In Israel, at the time of Jesus, trials were judged by the Sanhedrin according to the law of Moses and the Talmud.
1.1. The Sanhedrin
The Jewish system of jurisprudence, law and judgment was based mostly on Deuteronomy 16:18–20. “18You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19You shall not distort justice, you shall not be partial, you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20Justice and only justice you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
In Jerusalem, there was a Great Sanhedrin, with 71 members, the high priest being president. The odd number was so that, in any voting, there would always be a majority. There were three classes:
- 24 chief priests, or heads of the twenty-four priestly courses (1 Chr 24),
- 23 scribes, and
- 24 elders.
They constituted the national parliament and sat as judges, with legislative, executive and judicial powers under the Mosaic Code.
1.2. The Mosaic Code
The Mosaic Code was the written law, based on the writings of Moses in the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah.
- The entire criminal procedure of the Mosaic Code was based on four rules:
- certainty in the accusation;
- publicity in the discussion – public trial;
- full freedom for the accused – the right to defence; and
- assurance against all danger of errors of testimony.
In the first century A.D., “the Law” included the regulations of the Talmud, which contained the ancient traditions (the Mishnah) and Rabbinic interpretations (the Gemara) transmitted orally for many centuries before being written down. In English, it takes up about 400 books. Many of these regulations were also broken during the arrest, trial and sentencing of Jesus, but I have not given the references here because we cannot look them up in the source.
1.3. The charges
The charge brought against Jesus before the Sanhedrin was first sedition and then “blasphemy against Jehovah”. The charge brought against him before Pilate and Herod, was “treason against the government of Rome.” Both these charges were capital offences, i.e., crimes punishable by death.
Go to next post – 2. The arrest
3. The trial
4. The sentencing
5. The judges
6. The execution
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