IN  THE  HOUSE OF THE HIGH PRIEST


From  the  book  "The  Trial  and  Death  of  Jesus"


by  the  late  Haim  Cohn (Justice  of  the  Supreme  Court  of  Israel)



The Gospels are divided about what happened in the high priest's house when Jesus had been brought there. According to Luke, he had to spend the whole night in the company of the men who had arrested and "held" him (22:63), and they blindfolded and beat and mocked him (22:64-65). Only when "it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together and led him into their council" (22:66). According to John, Jesus was led into the house of Annas first, "for he was father-in-law to Kaiaphas, which was the high priest that same year" (18:13); it seems that he there was interrogated by "the high priest," which may be either Annas or Kaiaphas, and thereafter Annas had him sent "bound unto Kaiaphas the high priest" (18:19-24). There, nothing is reported to have taken place until they "led Jesus from Kaiaphas unto the hall of judgment" of the Roman governor (18:28). Only the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew tell that he stood that night in the high priest's house before all the council.


A good many scholars hold that what in truth transpired was the interrogation reported in the Johannine Gospel: it was the high priest, or his father-in-law, who questioned Jesus; there was no council present; and the purpose of the interrogation would then appear to have been preliminary to, and preparatory for, the trial before Pilate on the following morning. The contention is that the author of the Gospel of John rightly dismissed as un-historical and untrue the report in the Synoptic Gospels of a night or early morning meeting of the Sanhedrin: had there been a valid tradition behind it, he neither would, nor could, suppress it; on the contrary, he would be the first to grasp a further and excellent opportunity to incriminate the Sanhedrin unequivocally for Jesus' death. His subsequent effort to whitewash Pilate would have been rendered much easier and have sounded much more natural had he followed Mark and Matthew and prefaced the proceedings before him with the formal and solemn pronouncement of a death sentence by the Great Sanhedrin of the Jews. That, although aware of the reports in Mark and Matthew, he did not is said to indicate that the Sanhedrin conducted no trial and pronounced no sentence.1


ALL  THE  GOSPELS  WERE  INSPIRED;  THERE  IS  NO  CONTRADICTION;  WHAT  SOME  MENTION,  OTHERS  DID  NOT.  NOT  ALL  TV  NEWS  PROGRAMS  MENTION  THE  SAME  THINGS  ON  A  GIVEN  NEWS  ITEM.  SO  IT  WAS  WITH  THE  GOSPEL  WRITERS  -  Keith Hunt


We shall not seek to resolve the question of the historicity of the nocturnal proceedings reported in Mark and Matthew, but take our start from the premise that the Great Sanhedrin did that night assemble in the high priest's palace, And this in spite of formidable exegetical arguments propounded to disprove the authenticity of the passage in Mark,2 which served Matthew as model, and not because we would necessarily maintain the authenticity or reliability of the report, but because—looking at the events from the Jewish point of view—this is an assumption against us: the Jewish case must be much stronger if the Sanhedrin did not meet at all that night and if anything that did happen could be blamed on the high priest alone. The high priest may have been, in person, a Roman puppet, without moral or political stature, from whose acts and conduct the Jewish community as such would have vehemently dissociated itself; and it could be— and has been—held that what he said or did could in no way be blamed on the Jews or on the Jewish authorities as a whole. It is entirely different with the Sanhedrin: if the high priest acted in accord with, and presiding over, that august and most representative body, it was no longer he personally who would bear responsibility, or his personal character or prestige that would be of relevance: the Sanhedrin spoke for all sections and factions of the Jewish people, and its acts and decisions commanded general and undisputed authority. Postulating, therefore, as we do, that it was the Great Sanhedrin that assembled that night, we assume the burden of an "admission against interest," because we follow the evangelists in involving the Jews and Jewish authorities as a whole in the night's events.


THE  GOSPEL  EVANGELISTS  WERE  CORRECT;  THEY  WERE  INSPIRED  TO  WRITE  BY  THE  HOLY  SPIRIT;  THERE  WAS  NO  MAN  MADE-UP  ANYTHING  -  Keith Hunt


It was at the instance of the high priest that Jesus had been brought into his palace: he had detached temple police to prevent Jesus' being taken into Roman custody and to procure his delivery, for the night, into Jewish custody. He knew, of course, of Jesus' arrest by Roman troops, and had sent his police officers to negotiate with the Roman tribune; hence he also knew that Jesus was to stand trial the next morning before the Roman governor—that being the reason for his arrest. He would know all that, even if he had himself no hand in provoking Roman suspicion and prosecution of Jesus; and a fortiori if he was so involved. He must have had some reason for asking the Roman authorities to deliver Jesus into his custody that night, and no less for convening the Sanhedrin and bringing Jesus before it. To clear the way for our inquiry into those reasons, we must first dispose of the theories that the Sanhedrin was convened either to try Jesus and sentence him to death, as the Gospel reports convey, or to hold a preliminary investigation into the charges to be leveled the next morning in the Roman governor's court.


THE  GOSPEL  REPORTS  ARE  CORRECT,  THEY  CONVEY  THE  TRUTH  -  Keith Hunt


Of the scholars who hold that Jesus was tried and sentenced by the Sanhedrin, some think that he was tried twice, that is, first in a religious trial before that tribunal and afterward in a political trial before the Roman governor;3 others that the trial before the Sanhedrin was the only real one, and that the governor was then desired by the Jews to carry out the capital sentence, because that was beyond the Sanhedrin's powers.4 We have already dismissed the theory of incompetence as inconsistent with the fact that, at that and later times, the Sanhedrin did carry out capital sentences itself;5 but it is untenable for two further reasons, one of a legal and one of a political nature. As a matter of law, the mode of punishment prescribed in Scripture—stoning, burning, or slaying6 —could not be replaced by any unauthorized and alien mode of execution; any mode other than that prescribed in Jewish law would not amount to lawful carrying out of a Sanhedrial sentence

but, on the one hand, would leave it unexecuted and, on the other, constitute unlawful killing. And as a matter of politics, neither would the Sanhedrin have asked the Roman authorities to carry out its capital sentences for it, nor would the Romans have condescended to: as we have seen, the Sanhedrin exercised capital jurisdiction only over Jews, and it is inconceivable that a Jew would be delivered by a Jewish court to the Roman enemy for execution, whatever his crime; the Sanhedrin would rather have abstained from passing capital sentences than have them carried out by a hateful adversary in a manner incompatible with Jewish law and repellent to Jewish sentiment. As for the Romans, they would not have left any jurisdictional powers in the hands of the Sanhedrin if it had declared its inability to see to it that its judgments and orders were duly executed: if and so long as it was able to do so, well and good—the Romans would not interfere with its internal jurisdiction; but were it not, they would certainly have declined to relieve it of its duty, however abhorrent to it, of executing its own criminals.


UNDER  NORMAL  CONDITIONS  COHN  IS  NO  DOUBT  CORRECT  AS  FAR  AS  THE  WORKINGS  OF  THE  SANHEDRIN;  BUT  WHAT  HE  FAILS  TO  TAKE  INTO  CONSIDERATION  IS  THE  FACT  THAT  THIS  WAS  NOT  A  NORMAL  PROCEEDINGS.  THE  MAIN  BODY  OF  LEADING  JEWS  WERE  ALREADY,  FOR  SOME  TIME,  FIGURING  OUT  THE  BEST  WAY  TO  KILL  CHRIST.  AND  IF  THEY  COULD  WORK  IT  SO  THE  ROMAN  POWERS  LOOKED  LIKE  THE  GUILTY  ONES,  IN  KILLING  JESUS,  SO  MUCH  THE  BETTER.  WE  HAVE  SEEN  THEY  USED  "CRAFT"  OR  AS  WE  MIGHT  PUT  IT,  "THEY  WERE  VERY  CRAFTY  IN  THEIR  PLANS."  THEY  NEEDED  NOT  ONLY  TO  GET  THE  ROMANS  PART  OF  THEIR  SCHEME,  BETTER  STILL,  HAVE  IT  ALL  LOOK  LIKE  JESUS  HAD  DONE  SOMETHING  TO  GET  THE  ROMANS  TO  PUT  HIM  TO  DEATH  -  Keith Hunt


There remains, then, the theory that Jesus had to stand two different trials, one Jewish—religious—and one Roman—political. We are for the time being concerned with the Jewish trial only, said to have taken place at night before the Sanhedrin in the high priest's house. Before we examine the Jewish Trial Theory, it is only fair to say that the overwhelming majority of modern scholars has by now abandoned it, although, since the early days of Christianity, all generations and sects of Christians were brought up in the unshakable belief that Jesus had that night been tried and sentenced to death by the Jews. The rejection of the Jewish Trial Theory by theological and historical modern scholarship alike has moved a recent writer to the bitter complaint that the faithful traditionalists seem to be encountering a wall of consensus that no Jewish trial in fact took place.7 We shall not content ourselves with this consensus, but inquire into the theory on its merits, if only for the reason that most legal writers on the subject 8 still adhere to it.


It is that the high priest convened the Sanhedrin that night in his private home; that there and then Jesus was tried under Jewish law on a charge of blasphemy; that he was convicted of that offense upon his own confession; and that he was sentenced to death. On the face of it, the theory appears incompatible with the following well-established provisions of Jewish law:


No Sanhedrin was allowed to sit as a criminal court and try criminal cases outside the temple precincts, in any private house.9


The Sanhedrin was not allowed to try criminal cases at night: criminal trials had to be commenced and completed during daytime.10


No person could be tried on a criminal charge on festival days or the eve of a festival.11


No person may be convicted on his own testimony or on the strength of his own confession.12


A person may be convicted of a capital offense only upon the testimony of two lawfully qualified eyewitnesses.13


No person may be convicted of a capital offense unless two lawfully qualified witnesses testify that they had first warned him of the criminality of the act and the penalty prescribed for it.14


The capital offense of blasphemy consists in pronouncing the name of God, Yahweh, which may be uttered only once a year by the high priest in the innermost sanctuary of the temple; and it is irrelevant what "blasphemies" are spoken so long as the divine name is not enunciated.15


The obvious inconsistencies with, and the deviations from, these rules of law and procedure16 were taken into due account for the most part by the propounders of the Jewish Trial Theory, and furnish them with the all but conclusive argument that the whole trial, and the resulting sentence, were tainted with illegality.17 In the words of Chief Justice MacRuer: "The Hebrew Trial . . . steeped as it was in illegality . . . had been a mockery of judicial procedure throughout. Jesus was unlawfully arrested and unlawfully interrogated . . . The court was unlawfully convened by night. No lawful charge supported by the evidence of two witnesses was ever formulated.... As he stood at the bar of justice, he was unlawfully sworn as a witness against himself. He was unlawfully condemned to death on words from his own mouth...,"18 The very violation of all rules of law and procedure goes to establish the claim that Jesus was the victim of judicial murder.19 This claim is further strengthened by the notion "that the result of the trial was formally pre-determined by the judges, without distinction of sect";20 that is to say, that the whole trial was staged to give the appearance of judicial proceedings to the resolution previously passed to put Jesus to death (John 11:53; Mark 14:1; Matt. 24:6). And if the whole trial was, anyhow, only a travesty, why should the judges have troubled about the niceties and technicalities of law and procedure?21


Other writers have not been quite so nonchalant. To eliminate at least certain of the incongruities, namely, that the trial was held at night and on the eve of a festival or on the festival itself—which present, in fact, not only legal but also psychological difficulties-attempts have been made to predate the trial: it is said that the occurrences set by the Gospels in the one night and the one following day actually took place in the course of three consecutive days ("Three Days Chronology"), so that the trial need not have been conducted either during the night or on the eve of a feast day.22 The liberty here taken with the Gospel calendar calls to mind the Pharisaic rule of scriptural interpretation that what is reported in Scripture to have happened first may have happened last, and that what is reported to have happened later may have happened earlier.23 Whatever may be the merits of this revision of datings, it can solve only one or two of the procedural difficulties, and leaves the substantial irreconcilabilities unanswered.


The weightiest argument which seems to have been advanced to save the Jewish Trial Theory is that the law under which the trial was held was not the Pharisaic, which we know from the talmudic sources, but the Sadducean, which has since become obsolete and fallen into oblivion;24 and it is said that the trial that night in the high priest's house was in full conformity with Sadducean law and procedure. Now while it is true that, if any such Sadducean law and procedure ever existed, they have been consigned to limbo, nevertheless some fundamentals of Sadducean legal doctrine are well known and well vouched for,25 and we can test the argument by applying them to the trial reports. We have noted that Sadducees differed from Pharisees in their acceptance, as binding, of only the written precepts of Scripture, whereas the Pharisees postulated, as well, the divine authority of the oral law expounded by them.26 Insofar, then, as the violations of law observed in the trial affect oral law not enshrined in Scripture, it might be that a Sadducean court would not have regarded them as violations at all, not having recognized that law; on the other hand, even a Sadducean court would presumably not break rules laid down in Scripture itself, or deducible from it. Now there is no scriptural prohibition of holding criminal trials on feast days or the eves of festivals:27 in this respect, the trial of Jesus might, under Sadducean law, have been in order. But the ban on night trials already gives rise to doubts: it is based on the scriptural injunction to impale offenders "against the sun" (Num. 25:4), interpreted as requiring the trial and punishment of criminals only while the sun shines, that is, during daytime.28 As this kind of scriptural authority was often superimposed ex post facto on an existing rule established independently of Scripture, we might give the Sadducees the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had seen no objection to night trials either.


It is then said that while, as we know, criminal jurisdiction under the Pharisaic law was exercised only by the Small Sanhedrin of Twenty-three, under Sadducean it was the Great Sanhedrin of Seventy-one, that which in fact met that night in the high priest's house, that would itself exercise the jurisdiction because of the seventy elders who, according to Scripture, joined Moses to lead the people (Num. 11:16). But first, there is no indication in Scripture that the seventy elders with Moses ever exercised criminal jurisdiction; nor, second, have we have any record of the Great Sanhedrin of Seventy-one ever having done so. It is true that the scriptural choice of seventy, besides Moses, served as precedent for the membership of the Great Sanhedrin, but the number appears to have no bearing on the nature of its functions and competences.


With all that, the main difficulty in the way of a Sadducean trial is that it is explicit scriptural law that a capital charge must be proved by two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15; 17:6). Even assuming that the rule against self-incrimination and the inadmissibility of confessions was expounded only by Pharisaic teachers as a matter of oral law,29 the availability of a confession could not be held to dispense with the necessity of witnesses: a criminal charge could be established only "at the mouth of witnesses" (Deut. 19:15). Since, in the trial of Jesus, all witnesses were dismissed as untrustworthy or disqualified (Mark 14:59; Matt. 26:59-60), and the conviction was based on Jesus' confession alone (Mark 14:63-64; Matt. 26:65-66), the scriptural—that is, Sadducean—law cannot have been complied with.30 Biblical instances have sometimes been adduced as proof that, under strict scriptural law, men could be punished on the strength of their confessions, notwithstanding the requirement of witnesses: thus, it is said, was the killer of Saul punished by David, after "David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord's anointed" (II Sam. 1:16); or, Achan was stoned by the people after he had made a full confession to Joshua (Josh. 7:19-25). From the scriptural texts, however, we cannot know whether the punishments were judicial or extrajudicial, or whether witnesses were available besides; the ancient Jewish tradition is that Achan made his confession only after conviction;31 and as for the Amalekite who "confessed" to David, his tale was that Saul had asked to be killed (II Sam. 1:9-10), and he thought that he had done a good deed which he could vaunt, not committed a crime to be confessed: David reacted to a violation of "the Lord's anointed" rather than to any known offense punishable by ordinary process of law.32


There is, as well as this problem of evidence, the question of substantive law. It is not oral but scriptural law that "Whosoever curses his God shall bear his sin" (Lev. 24:15), but he that pronounces33 the name Yahweh shall be put to death and all the congregation shall stone him (24:16). A clear distinction is drawn between cursing God, which is an offense not punishable with death, and blaspheming God by pronouncing His ineffable Name, which is a captial offense; the distinction is scriptural, and hence part of the Sadducean law. To get around this, it has been said that Jesus' offense was not blasphemy by pronouncing God's name, but "doing presumptuously" and thus "reproaching the Lord" (Num. 15:30) I but it seems to have been overlooked that this alternative offense is not a capital one either, but earns only divine punishment (ibid.) or flogging.34 It is, further, argued that there is evidence to show that the Sadducean notion of blasphemy was much wider and not restricted to pronunciation of the divine Name: the witnesses who testified against Stephen said of him, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God" (Acts 6:11), and again, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law" (6:13), implying that there can be blasphemy without utterance of the Tetragrammaton, for which a man can be tried   (6:12)   and stoned (7:58). From the description of the stoning, it could be maintained that Stephen was lynched by a maddened mob rather than formally put to death;35 but, be that as it may, the blasphemies alleged against Stephen are so similar to those for which Jesus was allegedly sentenced that they afford no least independent proof. Stephen—just before the stoning—is said to have proclaimed that he saw "the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and . . . the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (7:56-57), while Jesus had already promised, "Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God" (Luke 22:69), a promise that provoked the finding of blasphemy against him. It is the precedent of Jesus which explains the blasphemy of Stephen, not conversely. Even more spurious is the argument from the stoning incidents reported in the Gospel According to John: we have shown36 why they cannot, in fact, have taken place; but even if they did, they afford no proof, for although the Jews are said to have taken up stones to stone Jesus (John 10:31) for blasphemy (10:33), they did not purport to do so in execution of a judicial sentence, and are not to be taken as using the term "blasphemy" in any technical sense.


It appears, therefore, that even had the Sanhedrin that tried and sentenced Jesus been a Sadducean court applying Sadducean law, it could not have convicted him of blasphemy, and it does not appear from any of the Gospels that he had been charged with any other offense or convicted of it. But the theory that the Sanhedrin could have been a Sadducean court is a priori untenable from start to finish. It is true that the Sadducees may have had courts of their own: one such is mentioned in the Talmud37 as carrying out the punishment of burning in divergence of the manner of Pharisaic law. But while a Sadducean court may well have used modes of execution differing from the usage of Pharisaic courts, that would not, either in the devising of such modes or at all, transgress the rules of scriptural law which the Sadducees regarded as sacrosanct and inviolable. The story reported in the Johannine Gospel of Jesus and the adulteress has been cited to establish the prevalence of Sadducean courts which rejected the Pharisaic modes: Jesus is told that "Moses in the law commanded us" that an adulteress ought to be stoned (8:5), whereas the Pharisaic law is that an adulteress is liable to death by strangulation.38 But the disputants of Jesus here are expressly identified as Pharisees (8:3) , not Sadducees; the woman was neither tried nor condemned, and we do not know what would have been the outcome of a trial in a Sadducean or a Pharisaic court; and, finally, the episode seems to have been inserted in the Gospel for the sake of the moral: the allegory of stoning was required so that Jesus' exhortation might apply, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (8:7).39


ALL  THIS  RAMBLING  BY  COHN  REALLY  MEANS  NOTHING   PER  SE.  THE  MINDSET  OF  JESUS'  ACCUSERS,  THEIR  DESIRE  FOR  SOME  TIME  TO  SEE  HIM  PUT  TO  DEATH,  THROWS  OUT  ANY  NICE  NORMAL  FORM  OF  ANY  SANHEDRIN,  BE  IT  SMALL,  OR  BIG,  PHARISAIC  OR  SADDUCEAN.  THE  GOSPELS  ARE  CORRECT,  INSPIRED,  AS  TO  WHAT  THEY  SAY  TOOK  PLACE  THAT  NIGHT,  BE  IT  INDEED  AGAINST  ANY  "NORMAL"  JEWISH  COURT  PROCEEDINGS.  NORMAL  IS  OUT  THE  WINDOW  IN  ALL  THIS  SETTING  FOR  JESUS  IN  HIS  LAST  DAY  AS  A  PHYSICAL  FLESH  AND  BLOOD  MAN  -  Keith Hunt


It is a fact that there were departures time and again from prescribed modes of execution and from rules of procedure and practice, but they need not be taken as evidencing a Sadducean bench or a court proceeding under Sadducean law. We find instances of judicial error, "because the court was not learned enough";40 of illegitimate usurpation of judicial powers, where kings, for example Herod, arrogated to themselves the power to try and punish criminals;41 or of legitimate excesses of jurisdiction by reason of emergency.42 It is this permissible exception from the strict applicability of rules of law and procedure that has provided some scholars with a clue to their theory: in the case of Jesus, the Sanhedrin had proclaimed an "emergency," and hence freed itself from all the rules, so that there could no longer be any difficulty about their nonobservance.


The principal modern proponent of this theory goes so far as to maintain that the "emergency" is the ultima ratio of Jewish law:43 according to him, substantive and procedural law alike could in every case, and in cases of apostasy normally would, be suspended by the president of the Sanhedrin, so as not to be hampered in the campaign against apostates and other dangerous elements by burdensome provisions.44 The main, if not the only, authority for this view is the report of a hanging of eighty witches on one day in Askalon, ascribed to Simon ben Shetah,45 who presided over the Sanhedrin more than a century before Jesus' time. We shall return to this report in another context;46 here it suffices to say that, according to tradition, Simon ben Shetah did, indeed, act in an emergency, and consequently his action would not be accepted as a precedent.47 But this is the only case that we know of a president of the Sanhedrin invoking emergency powers; and it is entirely improper to deduce any general rule from it. Moreover, nothing in the Gospel reports justifies the conclusion that the high priest, or any other president or officer of the Sanhedrin, or the Sanhedrin in plenary, did in fact proclaim an emergency and suspend all or some rules of law or procedure; on the contrary, the quest for witnesses against Jesus (Mark 14:55) and the plenary meeting without delegation of powers indicate prima facie that no emergency was proclaimed.


AN  "EMERGENCY"  WAS  NOT  NEEDED,  FOR  THEY  HAD  CRAFTILY   PLANNED  FOR  SOME  TIME,  HOW  TO  ENTRAP  AND  CONVICT  AND  KILL  JESUS,  OR  HAVE  HIM  KILLED,  AS  IT  WAS  ALL  PLAYED  OUT  -  Keith Hunt


Another author regards this emergency power as a kind of fiction or subterfuge, which the court would plead after the event to excuse irregular deflections from rules of law and procedure: to forestall or avoid any subsequent attack on the validity of its proceedings, it would pretend to have sat under conditions of emergency, even without any prior or formal proclamation of one, and any infraction of the law would automatically be cured.48 Again, it is not impossible that the wholesale hanging of witches in Askalon was, after the event, sought to be legitimized, if only for the sake of the reputation of Simon ben Shetah, by providing a plea of emergency; but if that was so, it would follow that emergency powers did not exist at all as an institution of Jewish law, the single incident at Askalon not being such as would set a general precedent. I am inclined to think that, so far from providing high priests and Sanhedrin with ex post facto pretexts, the emergency powers offer our authors a welcome cloak for the insolubility of their dilemma.


NO  DILEMMA  -  NO  EMERGENCY  CALLED  -  JUST  DOING  WHAT  THEY  HAD  PLANNED  NO  MATTER  IF  WITHIN  OR  WITHOUT  JEWISH  LAW  -  THEY  HATED  JESUS  SO  MUCH  THAT  MANY  THINGS  WERE  THROWN  TO  THE  WIND,  BUT  YET  HAD  TO  LOOK  SOMEWHAT  LIKE  IT  WAS  AN  OPEN  COURT  AND  THEY  WERE  GIVING  JESUS  A  GOOD  CHANCE  TO  CLEAR  HIMSELF  -  Keith Hunt


We have seen that the Pharisees were rightly reputed—or notorious—for a rigorous legalism and punctilious formalistic exactitude in the observance of every particle of the law. This is how the "Pharisees" are depicted in the Gospels: and for the orthodox interpreter, the glaring contradiction between the typical strictness in complying with the law and this particular failure to do so must be somewhat embarrassing. 


EMBARRASSING?  NOT  AT  ALL.  THE  MINDSET  OF  THE  PHARISEES  WAS  SUCH  BY  NOW,  AND  FOR  SOME  TIME,  SO  CONSUMED  WITH  HOW  TO  DISPOSE  OF  THIS  MAN,  THEY  HAD  SO  COME  TO  HATE  AND  SO PLANNED  TO  KILL;  THEIR  REGARD  FOR  "LAWS"  -  NORMALITY  -  AND  DOING  THINGS  BY  THE  BOOK  AS  WE  SAY,  WAS  LARGELY  THROWN  OUT  THE  WINDOW.  BUT  COHN  CAN'T  SEE  IT,  FOR  HE  THROWS  OUT  MANY  VERSES  IN  THE  GOSPELS  AS  FALSE  AND  IDEAS  OF  MEN,  NOT  BELIEVING  AS  HE  DOES  THAT  THE  GOSPELS  ARE  INSPIRED  AND  TRUE  IN  EVERY  WAY  -  Keith Hunt


The Sadducean theory seemed to provide the answer: there were no Pharisees that night in the high priest's house, or if there were, they were in a minority that could not make itself heard. But—apart from the difficulties already mentioned—this answer raises a new riddle. We know that it was the "Pharisees" who were the archenemies of Jesus, according to the Gospels; it was they who "sought to destroy him" and consulted together how best to. How, then, could it be that they, of all people, had no hand at all in the final piece of destruction?


THEY  DID,  AND  IDEAS  TO  THE  CONTRARY   ARE  WRONG  -  Keith Hunt


We also know that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were at loggerheads: how, then, could it be that the Pharisees would trustingly delegate to the Sadducees the conduct of the trial and the pronouncing of the sentence upon Jesus? After all the eagerness that the "Pharisees" have displayed in trying to persuade Jesus to wash hands and keep fasts and pay more regard to technicalities of sabbatical laws, we are to believe that they would suddenly deliver him into the hands of heretical Sadducees for trial in disregard of all the binding rules of substantive and procedural law! Even if a Sadducean court had claimed jurisdiction to try Jesus, there can be no doubt that the Pharisees would have objected, or that Jesus would have demurred: if he had to be tried at all, the least that they and he would have asked for was his trial according to law.


THE  PHARISEES  WOULD  HAVE  NEVER  NOT  BEEN  A  PART  OF  ALL  THIS  PLANNING  AND  BRINGING  FORTH  THEIR  PLANS  TO  KILL  JESUS.  ANY  IDEA  OTHERWISE  IS  VERY  WRONG  -  Keith Hunt


The main point that the Sadducean theory overlooks, however, is that the Great Sanhedrin of Seventy-one, while including Sadducees and Pharisees, went by Pharisaic law—not only because Pharisees would not otherwise have taken part, but also because the people would not have it otherwise.49 If we take it that it was the priests and elders and scribes and all the council, that is, the Great Sanhedrin, that assembled that night, then ipso facto we exclude the possibility that Jesus was tried by a Sadducean court: even if such courts did exist, they were not, and could never be, identical with the Great Sanhedrin.


I  AGREE,  COHN  IS  CORRECT  IN  HIS  DEDUCTIONS  -  Keith Hunt


The Jewish Trial Theory thus falls to the ground, in the light of legal and logical considerations no less than for exegetical reasons. Jesus could not have been tried by the Sanhedrin in the manner, and at the time and place, described in the Gospel reports, or convicted of the offense of which, according to those reports, it is said to have convicted him. It has, therefore, been suggested that what the Sanhedrin did that night was to hold a preliminary inquiry into the charges on which Jesus would, or could, be tried the next morning before the Roman governor.


THE  GOSPELS  ARE  CORRECT  -  THEY  ARE  INSPIRED  WRITINGS;  HAIM  COHN  IS  INCORRECT  IN  HIS  DEDUCTIONS.  NOTHING  WAS  NORMAL  THAT  NIGHT;  CRAFTINESS  IN  PLANNING  HAD  BEEN  DONE;  EVEN  BREAKING  JEWISH  NORMAL  COURT  LAWS.  IT  WAS,  WE  NOW  HAVE  OUR  CHANCE,  IN  THE  DARKNESS  OF  NIGHT,  WHEN  MOST  ARE  SLEEPING,  LET  US  DO  IT,  ATTITUDE  OF  MIND;  SO  IT  WAS  DONE  -  Keith Hunt


The fact that Jesus was tried, and was sentenced, the next morning by Pontius Pilate is commonly agreed: why, then, should that trial have been preceded by another? If a criminal trial on a capital offense is preceded by trial-like proceedings, it stands to reason that those proceedings are in the nature of a preliminary investigation for the purposes of the trial. This conclusion is apparently fortified by the fact that, according to Gospel reports, the proceedings in the high priest's house began not with a recital to Jesus of any formal charge or accusation but with the search for witnesses—not to prove a given and defined offense, but to find out whether testimony would be forthcoming to prove any offense against him at all. The most formidable argument in favor of the investigatory theory is that the high priest interrogated Jesus himself: interrogation of the accused is unheard of in a criminal trial under Jewish law. A sentence ("condemnation") of the San-hedrin is recorded only in Mark (14:64); according to Matthew, they all "said" that he was guilty of death (26:66), and may have said so informally; and, according to Luke, they just "said, What need we any further witness?" (22:71); and the lack of any formal sentence in the two later Gospels—coupled with the entire absence of any trial proceedings in the Gospel of John—might point to the fact that the proceedings ended not with a judgment against Jesus but only with a decision to indict him before Pilate. It is said, indeed, that the Sanhedrin acted that night not in its judicial capacity, but as an administrative body, and there can be no doubt that it had administrative as well as judicial functions. The investigatory theory, according to some of its protagonists, finds significant support in the terminology of the Gospels: the term used in Mark (15:1), translated as "consultation," is the Greek sumboulion, meaning council session; if the Sanhedrin had sat as a court, it would have been krisis or krima.50


WELL  SURE,  THEY  WERE  INVESTIGATING  TO  SEE  FIRST  IF  ANY  WITNESSES  COULD  COME  FORTH  TO  PROVE  JESUS  WAS  GUILTY  OF  BLASPHEMY.  LUKE  22:71  WAS  FOR  THEM,  OUT  OF  JESUS'  OWN  MOUTH,  PROOF,  AND  SO  THEY  NEEDED  NO  FURTHER  WITNESSES.  THE  CONTEXT  OVERRIDES  CERTAIN  GREEK  WORDS  THAT  MAY  HAVE  BEEN  USED;  YOU  CAN  STILL  INVESTIGATE  TO  CONDEMNATION  AND  THEN  TO  DEATH  -  Keith Hunt


It appears prima facie difficult to understand that, while it was unlawful for the Sanhedrin to meet at night or on the eve of a feast day to hold a trial, it was lawful for it so to meet for a preliminary inquiry. One would have thought that if even a trial was unlawful at such a time, a fortiori a preliminary inquiry must be. But the opinion has been offered that the prohibition to sit on the Sabbath and festival days applied only to judicial trials, where an accused had to be sentenced and put to death, not when the Sanhedrin met in an administrative capacity, or for political or other debate.51 It is true that the reason for the ban was probably not the requirement of sabbatical or festival repose for the members, but rather the humane consideration that an accused should not be placed in jeopardy on such a day; from his point of view, however, it was almost as bad to be subjected to a preliminary investigation as to be required to stand trial, and neither of the one nor of the other should he be victim on his day of rest. 


BUT  THIS  WAS  NOT  "NORMAL"  -  IT  WAS  NOT  "BUSINESS  AS  USUAL"  -  IT  WAS  CRAFTY  PLANS  NOW  BEING  PUT  INTO  MOTION,  AND  SUCH  EVIL  PLANS  ARE  USUALLY  DONE  BEST  AT  NIGHT,  WHEN  YOU  CAN  PULL  THE  STRINGS,  WHILE  MOST  EVERYONE  ELSE  IS  SLEEPING  -  Keith Hunt


And as for the embargo on nocturnal proceedings, reliance has been placed on a rule that where a trial was adjourned from one day to the next, the members of the court would consult with each other during the night,52 to show that consultations at night, as distinguished from trials at night, were perfectly lawful.53 But, for these consultations, the judges met in their homes, and not necessarily all of them together; and there is no record of any plenary night meeting of the Sanhedrin for any purpose. Furthermore, while consultations among the judges could be held at night without in any way inconveniencing the accused, any nocturnal inquiry, including his interrogation, would infringe his right of rest no less than a nocturnal trial would; and as with sabbatical and festival rest, so must the night's rest be taken as a right conceded to the accused rather than to his judges.


ALL  UNDER  "NORMAL"  CONDITIONS.  JUST  SIMPLY  DOES  NOT  APPLY  TO  A  GROUP  OF  JEWISH  LEADERS,  BENT  ON  KILLING  JESUS;  ALL  NORMAL  CONDITIONS  WOULD  BE  THROWN  TO  THE  WIND,  DISREGARDED,  ESPECIALLY  WHEN  YOU'D  FIGURED  IT  OUT,  AND  THE  BEST  CHANCE  OF  IMPLEMENTING  IT  HAD  NOW  COME,  WITH  JUDAS  AS  A  BETRAYER  -  Keith Hunt


If, indeed, the Sanhedrin did hold a preliminary investigation, it must have been held for the Roman authorities. It has been said that a "preliminary examination was required before the trial before Pilate could take place. There was the necessity to question Jesus, interrogate witnesses, translate their depositions, and prepare the charge sheet. . . . Differences of language, custom and conventional habits between the Roman officers and the indigenous population would necessitate that the preparation of the case should be entrusted to Jewish officials on the High Priest's staff."54 We shall shortly see that the Romans stood in need of no Jewish help in that regard; but, assuming for a moment that they did, how could it be that, of all the Jewish "authorities" or "officers," it had to be the Great Sanhedrin of Israel that must render them technical assistance such as this? The answer, of course, can only be that it was not the whole Sanhedrin that met that night, but the high priest and some of his clerks and officers;55 the "chief priests and elders and scribes and all the council" would then be a later interpolation into the text, as is said to be shown by the fact that the "whole council" is mentioned in Mark (15:1) in connection with the delivery of Jesus the next morning into the hands of Pilate, but not (14:53) in connection with the night's proceedings. (The same textual variations led other scholars to the assertion that while a preliminary investigation was held by the high priest and some of his officers during the night, the Sanhedrin assembled early the next morning and held a trial.) 56 The theory that the preliminary investigation was carried out that night by the high priest and some of his officers finds support in the Johannine Gospel, which tells that Jesus was interrogated that night by the high priest alone (18:19-24), and that no council assembled in the high priest's house. But what of the "chief priests and elders and scribes" (Mark 14:53), or "the chief priests and elders and all the council" (Matt. 26:59), or "the chief priests and all the council" (Mark 14:55), who are plainly mentioned as attending and active in the night's proceedings? To dismiss all of this as a later interpolation is too easy and too little justified. I think that we have to abide by our premise that it was the Great Sanhedrin that convened that night, with the question still unanswered how that body should come to conduct an inquiry such as this for the Romans.


AT  LEAST  COHN  NOW  AGREES   IT  WAS  A  MEETING  OF  THE  GREATER  SANHEDRIN,  JUST  AS  THE  GOSPELS  WOULD  INDICATE;  CERTAINLY  "CHIEF  PRIESTS  AND  ELDERS  AND  SCRIBES"  AND  WITH  SOME  GOSPELS  ADDING  "AND  ALL  THE  COUNCIL"  THE  EVIDENCE  IS  FAR  TO  HIGH  TO  DISMISS  THAT  IT  WAS  THE  SANHEDRIN,  OR  MAIN  PART  OF  IT  THAT  MET  DURING  THAT  NIGHT  -  Keith Hunt


Authority for the thesis that it did, in fact, perform such tasks for them is claimed in the report on the arrest of Paul: the Roman captain, having arrested him (Acts 21:33), sought to examine him by scourging (22:24); Paul protested, claiming immunity from scourging as a Roman citizen (22:25-27); and the captain then "commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them" (22:30). It is said that Paul was "set before" the Sanhedrin by that command for the purpose of an inquiry in preparation of a Roman trial; but since Paul protested only his right as a Roman citizen not to be scourged, the captain could very well have questioned him without scourging, for no Roman citizen was entitled to immunity from interrogation, and no such immunity had been claimed by Paul. Moreover, if he could, as a Roman citizen, lawfully object to questioning by a Roman officer, he could a fortiori, as a Roman citizen, object to questioning by a local Jewish court. That the captain convened the Sanhedrin for no Roman purpose is evident from his letter to Felix, the governor, writing that he brought Paul before the council because he "would have known the cause wherefore they accused him" (23:28), and he then "perceived" that Paul was accused by them, that is, by the Jews, "of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds" (23:29). In other words, it turned out that Paul was charged with offenses under Jewish religious law that, under Roman law, were punishable neither with death nor with imprisonment; and the Sanhedrin was concerned with questions of Jewish law within its own and exclusive competence, not with any offense which might have been committed under Roman law and be triable in a Roman court. In his speech for the prosecution before Felix, Tertullus said that the Sanhedrin would have judged Paul according to Jewish law (24:6) had not the Roman officer taken Paul away "with great violence" (24:7). What took place before the Sanhedbrin was, therefore, the first stage of a trial under Jewish law, and not a preliminary inquiry to assist a Roman court, and would presumably have been concluded in due course if the Roman officer had not been informed of the plot to lynch Paul (23:21).


There is not a single instance recorded anywhere of the Great or Small Sanhedrin ever acting as an investigatory agent of the Romans. If such a custom or practice had existed, and surely if there had been any rule of law whereunder the Sanhedrin would be competent, or could be compelled, to render such legal services to the Roman governor, we would have some information about it in a Roman, Jewish, or Christian source. From what we know of the relations between the Romans and the Jewish authorities in Judaea, it is conceivable that the governor might ask for and obtain legal and administrative aid from the king, who was Roman-appointed and a Roman vassal; but it is almost unimaginable that he would have asked the Sanhedrin, knowing, as he did, what its attitude was toward all things Roman. From the story of Paul, it would seem that it readily met at the Roman officer's bidding, when it was called upon to assume jurisdiction over a Jew held by the Romans; but no Sanhedrin would have lent its help when called upon to deliver a Jew into Roman jurisdiction.


SO  THE  SANHEDRIN  MEETING  TO  INVESTIGATE [PUTTING  IT  MILDLY]  JESUS  BY  NIGHT  ON  THE  14TH  OF  THE  MONTH [PASSOVER],  WAS  NOT  DONE  TO  PLEASE  OR  HELP  ROMAN  AUTHORITIES.  THE  GOSPELS  MAKE  IT  CLEAR  THAT  THE  MAIN  BODY  OF  THE  SANHEDRIN  WAS  OUT  TO  PROVE  JESUS  HAD  BLASPHEMED,  AND  WAS  SO,  WORTHY  OF  DEATH  IN  THEIR  EYES.  THE  GOSPELS  CLEARLY  TELL  US,  THAT  THE  PROBLEMS  WITH  THE  PHARISEES  AND  JESUS  REACH  A  POINT  OF  NO  RETURN,  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  HAD  DETERMINED  TO  FIND  A  WAY  TO  KILL  CHRIST  -  Keith Hunt


The same story affords proof, by the way, that Roman officers were perfectly capable of conducting investigations themselves, and the "scourgings" inflicted on all non-Romans certainly contributed to render the investigations very effective, much more so than any Sanhedrial inquiry could hope to be. There were no language difficulties either: both Jews and Romans—at least the educated ones—would normally speak Greek  (Acts 21:37), and

Roman officers always had Aramaic interpreters—tax collectors and that tribe—in their service.


Under Roman law, it does not appear that any preliminary inquiry, in the technical meaning of the term, had to precede a criminal trial, even of a capital offense. The prosecutor would normally bring his charge before the magistrate by word of mouth, whether at the beginning of the trial or with an application to arrest the accused and have him brought to trial.57 There were preliminary investigations in the sense that the prosecutor would have to search for witnesses to prove his case: these were his responsibility, not the court's. Considering that a prosecutor was liable to a fine for failure to prove his case,58 it may be assumed that such investigations were common and thorough; but that does not alter their essentially private character.59 The governor, as a court, could not ask either the Sanhedrin or any other organ or authority to embark on a preliminary investigation of that kind: for the purpose of his court and the trial to be held by him, he simply did not need it. If the prosecutor—whoever he was— could not prove his case, the accused would be acquitted, and the prosecutor possibly fined; but it was no concern of the court to provide him with evidence.


This would open up the possibility that the Sanhedrin carried out a preliminary investigation not at the behest of the Roman authorities but on its own initiative, and not as a court but as a prosecutor.60 Such a hypothesis must start from the premise that it was competent, and in fact purported, to act as prosecutor before the Roman governor in the trial of Jesus. But neither the one nor the other is the case. As for competence, the rule in Roman law was that the prosecution was conducted by a private accuser: a body of accusers or a number of accusers was not admitted.61 The reason is that the law laid upon the prosecutor personal liabilities which could not be laid upon or shared by collective prosecutors: for example, an accuser might have to pay damages, as well as forfeit his civil rights, for frivolous prosecution (calumnia);62 a false accuser might be liable to the punishment which the person falsely accused had faced, including death;68 if a prosecutor gave up his case too soon (tergiversatio), or was negligent in pleading and proving it, he might have half his property sequestered, besides being punished with infamy;64 and for any collusion with the accused, by which that person might go free or be punished only mildly (praevaricatio), he would be similarly liable.65 These penalties could be effectively enforced only against individuals: neither in Rome nor in the colonies, to our knowledge, had an accusation ever been presented save by an individual accuser.


But neither do the Gospel reports suggest that the Sanhedrin acted as the prosecutor of Jesus before the Roman governor. What it did, according to the Gospels, was to resolve to have him delivered for trial to Pilate (Matt. 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1). 


THEY  HAD,  AS  FAR  AS  THEY  WERE  CONCERNED,  HEARD  HIM,  FROM  HIS  OWN  VOICE  -  BLASPHEME  -  AND  SO  WORTHY  OF  DEATH.  BUT  THE  CRAFTINESS  THEY  HAD  FORMED  WAS  NOT  FOR  THEM  TO  PUT  HIM  TO  DEATH [THEY  KNEW  A  HUGE  PART  OF  THE  JEWISH  POPULATION  WOULD  THEN  BE  AGAINST  THEM;  UP  TO  THIS  POINT,  THE  PEOPLE  AS  A  WHOLE  WERE  STILL  ON  JESUS'  SIDE].  THE  CRAFTY  JEWISH  LEADERS  HAD  TO  GET  THE  ROMAN  AUTHORITIES  TO  KILL  JESUS,  MAKING  IT  LOOK  LIKE  JESUS  HAD  DONE,  OR  WAS  DOING,  SOMETHING  THAT  ROME  COULD  NOT  TOLERATE,  THAT  ROME,  UNDER  THEIR  LAWS,  WOULD  PUT  HIM  TO  DEATH.  THE  SANHEDRIN  NEEDED  TO  GET  JESUS  TO  THE  COURT  OF  THE  ROMAN  GOVERNOR  -  Keith Hunt


The accusations—insofar as they are reported—were brought before Pilate by multitudes (Luke 23:2) or chief priests (Mark 15:3) or the Jews (John 18:30-31), all unidentified groups which might or might not represent the Sanhedrin. The fact that it cannot well be the Sanhedrin as such that acted as prosecutor is, however, borne out by the nature of the charges: had it held a preliminary investigation to frame the charges on which Jesus was to be prosecuted before Pilate, the said charges would have been identical with those found against him in the preliminary proceedings of the Sanhedrin. But, instead, we find Jesus accused before Pilate of stirring up the people (Luke 23:5) and perverting them (23:14), of being a "malefactor" (John 18:30) and of making himself a king (19:12), but not of any blasphemy, or of any of the "doctrines" extracted from him in his interrogation by the high priest (John 18:19). 


OF  COURSE  THEY  COULD  NOT  BRING  HIM  BEFORE  PILATE  WITH  "BLASPHEMY" -  PILATE  COULD  HAVE  SAID,  THAT'S  UNDER  YOUR  LAWS,  NOT  OURS,  YOU  SEE  TO  IT.  THEY  HAD  TO  BRING  CHARGES  AGAINST  HIM  THAT  WOULD  BE  AGAINST  ROME,  A  THREAT  TO  ROME,  NOT  SOME  "THEOLOGICAL  ISSUE"  OF  JEWISH  THEOLOGY.  THE  CRAFTY  PLAN  WAS  BASED  UPON  THE  FACTS  OF  LAWS  FOR  THE  JEWS  AND  THE  LAWS  OF  ROME  -  Keith Hunt


Nor does the high priest, who, according to John, would have held the preliminary investigation, appear as accuser: in John, it is always "the Jews" who negotiate with Pilate (18:13, 38; 19:7, 12, 14). To answer the purposes of the Roman trial, the Sanhedrin would have had to conduct the preliminary inquiry into an offense under Roman law; what it did was to inquire into an offense purely under Jewish law. If the search for witnesses was intended, also, to unearth evidence of a Roman law offense, it proved abortive, and no such witnesses were forthcoming. Even when Jesus himself was questioned, he was not once asked about matters which could be relevant in a Roman trial: nobody bothered to put the crucial question which would be thrust at him by Pilate the next morning (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). 


TRUE,  BUT  THEY  HAD  TO  MAKE  IT  APPEAR  IN  THE  JEWISH  WAY  OF  LIFE,  THEY  JUDGED,  OR  INVESTIGATED  IF  HE  WAS  GUILTY  OF  BLASPHEMY,  WHICH  WOULD  ALSO  UNDER  JEWISH  RELIGIOUS  LAW,  MEAN  DEATH  WAS  WARRANTED.  BUT  THE  CRAFTY  STEP  FURTHER  WAS  TO  GET  HIM  ACCUSED  UNDER  ROMAN  LAW,  SO  OTHER  CHARGES  WERE  BROUGHT  UP  TO  PILATE,  THAT  THEY  HOPED  WOULD  RENDER  HIM  GUILTY  UNDER  ROMAN  LAW,  AND  SO  THE  DEATH  PENALTY  -  Keith Hunt


All the Gospels are agreed that the Sanhedrin did not concern itself at all with any possible offense under Roman law: it concerned itself with what Jesus had said and done about the temple, and with his messianic and doctrinal aspirations, subjects of no interest to the Roman governor. It follows that, whatever it did, it did not upon the instance or order of the Roman governor and for his needs, but solely on its own initiative and for purposes of its own.


YES  INDEED,  FOR  THEIR  OWN  PURPOSE;  SO  MAKING  JESUS  GUILTY  OF  A  CAPITAL  OFFENCE  BOTH  UNDER  JEWISH  AND  ROMAN  LAW  -  Keith Hunt


As distinguished from the case of Jesus, in the case of Paul the Sanhedrin does, indeed, seem to have instigated the prosecution before Felix, the Roman governor, but to secure a locus standi under Roman law it had first to appoint an individual accuser in the person of Tertullus, "a certain orator who informed the governor against Paul" (Acts 24:1). Rather than the trial and sentencing of Paul for any offense under Roman law, which Tertullus did not specify, the purpose of hiring an accuser against him seems to have been to have him return to Jerusalem to be tried by the Sanhedrin (24:7-8). It is significant that, even for that limited purpose, the "Jews" or the "high priest with the elders" (24:1) would not themselves appear before the governor: they would appoint an "orator" versed in Roman law, as a matter of course and prudence, leaving aside any question of competence.


THAT  IS  UNDER  THE  "NORMAL"  FORM  OF  THINGS,  BUT  THIS  NIGHT,  AND  THE  HAPPENINGS  OF  THAT  NIGHT,  WAS  FAR  FROM  THE  NORMALITY  OF  EVERYDAY  LIFE  -  Keith Hunt


The Sanhedrin which assembled that night in the high priest's house did not try Jesus, or conduct any preliminary investigation. What, then, did it do, and for what purpose was it convened?


OH  YES  IT  DID!  BUT  LET'S  SEE  WHERE  COHN  IS  LEADING  US  -  Keith Hunt


Let us, once more, remember that this was the night preceding the Passover festival (John 13:1), or even the festival night itself (Mark 14:12; Matt. 26:17; Luke 22:7). As anyone familiar with Jewish rites and customs knows, each single member of the Sanhedrin, not least the high priest in person, must have been busy and preoccupied with the somewhat cumbersome and complicated preparations for the feast or with its celebration, whether in his home or in the temple or both. That the Sanhedrin should have been called that particular night to a meeting in the high priest's residence, and should eventually have spent long hours there until well into the next morning, requires very cogent and convincing explanation to be credible. 


WELL  HOW  ABOUT  THIS  COHN:  THE  LEADERS,  MOST  OF  THE  SANHEDRIN,  HAD  BEFOREHAND  DETERMINED  JESUS  SHOULD  DIE.  THEY   HAD  BEEN  IN  THE  PROCESS  OF  DEVISING  A  CRAFTY  PLAN  TO  ACCOMPLISH  THEIR  END.  THEY  HATED  JESUS,  WANTED  HIM  DEAD.  THEY  CONNIVED  A  PLAN  TO  BRING  THAT  TO  PASS;  WHEN  JUDAS  WENT  TO  THEM,  THEY  ZEASED  THE  MOMENT,  THEY  KNEW  IT  WAS  TIME  TO  ACT,  PUT  IN  MOTION  THEIR  PLAN  OF  DEATH  FOR  CHRIST  -  Keith Hunt


There must have been a matter of utmost urgency on the agenda, important enough to necessitate the instant consultation of the entire council, so important that no member, being summoned to attend, would raise a question of importunity. To hold a preliminary or other investigation, or to try a man on any criminal charge, was a matter neither of urgency nor of particular moment: and any member apprised of the purpose for which he had been summoned, if it was that, would at once have excused himself and gone back home. 


NO,  NOT  IF  THE  MAJORITY  OF  THE  LEADERS  WERE  IN  ON  THE  PLAN,  JUST  WAITING  FOR  IT  TO  BE  IMPLEMENTED  -  Keith Hunt


There was no judge then, nor would there be any judge today, who did not know that criminal proceedings are not held at night or on festivals; even if there had been no explicit legal rule to that effect, no judge in his senses, and certainly not seventy-one judges collectively, would have agreed to spend the festival night trying a criminal case, whatever it might be about. 


OH  YES  THEY  WOULD,  IF  THEY  KNEW  THEIR  OWN  CRAFTY  PLAN,  IF  THEY  WERE  IN  ON  THE  INSIDE  TRACK,  TO  HAVE  THE  RIGHT  SITUATION  COME,  WHEREBY  THEY  COULD  GET  RID  OF  THIS  MAN  THEY  NOW  HATED,  GET  RID  OF  HIM  BY  DEATH  -  Keith Hunt


It could, perhaps, be imagined that a clandestine and illegal court might hold its sessions at night and in private premises; but the Great Sanhedrin of Israel, a court of seventy-one members and of unlimited jurisdiction, holding its sessions daily and openly in the temple, would never degrade itself to meet surreptitiously, any more than would any court of competent jurisdiction today. 


WRONG,  SO  WRONG,  FOR  COHN  HAS  SIMPLY  ASSUMED,  AND  WANTS  YOU  TO  ASSUME,  THIS  SANHEDRIN  COURT  WAS  ALL  MADE  UP  OF  NICE,  GOOD,  MEN  WHO  HAD  NO  QUARREL,  NO  HATRED,  NO  CRAFTY  PLAN  IN  THE  WINGS,  WAITING  TO  BE  BROUGHT  FORTH  INTO  ACTION,  TO  PUT  AN  END  TO  THIS  JESUS  MAN  -  Keith Hunt


It was said that the nocturnal meeting had been arranged "lest there be an uproar of the people" (Mark 14:2), if they got wind of Jesus under trial; but not only was the "uproar of the people" feared if Jesus were taken on the feast day (ibid.), and not if he were taken and tried on an ordinary weekday, but meanwhile—or so Mark tells us— "great multitudes" of people (14:43) had already taken part in the arrest of Jesus, and the uproar could anyhow no longer be averted. If the "chief priests" were concerned to prevent Jesus' appearance at the temple during the Passover festival, when large crowds gathered there, nothing would have been easier for the high priest, once having secured the custody of Jesus that night, than to detain him until after the feast and then have him put on trial before the Small Sanhedrin in due course according to law. Nor would there have been any difficulty, if it was desired to avoid public disorder, in holding the trial in camera, during daytime and regular working hours, and in the proper court hall of the Sanhedrin.


OF  COURSE  NOT,  IF  THEY  WERE  PLAYING  BY  THE  BOOK,  BY  THE  RULES  OF  NORMAL  COURT  PROCEDURE;  BUT  THIS  WAS  ANYTHING  OTHER  THAN  "NORMAL"  -  AND  THE  NORMAL  NICE,  GOOD,  KIND,  MEMBERS  OF  THE  SANHEDRIN,  WERE  ANYTHING  BUT  NICE,  GOOD,  KIND,  IN  HEART  AND  MIND  TOWARDS  JESUS  -  NORMALITY  WAS  NOT  IN  THE  PICTURE  AT  ALL  -  Keith Hunt  


There is no escaping the conclusion that it had not been in the hands of the Sanhedrin, or in the high priest, to fix the timetable: the timing had been forced upon them. 


THE  TIME  TO  A  POINT  WAS  FORCED  UPON  THEM,  BUT   ONLY  TO  THE  POINT  THEY  HAD  TO  WAIT  FOR  THE  BEST  TIME,  TO  SET  THEIR  CRAFTY  PLAN  INTO  MOTION;  JUDAS  COMING  TO  BETRAY  HIM  WAS  THE  BELL  TO  SOUND  THE  PLAN  INTO  ACTION  -  Keith Hunt


We have seen that the high priest knew that Jesus was to be tried before the Roman governor early the next morning: the trial had been fixed beforehand to suit the governor's convenience—one could not know whether he would stay for yet another day in Jerusalem, or perhaps was due to return to Caesarea the very same day. At any rate, no Jewish body or individual could have had any influence on particulars of the governor's schedule. If anything was to be done by the Jewish leadership about the trial of Jesus, it had to be done forthwith, during the night. 


ANOTHER  REASON [THE  LEAVING  OF  PILATE  AT  ANY  DAY],  ALL  LEADING  THEM  TO  SEE  THEIR  PLAN  NEEDED  TO  GO  INTO  ACTION  IMMEDIATELY  -  Keith Hunt


But what was so important about the trial of Jesus as to warrant an emergency meeting of the Great Sanhedrin by night? The Sanhedrin had no power, or any illusion of power, to prevent the Roman governor from holding the trial, certainly not by forestalling him clandestinely and holding a trial itself. Nor was it called upon to undertake, or interested in undertaking, any services preparatory to the trial before him. There can, I submit, be only one thing in which the whole Jewish leadership of the day can have been, and indeed was, vitally interested: and that was to prevent the crucifixion of a Jew by the Romans, and, more particularly, of a Jew who enjoyed the love and affection of the people.66


OH,  OH,  DID  YOU  READ  THAT!?  DID  YOU  GET  IT!?

HAIM  COHN  WANTS  YOU  TO  BELIEVE  THE  SANHEDRIN  WAS  TRYING  TO  DO  EXACTLY  THE  OPPOSITE  FROM  WHAT  THE  GOSPELS  TELL  US  THEY  DID.  HE  WANTS  YOU  TO  BELIEVE,  THE  SANHEDRIN'S  GOOD,  NICE,  KIND,  "LOVING  JESUS"  MINDED  PEOPLE,  WAS  MEETING  TO  TRY  AND  RIGHTEOUSLY  SERVE  AND  HELP  JESUS,  FROM  THE  HORRIBLE  ROMANS  AND  WHAT  THEY  WOULD  DO  TO  HIM,  NAMELY  CRUCIFY  HIM.  COHN  TURNS  UPSIDE-DOWN  AND  INSIDE-OUT,  BACK-TO-FRONT,  TOP-TO-BOTTOM,  THE  GOSPEL  ACCOUNTS,  OF  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  WANTING  TO  KILL  JESUS,  NOW  ACTING  TO  KILL  HIM.  COHN  WANTS  YOU  TO  BELIEVE  THE  EXACT  OPPOSITE…… THE  SANHEDRIN  WAS  WANTING  TO  SAVE  THE  LIFE  OF  CHRIST!  I  MEAN,  YOU  READ  THE  GOSPELS  AS  THEY  ARE,  CLEAR  AS  A  CLOUDLESS  DAY,  AS  TO  WHAT  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  WANTED  AND  PLANNED   AND  DID  ON  THAT  14TH  NIGHT,  THEN  TRY  TO  FIT  INTO  THOSE  CLEAR  AND  PLAIN  WORDS,  THE  IDEA  OF  COHN,  THAT  THE  SANHEDRIN  ACTUALLY  WANTED  TO  SAVE  THE  LIFE  OF  CHRIST  FROM  THE  ROMAN  DEATH  BY  CRUCIFIXION.  IT  BLOWS  ME  AWAY!  I  SHAKE  MY  HEAD!  IT  IS  UNREAL!  THIS  IS  THE  TWISTING  OF  SCRIPTURE  TO  THE  HILT.  YOU  TALK  ABOUT  SAYING  WHITE  IS  BLACK  AND  BLACK  IS  WHITE……THIS  IDEA  OF  COHN  TAKES  THE  CAKE,  WINS  THE  GOLD  MEDAL  FOR  SCRIPTURE  ABUSE  -  Keith Hunt


If there was still any chance of saving Jesus, this was the last opportunity: the Roman governor could not be expected to consent to an adjournment or delay of the trial. Anything that could be done must be done that very night. Yet the question persists: Why had anything to be done? What if a Jew, one of the many teachers of the young who had messianic dreams and indulged in prophecies, was tried by the Roman governor? What even if he was sentenced and crucified? Just one more lamentable casualty in the bitter war with Rome. I do not allow myself to speculate that the Jewish leaders might have been prompted by ethico-religious considerations, such as the prohibition of standing by quietly when the blood of a neighbor is shed (Lev. 19:16), or the prescript to save the persecuted from the hands of his persecutor.67 The great importance of the matter inhered not in its moral and religious aspects, but in wholly realistic, political factors. We saw that the high priest found himself in a very precarious situation vis-a-vis the people: unless he did something about it, his standing and prestige in their eyes would steadily decline.68 He must have been desperately anxious to raise the esteem in which the public held him, and especially to demonstrate that he was a good and loyal Jew, admirably qualified for Jewish leadership, and not merely an instrument in Roman hands. The Sadducees, on their

part, were generally despised, if not detested, by the people for their wealth as much as for their religious schismatics, and, with the growing popularity of the Pharisees, had every reason to fear for their places of power and influence and for their seats in the Sanhedrin if they did not regain some popular support. And as for the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin in general, there was a growing tendency—or so it was apprehended—on the part of the Roman authorities to restrict Sanhedrial jurisdiction and autonomy and undermine its influence upon the people and its prestige among them. While the Sanhedrin had to be circumspect not to alienate such Roman goodwill as it could still enjoy, the first and foremost condition for its survival and effectiveness was to retain the people's confidence and fealty. Nothing could have been further from the intentions of its leaders, or more harmful to their purpose, than to provoke the discontent and disaffection of the people by conniving at the trial and crucifixion by the Romans of one who was in their very midst, whereas any action on their part to avert crucifixion would, if it succeeded, be likely to awaken popular applause and enthusiasm and to reinstate the high priest and the Sanhedrin in the regard of the people as their natural and accepted leaders.


DO  YOU  SEE  WHAT  COHN  IS  DOING?  HE  IS  SETTING  YOU  UP  WITH  REASONINGS  FROM  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS,  TO  WANT  TO  RETAIN  THE  POPULACES  ADMIRATION  AND  CONFIDENCE.  JESUS  IS  LIKED  BY  THE  POPULATION  AT  LARGE.  THE  SCRIBES,  THE  PHARISEES,  THE  SADDUCEES,  AND  THE  WHOLE  SANHEDRIN,  THEY  WANTED  TO  RESCUE  JESUS  FROM  THE  ROMAN  TRIAL,  THAT  COULD  AND  PROBABLY  WOULD,  FIND  HIM  GUILTY  OF  A  ROMAN  LAW,  AND  SO  CRUCIFY  HIM.  WITH  CLEVER  REASONING  COHN  HAS  STRIPPED  AWAY  THE  PLAIN  GOSPEL  ACCOUNTS  OF  WHAT  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  WERE  REALLY  UP  TO,  WITH  THEIR  CLEVER  CRAFTY  PLAN,  AND  HAS  BROUGHT  YOU,  HE  HOPES,  TO  WHERE  YOU'LL  AGREE  WITH  HIM,  THAT  THE  SANHEDRIN  WAS  TRYING  TO  SAVE  THE  LIFE  OF  JESUS  FROM  ROMAN  CRUCIFIXION  -  Keith Hunt    


Jesus was one of the people. Otherwise he would perhaps not have been loved by the people as he was: when he came into Jerusalem a few days before, "a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 21:8-9); and many people "took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord" (John 12:13). Such, indeed, was the ecstasy of the crowds that certain of the Pharisees among them are reported to have suggested to Jesus that he restrain them a little: "some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master [that is, Rabbi], rebuke thy disciples" (Luke 19:39). It is clear that all the "chief priests and elders and scribes" knew very well what was going on and saw that "the world is gone after him" (John 12:19); nor could any such "triumphant entry" into the city, any such acclaim by the masses, pass unnoticed. Anybody who wished—and some of the Jewish leaders might have wished—to divert a measure of the popularity away from Jesus and unto themselves was in fact stopped "for fear of the people" (Luke 20:19). The considerations which may have prompted the leaders to try to get rid of a man of progressive and reformist aspirations and independent thinking, and a worker of miracles, such as Jesus was, were far transcended by their conviction—which found expression in the Gospels—that any attempt at interference with Jesus would at once cause a "public uproar" (Mark 14:2). 


But the stage of such a conflict of motives would never actually be reached, as no individual success, no particular doctrine, and no religious or political aspirations could have any relevance as against the paramount necessity for the Jewish leadership to win and keep popular support. 


That a particular individual, for whatever reason, was a favorite of great masses of the people must have been ground enough for the Jewish leaders to foster and endorse and protect him: by denying him their backing and protection, they would automatically forfeit popular sympathy; by according him their backing and protection, they would gain the people's goodwill and esteem for themselves. 


THE  GOSPELS  SAY  ABSOLUTELY  NOTHING  ABOUT  THIS  IDEA,  OF  TRYING  TO  WIN  THE  PEOPLE  BY  LOVING  AND  PROTECTING  JESUS,  FROM  THE  EVILS  OF  ROME,  BUT  COHN  HAS  CLEVERLY  BROUGHT  YOU  TO  WHERE,  IF  YOUR  NOT  READING  THE  GOSPELS,  IF  YOUR  LIKE  HIM  IN  THINKING  THE  GOSPELS  ARE  NOT  INSPIRED,  TO  THE  PLACE  WHERE  HIS  HUMAN  LOGIC  OF  THOUGHT,  HAS  THE  LEADERS  IN  THE  SANHEDRIN  ON  JESUS'  SIDE.  HE  HAS  BROUGHT  YOU  TO  WHERE  HE  HOPES  YOU'LL  BELIEVE  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  WERE  THE  LOVING,  KIND,  PROTECTIVE,  PEOPLE,  WITH  ONLY  GOOD  INTENTIONS  TOWARDS  JESUS.  THE  GOSPELS  SAY  THE  COMPLETE  OPPOSITE  TO  WHAT  COHN  WANTS  YOU  TO  BELIEVE.  THE  WORDS  OF  THE  GOSPEL  WRITERS  NEED  NO  INTERPRETATION,  THEY  SAY  WHAT  THEY  MEAN  AND  MEAN  WHAT  THEY  SAY.  A  CHILD  OF  7,  8,  9,  CAN  READ  THE  GOSPEL  ACCOUNTS,  AS  I  DID  AT  THAT  AGE,  AND  CLEARLY  SEE  THE  EVIL  IN  THE  HEARTS  AND  MINDS  OF  THOSE  JEWISH  LEADERS  TOWARDS  JESUS  -  Keith Hunt


To become accomplices of the Roman governor in the persecution and prosecution of Jesus was the surest way to earn the abhorrence of the people: it was bad enough, in all conscience, to collaborate with the Romans, but to join forces with them to harm or destroy the best-beloved and most popular of Jews was close to unforgivable. On the other hand, to dissociate themselves from the Roman authorities and do everything in their power to render the persecution of Jesus abortive and save his life would not only earn them the popularity that they coveted, but also demonstrate to the people that the voice of the Sanhedrin was still heard even in the court of the Roman governor.


I  MEAN  THIS  IS  ALL  SO  BIZARRE,  SO  FAR  OUT,  THEOLOGY  FROM  PLANET  PLUTO,  IT  IS  HARD  TO  BELIEVE  SOMEONE  COULD  TWIST  THE  SCRIPTURES  THIS  MUCH,  AS  TO  TURN  THE  WORD  OF  GOD  ON  ITS  HEAD,  AND  TRY  AND  MAKE  IT  SAY  THE  OPPOSITE  TO  WHAT  IT  SAYS  -  Keith Hunt


It is from the standpoint not only of internal Jewish relations, but also of those between the Sanhedrin and the Romans, that any intervention by the Sanhedrin had inevitably to be in favor of Jesus. By delivering him to the Roman governor for trial or crucifixion, it would have confessed its inability or incompetence to maintain law and order among the Jews. Such an admission was exactly what the Romans would have hailed as a welcome pretext for depriving the Sanhedrin of the last vestige of its autonomy and establishing Roman jurisdiction throughout. If, from the domestic Jewish aspect, it was really necessary to bring the ministry of Jesus to an end and prevent him from spreading his teachings further, it was the Sanhedrin which ought to have been equipped to take the requisite steps, judicial or administrative or both. If it was not so equipped, more the pity! 


But what would the Roman governor have to do with any such purely Jewish predicament? His reaction was bound to be either refusal to handle matters of no concern to him or acceptance of the Sanhedrin's abdication of its own competences and privileges, and it could have intended neither. There was no earthly reason why it should deliberately run the risk of either rebuff or forfeiture of jealously guarded privileges. Moreover, as a point of Jewish law, it would have breached its judicial duties by delivering into the hands of an alien court an offender due for trial under that law. For it to deliver Jesus into the hands of the Roman governor would, then, in the governor's eyes, have been tantamount to admission of Sanhedrial failure and incapacity to preserve law and order; and, in the eyes of the people, to a contemptible infringement of national solidarity and treasonable collaboration with the enemy. Even if there were sinful and wicked members of the Sanhedrin—and there is nothing to substantiate the view—who would qualify as potential traitors and quislings, its membership cannot, in any circumstances, be presumed to have been blind and stupid: we must take it that all the judges knew the natural and probable consequences of their acts and would do nothing likely or liable to work out to their own hurt.


AGAIN  JUST  BIZARRE  IDEAS  FROM  THE  PLAIN  WORDS  OF  THE  GOSPELS.  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  HAD  FOR  SOME  TIME  DECIDED  THEY  NEEDED  TO  KILL  JESUS.  WE  ARE  TOLD  THEY  HAD  A  CRAFTY  PLAN.  THEY  WOULD  CONDEMN  HIM  FOR  BLASPHEMY  IN  THEIR  SANHEDRIN  COURT,  BUT  THE  CRAFTINESS  WAS  TO  HAVE  HIM  CONDEMNED  IN  THE  ROMAN  COURT,  MAKING  OUT  THEY  WERE  GOOD  CHILDREN  OF  ROME,  AND  HERE  WAS  A  MAN  WHO  WOULD  MAKE  HIMSELF  KING,  TO  THE  DETRIMENT  OF  ROME;  SUCH  A  MAN  SHOULD  BE  GUILTY  UNDER  ROMAN  LAW  AND  BE  PUT  TO  DEATH  WITH  ROMAN  CRUCIFIXION.  IF  THEY  COULD  GET  ROME  TO  FIND  HIM  GUILTY,  THEN  ALL  THE  PEOPLE,  THE  JEWS,  WOULD  GIVE  UP  ON  HIM,  COME  TO  SEE  HIS  BAD  INTENTIONS  AGAINST  ROME,  BE  CLASSIFIED  AS  A  REBEL  WORTHY  OF  DEATH.  THE  MINDS  OF  PEOPLE  CAN  BE  CHANGED  VERY  QUICKLY  IF  ALL  THE  RIGHT  PIECES  ARE  PUT  IN  PLACE,  AT  THE  RIGHT  TIME  AND  IN  THE  RIGHT  WAY.  THAT  IS  HUMAN  NATURE,  AND  THE  JEWISH  LEADERS  KNEW  IT  VERY  WELL.  THEY  WERE  ARTISTS  OF  CAPTURING  THE  MINDS  OF  PEOPLE,  THEY   HAD  DECADES  UPON  DECADES  OF  PRACTICE.  PUT  SOMEONE  IN  THE  POSITION  WHERE  HE  IS  MADE  TO  LOOK  LIKE  A  REBEL,  INSURRECTIONIST   AND  AN  ENEMY  OF  ROME.  MAKE  OUT  THAT  YOU [THE  JEWISH  LEADERS]  ARE  FOR  ROME,  THAT  YOU  HAVE  ONLY  ONE  KING,  THE  EMPEROR  OF  ROME.  MAKE  OUT  YOU  RESPECT  AND  HONOR  ROME  ABOVE  A  MAN  WHO  WOULD  BE  KING  OF  THE  ROMAN  EMPIRE,  AND  YOU  LOOK  LIKE  THE  WONDERFUL  MR.  GOOD-SHOES,  WALKING  TO  ROOT  OUT  IN  YOUR  MIDST,  THE  ENEMY  OF  ROME.  WITH  CLEVER  WORDS  AND  AN  OUTWARD  APPEARANCE  OF  LOYALTY  TO  ROME,  YOU  SOON  CHANGE  THE  MINDS  OF  PEOPLE  IN  FAVOR  WITH  YOURSELF.  PEOPLE  TEND  TO  WANT  TO  BE  ON  THE  WINNING  SIDE  -  Keith Hunt


There is no difference, in this respect, between the Pharisaic and the Sadducean membership. We know that Sadducees may have been antagonistic to Jesus, not only for being a Pharisee himself, 


NOPE,  NO……  JESUS  WAS  NOT  A  PHARISEE.  HE  DID  NOT  BELONG  TO  ANY  OF  THE  JEWISH  SECTS,  AND  THAT  SHOULD  BE  CLEAR  FROM  THE  WORDS  OF  THE  FOUR  GOSPELS  -  Keith Hunt


but mainly for despising the rich (Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22-25); but he may, of course, have found Pharisees inimical, too, if only out of their envy69 or because he taught "without authority." It was not the personality of Jesus that would inspire his advocates as well as his adversaries to take their stand: if it was his personality, or the merit of his doctrines, that was an issue, the Sanhedrin might have been divided. But it was unanimous, because not the personal fate of Jesus, or the merit of his doctrines, was at stake, but the standing and popularity of the Sanhedrin. The merit of his doctrine was actually the less relevant factor, seeing that it was his teachings and miracles that had won him his far-reaching popularity, and it was in the interest of the Sanhedrin—an interest of sheer self-preservation —to have that popularity serve its own purposes to the fullest possible extent.


OH  YES,  FOR  COHN,  THE  SANHEDRIN  WAS  FOR  JESUS,  LOVED  JESUS,  WANTED  TO  SAVE  HIM  FROM  ROMAN  TRYANY;  WANTED  TO  SHOW  THE  PEOPLE  HOW  THEY  WOULD  GO  TO  BAT  IN  THE  BIGEST  WAY  THEY  COULD,  TO  HELP  AND  SERVE  JESUS,  TO  PROTECT  HIM  FROM  THE  ROMAN  DEATH  SENTENCE  -  Keith Hunt


TO  BE  CONTINUED