THE OT CALENDAR ?
SANHEDRIN - BEFORE AND AFTER 70 A.D.
A SIMPLE OUTLINE
"The Sanhedrin Council was an ancient Jewish legal and
religious institution in Jerusalem...The political Sanhedrin
perished after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70(?) but
the religious Sanhedrin continued as the Rabbinic
partriarchate...Judah Ha-Nasi or (Prince) Judah 1, A.D.
135-220(?), religious and political leader of the Palestinian
Jews and head of the Sanhedrin Council. He collected and edited
the Oral Law, which he compiled as the Mishna" (From "Historic
Origin of the Judeo/Christian Religions" an article by Lloyd
W. Bowleg, Sr. 1997).
"Sanhedrin, from the Greek 'sunedrion' (council), the term
used for the highest native governing body of Jewish people
during Roman times, known also as the senate, council of elders,
or, simply, the council. It was composed of chief priests,
prominent lay persons, and scribes or professional lawyers, under
the presidency of the reigning high priest. The chief priests
were ...mainly Sadducees, whereas the scribes were taken mostly
from the Pharisees.
The council is a post-Exile institution very likely evolved
from the body of elders that had some authority after the return
of the exiles from Babylon (Ezr.5:9; 6:7; 10:8)...It included
71 members, counting the president, and received the name
Sanhedrin in Herodian times.
The Sanhedrin's meeting hall was either on the temple
grounds or very near them...The power of the Sanhedrin was
dependent upon the authority of the Roman procurator in NT times.
According to Roman custom it was allowed to regulate religious
questions freely and civil affairs within certain limits. It was
also the highest court of justice..." (The New Catholic
Encyclopedia, article "Sanhedrin").
"SANHEDRIN (Sanheedrin) The highest Jewish council in the
first century. The council had 71 members and was presided over
by the high priest...The word Sanhedrin is usually
translated "council" in the English translations of the Bible.
Because of the predominance of the chief priests in the
Sanhedrin, at times the words chief priests seem to refer to the
action of the Sanhedrin, even though the name itself is not used.
According to Jewish tradition, the Sanhedrin began with the
70 elders appointed by Moses in Numbers 11:16 and was reorganized
by Era after the Exile. However, the OT provides no evidence of a
council that functioned like the Sanhedrin of later times.
Thus, the Sanhedrin its origin sometime during the centuries
between the Testaments...
During the first century, the Sanhedrin exerted authority
under the watchful eye of the Romans. Generally, the Roman
governor allowed the Sanhedrin considerable autonomy and
authority...The Gospels describe the role of the Sanhedrin in
the arrest, trials, and condemnation of Jesus...The book of
Acts describes hoe the Sanhedrin harassed and threatened the
apostles...After Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, the Roman
Commander asked the council to examine Paul to decide what was
Paul's crime (Acts 22:30; 23:28)..." (Holman's Bible
Dictionary, article "Sanhedrin").
"SAN'HEDRIN (san-hee'drin; Aram. form of Gk. sunedrion, a
'council, assembly session')...The rise of this great council
of the Hebrews took place in the time of the Greek supremacy,
though the rabbis endeavor to trace its origin to the college of
seventy elders named by Moses...In the time of Christ the
Sanhedrin is frequently mentioned as being the supreme Jewish
court of justice...Sometimes the terms presbuterion
(Luke 22:66; Acts 22:5) and gerousia (Acts 5:2) are substituted
for Sanhedrin...The great council was formed(Matt.26:3, 57;
Mark 14:53; 15:1; Luke 22:66; Acts 4:5-6; 5:21; 22:30) of high
priests (i.e., the acting high priest, those who had been high
priests, and members of the privileged families from which the
high priests were taken), elders (i.e., tribal and family heads
of the people and priesthood), and scribes (i.e., legal
assessors), Pharisees, and Sadducees alike (cf. Acts 4:1,5-6;
5:17,34). According to the Mishna the number was 70, with a
president, a vice president, and servants of the court (John
18:22; Mark 14:65; etc.). Josephus and the NT state that the
acting high priest, as such, was always head and president...
It is believed that membership was for life and that new
members were appointed by the existing members or by the supreme
Rome continued to allow, only imposing certain restrictions
with regard to competency...
The local courts usually sat on the second and fifth days of
the week (Monday and Thursday); but whether this was the practice
of the Sanhedrin we have no means of knowing. There were no
courts held on festival (which see) days, much less on the
Sabbath. The place in which the Sanhedrin usually met, was
situated, according to Josephus (Wars 5.4.2)...on the E side
towards the Temple mount. In cases that did not admit of delay it
assembled in the high priest's house (Matt.26:3,57; Mark
(The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, article "Sanhedrin").
"SANHEDRIN. Great Sanhedrin usually means the supreme
political, religious, and judicial body in Palestine during the
Roman period, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER the DESTRUCTION OF THE
TEMPLE, until the abolishment of the patriarchate (c.425
We shall see later that the patriarchate was only officially
un-recognized by the Romans, and did not mean it disappeared or
vanished from Jewish life or existence (Keith Hunt).
Continuing quote: "...The Gospels describe three trials
Before the Sanhedrin all of them presided over by the high
priest, but apparently in different locations...
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE THE RELIGIOUS SANHEDRIN
WAS RECONVENED IN Jabneh, and, under the PRESIDENCY OF THE Nasi,
it NOW BECAME the supreme political instrument for all the Jews
of the Romans Empire. When Judea was destroyed as a result of the
failure of Bar Kokhba, the Sanhedrin MOVED TO GALILEE. At first
it met in Usha, THEN in nearby Shefaram, SUBSEQUENTLY, in Judah
ha-Nasi's time, in Bet She'arim and Sepphoris, and in the end in
Tiberias. The Romans apparently withdrew their recognition of the
Sanhedrin when they dissolved the patriarchate" (Encyclopedia
Judaica, article "Sanhedrin").
Did you catch all that? The Sanhedrin DID CONTINUE AFTER
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE IN 70 A.D. AND YOU ARE TOLD WHERE
The last sentence concerning the Romans and the patriarchate
I want you to notice. It does NOT SAY the Sanhedrin and the
patriarchate DISAPPEARED from the Jews. It says the Romans
eventually (and we saw earlier in the above quote, it was about
425 A.D.) withdrew their recognition when they dissolved the
patriarchate. The Roman Empire by 425 A.D. was falling apart and
breaking up. They had better things to do than bother with a
Jewish Sanhedrin and patriarchate. The official date for the fall
of the Roman Empire is given as 476 A.D.
As we shall see the following in-depth studies and quotes
concerning the Sanhedrin, also clearly show that a Jewish council
or Sanhedrin DID CONTINUE AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE IN
AN IN-DEPTH STUDY OF THE JEWISH SANHEDRIN
" 2. The Religious Sanhedrin: This body, which met in the
hall of hewn stone and was called also 'the great Bet Din' or
simply 'the Bet Din in the hall of the hewn stone'...was
invested with the highest religious authority. According to
Talmudic tradition it originated in the Mosaic period, the
seventy elders who were associated with Moses in the government
of Israel at his request (Num.11:4-31) forming together with him
the first Sanhedrin...The institution is said to have existed
without interruption from that time onward...but the fact
that no passages whatever in the pre-exile books of the Bible
refers to this institution seems to indicate that it was not
introduced before the time of the Second Temple...The first
assembly of this nature was held under Era and Nehemiah
(Neh.8:10), which was called 'the Great Synagogue'...in Jewish
scholastic tradition. Subsequently, at a date which cannot be
definitely determined.... replaced by a standing body. The latter,
which was called 'Sanhedrin' or 'Bet Din' was regarded as the
continuation of the synods which had previously been convened
The hall of hewn stone ('lishkat ha-gazit') in which the bet
din sat was situated on the southern side of the inner court of
The Great Bet Din sat daily, except on the Sabbath and on
feast days, between the morning and evening sacrifices...
According to the accounts given in the Talmudic sources, the
Great Bet Din had the following functions, which it exercised in
part as a body and in part through committees of its members:
It had supervision over the Temple service, which was
required to be conducted in conformity with the Law and according
to Pharisaic interpretation.
It decided which priests should perform in the Temple
It supervised especially the important ritual acts, as the
service on the Day of Atonement.....
It had in charge the burning of the Red Heifer and the
preparation of the water of purification......
It also had to decide as to the harvest tithes.....
It sat in judgment on women suspected of adultery, and
sentenced them to drink the bitter water....
IT ARRANGED THE CALENDAR.....and provided correct copies of
the Torah roll for the king, and probably for the Temple
also...... In general it decided all doubtful questions
relating to the religious law....and rendered the final decision
in regards to the sentence of the teacher who promulgated
opinions contradicting the traditional interpretation of the
Two persons were at the head of the bet din: one, the actual
president with the title 'nasi' ; the other, the second president
or vice-president, who bore the title 'ab bet din' (father of the
The members of the bet din sat in a semi-circle in order
that they might see one another......The president sat in the
center....Two secretaries recorded the various opinions expressed
by the members.......
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM AND THE
DOWNFALL OF THE JEWISH STATE, THE ACADEMY OF JABNEH WAS ORGANIZED
AS THE SUPREME RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY, BEING THEREFORE REGARDED AS
THE CONTINUATION OF THE GREAT BET DIN IN THE HALL OF HEWN STONE.
THE LATER JEWISH ACADEMIES UNDER THE PRESIDENCY OF THE PATRIARCHS
OF THE FAMILY OF HILLEL .....WERE ALSO REGARDED AS THE
CONTINUATION OF THAT INSTITUTION (this is the meaning of the
sentence 'The bet din of the hall of hewn stone went on ten
journeys until it finally settled at Tiberias'......); THEY
ACCORDINGLY RETAINED ITS ORGANIZATION, AND THE PRESIDENT BORE THE
TITLE OF NASI, THE SECOND PRESIDENT OFFICIATING SIDE BY SIDE WITH
HIM AS AB BET DIN"
(The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol.11, article 'Sanhedrin').
" BET DIN AND JUDGES (Heb.....lit. 'house of judgment'). Bet
din (pl.battei din) is the term, in rabbinic sources, for a
Jewish court of law. In modern times it usually refers to an
ecclesiastical court dealing with RELIGIOUS MATTERS ........In
Israel the term has come to mean the rabbinic court(as opposed to
the secular court known as the bet mishpat) which has, by act of
the Knesset, jurisdiction in matters of personal status in
addition to its normal religious function.......
In Jewish Law. Origins.
The Bible records that Moses sat as a magistrate among the
people (Ex.18:13) and, either on the advice of Jethro, his
father-in-law (Ex.18:17-23), or on his own initiative
(Deut.1:9-14), he later delegated his judicial powers to
appointed 'chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens' (Ex
18:21; Deut.1:15) - reserving for himself jurisdiction in only
the most difficult, major disputes (Ex.18:22 and 26;
Judges had to be 'able men, such as fear God, men of truth,
hating unjust gain' (Ex.18:21) and 'wise men, and understanding
and full of knowledge' (Deut.1:13). They were charged to 'hear
the causes between your brethren and judge righteously between
a man and his brother and the stranger,' not be 'partial in
judgment,' but to 'hear the small and the great alike: fear no
man, for judgment is God's' (Deut.1:16-17). When the children of
Israel settled in their land, the allocation of jurisdiction on a
purely numerical basis ('thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens') was
to be replaced by allocation on a local basis, i.e., that judges
were to be appointed in every town within the various tribes
(Deut.16:18 and Sif.Deut.144; Sanh.16b).......
In towns with less than 120 inhabitants, there was only a
court of three judges - three being the minimum number - so that
where opinions were divided, a majority could prevail (San.3b;
Yad.Sanh.1:4). In towns with 120 inhabitants or more, the court
should have 23 judges and be designated as a 'Sanhedrin Ketannah'
(San..1:6; Yad.San.1:10). Courts of 23 judges also sat in the
Temple precincts in Jerusalem (San.11:2; Yad.San.1:3). The
highest court was the 'Sanhedrin Gedolah' of 71 judges which sat
in the Temple (Lishkat ha-Gazit) in Jerusalem (Mid.5:4; San.11:2;
Yad.San.1:3 and 14:12), corresponding to the 70 elders and
officers who took their place with Moses to 'share the burden of
the people' (Num.11:16-17).
The jurisdiction of the various courts was as follows:
(1) Courts of three judges exercised jurisdiction in civil
matters generally (San.1:1), including those which might involve
the imposition of fines (San.1:1; San.3a).....matters of divorce
(Git.5b)......conversion of non-Jews (Yev.46b)......absolution of
vows (Ned.78a; TJ. Hag.1:8, 76c and Ned,10:10, 42b)............
(2) Courts of 23 judges exercised jurisdiction in criminal
matters generally, including capital cases (San.1:4). They also
exercised jurisdiction in quasi-criminal cases, in which the
destruction of animals might be involved (e.g., Lev.20:15-16;
(3) The court of 71 judges had practically unlimited
judicial, legislative, and administrative powers but certain
judicial and administrative functions were reserved to it alone.
Thus, the high priest (San.1:5), the head of a tribe (San.16a),
and presumably also the president of the Sanhedrin (nasi), could,
if accused of a crime, only be tried by the court of 71. Certain
crimes were also reserved to its jurisdiction, such as the
uttering of false prophecy (San.1:5), rebellious teaching by an
elder ('zaken mamre' ; San.11:2; see Majority Rule), and the
subversion of a whole town or tribe (San.1:5); and certain
death penalties had to be confirmed by it before being carried
out (such as the rebellious son, the enticer to idolatry, false
witnesses; Tosef., San.11:7). The ordeal of a woman suspected of
adultery took place in the Great Court at Jerusalem only
(4) Apart from the regular courts mentioned above, there sat
in the Temple a special court of priests charged with the
supervision of the Temple ritual and with civil matters
concerning the priest (cf. Ket.1:5). Mention is also made of a
special court of Levites, presumably with similar functions (cf.
Tosef., San.4:7). Originally, the priests performed general
judicial functions: they were the sole competent interpreters (or
diviners) of God's judgment (Ex.28:15, 30, 43; Num.27:21;
Deut.33:8-10); later, they adjudicated matters together or
alternately with the judges (Deut.17:9; 19:17; 21:5), and
it seems that the litigants had the choice of applying to the
priests for the dictum of God or to the judges for judgment
according to law; eventually, the judicial function of the
priests were reduced to their simply being allotted some seats in
the Great sanhedrin (Sif.Deut.153).
(5) While no regular court could consist of less than three
judges (San.3b), recognized experts in the law ('mumheh
la-rabbin') were already in talmudical times admitted as single
judges (San.5a), albeit in civil cases only........No litigant
could be compelled to submit to the jurisdiction of a single
judge (Sh.Ar.HM 3:2).
Appointment of Judges.
The appointment of judges presupposed the 'semikhah'
('laying on of hands') by the appointer upon the appointee, as
Moses laid his hands upon
Joshua (Num.27:23)......so it came about that in the law the
president of the great Sanhedrin would be the authority
conferring judicial powers on graduating judges (San.5a), in a
formal procedure before a court of three in which he participated
or which he appointed (Yad.San.4:5). But judges were also
appointed by kings (e.g., 2 Chron.19:5-6).......
.......the bet din belongs essentially to the period of the
Second Temple and its establishment is attributed to Era. He
decreed that a bet din, which was to sit on Mondays and Thursdays
(BK 82a), be established in all populated centers. These were
local courts, while the Great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem served as
the supreme court (Deut.17:8-13; Sot.1:4; San.1:6).........
AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE, Johnan b. Zakkai
ESTABLISHED HIS BET DIN IN JABNEH AS THE CULTURAL AND POLITICAL
CENTER OF THE JEWS, AND IT SUCCEEDED THE PREVIOUS SANHEDRIN
THE JABNEH BET DIN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR REGULATING THE
CALENDAR AND THEREBY BECAME THE RELIGIOUS AND NATIONAL CENTER NOT
ONLY OF EREZ ISRAEL, BUT ALSO OF THE DIASPORA. IN ADDITION TO
THIS CENTRAL BET DIN, LOCAL BATTEI DIN CONTINUED TO FUNCTION,
PARTICULARLY IN THE VICINITY OF THE ACADEMIES.........
GAMALIEL 2, THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF THE CENTRAL BET DIN
INCREASED. THE SUMMIT OF ITS AUTHORITY WAS REACHED UNDER JUDAH
ha-NASI 1........THE TALMUD THEREFORE REFERS TO GAMALIEL AND HIS
BET DIN (Tosef., Ber.2:6) AND TO JUDAH ha-NASI AND HIS BET DIN
(Av.Zar.2:6), THEREBY INDICATING THE CENTRAL AND RELIGIOUS
AUTHORITY OF THE JEWS.......
Medieval and Modern Period.
The bet din became the STRONGHOLD OF JEWISH AUTONOMY IN THE
MIDDLE AGES, AND CONTINUED WITH REDUCED POWERS INTO MODERN TIMES.
It experienced many changes in the various centers of Jewish life
in the Diaspora, while RETAINING THE CONTINUITY OF THE PRINCIPLES
OF TALMUDIC LAW. A VAST LITERATURE OF RABBINIC RESPONSA GREW OUT
OF THE WRITTEN JUDGMENTS PASSED BY THE SCHOLARS OF EVERY AGE ON
ACTUAL CASES, THUS SETTING PRECEDENTS AND AFFORDING AN ORDERLY
DEVELOPMENT OF JEWISH JURISPRUDENCE.......
THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF THE MEDIEVAL BET DIN
WAS THAT IT SERVED AS AN ARM OF THE SELF-GOVERNING KAHAL WHICH
POSSESSED POWERS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT..........
IN EREZ ISRAEL, UNDER THE MANDATORY GOVERNMENT, AN ELABORATE
NETWORK OF BET DIN COURTS WAS ESTABLISHED UNDER THE SUPREME
RABBINICAL COURT IN JERUSALEM. THE STATE OF ISRAEL HAS TAKEN
OVER THIS SYSTEM, GIVING THE BET DIN EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OVER
THE JEWISH POPULATION IN MATTERS OF PERSONAL STATUS..........."
(Encyclopedia Judaica, article 'Bet Din and Judges').
I have been quite thorough in my above quote, but the
article is much longer for those who may yet want to see more
detail concerning the Sanhedrin or Bet Din.
I hope the reader noticed the point I gave emphasis to,
namely the Sanhedrin always, from the days of Ezra to the time
after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. had authority over
the CALENDAR and the announcing of the new month days, which
would also include the adding of the 13th month in certain years.
I also trust that the reader could see from again all the
emphasis I gave, that the supreme Jewish Sanhedrin or Bet Din,
CONTINUED AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE IN 70 A.D. THAT IT
CONTINUED INTO THE MEDIEVAL AGES AND ON INTO OUR TIME TODAY.
The Sanhedrin had authority over the calendar and when to
announce the new month days. In the time of Christ and the
apostolic church of God they had authority over the calendar. It
was the Sanhedrin, or supreme court of the main body of Judah
that announced the days of the months of the year, hence when the
14th of Nisan would be and the feasts of the 7th month. Jesus did
not argue with them over when the new month days would be
announced, nor did the NT church of God, during the first century
or any century thereafter. The Sanhedrin continued after the fall
and destruction of the Temple. The authority over the calendar
and when to announce the new month days was never taken away from
We shall see in our next studies some of the rules and
regulations that the Sanhedrin used to govern the calendar at the
time of Christ.
Written May 1997