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The Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
(Greek: Συνέδριον,[1] synedrion, "sitting together," hence "assembly" or "council") was an assembly of twenty-three or seventy-one rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal in every city in the ancient Land of Israel. There were two classes of rabbinical courts called Sanhedrin, the Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
and the Lesser Sanhedrin. A lesser Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
of 23 judges was appointed to each city, but there was to be only one Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
of 71 judges, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals from cases decided by lesser courts. In general usage, "The Sanhedrin" without qualifier normally refers to the Great Sanhedrin, which was composed of the Nasi, who functioned as head or representing president, and was a member of the court; the Av Beit Din or chief of the court, who was second to the nasi; and sixty-nine general members (Mufla). In the Second Temple
Second Temple
period, the Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
met in the Temple in Jerusalem, in a building called the Hall of Hewn Stones. The Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
convened every day except festivals and the sabbath day (Shabbat). After the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
and the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
moved to Galilee, which became part of the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. In this period the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was sometimes referred as the Galilean Patriarchate or Patriarchate of Palaestina, being the governing legal body of Galilean Jewry. In the late 200s, to avoid persecution, the name "Sanhedrin" was dropped and its decisions were issued under the name of Beit Ha Midrash
Midrash
(house of learning). The last universally binding decision of the Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
appeared in 358 CE, when the Hebrew Calendar was abandoned. The Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was finally disbanded in 425 CE after continued persecution by the Eastern Roman Empire. Over the centuries, there have been attempts to revive the institution, such as the Grand Sanhedrin
Grand Sanhedrin
convened by Napoleon Bonaparte, and modern attempts in Israel.

Contents

1 History

1.1 Precursors 1.2 Early Sanhedrin 1.3 Herodian and early Roman rule 1.4 During Jewish-Roman Wars 1.5 After Bar Kokhba Revolt

2 Powers

2.1 Function and procedures 2.2 Summary of Patriarchal powers 2.3 Archaeological findings

3 Presidents 4 Revival attempts

4.1 Napoleon Bonaparte's "Grand Sanhedrin" 4.2 Modern attempts in Israel

5 See also 6 References 7 Bibliography 8 External links

History[edit] Precursors[edit] In the Hebrew Bible,[2] Moses
Moses
and the Israelites were commanded by God to establish courts of judges who were given full authority over the people of Israel, who were commanded by God to obey every word the judges instructed and every law they established. Judges in ancient Israel
Israel
were the religious leaders and teachers of the nation of Israel. The Mishnah[3] arrives at the number twenty-three based on an exegetical derivation: it must be possible for a "community" to vote for both conviction and exoneration.[4] The minimum size of a "community" is 10 men[5] (10 vs 10). One more is required to achieve a majority (11 vs 10), but a simple majority cannot convict,[6] and so an additional judge is required (12 vs 10). Finally, a court should not have an even number of judges to prevent deadlocks; thus 23 (12 vs 10 and 1). This court dealt with only religious matters. Early Sanhedrin[edit] The Hasmonean court in the Land of Israel, presided over by Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea until 76 BCE, followed by his wife, was called Synhedrion or Sanhedrin.[7] The exact nature of this early Sanhedrin is not clear. It may have been a body of sages or priests, or a political, legislative and judicial institution. The first historical record of the body was during the administration of Aulus Gabinius, who, according to Josephus, organized five synedra in 57 BCE as Roman administration was not concerned with religious affairs unless sedition was suspected.[8] Only after the destruction of the Second Temple was the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
made up only of sages.[7] Herodian and early Roman rule[edit] The first historic mention of a Synhedrion (Greek: Συνέδριον) occurs in the Psalms of Solomon
Solomon
(XVII:49), a Jewish religious book written in Greek. A Synhedrion is mentioned 22 times in the Greek New Testament, including in the Gospels in relation to the trial of Jesus, and in the Acts of the Apostles, which mentions a ″Great Synhedrion″ in chapter 5 where rabbi Gamaliel
Gamaliel
appeared, and also in chapter 7 in relation to the stoning death of Saint Stephen. The Talmud
Talmud
tractate Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
(IV:2) states that the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was to be recruited from the following sources: former High Priests, representatives of the 24 priestly castes, scribes, doctors of the law, and representatives of the most prominent families (those whose daughters were allowed to marry priests). In the Second Temple
Second Temple
period, the Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
met in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple in Jerusalem. The court convened every day except festivals and the sabbath day (Shabbat). During Jewish-Roman Wars[edit] After the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
in 70 CE, the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was re-established in Yavneh
Yavneh
with reduced authority. The seat of the Patriarchate moved to Usha under the presidency of Gamaliel
Gamaliel
II in 80 CE. In 116 it moved back to Yavneh, and then again back to Usha. After Bar Kokhba Revolt[edit]

Galilee
Galilee
in late antiquity.

Rabbinic texts indicate that following the Bar Kokhba revolt, southern Galilee
Galilee
became the seat of rabbinic learning in the Land of Israel. This region was the location of the court of the Patriarch which was situated first at Usha, then at Bet Shearim, later at Sepphoris
Sepphoris
and finally at Tiberias.[9] The Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
moved in 140 to Shefaram under the presidency of Shimon ben Gamliel II, and to Beit Shearim
Beit Shearim
and Sepphoris
Sepphoris
in 163, under the presidency of Judah I. Finally, it moved to Tiberias
Tiberias
in 193, under the presidency of Gamaliel
Gamaliel
III (193–230) ben Judah haNasi, where it became more of a consistory, but still retained, under the presidency of Judah II
Judah II
(230–270), the power of excommunication. During the presidency of Gamaliel
Gamaliel
IV (270–290), due to Roman persecution, it dropped the name Sanhedrin; and its authoritative decisions were subsequently issued under the name of Beth HaMidrash.[citation needed] Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
demise begun in 313 with the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
regarding religious tolerance and marking the end of the persecutions against Christians, thus seen as the first step towards Christianity becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire.[10] In the year 363, the emperor Julian ("Julian the Apostate", r. 355–363 CE) ordered the Temple rebuilt.[11] A personal friend of his, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote this about the effort:

Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. Alypius set vigorously to work, and was seconded by the governor of the province, when fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up the attempt. — Ammianus Marcellinus

The failure to rebuild the Temple has been ascribed to the Galilee earthquake of 363, and to the Jews' ambivalence about the project. Sabotage is a possibility, as is an accidental fire. Divine intervention was the common view among Christian historians of the time.[12] Julian's support of Jews, coming after the hostility of many earlier Emperors, meant that Jews
Jews
called him Julian the Hellene.[13] As a reaction against Julian's pro-Jewish stance, the later emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
(r. 379–392 CE) forbade the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
to assemble and declared ordination illegal. Capital punishment was prescribed for any Rabbi
Rabbi
who received ordination, as well as complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred.[14] However, since the Hebrew calendar
Hebrew calendar
was based on witnesses' testimony, which had become far too dangerous to collect, rabbi Hillel II recommended change to a mathematically based calendar that was adopted at a clandestine, and maybe final, meeting in 358 CE. This marked the last universal decision made by the Great Sanhedrin. Gamaliel
Gamaliel
VI (400–425) was the Sanhedrin's last president. With his death in 425, Theodosius II outlawed the title of Nasi, the last remains of the ancient Sanhedrin. An imperial decree of 426 diverted the patriarchs' tax (post excessum patriarchorum) into the imperial treasury.[14] The exact reason for the abrogation of the patriarchate is not clear,[15] though Gamaliel
Gamaliel
VI, the last holder of the office who had been for a time elevated by the emperor to the rank of prefect,[16] may have fallen out with the imperial authorities.[15] Thereafter, Jews
Jews
were gradually excluded from holding public office.[17] Powers[edit] The Talmud
Talmud
tractate Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
identifies two classes of rabbinical courts called Sanhedrin, a Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
(בית דין הגדול) and a Lesser Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
(בית דין הקטן). Each city could have its own lesser Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
of 23 judges, but there could be only one Great Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
of 71, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals from cases decided by lesser courts. The numbers of judges were predicated on eliminating the possibility of a tie and the last to cast their vote was the head of the court. Function and procedures[edit] The Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
as a body claimed powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have. As such, they were the only ones who could try the king, extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and were the ones to whom all questions of law were finally put. Before 191 BCE the High Priest acted as the ex officio head of the Sanhedrin,[citation needed] but in 191 BCE, when the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
lost confidence in the High Priest, the office of Nasi was created. After the time of Hillel the Elder (late 1st century BCE and early 1st century CE), the Nasi was almost invariably a descendant of Hillel. The second highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was called the Av Beit Din, or "Head of the Court" (literally, Av Beit Din = "father of the house of judgment"), who presided over the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
when it sat as a criminal court.[18] During Second Temple
Second Temple
era, the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
met in a building known as the Hall of Hewn Stones (Lishkat ha-Gazit), which has been placed by the Talmud
Talmud
and many scholars as built into the north wall of the Temple Mount, half inside the sanctuary and half outside, with doors providing access both to the Temple and to the outside. The name presumably arises to distinguish it from the buildings in the Temple complex used for ritual purposes, which had to be constructed of stones unhewn by any iron implements. In some cases, it was only necessary for a 23-member panel (functioning as a Lesser Sanhedrin) to convene. In general, the full panel of 71 judges was only convened on matters of national significance (e.g., a declaration of war) or in the event that the 23-member panel could not reach a conclusive verdict.[19] By the end of the Second Temple
Second Temple
period, the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
reached its pinnacle of importance, legislating all aspects of Jewish religious and political life within the parameters laid down by Biblical and Rabbinic tradition. Summary of Patriarchal powers[edit] The following is a summary of the powers and responsibilities of the Patriarchate from the onset of the third century, based on rabbinic sources as portrayed by L.I. Levine:[20]

Representative to Imperial authorities; Focus of leadership in the Jewish community:

Receiving daily visits from prominent families; Declaration of public fast days; Initiating or abrogating the ban (herem);

Appointment of judges to Jewish courts in the Land of Israel; Regulation of the calendar; Issuing enactments and decrees with respect to the applicability or release from legal requirements, e.g.:

Use of sabbatical year produce and applicability of sabbatical year injunctions; Repurchase or redemption of formerly Jewish land from gentile owners; Status of Hellenistic cities of the Land of Israel
Israel
re: purity, tithing, sabbatical year; Exemptions from tithing; Conditions in divorce documents; Use of oil produced by gentiles;

Dispatching emissaries to diaspora communities; Taxation: both the power to tax and the authority to rule/intervene on the disposition of taxes raised for local purposes by local councils.

Up to the middle of the fourth century, the Patriarchate retained the prerogative of determining the Hebrew calendar
Hebrew calendar
and guarded the intricacies of the calculation process in an effort to subdue interference from the Babylonian community. Due to Christian persecution, Hillel II was obliged to fix the calendar in permanent form in 359 CE.[21][22] This institution symbolized the passing of authority from the Patriarchate to the Babylonian Academies.[23] Archaeological findings[edit] In 2004, excavations in Tiberias
Tiberias
conducted by the Israel
Israel
Antiquities Authority uncovered a structure dating to the 3rd century CE that may have been the seat of the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
when it convened in that city. At the time it was called Beit Hava'ad.[24] Presidents[edit] Main article: Nasi (Hebrew title) Further information: Tannaim Before 191 BCE the High Priest acted as the ex officio head of the Sanhedrin,[citation needed] but in 191 BCE, when the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
lost confidence in the High Priest, the office of Nasi was created. The Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was headed by the chief scholars of the great Talmudic Academies in the Land of Israel, and with the decline of the Sanhedrin, their spiritual and legal authority was generally accepted, the institution itself being supported by voluntary contributions by Jews
Jews
throughout the ancient world. Being a member of the house of Hillel and thus a descendant of King David, the Patriarch, known in Hebrew as the Nasi (prince), enjoyed almost royal authority. Their functions were political rather than religious, though their influence was not limited to the secular realm.[16] The Patriarchate attained its zenith under Judah ha-Nasi
Judah ha-Nasi
who compiled the Mishnah,[10] a compendium of views from Judean thought leaders of Judaism
Judaism
other than the Torah.

President Term in office

Yose ben Yoezer 170 BCE 140 BCE

Joshua ben Perachyah 140 BCE 100 BCE

Simeon ben Shetach 100 BCE 60 BCE

Shmaya 65 BCE c. 31 BCE

Hillel the Elder c. 31 BCE 9 CE

Rabban Shimon ben Hillel 9 9

Rabban Shammai 9 30

Rabban Gamaliel
Gamaliel
the Elder 30 50

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel 50 80

Rabban Gamaliel
Gamaliel
II of Yavne 80 118

Rabbi
Rabbi
Eleazar ben Azariah 118 120

Interregnum (Bar Kokhba revolt) 120 142

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel II 142 165

Rabbi
Rabbi
Judah I
Judah I
HaNasi (ThePresident) 165 220

Gamaliel
Gamaliel
III 220 230

Judah II
Judah II
Nesi'ah 230 270

Gamaliel
Gamaliel
IV 270 290

Judah III Nesi'ah 290 320

Hillel II 320 365

Gamaliel
Gamaliel
V 365 385

Judah IV 385 400

Gamaliel
Gamaliel
VI c. 400 425

Revival attempts[edit] See also: Semicha § Attempts to revive classical semicha The Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
is traditionally viewed as the last institution that commanded universal Jewish authority among the Jewish people in the long chain of tradition from Moses
Moses
until the present day. Since its dissolution in 358 CE by imperial decree, there have been several attempts to re-establish this body either as a self-governing body, or as a puppet of a sovereign government. There are records of what may have been of attempts to reform the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
in Arabia,[25] in Jerusalem
Jerusalem
under the Caliph 'Umar,[25] and in Babylon (Iraq),[26] but none of these attempts were given any attention by Rabbinic authorities and little information is available about them. Napoleon Bonaparte's "Grand Sanhedrin"[edit] Main article: Napoleon Bonaparte's "Grand Sanhedrin"

Medallion struck in honor of the "Grand Sanhedrin" convened by Emperor Napoleon I
Napoleon I
of France.

The "Grand Sanhedrin" was a Jewish high court convened by Napoleon I to give legal sanction to the principles expressed by the Assembly of Notables in answer to the twelve questions submitted to it by the government (see Jew. Encyc. v. 468, s.v. France). On October 6, 1806, the Assembly of Notables
Assembly of Notables
issued a proclamation to all the Jewish communities of Europe, inviting them to send delegates to the Sanhedrin, to convene on October 20. This proclamation, written in Hebrew, French, German, and Italian, speaks in extravagant terms of the importance of this revived institution and of the greatness of its imperial protector. While the action of Napoleon aroused in many Jews of Germany the hope that, influenced by it, their governments also would grant them the rights of citizenship, others looked upon it as a political contrivance. When in the war against Prussia (1806–07) the emperor invaded Poland and the Jews
Jews
rendered great services to his army, he remarked, laughing, "The sanhedrin is at least useful to me."[citation needed] David
David
Friedländer and his friends in Berlin described it as a spectacle that Napoleon offered to the Parisians. Modern attempts in Israel[edit] Main article: Modern attempts to revive the Sanhedrin Since the dissolution of the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
in 358 CE,[27] there has been no universally recognized authority within Halakha. Maimonides (1135–1204) was one of the greatest scholars of the Middle Ages, and is arguably one of the most widely accepted scholars among the Jewish people since the closing of the Talmud
Talmud
in 500. Influenced by the rationalist school of thought and generally showing a preference for a natural (as opposed to miraculous) redemption for the Jewish people, Maimonides
Maimonides
proposed a rationalist solution for achieving the goal of re-establishing the highest court in Jewish tradition and reinvesting it with the same authority it had in former years. There have been several attempts to implement Maimonides' recommendations, the latest being in modern times. There have been rabbinical attempts to renew Semicha and re-establish a Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
by Rabbi
Rabbi
Jacob
Jacob
Berab in 1538, Rabbi
Rabbi
Yisroel Shklover
Yisroel Shklover
in 1830, Rabbi
Rabbi
Aharon Mendel haCohen in 1901, Rabbi
Rabbi
Zvi Kovsker in 1940 and Rabbi
Rabbi
Yehuda Leib Maimon
Yehuda Leib Maimon
in 1949. In October 2004 (Tishrei 5765), a group of rabbis representing varied Orthodox communities in Israel
Israel
undertook a ceremony in Tiberias,[28] where the original Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
was disbanded, in which it claimed to re-establish the body according to the proposal of Maimonides
Maimonides
and the Jewish legal rulings of Rabbi
Rabbi
Yosef Karo. The controversial attempt has been subject to debate within different Jewish communities. See also[edit]

Judaism
Judaism
portal

Council of Jamnia Beth din
Beth din
shel Kohanim Great Assembly – or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (hebr. "Men of the Great Assembly") Magnum Concilium, a similar body in medieval England Synedrion, a general term for judiciary organs of Greek and Hellenistic city states and treaty organisations. Tombs of the Sanhedrin

References[edit]

^ "Greek Lexicon :: G4892 (KJV)". Blue Letter Bible.  ^ (Exodus 18:21–22) (Numbers 11:16–17) (Numbers 11:24–25) (Deuteronomy 1:15–18) (Deuteronomy 17:9–12) ^ The Mishnah
Mishnah
( Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
1:6) ^ Numbers 35:24–5. ^ The Hebrew term "community" appears in Numbers 14:27; i.e., the 10 spies who had spread a bad report about the land, thus a "community" is 10 men. ^ Exodus 23:2 ^ a b Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews, Chaim Potok, Knopf, New York, p. 191. ^ Mantel, Hugo. (1972) "Sanhedrin". in Encyclopaedia Judaica. Jerusalem: Macmillan. 14, p. 836 ^ Jack N. Lightstone; Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion (13 May 2002). Mishnah
Mishnah
and the social formation of the early Rabbinic Guild: a socio-rhetorical approach. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-88920-375-4. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ a b Hugh Chisholm (1911). "Jews". Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. The Encyclopædia Britannica company. p. 403. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 23.1.2–3. ^ See "Julian and the Jews
Jews
361–363 CE" and " Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
and the Holy Temple" Archived 2005-10-20 at the Wayback Machine.. ^ A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews, Avner Falk ^ a b A History of the Jewish People, by Hayim Ben-Sasson, Harvard University Press (October 15, 1985), ISBN 978-0-674-39731-6 ^ a b Nicholas Robert Michael De Lange; Jane S. Gerber (15 October 1997). The illustrated history of the Jewish people. Harcourt Brace. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-15-100302-0. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jews". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 403.  ^ Alfred Edersheim (1856). History of the Jewish nation after the destruction of Jerusalem
Jerusalem
under Titus. T. Constable and co. p. 551. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ "Sanhedrin". CUNY. Archived from the original on 2006-05-19.  ^ Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
2a. ^ Jack N. Lightstone; Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion (13 May 2002). Mishnah
Mishnah
and the social formation of the early Rabbinic Guild: a socio-rhetorical approach. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-88920-375-4. Retrieved 21 July 2011.  ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, inc (2003). The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-85229-961-6. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ Esther Rogoff Taus; Zev Garber (28 April 2008). Torah
Torah
for Today. University Press of America. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7618-3635-3. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ Isaac
Isaac
Landman (1941). The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia: an authoritative and popular presentation of Jews
Jews
and Judaism
Judaism
since the earliest times. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, inc. p. 399. Retrieved 18 July 2011.  ^ "Researchers say Tiberias
Tiberias
basilica may have housed Sanhedrin". Haaretz. 22 March 2004.  ^ a b The Persian conquest of Jerusalem
Jerusalem
in 614 compared with Islamic conquest of 638 ^ Sefer Yuchsin, cf. Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi
Rabbi
Nassan describes "the seventy judges who comprise the Sanhedrin". ^ The dissolution of the Sanhedrin, in terms of its power to give binding universal decisions, is usually dated to 358 CE when Hillel II's Jewish Calendar was adopted. This marked the last universally accepted decision made by that body. ^ " Israel
Israel
News - Israel's #1 News Site - Arutz Sheva". Arutz Sheva. 

Bibliography[edit]

Chen, S.J.D., "Patriarchs and Scholarchs," PAAJR 48 (1981), 57–85. Goodman, M., "The Roman State and the Jewish Patriarch in the Third Century," in L.I. Levnie (ed.), The Galilee
Galilee
in late Antiquity (New York, 1992), 127.39. Habas (Rubin), E., "Rabban Gamaliel
Gamaliel
of Yavneh
Yavneh
and his Sons: The Patriarchate before and after the Bar Kokhva Revolt," JJS 50 (1999), 21–37. Levine, L.I., "The Patriarch (Nasi) in Third-Century Palestine," ANRW 2.19.2 (1979), 649–88.

External links[edit]

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Sanhedrin.

Secular and religious history of the Jewish Sanhedrin English web site of the re-established Jewish Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
in Israel The Jewish Court System by Rabbi
Rabbi
Aryeh Kaplan Jewish Encyclopedia: "Sanhedrin"  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sanhedrin". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 

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