Trial, Forensic (denoted in Heb. by דַּין, to hold a court, while מַשׁפָּט is the sentence rendered by the judge, whether favorable or adverse, both terms being usually rendered '"judgment" in the A. V.; Gr. κρίσις) Originally the head of the family was the umpire among the Hebrews, with the power of life and death (comp. De 1:16). Later the elders (q.v.) succeeded to a similar authority. According to the Mosaic law, there were to be judges in all the cities, whose duty it was to exercise judicial authority over the surrounding neighborhood. Weighty causes were submitted to the supreme ruler. Originally trials were everywhere summary. Moses, in his laws, did not establish any more formal or complicated method of procedure. He was, nevertheless, anxious that strict justice should be administered, and therefore frequently inculcated the idea that God was a witness (Ex 20:21; Ex 23:1-9; Le 19:15; De 24:14-15). In ancient times, the forum or place of trial was in the gates of cities (Ge 23:10; De 21:19). In the trial the accuser and the accused appeared before the judge or judges (25:1), and both the implicated parties stood up. The witnesses were sworn, and in capital cases also the parties concerned (1Sa 14:37-40; Mt 26:63). In order to establish the accusations, two witnesses were necessary, and, including the accuser, three. The witnesses were examined separately, but the accused person had the liberty to be present when they gave their testimony (Nu 35:30; De 13:1-15; Mark 26:59). The sentence was pronounced soon after the completion of the examination, and the criminal, without any delay, even if the offence was a capital one, was taken to the place of punishment (Jos 7:22; 1Sa 22:8; 1Ki 2:23). See L'Empereur, De Legibus Hebraeorum
Forensibus (Lugd. 1637); Ziegler, De Juribus Judaeorum (Vitemb. 1684); Benny, Criminal Code of Jews (Lond. 1880,12m-o). SEE JUDGE.
The following remarks respecting certain special instances of judicial proceedings in the New Test. are calculated to set them in their true legal light.
1. The trial of our Lord before Pilate was, in a legal sense, a trial for the offence esce majestatis one which, under the Julian law, following out that of the twelve tables (Digest, 4:1,3), would be punishable with death Lu 2:38; Joh 19:12,15). SEE JESUS CHRIST.
2. The trials of the apostles, of Stephen, and of Paul before the high-priest were conducted according to Jewish rules (Ac 4; Ac 5; Ac 27; Ac 6:12; Ac 22:30; Ac 23:1). SEE STEPHEN.
3. The trial, if it may be so called, of Patil and Silas at Philippi was held before the duumviri, or, as they are called, στρατηγοί, permetors, on the charge of innovation in religion-a crime punishable with banishment or death (Ac 16:19,22). SEE SERGEANT.
4. The interrupted trial of Paul before the proconsul Gallio was an attempt made by the Jews to establish a charge of the same kind (Ac 18:12-17, see Conybeare and Howson, 1, 492-496).
5. The trials of Paul at Caesarea (Ac 24; Ac 25; Ac 26) were conducted according to Roman rules of judicature, of which the procurators Felixs and Festus were the recognized administrators.
(1.) In the first of these, before Felix, we observe
(a) the employment by the plaintiffs of a Roman advocate to plead in Latin, SEE ORATOR;
(b) the postponement (ampliatic) at the trial after Paul's reply (see Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. "Judex");
(c) the free custody in which the accused was kept, pending the decision of the judge (Ac 24:23-26).
(2.) The second formal trial, before Festus, was probably conducted in the same manner as the former one before Felix (Ac 25:7-8), but it presents two new features:
(a) the appeal, appellatio or provocfio, to Caesar by Paul as a Roman citizen. The right of appeal, adpopulum, or to the tribunes, became, under the empire, transferred to the emperor, and, as a citizen, Paul availed himself of the right to which he was entitled, even in the case of a provincial governor. The effect of the appeal was to remove the case at once to the jurisdiction of the emperor (see Conybeare and Howson, 2, 360; Smith, at s. . s., v. "Appellatio;" Digest, 49:1, 4).
(b) The conference of the procurator with "the council" (Ac 25:12). This council is usually explained to have consisted of the assessors, who sat on the bench with the praetor as consiliarii (Sueton. Tib. 3?. Grotius,
On Acts 25; Conybeare and Howson, 2, 358, 361). Bat, besides the absence of any previous mention of any assessors (see below), the mode of expression συλλαλήσας μετὰ τοῦ συμβουλίου seems to admit the explanation of conference with the deputies from the Sanhedrim (τὸ συμβ.). Paul's appeal would probably be in the Latin language, and would require explanation on the part of the judge to the deputation of accusers before he carried into effect the inevitable result of the appeal, viz. the dismissal of the case so far as they were concerned. SEE PAUL.
6. We have, lastly, the mention (Ac 19:38) of a judicial assembly which held its session at Ephesus, in which occur the terms ἀγοραῖοι (i.e. ἡμέραι) ἄγονται and ἀνθύπατοι. The former denotes the assembly, then sitting, of provincial citizens forming the conventus, out of which the proconsul, ἀνθύπατος, selected "judices" to sit as his assessors. The ἀνθύπατοι would thus be the judicial tribunal composed of the proconsul and his assessors. In the former case, at Caesarea, it is difficult to imagine that there could be any conventus and any provincial assessors. There the only class of men qualified for such a function would be the Roman officials attached to the procurator; but in Proconsular Asia such assemblies are well known to have existed (Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. "Provincia").
Early Christian practice discouraged resort to heathen tribunals in' civil matters (1Co 6:1). SEE PUNISHMENT.