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§ 244. The sanhedain of the wildERNEss. 301
ing spread under them, or upon cushions slightly elevated, with their knees bent and crossed; as is the custom, at the present day, in the East.
Appeals and other weighty matters were brought before this tribunal. Among other questions of importance, subject to its decision, the Talmudists, (Sanhedrin I. 5. X. 89.) include the inquiry, “Whether a person be a false prophet or not ?” Comp. Luke 13: 33. Its power had been limited, in the time of Christ, by the interference of the Romans. It was still, however, in the habit of sending its legates or messengers to the synagogues in foreign countries, (Acts 9:2.) and retained the right of passing the sentence of condemnation, or what is the same thing in amount, of decreeing punishment in cases, where there was proof of criminality; but the power of executing the sentence when passed was taken away from it, and lodged with the Roman procurator, John 18: 31. Sanhedrin p. 24. col. 2. There was one exception, it is true, during the procuratorship of Pilate, and only one; who permitted the Sanhedrin themselves, in the case of Christ, to see the sentence, of which they had been the authors, put in execution, John 18; 31. 19. 6. The stoning of Stephen was not done by the authority of the Sanhedrin, but in a riot, Acts vii. James, the brother of John, (Acts 12. 2.) was slain, in consequence of a sentence to that effect from king Herod Agrippa. The high priest Ananus did indeed condemn James, the brother of Jesus, (i.e. relation or cousin,) to be stoned, and others likewise, but it was done, when the procurator was absent, and was disapproved by the Jews themselves. Consult the large German edition of this Work, P. II. Wol. II. § 132. p. 121, 122.
[Note. ON THE SANHEDRIN of Seventy, INstituted by Moses IN THE WILDERNEss. A remark was made at the close of the 243d section, as follows. “This tribunal, (viz. the Jewish Sanhedrin,) is not to be confounded with the seventy two counsellors, who were appointed to assist Moses, etc.” The following extract from Michaelis, whose opinions on such a subject every scholar will feel an interest in knowing, will give probably a correct idea of the institution, to which an allusion is made in that section.
“Moses established in the wilderness another institution which has been commonly held to be of a judicial nature; and under the 302 § 244. The sanhedriN of the wildeRNEss.
name of Sanhedrin or Synedrium, much spoken of both by Jews and Christians, although it probably was not of long continuance. We have the account of its establishment in Num. xi.; and if we read the passage impartially, and without prejudice, we shall probably entertain an opinion of the Synedrium different from that generally received, which exalts it into a supreme college of justice that was to endure for ever. “A rebellion that arose among the Israelites distressed Moses exceedingly. In order to alleviate the weight of the burden that oppressed him, he chose from the twelve tribes collectively, a council of seventy persons to assist him. These, however, could hardly have been judges; for of them, the people already had between sixty and seventy thousand.* Besides, of what use could seventy new judges, or a supreme court of appeal, have been in crushing a rebellion. It seems much more likely, that this selection was intended for a supreme senate to take a share with Moses in the government; and as it consisted of persons of respectability, either in point of family or merits, it would serve materially to support his power and influence among the people in general. By a mixture of aristocracy, it would moderate the monarchical appearance which the constitution must have assumed from Moses giving his laws by command of God, and it would unite a number of powerful families together, from their being all associated with Moses in the government. “It is commonly supposed that this Synedrium continued permanent; but this I doubt. For in the whole period from the death of Moses to the Babylonish captivity, we find not the least mention of it in the Bible; and this silence, methinks, is decisive; for in the time of the judges, but particularly on those occasions when, according to the expression of the book of Judges, there was neither king nor judge in Israel; and again, during those great political revolutions, when David by degrees became king over all the tribes, and when the ten tribes afterwards revolted from his § 245. othen tribunals in the time of chaist. 303
* Without including the tribe of Levi, there were, Judges of tens, 60,355 of hundreds, 6,035 of thousands, 603
in all, 66,993
grandson, Rehoboam ; and lastly, under the tyrannical reigns of some of the subsequent kings; such a supreme council of seventy persons, if it had been in existence, must have made a conspicuous figure in the history; and yet we find not the least trace of it: so that it merely appears to have been a temporary council instituted by Moses for his personal service and security; and as he did not fill up the vacancies occasioned in it by deaths, it must have died out altogether in the wilderness. “No doubt the Jews, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, did institute a Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, of which frequent mention is made not only in the New Testament, but also in Jewish writings. But this was merely an imitation of the ancient Mosaic Synedrium, with the nature of whose constitution the later Jews were no longer acquainted ; for they had indeed become ignorant of almost all the customs of their ancestors.”]
§ 245. Other TRIBUNALs in the time of Christ.
Josephus, (Antiq. IV. 8. 14.) states, that in every city there was a tribunal of seven Judges, with two Levites as apparitors, and that it was a Mosaic institution. That there existed such an institution in his time, there is no reason to doubt, but he probably erred in referring its origin to so early a period, as the days of Moses. This tribunal, which decided causes of less moment, is denominated, in the New Testament, xolots or the judgment, Matt. 5: 22.
The Talmudists mention a tribunal of twenty three judges, and another of three judges, but Josephus is silent in respect to them. The courts of twenty three judges were the same with the synagogue tribunals, mentioned in John 16: 2; which merely tried questions of a religious nature, and sentenced to no other punishment than “forty stripes save one,” 2 Cor. 11:24.
The court of three judges was merely a session of referees, which was allowed to the Jews by the Roman laws; for the Talmudists themselves, in describing this court, go on to observe, that one judge was chosen by the accuser, another by the accused, and a third by the two parties conjunctly; which shows at once the nature of the tribunal.
304 § 247. OF THE ForUM or PLACE of TRIALs.
§ 246. The TIME of TRIALs.
The time, at which courts were held, and causes were brought before them for trial, was in the morning, -po, Jer. 21: 12. Ps. 101: 8. According to the Talmudists, (Sanhedrin IV.) it was not lawful to try causes of a capital nature in the night, and it was equally unlawful to examine a cause, pass sentence, and put it in execution on the same day. The last particular was very strenuously insisted on. It is worthy of remark, that all of these practices, which were observed in other trials, were neglected in the tumultuous trial of Jesus, Matt. 26:57. John 18: 13–18. For what the modern Jews assert, viz. that forty days were allowed to Jesus, to make his defence in, is not mentioned by the more ancient writers.
The trial of causes on the days of the national festivals is forbidden in many passages in the Talmud. Whatever might have been the ground of this prohibition, it at any rate contravened the spirit of the remark in Deut. 17: 13. viz. “And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.” That is, shall hear and tremble at the sentence passed upon the guilty; for which they could not in general find so good an opportunity, as on the days of those festivals. Nor was there any reason to fear, that the religious festivals of the nation, would be profaned in this way, in as much as judicial tribunals, in a theocracy, were of divine institution. It may be observed further on this point, that the reason assigned, why the Jews in Matt. 26: 5. avoided the festival day, was the fear of an uproar among the people. But it appears, as soon as a person was found treacherous enough to betray the Saviour, that even the fears from this source vanished.
§ 247. Of The ForUM or place of TRIALs.
The places for judicial trials were in very ancient times the gates of cities, which were well adapted to this purpose. They were adapted to this purpose, in as much as they were public, and were used not only for entering and departing, but for fairs, places of business, and to accommodate those, who were assembled § 248. ForM of TRIAL. 305
merely to pass away the time, Gen. 23: 10, et seq. Deut. 21:19. 25: 6, 7. Ruth 4: 1, et seq. Ps. 127: 5. Prov. 22: 22. 24; 7. The place of trial was the same after the captivity as before, Zech. 8: 16. The Greek forum, dyoga, was also a place for fairs. The AREop Agus itself, &gstos tayos, i. e. the hill of Mars, was so called, because justice was said to have been pronounced there formerly against Mars, Acts 17: 19. The Greeks assembled in the forum likewise, where the judicial tribunals had the place of their sitting, in order to examine into the conduct and qualifications of public magistrates, and candidates for office. Inquiries and examinations of this kind were expressed by the Greek word doztudosty, comp. 1 Cor. 11:28. The assembly of the citizens, convened on extraordinary occasions, was called in Greek &ximala or onlyzintos. The convention of the citizens, which met on certain stated days, judgwu xijotat, which were designated by the law, and which recurred four times within every period of thirty five days, was called xvgia.
§ 248. ForM of TRIAL.
Originally trials were every where very summary, excepting in Egypt; where the accuser committed the charge to writing, the accused replied in writing, the accuser repeated the charge, and the accused answered again, etc. Diodorus Sic. I. p. 75. comp. Job 14: 17.
It was customary in Egypt for the judge to have the code of laws placed before him, a practice, which still prevails in the East, comp. Dan. 7: 10.
Moses, however, when called upon to decide upon any litigated question, pursued that summary course, which was common among the Nomadic tribes; and in those laws of a permanent character, which he established, he did not lay the ground for any more formal, or complicated method of procedure in such cases. He was, nevertheless, anxious that justice should be administered in a right manner, and, accordingly, frequently inculcated the idea, that God was a witness to judicial transactions. He interdicted, in the most express and decided manner, gifts or bribes, Trio, which were intended to corrupt the judges, Exod. 22:20, 21. 23: 1–9. Lev. 19. 15. Deut. 24: 14, 15. Moses also, by legal precautions,