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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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1. The name.-Sanhedrin (סַנְהֶדְרִין, pl. [Note: plural.] סַנְהֶדְרִיוֹת; Targumic also סַנֶדְרִין, pl. [Note: plural.] סַנְדַּרְיָתָא, Heb. Aram. form of συνέδριον, ‘council,’ specifically ‘court of justice’ [so Septuagint Proverbs 22:10; Proverbs 26:26; Proverbs 31:23, Ps.-Song of Solomon 4:1; Josephus, Ant. XIV. v. 4]) is the name of the high court of justice and supreme council, specifically at Jerusalem (Sanh. iv. 3; Sôṭâ, ix. 18), called also ‘Sanhedrin of Seventy-one’ (Sheb. ii. 2), ‘the Great Sanhedrin’ (Sanh. i. 6; Midd. v. 4) in contradistinction to ‘the Little Sanhedrin of Twenty-three,’ the Bçth, Dîn shel shib‛îm we eḥâd, ‘the court of justice of seventy-one’ (Sanh. i. 5; Tôs. Sanh. iii. 4) and most frequently Bçth Dîn hag-gadôl shebyerûshâlaim, ‘the high court of justice of Jerusalem’ (Sôṭâ, i. 4; Giṭṭ vi. 7; Sanh. xi. 4), also Bçth Dîn hag-gadôl shebhlishkath haggâzîth, ‘the great court of justice which has its sessions in the hall of hewn stones’ (Sifrç Dt. 154; Sanh. xi. 2). The older name is γερουσία, ‘senate’ (Jos. Ant. XII. iii. 3; 2 Maccabees 1:10; 2 Maccabees 4:44; 2 Maccabees 11:27, 1 Maccabees 12:6, Judith 4:8, and elsewhere; also simply ‘the elders’ or ‘the elders of the people’ (1 Maccabees 7:33; 1 Maccabees 11:23; 1 Maccabees 12:35; 1 Maccabees 14:20); cf. Ziḳnê ‛amkâ bçth Yisrâçl in the ancient eighteen benedictions for the Sanhedrin, zâḳçn, ‘elder,’ being the name of the single member of the Sanhedrin = σύνεδρος (Jos. Ant. XIV. ix. 4). Another name for the Sanhedrin (possibly the Jerusalemic and not national Council of Justice) is βουλή (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xv. 6, xvi. 2, xvii. 1, V. xiii. 1), whence Jos. ib. II. xvii. 1; Mark 15:43 βουλεύτης = בּוּלוְוטֵים (J. Levy, Neuhebr. u. chald. Wörterbuch über die Talmudim u. Midraschim, 1876-89, i. 199f.). On Maccabaean coins the Sanhedrin is called ḥeber hâ-yehûdîm, ‘representative assembly of the Jews’ (F. W. Madden, History of Jewish Coinage, 1864, p. 58; A. Geiger, Urschriften und Übersetzungen der Bibel, 1857, p. 121; J. Wellhausen, Die Pharisäer und die Sadducäer, 1874, pp. 29, 34).

2. Origin and history.-The institution is based on Deuteronomy 17:8-11 (Sifrç and Sanh. 2a) and the seventy elders on Numbers 11:16 (Sifrç). The Talmudic sources ascribe it to Moses; also that of ‘the Little Sanhedrin of Twenty-three’ for each tribe after Deuteronomy 16:18 (Sanh. 16b, Jer. Sanh. i. 19c; cf. Sôṭâ, 44b; Targ. Jer. Numbers 25:4; Numbers 25:7; Numbers 7:85; Numbers 9:8, Exodus 21:30; Exodus 32:2 bf., Leviticus 24:12); and speak of its existence under Joshua, Jabez, Jerubbaal, Boaz, Jephthah, Samuel, David, and Solomon, and until the time of the captivity by Nebuchadnezzar (Bâbâ bathrâ, 121b; Yômâ, 80a; Mak. 23b; Ḳoh. R. 18; Targ. Ruth 3:11; Ruth 4:1, 1 Chronicles 4:12; 1 Chronicles 5:12; 1 Chronicles 18:17, Psalms 69:1; Psalms 80:1; M.Ḳ 26a; Bâbâ Ḳammâ, 61a; Yeb. 77a; Ber. 3b-4a; Sanh. 16b, 107a; Targ. Esther 1:2; Jer. Sanh. i. 18b). Again, during the Second Temple, after the men of the Great Synagogue from Ezra to Simon the Just ii. had occupied the place of the Sanhedrin, Talmudic tradition holds that it was re-organized under the zûggôth, (duumviri [Âbôth, i. 4-11; Ḥag. ii. 2; Peah, ii. 6; Yad, ii. 6; Jer. Sôṭâ, ix. 24a]) and continued in power under such form until the destruction of the Temple, when it was transferred to Jabneh, to Usha, to Sepphoris, and, finally, to Tiberias (Rôsh hash. 31b). This whole view, however, bears the imprint of the schoolhouse, and forms part of the Pharisaic system which in support of the Oral Law postulated an unbroken chain of tradition without any interference by any priestly-that is, Sadducean-authority. In this sense Jose ben Ḥalaphtha, the great 2nd cent. authority for Talmudic historiography, says (Tôs. Sanh. vii. 1; Ḥag. ii. 9): ‘In former times there were no dissensions in Israel. Every legal question that could not be decided in any city was submitted to the Sanhedrin of 23 on the Temple hill, and if not decided there, to the Little Sanhedrin of 23 in the Temple rampart, and if not decided there either, brought for final decision before the Great Sanhedrin in the hall of hewn stones which was in session from morning to evening, never allowing fewer than 23 of its members to be present for the discussion of the subject in the Temple schoolhouse. Thus the Hălâkah was fixed and developed in Israel. Dissensions arose when the disciples of Hillel and Shammai increased in number and failed to acquire through personal contact with their master the necessary knowledge and thus the doctrine was divided into many doctrines.’ As a matter of fact, pre-Exilic history presents nowhere a trace of an institution like the Sanhedrin. The seventy elders invested with spiritual powers (Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:24 f., Exodus 24:1; Exodus 24:9; cf. אֲצִילַי בְּנֵייִשְׂרָאַל [Exodus 24:11] with [ויָאצֶל 11:25]) point to the existence of some sort of representative body of the nation (cf. Ezra 8:11 with Exodus 3:16; Exodus 18:12, Deuteronomy 21:9, 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 12:8; 1 Kings 20:7, 2 Kings 23:1), but they form no judiciary like the Sanhedrin. The story in 2 Chronicles 19:1-2 of a high court of justice established by king Jehoshaphat, after Deuteronomy 17:8 f., consisting of Levites, priests, and heads of the families, with two chief members-the high priest to decide the religious, the governor of Judah to decide the monarchical, matters-cannot be adduced as proof of the Mosaic origin of the Sanhedrin, as does D. Hoffmann (Der oberste Gerichtshof, pp. 6, 20), but is, like all the Chronicler’s stories, a reflexion of the views of the post-Exilic writer. In fact, it indicates, as pointed out by Wellhausen (Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels3, 1886, p. 199), the existence of the Sanhedrin in his time, i.e. in the 4th century. As to the duumviri see below.

The first positive record of the Sanhedrin, under the name of Gerousia, appears in the decree of Antiochus the Great about 200 (Jos. Ant. XII. iii. 33). This was an aristocratic body of elders of the nation with the high priest at its head, which had charge of the government of the Jewish people under Persian and then under Ptolemaic and Seleucidaean rule; nor was it different under Roman rule (ib. IV. viii. 17, XI. iv. 8, XX. x.; 1 Maccabees 12:6; 1 Maccabees 13:36; 1 Maccabees 14:20; 1 Maccabees 14 :2 Maccabees 1:10; 2 Maccabees 4:44; 2 Maccabees 11:27). The name Synhedrion (Aramaized Sanhedrin), which denotes chiefly a court of justice, came into popular use under Ptolemaic rule; and, as its Hebrew equivalent, the name Ḥeber hâ-Yehûdîm appears on Hasmonaean coins, which read: ‘Joḥannan the high priest, the head, and the Council (representative) of the Jews’ (Madden, op. cit., p. 58; Wellhausen, Phar. und Sadd., pp. 29, 34, Israelit. und jüd. Geschichte,4, p. 281). A Sanhedrin of the Hasmonaeans is mentioned in Sanh. 82a, Abôda Zârâ, 36b, which is probably identical with the Pharisaic Sanhedrin (called kenîshtâ, ‘assembly,’ Meg. Ta‛ânîth, x.), whose triumph over the Sadducean Sanhedrin in the reign of queen Alexandra Salome and under the leadership, of Simon b. Sheṭaḥ was celebrated as a festival. The Sanhedrin seems to have played a political rôle in the quarrel between Alexandra’s two sons, when Gabinius, the Roman governor of Syria in 57 b.c., diminished its power by dividing the country into five districts and placing a Sanhedrin in Sepphoris and Jericho alongside of that at Jerusalem (Jos. Ant. XIV. v. 4). Soon afterwards, however, the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem was in full power again when sitting in judgment upon young Herod (ib. XIV. ix. 4), but forty-five of its members fell victims to the terrible revenge of the tyrant. Thus he rose to power, and a new Sanhedrin was chosen by him of servile men who passed sentences of death at his command (ib. XV. i. 2, vi. 2).

Under the Roman procurators when Judaea was shorn of all her sovereignty and independence, the Sanhedrin still continued to represent the supreme power and authority of the Jewish people (Matthew 26:59 and Acts 4:15; Acts 5:21; Acts 6:12; Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1; Acts 24:20). In the war against Rome it directed and organized the struggle, and when towards the last the Zealots took hold of the city of Jerusalem, they appointed their own Sanhedrin in place of the old to have a semblance of authority for their atrocious acts (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xv. 6, xvi. 1 ff., IV. v. 4). It must be noticed, however, that Josephus uses the term βουλή in Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) and κοινόν in Vita, 12, 13, 38, etc., instead of Sanhedrin, probably because the latter had become more what he calls (Vita, 12) ‘the Sanhedrin of the Jerusalemites,’ i.e. a city Senate. With the downfall of the State, the Sanhedrin as a national or political institution ceased to exist (Sôṭâ, ix. 11 Çkâh R. v. 16), but under the leadership of Joḥanan b. Zakkai, Hillel’s great disciple, the new Sanhedrin was soon afterwards organized at Jabneh (Jamnia), of an entirely scholastic character, consisting only of teachers of the Law; and the form the new Sanhedrin assumed under his successor Gamaliel II., who took the title of Nâsî as the lineal descendant of Hillel, offered to the Talmudic tradition many of the features ascribed to the ancient Sanhedrin.

3. The presidency of the Sanhedrin.-The chief difficulty for the historian lies in the irreconcilable conflict between the Talmudic traditions and the above quoted historical records in Josephus and the NT concerning the presidency of the Sanhedrin. According to the latter, the authenticity of which cannot be questioned, the high priest, as the political head of the nation, was the president. The former assign to the high priest no place in the Sanhedrin (Sanh. ii. 1, ‘The high priest can neither bring a case before the Sanhedrin nor be judged by them’; cf. Yômâ, 1:3, according to which he receives his mandates from the Sanhedrin), and instead have masters of the Pharisean schools placed regularly at its head. Two such masters known under the name of zûggôth (= duumviri), one with the title of Nâsî (prince), the other with that of Ab Bçth Dîn (‘father of the court of justice’), are recorded to have presided over the Sanhedrin from about the middle of the 2nd to the middle of the 1st cent. b.c. (Ḥag. ii. 2; cf. Abôth, i. 4-12; Peah, ii. 6; Yad, ii. 16; Jer. Sôṭâ, ix. 24a): Jose b. Jcezer of Zereda (a relative of Alkimos the high priest) (Ber. R. 65, 18), and most probably identical with the Hasidaean leader Razis (?) (2 Maccabees 14:37 ‘an elder and father of the Jews’) and Jose b. Joḥanan-the first duumvirate; Joshua b. Peraḥya and Nittai of Arbela-the second; Simon b. Sheṭaḥ (contemporary of Alexander Jannaeus and relative of queen Alexandra) (H. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, iii. 4 [1888] 137; E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] ii. 4, 421), and Judah b. Tabbai-the third; Shemaiah (= Sameas, Jos. Ant. XIV. ix. 4) and Abtalion (= Ptolion, ib. XV. i. 1)-the fifth. According to Sheb. 15a, Hillel’s successor as Nâsî was his son Simon, and he was followed by his son Gamaliel I., and he again by his own son Simon, the last president of the Sanhedrin before the destruction of the Temple. The untrustworthiness of these traditions, however, is shown first of all by the confusion in the sources, some of which place Judah b. Tabbai above Simon b. Sheṭaḥ, and Shammai above Hillel (Ḥag. ii. 2, 16b; cf. Sheb. 17a), and then by the significant fact that nowhere else are these men spoken of as Nâsî, Hillel being simply called ‘the elder’ = senator (Suk. 53a and elsewhere), but above all by the direct mention of Sameas and Ptolion (Jos. Ant. XIV. ix. 4, XV. i. 1), of Gamaliel 1. (Acts 5:34) and Simon b. Gamaliel (Jos. Vita, 38), as ‘certain members of the Sanhedrin belonging to the Pharisean party,’ while in each case the high priest appears as chief of the Sanhedrin. It is, therefore, impossible to escape the conclusion that the conditions existing under Gamaliel II. at the close of the 1st cent. were transferred to former times, and so the title of Nâsî (ethnarch) held by the Hillclites down to the 4th cent. (Orig. Epp. ad Africanum, quoted in Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] ii. 4, 248, n. [Note: . note.] 28) was claimed for Hillel, the ancestor believed to be of Davidic descent (Jos. Vita, 38; Ber. R. xlix. 10; Sanh. 5a); and, finally, the whole system of the duumvirate was carried back to the beginning of Pharisaism.

4. The title Ab Bçth Din and the duumvirate.-It is nevertheless unwarranted to dismiss as fictitious, as Schürer, Wellhausen, and Kuenen do, the whole tradition concerning the leadership of the so-called Nesîîm and the duumvirate. As a matter of fact, the important innovations (ṭekkânôth) ascribed to such masters as Jose b. Jcezer, Simon b. Sheṭaḥ, Hillel, and Gamaliel I. (cf. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, iii. and iv. [see Index], and Jelski, Die innere Einrichtung des grossen Synedrions zu Jerusalem, pp. 43-81) could have been brought about only under a Pharisean leadership of greater authority on the Law than was the high priest, who as a rule lacked both learning and piety. Apart from this, however, the tradition of a duumvirate is corroborated by Josephus in a remarkable passage which failed to receive the attention its importance deserves. In giving an exposition of the Mosaic constitution, in all probability taken from an older Pharisaic source, he writes (Ant. IV. viii. 14): ‘Each city shall have for its magistrates seven men known for their practice of virtue and zeal for righteousness, and to each magistracy two men of the tribe of Levi shall be assigned as assistants [secretaries]. These elected as judges shall be held in the utmost esteem.… For the power to judge cometh from God.… But if these judges do not know how to decide on matters submitted to them … they shall send the undecided case to the holy city, and there shall the high priest and the prophet and the Senate come together and give the final decision.’

It is plain that these rules must have been taken from the practice of the time and regarded as ancient traditional law. Now there is a trace of seven judges instead of the Talmudic three in each city court (Sanh. i. 1), found in the seven city aldermen (ṭôbç hâ ‛îr [Meg. 26a; cf. Jer. Meg. iii. 1, 74a; Tôs. Meg. iii. 1], probably ḥeber hâ ‛îr [Bik. iii. 12; Tôs. Peah, iv. 16; Sheb. vii. 9]). And the seven judges recur in Jos. Ant. IV. viii. 38 with reference to Exodus 22:7-8, Elohim being taken as judges (cf. Targ. [Note: Targum.] and Meḳ. to the passage). As governor of Galilee, Josephus appointed seven judges for each town and a Sanhedrin of seventy for the whole province (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xx. 5). For the high court at Jerusalem, however, a duumvirate, consisting of the high priest and the prophet, is ordained, and neither Kuenen (Gesamm. Abhandlungen, p. 66) nor Wellhausen (Phar. und Sadd., p. 26) nor Hoffmann (Del oberste Gerichtshof, p. 25) nor Büchler (Das Synedrion in Jerus., p. 62) explains the mention of the prophet here satisfactorily. The fact is that the Law (Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:12) mentions alongside of the priest also ‘the judge,’ implying thereby a man of judicial competence and authority, and thus suggests a sort of duumvirate such as the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 19:11) has. It is easy to see how, in view of the decline of the Sadducean priesthood, the necessity arose of having as the spiritual head of the Sanhedrin a Pharisean scribe who was to be consulted in all difficult questions. Such a scribe could well be called prophet, as the one filled with the Divine spirit of wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9; cf. Jos. Ant. iv. viii. 46, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. viii. 12; Wisdom of Solomon 7:27; Didache, x. 7; see also Hor. i. 4, mufla), while as the patriarch he received the title ‘Ab Bçth Dîn’ (cf. Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19, 2 Kings 2:12, and the title ‘Aboth’ for the ancient sages). It is especially noteworthy that Jose b. Jcezer, the first of the duumviri, was called ‘the father of the Jews’ (2 Maccabees 14:37). The duumvirate was, no doubt, the result of a compromise between Sadducean priesthood and the Pharisean scribes, the Ab Bçth Dîn being for the Pharisees the actual president, whereas the Sadducean high priest was consigned to oblivion, wherefore a later tradition referred the duumvirate to the leaders of the two Pharisean schools of each generation, giving to the foremost one the title of Nâsî (cf. Jewish Encyclopedia , article ‘Nasi’). It is not as president, but as the patriarch, that Gamaliel i. speaks with authority (Acts 5:34).

5. Composition and meeting-place of the Sanhedrin.-The Great Sanhedrin consisted of seventy-one members, the seventy elders and the Nâsî or president (Sanh. i. 5; cf. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xx. 5 and IV. v. 4). When Gamaliel II. and Eleazar b. Azariah alternated as presidents, they counted seventy-two (Yad, ii. 5; Zeb. i. 3).

The Little Sanhedrin in the provinces (Sanh. i. 16b) and in Jerusalem, one at the entrance to the Temple hill, the other at the entrance to the Temple Court or the Rampart (Sanh. xi. 1; Tôs. Sanh. ix. 1; Sifrç Dt. 152) consisted, according to the Talmudic tradition, of twenty-three. Of the former, one is mentioned as the βουλή of Tiberias (Josephus, Vita, 12), whereas the Great Sanhedrin is referred to as the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Possibly the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one was composed of the two Little Sanhedrins the one on the Temple hill, which may be identified with the Senate of Jerusalem (Jos. Ant. XX. i. 2, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xv. 6, xvi. 2), and the other before the Temple court, probably the one concerned with the Temple practice and the priestly legitimacy (Ant. XX. ix. 6), and the main body of the high court, also consisting of twenty-three (Tôs. Sanh. ix. 1), that is, 3 × 23 = 69, besides the patriarch of the court and the president or Nâsî. This would also account for the forty-five slain by king Herod, if it may be assumed that the Senate of Jerusalem sided with him (Ant. XV. i. 2).

As to the elements constituting the Sanhedrin, the ruling priests representing the Sadducean party were, according to Josephus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xiv. 8, xv. 2 f., xvii. 2 ff., V. i. 5) and the NT (Matthew 26:59; Matthew 27:41 and elsewhere), dominant in influence, and the patricians, called ‘the men of power’ (δυνατοί) in Josephus (locc. citt.), formed the bulk of the Sanhedrin, until king Herod replaced them by homines novi, whereas the Pharisees, who rose to power under Alexandra Salome, were but few in number (Jos. Ant. XIII. xv. 5; Mark 10:33; only the later Gospels mention the Pharisees). Only those were admitted into the Sanhedrin who were of pure blood, so as to be able to intermarry with the priestly families (Sanh. iv. 2). Little historic value can be attached to Jose b. Ḥalaphtha’s statement (Tôs. Sanh. ix. 1) that the Sanhedrin selected for each city court, the one found to be wise, humble, sin-fearing, of blameless character, and popular as judge, and then had him promoted to membership, first of the two Little Sanhedrins in Jerusalem, and finally to the Great Sanhedrin in the hall of hewn stones. The same holds good of the description in Sanh. iv. 3-4, Tôs. Sanh. viii. 1-2, according to which ‘the Sanhedrin sat in a semi-circle, the Nâsî in the centre and the two secretaries standing at both sides, while the disciples sat before them in three rows according to their rank; and when a vacancy arose, the new member was chosen from the first row, and his place again filled by one in the second row and so forth.’ This seems to be a picture taken from the Sanhedrin of Jabneh. Likewise academic are the prerequisites of the Sanhedrin given in Sifrç Nu. 92: ‘They must be wise, courageous, high-principled (not ‘strong’ as Bacher has) and humble.’ R. Joḥanan of the 3rd cent. (Sanh. 17b) says: ‘They must also be of high stature, of pleasing appearance and of advanced age, conversant with the art of magic and the seventy spoken languages,’ to which Judah han-Nâsî is said to have added ‘the dialectic power by which Levitically unclean things can be proven to be clean.’

There is, however, no cause for questioning the correctness of the tradition that the meeting-place of the Great Sanhedrin was in the hall of hewn stones, the lishkath hag-gâzîth on the south side of the great court in which the priests held their daily morning service and where other priestly functions were performed (Midd. v. 4; Tâmîd, ii., iv.). Schürer’s identification of lishkath hag-gâzîth with the Senate assembly house (βουλή) near the Xystos (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) V. iv. 2, VI. vi. 3) cannot be accepted in the face of these traditions, which prove that the lishkah (always the name of a Temple cell) must have been within the Temple area.

The Senate house near the Xystos in Josephus may refer, as Bacher thinks, to the time of the removal of the Sanhedrin to the city during the siege (Rôsh hash. 31). Besides this there was a special hall assigned to the high priest and the foremost men of the Sanhedrin called lishkath Parhedrîn (πάρεδροι), ‘the men of the front rank,’ also called lishkath bûleuṭîn, i.e. ‘senators’ hall’ (Yômâ, I. i. 8b).

6. Functions of the Sanhedrin.-According to the Mishna (Sanh. i. 4), capital punishment wag pronounced and executed by the Little Sanhedrin of twenty-three in the various provinces or tribes, but the tribunal of seventy-one in the Temple of Jerusalem was the only body vested with power and authority (1) to pronounce a verdict in a process affecting a tribe, a false prophet, or the high priest; (2) to declare war against a nation not belonging to ancient Canaan or Amalek; (3) to extend the character of holiness to additional parts of the Temple, or of Jerusalem; (4) to appoint Sanhedrin over the tribes; (5) to execute judgment against a city that had lapsed into idolatry. All these points, derived directly or, indirectly from Scripture (Judges 21, Deuteronomy 13:7 f., 13ff.; Sanh. 16a f.), refer to a time when the twelve tribes still had their existence, and are consequently theoretical rather than real life issues. Nor can it be taken as an actual practice of the Sanhedrin when it is charged with the burning of the red heifer (Numbers 19), or the breaking of the neck of the heifer to atone for a murder the perpetrator of which cannot be found (Deuteronomy 21:1 f.), the final judgment of a rebellious elder (Deuteronomy 17:12), the bringing of a guilt offering in the case of an unintentional sin committed by the whole congregation of Israel (Leviticus 4:13), the installation of a king or of a high priest (Tôs. Sanh. iii. 4), the ordeal of a woman suspected of adultery (Sôṭâ, i. 4; cf. Philo, ed Mangey, ii. 308), or the fixing of the calendar each new moon (Rôsh hash. ii. 5, 9). It may be taken for certain, however, that the three branches of the government, the political, the religious, and the judicial administration, were centralized in the Sanhedrin; yet at the same time these three different functions were assigned to three separate bodies. Hence mention is made of a Sanhedrin of the judges (Jos. Ant. XX. ix. 1), a Bçth Dîn of the priests (Ket. i. 5; Tôs. Sanh. iv. 4), which had in charge also the investigation of the legitimacy of the priesthood (Tôs. Sanh. vii. 1), and the Sanhedrin of the Jerusalemites (Jos. Vita, 12), i.e. the Senate of Jerusalem, to which the political administration of the country was entrusted. Possibly the name τὸ κοινόν, ‘the common administration,’ used almost exclusively in Vita (12, 13, 38, etc.), refers to this centralization. Hoffmann (op. cit., p. 46) refers the name to the democratic government established by the Zealots (Vita, 39), and compares the Talmudic ‛çdâh (‘congregation’) with the Sanhedrin (Sanh. 16a). In all matters of great importance, or in cases when the lower courts could come to no decision, the Great Sanhedrin, composed of three departments (3 × 23 = 69), together with the president and the patriarch (Nâsî and Ab Bçth Dîn), and forming the supreme tribunal ‘from which the law went forth to all Israel’ (Sanh. xi. 2; Jos. Ant. IV. viii. 14; Philo, ed. Mangey, ii. 367), gave its decision, which was final and inviolable, and wilful opposition to which on the part of an elder or judge was punished with death. It held its sessions in day-time only, and only on week-days, not on Sabbath and holidays (Tôs. Sanh. vii. 1; Beza, v. 2; Philo, ed. Mangey, i. 450). Cases of capital punishment were not taken up on the eve of Sabbath or of holy days, because the sentence was always to be given on the following day (Sanh. iv. 1). The attendance of at least twenty-three members was required for cases of capital punishment, and unless the full number of seventy-one were present, a majority of one could not decide the condemnation. Talmudic tradition, however, states that forty years (which is a round number) before the destruction of the Temple the right of jurisdiction in cases of capital punishment was taken from Israel (Jer. Sanh. i. 18a; Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] Shab. 15b) This agrees with Jos. Ant. XX. ix. 1, John 18:31, and the whole procedure of the Crucifixion. Otherwise the conflicting Gospel stories concerning the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus show, to say the least, irregularities for which only the high priests (cf. Jos. Ant. VIII. iii. 3, ‘the foremost men’) were responsible.

As regards the death penalty on sacrilegious intruders on the Temple ground, this was, as the inscription indicates (see T. Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, v. 2 [1885] 513), a law against the Zealots sanctioned by the people and the Roman government (see article ‘Zealots’ in Jewish Encyclopedia xii. 641b), and has nothing to do with the Sanhedrin, as Schürer thinks (GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] ii. 4, 260 f.).

Characteristic of later times is the academic view of the 2nd cent. masters of the Mishna (Mak. i. 10): ‘A Sanhedrin that passes a sentence of death once within 7 years, others say, every 70 years, and still others, only once, deserves the epithet murderous.’ The Mishnaic rules of procedure in cases of capital punishment (Sanh. iv. 2, 5) may accordingly be regarded as of academic rather than historical value. The Sanhedrin had its jurisdiction over the Jews throughout the world as far as their religious life was concerned (Rôsh hash. i. 3 f.; cf. W. Bousset, Religion des Judentums, 1903, p. 83). As a religious tribunal it outlasted the Temple and State of Judaea , existing in the shape of a body of academicians down to the 5th cent. when its name was transferred to the seventy members of the academy of Babylonia called Kallâh (‘the circle’).

Literature.-E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] ii. 4 [1907] 237-267, where the entire literature is given; H. L. Strack, article ‘Synedrium’ in PRE [Note: RE Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche.] 3 xix.; W. Backer, article ‘Sanhedrin’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) . Especially to be mentioned are A. Kuenen, ‘Über die Zusammensetzung des Sanhedrin’ (in Gesamm. Abhandl. zur bibl. Wissenschaft, translation K. Budde, 1894, pp. 49-81); I. Jelski, Die innere Einrichtung des grossen Synedrions zu Jerusalem, 1894; D. Hoffmann, ‘Der oberste Gerichtsbof in der Stadt des Heiligtums,’ in Programm des Rabbinerseminars zu Berlin, 1877-78 (only apologetic in character); A. Büchler, Das Synedrion in Jerusalem und das grosse Beth Din in der Quaderkammer des jerusalemischen Tempels, 1902 (valuable for its large material on the subject, but unsound in its argumentation and its historical conclusions).

K. Kohler.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sanhedrin'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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