[b-hebrew] Sanhedrin

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jun 24 20:08:26 EDT 2006

Dear Liz,

Shoshanna is confusing tradition with history, or, rather, she insists that 
tradition IS history. You should know better.

Basically, Jewish tradition holds that Moses, at the insistence of Jethro 
(Ex. 18:14 ff.), established a system of "appellate courts", at the apex of 
which was his council of seventy elders. This system continued to exist 
throughout ancient Jewish history, except during those periods in which 
persecution made it impossible. The name changed through time, from Great 
Assembly (Kenesset Gedolah) to Gerusia (the Greek equivilant of "Senate") to 
Sanhedrin, but the content was the same. And so Boaz, Samuel, Mordechai, 
Ezra, Simon the Just, Matthias, Judah the Macabbee, Hillel, Gamaliel, Simon 
ben Gamaliel, Yohanan ben Zakkai, Rabbi Akiba were all "Heads (Nasi) of the 
Sanhedrin". After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Sanhedrin 
"wandered" to Yavne, Usha, Sepphoris and finally to Tiberias, where it 
remained until it was abolished be the evil Romans.

Historically speaking, we know very little of the existence of such a body 
before the second century CE. The theory that Liz quoted bellow is just one 
of several. The NT makes the Sanhedrin look like a kangaroo court, but 
that's its agenda. Rabbinic sources assume the existence of a high Jewish 
court in Jerusalem, which (in good times) exercised authority over the 
Temple and its Priests. Very likely, this is a retrospection by the later 
rabbis. However it would seem that in the aftermath of the Bar-Kokhba 
revolt, the Roman authorities did recognize a sanhedrin, or assembly of 
rabbis, as a representative body of the Jews who were left in the Land of 
Israel. This is basically the body that produced the Mishnah and the 
Jerusalem (or "Palestinian") Talmud, and its rabbis imagined their authority 
stretching all the way back to Moses.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried at umich.edu>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, June 23, 2006 5:07 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] PS Re: oral Torah

> Dear All,
> We should not speak of The Sanhedrin, and especially not of The Great
> Sanhedrin.
> It is my understanding that there were only sanhedrins, ad hoc called by 
> the
> Roman governor to rubber stamp his opinions. What is the evidence of
> sanhedrins before the Roman period? I heard a talk on this by Ed Sanders 
> at
> SBL one year. Based on his study of the Talmud, Josephus, and other second
> temple texts, he reached the above conclusions.
> Best,
> Liz Fried

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