Posted by / Tuesday 21 March 2017 / No comments

The Sanhidren in Jerusalem

The Sanhedrin was to the Jews what the Supreme Court is in the judicial system of a modern state. It was the highest council in the time of Jesus. Its origin has been linked to the appointment of the Council of 70 men by Moses during the journey from Egypt to the Promise Land.

The Sanhedrin was constituted by the Chief Priests, the elders and the teachers of the law. The High Priest was the Presiding Officer and he was ably supported by 70 other members. In exception of Sabbath days and days when feasts were celebrated, the Sanhedrin had their meetings every day. Whenever 23 members were present, a quorum was formed and meetings could start.

Some prominent members of the Sanhedrin, mentioned in the Bible include, Joseph of Arithmathea, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and Saul.

Acted as a Governing Council
One of the functions of the Sanhedrin was to govern Judea. The Romans, for administrative purposes, had divided Judea into five administrative districts and craftily linked every town and village to Jerusalem. The function of the Sanhedrin was therefore to administer these administrative divisions of the country.

Maintain law and order
Another function of the Sanhedrin was to maintain law and order and encourage peaceful co-existence among the people. There was a Temple Police that was under the control of the Sanhedrin and they could be ordered to effect arrests as in the case of the party that was ordered to arrest Jesus and bring him to court.

As a link to the Governor
It was also the function of the Sanhedrin to represent the Jews before the Governor. When they spoke on any matter before the Governor, they spoke on behalf of the Jews. Similarly, when the Governor wanted to convey any messages to the people, especially concerning the introduction of a new policy or a change in an existing policy, he did so through the Sanhedrin.

Collection of tax
At a point, the Sanhedrin was used in the collection of taxes from the Jews. The ancient historian, Josephus, recorded that around AD60, the members of the Sanhedrin were responsible for the collection of taxes throughout the whole of Judea.

Vetting of candidates for ordination
Another crucial function of the Sanhedrin was to vet candidates who were going to be ordained as priests. Quiet apart from their other qualifications to their positions as priests, the Sanhedrin, especially checked whether they were truly from the priestly line and whether they were physically fit for the job.

There were some prominent trials before the Sanhedrin that were recorded in the Bible. One of these was the trial of Jesus when he was charged with blasphemy. Luke also recorded in the book of Acts how Peter and John were arrested and tried for preaching the resurrection. In Acts 7, the first martyr of Christianity, Stephen, was also tried by the Sanhedrin.

1. Write short notes about the Sanhedrin.

2. a. What was the composition of the Sanhedrin in the days of Jesus?
    b. Highlight four functions performed by the Sanhedrin.

3. Highlight six functions and powers of the Sanhedrin.

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