THE JEWISH TRIALS OF YAHSHUA
Bertrand L. Comparet
At this season of the year, when we are celebrating the
crucifixion and resurrection of our redeemer, Yahshua and His gift of the spirit
to His disciples, it is well to carefully review the events on which our faith
is based. The penalty of sin is death. We are saved from this penalty because
Yahshua could pay it for us, since He had no sin of His own to pay for. He died
only for us. The Jews claim that He was a criminal, crucified in punishment for
His own crimes. Yet, the record shows that He was tried in three courts and
found innocent under the law, in all three. Let's look at the record.
Jewish law never allowed trial by a single judge; a court
of three judges was the smallest. This corresponded to our Justice of the Peace,
who can try only very minor cases. Every town of at least 120 families had a
Minor Sanhedrin, composed of 23 judges. This Minor Sanhedrin had general
jurisdiction of all serious civil and criminal cases. It also served as a tax
board and governed schools, highways, sanitary regulations, etc. As Jerusalem
was the largest city in Palestine, it had two Minor Sanhedrin.
Jerusalem had the only Great Sanhedrin, a court of
general civil and criminal jurisdiction. It was composed of 71 judges, there
being 23 in the Chamber of Priests, 23 in the Chamber of Scribes, 23 in the
Chamber of Elders and two presiding officers. Lawful court hours began after the
morning sacrifice and ended before the evening sacrifice. No part of any
criminal case could be heard outside these hours. After hearing the evidence,
each judge gave a brief statement of his view of the case, those judges that
favored acquittal speaking first. After the arguments came the voting, at which
the youngest judges must vote first, so they would be voting their own honest
views and not be overawed by their elders. If the accused was acquitted, he was
released at once. Bible and Jewish law took great care to avoid convicting an
If the accused was found guilty, the trial was recessed
until the next afternoon so the judges could reconsider the case overnight. On
the second afternoon, each judge must vote and give his reasons for it again. If
his reasons differed from those he had used on the first day, his vote could not
be counted for conviction. One who had first voted for conviction could change
his vote, but one who had first voted for acquittal could not change his vote.
At least 37 votes were needed to convict, but conviction
by unanimous vote on the 1st ballot was legally considered to be an acquittal.
It was felt that such a conviction must be the result of passion and prejudice.
If the second day's hearing also resulted in conviction, sentence was deferred
until sunset. Any new arguments could be considered and if need be, a new vote
taken. Because of this requirement of a second day's session, no trial for a
capital crime could be lawfully begun on the day before a Sabbath or a holy day.
Under both Bible and Jewish law, no man could be
condemned on the testimony of only one witness. Each of the two or more
witnesses must be able to testify to enough facts to prove the crime. It could
not be put together out of many fragments. Only one witness was allowed in the
courtroom at any time, so none could hear what the others said. If the
prosecution's witnesses disagreed, all were rejected. No man's life could be
taken on such uncertain evidence. When a condemned defendant was led away to
execution, a herald with a crimson banner led the procession, shouting out the
name of the accused and the charges against him. He called upon anyone who knew
any facts concerning the case, to speak up. If anyone did so, or if any judge
thought of any new arguments in favor of the accused, they brought the defendant
back and reconsidered his case.
The Jewish Talmud also forbade conviction of anyone of a
crime punishable by death or flogging, unless it was proven that just before the
commission of the crime, he had been warned that what he was about to do was a
crime. The only exceptions to this were the crimes of burglary, perjury and
leading others to the worship of idols. The records show that Yahshua was not
tried by a Jewish court competent to convict Him. John 18: 19-24 shows
that He was first tried by Caiaphas, the high priest, sitting as a single judge.
This was at a private examination, without any witnesses a little after
midnight. This was illegal in every respect. His next hearing was before the
high priest and the Great Sanhedrin. Matthew 26:73-75 shows that this was
before 3 A.M. It was also the day before a holy day, the Passover, so no capital
crime could be lawfully begun on that day, even at a proper hour. These
proceedings were therefore totally unlawful and void.
The mock trial they held was equally corrupt. Mark
14:55-59 shows that the false witnesses they brought against Him could not
agree on their perjured stories, so there was no lawful evidence against Him.
Even the high priest recognized this, so they abandoned their first charge,
which was in the nature of sedition. This was because Yahshua had said that He
would destroy the temple and then rebuild it. They craftily tried again, without
specifying any charges against Him, by asking Him if He was really the Christ,
the Son of Yahweh, to which He replied, "I am". They then declared
that this was blasphemy. Then they said, "What need have we of
witnesses?" Under their own law, even if such a statement had been
blasphemy, they could not convict without the testimony of two witnesses, either
with or without a confession in open court.
But it was not blasphemy, for under their own law,
blasphemy consisted only in using vile language toward Yahweh. Not even their
own false witnesses had accused Him of this. Every Israelite could say that he
was a son of Yahweh. Deuteronomy 14:1 says, "Ye are all children of
Yahweh your God". Psalm 82 says, "All of you are the children
of the Most High". So this charge was false also. While they condemned Him
on it, they abandoned it as false and unproven when they brought Him before the
Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
While the Great Sanhedrin met again just after midnight,
both Matthew 27:1 and Mark 15:1 show this was not to hold a trial,
but only a strategy meeting. They planned how to get the Romans to commit their
murder for them.
Early in the morning, soon after dawn, the Jews brought
Yahshua before the Roman governor with their new accusations. Again, this was
just a judicial lynching. Remember, even if the trial had been lawfully begun
after this time, a conviction would require that it recess until the afternoon
of the next day for reconsideration. If the second day's trial resulted in
conviction, sentence would be deferred until sunset, so the third day would be
the shorter time in which a legal execution could be held. Still, they were
rushing their judicial murder through on the first day.
The record shows that after the Jews brought Yahshua
before Pontius Pilate, Pilate held the Roman trial, then sent Yahshua away to
another part of the city where Herod was staying. Herod held another trial, then
Herod sent Him back to Pontius Pilate, who again tried to reason with the Jews.
Finally he gave up and allowed Yahshua to be crucified. All this was done so
early that the crucifixion itself occurred about noon.
The Hebrew day began at sunset. The night was divided
into four watches of three hours each. The day, which began about 6 A.M. at that
time of year, was divided into twelve hours beginning at sunrise. John 19:14
shows that the final hearing before Pilate ended a little before the sixth hour,
which would be noon. Luke 23:44 tells that the actual crucifixion
occurred soon after noon.
To sum up the Jewish trials, we see that a merely
pretended court tried him. A group of men who had no legal power to sit as a
court in the darkness of night. No legal evidence was heard against Him. He was
given no opportunity to prepare a defense to bring in witnesses in His defense.
He was convicted and condemned to death on a false charge of blasphemy. His
judges well knew that His words, whether true or false, were not blasphemy under
their law. He was murdered the same day, without the reconsideration of the
case, which the law required.
Furthermore, so long as they pretended to be a court, the
law bound them. When Yahshua was convicted on the first ballot by a unanimous
vote, their own law gave this the legal effect of a verdict of not guilty.
Nobody can truthfully say that any Jewish trial proved Yahshua guilty of any
crime or sin whatsoever.
Next, I will show you that the Roman trial likewise
proved Yahshua had no crime or sin of His own to answer for. He died for our sins,
to win salvation and redemption of His people Israel.