Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 31, 2012 – Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent. The reading is from Gospel of John 11:45-56

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves.

They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

In today’s gospel reading John 11:45-56,  the first verse,

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:45)

follows the incident of “The Raising of Lazarus” (John 11:1-44).

The plot to kill Jesus thickens

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:45-46)

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him. (John 12:19)

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, (Matthews 26:3)

So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” (John 11:45-48)

Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, (Luke 22:1)

and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. (Matthews 26:4)

But they said, “Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.” (Matthews 26:4-5)

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him. (John 11:49-53)

A Note on The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin (Hebrew: סַנְהֶדְרִין‎; Greek: συνέδριον, synedrion) meaning “sitting together,” hence “assembly” or “council”, convened to deliberate or pass judgment.

The Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin) identifies two classes of rabbinical courts called Sanhedrin, a Great Sanhedrin (בית דין הגדול) and a Lesser Sanhedrin (בית דין הקטן).

Each city could have its own lesser Sanhedrin, but there could be only one Great Sanhedrin, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court – taking appeals from cases decided by lesser courts.

In both the type of Sanhedrin, the numbers of judges were predicated on eliminating the possibility of a tie and the last to cast their vote was the head of the court.

Lesser Sanhedrin (בית דין הקטן)

Every Jewish town could have its own lesser Sanhedrin (a small tribunal or council) of 23 judges,  for the decision of less important cases.

Why an assembly of twenty-three judges?

The Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, “repetition”, “to study and review”, also “secondary”), is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the “Oral Torah”. It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism.

The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 1:1) arrives at the number twenty-three based on an exegetical derivation (See Note [1]). So, an assembly of twenty-three judges was formed according to the rule laid out in the Mishnah.

The Great Sanhedrin (בית דין הגדול)

The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members. It was constituted with a Chief/Prince/Leader called Nasi,  a vice chief justice (Av Beit Din), and sixty-nine general members. In Jesus’ period the position of leader was held by Caiaphas, the High Priest (Hebrew כהן גדול kohen gadol).

In some cases, it was only necessary for a 23-member panel (functioning as a Lesser Sanhedrin) to convene. In general, the full panel of 71 judges was only convened on matters of national significance or in the event that the 23-member panel could not reach a conclusive verdic

Illustration in 1883 encyclopaedia of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin council

The Great Sanhedrin had powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have and could even try the king, extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and was the supreme authority.

In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Hall of Hewn Stones (Lishkat Ha-Gazith) in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and Shabbat.

During the time of Jesus, under the yoke of the Romans, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction only over the province of Judea.

The Sanhedrin had its own police force which could arrest people. While the Sanhedrin heard both civil and criminal cases and could impose the death penalty, it did not have the authority to execute convicted criminals. That power was reserved to the Romans, which explains why Jesus was crucified. Death by crucifixion was a Roman punishment, while death by stoning was according to Mosaic law.

whoever utters the name of the LORD in a curse shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone that person; alien and native-born alike must be put to death for uttering the LORD’s name in a curse. (Leviticus 24:16)

The second final 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 with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.

Notes

[1] Mishnah (Sanhedrin 1:1)

(1) Monetary cases [i.e., admissions of liability and testimony regarding loans are heard] by three [plain] judges [or one ordained judge (there are judges who are semuchin — i.e., ordained by a judge, who himself, was ordained by a judge, this procedure going back each generation, all the way to Moshe Rabbeinu. Then there are those who were not ordained and are referred to as plain judges. For monetary cases, which concern acts of kindness such as loans, the Rabbis instituted that they don’t require ordained judges, so that if disagreements were to arise they should be handled expeditiously], cases of theft and personal injury [are judged], by three [ordained judges], claims for full or half-damages (see Mishnah Bava Kamma 1:1), the repayment of the [kefel] double (see Exodus, 22:3) or four or five-fold restitution (see Exodus, 21:37) [of stolen goods, must be judged] by three [ordained judges], as must cases [of punitive damages] of rape, seduction, and libel, so says Rabbi Meir; but the Sages say: A case of libel requires a Court of twenty-three, since it may involve a capital charge [infidelity, in certain cases, carries the death penalty and capital charges require 23 ordained judges]. (Mishnah, Sanhedrin (1:1))

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements