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Jesus Christ

How long did Jesus' capital offense trial last?

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02/17/2007

After his arrest, Jesus would be dead in a little more than 12 hours. He was arrested just after midnight on Nissan 14, (end of March/early April) which was the Jewish Passover. He had just finished, what many call "the last supper," with his disciples. Judas will now betray him, and he will be arrested and lead away to Chief Priest Annas home, where he is questioned. This allows time for the High Priest, Caiaphas to assemble the Sanhedrin, the 71-member Jewish high court, as well as to gather false witnesses against Jesus. From the Sanhedrin, Jesus is then taken to Pilate early in the morning. There he is questioned by Pilate, who could find no reason to condem Jesus, so he sends Jesus on to Herod, who is in Jerusalem for the Passover, and he likewise can find no blame with Jesus, and he is then sent back to Pilate. Several attempts are made by Pilate to appease the crowd, who by now are stirred up by the religious leaders to have Jesus executed on the false charge of blashphemy. Pilate realizes that Jesus is innocent, but he is afraid to stand his ground, and eventually gives in to the crowd to allow for Jesus execution. By 9AM, Jesus' execution would be underway. By 3 PM, he would be dead. An excellent description of the events that took place, along with scriptures considered verse-by verse, and illustrations can be found in the book, "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The arrest, trial, and execution is covered in chapters 118-126 of the book. The book covers Jesus entire earthly life, from his conception, to his current heavenly position as King of God's Kingdom, and can be obtained free of charge at any Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, or by visiting www.watchtower.org. Before whom did his preliminary examination take place? John: Before Annas (xviii, 13-23). The Synoptics state that he was examined and tried before Caiaphas Matthew and John state that Caiaphas was high priest at this time. Who does the author of Acts state was high priest? "And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem" (iv, 6). Luke (iii, 2), who is declared to be the author of Acts, says that Annas and Caiaphas were both high priests. Did Jesus have a trial before the Sanhedrim? Synoptics: He had (Matt. xxvi, 57-75; Mark xiv, 53-72; Luke xxii, 54-71). It was about this time (30 A.D.), that the Sanhedrim ceased to have jurisdiction over capital offenses. After its jurisdiction ceased Jesus could not have been tried before it; and before its jurisdiction ceased he would not have had a subsequent trial before Pilate. Was he questioned by the Sanhedrim? Synoptics: He was. They tried to convict him by his own testimony (Matt. xxvi, 62 64; Mark xiv, 60-63; Luke xxii, 66-71). A Jewish court did not question a prisoner. A prisoner could not even plead guilty. When did his trial before the Sanhedrim take place? Matthew and Mark: During the night. After his arrest, which probably occurred not later than midnight, they at once "led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where ... the chief priests, and elders, and all the council [Sanhedrim]" had assembled, when his trial immediately began (Matt. xxvi, 57-68; Mark xiv, 58-65). Luke: Not until the next morning. During the night he was held in custody at the house of the high priest. "As soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into the council" (xxii, 66). During what religious festivities was his trial held? Synoptics: During the feast of the Passover. It could not have been held during the Passover, for no trials were held by the Jews during this feast. Where was Jesus next sent for trial? Luke: To Herod, tetrarch of Galilee, who was attending the Passover at Jerusalem (xxiii, 6-11). In the matter of trials the Evangelists, as in everything else, have overdone things. Notwithstanding no trial was ever held during the Passover they give him four trials in one day, and not finding courts enough in Judea for the purpose, they import one from Galilee. There is nothing more improbable than this alleged examination of Jesus by Herod. Imagine the Governor General of Canada sitting in judgment on a criminal at Washington, because the criminal is a Canadian, or an Ohio court holding a session in New York because the prisoner arraigned once lived in Ohio. The offenses with which Jesus was charged were committed, not in Herod's province, Galilee, but in Pilate's province, Judea. It is strange that John, who pretends to relate every important event connected with the trial of Jesus, should omit his trial before Herod. Concerning this Strauss says: "The conjecture, that it may probably have appeared to him [John] too unimportant, loses all foundation when it is considered that John does not scorn to mention the leading away to Annas, which nevertheless was equally indecisive; and in general, the narrative of these events in John is, as Schleiermacher himself confesses, so consecutive that it nowhere presents a break in which such an episode could be inserted. Hence even Schleiermacher at last takes refuge in the conjecture that possibly the sending to Herod may have escaped the notice of John, because it happened on an opposite side to that on which the disciple stood, through a back door, and that it came to the knowledge of Luke because his informant had an acquaintance in the household of Herod, as John had in that of Annas; the former conjecture, however, is figuratively as well as literally nothing more than a back door, the latter, a fiction which is but the effort of despair" (Leben Jesu, pp. 764, 765). 4 trials in 12 hours?