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