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Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Trial of Christ

April 5, 2020

“Sanhedrin in Session” (1883 encyclopedia illustration), Author Wrongkind707 (PD-Art, PD-Old)

In First Century Jerusalem, the Great Sanhedrin was a court both of civil and criminal jurisdiction, comprised of 71 judges.

During the trial of Christ, there were multiple instances of procedural error and prosecutorial misconduct.  Here are some:

Illegal Arrest

  • The use of an accomplice to effectuate an arrest was forbidden.  Since Judas had aided Christ in His ministry, he would have been considered such an accomplice [1A].

Improper Timing

  • Christ was tried for a capital offense during Passover, though this was forbidden [1B].

Secrecy/Bias

  • The Sanhedrin was lawfully in session only between the morning sacrifice at 9AM and the evening sacrifice at 3PM.  Christ was arrested and tried there during the night [1C].
  • Contrary to Jewish law, Christ was examined by a single judge at each of two private preliminary hearings – first by Annas, Pres. of the Sanhedrin (John 8: 12-14), then by the High Priest, Caiphas (John 18: 15-27) [1D].  However, private preliminary hearings and the use of a single judge were forbidden as fostering secrecy and bias [1E].
  • Jewish law required two sessions by the Sanhedrin for condemnation, a day apart [1F].  A sentence of death had to be deferred until the following day, in the hope that some argument in favor of the accused might come to light.  This requirement was ignored in Christ’s case.
  • The Sanhedrin had already met three times with a view toward plotting Christ’s death (John 7: 45-52; John 11: 45-49, 53; and Luke 22: 1-2).

Fluid and Unsubstantiated Charges

  • Not only were the charges against Christ vague, they shifted continually.  These included treason against the nation of Israel (Mark 14: 57-60), blasphemy (Mark 14: 61-64), “perverting” the nation of Israel (Luke 23: 1), forbidding tribute to Rome (Luke 23: 1), fomenting riot (Luke 23: 5), and treason against the Roman Empire (John 23: 12).

Hampered Defense

  • Christ was given no time to prepare a defense, to which He had a legal right.

Perjured Witnesses

  • The witnesses against Christ committed perjury, with the prosecutors’ knowledge.  Moreover, their testimony was inconsistent, therefore, insufficient under Jewish law to support a conviction (Mark 14: 55-56).

Self-Incrimination

  • Christ was convicted of blasphemy on the basis of His own statements, though Jewish law expressly prohibited self-incrimination as the sole basis for execution [2][3].

Disqualification

  • The High Priest, Caiphas, disqualified himself by rending his garments (Lev. 10: 6, 21: 10).
  • The Sanhedrin voted by universal acclamation, rather than the individual ballot required[1G].

Repeated Acquittal

  • A unanimous verdict of guilt was was handed down by the Sanhedrin in Christ’s case (Matt. 26: 66).  This should have resulted in acquittal [1H].  Under Jewish law, if no one spoke on behalf of a defendant, he had not received justice and could not be executed.
  • When jurisdiction was transferred by Roman authorities to the Galilean Tetrarch, Herod Antipas, no evidence was produced.  Despite that, Christ was not released.  He was instead returned to Roman authorities.
  • When Christ was found innocent by Roman authorities, the religious hierarchy challenged the verdict, asserting disloyalty on the part of Pilate (John 19: 12).  As a result of this political pressure and the threat of violence from the crowd, the decision was reversed.

[1A-H]  Champions of Truth, “Tract 13c – The Hebrew Trials of Christ”, http://www.champs-of-truth.com/lessons/tract_13c.htm.

[2]  Digital Commons at Loyola Marymount University and Loyola Law School, “An Introduction to Self-Incrimination in Jewish Law, with Application to the American Legal System:  A Psychological and Philosophical Analysis” by Samuel Levine, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1600&context=ilr.

[3]  My Jewish Learning, “The Death Penalty in Jewish Tradition”, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-death-penalty-in-jewish-tradition/.

In response to the coronavirus, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre — believed to be the site of Jesus’ tomb — has been closed for the first time since the Black Death.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

9 Comments
  1. I attended a weekend seminar given by a Messianic Jewish scholar, and yes, he said that EVERY rule was broken in Jesus’s trial. You’d think someone would have noticed at least some of them … :/

  2. Reblogged this on idahodimple.

  3. The Passover lamb had to be perfect, and died so the household would be spared…Human “justice” was irrelevant.

  4. Wow, Anna, this is Beautiful! Kudos. 🙂

    • I am so glad you liked it, Swami. I cannot take much credit. There is a great deal of information available online and elsewhere. ❤

  5. Very interesting. Clearly He was pierced for our transgressions.

    • Exactly so. As a willing but innocent victim, Christ was subject to the ultimate injustice…something many of us forget.

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