[b-hebrew] Sanhedrin

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Sun Sep 3 07:22:32 EDT 2006

Dear Shoshanna,

>I don't know if we are having a problem with terminology - ie that 
>the Torah didn't call it a "Sanhedrin"

HH: I am having the same problem the Jewish Encyclopedia was having.

>Or a disbelief in the historic records that the Mishna and Talmud 
>recorded for us, including the records of where it was moved to, 
>under whose leadership, who were the heads, some of whom were Judges, 
>when the heads were "pairs" - nesiim and avot beit din, etc.
>We even know the NAMES of who headed various Sanhedrins.
>King David, by the way, WAS a prophet, and ALSO the head of the 
>Sanhedrin of his time.
>What, do you think any, all or some of  these facts were made up?
>Translated from the Talmud:
>The Great (Sanhedrin) consisted of seventy-one, and the small of 
>twenty-three. Whence do we deduce that the great council must be of 
>seventy-one? From [Num. xi. 16]: "Gather unto me seventy men." And 
>add Moses, who was the head of them--hence seventy-one? And whence do 
>we deduce that a small one, must be twenty-three? From [ibid. xxxv. 
>24 and 25]: "The congregation shall judge"; "And the congregation 
>shall save." 1 We see that one congregation judges, and the other 
>congregation saves-hence there are twenty; as a congregation consists 
>of no less than ten persons, and this is deduced from [ibid. xiv. 
>27], "To this evil congregation," which was of the ten spies, except 
>Joshua and Caleb. And whence do we deduce that three more are needed? 
> From [Ex. xxiii. 2]: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do 
>evil"--from which we infer that you shall follow them to do good. But 
>if so, why is it written at the end of the same verse, "Incline after 
>the majority, to wrest judgment"? 2 This means, the inclination to 
>free the man must not be similar to the inclination to condemn; as to 
>condemn a majority of two is needed, while to free, the majority of 
>one suffices. And a court must not consist of an even number, as, if 
>their opinion is halved, no verdict can be established; therefore one 
>more must be added. Hence it is of twenty-three.

HH: This is one of the reasons I don't automatically trust the Talmud. 
Numbers 35:24-25 is not talking about two different judicial bodies. The 
rabbis often use Scripture to support their own ideas. This looks like 
an after-the-fact attempt to give a rationale for the composition of 
Sanhedrin that existed at a much later time, perhaps the first or second 
century of the common era.

Harold Holmyard

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