Who were the Captains of the temple?

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The captains of the temple were the leaders of the temple guards. They were guardians but not of the soldiery. They supervised the guard of priests and Levites, especially at night. As overseers, they did their inspections, checking all the temple gates and ensuring that guards were at their posts. They were in charge of the outer court seeing that no one would interfere with the temple services. They were also in charge of protecting the temple valuables.

The Old Testament mentions such an officer, Azariah the son of Hilkiah, whose title was “the ruler of the house of God” (1 Chron. 9:11; 2 Chron. 31:13; Neh. 11:11). And 2 Maccabees 3:4 refers to a Benjamite who was the “governor of the temple.”

And in the New Testament, Luke repeatedly refers to the “captain” of the temple (Luke 22:52). This person was one of the officers present at the capture of Jesus (Luke 22:52). And later on in Acts 5:24, 26, there is a reference to one at the trial of the apostles by the chief priests.

Josephus also wrote about this authorized person in his writings (War ii. 17. 2 [409]; Antiquities xx. 9. 3). This official, mentioned by Josephus, is the same that is mentioned by Luke, and may be the same that is mentioned in the OT and 2 Maccabees.

Later Jewish literature, mentions several officials who might be similar to the “captain of the temple” of Acts 5. One of these was the ’ish har habbayith, the “officer of the temple mount” (Mishnah Middoth 1. 2, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 1).

Another official who could be more recognized as the “captain” of Acts 5, was the segan hakkohanim, the “prefect of the priests.” This person was ranked second to the high priest in authority. His duty was to help the high priest carry on his official work. He also had general charge over the Temple services making sure all ceremonies were carried on in order and without obstruction.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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