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"Hear O' Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem alone"

The Saducees and Jesus' Trial


John is more accurate in his portrail of a trial before the Roman appointed chief priest and Jesus' arrest by the Roman appointed Temple "police". Calling yourself the "son of G-d" is not blasphemy. It is just a way of calling yourself either an Israelite or a king. Since the Romans supposedly placed a plaque on his cross saying "king of the Jews", the logical conclusion would be that Jesus thought he was the next king of Israel or that is how he was percieved by the large crowds of Jews who followed him.

By the way, since Jesus was Jewish, what he had in mind by the term, son of man, was a decendent of Adam. For example, when he was saying that the son of man has no place to lay his head, he was saying that he, a man decended from Adam, had no place to lay his head. Why do you think Jesus had no place to lay his head? Was it the large crowds? Or perhaps it is dangerous and hard for someone who the Romans deemed a threat--for whatever reason, be it the large crowds of Jews who followed him with messianic expectations, or that he was a rebel of some kind, it would not matter to the Romans--to find a place to rest safely?.

Let's face it, the Gentile Church was the Church at the time of the writting of the NT. They did not want to connect themselves with the Jews of the time, who were (depending on the book), either trouble makers or rebels. They wanted to paint Rome in a good light, and thus assure that they would have less trouble with the Romans. Thus, they painted the Jews in a bad light and the Romans in a good light.

Pontius Pilate could care less about what the populous though of him. The Pax Romana was enforced in Judea without concern for how the populous looked at the rulers, whether they be Herod, Pilate, or the emperor himself.

The population acts up, call out the Roman legions and put them in their place. Pilate himself showed NO concern for the population whatsoever. The land was cleared of trees and there was a shortage of timber to make new crosses, since so many were crucified in the land of Israel.

The high priest and the other priests serving in the Temple during Roman times were indeed appointed by the Romans. The whole Saduccean and Herodian group were in fact collaborators with the Romans, the better to keep their Rome apointed positions of power. The priest even had their own "police force".

Jesus had strong support among the people, this is true, based on the large crowds he gathered to here his words. Since this is the case, it is unlikely that the same people called for his death. It is also unlikely, given the support of the Pharisee Gamilel for James, that the Sanhedrin Gadol had anything to do with Jesus' trial. The large following of Jews that Jesus attracted would be a threat only to the Romans and their collaborators, the high priest and his underlings.

As you can see, the priests police arrest Jesus and take him to their boss for questioning. This was what was often done with those they saw as a threat in one way or another to thier Roman overlords' rule, and hence to their own power. This treat could be a rebel, or someone who drew large crowds. Take you pick, it doesn't matter to the present discussion whether you think Jesus was arrested for the former or the latter.

From John:

Again, Jesus is lead to the authority of the quisling priesthood, in this case the high priest.

Again, from John:

From the Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 57a:

You will observe that the captains of the Temple guard were the sons-in law of the priestly houses.

As collaborators, they were no friends of the people, nor did they represent the people the way the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin did. The high priests were unfit for their office and were Roman appointed queslings chosen so that they would do the bidding of their Roman masters. By Jewish standard, Jesus was innocent, by Roman standards, he gathered too many crowds and was therefore a threat to their rule. The high priest was appointed by the Romans and did their bidding in order to keep their job, hence the contempt the sages of the Talmud (written by desendents of the Pharissic tradition). It also makes great sense that the high priest would try to keep trouble makers from bringing the wrath of the Romans down on them, which might end their power. Jesus, for whatever reason, was perceived as possible threat to Roman rule of Judea. Possibly simply because of the crowds he drew.....

It has much more significance that John did not metion the trial by the Sanhedrin. The laws the Sanhedrin Gadol (great Sanhedrin) had to follow would prohibit such a trial. As I have stated before, the high priest was appointed by the Romans and was hated by the people because of that. It is logical that a Roman appointed high priest would question people he thought a threat to Roman rule to keep his job. The priests appointed the Temple police, who according to John, arrested Jesus. They brought Jesus to their boss, the high priest and/or the high priests father-in-law, Caiphas.

Calling yourself the son of G-d is not regarded as blasphemy. David and Solomon were both called son of G-d. Many of the kings of Israel/Judah were. Perhaps Jesus' offence was that he was calling himself a king, a definite threat to the Romans and their collaborators. After all, isn't that what the Romans put on the top of his cross? King of the Jews? The high priest, based on the fact that Jesus was called the son of G-d and that he claimed to be the messiah (or at least did not deny it in the NT accounts), would conclude that Jesus was calling himself the king of Israel. It is obvious, that that is what he told his Roman overlords, since that is what Pilate had placed on his cross. Crucifixion is a punishment reserved for rebels and political enemies of the Roman empire, and is not used for blasphemy. Jesus did NOT commit blasphemy by Jewish law. The charge of blashpemy was a later interpretation by Gentile Christians who did notunderstand the Judaism that Jesus followed.

Pontious Pilate was not a man to back down and yeild to the wishes of the Jews. History is clear in this. He would rather bring in a Syrian legion and slaughter the Jews then give into a Jewish mob. Read Antiquites Book 18, chapter 3, sections 1. He (Pilate) seems to do his utmost to provoke the Jews. He only relented when he saw that the Jews were willing to die meekly rather than have graven images in Jerusalem. A bit later, in section 2 of the same chapter, he causes a slaughter of Jews who were protesting the use of sacred money (ie money from the Temple for Temple uses) to build a water project. He was not a nice man and not at all considerate of the beliefs of the people he ruled.

And another point: "Give us Barabbas!". Who do you think the mob of Jews were asking for? Considering that Bar = son in Aramaic and abbas = father, and the fact that Jesus had a large number of Jewish supporters before his arrest, I think they were asking for the release of Jesus. Additionally, many early manuscripts list Jesus as the first name of Barabbas (as testified to by early manuscripts of Matthew and by the difficulty it cause to the Church father Origen. Origen came to the conclusion that it must have been a mistake, and he made sure it was deleted from future manuscripts. BTW, a Christian source, the New American Bible, in a commentary on Matthew 27:17-17 says "The Aramaic Barabbas means 'son of the Father' ".), increasing the likelyhood that they were calling for Jesus. Appearantly, the Gentile Christian writers of the NT gospels knew that the (at this time) largely Gentile Church would not understand the reference, but at the same time, they kept an element of truth in the story. It was in their own self interest to disassociate with the Jews, who had after all, just rebelled against Rome and lost. The gospels are again giving history a pro-Roman slant and shifting the blame to the Jews to get the heat off of themselves. It is additionally stated the Barabbas was a robber. Crucifixtion was a punishment for rebels and those deamed a political threat to the Roman empire. It is, therefore, consevable that Jesus was thought of as a rebel by the Romans, whether he was or not.

Book 20 of Antiquites also give us a good picture of what the Romans were like (105-112) "Now, while the Jewish affairs were under the administration of Camanus, there happened a great tumalt at the city of Jerusalem, and many Jews perished therein;...When the feast which is called Passover was at hand,...and a great multitude was gathered together from all parts to that feast, Cumanus was afraid lest some attempt of innovation should then be made by them; so he ordered that one regiment of the army should take their arms, and stand in the Temple cloisters, to repress any attempts of inovation, if perchance any should begin; and **this was no more than what the former procurators of Judea did at such festivals;** but on the fourth day of the feast, a certain soldier let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude, which put those that saw him into a furious rage, and made them cry out that this impious action was not done to reproach them, but G-d Himself; ..[Cumanus] yet did he exhort them to leave off such seditious attempts, and not to raise tumult at the festival; but he could not induce them to be quiet, for they still went on in their reproaches to him, he gave order that the whole army should take their entire armor, and come to Antonia, which was a fortress,...which overlooked the Temple; but the passages out were but narrow, and they thought their enemies followed them, ...and a great number were pressed to death in the narrow passages; nor indeed was the number fewer than twenty thousand that perished in this tumult. So, instead of a festival they had at last a mournful day of it; and they all of them forgot their prayers and sacrifices, and betook themselves to lamentation and weeping; so great an affliction did the impudent obsceness of a single soldier bring upon them."

You will notice the line that I have marked with 2 *'s on either side. The Romans were always weary of trouble during the pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem, lest someone try something and the crowd become rebellious.

The Romans, Herodians and Saducees represented the Romans and their own self interest. Romans are certainly not Jewish leadership. Roman appointed Saducees are not Jewish leadership, but collaborators.The same with the Herodians. The only Jewish leadership was the Pharasic Sanhedrin which, according to John's account, had nothing to do with the trial. Again, I say, the large following of Jews that Jesus attracted all over the Holy Land would only be a threat to the Romans and their collaborators, the high priest and his underlings.

Acts 9:1-2 "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the ...disciples. He went to the HIGH PRIEST and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that is he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem."

He was present at the stoning of Stephen, because he worked for the high priest as one of the Temple policemen.

Act 8:3 "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison."

As I have said before, the Saducees and their leader, the high priest, were collaborators with Rome. They had their own Temple police to apprehend those who they though were a threat to Rome. They also had their own prison in which to hold people who awaited questioning by a priest. Saul, based on Acts, was obviously a member of the Temple police. He made arrests and reported to the high priest, who was in charge of the Temple police. That is why Paul, who based on this evidence, was probably a Saducee (or at the very least, a collaborator and Roman sympathiser, he did, after all, have Roman citizenship and he turned to the Romans when latter he ran into trouble), was there at Stephan's stoning because he was one of the Temple police.

About the Sanhedrin:

"A sanhedrin is a court or council. In Judea there were actually two kinds of sanhedrins. One was a Roman imperial court, called synedrion in Greek, on which Sadducees served. The other was a Jewish court, called bet din in Hebrew, which was based on and dealtwith, Jewish law." (Lillian C. Freudmann, "Antisemitism in the New Testament", p 33)

"The synedrion of the High Priest was a purely political court and dealt with Roman law. The High Priest considered matters under his jusrisdiction as an officer of the Romans whose appointee he was.When there was the slightest suspicion of a crime being political in nature, it was the High Priest's responsibility to investigate it. His court ferreted out anyone accused of insurrection. If his findings confirmed suspicions of political activities, he dispatched the suspect to the Roman authorities." (Lillian C. Freudmann, p34)

It was to this court that Jesus was brought and in this court where Jesus was tried.

"Perhaps the most striking of the roles of these Roman praefecti from Herod and Archelaus was the appointment and dismissal of the High Priests. Thus all the High Priests whom we see in the Gospel narratives where Roman appointees..." (Fergus Miller, "The Roman Near East: 31 BC-AD 337, p45)

Who made up the Great Sanhedrin? According to Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (which for those of you who don't know, takes the arguments in the Talmud and records the final decision only, in a systematic order), the member of the Great Sanhedron had to be rabbis who were experts in the Torah and versed in many other scholarly areas. Priest and Levites, if there were ones available that were rabbis and met the many other qualifications, would be part of the Sanhedrin. Rabbis were Pharisees, not Sadducees. Thus the priests and Levites who served on the Sanhedrin had to be Pharisees. (source: Isadore Twersky, "A Maimonides Reader", pp 189-205)

Keep in mind, that to convict in a capital case such as Jesus', the Great Sanhedrin had to have 2 witnesses who did not know each other, were not related to each other or to Jesus, who warned him before hand that what he was about to do was a capital crime, and witnessed the crime. This is not the case in the NT. The High Priest and his court had no such restrictions, since they answered to the Romans.

Some will ask, well, what if the members of the Sanhedrin were all corrupt, they held a trial on a holiday, and convicted Jesus without the required witnesses? My answer to that is that one of the requirements to being a judge on the Great Sanhedrin was integrity. They are commanded to judge righteously. They must be free from all suspision with respect to misconduct. They wore fringed robes to remind themselves that G-d Himself is listening and seeing what happens in the court. They must question any witnesses against the accused, with an effort to make sure he is not telling hersay and is honest. An accused in a capital case is not allowed to testify against himself/herself. (Twersky p189-205).


"It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what the L-rd does require or you: only to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk modestly with your G-d" Michah 6:8

Note: mercy = chesed which is really mercy translated to deeds.


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© Copyright 1997 by G. Shapiro