Christianity 201

July 5, 2020

Distinction Between The Pharisees and The Sanhedrin

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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I’m exactly two-thirds of the way through reading What if Jesus Was Serious by Skye Jethani, and a small detail alerted me to something we have never discussed here. First let me share the excerpt:

Consider the duplicity of the Sanhedrin. They could have arrested Jesus while He taught openly at the temple. Instead, they snatched Him in the middle of the night outside the city to avoid public outcry. Then they held a trial under the cover of darkness so no one could come to Jesus’ defense. Finally, the Sanhedrin arranged for false witnesses to testify against Jesus to fabricate a reason to execute Him. They used their power to protect their status rather than seek justice. They manipulated the judicial system against an innocent man in order to maintain control.

The Sanhedrin repeatedly, blatantly broke God’s law, all the while they were attempting to find just one speck of sin in Jesus’ eye. They were so blinded by their self-righteousness that they could no longer discern right from wrong or godliness from wickedness.  (chapter 48; pp 128-9)

The detail concerns The Sanhedrin.

For many Christians, it is the Pharisees who are complicit in the crucifixion of Jesus. After all, it is them who are dogging Jesus throughout the 3½ years of his ministry. It’s an easy assumption to make. But it’s important to know a little bit about this other body, The Sanhedrin.

  • It is The Sanhedrin to which Nicodemus belongs.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. – John 3v1 NIV
With the exception of Bible translations which add supplmentary details (the Amplified Bible and the Expanded Bible) none of the other 60+ translations in BibleGateway.com mention the Sanhedrin by name.
  • It is the Sanhedrin before Jesus appears.

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. (John 18 NIV)

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. (Matthew 26 NIV)

[See also the comparison chart in the Wikipedia article, The Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.

  • It is the Sanhedrin before Peter and John appear in Acts 5

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (5:27-28)

  • It is the Sanhedrin before Stephen appears in Acts 6.

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

[At this point, some would have me add a 5th bullet point that says, ‘ • The Apostle Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin.’ However, Google that, and on page one alone you’ll see quite conflicting answers.]

Doing basic online research, you’ll find The Sanhedrin tend to be associated more with the Sadducees, but your results will vary.

The Sanhedrin, the 70-member supreme court of ancient Israel, had members from both the Sadducees and the Pharisees… Sadducees tended to be wealthy and to hold more powerful positions. The chief priests and high priest were Sadducees, and they held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees were more representative of the common working people and had the respect of the masses. The Sadducees’ locus of power was the temple in Jerusalem; the Pharisees controlled the synagogues. The Sadducees were friendlier with Rome and more accommodating to the Roman laws than the Pharisees were… (GotQuestions.org)

An Orthodox Jew writes,

The Sanhedrin was the essentially the Jewish Supreme Court to which the major cases were brought and which took decisions on Jewish law when there was doubt or a new situation. Since the majority of the learned Jews were פרושים they made up the bulk of the Sanhedrin.

Thus you have the difference between a philosophical and academic va a body of people performing a specific job. The first would be the פרושים, the second is the Sanhedrin.

When the Temple fell, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted elsewhere and continued for another few hundred years resulting until the oppression was too great and they were forced to disband. (Quora.com)

A reminder of how little we know:

Although eminent sources—the Hellenistic-Jewish historian Josephus, the New Testament, and the Talmud—have mentioned the Sanhedrin, their accounts are fragmentary, apparently contradictory, and often obscure. Hence, its exact nature, composition, and function remain a subject of scholarly investigation and controversy.

In the writings of Josephus and the Gospels, for example, the Sanhedrin is presented as a political and judicial council headed by the high priest (in his role as civil ruler); in the Talmud it is described as primarily a religious legislative body headed by sages, though with certain political and judicial functions. Some scholars have accepted the first view as authentic, others the second, while a third school holds that there were two Sanhedrins, one a purely political council, the other a religious court and legislature. Moreover, some scholars attest that the Sanhedrin was a single body, combining political, religious, and judicial functions in a community where these aspects were inseparable.  (Britannica.com – as in Encyclopedia Britannica.)

The takeaway for all this is that in the final scenes of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion sentence is handed down, the case is, as we would say today, escalated. In addition to The Sanhedrin, we also meet individual characters which heretofore weren’t part of the story, such as Annas and Caiaphas, as well as Pilate and Herod.

 

 

 

 

August 19, 2013

Family Ties

Most of you are familiar with the story of Peter’s denying Jesus, and most of you are familiar with the overall story of the arrest and trial of Jesus; but until the weekend, I had missed one connection.

I was reading a sampler of The Gospel of Mark published to promote the study Bible edition of The Common English Bible, when I came upon this passage:

CEB Mark 14:66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

68 But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.

69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.

Okay, but I still didn’t get it until I looked down to the study notes:

Caiaphas’ household is involved at every turn in the plot against Jesus.

Wow! I never thought of that before. And it was the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter cut off.

CEB John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

It’s amazing how one family can make a difference. When it came to church hierarchy, this family had a lock on the job that counted. It would be like having a father and son both being President of the United States. (Oh wait; that happened…!)

NIV John 18:12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Annas and CaiaphasLuke, who you would expect to be a stickler for accuracy, refers to their dynasty as a single reign:

NIV Luke 3:2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

This passage often confuses. The Reformation Study Bible is helpful here:

The Jews had only one high priest at a time. Annas had been deposed by the Romans who appointed instead Caiaphas, his son-in-law. The Romans saw to it that Caiaphas exercised the official functions, but many Jews still considered Annas the true high priest.

Family ties can reflect positively or negatively. Some of you have grown up in Christian denominations where certain family names were a running theme. If you see the surname, and have a bit of context, apart from any clues related to ethnicity, you already know if the person referred to is Pentecostal or Methodist or Salvation Army. But for others, a family name can be tainted; it’s hard to hear that particular surname without negative associations.

For me, the tie in between the Caiaphas and Annas dynasty also adds to the complexity of the Passion Week story. Here the actions of one particular family overlay on the many prophecies fulfilled during Jesus arrest and crucifixion. Time and again, I am responded of the Walter Wink quotation, “If Jesus had never lived, we would never have been able to invent him.” Or in more modern language, “You just can’t make stuff like this up.”

So what does the high priest and his servants represent here? Certainly all those who are opposed to the Kingdom of God; but in this case God used their actions as part of the orchestration of His higher, divine plan.

~PW