[b-hebrew] HAROLD Re: Sanhedrin

Michael Abernathy mabernathy714 at comcast.net
Sun Sep 3 13:47:33 EDT 2006

Shoshanna Walker wrote:
> What problem did Jewish Encyclopedia have, I forget

If Harold will permit I would like to respond since I was the first to 
refer to the Jewish Encyclopedia.
I will not conjecture concerning the value of this resource. I only used 
it because I am preparing to move and most of my library is already packed.
The Jewish Encyclopedia said, ". . . but the fact that no passage 
whatever in the pre-exilic books of the Bible refers to this institution 
seems to indicate that it was not introduced before the time of the 
Second Temple."
I believe that this comment referenced "the highest court dealing with 
the religious law, being in charge also of the religious instruction of 
the people (Sanh. xi. 2-4)" as distinguished from the political 
Sanhedrin. Since we were talking about the role of the Sanhedrin in 
authenticating prophets, I assumed this was the one we would be talking 
Before anyone takes objection to this question, I would like to point 
out that 2 Chronicles 19:8 states that Jehoshaphat appointed a court to 
handle just these matters. This implies that a court of this nature did 
not exist continuously from the time of Moses.

I apologize if anyone has answered the other questions I posed but I 
haven't seen a reply and I would like to hear from you on this:
Would the Sanhedrin have made a decision on those prophets who were 
living in other nations such as Israel during the divided kingdom or 
Daniel in Babylon?

 Were those judgments recorded in any surviving documents or would they 
only be known in oral traditions? If they were known in oral traditions, 
do you apply any historical methodology to determine which traditions 
are authentic? Or is the assumption that any tradition not accepted by 
modern Judaism is a false tradition?
My reason for asking these questions is that I see what appear to be 
differing traditions within the Oral Law. At least, that is the 
conclusion I come to when I read the opposing viewpoints presented in 
the Mishna. Further, we know that the both the Essenes and Sadducees had 
rather different interpretations of the Law. We do have a written record 
of what the Essenes believed, at least on some matters. The disadvantage 
to an oral tradition is that it is difficult to establish when it began.
I hope you understand that there is a distinction between historical 
truth and truth. Your claims may be completely valid without being 
capable being verified by any historical proof. You may conclude as a 
matter of faith that it has been accurately handed down from Moses. 
Since I don't share your faith, I need evidence that allows me to 
evaluate the claim. I do respect you for your faith but I don't share 
your background.
Michael Abernathy

Shoshanna Walker wrote:
> 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' 
> names?
> Shoshanna
> 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:
>> http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Talmud/sanhedrin1.html
>> 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.
> Yours,
> Harold Holmyard
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