Three Mountains, Three Valleys and Three High Priests-Part 1

King Herod died in 4 BC and the Nasi of the Sanhedrin was Hillel until 10 AD when he died. Jerusalem, geography and politics are all going to have an impact on Annas, Caiaphas and Yeshua. Jerusalem has three mountain tops and these mountains relate to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The first mountain top is Moriah, which means “my teacher is the Lord” and this relates to Yeshua. He is the “teacher of righteousness” of Joel 2.23 and is called “the Teacher” in John 11.28. The second is Ophel, which means “fortified or fortress” and this is the Father. The third is Zion which means “mark” and we are marked by the Holy Spirit (Eph 4.30).

Now, there are three valleys that are around Jerusalem and they form the letter “shin” which stands for the name of the Lord. God said that he would place his name on the place where the Temple was to be built, and he has literally done it with these three valleys. The Hinnom Valley is west of town and it runs south, then east to the Kidron Valley and they meet at a place called the Tophet, south of the city. The Tyropean Valley is a middle valley that also meets at this place. These three valleys form the letter shin.

Now we are going to talk about three high priests by the name of Annas, Caiaphas and Yeshua and see how these three mountains and three valleys relate to these three high priests. In the first century, there were two parties called the Sadducees and the Boethusians. They believed the same things, but the Boethusians were from the family of Boethus, one of the two most powerful families in Jerusalem. They were very liberal, Hellenistic and they played up to the Romans. They did not follow the biblical requirement that a high priest was to be the first born, thus, a direct descendant of Aaron.

In 6 BC, the family of Annas came to power through power politics, corruption, alliances and they knew money makes the rules, like the movie “The Godfather.” Positions will be bought and sold and theses priestly families milked the public. Annas was high priest from 6 BC to 15 AD. The following names were part of the family of Annas who served as high priest up to 70 AD: Eleazar (son), Joseph Caiaphas (son-in-law), Jonathan (son), Theophilus (son), Matthias (son), Jonathan (restored to it again), Annas (son) and Matthhias (grandson).

The source of their power was the marketplace called the “Bazaars of Annas.” Pilgrims at the festivals bought sacrifices and were charged fees to change the money from pagan coins, with images of false gods on them, to shekels. These people were called “moneychangers” and there was nothing wrong with this. People made a loit of money at these “concession” stands. These were set up along the southern wall of the Temple. To get the space for these concessions, you had to pay the family of Annas for spots.

Larger animals were raised in certain areas. You could not raise a lamb in Galilee for sacrifice, these had to be raised in a radius around Jerusalem that used Migdal Eder, near Bethlehem, meaning “tower of the flock” as the radius point. Yeshua was born in Migdal Eder among these sheep (Mic 4.8). These sheep were sold at these concessions in the bazaars of Annas. To be able to control where these animals were raised was good business for the high priest. There was a list of what animals were qualified, but sometimes these regulations were “relaxed” so that the owners could get rid of their undesirable stock. Yeshua didn’t get angry because the moneychangers and the stock were there in the Temple, he was angry over the extortion being used on the people, and this got back to the high priest because the Sanhedrin was also meeting in the southern end of the Temple complex (Mark 11.15-18). Here is why they were there.

Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the year Yeshua died, the Sanhedrin moved their meeting place from the Chamber of Hewn Stone on the south side of the Court of the Priests. Part of their meeting chamber was partly within the Sanctuary courts. The only place a death sentence could be pronounced was within this chamber. If they met anywhere else, they could not carry out a death sentence. That is why they could not put Yeshua to death themselves, they had to have the Romans pronounce him guilty of a crime against Rome.

A judge must sit when he gives a judgment, but the one judged cannot sit. The problem was, you cannot sit in the inner courts of Israel and the Priests, only a king descended from David can, and only at the feast of Sukkot. So, they solved this problem by building half the chamber in the Court of Israel, and the other half into a thick wall. The judges sat in the section in the wall, and the accused stood in the half that was in the court of Israel. There were other chambers set up for the Sanhedrin to meet in. Here is why they “heard” what Yeshua did with the moneychangers and those selling animals.

The Royal Stoa was at the south end of the Temple complex. Half of it was known as the Bazaars of Annas and the other half was a chamber for the Sanhedrin. Yeshua threw out the moneychangers in the one half of the Royal Stoa, and the Sanhedrin heard what was going on in the other half. The Royal Stoa did not have the sanctity of the Court of the Gentiles and you cannot give a death sentence there. At the time of the arrest of Yeshua, they had just moved there and so that is where his trial was. This was by the hand of God because it was prophesied that the Messiah was going to be crucified, and that was not the Jewish method of execution. As a result, God arranged it so that the Romans would pass the death sentence on the Messiah in order to be crucified. The third location was near Herod’s palace.

There were things that could not be done there that you could get done at the Royal Stoa. As you moved away from the Temple, the less rights you had. Where you were determined several things. It was a political statement to the Romans and it determined what cases you could here. Because the Romans were mistreating the Jews, the Sanhedrin moved out of the Chamber of Hewn Stone in protest, thus limiting what they could do, including passing death sentences on their own people.

Corruption was rampant in the first century and this got worse, even up to the destruction of the Temple and the city. Herod was allied with Boethus, the founder of the Boethusians. He was a priest of high regard at the time and he became very powerful. It is suspected that the House of Annas was raised up to keep the House of Boethus from getting too powerful. The Temple market was very unpopular among the people due to the corruption and greed. In 67 AD, the Zealots destroyed the bazaars of Annas, and Yeshua openly denounced them in Matt 21 12-17.

As you can see, the people hated these bazaars and so they did not resist Yeshua. Annas had more power than any reigning high priest, as you can see from John 18.12-18. We see from Acts 4.6 that he “pulled the strings” of his sons, often without restraint. The actual residence of Annas was closer to the Temple than the house of Caiaphas. Archeologists think they have actually found the house of Annas in the Herodian Quarter. There is a “peristyle courtyard” there with columns and an open courtyard, meeting the description of where they took Yeshua. There was a palatial mansion next to it, very elaborate and expensive. They found a weight in this area, in a place called the “burnt house” in the basement. It had an inscription on it that said “of Bar Katros” which is a Greek name. It is one of the families of high priests before 70 AD.

Poems have also been found denouncing this house of the high priest. The House of Katros was infamous for abusing the written word, for slander and lies. Now, south of the city we have already mentioned Tophet. We have an article on Tophet” on this site if you want more information. Anyway, Tophet is in Gehenna, the valley of slaughter where the judgment in Matt 25 will occur. They found a monument to Annas there. This place is also called Akeldama, the “field of blood” mentioned in Acts 1.19. They also found the tomb of Joseph Caiaphas there. An ossuary, a stone “coffin” that held the bones of the deceased, was found with the inscription “Yosef Bar Qafa” on it with the Hebrew letter “yod.” At another site, the words “Yosef bar Qafa” was on an ossuary meaning “Joseph, the son of Caiaphas.” It can also mean “of the house of Caiaphas” without a “yod.” The Hebrew word “Kathros” is a derivative of “Qafa” or “Kafa” and the “burnt house” mentioned above is thought to be the house of Caiaphas or his son. They found another inscription in the peristyle mansion that linked itself to the house of Caiaphas.

When we look at Yeshua we see some interesting points. The Messiah needs to be from the House of David and from Judah. He must fulfill (give meaning to) all the prophecies, not just some of them. He must be from the Tribe of Joseph based on Gen 49.22-26. He must be from the House of Aaron and from the Tribe of Levi based on Zech 6.11-13. This concept is even mentioned in the Encyclopedia Judaica in an article called “Messiah” and it refers to this verse as a common belief in the Jewish mind, and that the “Kohen Tzaddik” (priest of righteousness) is mentioned together with the Davidic King Messiah. In the first century, there was a concept that there would not be one messiah, but several. The two main ones are called the “Messiah Ben Joseph” and the “Messiah Ben David.” Even among the Pharisees and the Essenes there was a third one called the “High Priest Messiah” so their belief was that the Messiah must be a descendant of Aaron.

In Part 2, we will pick up here and continue to discuss the possibility that Yeshua was also a descendant of Aaron and look at his priestly cousin John, the genealogy in Luke and Aarons rod that budded.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, The Temple, Understanding the New Testament

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