Sanhedrim (Hebraized [see Buxtorf, Lex. Chal. Talm. s.v.] Sanhedrin, סִנהֶדרַין, from the Greek Synedrium, συνέδριον, as in the New Test. [Mt 5:22; Mt 26:59; Mr 14:55; Mr 15:1; Lu 22:66; Joh 11:47; Acts 4:15; 5, 21, 27, 34; 6:12, 15; 22:30; 23:1, 6, 15, 20, 28; 24:20], and Josephus [Life, 12; Ant. 14, 9, 3]; apocopated סִנהֶדרַי, plural סִנהֶדרַיּוֹת), the supreme council of the Jewish nation in and before the time of Christ. In the Mishna it is also styled בֵּית דַּין, Beth-Din, "house of judgment;" and in the Apocrypha and New Test. the appellations γερουσία, senate, and πρεσβυτέριον, presbytery, seem also to be applied to it (comp. 2 Macc. 1:10; Ac 5:21; Ac 22:5; Ac 1 Macc. 7:33; 12:35, etc.). As there were two kinds of Synedria, viz. the supreme or metropolitan Sanhedrim, called סִנהֶרַין גַּדוֹלָה, the Great Sanhedrim (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 5), and provincial councils called סִנהֶדרַין קטֹנָה, the Small Sanhedrims (ibid.) — differing in constitution and jurisdiction from each other — we shall describe their respective organizations and functions separately, and close with an account of their history, largely as contained in the treatise of the Talmud which is devoted to this subject.

I. The Great Sanhedrim, or Supreme Council.

1. Number of Members and their Classification. — The Great Sanhedrim, or the supreme court of justice (דַּין הִגָּדוֹל בֵּית) as it is called (Mishna, Homrajoth, 1, 5; Sanhedrin, 11, 4), or κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν, בֵּית דַּין, the court of justice, the judgment hall, because it was the highest ecclesiastical and civil tribunal, consisted of seventy-one members (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 2, 4; Shebuoth, 2, 2). This is the nearly unanimous opinion of the Jews as given in the Mishna (Sanhedrin, 1, 6): "The Great Sanhedrim consisted of seventy-one judges. How is this proved? From Nu 11:16, where it is said, 'Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel.' To these add Moses, and we have seventy-one. Nevertheless, R. Judah says there were seventy." The same difference made by the addition or exclusion of Moses appears in the works of Christian writers, which accounts for the variation in the books between seventy and seventy-one. Baronius, however (Ad Ann. 31, § 10), and many other Roman Catholic writers, together with not a few Protestants, as Drusius, Grotius, Prideaux, Jahn, Bretschneider, etc., hold that the true number was seventy-two, on the ground that Eldad and Medad, on whom it is expressly said the Spirit rested (Nu 11:26), remained in the camp, and should be added to the seventy (see Hartmann, Verbindung des A.T. p. 182; Selden, De Synedr. lib. 2, cap. 4).

Bible concordance for SANHEDRIN.

These members represented three classes of the nation, viz.

(a) The priests, who were represented by their chiefs, called in the Bible the chief priests (הָאָבוֹת לכֹהֲנַים ראֹשֵׁי =πάντες οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς), of whom there were most probably four-and-twenty (1Ch 24:4,6; with Mt 27:1; Joh 7:32; Joh 11:47; Joh 12:10).

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

(b) The elders, זקֵנַים. = πρεσβύτεροι (Mt 16:21; Mt 21:23; Mt 26:3,47,57,59; Mt 27:1,3,12,20,41; Mt 28:12; Mr 8:31; Mr 11:27; Mr 14:43,53; Lu 9:22; Lu 20:1; Lu 22:52; Joh 8:9; Ac 4:5,23; Ac 6:12; Ac 23:14; Ac 25:15); also called the elders of the people (ἄρξοντες τοῦ λαοῦ Ac 4:8, with ver. 5), because they were the heads of the families and tribes of the people, for which reason πρεσβύτεροι and ἄρχοντες are also synecdochically used for βουλή and συνέδριον (Lu 23:13; Lu 24:20; Ac 3:7, etc.); these elders, who most probably were also twenty-four in number (Re 4:4), were the representatives of the laity, or the people generally.

(c) The scribes (q.v.) or lawyers (סוֹקרַים =γραμματεῖς), who, as the interpreters of the law in ecclesiastical and civil matters, represented that particular portion of the community which consisted of the literary laity, and most probably were twenty-two in number. As the chief priests, elders, and scribes constituted the supreme court, these three classes are frequently employed in the New Test. as a periphrasis for the word Sanhedrim (Mt 26:3,57,59; Mt 27:41; Mr 8:31; Mr 11:27; Mr 14:43,53; Mr 15:1; Lu 9:22; Lu 20:1; Lu 22:66; Ac 5:1; Ac 6:12; Ac 22:30; Ac 25:15); while John, who does not at all mention the Sadducees, uses the term Pharisees to denote the Sanhedrim (Joh 1:24; Joh 4:1; Joh 8:3; Joh 11:46, etc.).

2. Qualification and Recognition of Members. — The qualifications for membership were both very minute and very numerous. The applicant had to be morally and physically blameless. He had to be middle aged, tall, good looking, wealthy, learned (both in the divine law and diverse branches of profane science, such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, magic, idolatry, etc.), in order that he might be able to judge in these matters. He was required to know several languages, so that the Sanhedrim might not be dependent upon an interpreter in case any foreigner or foreign question came before them (Menachoth, 65 a; Sanhedrin, 17 a; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 2, 1-8). Very old persons, proselytes, eunuchs, and Nethinim were ineligible because of their idiosyncrasies; nor could such candidates be elected as had no children, because they could not sympathize with domestic affairs (Mishna, Horajoth, 1, 4; Sanhedrin,

36 b); nor those who could not prove that they were the legitimate offspring of a priest, Levite, or Israelite, who played dice, lent money on usury, flew pigeons to entice others, or dealt in produce of the Sabbatical year (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 3, 3).

In addition to all these qualifications, a candidate for the Great Sanhedrim was required, first of all, to have been a judge in his native town; to have been transferred from there to the Small Sanhedrim, which sat at the Temple mount or at its entrance (הִר הִבֵּיתַ or פּתִח הִר הִבֵּית), thence again to have been advanced to the second Small Sanhedrim, which sat at the entrance of the Temple hall (פּתִח הִר הִבֵּית orחֵיל), before he could be received as member of the seventy-one (Sanhedrin, 32 a, 88 b; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 2, 8).

The ordination took place when the candidate was first appointed judge in his native place. In olden days every ordained teacher could ordain his disciples; afterwards, however, the sages conferred this honor upon Hillel I, B.C. 30; it was then decreed that no one should be ordained without the permission of the president of the Sanhedrim (נָשַׂיא); that the president and the vice-president should not ordain in the absence of each other, but that both should be present; and that any other member may ordain with the permission of the president and the assistance of two non-ordained persons, as no ordination was valid if it was effected by less than three persons (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 3). The ordination was effected, not by the laying on of hands on the head of the elder, but by their calling him rabbi, and saying to him, "Behold, thou art ordained, and hast authority to judge even cases which involve pecuniary fines" (Maimonides, ibid. 4, 1-4).

The Sanhedrim was presided over by a president called Nasi (נָשַׂיא) = prince, patriarch, and a vice-president styled אָב בֵּית דַּין, the father of the house of judgment. The power of electing these high officials was vested in the corporate assembly of members, who conferred these honors upon those of their number who were most distinguished for wisdom and piety. The king was the only one disqualified for the presidential throne, because according to the Jewish law it is forbidden to differ from him or to contradict his statement; but the high priest might be elected patriarch provided he had the necessary qualifications (Sanhedrin, 18 b; Maimonides, Had Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 2, 3). After the death of Hillel I, however, the presidency became hereditary in his family for thirteen generations. SEE HILLEL I. The functions of the Nasi or the patriarch were more especially external. Being second to the king, the Nasi represented the civil and religious interests of the Jewish nation before the Roman government abroad, and before the different Jewish congregations at home; while in the Sanhedrim itself he was simply the reciting and first teacher. The vice-president, on the other hand, had his sphere of labor more especially within the Sanhedrim. It was his office to lead and control their discussions on disputed points; hence his appellation, "father of the house of judgment." Next to the vice-president, or the third in rank in the Sanhedrim, was the חָכָם, sage, referee, whose office it was to hear and examine the pending subject in all its bearings, and then to bring it before the court for discussion. This dignitary we first meet with under the presidency of Gamaliel II the teacher of the apostle Paul, SEE GAMALIEL, and his son Simon 2 (Horajoth, 13; Tosephta Sanhedrin, cap. 7; Frankel, Monatsschrift, 1, 348). Besides these high functionaries, there were sundry servants not members of the seventy-one, such as two judges' scribes (הִדַּינין סוֹפרֵי), or notaries, one of whom registered the reasons for acquittal, and the other the reasons for condemnation (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:3); and other menial officials, denominated שַׂמשֵׁי בֵּין שֹׁטרַים = ὑπηρέτης, πράκτωρ (Mt 5:25; Mt 26:58: Mr 14:54,65; Lu 12:58; Joh 7:32,45; Joh 18:3,12,18,22; Joh 19:6; Ac 5:22,26; Ac 23:2, etc.).

3. Place, Time, and Order in which the Sessions were held. — There seems not to have been any prescribed place for holding the sessions in the early part of the Sanhedrim's existence. In all probability they were held in some place adjoining the Temple, as the neighborhood of the sanctuary was deemed specially appropriate for the solemn assemblies which had to decide upon the most momentous questions affecting life and death, time and eternity. It was Simon ben-Shetach (B.C. 110-65) who built the Hall of Squares (הִגָּזַית לַשׁכִּת), or, more briefly, the Gazith (גָּזַית), where both the Sanhedrim and the priests permanently held their meetings. This basilica, the floor of which was made of hewn square stones — whence its name (Yoma, 25 a) — was situated in the center of the south side of the Temple court, the northern part extending to the court of the priests (קדש), and the southern part to the court of the Israelites (חול); it was thus lying between these two courts, and had doors into both of them (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 11, 2; Pea, 3, 6; Middoth, 5, 3, 4; Herzfeld.

Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 1, 394 sq.; Jost, Geschichte des Judenthums, 1, 145, 275). SEE TEMPLE. This hall henceforth became the prescribed court for the sessions of the Sanhedrim. The assembling of the Sanhedrim in the high priest's house was illegal. Equally illegal was the assumption of the presidency by this sacerdotal functionary over this supreme court recorded in the New Test. (Mt 26:3; Ac 5:21,27; Ac 23:2), as Gamaliel I was then the legitimate president (Pesachim, 88 b). When it is remembered that this sacred office was at that time venial, and that the high priest was the creature of the Romans, this priestly arrogance will not be matter of surprise. "Forty years before the destruction of the Temple [i.e. while the Savior was teaching in Palestine], the sessions of the Sanhedrim were removed from the Hall of Squares to the Halls of Purchase" (Sabbath, 15 a; Aboda Sara, 8 b), on the east side of the Temple mount.

The Sanhedrim sat every day from the termination of the daily morning sacrifice till the daily evening sacrifice, with the exception of the Sabbath and festivals, when they retired to the synagogue on the Temple mount and delivered lectures (Sanhedrin, 88 b; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 3, 1). The order in which they sat was as follows: the president (נָשַׂיא) sat in an elevated seat; on his right hand sat the vice- president (אָב בֵּית דַּין), and at his left the chakamn (חָכָם), or referee; while the members, seated on low cushions, with their knees bent and crossed in the Oriental fashion, were arranged, according to their age and learning, in a semicircle, so that they could see each other, and all of them be seen by the president and vice-president. The two notaries stood before them, one to the right and the other to the left. Before them sat three rows of disciples (חֲכָמַים תִּלמַידֵי), in places appropriate to their respective attainments. From the first of these rows the ranks of the judges were always filled up. When those of the second row took their seat in the first, those of the third took the seats of the second, while members of the congregation generally were selected to fill the lowest places vacated in the third row (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 3, 3, 4; Maimonides, ibid. 1, 3). Under ordinary circumstances all the seventy-one members were not required to be present in their seats, so that most of them could attend to their business, since twenty-three members formed a quorum. Less than this number during any part of the session was illegal; hence before one could go out he was obliged to look round in order to ascertain that there was the legal quorum without him (Sanhedrin, 88 b; Tosephta Shekalim, at the end; Maimonides, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 3, 2).

4. Jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim. — Being both legislative and administrative, the functions of the Sanhedrim in the theocracy extended to the institution of ordinances and the definition of disputed points in ecclesiastical matters, as well as to the adjudication of ecclesiastical and secular questions, including even political matters. The tribunal had, in the first place, to interpret the divine law, and to determine the extension or limitation of its sundry enactments, inasmuch as the members of the Sanhedrim were not only the most skilled in the written word of God, but were the bearers of the oral law which was transmitted to them by their predecessors, and which they again in succession handed down to the other members of this body. Thus the Sanhedrim had

(a) to watch over the purity and legality of the priests who ministered in holy things. For this purpose they appointed trustworthy persons to keep family registers (סֵפֶר יוּחָסַין genealogies) of the priests in Egypt, Babylon, and in all places where the Jews resided, stating the names, and giving all the particulars both of the head of the family and all his male descendants, and to supply every priest with such a document attested by the Sanhedrim, inasmuch as those priests who could not prove that they were not the issue of proscribed marriages were disqualified for ministering in holy things, and were ordered to divest themselves of their sacerdotal robes and put on mourning (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 5; Middoth, 5, 4; Bechoroth, 45 a; Tosephta Chagiga, cap. 2; Josephus, Cont. Apion. 1, 7).

(b) To try cases of unchastity on the part of priests' daughters, and married women who were accused by their husbands of infidelity, which were questions of life and death (Mishna, Sota, 1, 4; Sanhedrin, 52 a).

(c) To watch over the religious life of the nation, and to try any tribe which was accused of having departed from the living God to serve idols (ibid. 1, 5).

(d) To bring to trial false prophets or any heretic who promulgated doctrines contrary to the tenets of the scribes or the Sanhedrim (דַּבַרֵי סוֹפרַים): "Such a one is not to be executed by the tribunal of his native place, nor by the tribunal at Jabne, but by the supreme court of Jerusalem; he is to be kept till the forthcoming festival, and to be executed on the festival," as it is written (De 17:13), "and all the people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously" (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 11, 3, 4; comp. also Mt 26:65; Mt 27:63; Joh 19:7; Ac 4:2; Ac 5; Ac 28;

6:13). In accordance with this is the remark of our Savior, "It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Lu 13:33, with Josephus, Ant. 14, 9, 3).

(e) To see that neither the king nor the high priest should act contrary to the law of God. Thus the Talmud tells us that Alexander Jannseus was summoned before the Sanhedrim to witness the trial of his servant, who had committed murder (B.C. 80), under the presidency of Simon ben- Shetach (Sanhedrin, 19 a), and we know that Herod had to appear before this tribunal to answer for his conduct (Josephus, Ant. 14, 9, 4).

(f) To determine whether a war with any nation contemplated by the king is to be waged, and to give the sovereign permission to do so (Sanhedrin, 1, 5; 2, 4).

(g) To decide whether the boundaries of the holy city or the precincts of the Temple are to be enlarged, inasmuch as it was only by the decision of the Sanhedrim that these additions could be included in the consecrated ground (ibid. 1, 5; Shebuoth, 14 a).

(h) To appoint the provincial Sanhedrim, or courts of justice (Sanhedrin, 1, 5; Gemara, ibid. 63 b; Tosephta Sanhedrin, cap. 7; ibid. Chagiga, cap. 2; Jerusalem Sanhedrin, 1, 19 b).

(i) To regulate the calendar and harmonize the solar with the lunar year by appointing intercalary days (Sanhedrin, 10 b). This jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim was recognized by all the Jews both in Palestine and in foreign lands (Ac 9:2; Ac 26:10; with Mishna, Manoth, 6, 10; Tosephta Sanhedrin, cap. 7; Chagiga, cap. 2). Thereby this supreme court secured unity of faith and uniformity of practice.

5. Mode of Conducting Trials, Punishments, etc. — The humane and benevolent feelings of the rulers towards the people whom they represented were especially seen in their administration of the law. They always acted upon the principle that the accused was innocent till he could be proved guilty. Hence they always manifested an anxiety, in their mode of conducting the trial, to clear the arraigned rather than secure his condemnation, especially in matters of life and death. Their axiom was that "the Sanhedrim is to save, not to destroy life" (Sanhedrin, 42 b). Hence no man could be tried and condemned in his absence (Joh 7:51); and when the accused was brought before the tribunal, the president of the Sanhedrim at the very outset of the trial solemnly admonished the witnesses, pointing out to them the preciousness of human life, and earnestly beseeching them carefully and calmly to reflect whether they had not overlooked some circumstances which might favor the innocence of the accused (Sanhedrin, 37 a). Even the attendants were allowed to take part in the discussion, if a mild sentence could thereby be procured; while those members of the Sanhedrim who, during the debate, once expressed themselves in favor of acquitting the accused, could not any more give their votes for his condemnation at the end of the trial. The taking of the votes always began from the junior member and gradually went on to the senior, in order that the lowest members might not be influenced by the opinion of the highest (ibid. 32 a). In capital offenses, it required a majority of at least two to condemn the accused; and when the trial was before a quorum of twenty-three, or before the Small Sanhedrim, which consisted of this number, thirteen members had to declare for the guilt (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4, 1; Gemara, ibid. 2 a, 40 a). In trials of capital offenses, the verdict of acquittal could be given on the same day, but that of guilty had to be reserved for the following day, for which reason such trials could not commence on the day preceding the Sabbath or a festival. No criminal trial could be carried through in the night (Mishna, ibid. 4, 1; Gemara, ibid. 32). The judges who condemned a criminal to death had to fast all day (Sanhedrin, 63 a). The condemned was not executed the same day on which the sentence was passed; but the votes pro and con having been taken by the two notaries, the members of the Sanhedrim assembled together on the following day to examine the discussion, and to see whether there was any contradiction on the part of the judges (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4, 1; Gemara, ibid. 39 a). If on the way to execution the criminal remembered that he had something fresh to adduce in his favor, he was led back to the tribunal, and the validity of his statement was examined. If he himself could say nothing more, a herald preceded him as he was led to the place of execution, and exclaimed, "A, son of B, has been found guilty of death, because he committed such and such a crime according to the testimony of C and D; if any one knows anything to clear him, let him come forward and declare it" (Mishna, ibid. 6, 1). Clemency and humanity, however, were manifested towards him even when his criminality was beyond the shadow of a doubt, and when the law had to take its final course. Before his execution, a stupefying beverage was administered to the condemned by pious women to deprive him of consciousness and lessen the pain (Sanhedrin, 43 a, with Mt 27:48; Mr 15:23,36; Lu 23:36; Joh 19:29-30). The property of the executed was not confiscated, but passed over to his heirs (Sanhedrin, 48 b). The only exception to this leniency was one who gave himself out as the Messiah, or who led the people astray from the doctrines of their fathers (מסית ומדיה =πλάνους; Mt 27:63; Lu 13:33; Ac 4:2; Ac 5; Ac 28). Such a one had to endure all the rigors of the law without any mitigation (Sanhedrin, 36 b, 67 a). He could even be tried and condemned the same day or in the night (Tosephta Sanhedrin, 10; Mt 27:1-2).

As to the different punishments which the Sanhedrim had the power to inflict, though they were commensurate with the gravity of the offenses which fell within their jurisdiction to try, and embraced both corporal (Acts 5, 40; Mishna, Manoth, 3, 1-5) and capital punishments, yet even this supreme court was restricted to four modes of taking life — viz. by stoning, burning, beheading, and strangling (הרג וחנק סקילה שריפה). These four modes of execution were the only legal ones among the Jews from time immemorial (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 7, 1), and could be inflicted either by the Great Sanhedrim or by the Small Sanhedrim. According to the Gospel of John, however, the Jews declare (ἡμυῖν οὐκ ἔξεστιν ἀποκτεῖναι οὐδένα), "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death" (Joh 18:31), which agrees with the remark in the Jerusalem Talmud that "forty years before the destruction of the Temple the power of inflicting capital punishment was taken away from Israel" (Sanhedrin, 1, beginning; 7, 2, p. 24). But this simply means that without the confirmation of the sentence on the part of the Roman procurator, the Jews had not the power to carry the sentence of the Sanhedrim into execution. This is not only confirmed by Josephus, who tells us that the Pharisees complained to the procurator Albinus about the assumption to execute capital punishment on the part of the Sadducaean high priest (Ant. 20, 9, 1), but by the appeal of Paul to the chief captain (Ac 22:25-30), and especially by the whole manner in which the trial of Jesus was conducted. The stoning of Stephen (Ac 7:54, etc.) was the illegal act of an enraged multitude, as Josephus (Ant. 20, 9, 1) expressly declares the execution of the apostle James during the absence of the procurator to have been.

II. The Small Sanhedrim.

1. Members, Constitution, etc. — This judicial court consisted of twenty- three members, who were appointed by the Great Sanhedrim (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 5, 6), and a president (מופלא, excellency) as their head (ibid. 1, 6; Horajoth, 4 b). They had the power not only to judge civil cases, but also such capital offenses as did not come within the jurisdiction of the supreme court (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 4; 4, 1). Such provincial courts were appointed in every town or village which had no less than 120 representative men (מעמידין) — i.e. twenty-three judges, three ranks of disciples of twenty-three persons each (=sixty-nine), ten constant attendants in the synagogue (עשרה בטלנין של בית הכנסת), two judges' notaries, the one to write down the arguments for and the other the arguments against the accused's innocence; two court servants to administer the forty stripes save one, and to wait upon the judges; two judges, two witnesses, two counter-witnesses, two witnesses to gainsay the counter-witnesses, two almoners, and one additional to distribute the alms, one physician, one scribe (לבלי), and one schoolmaster for children — in all 120 (Sanhedrin, 17 b; Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 1, 10).

2. Place, Time, and Order in which the Sessions were Held. — In the provinces these courts of justice were at first held in the market place, but afterwards in a room adjoining the synagogue (Jerusalem Sanhedrin, 1, 1 Baba Metsia, 51, 8), for the same reason which made the Great Sanhedrim hold their sittings in the Hall of Squares, in the inner court of the Temple. They sat every Monday and Thursday, being market days (Baba Rema, 82 a; Kathuboth, 3 a), from the termination of morning prayer till the sixth hour (Maimonides, Hilchoth Sanhedrin, 3, 1). The order in which they were ranged was the same as that of the Great Sanhedrim. There were two of these lesser courts of justice in Jerusalem itself; one sat at the entrance to the Temple mount, and the other at the entrance to the Temple hall (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 9, 2), which on special occasions met together with the Great Sanhedrim (Sanhedrin, 88 b). There was no appeal to the Great Sanhedrim against the decision of this lesser Sanhedrim. Only when the opinion of the judges was divided did they themselves consult with the supreme court. The stripes to which offenders were sentenced were given in the synagogue by the officer already mentioned (Mr 13:9, with Mt 10:17; Mt 23:34), and it is evidently to such a local Sanhedrim that reference is made in Mt 5:22; Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9.

Besides these two courts, there was also one consisting of three judges. Within the jurisdiction of this court came suits for debts, robbery, bodily injuries, compensation for damages; thefts which involved a twofold, fourfold, or fivefold value to the proprietor (Ex 22:1-9); rapes, seduction, slander, and all minor offenses (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 1-3; 3, 1). There were in Jerusalem alone 390 such Sanhedrims.

3. Origin, Development, and Extinction of the Sanhedrim. — According to the most ancient Jewish tradition, the Sanhedrim was instituted by Moses, when he appointed, according to the command of God, seventy elders, who, together with him as their president, were to act as magistrates and judges (Nu 11:16-24), thus constituting the first Sanhedrim with its seventy-one members (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 1, 6; Gemara, ibid. 2). Hence the so-called Jerusalem Targum paraphrases Ex 15:27, "And they came to Elim, and there were there twelve fountains of water, answering to the twelve tribes of Israel; and seventy palm trees, answering to the seventy elders of the Sanhedrim of Israel," while the other Chaldee versions express the judicial courts and colleges of the remotest antiquity by the name Sanhedrim (comp. Targum, Isa 28:6; Ru 3:11; Ru 4:1; Ps 140:10; Ec 12:12). Hence, too, the offices of president and vice-president are traced to Moses (Jerusalem Sota, 9, 10). In the time of the kings, we are assured, Saul was president of the Sanhedrim in his reign, and his son Jonathan was vice- president (Moed Katon, 26 a); and these two functions continued during the time of the later prophets (Pea, 2 b; Nasir, 56 b; Tosephta Yadayim, cap. 11). The Chaldee paraphrase on the Song of Songs tells us that the Sanhedrim existed even in the Babylonian captivity, and that it was reorganized by Ezra immediately after the return from the exile (comp. Song 6:1). But though this view has also been entertained by some of the most learned Christian scholars (e.g. Selden, Leusden, Grotius, Reland), and though allusion is made in Jeremiah (Jer 26:8,16) to the several distinct classes which we afterwards find constituting the Sanhedrim, while Ezekiel (Eze 8:11, etc.) actually mentions the existence of seventy elders in his time, yet there seems to be little doubt that this supreme court, as it existed during the second Temple, developed itself in the Greek rule over Palestine. Livy expressly states (14, 32), "Pronuntiatum quod ad statum Macedoniae pertinebat, senatores, quos synedros vocant, legendos esse, quorum consilio respublica administraretur." If the γερουσία τῶν Ι᾿ουδαίων in 2 Macc. 1:10; 4:44;

11:27, designates the Sanhedrim — as it probably does — this is the earliest historical trace of its existence. The Macedonian origin of the Sanhedrim is corroborated by the following reasons:

(a) The historical books of the Bible are perfectly silent about the existence of such a tribunal.

(b) The prophets, who again and again manifest such zeal for justice and righteous judgment, never mention this court of justice, but always refer the administration of the law to the ruling monarch and the magnates of the land, thus showing that this central administration belongs to the period of the second Temple.

(c) The name συνέδριον, συνεδρεύειν, by which it has come down to us, points to the fact that this synod originated during the Macedonian supremacy in Palestine. It is true that Josephus does not mention the Sanhedrim before the conquest of Judea by Pompey (B.C. 63); but the very fact that it had such power in the time of Hyrcanus II as to summon Herod to answer for his unjust conduct (Josephus, Ant. 14, 9, 4) shows that it must then have been a very old institution to have acquired such development and authority. Hence Frankel rightly remarks, "Upon more minute examination, we find that the chronicler gives a pretty plain sketch of the Great Sanhedrim, as he mentions the existence in Jerusalem of a supreme court consisting of priests, Levites, and heads of families, with the high priest as president (2Ch 19:8,11).... Now the chronicler, as Zunz has shown (Gottesdienstliche Vorträge, p. 32), lived as early as the beginning of the 2d century of the Seleucidean era, so that at that time the Sanhedrim did already exist, and its beginning is to be placed at the period in which Asia was convulsed by Alexander and his successors of the Ptolemean and Seleucidean dynasties. Palestine, too, felt deeply the consequences of these recent convulsions, and to preserve its internal religious independence it required a thoroughly organized body to watch over both its doctrines and rights. This body manifested itself in the Sanhedrim, at the head of which was the high priest, as is seen from Ec 4:4-5, and 2Ch 19:8,11. The Sanhedrim seems to have been dissolved in the time of the Maccabaean revolt in consequence of the unworthy high priests (comp. 2 Macc.), but it was reconstructed after the overthrow of the Syrian yoke. As the people, however, were unwilling to leave the whole power in the hands of the Maccabees, who were already princes and high priests, they henceforth placed at the head of the Sanhedrim a president and a vice-president" (Der gerichtliche Beweis, p. 68, note). This is, moreover, corroborated by the traditional chain of presidents and vice-presidents which is uninterruptedly traced from Jose ben-Joeser (B.C. 170), as well as by the statement that with Simon the Just terminated the Great Synagogue (Aboth, 1, 2), from which the Sanhedrim developed itself. The transition from the Great Synagogue to the Great Sanhedrim is perfectly natural. "The Macedonian conqueror," as Frankel justly states (Programm. p. 6, 1834), "with all his clemency towards Palestine, which resisted him so long and so obstinately, effected changes in the internal government of the people, and dissolved the Great Synagogue, which to a certain extent conferred independence and a republican constitution upon the land. The people, however, valued highly their old institutions, and would not relinquish them. Hence most probably in the confusions which broke out after Alexander's death, when the attention of the fighting chiefs could not be directed towards Palestine, the supreme court was formed anew, assuming the name Synhedrion, which was a common appellation among the Greeks for a senate." It was this development of the Great Sanhedrim from the Great Synagogue which accounts for the similarity of the two names (הגדולה סנהדרין גדולה כנסת).

After the destruction of Jerusalem, when the holy city was no longer adapted to be the center of religious administration, R. Jochanan ben- Zakkai transferred the seat of the Sanhedrim to Jabne or Jamnia (A.D. 68- 80); it was thence transferred to Usha (Kethuboth, 49; Sabbath, 15; Rosh Ha-Shana, 15 b), under the presidency of Gamaliel II, ben-Simon II (A.D. 80-116); conveyed back to Jabne and again to Usha; to Shafran, under the presidency of Simon III, ben-Gamaliel II (A.D. 140-163); to Beth-Shearim and Sepphoris, under the presidency of Jehudah I the Holy, ben-Simon III (A.D. 163-193; comp. Kethuboth, 103 b; Nida, 27 a); and finally to Tiberias, under the presidency of Gamaliel III, ben-Jehudah I (A.D. 193- 220), where it became more of a consistory, but still retaining, under the presidency of Jehudah II, ben-Simon III (A.D. 220-270), the power of excommunication in case any Israelite refused to abide by its decisions; while under the presidency of Gamaliel IV, ben-Jehudah II (A.D. 270-300), it dropped the appellation Sanhedrim, and the authoritative decisions were issued under the name Beth Ham-Midrash (בֵּית הִמּדרָשׁ). Gamaliel VI (A.D. 400-425) was the last president. With the death of this patriarch, who was executed by Theodosius II for erecting new synagogues contrary to the imperial inhibition, the title of Nasi, the last remains of the ancient Sanhedrim, became wholly extinct in the year 425.

It was with reference to this Supreme Court that Christ chose seventy disciples (Lu 10:1), answering to the seventy senators composing the Sanhedrim, just as he chose twelve apostles with reference to the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28; Lu 22:30), to indicate thereby to the Jews that the authority of their supreme religious court was now taken away and was vested in the seventy of his own choice, and over which he himself was the president and supreme Lord.

4. Literature. — Mishna, Sanhedrin, and the Gemara on this tractate; excerpts of the Gemara tractate Sanhedrin have been translated into Latin with elaborate notes by John Coch (Amst. 1629); the monographs of Vorstius and Witsius, in Ugolino's Thesaurus, vol. 25; Maimonides, De Sanhedriis et Poenis (ed. Houting. Amst. 1695); Selden, De Synedriis et Proeficturis Juridicis Veterum Eboreorum (Lond. 1650); Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, p. 37 sq. (Berlin, 1832); Israelitische Annaelen, 1, 108, 131 sq. (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1839); Frankel, Der gerichtliche Beweis nach mosaisch-talmudischem Rechte, p. 68 sq. (Berlin, 1846); Rapaport, Erech Millin, p. 2 (Prague, 1852); Frankel, Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 1, 344 sq.; Levy, in Frankel's Monatsschrift, 4, 266 sq., 301 sq. (Leips. 1855); Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 2, 380 sq. (Nordhausen, 1855); Krochmal, in the Hebrew essays and reviews entitled He-Chaluz, 3, 118 sq. (Lemberg, 1856); Jost, Geschichte des Judenthums und seiner Secten, 1, 123 sq., 270 sq. (Leips. 1857); Grätz, Geschichte der Juden, p. 88 sq. (2d ed. Leips. 1863); Hartmann, Die Verbindung des Alten Testaments init dem Neuen (Hamb. 1831). SEE SCHOOL, where all the presidents and vice-presidents of the Sanhedrim will be given in chronological order; and SYNAGOGUE, THE GREAT, where the development of the Sanhedrim from this institution will be traced. For monographs on the civil powers of the Sanhedrim in our Lord's time, see Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 58. SEE COUNCIL.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.