes a smooth or rounded stone, particularly one that provides spaces to hide within (when positioned flat on bedrock or when stacked).

Of unclear relations to the former, verbs נקף (naqap) and קוף (qop) mean to go around and could refer to catching something in a net or wrapping a captured animal with rope. Noun קוף (qop) is thought to describe an ape, perhaps because of its round head, perhaps because it was caught with a net or snare, or perhaps because it was paraded around.

In Aramaic, verb כפף (kapap) and noun כף (kap) are also spelled כפיף (kpyp) and כפא (kp'). Participles כאיף (k'yp) and כיף (kyp) describe anything bent or curved. Noun כוף (kop), literally a "round one", describes a round basket.

Verbs כפה (kapa), כפא (kapa'), and כפי (kapay) mean to bend over or turn upside down. Nouns כף (kep), כיף (keyep), כיפא (keyepa') and כיפה (keyepa) refer to any sort of ball (or honey comb), and specifically to smoothly curved water-worn stones, or pearls and smoothly polished gems. Noun כיפא (keyepa') means pressure or necessity (something that bends or smooths one down over time). Noun כיפה (keyepa) means a bending, or an archway or arched doorway. Noun כפותא (kpota') describes a ball of excrement. Verb כפת (kapat) means to twist or tie together. Noun כפות (kapot) means bandage.

Noun קוף (qop), meaning ape or "round one", is also spelled קופא (qopa'), which could also describe an archway or a large round basket. Noun קופה (qoppa) means heap or pile, archway, or large basket. Noun קפה (quppa), a.k.a. קיפה (qayapa), a.k.a. קיפא (qayapa'), describes a residue or sediment that remains at the bottom of a cook pot, or a glob of coagulated fat floating in water.

Ernest Klein (Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language), endorses the perspective of "some scholars" who relate the name Caiaphas to the noun כף (kep), meaning stone. That would make Caiaphas a proverbial Stone Man (in the implied sense of being worn smooth from the demands of both bosses and general population), which in turn makes him a character like Cephas (that's Aramaic for Peter), and perhaps even somewhat of a good-guy, quite comparable to Pilate, who has been vilified for millennia but who may very well have been a so-called Liberator and ultimately a closet Jesus sympathizer.

All this is of course wonderfully creative, but assuming that the Κ (K) of Caiaphas comes from a Hebrew כ (kap) rather than a ק (qof) would terminate any association with the Ha-Qop and Beth-Quppai families.

Also in Aramaic, however, the noun קיפא (qayapa') is identical to the family name of Joseph bar Qayapa', and it conveniently stems from the noun קופה (quppa), which means heap or pile, or archway, or big round basket. Our noun קיפא (qayapa') describes a blob of congealed fat as the result of cooking meat, or the residue that remains at the bottom of the cauldron. The noun רבד (rabad) describes just such a blob of fat, but typically on one's clothing, indicating that one had just enjoyed a sumptuously rich banquet. This possibly explains the noun ραβδος (rabdos), which described a royal rod or scepter. And both these words are probably explained by the verb רבב (rabab), to be much or many (or to be someone who has much or many). From this verb also comes the familiar noun ραββι (rabbi), or master.

And that would give Caiaphas the meaning of Filthy Rich Glutton. And the additional pun is that the red heifer served to produce a kind of soap, and soap typically binds with grease, so that it can be easily removed by a gush of flowing water — see our article on אזוב ('ezob), meaning hyssop, from which indeed comes our English word "soap".

🔼Caiaphas meaning

The name Caiaphas is one of the most meaningful and pun-rich names in the Bible. High-priestly patriarch Eliehoenai ben Ha-Qop was probably not called Son Of The Ape, but perhaps Son Of A Trapper (someone who caught live prey with a lasso; strangulation was forbidden, see Leviticus 17:12, Deuteronomy 14:21 and Acts 15:20). More likely, however, is that the name stemmed from the noun קופא (qopa'), basket, and Eliehoenai sired a progeny of basket-people: Beth-Quppai or House of Baskets. Caiaphas means Basket Man.

However, in our article on the curious case of baskets in the Bible, we show that the basket represented what we moderns call encryption: a text that is woven together specifically to contain an additional message, that may not have anything to do with what the "basket" itself it all about. This doesn't necessarily have to do with secrecy, but rather with the fundamental nature of literary texts. Jesus spoke often in parables, and a parable is obviously like an artistically woven basket that contains an additional and separate meaning. That means that Caiaphas also means Cryptographer.

Hence Judaism appears to have developed a mild obsession with baskets, which is something that also shimmers through in the New Testament, and particularly in the stories surrounding Paul. In Acts 9:25, we read how Paul escaped from Damascus in a large basket. The word used here is σπυρις (spuris), which looks suspiciously similar to the noun ספר (seper), meaning book (and remember the story of Yohanan ben Zakkai, who in 68 CE escaped besieged Jerusalem in a coffin). This same word σπυρις (spuris) is also used in the story of the miraculous feeding, that is to say, in the version in which seven basketfuls of left-overs are collected. In the version where there are twelve basketfuls, the word used is κοφινος (kophinos), which rather obviously derives from our root(s) כפף (kapap) or קפף (qapap). This same curious tension between the twelve kophinoi and seven spurides exists also between the twelve disciples and the seven deacons (Acts 6:2-3).

When Paul himself tells of the story of his escape from Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:33), he uses yet another word for basket, namely σαργανη (sargane), which obviously comes from the verb שרג (sarag), to intertwine. When Paul was still Saul, he worked for (or with) the Sanhedrin and thus Caiaphas (Acts 23:10). But he derived his evangelical name from that of the Roman proconsul of Cyprus: Sergius Paulus, whose nomen either derives from or refers to שרג (sarag) and thus relates to σαργανη (sargane), basket.

Since all Jewish sects in those days were, in one way or other, primarily obsessed with Moses, the obsession with baskets certainly stems from the basket of papyrus (βιβλος, biblos) in which Moses was placed among the Egyptian reeds (Exodus 2:2). The story of Moses and the subsequent Exodus out of Egypt tells of course about the earliest beginnings of the alphabet and its competition with Egypt's hieroglyphs (see for more on this, our articles on YHWH, Shunammite, Philistine, Hellas or Aeneas), and the family of Beth-Quppai appears to have identified with a specific and fundamental aspect of this process.

The Hebrew word that described Moses' papyrus basket is תבה (teba), which is the same word that describes the ark of Noah. The crib of Moses is what people gathered around, whereas the ark of Noah is what people gather inside of (hence, perhaps, the name Ben M'kosheh, or Son of That Which Gathers; the origin of the Beth-Quppai family). A comparable duality is presented in the image of the Word (דבר, dabar) in the manger (אריה, 'urya), versus the bee (דברה, debora) in the lion (ארי, 'ari) of Judges 14:8; see our article on the noun πατνη (patne), manger.

Jesus was a son-by-law of Joseph who was a Jew (Luke 3:23), but genetically he was a close cousin (Luke 1:36) of John the Baptist, whose parents Zacharias and Elizabeth were both Levite. The name Levi means Joiner. The earthly profession of Jesus (and Joseph) was that of τεκτων (tekton) or assembler. This word comes from the same Indo-European root "teks-", meaning to weave, as our English words textile, technology and text.