The Sanhedrin (), and so an additional judge is required (12–10). Finally, a court should not have an even number of judges to prevent deadlocks; thus 23.]

The Great Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 members. The Great Sanhedrin was made up of a Chief/Prince/Leader called "Nasi" (at some times this position may have been held by the "Cohen Gadol" or the High Priest), a vice chief justice ("Av Beit Din"), and sixty-nine general members. [In general usage, "The Sanhedrin" without qualifier normally refers to the Great Sanhedrin.] In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and Shabbat.

The Sanhedrin is mentioned in The Gospels in relation to the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus.

The last binding decision of the Sanhedrin was in 358, when the Hebrew Calendar was adopted. The Sanhedrin was dissolved after continued persecution by the Roman Empire. Over the centuries, there have been attempts to revive the institution of the Sanhedrin, such as the European Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Origins and etymology

The term "Sanhedrin" is Greek and dates from the Hellenistic period, but the concept is one that goes back to the Bible. In the Torah, God commands Moses to "Assemble for Me ["Espah-Li"] seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the people's elders and officers, and you shall take them to the Tent of Meeting, and they shall stand there with you." (Numbers 11:16)

Further, God commanded Moses to lay hands on Joshua son of Nun. [. This did not prevent them from doing so at other times; , perhaps the one led by Gamaliel.

Opposition to Christian historical accounts

Although the New Testament's account of the Sanhedrin's involvement in Jesus' crucifixion is detailed, the factual accuracy is disputed. Some scholars believe that these passages present a caricature of the Pharisees and were not written during Jesus' lifetime but rather some time after the destruction of the Temple in 70 - a time when it had become clear that most Jews did not consider Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, see also Rejection of Jesus. Also, this was a time Christians sought most new converts from among the Gentiles - thus adding to the likelihood that the New Testament's account would be more sympathetic to Romans than to the Jews. In addition, it was around this time that the Pharisaic sect had begun to grow into what is now known as Rabbinic Judaism, a growth that would have been seen by the early Christians as a direct challenge to the fledgling Church. [See also Council of Jamnia.]

Some claim cites the religious Sanhedrin using this argument to sway Pilate.

Hyam Maccoby's book "The Mythmaker" presents an interesting account of a different historical interpretation.Fact|date=February 2007


"See also: Council of JamniaBy the end of the Second Temple period, the Sanhedrin achieved its quintessential position, legislating on all aspects of Jewish religious and political life within the parameters laid down by Biblical and Rabbinic tradition.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70, the Sanhedrin was re-established in Yavneh with reduced authority. The imperial Roman government and legislation still recognized it as the ultimate authority in Jewish religious matters.

It moved to Usha under the presidency of Gamaliel II in 80. In 116 it moved back to Yavneh, and again back to Usha. It moved in 140 to Shefaram under the presidency of Shimon ben Gamliel II, and to Beth Shearim and Sephoris in 163, under the presidency of Yehudah I. Finally, it moved to Tiberias in 193, under the presidency of Gamaliel III (193-220) ben Judah haNasi, where it became more of a consistory, but still retained, under the presidency of Judah II (220-270), the power of excommunication.

During the presidency of Gamaliel IV (270-290), due to persecution of an increasingly Christianized Rome, it dropped the name Sanhedrin, and its authoritative decisions were subsequently issued under the name of "Beth HaMidrash".

As a reaction to the emperor Julian's pro-Jewish stance, Theodosius I forbade the Sanhedrin to assemble and declared ordination illegal. (Roman law prescribed capital punishment for any Rabbi who received ordination and complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred).

However, since the Hebrew calendar was based on witnesses' testimony, that had become far too dangerous to collect, Hillel II recommended change to a mathematically-based calendar that was adopted at a clandestine, and maybe final, meeting in 358. This marked the last universal decision made by that body.

Gamaliel VI (400-425) was the Sanhedrin's last president. With his death in 425, executed by Theodosius II for erecting new synagogues contrary to the imperial decree, the title Nasi, the last remains of the ancient Sanhedrin, became illegal. An imperial decree of 426 diverted the patriarchs' tax ("post excessum patriarchorum") into the imperial treasury.

Revival attempts

"See also: Attempts to revive classical semicha

The Sanhedrin is seen as the last institution which commanded universal Jewish authority among the Jewish people in the long chain of tradition from Moses until the present day. Since its dissolution in 358 by imperial decree, there have been several attempts to re-establish this body either as a self-governing body, or as a puppet of a sovereign government.

There are records of what may have been of attempts to reform the Sanhedrin in Arabia [ [ The Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 compared with Islamic conquest of 638] ] , in Jerusalem under the Caliph 'Umar [ibid.] , and in Babylon (Iraq) ["Sefer Yuchsin", cf. "Yarchei Kallah", Rabbi Nassan describes "the seventy judges who comprise the Sanhedrin"] , but none of these attempts were given any attention by Rabbinic authorities and little information is available about them.

Napoleon Bonaparte's "Grand Sanhedrin"

The "Grand Sanhedrin" was a Jewish high court convened by Napoleon I to give legal sanction to the principles expressed by the Assembly of Notables in answer to the twelve questions submitted to it by the government (see Jew. Encyc. v. 468, s.v. France).

On October 6, 1806, the Assembly of Notables issued a proclamation to all the Jewish communities of Europe, inviting them to send delegates to the Sanhedrin, to convene on October 20. This proclamation, written in Hebrew, French, German, and Italian, speaks in extravagant terms of the importance of this revived institution and of the greatness of its imperial protector. While the action of Napoleon aroused in many Jews of Germany the hope that, influenced by it, their governments also would grant them the rights of citizenship, others looked upon it as a political contrivance. When in the war against Prussia (1806-7) the emperor invaded Poland and the Jews rendered great services to his army, he remarked, laughing, "The sanhedrin is at least useful to me." David Friedländer and his friends in Berlin described it as a spectacle that Napoleon offered to the Parisians.

Modern attempts in Israel

Since the dissolution of the Sanhedrin in 358 [The dissolution of the Sanhedrin, in terms of its power to give binding universal decisions, is usually dated to 358 when Hillel II's Jewish Calendar was adopted. This marked the last universally accepted decision made by that body.] , there has been no universally recognized authority within Jewish law. Maimonides (1135–1204) was one of the greatest scholars of the Middle Ages, and is arguably one of the most widely accepted scholars among the Jewish people since the closing of the Talmud in 500. Influenced by the rationalist school of thought and generally showing a preference for a natural (as opposed to miraculous) redemption for the Jewish people, Maimonides proposed a rationalist solution for achieving the goal of re-establishing the highest court in Jewish tradition and reinvesting it with the same authority it had in former years. There have been several attempts to implement Maimonides' recommendations, the latest being in modern times.

There have been rabbinical attempts to renew Semicha and re-establish a Sanhedrin by Rabbi Jacob Berab in 1538, Rabbi Yisroel Shklover in 1830, Rabbi Aharon Mendel haCohen in 1901, Rabbi Zvi Kovsker in 1940 and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon in 1949.

In October 2004 (Tishrei 5765), a group of rabbis claiming to represent varied communities in Israel undertook a [ ceremony] in Tiberias, where the original Sanhedrin was disbanded, which they claim re-establishes the body according to the proposal of Maimonides and the Jewish legal rulings of Rabbi Yosef Karo. The controversial attempt has been subject to debate within different Jewish communities.

Christian sects in Israel

There is a relatively small group of Messianic Jews in Israel today (estimates are 20,000-50,000) who believe Jesus, or ישוע ("Yeshua") as they call him by his Hebrew name, was the Messiah (from Hebrew משיח - "Mashiach" - , literally: Anointed One), the one chosen redeemer in ancient prophecies (Isaiah 9:1-7) and God. There is debate among them about when and how the Sanhedrin should be reinstalled as the Old Testament prophecies about the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Isaiah 43:5 onward) have, according to them, been fulfilled and, like many Christians, they believe, since the live times of Jesus teachings, mankind is progressing towards the end times. Their reasoning is that, (1) as the Sanhedrin is the Jewish legislative authority which has originally condemned Jesus, and (2) the Jews are - according to their belief - all to become believers in Jesus as their saviour and God, (Zechariah 12:10-14) the Sanhedrin is the only authority which has the power to reverse the judgment made nearly 2,000 years ago to condemn Jesus to be crucified.

Among this group, there is also debate about how it would be possible to fit a system of a council of 71 wise men, who are the highest legislative authority of Israel, into the judicial system of a modern, western, secular democracy. The same debate took place among secular scholars and politicians around 1948, the year the state of Israel was re-established. The idea of reinstalling the Sanhedrin was then discarded because there were too many practical difficulties found on the way, although this decision might have also been taken because the majority of Jews who were leaders in the founding of the modern state of Israel were not religious.

ee also

* Synedrion, a general term for judiciary organs of Greek and hellenistic city states and treaty organisations.


External links

* [ Secular and religious history of the Jewish Sanhedrin]
* [ Re-established Jewish Sanhedrin website by "Friends of the Sanhedrin"]
* [ The Jewish Court System] by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Sanhedrin]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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