Why the Pharisaic Trial of Yeshua Was Illegitimate
Was the Pharisaic trial of Yeshua illegitimate? In this introduction to the subject, we would like to clarify presently the fateful trial that much has been written on, but still some legal issues have not been perceived. In order to clarify these legal issues in their entirety, we must initially make some inquiries in the Rabbis’ own words: the Mishnah, or the so-called “the Oral Law” (the Mishnah is the first part of the Talmud; a collection of early oral interpretations of the scriptures that was compiled about AD 200).
We should recall that according to the Rabbis, the laws in the Mishnah had been given to Mosheh orally at Mount Sinai (hence the Rabbis called them “Oral Law”), and they have the same authority as the five books of Mosheh (the Written Law). We could not agree less, as we have expressed this opinion in other occasions.
But in this study, we will focus on how the Rabbis had broken their own rules making the trial of Yeshua illegitimate, even according to the Mishnah.
This work may be a good departure point for the faithful reader not only to delve into the issues on the legitimacy of the trial of Yeshua but also to use it as a solid foundation to establish good arguments in possible disputes.
But will we find enough evidence to declare the Pharisaic trial of Yeshua illegitimate?
The arrest and trial against Yeshua
Time came when Yeshua told his disciples that after two days the Pesach (Passover) would take place, and the son of man was to be delivered up to be impaled, thus predicting his own death. But they did not understand him.
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people came together at the court of the high priest and plotted to seize Yeshua by trickery and kill him. But they said, “Not at the festival [of Unleavened Bread] lest there be an uproar among the people” (Mat 26:2-5, Mar 14:1-2).
And in the night of the fourteenth day of the month, that was the Pesach, Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives together with his disciples, where he was arrested by an armed crowd of the high priest. And having seized him, they led him and brought him first to Chanan, for he was the father-in-law of Kayapha the high priest that year (Joh 18:13), and then they brought him to the house of Kayapha, where he was beaten (Luk 22:54).
Now, from Matthew and John we learn an important thing about the high priest Kayapha. Matthew wrote, “the high priest, who was called Kayapha” (Mat 26:2), and John: “Kayapha who was high priest that year” (Joh 18:13). Did not anyone in Judea know who the high priest was? If so why was there the necessity to say that Kayapha was the high priest that year? Unless the disciples wanted the reader to know that there was a corrupted practice in Judea for Rome to appoint the position of the high priest every year.
And when it became day, the elders, chief priests and scribes, came together and led him into their council for the “trial” (Luk 22:66). There the chief priests, the elders, and all the council were seeking false witnesses against Yeshua to put Him to death but found none. Although many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last, two false witnesses came forward and said, “This one said, ‘I am able to destroy the Dwelling Place of Elohim and to build it in three days'” (Mat 26:59-61). And not even then did their witness agree (Mar 14:59).
And when Kayapha did not have any evidence against Yeshua, he stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer to make? What do these witness against You?” But Yeshua remained silent. So, the high priest said to him, “I put You to oath, by the living Elohim that you say to us if you are the Messiah, the son of Elohim (Mat 26:59-63). But Yeshua said to him,
You have said it. Besides I say to you, from now on you shall see the son of man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of the heaven. (Mat 26:64)
Yeshua had thus quoted Dan 7:13 and Psa 110:1 and for that reason they charged him with crime. Then the high priest tore his garments and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? See, now you have heard his blasphemy! (Mat 26:65). How did the quoting from Daniel and Psalms constitute “blasphemy”?
But what the high priest did not realized [blinded by hatred] was that by having torn his garments he thus disqualified himself from being the high priest, because the Torah in Lev 21:10 explicitly forbids it.
Despite the staged “trial”, Yeshua was sentenced to death.
And immediately, in the morning, the chief priests and the council having bound him delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor (Mar 15:1). Before Pilate they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this one perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that he himself is the anointed one, a king” (Luk 23:1-2). None of the previous accusations were brought to the governor but rebellion against Rome.
From that moment on Yeshua’s fate was sealed in order that all that had been written in the prophecy about the suffering servant of YHVH be fulfilled.
So, where are the illegalities in the Pharisaic “trial” of Yeshua that took place in that fateful night? In fact, they are throughout the Biblical records. In the following we will explain in due course everything one needs to know concerning the Pharisaic trial of Yeshua and why it was illegitimate.
Portrayal of Yeshua as an apostate in Talmud
Despite the rejection of some modern Rabbis that such a person with the name “Yeshua” has ever existed, the Babylonian Talmud testifies to the contrary. In Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 43a, Yeshua was portrayed by the Rabbis as a “sorcerer” and “apostate”.
It says that on the eve of the Passover a person by the name “Yeshu” was hanged (Ms.M. adds the “Nazarean”). Whom did the Rabbis call “Yeshu”?
The Hebrew name יְֹשׁוּעַ Yeshua is spelled identically in Aramaic, but unlike in Hebrew, the last letter ayin in the name is silent; thus, in Aramaic the name Yeshua is pronounced Yeshu. This is a derogative way by the Rabbis to refer to Yeshua.
Sanhedrin 43a also says that “Yeshu” was hanged on the eve of the Passover, when the Pesach lambs were slaughtered in Jerusalem, but the Florentine Ms. adds: “and the eve of Sabbath”. Probably, it was meant “the first day of the Festival of the Unleavened Bread”, which according to the Rabbinic interpretation, is called “Sabbath”, even though Torah never calls it such; nor did that day, when Yeshua was crucified, fall on the weekly Sabbath.
Sanhedrin 43a furthermore says that “for forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”
Whether the Talmud refers to the person whom we call Yeshua is not clear, since there are great discrepancies between the account in Sanhedrin 43a and the Gospel. For instance, the Talmud says that “Yeshu” was hanged on the eve of Passover but arrested forty days before that.
Because of these discrepancies, in Time of Reckoning Ministry, we decided that the faithful reader should not be deprived of the information we have available, as we leave the matter to the reader’s consideration.
Illegalities in the trial of Yeshua
The Pharisees in their haste to sentenced Yeshua to death opened the door for many illegalities in their own trial against him. Below we will explain these illegalities and what one needs to know about the illegitimate trial of Yeshua:
- Yeshua’s trial was held at night (Mat 26:34, 75) and sentenced on the same day. That was contrary to what the Rabbis’ laws state.
The Mishnah clearly states that a capital trial may (as in the case of Yeshua) not be held at night (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:1):
“In cases of capital law, the court judges during the daytime, and concludes the deliberations and issues the ruling only in the daytime.”
Furthermore, the Mishnah states that in case of capital punishment, in order to find the accused guilty, the court must deliberate for two days. But that was not how the Pharisees proceeded to convict Yeshua. His case was quick and held at night. And if that was not illegitimate enough, it was held on the eve of the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, as we keep on reading,
“In cases of capital law, the court may conclude the deliberations and issue the ruling even on that same day to acquit the accused but must wait until the following day to find him liable. Therefore, since capital cases might continue for two days, the court does not judge cases of capital law on certain days, neither on the eve of Shabbat nor the eve of a Festival.”
- Matthew and Luke wrote that the court included only “Kayapha the high priest, the scribes, and the elders”; neither were the priests nor Levites presented that night to deliberate the case of capital law.
In that case, we should note that there were two Rabbinate courts which were both 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, and one Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges to sit in Jerusalem and to act as the Supreme Court.
The Gospel has not recorded the number of judges, but by judging what we have on record, it does not seem that the Great Sanhedrin was summoned for the trial of Yeshua, which violation alone rendered the court illegitimate to begin with.
Also, the deliberations must begin with “the least significant judge” and finish with the opinion of the high priest, as required by Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:2. But what we read in the Gospel is that the high priest Kayapha took the opening of the accusations, he alone accused Yeshua with no one else to express his opinion. We read in the Mishnah,
“In cases of capital law, the judges commence issuing their opinions from the side, where the least significant judges sit. All are fit to judge cases of monetary law. But not all are fit to judge cases of capital law; only priests, Levites, and Israelites who are of sufficiently fit lineage to marry their daughters to members of the priesthood are fit to judge cases of capital law.”
- The Pharisaic court was intimidating the accused instead of intimidating the witnesses against giving false testimonies, contrary to what is required by Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5:
“How does the court intimidate the witnesses in giving testimony for cases of capital law? They would bring the witnesses in and intimidate them by saying to them: Perhaps what you say in your testimony is based on conjecture, or perhaps it is based on a rumor, perhaps it is testimony based on hearsay, e.g., you heard a witness testify to this in a different court, or perhaps it is based on the statement of a trusted person. Perhaps you do not know that ultimately, we examine you with inquiry and interrogation, and if you are lying, your lie will be discovered. … In cases of capital law, if one testifies falsely, the blood of the accused and the blood of his offspring that he did not merit to produce are ascribed to the witness’s testimony until eternity.“
The purpose of the ruling in the Mishnah was to prevent any false testimonies, and rightly so. But the staged court intimidated the accused instead.
- The Pharisees did not examine the testimonies of the witnesses, as we read thus from Mishnah Sanhedrin 5:1:
“The court would examine the witnesses in capital cases with seven interrogations, i.e., interrogatory questions, and they are: In which seven-year period, that is, in which cycle of seven years within a jubilee did the event occur; in which year of the Sabbatical cycle did the event occur; in which month did the event occur; on which day of the month did the event occur; on which day of the week did the event occur; at which hour did the event occur; and in what place did the event occur. Rabbi Yosei says: The court would examine the witnesses with only three interrogations: On which day did the event occur, at which hour, and in what place. They would also ask: Do you recognize him as the man who committed the transgression? Did you warn him?“
And why should they since the Pharisees themselves brought the false witnesses into the council? The Mishnah continues:
And afterward, after the court examines the first witness, they bring in the second witness and examine him. If the statements of the witnesses are found to be congruent, the court begins to deliberate the matter. They open the deliberations with an appeal to anyone who can find a reason to acquit the accused (Mishnah Sanhedrin 5:4).
Kayapha and others of the private council were interrogating Yeshua looking for the way to convict him to death but were unable to find any. Mark recorded that not even then did their witness agree (Mar 14:59). In that event, the case should have been dismissed, the trial declared illegitimate, and Yeshua acquitted. But nay, the Pharisees opened the deliberations with the only goal to accuse Yeshua in crime, not to acquit him, as required in the Mishnah.
- Yeshua was sent to Pilate, that is, to be sentenced by Rome immediately. But the Mishnah requires sentence to be delayed by one day in order for the judges to properly consider the case, as we read from Mishnah Sanhedrin 5:5:
“And if the court found it fit to acquit him during the deliberations, as all or a majority of the judges agreed to acquit him, they excuse him. But if a majority does not find it fit to acquit him, they delay his verdict to the following day, and they then assign pairs of judges to discuss the matter with each other. They would minimize their food intake and they would not drink wine all day. And they would deliberate all night, and the following day they would arise early and come to court and then vote again and tally the votes of the judges.“
None of these laws in the Mishnah were kept. The Mishnah does not even mention authority, much less foreign authority, other than the authority of “the priests, Levites, and Israelites who are of sufficiently fit lineage”.
- Yeshua was executed by the Romans through the most vicious and brutal form of execution outside of the city. Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:1 requires that the convicted is to be stoned outside of the court, as we read,
“When the trial has ended in a guilty verdict and the condemned man has been sentenced to be stoned, he is taken out to be stoned. The place of stoning was outside the court and a little beyond it, as it is stated with regard to a blasphemer: “Take out him who has cursed to outside the camp, and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him” (Lev 24:14)“
- Yeshua was rejected the fundamental right of the condemned for a last word. Ironically, it was the infamous anti-Semite Roman Pilate who fulfilled Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:2,
“When the condemned man is at a distance of about ten cubits from the place of stoning, they say to him: Confess your transgressions, as the way of all who are being executed is to confess. As whoever confesses and regrets his transgressions has a portion in the World-to-Come.” And if the condemned man does not know how to confess, either from ignorance or out of confusion, they say to him: Say simply: “Let my death be an atonement for all my sins”.
- And the last but not the least illegality in the trial of Yeshua was the legitimacy of the high priest Kayapha.
The trial of Yeshua was overseen by Kayapha. Josephus, who is considered the most reliable extra-biblical source for Kayapha, records in Antiquities of the Jews 18:2:2 that Kayapha was made high priest in 18 A.D. by the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, who preceded Pontius Pilate, after the preceding high priest Shimon ben Kamithus had been deposed.
The Torah directs that the high priest serves for life. However, the preceding high priest, Shimon ben Kamithus, was still alive when Kayapha took office. Because Kayapha was improperly installed in the office of high priest by foreign authority, all his rulings related or unrelated to the trial of Yeshua were by law illegitimate.
With that being said, none of the above requirements in the Mishnah were fulfilled in the case of Yeshua. Yeshua was first brought to Chanan, the father-in-law of Kayapha the high priest, and then he was brought to Kayapha’s house, where a private council was staged; Yeshua was not brought before the Great Sanhedrin, as required by law, which too renders the trial of Yeshua illegitimate. Had he been brought before the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one judges, wherein we can expect to see Nikodemus and the other Pharisees, who believed in Yeshua (see Acts 15:5), certainly the outcome of the trial must have been quite different, as it was the case of Shaul, when he was accused (Acts 23:9).
But it was not meant to be that way. The Son of Elohim must have died in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled as written. Even the corrupted Kayapha knew that when he said,
“You know nothing at all, neither do you consider that it is better for us that one man should die for the people than that the entire nation should perish.” But he did not say this from himself but being high priest that year he prophesied that Yeshua should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather together into one the children of Elohim who were scattered abroad. (Joh 11:49-52)
Kayapha knew who Yeshua was but had misread the prophecy about the Messiah Mosheh commanded us to await.
Knowing what we have learned so far, a solid foundation is thus established for the conclusion that there is serious grounds that the Pharisaic trial of Yeshua was staged and illegitimate.
But if some want to dispute the above established arguments found in the Mishnah, we should leave this dispute to Yeshua the Messiah; when he returns, he will explain everything: from “In the beginning …”
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!