The Hebrew Trials of Christ
- Supplement to Lesson 13
The arrest of Jesus in the Garden of
Gethsemane took place soon after midnight of the 14th day of
Nisan, according to the Hebrew calendar, or on April 7, according
to Roman time. The Hebrews began their day at sunset and the
Romans at midnight. We have reason to believe that the men who
arrested Jesus were part of the temple guard, a Roman military
detachment that policed the temple grounds because Jewish riots
often started in that area. As the arrest took place, Jesus told
Peter that He could call for "twelve legions" of angels
to help Him. A Roman legion averaged 6,000 men, and some
contained 9,000. Between 75,000 and 100,000 mighty angels
"that excel in strength" would, at the request of
Christ, have come to help Him.
The Arrest of Jesus
According to Hebrew law, the arrest of
Jesus was illegal on four separate counts. (1) All legal
proceedings, including arrests, were forbidden at night. It was a
well-established and inflexible rule of Hebrew law that arrests
and trials leading to capital punishment [death], could not occur
at night. Dupin the famous French lawyer explicitly states that
the trial of Jesus was illegal, but the arrest was also, because
both were held at night (Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of
Jesus, volume 1, pages 226-227).
(2) The use of a traitor, and thus an
accomplice, in effecting an arrest or securing a conviction was
forbidden by Hebrew law. "Turning state's evidence"
was illegal in Hebrew jurisprudence (Leviticus 19:16-18).
"The testimony of an accomplice is not permissible by
rabbinic law, . . and no man's life, nor his liberty, nor his
reputation can be endangered by the malice of one who has
confessed himself a criminal" or accomplice of the one
judged--S. Mendelsohn, The Criminal Jurisprudence of the
Ancient Hebrews, page 274.
"The ancient Hebrews forbade the use
of accomplice testimony . . . The arrest of Jesus was ordered
upon the supposition that He was a criminal: this same
supposition would have made Judas, who had aided, encouraged, and
abetted Jesus in the propagation of His faith, an accomplice. If
Judas was not an accomplice, Jesus was innocent, and His arrest
an outrage, and therefore illegal. --Chandler, The Trial of
Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 228 -229.
(3) The arrest was not the result of a
legal summons. "His capture was not the result of a legal
mandate from a court whose intentions were to conduct a legal
trial for the purpose of reaching a righteous judgment." --Chandler,
vol. 2, p. 237. "This arrest . . . was the execution of
an illegal and factious resolution of the Sanhedrin . . . There
was no idea of apprehending a citizen in order to try him
upon a charge which after sincere and regular judgment
might be found just or unfounded; the intention was simply to
seize a man and do away with him." --Giovanni Rosadi,
The Trial of Jesus, p. 114.
(4) According to Hebrew law it was illegal
to bind an uncondemned man. (John 18:12-13). Thus, in
connection with the midnight arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane, there
took place the first four of a series of more than a score of
illegal acts that made the entire proceeding the greatest
travesty on justice in all the annals of mankind.
The Preliminary Hearings
Jesus, after being securely bound by the
temple guard in Gethsemane, was taken to the palace of Annas.
Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, had been appointed high
priest by the Roman legate Quirinus in the year 6 A.D. Seven
years later he was discharged from his high office by the Roman
procurator Valerius Gratus for imposing and executing capital
sentences which had been forbidden by the imperial government.
Although he was now only an ex-high priest, he was still the most
powerful man in the affairs of the Jews, He still presided over
the Sanhedrin at times, and practically dictated its decisions.
The office of high priest remained in his family for fifty years.
Josephus, the historian tells us that Annas was "haughty,
audacious, and cruel." At the time Jesus was brought before
him, Annas may have been president of the Sanhedrin; that
position was not always held by the high priest. The Sanhedrin
was the Jewish supreme court in the time of Jesus. It was also
called "the Council of Seventy."
Jesus was examined by two preliminary
hearings before being tried before the supreme Jewish tribunal,
the Sanhedrin. The first was before Annas, and took place shortly
after midnight. This was followed by another before Caiaphas, who
was probably seated with a few members of the Sanhedrin who, with
him and Annas, considered themselves bitter enemies of Jesus. In
these hearings Jesus was closely questioned regarding His
disciples and His teachings. John 18:19-24 probably gives the
questioning before Annas. It was hoped that Jesus would make some
statement on which an indictment could be based, charging Him
with blasphemy against God, or sedition against the government,
This was the first of a series of six
trials constituting the world's master judicial burlesque or
travesty on justice. Jesus was condemned by two separate
tribunals, one Hebrew and the other Roman. Each of the two court
trials was divided into three parts, the first trial being
Christ's hearings before Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin. The
second trial was before Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again. In the
preliminary hearings before Annas and Caiaphas it was hoped that
Jesus would incriminate Himself, and thus furnish evidence which
would convict Him before the Jewish tribunal.
After appearing before Annas, Jesus was led
away to a hearing before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57). Only
John mentions the first hearing before Annas (John 18:13-14,
24). It is estimated that Jesus was brought before Caiaphas
at about 2 a. m. Joseph Caiaphas had been appointed to the office
of high priest by Valerius Gratus in the year 18 A.D. He remained
high priest for many years, the longest of any of the family of
Annas. The name "Caiaphas" means "the
oppressor," and Rosadi declares that "his
intellectual caliber was below mediocrity," and that the
power he wielded was only nominal--Annas was the real power
behind the priesthood in those days. Caiaphas was deposed by
Vitellius after the fall of Pilate in 36 A.D.
The preliminary hearings before Annas
and Caiaphas were illegal on four separate counts. (1) They
were a violation of the rule of law that forbade all proceedings
by night. M. Dupin, the French advocate, in speaking of these
hearings said: "Now the Jewish law prohibited all
proceedings by night; [this] therefore, was another infraction of
(2) Hebrew law prohibited a judge or a
magistrate, sitting alone, from questioning an accused person
judicially, or to sit in judgment on his legal rights, either by
day or by night. No one-judge courts were allowed--their smallest
sessions had three and their largest, seventy-one judges.
"Be not a sole judge, for there is no sole judge but One
[God]."--a well-known saying in the Jewish Mishna.
It was believed that God alone was capable of
judging without counsel.
(3) Private preliminary hearings--no matter
how many judges were present--were specifically forbidden by
Jewish law. "A principle perpetually reproduced in the
Hebrew Scriptures relates to the two conditions of publicity and
liberty. An accused man was never subjected to private or secret
examination, lest, in his perplexity, he furnish damaging
testimony against himself." --Joseph Salvador, Histoire
des Institutions de Moise, p. 365-366. It was to obtain such
evidence that Jesus was questioned in these two preliminary
hearings. Although many modern countries have such preliminary
hearings to decide if the accused should be tried, no such rule
was known in Hebrew law.
(4) The striking of Jesus by the officer
during the hearing before Annas (John 18:22) was
"an act of brutality which Hebrew jurisprudence did not
tolerate . . . It was an outrage upon the Hebrew sense of justice
and humanity which in its normal state was very pure and
lofty." --Chandler, vol. 1, p. 245. In His
reply to the smiter (John 18:23), "Jesus planted
Himself squarely upon His legal rights as a Jewish citizen. It
was in every word [that He there spoke] the voice of pure Hebrew
justice."--Chandler, Vol. 1, p. 246. Such an act--a
court officer striking a defendant in a court trial--would be
illegal in any court in the world. Christ was acting within His
legal rights when He refused to answer the questions of the high
priest. His statement was an appeal for the legal testimony of
Annas and Caiaphas lived virtually under
the same roof in the palace of the high priest with only a
courtyard between their residences. It was in this courtyard that
the rabble awaited the outcome of the hearings before Annas,
Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin. A maid, one of the servants of the
palace, kept the door of the courtyard. She it was who admitted
John and Peter. It was there that Peter later was to deny his
Lord before a rooster began his early-morning crowing. (John
18:15-18, Luke 22:54-62).
The Trial before the Sanhedrin
We witness many illegal incidents in this
trial of Jesus before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin. (1)
Hebrew law demanded two sessions of the Sanhedrin in case of
condemnation, to be held a day apart. In the case of a capital
[death sentence] trial, sentence could not be pronounced until
the afternoon of the second day. The Hebrew trial of Jesus was
thus illegal for it was concluded within one day; the entire
proceedings taking place the fourteenth of Nisan, the first lunar
month of the Jewish year. Here is what the law says: "In
pecuniary [money fines] cases a trial may end the same day it
began. In capital [death sentence] cases acquittal [declaring
innocent] may be pronounced the same day, but the pronouncing of
sentence of death must be deferred until the following day in the
hope that some argument may meanwhile be discovered in favor of
the accused "--Mishna, sect. 8, "Sanhedrin,"
p. 32 (and also found in sect. 4, p. 1).
It is evident from Mark 14:53 and 15:1 and
other passages that there were two separate sessions of the
Sanhedrin, and that they were both held the same night.
The first was held very early in the
morning before daylight, with only a portion of the members
present, probably a quorum composed of the bitterest enemies of
Jesus. With Caiaphas they had been up all night in their concern
to do away with this Man whom they so much hated. The second
session was held at break of day with "the elders and
scribes and the whole council" present. The morning session
was probably an attempt to give a semblance of legality to the
proceedings to make them conform to the Hebrew law requiring at
least two trials. But being held the same day and only a few
hours apart, they were nothing more than a subterfuge.
Repeatedly, these men trampled upon
Hebrew law in their effort to destroy Jesus, and the few
pretenses of legality that they did observe were due to the fact
that their examinations would be followed by a Roman court
(2) The fact that the first of these trials
was a night trial invalidated both, and was itself illegal. Like
the Romans (and most modern civilizations), the Jews prohibited
all legal proceedings by night. Night trials would encourage
secret sessions which were forbidden. All who wished should be
able to attend it, for someone might have testimony or evidence
in favor of the defendant. Also it is well-known that men do not
think well and make wise decisions at night. It is unfortunate
that today many churches hold night meetings to decide legal
matters, when the courts of the land refuse to do so.
In the Hebrew system, "criminal cases
can be acted upon by the various courts during daytime only, by Lesser
Synhedrions from the close of the morning service till noon,
and by the Greater Synhedrion till evening."--Mendelsohn,
The Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 112.
"Let a capital offense be tried during the
day, but suspend it at night."--from the Mishna. Maimonides,
a famous Jewish writer of many centuries ago,
explained the reason for this: "The reason why the trial of
a capital offense could not be held at night is because, as oral
tradition says, the examination of such a charge is like
diagnosing of a wound--in either case a more thorough and
searching examination can be made by daylight."--Maimonides,
(3) The Hebrew trial and condemnation of
Jesus was illegal because it took place before the morning
sacrifice. "The Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning
sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice."--Talmud,
Jerus., "Sanhedrin," C.I. fol. 19. "No
session of court could take place before the offering of the
morning sacrifice."--M.M. Lemann, Jesus Before the
Sanhedrin, p. 109. "Since the morning sacrifice was
offered at the dawn of day, it was hardly possible for the
Sanhedrin to assemble until the hour after that time."--Mishna,
"Tamid, or of the Perpetual Sacrifice," C. Ill.
The reason for this rule of Hebrew law was that no man was
considered competent to act as a judge in any question--capitol
or otherwise--until sacrifice and prayers had been offered to the
great Judge of heaven. The Hebrew trials of Jesus were entirely
over soon after the break of day, and hence before the morning
(4,5) The trial of Jesus was illegal
because it was held on the day before the Seventh-day
Sabbath,--and it was also held the day before a Jewish ceremonial
holy-day--the Passover. Hebrew courts were not permitted to meet
on the weekly Seventh-day Sabbath nor on the day before it
occurred. In addition, court trials were not permitted on a
festival or ceremonial sabbath, such as the Passover, nor on the
day before it took place. The trial of Jesus occurred on the day
before both the weekly Sabbath and the Yearly Passover, which was
a ceremonial sabbath. Therefore, for both of these reasons, the
trial of Jesus was unlawful by Jewish law. "Court must not
be held on the Sabbath, or on any holy day"--is the Talmudic
law in the matter. And of course, the trial of a capital
punishment case could not be commenced on the day before the
Seventh-day Sabbath or before a ceremonial sabbath, because in
case of conviction there must be a second trial the following
day--on the Sabbath or on the holy-day. "They shall not
judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on that of any
festival."--Mishna, "Sanhedrin," IV, 1.
"No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold
sessions on the Sabbath or any of the seven Biblical holidays [see
Leviticus 23]. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be
commenced on Friday or the day previous to any holiday, because
it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than
overnight, or to continue them on the Sabbath or holiday."--Rabbi
Wise, The Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 67. The trial and execution
of Jesus was not only on the day of the "preparation"
of the weekly Sabbath, but also the day preceding the Passover
sabbath. Because the Passover sabbath and the Seventh-day Sabbath
came together on that particular year, the day was considered by
the Jews to be a "double sabbath" or a "high
day" (John 19:31). In a double sense the
proceedings against Jesus were thus illegal.
(6) During the hour or two between the two
Sanhedrin court trials, the Jewish leaders permitted the rabble
to spit upon, torment and persecute Jesus, the Uncondemned. (Mark
14:65, Luke 22:63-65 and the Old Testament prophecies of
this: Psalm 18:4, 69:12, Isaiah 50:6). The laws of most
nations presume a person to be innocent until he is proven
guilty, and prior to a final sentence of condemnation, he is
entitled to and given every possible protection by the court from
ill treatment. The permitting of a small riot over the person of
Jesus, between the two court hearings, was totally illegal by
(7) The Hebrew court trials of Christ never
produced any acceptable testimony of witnesses against Jesus. And
yet sentence of condemnation was pronounced. This was illegal.
Let us consider this:
According to Mark 14:55-64, two separate
charges were brought against Jesus in this court of law. The
first was sedition, or a raising of discontent against the Jewish
and Roman governments through inflammatory speeches and actions.
But this charge had to be abandoned because the witnesses could
not agree (Mark 14:55-57,59). Their testimony against
Jesus was so mutually contradictory and false that even the
wicked judges who had bribed them to give it had to reject what
But according to Hebrew law the testimony
of the witnesses must agree in all essential details or it must
be rejected, and the defendant standing trial must be released at
once. "If one witness contradicts another, the testimony is
not accepted."--Mishna, "Sanhedrin," C. V. 2.
Much of what the Jewish leaders seemed to be basing things on was
hearsay evidence--but this too was forbidden under Jewish law.
"Hearsay evidence was barred equally in civil as in criminal
cases, no matter how strongly the witness might believe in what
he heard and however worthy and numerous were his
informants."--Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, The Martyrdom of
And so the only hope of the enemies of
Jesus was to bring about His condemnation through a change of
charges from sedition against the government to blasphemy against
God. But this switch over was to result in more illegalities.
(8) The accusation or charge or indictment
against Christ was illegal on two counts--it was vague and
indefinite. "The entire criminal procedure of the Mosaic
code rests upon four rules: certainty in the indictment;
publicity in the discussion; full freedom granted to the accused;
and assurance against all dangers or errors of testimony."--Joseph
Salvador, Histoire des lnstitutions de Moise, p. 365. This
second charge was never clearly formulated in this court of law.
(9) An indictment against a person must
deal with a definite crime, and the trial must be carried to
completion on the basis of that charge. No prosecutor is ever
permitted to change charges during the court proceedings because
of a failure to prove the first charge on which the trial was
based. When the false witnesses failed to prove these charge of
sedition, Jesus should have been set at liberty and the case
dismissed. But this was not done. Instead, the presiding judge
suddenly shifted to a new charge, that of blasphemy.
(10) As we have seen above, not one witness
could be found against Jesus, --but in Hebrew law, not one but at
least two witnesses must come forward and convincingly testify
before sentence of condemnation could be pronounced (Deuteronomy
17:6, 19:15, Numbers 35:30). And the testimony of these--at
least two--witnesses must agree.
(11) The use of false witnesses was another
serious infraction of Hebrew law. Such conduct not only
disqualified the judge in the case from having further
jurisdiction in that trial,--but on the basis of it he would also
be relieved of his judgeship entirely. It also condemned the
false witnesses involved to suffer the very penalty they sought
to bring upon the accused. Those who testified against Jesus were
themselves deserving of death.
Under Hebrew law false witnesses were very
severely dealt with. Perjury placed a witness in a position fully
as serious as that of the one he testified against. "Hebrew
law provided that false witnesses should suffer the penalty
provided for the commission of the crime which they sought by
their testimony to fix upon the accused."--Chandler, The
Trial of Jesus, vol. 1, p. 140. This rule is based on
(12) For some time before His trial, the
Jewish authorities had Jesus constantly shadowed by hired
informers, or spies. This also was unlawful (Luke 20:20).
But in spite of this, when brought to witness against Him, their
testimony was too contradictory to agree.
(13) Under Hebrew law, the judge was
supposed to seek for evidence only in behalf of the accused.
"The judges leaned always to the side of the defendant and
gave him the advantage of every possible doubt."--Chandler,
The Trial of Jesus, vol. 1 pp. 153-154. The Judge was
not during the court trial to be searching for evidence that
would convict the defendant. Benny declares that it was a maxim
of the Jews that "the Sanhedrin was to save, not to destroy
life." Other maxims recorded in the Mishna are: "Man's
life belongs to God, and only according to the law of God may it
be disposed of." "Whosoever preserves one worthy life
is as meritorious as if he had preserved the world."
Hebrew law provided no lawyers either to
defend or to prosecute. The judges were the defenders, and the
witnesses the prosecutors. "The only prosecutors known to
Talmudic criminal jurisprudence are the witnesses to the crime.
Their duty is to bring the matter to the cognizance of the court,
and to bear witness against the criminal. In capital cases, they
are the legal executioners also. Of an official accuser or
prosecutor there is nowhere any trace in the laws of the ancient
Hebrews."--S. Mendelsohn, The Criminal Jurisprudence
of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 110.
(14,15) To insure justice to the accused,
under Hebrew law, the arguments must begin in his behalf. Nothing
was permitted to be said against him till after at least one of
the judges had spoken in his behalf. Neither of these two rules
were followed in the case of Jesus, it would appear.
(16) The sentence against Jesus was
unlawful because it was founded on His own confession (Mark
14:61.64). "Self accusation in cases of capital crime
was worthless. For if not guilty he accuses himself of a
falsehood; if guilty he is a wicked man, and no wicked man,
according to Hebrew law, is permitted to testify, especially not
in penal cases."--Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, The Martyrdom of
Jesus, p. 74. Rabbi Wise is a learned
Jewish rabbi of a century ago. The judges of Christ not only
violated the law by acting as accusers, which only witnesses were
to do, but in addition they illegally extracted a confession from
Jesus and then used it as the basis for a death sentence.
"We hold it as fundamental, that no
one shall prejudice himself. If a man accuses himself before a
tribunal, we must not believe him, unless the fact is attested by
two other witnesses . . for our law does not condemn upon the
simple confession of the accused [alone]"--Hebrew law,
quoted in M. Dupin, The Trial of Jesus Before Caiaphas and
"We have it as a fundamental principle
of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation against
himself. Should a man make confession of guilt before a legally
constituted tribunal, such confession is not to be used against
him unless properly attested by two other witnesses."--Maimonides,
"Sanhedrin," IV, 2. Maimonides is an ancient
Hebrew legal authority. "Not only is self-condemnation never
extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but no attempt
is ever made to lead him on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a
voluntary confession on his part is not admitted in evidence, and
therefore not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of
witnesses [two or more] minutely corroborate his
self-accusation." --S. Mendelsohn, The Criminal
Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 133.
(17) One of the strangest rules of law ever
known was one in the Hebrew legal system: A person could not be
convicted on a unanimous vote of the judges. "A simultaneous
and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial
has the effect of an acquittal." --Mendelsohn, The
Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 141.
"If none of the judges defend the culprit, i.e., all
pronounce him guilty, having no defender in the court, the
verdict of guilty was invalid and the sentence of death could not
be executed."--Rabbi Wise, The Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 74.
The reason for this rule is simple. It was the duty of the judges
to defend the man, and at least one of them had to do it--or he
had no one on his side to see that he received justice. Remember
that under Hebrew law there were no defense lawyers. This was the
work of the judges--and at least one of them had to do it.
"With the Anglo-Saxon jury a unanimous
verdict is necessary to convict, but with the Hebrew Sanhedrin
unanimity was fatal [to the case against the accused], and
resulted in an acquittal - - Now if the verdict was unanimous in
favor of condemnation it was evident that the prisoner had had no
friend or defender in court [for by Jewish law, he had only the
judges as his defendants] ."--Chandler, The Trial of
Christ, vol. 1, pp. 280-281.
Scripture is clear--a unanimous verdict
based solely on the testimony of Jesus was handed down by the
Sanhedrin judges. "They answered and said. He is guilty of
death." Matthew 26:66. "They all condemned Him
to be guilty of death." Mark 14:64. This unanimous
sentence was predicted over 600 years earlier (Isaiah 59:16,
It is significant that throughout the
trial, Jesus was silent when falsely accused and one might
normally speak. --And then He spoke at a time when silence would
have been His best defense. "The condemnation had
already been decided upon before the trial - - Jesus knew it, and
disdained to reply to what was advanced in the first place
because it was false; [but] what was advanced in the second place
He of His own accord and freely admitted, because in its material
basis it was true. When a false and unjust charge was brought
against Him, He held His peace, and He answered when no proof not
even a false one, constrained Him to speak."--Giovanni
Rosadi, The Trial of Jesus, p. 180.
Jesus was asked a direct question as to
whether He was the Messiah. It would have been to His personal
advantage to remain silent, and He would have been within His
rights to do so, and we well know He could not have been
compelled to speak if He did not want to. But silence at this
time would have been a virtual denial of His identity and
mission. In every case, Jesus was always true to the right.
(18) The trial was concluded by a judge
that had been disqualified to conduct it. This too was illegal.
Under the Mosaic code, if a high priest intentionally tore his
clothing, he was automatically disqualified as high priest and
was to receive the death sentence (Leviticus 10:6, 21:10).
Caiaphas did this during the trial of Jesus. The official
garments of the high priest were symbolic of the Messiah. Also
such an act would reveal a rage that was beneath the dignity of
the high priest. "An ordinary Israelite could, as an emblem
of bereavement, tear his garments, but to the high priest it was
forbidden, because his vestments, being made after the express
orders of God, were figurative of his office."--M.M.
Lemann, Jesus Before the Sanhedrin, p. 140.
(19) By Hebrew law the balloting carried on
here was illegal. In a criminal case the judges must vote one at
a time, beginning with the youngest. Each in his turn had to
arise and cast his vote and then state his reason for his
decision. Both the vote and the reasons for it must be written
down by the scribes before the next man stood up to give his
sentence in the matter. Instead of this, Jesus was condemned by
an acclamation--a single chorus of approval (Matthew 26:66,
"In ordinary cases the judges voted
according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital
trial, the reverse order was followed [the youngest voted
individually before the older ones]."--Phillip Berger
Benny, The Criminal Code of the Jews, pp. 73-74.
"Let the judges each in his turn
absolve or condemn."--Mishna, "Sanhedrin," XV.
The decisions of each judge could not be recorded if
this practice were not followed. "The members of the
Sanhedrin were seated in the form of a semicircle at the
extremity of which a secretary was placed, whose business it was
to record the votes. One of these secretaries recorded the votes
in favor of the accused, the other those against him." --Mishan
"Sanhedrin," IV, 3.
(20) The verdict against Jesus was also
illegal because it was not given in the place required by Hebrew
law. It was believed that Deuteronomy 17:8-9 meant that the
death sentence could only be pronounced in one certain place. For
this, they chose a room in the Temple that was called "The
Hall of Gazith," or "the hall of hewn stone."
Mendelsohn tells us that outside of this judgment hall no capital
trial could be conducted, and no capital sentence pronounced.
Here is what the law says: "A sentence of death can be
pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in
the appointed place." --Maimonides,
"Sanhedrin," XIV. A sentence in
the Talmud declares: "After leaving the hall Gazith no
sentence of death can be passed upon anyone soever. "--Talmud,
Bab., Abodah Zarah, or of Idolatry, chap. 1, fol. 8.
It is evident from the record that Jesus
was tried and condemned in the palace of Caiaphas on Mount Zion,
and not in the hall of hewn stone. Edersheim, the Christian Jew,
comments on. this: "There is truly not a tittle of evidence
for the assumption of commentators, that Christ was led from the
palace of Caiaphas into the council chamber. The whole
proceedings took place in the former, and from it Christ was
brought to Pilate."--Alfred Edersheim, The Life and
Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, p. 556.
(21) The trial of Christ was illegal
because it was based on bribery. The judges of Jesus had bribed
Judas to deliver Him into their hands for a specified sum of
money (Luke 22:3-6). Geikie says that the "thirty pieces of
silver" was the price of a slave. Dwight L. Moody once said,
"God sent His only-begotten Son to ransom man; and man
offered thirty pieces of silver for Him."
The Mosaic code was very severe on those
who wrested judgment through bribery (Exodus 23:1-8).
Under Hebrew law, this included judges who gave bribes as well as
received them. In all nations and in all ages, the giving or
receiving of bribes by judges disqualifies them from office, and
nullifies their verdict. In this case, the evidence of bribery
was publicly given by Judas, in the midst of the judgment hall
and in the sight of all the spectators, when he returned the
bribe money and confessed his part in the matter (Matthew
27:1-6). According to Acts 1:19, this was done so publicly
that "it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem."
(22) The condemnation of Jesus by the
Sanhedrin was illegal because the judges were disqualified to
pass sentence upon Him because of their hatred of Him. Benny, the
noted Jewish legal expert, states the law of the Hebrews--and of
all nations--when he says: "Nor under any circumstances, was
a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to
occupy a position among his judges."--Philip Berger
Benny, The Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 37. "Nor must
there be on the judicial bench either a relation or a particular
friend, or an enemy of either the accused or of the
accuser."--Mendelsohn, The Criminal Jurisprudence of the
Ancient Hebrews, p. 108. If a defendant has the slightest
reason to suspect the enmity of a judge, he can demand that his
case be brought before another judge.
And what is the record: Within the six
months previous to the trial, there had been at least three
meetings of the Sanhedrin, the highest council and court in the
land,--specifically for the purpose of planning the death of
Christ. The first of these three sessions is given us in John
7:37-53. The second occurred a few weeks before the trial, and is
recorded in John 11:41-53. The third council meeting to plan His
death took place just before Passover (Luke 22:1-3). And
of course, their judicial enmity against Christ is also shown not
only by the bribing of Judas, but also by the hiring of false
witnesses. Jesus had been condemned, and even sentenced to die,
before the trial ever began.
(23) The judges of Christ were also
disqualified to listen to the case or to pass verdict on it
because most of them had been dishonestly elected to office.
Under Hebrew law, the members of the Sanhedrin must be chosen
only because of high nobility of character. "The robe of the
unfairly elected judge is to be respected not more than the
blanket of the ass."--Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims
and Rules, p. 182.
(24) In addition, they were to receive no
salary or reward for their membership in the Sanhedrin. It is a
well-known fact that many of the judges of Jesus were not only
degenerate and corrupt in character, but that they had purchased
their seats in the council, and were making merchandise of their
offices. In fact, several of them had grown rich by this means.
This was especially true of the family of Annas, the high-priest.
The amount of information available to support these last two
illegalities would fill most of this sheet of paper.
"Throughout the whole course
of that trial [of Jesus before the Sanhedrin] the rules of the
Jewish law of procedure were grossly violated, and the accused
was deprived of rights, belonging even to the meanest (lowliest)
citizen. He was arrested in the night, bound as a malefactor,
beaten before His arraignment, and struck in open court during
the trial; He was tried on a feast day, and before sunrise; He
was compelled to criminate Himself, and this, under an oath of
solemn judicial adjuration; and He was sentenced on the same day
of the conviction. In all these particulars the law was wholly
disregarded. "--Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the
Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in
Courts of Justice, p. 566. Simon Greenleaf was professor of
law at Harvard University at the beginning of the twentieth
century and was considered to be one of the outstanding legal
minds of his day.
"Grasping priests denounced
Him, false witnesses accused Him, judges of bad faith condemned
Him; a friend betrayed Him, no one defended Him; He was dragged
with every kind of contumely and violence to the malefactor's
cross, where He spoke the last words of truth and brotherhood
among men. It was one of the greatest and most memorable acts of
injustice. "--Giovanni Rosadi, The Trial of Christ, p.
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