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Last page update: 1 July, 2016.

Was His trial legal?

It’s often claimed Jesus trial was illegal because it didn’t follow Jewish law.
I think this article is a good example of that view - click, but more info should be mentioned for a more balance view.

  1. It was at night.
  1. Because the verdict will be announced the next day
    “while in capital cases a verdict of acquittal may be reached the same day, but a verdict of conviction not until the following day.”
    Tractate Sanhedrin VII page 71 - click
  2. It was a festival
    “Therefore such a case is not tried on the eve of a Sabbath or festival.”
    Tractate Sanhedrin VII page 71 - click
  3. No witnesses were called
  4. There were no real charges
  5. Sanhedrin members were legally disqualified




It was night
While all of the above things are true it doesn’t mean there are no exceptions. There are as I will show; but first a few thoughts and observations.

The first hearing was from about 02:15 am - 03:00 am - Click.
I checked the time of dawn in Jerusalem for 25 years of Passover dates and the most early dawn is 03:41 am. That means His first hearing started during the dark hours. I’m not sure that counts as a trail? Preliminary hearing?  Anyway, at daylight he was brought before the Sanhedrin - Supreme Court.

Luke 22:66 And when it was day, the rulers of the people came together, with the chief priests and the scribes, and they took him before their Sanhedrin, saying,

Conclusion: Uncertain


Because the verdict should be announced the next day
One thing is 100% sure, the legal proceedings spanned two days. The day starts at dawn not at dusk. Click
The legal proceedings can be split into 4 parts.

So while possibly the full trial was at day. But even if it was, the verdict wasn’t the next day because in Luke 22:67-71 we read they interrogated Him too that day.

Conclusion: Law broken.


It was as festival
He was arrested on the thirteenth. The eve of Passover started around 3am of the next day, the fourteenth. So they didn’t break that rule.

Conclusion: Law not broken.


No witnesses were called

AND A HERALD PRECEDES HIM etc. This implies, only immediately before [the execution], but not previous thereto.  [In contradiction to this] it was taught: On the eve of the Passover Yeshu  was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!  — Ulla retorted: 'Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning whom Scripture says, Neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him?  With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government [or royalty, i.e., influential].'
Sanhedrin 43a -click

Conclusion: Law not broken.


There were no real charges
Click
Conclusion: Law not broken.


Sanhedrin members were legally disqualified
Most certainly so. Many got their position by bribes.
Jesus was also personally on bad standing with many of the court. That disqualifies them as a witness. They even bribed Judas.
Conclusion: Law broken.



It takes only one error to make a trial illegal. But as I’ll show there is an exception to many of the above rules.

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Decision for the hour
In cases of extreme urgency, court can opt for “Decision of the hour”. That overrides all the rules. Yeah, even God’s rules as I will show. The only real point that could be argued about is, if it was really an extreme emergency.


Quote from Dor le dor, page 66-67 - link
What is especially difficult to explain is the matter of special rulings for particular occasions which the Talmud ascribes to a number of prophets who suspended or changed a commandment of the Torah on the basis of a 'special ruling' or 'decision for the hour.'

The classical example of this is Elijah on Mount Carmel. Thus the Talmud says:

We have a number of other examples of the prophets doing things that were contrary to the teachings of the Torah. In most instances the sages explained that these acts were not permanent abrogations of the law but merely 'a decision for the hour.' Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Chajes, in this book 'Torat Neviim', includes the following among the acts of the prophets that were in violation of the teachings of the Torah:

It thus appears clear that, according to our sages, the above acts of the prophets were not permanent abrogations of the law but merely 'decisions for .the moment.' They were decisions that were made in an emergency for 'the safeguarding of the cause' and were not to be taken as a precedent.

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His case may be begun by day and finished by night; they may begin and end it on the same day, whether he be guilty or not; they may arrive at a verdict by a majority of one whether it be for conviction or acquittal; All may plead for acquittal or all for conviction; one who pleads for acquittal may retract and plead for conviction. The eunuch and the childless can act as judges, and, according to R. Jehuda, even those who are biased in the direction of severity. Page 105 - link

“His case may be begun by day and finished by night; they may begin and end it on the same day,“ - link


It was charged that he was a preacher of turbulence and faction, that he flattered the poor and condemned the rich, that he denounced whole cities, that he gathered about him a rabble of harlots and drunkards under the pretense of reforming them; that he subverted the laws and institution of the Mosaic commonwealth, and in their place built up an unauthorized legislation of his own liking; that he had no regard for society, nor of religion, but commended the idolatrous Samaritan while he damned the holy priest and pious Levite. That he tore down the solemn sanctions of holy religion, did eat with publicans and sinners without washing his hands, disregarded all obligations of the Sabbath . . .These and many other charges were doubtless presented to the members of the Sanhedrin during the course of the trial.102 These charges are all true. The fact is they were combined into a single accusation, one that would seal his fate.  
S. Srinivasa Aiyar

A final thing to consider; we are told all sort of things about the trial including that there a re false/contradicting witnesses, but why isn’t it mentioned the whole trial was illegal?