Council is the rendering given by our translators chiefly to two Greek words.
1. Συμβούλιον (a meeting of counselors) signifies a consultation of persons for executing any enterprise (Mt 12:14), a sense elsewhere covered by the usual translation "counsel;" also a council, or assembly of persons duly convened. In Ac 25:12, it is spoken of counselors, i.e. persons who sat in public trials with the governor of a province; called also conciliarii (Suetonius, Tib. 33) or assessores (Lamprid. Vit. Alex. Sev. 46), in the regular proconsular "conventus." This last was a stated meeting of the Roman citizens of a province in the chief town, for the purpose of trying causes, from among whom the proconsul selected a number to try the cases in dispute, himself presiding over their action. From the instance in question, something analogous appears to have obtained under the procuratorship of Judaea (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. Conventus). SEE ASIARCH; SEE PROCURATOR.
2. Συνέδριον (a sitting together) signifies a formal assembly or senate, and in the N.T. is spoken only of Jewish "councils," by which word it is invariably rendered in the common version. These were:
(1.) The SANHEDRIM SEE SANHEDRIM (q.v.), or supreme council of the nation.
(2.) In the plural, the smaller tribunals in the cities of Palestine subordinate to the Sanhedrim (Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9). SEE TRIAL. The distinction between these two grades of courts seems clearly alluded to in Mt 5:22. SEE JUDGMENT. According to the Rabbins, these lower courts consisted of twenty-three judges, and the two in Jerusalem were held in the rooms over the Shushan and the Beautiful gates; but Josephus expressly says that the number of judges was seven (Ant. 4, 8, 14, 38; War, 2:20, 5); and there are notices in the Talmud of arbitration courts of three judges (Jahn's Archeol. § 245). Perhaps the former two of these were but different forms of the same court in different places. SEE COURT, JUDICIAL. They appear to have been originally instituted by Moses (De 16:18; 2Ch 19:5), and to have had jurisdiction even over capital offenses; although, under the civil supremacy of the Romans, their powers were doubtless much restricted. SEE PUNISHMENTS. In the times of Christ and his apostaties the functions of this court were probably confined chiefly to the penalty of excommunication, SEE ANATHEMA, (Joh 16:2), although there are not wanting intimations of their inflicting corporal chastisement (2Co 11:24). SEE TRIBUNAL.
3. In the Old Testament "council" occurs in Ps 68:27, as the rendering of רַגמָה, rigmah' (literally a heap), a throng or company of persons. SEE COUNSEL.
4. In the Apocrypha, "council," in its ordinary sense, is the rendering of βουλή (1 Es 2:17; Es 1 Maccabees 14:22), σύμβουλοι (1 Es 8:17), and βουλεύομαι (2 Maccabees 9:58). SEE COUNSELLOR.