Question & Answer – What does it mean that Caiaphas “rent his clothes” in Matthew 26:65

When questioned by Caiaphas if Jesus was the Christ, “Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ ” Matthew 26:64 NKJV. Then the high priest rent his clothes in pretended horror that the people might see.

“This act was deeply significant. Little did Caiaphas realize its meaning.

  • In this act, done to influence the judges and secure Christ’s condemnation, the high priest had condemned himself.
  • By the law of God he was disqualified for the priesthood.
  • He had pronounced upon himself the death sentence.” The Desire of Ages, 708.

“Everything worn by the priest was to be whole and without blemish … represented the character of the great antitype, Jesus Christ.

  • Nothing but perfection, in dress and attitude, in word and spirit, could be acceptable to God. …
  • Nothing but perfection could properly represent the sacredness of the heavenly service. …
  • No rent must be made in the priestly robes, for this would mar the representation of heavenly things.
  • The high priest who dared to appear in holy office, and engage in the service of the sanctuary, with a rent robe, was looked upon as having severed himself from God.
  • By rending his garment he cut himself off from being a representative character. He was no longer accepted by God as an officiating priest. …

“By rending his garments, Caiaphas made of no effect the law of God, to follow the tradition of men. A man-made law provided that in case of blasphemy a priest might rend his garments in horror at the sin, and be guiltless. Thus the law of God was made void by the laws of men. …

“When Caiaphas rent his garment, his act was significant of the place that the Jewish nation as a nation would thereafter occupy toward God. … When Christ upon the cross cried out, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), and the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the Holy Watcher declared that the Jewish people had rejected Him Who was the antitype of all their types, the substance of all their shadows. Israel was divorced from God. … Well might the high priest rend his robes in horror for himself and for the nation.” Ibid., 709.

Note: “It was the general custom for the garments to be rent at the death of friends. The only exception to this was in the case of the high priest. Even Aaron, when he lost his two sons … was forbidden to show sorrow and mourning by rending his garments. The prohibition was positive [Leviticus 10:6 quoted].” “Ellen G. White Comments” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1105.

“He [Christ] bore even the guiltiness of Caiaphas, knowing the hypocrisy that dwelt in his soul, while for pretense he rent his robe. Christ did not rend His robe, but His soul was rent. His garment of human flesh was rent as He hung on the cross, the sin-bearer of the race.” Ibid.