century CE. The front of the ossuary that was found is decorated with a stylized floral motif above which is a long Aramaic inscription engraved in Jewish script:
„Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma'aziah from Beth ‟Imri‟
(or, an alternative reading:
„Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma'aziah from Beth ‟Imri‟
In the conclusion of their study Dr. Boaz Zissu and Professor Yuval Goren write, “the prime
importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased
Miriamdaughter of Yeshua
to the Caiaphas family, indicating the connection to the family of theMa'aziah
course of priests of Beth ‟Imri”. Caiaphas is the name of Yeshua‟s father, and Miriam„s
grandfather. From the wording of the inscription we learn that he belonged to a famous family of priests that was active in the first century CE. One family member, the high priest Yehosef BarCaiaphas, is especially famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.Ma'aziah /Ma'aziahu is the last of the twenty four priestly courses that served in the Temple in
Jerusalem. The list of courses, which was formulated during King David‟s reign, appears in the
Bible in I Chronicles (I Chronicles 24:18).
The signatories to the pledge in the days of Nehemiah
include among others, “Maʽaziah, Bilgai, Shem'aiah; these are the priests” (Nehemiah 10: 9).
This is the first reference to the Maʽaziah course in an epigraphic find from the Second Temple
period. For the first time we learn from an inscription that the Caiaphas family was related to theMa'aziah course.The names of other courses, such as Abijah, Eliashib, Bilgah, Delaiah, Hakkoz, Shecaniah,Hezir, Jehoiarib, Jakim (Jakin) and Jeshebeab, are known from historical and epigraphic textsfrom the Second Temple period, including inscriptions discovered in tombs.
The ending “from
Beth ‟Imri” can be interpreted two ways:The first possibility is that Beth ‟Imri is the name of a priestly family –
of ‟Immer (Ezra
2: 36-37; Nehemiah 7:39-
42) whose descendents include members of the Maʽaziah course.
The second possibility is the place of origin of the deceased or of her entire family.
The name of
the ancient settlement was probably preserved in the name Beit ‟Ummar, a village in the northern
Hebron Hills. In that village and in nearby Khirbet Kufin, remains of a Jewish settlement wereidentified from the Second Temple period and the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.In view of the inscription on the ossuary it is worth examining the linguistic relationship betweenthe names Caiaphas
a prominent family that seems to have lived in Beth ‟Imri/ Beit ‟Ummar –
and Khirbet Kufin, which perhaps preserves the name of the Caiaphas family.