History of Easter: The Sanhedrin — Who was this Council?

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Herod’s Temple, Jerusalem

Origin

Its origin can be traced back as far as 200 B.C. during what is called the “Intertestamental Period,” meaning about 400 years after the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament writings. We hear about it during the Hasmonean period, and there are references to it in the Mishnah section of the Talmud. There is no reference to this body in the original Old Testament. The council had about 70 members plus the ruling high priest. Three professional groups composed the council:

  • Elders — tribal and family heads of the people and the priesthood
  • Scribes — legal professionals

Politics

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Limitations

However, during the time of Jesus, the council had lost to the Roman governor the power of capital punishment, the jus gladii. The council met daily, except on Sabbath and feast days, in a session room adjoining the temple. In extraordinary cases, the council met at the house of the high priest. One of the responsibilities of the Sanhedrin was the identification, and confirmation of the Messiah. The gospel writers identify a delegation from the council going out to question John the Baptist as to whether he was the Messiah. There were about a dozen false Messiahs running around during the first part of this century deceiving the people, and it was the responsibility of the council to identify and denounce them. This is why Jesus had to eventually come into conflict with them.

Pharisees

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Sadducees

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High Priests

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Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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