SANHEDRIN ("Court"):

Name of a treatise of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and both Talmudim. It stands fourth in the order Neziḳin in most editions, and is divided into eleven chapters containing seventy-one paragraphs in all. It treats chiefly of courtsand their powers, of qualifications for the office of judge, and of legal procedure and criminal law.

  • Ch. i: Cases which are brought before a court of three judges (§§ 1-3), before a small sanhedrin of twenty-three members (§ 4), or before the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem consisting of seventy-one, or, according to R. Judah, of seventy members (§ 5); origin of the requirement that there should be seventy (or seventy-one) members in the Great Sanhedrin, and twenty-three in the smaller body; minimum number of inhabitants entitling a city to a sanhedrin (§ 6).
Contents Ch. i.-v.
  • Ch. ii.: Rights of the high priest (§ 1); rights and duties of the king, who may neither judge nor be judged, and may declare war only with the consent of the Great Sanhedrin; his share of the booty; he may not accumulate treasure for himself; he must have a copy of the Torah made for himself; the reverence due him (§§ 2-5).
  • Ch. iii.: Suits involving money which are decided by arbitrators; cases in which one party may reject the judge selected or the witness cited by the other party; persons debarred from acting either as judges or as witnesses (§§ 1-5); examination of witnesses, each of whom is questioned separately, with a subsequent comparison of their testimony (§ 6); announcement of the verdict by the president of the board; no judge may say to either party: "I wished to acquit thee, but I was overruled by the majority of my colleagues" (§ 7); if he who loses the case later produces written testimony or a witness in his favor, the sentence is reversed (§ 8).
  • Ch. iv.: Difference in the proceedings and in the number of judges between trials in which money is involved and criminal cases in which the life of the defendant is in jeopardy, the former being conducted before three judges and the latter before a sanhedrin of twenty-three members (§§ 1-2); the sanhedrin sat in a semicircle, so that all the members might see one another, while the clerks recorded the reasons which the judges gave either for acquittal or for condemnation (§ 3); three rows of scholars versed in the Law sat in front of the sanhedrin, one or more of them being called upon at need to fill the bench, in case a quorum of judges was not present (§ 4); address to the witnesses in criminal cases, reminding them of the value of a human life; in this connection it is said that Adam is called the ancestor of the whole human race, in order that no one might superciliously say to his fellow man: "My great grandfather was more important than thine " (§ 5).
  • Ch. v.: Examination of the witnesses regarding the time, place, and circumstances of the case, and the coherency of the testimony given; consultation and mode of procedure on the part of the judges (§§ 1-5).
Contents Ch. vi.-xi.
  • Ch. vi.: How the condemned man is led to the place of execution; proclamation of the verdict, so that a reversal may be possible at the last moment if proofs of innocence are produced (§ 1); the condemned man is exhorted to confess his sins that he may atone for them by his death (§ 2); method of stoning to death, and cases in which those who are stoned are hanged after death, and the manner of hanging (§§ 3-4); burial-place of those who have been executed, and the demeanor of their relatives (§§ 5-6).
  • Ch. vii.: The four methods of capital punishment—stoning, burning, beheading, and strangling—and the manner of each (§§ 1-3); crimes punishable by stoning (§§ 4-11).
  • Ch. viii.: The circumstances in which a stubborn and rebellious son (comp. Deut. xxi. 18 et seq.) is regarded and sentenced as such (§§ 1-4); the stubborn son, like the burglar (comp. Ex. xxii. 1), is treated with severity in order that he may be prevented from committing greater crimes; in this connection the cases are given in which one about to commit a crime may be killed to prevent its commission (§§ 5-7).
  • Ch. ix.: Criminals who are burned and those who are beheaded; cases in which homicide is not regarded as murder (§§ 1-2); cases in which a mistake is made as to the identity of criminals condemned to death so that it is impossible to tell what punishment each one has deserved (§ 3); cases in which one has committed two different crimes, and so deserves two different forms of capital punishment (§ 4); criminals who are placed in solitary confinement ("kipah"; § 5); cases in which a criminal taken in the act may be killed by any one without being brought before a court (§ 6).
  • Ch. x.: Those who have no part in the future world; the problem whether the Ten Tribes will return at some future time from the place of their exile (§§ 1-3); the idolatrous city (comp. Deut. xiii. 13 et seq.; §§ 4-6).
  • Ch. xi.: Criminals who are strangled (§ 1); the dissenting teacher ("zaḳen mamreh") and the proceedings against him (§§ 2-4); the false prophet and the one who makes predictions in the name of idols (§§ 5-6). In the Mishnah of the Babylonian Talmud the order of the tenth and eleventh chapters is inverted.
Tosefta and Gemara.

The Tosefta to Sanhedrin is divided into fourteen chapters, and contains many interesting haggadic interpretations and sayings besides the additions and supplements to the Mishnah. Especially noteworthy is the attempt in iv. 5 to explain how the people sinned in asking for a king (I Sam. viii.), and thus to remove the discrepancy between I Sam. xii. 17 and Deut. xvii. 14-20; there is likewise an interesting discussion of the problem whether the script in which the Torah was originally given to the people was changed, and, if so, when the alteration was made (v. 7-8). Other remarkable passages (xi. 6, xiv. 1) state that the laws set forth in Deut. xiii. 13-18 and xxi. 18-21 are valid in theory only, since they never have been and never will be enforced in practise.

The Gemara of both the Talmudim contains a mass of interesting maxims, legends, myths, stories, and haggadic sayings and interpretations in addition to its elucidations of the passages of the Mishnah, the number of haggadot on the tenth (or eleventh) chapter being especially large. Among the interesting passages of the Babylonian Gemara may be noted the disputations with the heretics (38b-39a); the attempts to find the belief in the resurrectionof the dead outlined in the Bible, and the polemics against heretics who deny the resurrection (90b-91a, 91b, 92a); the discussion whether the resurrection of the dead described in Ezek. xxxvii. is to be interpreted merely as a figurative prophetic vision or whether it was a real event (92b); and the discussions and computations of the time at which the Messiah will appear, with the events which will attend his coming (97b-99a).

Especially noteworthy in the Palestinian Gemara are the legend of the angel who assumed the form of Solomon and deprived him of his throne (20c); the story of the execution of the eighty sorceresses of Ashkelon on one day by Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ (23d); and the account of the unfortunate and undeserved death of Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ's son (23b).

W. B. J. Z. L.
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