Do you know the events that led to the Trial of Jesus that created conflict between Jesus and the Jewish and Roman authorities during Jesus’ last week. This article explains this as well as the Jewish and Roman phases of Jesus’ trial and which parts of this trial were contrary to Jewish law? 

Lea (2003) presents five specific conflicts with authorities commencing with inquiries regarding Jesus’ permission to cleanse the temple. Secondly, a group of Herodians, in collaboration with the Pharisees, plotted an unsuccessful trap by questioning Jesus in regards to payment of the annual poll tax. Later that day, the Sadducees attempted to trick Jesus by asking him whose wife a woman of seven husbands would be in the resurrection. A scribe was the next interrogator and asked for Jesus to identify the greatest commandment. Finally, Jesus posed a question to the Pharisees to illuminate the connection between the Lord of David and the Son of David. Subsequent to these conflicts Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees to the crowds and his disciples (Lea, 2003, 249-253).

After Jesus’ arrest he encounters Annas, an Alexandrian Sadducee, who sends Jesus to his son-in-law, High Priest Caiaphas (Lea, 2003, 263). The High Priest asks Jesus whether he is the Christ (Matthew, 26:63). According to Lea (2003), Caiaphas determines that Jesus’ response is blasphemous based on his lack of popularity rather than corroborated facts; accordingly, the Sanhedrin issued a death sentence (Lea, 2003, 264-265). Although “the Sanhedrin could condemn a man to death,” they required permission from the Roman government to execute the sentence (Ryrie, 1995, 1717). Furthermore, “Jewish execution was by stoning; the Roman method was crucifixion” (Ryrie, 1995, 1717). According to Old Testament prophecy, Jesus had to be crucified (Ryrie, 1995, 1717). Additionally, it was atypical for a Roman governor to issue a death sentence for blasphemy, so Jewish leaders fabricated an accusation based on unsubstantiated, contextually libelous comments, purporting Jesus as a political threat (Lea, 2003, 265). Jewish leaders communicated the contrived threat to the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who had authority to determine cases of capital punishment (Ryrie, 1995, 1610). The timorous and capricious governor immediately sought a change of venue based on Jesus’ Galilean background and sent him to Herod Antipas (Lea, 2003, 266). Antipas’ derisive treatment of Jesus quickly landed him back in Pilate’s jurisdiction where the governor, fearful of Tiberius’ castigation, put political and personal aspirations above the justice of Jesus and, according to Lea (2003), “surrendered to his conscience” (Lea, 2003, 266; Ryrie, 1995, 1610).

Historically, an objective view of Jewish law rendered it as an exceedingly humane and moderate justice system, which is ironic in light of its incongruity with the treatment of Jesus (Mendelsohn, 1891, 16). Under Jewish law, “Not only is self-condemnation never extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but no attempt is ever made to lead him to self-incrimination” (Mendelsohn, 1891, 133). Caiaphas, however, explicitly questioned Jesus regarding his deity in a blatant attempt to encourage Jesus to incriminate himself (Matthew 26:63). Furthermore, the high priest’s private examination could be considered illegal in light of the Jewish Law which states, “Be not a sole judge, for there is no sole judge, but One” (Richards, 1915, 24). Under Jewish Law two witnesses were required to establish a charge and “their testimony had to be in agreement (Ryrie, 1995, 1567). However, it is clear the witnesses charging Jesus did not convey consistent testimony (Mark 14:59). Although the formal decree of death was made after dawn, Jewish Law states, “Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during the day time only” and it is probable that part of the trial occurred at night (Lea, 2003 265; Mendelsohn, 1891, 112; Richards, 1915, 23). Finally, it appears likely a portion of the trial occurred on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which suggests a contradiction with the Jewish Law that judgment is not permissible “on the Sabbath (festival)” (Richards, 1915, 27; Krauss, 1909, 40). 

Krauss, S., (1909). The Mishnah Treatise Sanhedrin No. XI. Leiden, NL: E. J. Brill.

Lea, T. D., & David Alan Black. (2003). The New Testament its Background and Message (2nd ed.). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.

Mendelsohn, S., LL. D. (1891). The Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews: Compiled from the Talmud and Other Rabbinical Writings, and Compared with Roman and English Penal Jurisprudence. Baltimore, MD: M. Curlander.

Richards, Honorable J. E. (1915). The Illegality of the Trial of Jesus. New York, NY: Platt and Peck.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell (1995). Ryrie Study Bible (Expanded ed.). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.