[b-hebrew] HAROLD Re: Sanhedrin

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at concentric.net
Sun Sep 3 11:20:29 EDT 2006

What problem did Jewish Encyclopedia have, I forget.

Numbers 35 is talking about a court.  It doesn't say if it is a local 
court or the supreme court, but we KNOW it was a lesser Sanhedrin, or 
local court, because:

There were local courts, and there was the supreme court which met in 
the Beit HaMikdash.  Great and lesser Sanhedrins.

The function of the Lesser Sanhedrins was SPECIFICALLY to judge 
capital cases (except for capital punishment for high officials - 
that goes to the Great Sanhedrin) - the judges of the Lesser 
Sanhedrin only hear cases where the accused faces the death penalty. 
It has no legislative, executive or administrative functions (but 
they didn't have this authority if the Great Sanhedrin did not meet 
in the Lishkat haGazit).  Unlike the singular Great Sanhedrin there 
are numerous Lesser Sanhedrins, one for each city that has a 
population of at least 120 men.

That is how they knew that the court in these verses is the Lesser 
Sanhedrin - there is no after the fact anything - this is where they 
learned how many should sit in the lesser Sanhedrins.

Additionally there are two special Lesser Sanhedrins, one of which 
meets at the entrance to the Holy Temple and the other which meets at 
the entrance to the Temple mount.  These last two courts serve a 
special function in determining the law.

Why do you say "after the fact" - do you think that we didn't need 
judges and courts "before the fact"?  Anyway, what fact are you 
talking about?   And you didn't answer all my questions - do you 
think that the Talmud and Mishna just made things up?  Even peoples' 


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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