Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Misconception of Jesus and the Sanhedrin Trial

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Here is an excellent article that Qa’im ibn Mohamad wrote:
السلام عليكم

I would like to analyze the alleged trial of Jesus عليه السلام, depicted by the New Testament, in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin was essentially an ancient and holy religious court in Palestine. It consisted of an assembly or council of 71 Jewish judges, one from each city of Palestine. The Sanhedrin would hold trials for the Children of Israel and rule based on the Mosaic laws and works of scholars. It was formally dissolved due to Roman persecution.

In relation to the Gospels, the Sanhedrin conspired against the Messiah
عليه السلام by paying Judas Iscariot 30 pieces of silver in exchange for Jesus عليه السلام. The witnesses at the trial of Jesus عليه السلام claimed that he had committed blasphemy, which was a capital crime.

Chaim H. Cohn, the late Israeli Supreme Court Justice, was an expert on ancient Jewish law. In his book Reflections on the Trial and Death of Jesus, where Cohn asks questions and casts doubt on the story of Jesus’ trial, he outlined 22 conditions that a trial must pass before heading to the Sanhedrin. The Jews hold these conditions and traditions very highly, as it is a well-documented religious tradition that was carried out for centuries. If a trial had violated any of the 22 conditions, it was immediately thrown out and not conducted. I wanted to analyze the trial of Jesus according to the Gospels in relation to these 22 conditions, to see if this trial was probable and really could have taken place.

Laws of the Sanhedrin Regarding Trials:

1. There was to be no arrest by religious authorities that was effected by a bribe Ex. 23:8
2. There were to be no steps of criminal proceedings after sunset.
3. Judges or Sanhedrin members were not allowed to participate in the arrest.
4. There were to be no trials before the morning sacrifice.
5. There were to be no secret trials, only public.
6. Sanhedrin trials could only be conducted in the Hall of Judgment of the Temple Compound.
7. The procedure was to be first the defense and then the accusation.
8. All may agree in favor of acquittal, but all may not argue in favor of conviction.
9. There were to be two or three witness and their testimony had to agree in every detail. Deu. 19:15.
10. There was to be no allowance for the accused to testify against himself.
11. The High Priest was forbidden to rent his garments. Leviticus 21:10
12. Charges could not originate with the judges; they could only investigate charges brought to them.
13. The accusation of blasphemy was only valid if the name, of G-d, itself was pronounced (and heard by 2 witnesses).
14. A person could not be condemned on the basis of his own words alone.
15. The verdict could not be announced at night, only in the daytime.
16. In cases of capital punishment, the trial and guilty verdict could not occur at the same time but must be separated by at least 24 hours.
17. Voting for he death penalty had to be done by individual count beginning with the youngest so the young would not be influenced by the elders.
18. A unanimous decision for guilt shows innocence since it is impossible for 23-71 men to agree without plotting.
19. The sentence could only be pronounced three days after the guilty verdict.
20. Judges were to be humane and kind.
21. A person condemned to death was not to be scourged or beaten beforehand.
22. No trials are allowed on the eve of the Sabbath or on a feast day.

More info:

1. Was there a bribe? Yes - the council allegedly bribed Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples of Jesus
عليه السلام. "Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him." (Matthew 26:14-16)

2. The criminal proceeding was happening throughout the night. My proof is Matthew 26, when Jesus
عليه السلام is arrested, taken to the criminal hearing, and Peter رضي الله عنه denies him three times. Verse 34 "this night before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times". Verses 40 and 45, the disciples are sleeping. Verses 57-68, the criminal hearing, testimonies, and witnesses are taking place. 69-74, Peter is outside in the courtyard denying Jesus. Verse 75, the rooster crows. All of this was at night, and therefore, illegal by Jewish trial laws.

3. Chief priests, elders, and scribes took part in the arrest. "And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders." (Mark 14:43)

4. No trials before morning sacrifice - see point number 2.

5. I don't know if the trial was conducted in secret, but Luke 22:54 alleges that Peter had followed the arrest in a distance. John 18:16 says Peter stood outside the courthouse, at the courtyard (which is confirmed by other Gospels). In other words, Peter, who was the best friend of Jesus had secretly followed those that arrested him and did not walk inside the "public trial".

6. The trial did not take place in the Hall of Judgment or Temple Compound. It took place in a house. "Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest's house... (Luke 22:54)

7. In none of the Gospel accounts was Jesus given a defense procedure prior to their accusations and the trial's false witnesses, which yet again breaks another Sanhedrin code.

8. All argued in favor of conviction; we find no evidence that any of them were not in favor. "Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put him to death" (Matthew 26:59) First person not in favour was Pilate.

9. The testimonies of the witnesses are all thrown out by the Sanhedrin in Mark 14:55. Then two witnesses said that they had heard Jesus
عليه السلام say that he will destroy the Temple and rebuild it in 3 days. Mark 14:59 says even these two testimonies did not agree. Therefore, not fulfilling this requirement.

10. Jesus
عليه السلام practically testifies against himself by keeping silent as the witnesses bore false testimonies. In all accounts, Jesus kept silent when questioned if he had threatened to destroy and rebuild the Temple, which according to Mark, was a false and inconsistent testimony. Jesus MUST answer to this accusation to fulfill the requirements of the Sanhedrin. Also, to claim to be the son of God (in Hebrew, it means a righteous person) and/or Messiah is not a crime in Mosaic law, and therefore a blasphemy sentence cannot be achieved from this.

11. The high priest ripped his clothes. Mark 14:63-64: "Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?' And they all condemned him to be deserving of death."

12. The initial charges in Mark 14:56-59 were not the ones acted on. The Sanhedrin had acted on the question posed by the high priest in verse 61, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?", in 62 Jesus says he is, in 63-64 the high priest says "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" and all condemned him to death. Therefore, the charge acted on was the one initiated by the high priest and not the ones brought forth from the witnesses.

13. Jesus
عليه السلام did not pronounce the name of God (YHVH) and therefore did not blaspheme.

14. One cannot be condemned based on words alone - Jesus was condemned based on his words alone, in every version of the trial. His crime was the claim to be the son of God and Messiah, both of which are not a crime in Mosaic law.

15. The trial and verdict was all done at night before the rooster had crowed, as proven earlier.

16. The trial and verdict was all done within the same night, therefore, violating the 24 hour gap rule.

17. The high priest announced the verdict initially, and not in order from youngest to oldest (or any particular order).

18. A unanimous decision in the Sanhedrin equals innocence, since an entire council of 23-71 men cannot agree together without illegal plotting. The council was unanimous, therefore Jesus
عليه السلام would have been let free and not convicted

19. The council immediately brought Jesus to Pilate in Mark 15:1, and the crucifixion took place in the third hour of the same day (Mark 15:25).

20. The Judges, elders, and scribes had beaten the Messiah
عليه السلام throughout the trial, mocked him, and later followed him to the crucifixion, mocked him more, made a crown of thorns, etc.

21. Mark 14:65, Jesus was blindfolded and beaten at the courthouse.

22. Mark 14 indicates that it was indeed Passover (verse 14). Luke 22 as well.

Therefore, I conclude that the trial of Jesus according to the Gospels violated each of the 22 conditions. Traditionally, in Judaism, a trial is thrown out if one condition was violated, but here we see the violation of the entire structure of this trial and sentence. What is also interesting is that none of the 4 Gospel writers actually point out that the Jews had conducted this trial upside down; there is no mention that procedures had been broken, pointing to the authors’ likely ignorance over such important facts of Jewish judicial tradition.

These facts speak volumes about the historical accuracy of the New Testament. The likelihood of this taking place is very improbable, as the Sanhedrin strictly followed its code and traditional procedures in most trials. What we find in the Gospels resembles the Sanhedrin in no way. This means that either a) the authors were awfully misinformed on the traditions of the Sanhedrin, as they were Greeks, b ) the Jews had unusually and deliberately violated all of their traditions without the Gospel writers making note of this, or c) the trial simply did not occur. Either way, the story does not really add up.


  1. Yes, and is this the same as the "Most Moral Army" of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Basically they can say whatever they want, their actions speak louder than words. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Gospel was correct, and the modern day Israeli judge is lying.

    1. You can believe Gospels, you can believe whatever you want. I wouldn't be surprised at all if you studied a bit about Christian Bible on the academic level and would cease to believe that all that is written in those book is in fact true.

  2. You can believe Gospels, you can believe whatever you want. I wouldn't be surprised at all if you studied a bit about Christian Bible on the academic level and would cease to believe that all that is written in those book is in fact true.