Matthew 26:65, The High Priest Rends His Clothes

Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?

//In the interrogation of Jesus, Caiaphas, the high priest, grows frustrated with Jesus’ refusal to answer his inquiries. When Jesus finally claims that Caiaphas will see him “sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven,” Caiaphas rends his clothes in shock and dismay.

Here’s the interesting question: what was Caiaphas wearing? Were they his ceremonial garments? The high priest wore a sleeveless, purple robe hemmed with blue, purple and scarlet tassels shaped like pomegranates alternating with small bells. Only the high priest could don this robe, and only for very special occasions … like Passover Week. At the time of Jesus, this special robe was stored in the Antonia fortress next to the Temple, under Roman lock and key, allowed out only for the ritual celebrations.

Adding to the debate is the word that Matthew uses to refer to the garment: himation, rather than the Gospel of Mark’s more common term chiton. This switch in wording may be meant to refer directly to the ceremonial robe, which would mean that Caiaphas deliberately broke the law forbidding the tearing of holy garments. Presumably, in Matthew’s telling, this act foreshadows the destruction of the Temple 40 years later and the end of the priesthood ceremonies.

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2 Comments

  1. A minor matter you may ant to correct – you have transposed the numbers – it is 26:65.

    This is just a guess on my part –

    57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

    59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.

    As this was a hastily called meeting of the Sanhedrin, and took place in a courtyard, not in a “religious” setting, I would wager he was in street clothes. Nevertheless, I was not these, so what do I know? Fascinating thought.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Oops! You’re right about transposition. Thanks, John!

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