Trial Of Jesus

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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

 Leviticus 24:16 Luke 22:66-71

Roman leaders allowed conquered people such as the Jews to follow their own legal system so long as they did not abuse their privileges. The Romans did not give the Jews the right of capital punishment for the accusation of blasphemy. The Jews had to convince a Roman judge that their demand for capital punishment was justified.

The Jewish Trial Jewish leaders were determined to seek Jesus' death when they put Him on trial (see  Luke 22:2;  Mark 14:1 ). They held the Jewish trial at night hoping that Jesus' supporters would be asleep and unable to protest his arrest. The Jewish portion of the trial had three separate phases: (1) an appearance before Annas; (2) an informal investigation by Caiaphas and (3) a condemnation by the Sanhedrin. Annas was father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas. He had been high priest himself from A.D. 7-15. He was the most influential member of the Sanhedrin. The details of the interview before Annas are meager ( John 18:12-14 ,John 18:12-14, 18:19-24 ). The high priest mentioned in  John 18:19 may have been Annas. If so, he held a brief interrogation of Jesus and sent Him to his son-in-law Caiaphas (  John 18:24 ).

The meeting with Caiaphas took place in his residence ( Luke 22:54 ). Some members of the Sanhedrin worked frantically to locate and train witnesses against Jesus ( Matthew 26:59-60 ). The carefully prepared witnesses could not agree in their testimony (see  Mark 14:56; compare  Deuteronomy 19:15 ).

During this circuslike activity Caiaphas talked with Jesus and put Him under oath ( Matthew 26:63-64 ). He charged Jesus to tell if He were God's Son. Perhaps Jesus felt that silence under this oath would be a denial of His divine origin. He affirmed that He was God's Son ( Mark 14:62 ), knowing that this would lead to death. The Sanhedrin condemned Him but did not pronounce a sentence ( Mark 14:64 ). After the condemnation the group broke up into wild disorder. Some began to slap and spit upon Jesus ( Mark 14:65 ).

Shortly after dawn, the Sanhedrin convened again to bring a formal condemnation against Jesus ( Luke 22:66 ). Jewish law stipulated that a guilty verdict in a capital crime had to be delayed until the next day. The vote for condemnation after dawn gave the semblance of following this requirement.

The procedure at this session was similar to that of the night trial. No witnesses came forward to accuse Christ. Jesus again claimed that He was God's Son ( Luke 22:66-71 ). The Sanhedrin again approved the death sentence and took Jesus to Pilate for sentencing ( Luke 23:1 ).

The procedures of the Jewish leaders during Jesus' trial were illegal. Jewish law required that trial for a capital crime begin during the daytime and adjourn by nightfall if incomplete. Sanhedrin members were supposed to be impartial judges. Jewish rules prohibited convicting the accused on His own testimony.

The Roman Trial The Roman trial of Jesus also had three phases: (1) first appearance before Pilate; (2) appearance before Herod Antipas; (3) second appearance before Pilate. The Jews asked Pilate to accept their verdict against Jesus without investigation ( John 18:29-31 ). Pilate refused this, but he offered to let them carry out the maximum punishment under their law, probably beating with rods or imprisonment. They insisted that they wanted death.

The Jews knew that Pilate would laugh at their charge of blasphemy. They fabricated three additional charges against Jesus which would be of concern to a Roman governor ( Luke 23:2 ). Pilate concerned himself only with the charge that Jesus had claimed to be a king. This charge sounded like treason. The Romans knew no greater crime than treason.

Pilate interrogated Jesus long enough to be convinced that He was no political rival to Caesar ( John 18:33-37 ). He returned to the Jews to announce that he found Jesus no threat to Rome and hence not deserving of death ( John 18:38 ). The Jews responded with vehement accusations against Jesus' actions in Judea and Galilee ( Luke 23:5 ). When Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent Jesus to Herod Antipas of Galilee who was then in Jerusalem ( Luke 23:6-12 ). Herod wanted Jesus to entertain him with a miracle. Jesus did not even speak a word to Herod. The king and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus, finally sending Him back to Pilate.

When Herod returned Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor announced that he still found Jesus innocent of charges of treason. Three times Pilate tried to release Jesus. First, Pilate offered to chastise or beat Jesus and then to release him ( Luke 23:16 ). Second, he offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas, a radical revolutionary. To Pilate's surprise the crowd chanted for Barabbas' release ( Luke 23:17-19 ). Third, he scourged Jesus. Soldiers flailed at Jesus' bare back with a leather whip. The whip had pieces of iron or bone tied to the ends of the thongs. Pilate then presented the bleeding Jesus with a crown of thorns and a mock purple robe to the crowd as their king. He hoped that this spectacle would lead them to release Jesus out of pity. Again they chanted for crucifixion ( John 19:4-6 ).

When Pilate seemed to waver one more time concerning crucifixion, the Jews threatened to report his conduct to Caesar ( John 19:12 ). That threat triggered Pilate's action. After symbolically washing his hands of the entire affair ( Matthew 27:24 ), he delivered Jesus for crucifixion ( John 19:16 ). See Annas; Caiaphas; Pontius Pilate; Roman Law; Sanhedrin .

Tommy Lea

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

The transference of Jesus to Herod (cf. vol. i. 722) is one of St. Luke’s special contributions to the story of the Passion ( Luke 23:6-16, cf.  Acts 4:27). Whether taken from oral tradition (cf. Justin Martyr, Dial. 103) or from the Jewish Christian source (note the technical Jewish χριστὸν βασιλέα = king Messiah,  Luke 23:2) which some critics trace below his narrative, it goes back to the memories of the Christians who belonged to the Herodian entourage (cf.  Luke 8:3,  Luke 9:4), and ought never to have been suspected by a sane criticism. No satisfactory motive for its invention can be adduced.* [Note: The ordinary theory that Herod is made the representative of Judaism, to exculpate paganism (Pilate), contradicts  Luke 23:15.] St. Luke ( Luke 13:1) was perfectly aware that, when it suited his purpose, Pilate had no hesitation in killing Galilaeans. The author rightly hints at other motives for his action now. The presence of the high priests and scribes at the interview ( Luke 13:10) is, at first sight, certainly a difficulty; it might suggest that here, as perhaps at  Luke 22:52 (cf.  Luke 22:66), the historian has gone too far in emphasizing the activity of the Jewish authorities. But it is just possible that they feared to let the prisoner out of their sight. Herod was not to he relied on. He might take it into his head to release Jesus out of spite or caprice, as Pilate had threatened to do, and with relentless† [Note: There is a dramatic contrast between the two uses of this Lukan term εὐτόνως here and in  Acts 18:28

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Bibliography Information Hastings, James. Entry for 'Trial of Jesus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.