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The Sanhedrin (
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
and
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
: סַנְהֶדְרִין;
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
: , ''
synedrionA synedrion or synhedrion ( Greek: συνέδριον, "sitting together", hence " assembly" or "council"; he, סנהדרין, ''sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languag ...
'', 'sitting together,' hence '
assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, Procedural l ...
' or 'council') were assemblies of either twenty-three or seventy-one elders (known as "
rabbi A rabbi () is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civili ...

rabbi
s" after the destruction of the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , ; "Mount of the House f God, i.e. the Temple in ...

Second Temple
), who were appointed to sit as a
tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent ...

tribunal
in every city in the ancient
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
. There were two classes of Rabbinite Jewish courts which were called Sanhedrin, the ''Great Sanhedrin'' and the ''Lesser Sanhedrin.'' A lesser Sanhedrin of 23 judges was appointed to sit as a tribunal in each city, but there was only supposed to be one Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals from cases which were decided by lesser courts. In general usage, ''the Sanhedrin'' without qualifier normally refers to the Great Sanhedrin, which was presided over by the '' Nasi'', who functioned as its head or representing president, and was a member of the court; the ''
Av Beit Din The ''av beit din'' ( ''ʾabh bêth dîn'', "chief of the court" or "chief justice"), also spelled ''av beis din'' or ''abh beth din'' and abbreviated ABD (), was the second-highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple period, an ...
'' or the chief of the court, who was second to the ; and sixty-nine general members (). In the
Second Temple period The Second Temple period in Jewish history Jewish history is the history of the Jews, and their nation, Judaism, religion and Jewish culture, culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Although Judaism a ...
, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusał ...

Jerusalem
, in a building called the
Hall of Hewn StonesThe Hall of Hewn Stones (Hebrew: לשכת הגזית ''Lishkat haGazit''), also known as the Chamber of Hewn Stone, was the meeting place, or council-chamber, of the Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic ...
. The Great Sanhedrin convened every day except
festivals A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures. It is often marked as a local or national holiday, mela, or Muslim holidays, eid. A festival ...
and the
sabbath In Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of -originated s that claim descent from the of the ancient and the worship of the . The Abrahamic ...
day (
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by , is 's day of rest on the seventh day of the —i.e., . On this day, religious remember the biblical stories describing the and the redem ...

Shabbat
). After the destruction of the
Second Temple The Second Temple (, ), also known in its later years as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Jewish holy temple that stood on the Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , ; "Mount of the House f God, i.e. the Temple in ...

Second Temple
and the failure of the
Bar Kokhba Revolt The Bar Kokhba revolt ( he, מֶרֶד בַּר כּוֹכְבָא, links=no; ''Mered Bar Kokhba'') was a rebellion of the Jews of the , led by , against the . Fought circa 132–136 CE, it was the last of three major , so it is also known as T ...
, the Great Sanhedrin moved to Galilee, which became part of the Roman province of
Syria Palaestina Syria Palaestina (literally, "Palestinian Syria";Trevor Bryce, 2009, ''The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia''Roland de Vaux, 1978, ''The Early History of Israel'', Page 2: "After the revolt of Bar Cochba in A. ...
. In this period the Sanhedrin was sometimes referred as the ''Galilean Patriarchate'' or ''Patriarchate of Palaestina'', being the governing legal body of Galilean Jewry. In the late 200s CE, to avoid persecution, the name ''Sanhedrin'' was dropped and its decisions were issued under the name of (house of learning). The last universally binding decision of the Great Sanhedrin appeared in 358 CE, when the
Hebrew calendar The Hebrew calendar ( Hebrew: , ), also called Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today for Jewish religious observance, and as an official calendar of the state of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِس ...
was established. The Great Sanhedrin was finally disbanded in 425 CE after continued persecution by the
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn ...

Eastern Roman Empire
. Over the centuries, there have been attempts to revive the institution, such as the
Grand Sanhedrin The Grand Sanhedrin was a Jewish high court convened in Europe by Napoleon I to give legal sanction to the principles expressed by an Assembly of Jewish Notables in answer to the twelve questions submitted to it by the government.Jew. Encyc. v. 46 ...
convened by
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) r ...

Napoleon Bonaparte
, and modern attempts in
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
.


Hebrew Bible

In the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
(, ; , )
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

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 through Moses to obey the judgments made by the courts and every Torah-abiding law they established. Judges in ancient Israel were the religious leaders and
teachers A teacher (also called a schoolteacher or formally, an educator) is a person who helps students A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and l ...

teachers
of the nation of Israel. The
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
(Sanhedrin 1:6) arrives at the number twenty-three based on an
exegetical Exegesis (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek from , "to lead out") is a critical explanation or interpretation (logic), interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible. In mode ...
derivation: it must be possible for a "
community A community is a social unit The term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term "unit of observation" in that the former refer ...
" to vote for both conviction and exoneration (). The minimum size of a "community" is 10 men, thus 10 vs 10. One more is required to achieve a majority (11 vs. 10), but a simple majority cannot convict (), 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. In regard to the Sanhedrin of 70 Elders to help Moses; years before in Egypt these men had been Hebrew officials under Egyptian taskmasters; they were beaten by the Egyptians when they refused to beat fellow Jews in order to finish building projects. As a reward they became the Sanhedrin of 70 Elders.


History


Early Sanhedrin

The Hasmonean court in
Judea Judea or Judaea ( or ; from he, יהודה, Standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrolog ...

Judea
, presided over by
Alexander Jannaeus Alexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai; he, יהונתן "ינאי" אלכסנדרוס, born Jonathan Alexander) was the second king of the Hasmonean dynasty, who ruled over an expanding kingdom of Judea from 103 BC, 103 to 76 ...

Alexander Jannaeus
, until 76 BCE, followed by his wife, Queen
Salome Alexandra Salome Alexandra or Alexandra of Jerusalem ( he, שְׁלוֹמְצִיּוֹן אלכסנדרה, ''Shelomtzion'' or ''Shlom Tzion''; 141–67 BCE), was one of only two women to rule over Judea (the other being Athaliah). The wife of Aristo ...

Salome Alexandra
, was called or ''Sanhedrin.'' 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 Aulus Gabinius (born by 101 BC, died 48 or 47 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Roma ...

Aulus Gabinius
, who, according to Josephus, organized five in 57 BCE as Roman administration was not concerned with religious affairs unless sedition was suspected. Only after the destruction of the Second Temple was the Sanhedrin made up only of sages.


Herodian and early Roman rule

The first historic mention of a '' Synhedrion'' (
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
: ) occurs in the
Psalms of SolomonOne of the apocryphal books, the Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms The Book of Psalms ( or ; he, תְּהִלִּים, , lit. "praises"), commonly referred to simply as Psalms, the Psalter or "the Psalms", is the first book of th ...
(XVII:49), a Jewish religious book written in Greek. The Mishnah tractate
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...
(IV:2) states that the Sanhedrin was to be recruited from the following sources: Priests (Kohanim), Levites (Levi'im), and ordinary Jews who were members of those families having a pure lineage such that their daughters were allowed to marry priests. In the
Second Temple period The Second Temple period in Jewish history Jewish history is the history of the Jews, and their nation, Judaism, religion and Jewish culture, culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Although Judaism a ...
, the Great Sanhedrin met in the
Hall of Hewn StonesThe Hall of Hewn Stones (Hebrew: לשכת הגזית ''Lishkat haGazit''), also known as the Chamber of Hewn Stone, was the meeting place, or council-chamber, of the Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic ...
in the Temple in
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusał ...

Jerusalem
. The court convened every day except
festivals A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures. It is often marked as a local or national holiday, mela, or Muslim holidays, eid. A festival ...
and the
sabbath In Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of -originated s that claim descent from the of the ancient and the worship of the . The Abrahamic ...
day (
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by , is 's day of rest on the seventh day of the —i.e., . On this day, religious remember the biblical stories describing the and the redem ...

Shabbat
).


The trial of Jesus, and early Christianity

A is mentioned 22 times in the Greek
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
, including in the Gospels in relation to the trial of Jesus, and in the ''
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New T ...
'', which mentions a "Great " in chapter 5 where rabbi
Gamaliel Gamaliel the Elder (; also spelled Gamliel; he, רַבַּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַזָּקֵן ''Rabban Gamlīyʾēl hazZāqēn''; grc-koi, Γαμαλιὴλ ὁ Πρεσβύτερος ''Gamaliēl ho Presbýteros''), or Rabban Gamaliel I ...

Gamaliel
appeared, and also in chapter 7 in relation to the stoning death of
Saint Stephen Stephen ( grc-gre, Στέφανος ''Stéphanos'', meaning "wreath, crown" and by extension "reward, honor, renown, fame", often given as a title rather than as a name; he, סטפנוס הקדוש, ''Stephanos HaQadosh''; c. 5 – c. 34 AD), ...
.


During Jewish–Roman Wars

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Sanhedrin was re-established in
Yavneh Yavne ( he, יַבְנֶה) or Yavneh is a city in the Central District of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, '), ...
with reduced authority. The seat of the Patriarchate moved to Usha under the presidency of
Gamaliel II Rabban Gamaliel II (also spelled Gamliel; he, רבן גמליאל דיבנה; before -) was a rabbi from the second generation of tannaim. He was the first person to lead the Sanhedrin as ''Nasi (Hebrew title), nasi'' after the fall of the Seco ...
in 80 CE. In 116 it moved back to Yavneh, and then again back to Usha.


After Bar Kokhba Revolt

Rabbinic texts indicate that following the
Bar Kokhba revolt The Bar Kokhba revolt ( he, מֶרֶד בַּר כּוֹכְבָא, links=no; ''Mered Bar Kokhba'') was a rebellion of the Jews of the , led by , against the . Fought circa 132–136 CE, it was the last of three major , so it is also known as T ...
, southern
Galilee Galilee (; he, הַגָּלִיל, ha-galil; ar, الجليل, al-jalīl) is a region located in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Galilee traditionally refers to the mountainous part, divided into Upper Galilee (, ; , ) and Lower Galil ...

Galilee
became the seat of rabbinic learning in the
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
. This region was the location of the court of the Patriarch which was situated first at Usha, then at
Bet Shearim Beit She'arim ( he, בֵּית שְׁעָרִים, "House of the Gates") is the currently used name for the ancient Jewish town of Beit She'arim (Roman-era Jewish village), Bet She'arāyim (, "House of Two Gates") or ''Kfar She'arāyim'' (, ...
, later at
Sepphoris Sepphoris () or Zippori (; he, צִפּוֹרִי, Tzipóri; grc, Σέπφωρις, Sépphōris; ar, صفورية, Ṣaffūriya), in the past called Diocaesaraea ( grc, Διοκαισάρεια, links=no) and, during the Crusades, le Safor ...

Sepphoris
and finally at
Tiberias Tiberias ( ; he, טְבֶרְיָה, ; ar, طبريا, Ṭabariyyā) is an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Established around 20 Common Era, CE, it was named in honour of the List of Roman emperors, second emperor of the ...

Tiberias
. The Great Sanhedrin moved in 140 to
Shefaram Shefa-Amr, also Shfar'am ( ar, شفاعمرو, Šafāʻamr, he, שְׁפַרְעָם, Šəfarʻam) is an Arab citizens of Israel, Arab city in the Northern District (Israel), Northern District of Israel. In it had a population of , with a Sunni Is ...
under the presidency of
Shimon ben Gamliel II Simeon (or Shimon) ben Gamliel II (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelite ...
, and to Beit She'arim (Roman-era Jewish village) and
Sepphoris Sepphoris () or Zippori (; he, צִפּוֹרִי, Tzipóri; grc, Σέπφωρις, Sépphōris; ar, صفورية, Ṣaffūriya), in the past called Diocaesaraea ( grc, Διοκαισάρεια, links=no) and, during the Crusades, le Safor ...

Sepphoris
in 163, under the presidency of
Judah I Judah ha-Nasi ( he, יְהוּדָה הַנָשִׂיא‎, ''Yəhūḏā haNāsīʾ‎''; Yehudah HaNasi or Judah the Prince) or Judah I, was a second-century rabbi (a tanna of the fifth generation) and chief redactor and editor Editing ...
. Finally, it moved to
Tiberias Tiberias ( ; he, טְבֶרְיָה, ; ar, طبريا, Ṭabariyyā) is an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Established around 20 Common Era, CE, it was named in honour of the List of Roman emperors, second emperor of the ...

Tiberias
in 193, under the presidency of
Gamaliel III Gamaliel III ( he, רבן גמליאל ברבי, read as ''Rabban Gamaliel beRabbi'', that is: ''son of Rebbi'', after his father Judah haNasi Judah ha-Nasi ( he, יהודה הנשיא, Yehudah HaNasi or Judah the Prince) or Judah I, was a sec ...
(193–230), son of
Judah the Prince Judah ha-Nasi ( he, יהודה הנשיא, Yehudah HaNasi or Judah the Prince) or Judah I, was a second-century rabbi (a tanna of the fifth generation) and chief redactor and editor of the '' Mishnah''. He lived from approximately 135 to 217 CE. ...
, where it became more of a consistory, but still retained, under the presidency of
Judah II Judah II or Nesi'ah I was a Jewish sage who lived in Tiberias in the Land of Israel, in the middle of the third century CE. He is mentioned in the classical works of Judaism's Oral Torah, the Mishnah and Talmud. There he is variously called "Jud ...
(230–270), the power of excommunication. During the presidency of 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''. In the year 363, the emperor Julian (r. 355–363 CE), an apostate from Christianity, ordered the Temple rebuilt. The project's failure has been ascribed to the
Galilee earthquake of 363 The Galilee earthquake of 363 was a pair of severe earthquakes that shook the Galilee and nearby regions on May 18 and 19. The maximum perceived intensity for the events was estimated to be VII (''Very strong'') on the Medvedev–Sponheuer–Karni ...
, and to the
Jew Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...

Jew
s' 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.Se
"Julian and the Jews 361–363 CE"
an

.
As a reaction against Julian's pro-Jewish stance, the later emperor
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
(r. 379–395 CE) forbade the Sanhedrin to assemble and declared
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...
illegal. Capital punishment was prescribed for any Rabbi who received ordination, as well as complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred. However, since the
Hebrew calendar The Hebrew calendar ( Hebrew: , ), also called Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today for Jewish religious observance, and as an official calendar of the state of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِس ...
was based on witnesses' testimony, which had become far too dangerous to collect, rabbi
Hillel II Hillel II (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ance ...
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 VIGamaliel VI (c. 370–425) was the last '' nasi'' of the ancient Sanhedrin. Gamaliel came into office around the year 400. On October 20, 415, an edict issued by the Emperors Honorius and Theodosius II Theodosius II ( grc-gre, Θεοδό ...
(400–425) was the Sanhedrin's last president. With his death in 425,
Theodosius II Theodosius II ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 10 April 401 – 28 July 450), commonly called Theodosius the Younger, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial pe ...
outlawed the title of Nasi, the last remains of the ancient Sanhedrin. An imperial decree of 426 diverted the patriarchs' tax () into the imperial treasury. The exact reason for the abrogation of the patriarchate is not clear, though Gamaliel VI, the last holder of the office who had been for a time elevated by the emperor to the rank of
prefect Prefect (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

prefect
, may have fallen out with the imperial authorities. Thereafter, Jews were gradually excluded from holding public office.


Powers

The Talmud tractate
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...
identifies two classes of rabbinical courts called Sanhedrin, a Great Sanhedrin () and a Lesser Sanhedrin (). Each city could have its own lesser Sanhedrin of 23 judges, but there could be only one Great Sanhedrin of 71, which among other roles acted as the Supreme Court, taking appeals from cases decided by lesser courts. The uneven numbers of judges were predicated on eliminating the possibility of a tie, and the last to cast his vote was the head of the court.


Function and procedures

The 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 The term “high priest” usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction ...
acted as the ''ex officio'' head of the Sanhedrin,Goldwurm, Hersh and Holder, Meir, ''History of the Jewish People'', I "The Second Temple Era" (
Mesorah Publications ArtScroll is an of translations, books and commentaries from an perspective published by , a based in , New Jersey. is the general editor. Artscroll's first president, Rabbi (July 13, 1943 – June 24, 2017) was succeeded by his oldest son, ...
: 1982) .
but in 191 BCE, when the Sanhedrin lost confidence in the High Priest, the office of ''Nasi'' was created. After the time of
Hillel the Elder Hillel ( he, הִלֵּל ''Hīllēl''; variously called ''Hillel HaGadol'', ''Hillel HaZaken'', ''Hillel HaBavli'' or ''HaBavli'', was born according to tradition in Babylon c. 110 BCE, died 10 CE in Jerusalem) was a Jewish religious leader, Sage ...
(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 was called the ''
Av Beit Din The ''av beit din'' ( ''ʾabh bêth dîn'', "chief of the court" or "chief justice"), also spelled ''av beis din'' or ''abh beth din'' and abbreviated ABD (), was the second-highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple period, an ...
'', or 'Head of the Court' (literally, means 'father of the house of judgment'), who presided over the Sanhedrin when it sat as a criminal court. During the Second Temple period, the Sanhedrin met in a building known as the
Hall of Hewn StonesThe Hall of Hewn Stones (Hebrew: לשכת הגזית ''Lishkat haGazit''), also known as the Chamber of Hewn Stone, was the meeting place, or council-chamber, of the Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic ...
(), which has been placed by the Talmud and many scholars as built into the northern wall of the
Temple Mount The Temple Mount (Hebrew language, Hebrew: , ; "Mount of the House f God, i.e. the Temple in Jerusalem), known to Muslims as the (Arabic: , , "the Noble Sanctuary", or , , "the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem") and the Compound, is a hill i ...

Temple Mount
, half inside the sanctuary and half outside, with doors providing access variously 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 could not be constructed of stones hewn by any
iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

iron
implement. In some cases, it was necessary only for a 23-member panel (functioning as a Lesser Sanhedrin) to convene. In general, the full panel of 71 judges was convened only on matters of national significance (''e.g.'', a declaration of war) or when the 23-member panel failed to reach a conclusive verdict. By the end of the Second Temple period, the Sanhedrin reached its pinnacle of importance, legislating all aspects of Jewish religious and political life within parameters laid down by Biblical and Rabbinic tradition.


Summary of Patriarchal powers

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 understood by L.I. Levine: #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 A sabbatical (from Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israeli ...
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 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 The Hebrew calendar ( Hebrew: , ), also called Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today for Jewish religious observance, and as an official calendar of the state of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِس ...
and guarded the intricacies of the needed calculations, in an effort to constrain interference by the Babylonian community. Christian persecution obliged
Hillel II Hillel II (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ance ...
to fix the calendar in permanent form in 359 CE. This institution symbolized the passing of authority from the Patriarchate to the Babylonian Talmudic academies.


Archaeological findings

In 2004, excavations in Tiberias conducted by the
Israel Antiquities Authority The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA, he, רשות העתיקות ; ar, داﺌرة الآثار, before 1990, the Israel Department of Antiquities) is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Antiquit ...
uncovered a structure dating to the 3rd century CE that may have been the seat of the Sanhedrin when it convened in that city. At the time it was called .


Nasi (president)

Before 191 BCE the
High Priest The term “high priest” usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction ...
acted as the ''ex officio'' head of the Sanhedrin, but in 191 BCE, when the Sanhedrin lost confidence in the High Priest, the office of Nasi was created. The 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 throughout the ancient world. Being a member of the house of Hillel and thus a descendant of
King David David (; ) (traditional spelling), , ''Dāwūd''; grc-koi, Δαυΐδ, Dauíd; la, Davidus, David; gez , ዳዊት, ''Dawit''; xcl, Դաւիթ, ''Dawitʿ''; cu, Давíдъ, ''Davidŭ''; possibly meaning "beloved one". is described in th ...
, 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. The Patriarchate attained its zenith under
Judah ha-Nasi Judah ha-Nasi ( he, יְהוּדָה הַנָשִׂיא‎, ''Yəhūḏā haNāsīʾ‎''; Yehudah HaNasi or Judah the Prince) or Judah I, was a second-century rabbi (a tanna of the fifth generation) and chief redactor and editor "Quarters ...
who compiled the
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
, a compendium of views from Judean thought leaders of Judaism other than the Torah.


Revival attempts

The Sanhedrin is traditionally viewed as the last institution that commanded universal authority among the Jewish people in the long chain of tradition from
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

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 attempts to reform the Sanhedrin in Arabia,The Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 compared with Islamic conquest of 638
/ref> in Jerusalem under the Caliph 'Umar, and in Babylon (Iraq), but none of these attempts were given any attention by Rabbinic authorities and little information is available about them.


Napoleon Bonaparte's "Grand Sanhedrin"

The "Grand Sanhedrin" was a Jewish high court convened by
Napoleon I Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led Napoleon Bonaparte's battle record, several successful campaigns during the French Rev ...

Napoleon I
to give legal sanction to the principles expressed by the
Assembly of Notables Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, Procedural l ...
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 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 rendered great services to his army, he remarked, laughing, "The sanhedrin is at least useful to me." David Friedländer and his friends in Berlin described it as a spectacle that Napoleon offered to the
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,175,601 residents , in an area of more than . Since the 17th century, Paris ha ...

Paris
ians.


State of Israel

Since the dissolution of the Sanhedrin in 358 CE, there has been no universally recognized authority within
Halakha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific ...
.
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

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 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 Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

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 ' (or or ; he, סמיכה) traditionally refers to the ordination of a rabbi within Judaism. In recent times, some institutions grant ordination for the role of ''hazzan'' (cantor), extending the "investiture" granted there from the 1950s. L ...
and re-establish a Sanhedrin by Rabbi
Jacob Berab Jacob Berab ( he, יעקב בירב), also spelled Berav or Bei-Rav, (1474 – April 3, 1546), was an influential rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, fol ...
in 1538, Rabbi Yisroel Shklover in 1830, Rabbi Aharon Mendel haCohen in 1901, Rabbi Zvi Kovsker in 1940 and Rabbi
Yehuda Leib Maimon Yehuda Leib Maimon ( he, יהודה לייב מימון, 11 December 1875 – 10 July 1962, also known as Yehuda Leib HaCohen Maimon) was an Israeli rabbi, politician and leader of the Religious Zionism, Religious Zionist movement. He was Israe ...

Yehuda Leib Maimon
in 1949. In October 2004 (Tishrei 5765), a group of
rabbi A rabbi () is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civili ...

rabbi
s representing varied Orthodox communities in
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
undertook a ceremony in
Tiberias Tiberias ( ; he, טְבֶרְיָה, ; ar, طبريا, Ṭabariyyā) is an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Established around 20 Common Era, CE, it was named in honour of the List of Roman emperors, second emperor of the ...

Tiberias
,Sanhedrin Launched in Tiberias Israel National News January 20, 2005
/ref> where the original Sanhedrin was disbanded, in which it claimed to re-establish the body according to the proposal of
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
and the Jewish legal rulings of Rabbi
Yosef Karo Joseph ben Ephraim Karo, also spelled Yosef Caro, or Qaro ( he, יוסף קארו; 1488 – March 24, 1575, 13 Nisan 5335 Anno mundi, A.M.), was the author of the last great codification of Jewish law, the ''Beit Yosef (book), Beit Yosef'', and it ...
. The controversial attempt has been subject to debate within different Jewish communities.


See also

*
Council of Jamnia The Council of Jamnia (presumably Yavneh Yavne ( he, יַבְנֶה) or Yavneh is a city in the Central District of Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the State of Israel ( h ...
* Beth din shel Kohanim *
Great Assembly According to Jewish tradition Jewish culture is the culture of the Jewish people Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2International Organization for Standardization, ISO 259 is a series of international standards for the romaniza ...
– or ('Men of the Great Assembly') *
Magnum Concilium In the Kingdom of England, the Magnum Concilium, or Great Council, is an Deliberative assembly, assembly that was historically convened at certain times of the year when church leaders and wealthy landowners were invited to discuss the affairs of th ...
, a similar body in medieval
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
*
Synedrion A synedrion or synhedrion (Greek language, Greek: συνέδριον, "sitting together", hence "Deliberative assembly, assembly" or "council"; he, סנהדרין, ''sanhedrin'') is an assembly that holds formal sessions. The Latinized form is syne ...
, a general term for judiciary organs of Greek and
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31  ...
city states A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'' ...

city states
and treaty organisations. * Tombs of the Sanhedrin


References


Bibliography

*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 in late Antiquity'' (New York, 1992), 127.39. *Habas (Rubin), E., ''"Rabban Gamaliel of 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


Secular and religious history of the Jewish Sanhedrin

English web site of the re-established Jewish Sanhedrin in Israel


by Rabbi
Aryeh Kaplan Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu Kaplan ( he, אריה משה אליהו קפלן; October 23, 1934 – January 28, 1983) was an American Orthodox rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordain ...

''Jewish Encyclopedia'': "Sanhedrin"
* {{Jewish history 1st-century BC establishments in the Hasmonean Kingdom 420s disestablishments in the Roman Empire Governing assemblies of religious organizations Historical legislatures Jewish courts and civil law Jews and Judaism in the Roman Empire Jews and Judaism in the Byzantine Empire Judaism-related controversies Rabbinical organizations Hasmonean Kingdom