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Jo. xviii. 34.

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, Jerusalem or did others tell it thee of me?

the sabbath-day was worthy of death. Who then can doubt that
our Saviour was to be prosecuted before the Jewish council,
who took counsel how they might destroy him? (Matt. xii. 14.)
and he only avoided the impending danger by removing from
thence to the sea of Galilee. (Mark iii. 7. and John vi. 1.) For
after these things Jesus would not walk in Jewry, because the
Jews sought to kill him, John vii. 1.

If the Jews had not sought to take away the life of Christ
by judicial proceedings, why should he avoid Judea, and all
places subject to their jurisdiction? Had they meditated his
destruction by a private band, or by making interest with the
Roman Governor to execute him, he might have been as secure
from these dangers by withdrawing into some of the remoter
parts of Judea, as by removing into Galilee. But it was well
known to the people of Jerusalem that the Sanhedrim were lay-
ing in wait for him; and that he was under prosecution for
capital crimes. When he appeared at the feast of tabernacles,
they said, "Is not this him whom they seek to kill? Do the
rulers know indeed this is the very Christ ?" John vii. 25, 26, 27.
And afterwards we find several by-standers wished to apprehend
him, but did not, because his hour was not yet come. (John vii.
30.) They seem to have been restrained by some supernatural
influence. From the obvious construction of these passages,
we have reason to infer that the Jewish magistrates executed
their own laws in capital cases.

After the resurrection of Lazarus, we read the Chief Priests and Pharisees gathered a council, and determined to put our Saviour to death. (John xi. 47.53.) And a short time afterwards we are told, the Chief Priests consulted how they might put Lazarus also to death. (John xii. 10.) But what gives additional weight to this argument, is the fear of the people, so frequently expressed. Matthew (xxi. 46.) says, when the Chief Priests and Pharisees sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude; (also Matt. xxvi. 4, 5.) Mark xi. 18. also relates, the Scribes and Chief Priests sought how they might destroy him, for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his doctrine; and again, they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people. (Mark xii. 12.) See also Luke xix. 47, 48. xx. 19. and xxii. 2. If the Jews had meditated the destruction of our Saviour by any private hand, or in any extra-judicial manner, or if they had intended to use their influence with the Governor, to prevail upon him to pronounce a sentence of condemnation, if sufficient evidence was wanting to establish his crime, why had the Chief Priests and Pharisees so much reason to fear the people? The instigators and actors in these cases might perhaps have had some reason to fear; but to suppose that the whole body of Jewish magistrates should be so affected, when the discovery was so improbable, seems wholly incredible. Who could force the assassin to acknowledge his guilt, when the magistrates of course would not? It must, therefore, be an act of the great council of the Jewish nation, and not any secret means of destruction, which is referred to, in those places of the Gospels, where this general fear is expressed; for we read, the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the elders were afraid of the people. They were afraid to put Jesus to death, in the same manner, and for the same reason, that Herod was afraid to put John the Bap

Jo. xviii.35.

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? thine own nation and Jerusalem. the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

tist to death," they feared the multitude." (Matt. xiv. 5.) And
this fear, finally, induced them to lay snares for him in his dis-
courses, that they might draw from him something contrary to
the Roman state, and make him obnoxious to the Roman Go-
vernor, Luke xx. 19, 20. And when our Saviour was at last
unexpectedly delivered into their hands, their precipitate and
unusual conduct shewed the greatness of their alarm. Our
Lord was seized, examined, and convicted, by the High Priest
and Sanhedrim in one night.

They would have executed him by their own laws, had it not
been the day of the passover, when "it was not lawful for
them to put any man to death :" and they feared a tumult among
the people too much, to detain him in prison till they could ex-
ercise this power. They therefore lost no time in delivering
him up to Pilate, well knowing, that by this step all responsi-
bility was taken from them: and, in case of any disturbance,
the assistance of all the military force of the province would
be called out. They accuse him to Pilate, not of blasphemy,
but sedition; who at last is so intimidated, that contrary to his
conscience, he is compelled, as Cæsar's representative and
friend, to take cognizance of the offence, and put Christ to
death, after the Roman custom; and thus our Lord's prediction
was fulfilled.

The Talmudists mention many instances, proving that the power of inflicting capital punishments was retained by the Jews: the Gemara expressly asserts that the four capital punishments inflicted by the Jewish council or magistracy, were in use during the forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem; though, according to the Talmudists, they were much interrupted. But even this was owing, as Josephus has shewn, to the corruption and mal-administration of the Roman Governors; who were induced by bribes, or the share of plunder, to use their influence to protect criminals from those punishments denounced against them by the Jewish laws. Even Felix himself employed robbers to murder Jonathan, the High Priest, for having reproved him for injustice; and after this time murders were not only frequent, but committed with impunity. The corrup tion of this Governor is hinted at Acts, xxiv. 26. Josephus also asserts, that Albinus dismissed all malefactors for money; and that Gessius Florus was sharer with such in their unlawful gains.

Josephus never alludes to the supposed loss of their power by the Jews; on the contrary, he observes, that the Sadducees are cruel above all the Jews in matters of judicature (b), and at that time they had been fifty years under the Roman power.

Josephus asserts also, that in cases of dispute concerning the Mosaic laws and institutions, the power of inflicting capital punishment was left to the High Priest (c).

In speaking of the Essenes, Josephus expressly affirms, that if any one speaks evil of any of their legislators, he is punished with death (d).

Such is a brief abstract of the reasoning of Mr. Biscoe on this subject, which appears satisfactorily to refute the principal arguments of Lardner on the other side of the question. I had indeed maintained the opposite and more general opinion.

Lightfoot, in his Talmudical Exercitations, after a long discussion on the question whether the Jews at this time retained the power of life and death, remarks, that it is the received

Jo. xviii. 36.

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if Jerusalem. my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants

opinion, that the Romans divested the council of their autho-
rity, and took away from them the power of inflicting capital
punishments. And this argument is defended from that tradi-
tion of the Talmudists, which says,that the great council removed
from the room Gazith, where alone they could pass a sentence
of death, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem; from
which it is inferred, that the power of judging in cases of life
and death could not proceed, because the lesser councils were
not permitted to sit on capital judgments, unless the great
council was in its proper place, and capable of receiving
appeals; the room Gazith being near the Divine presence, half
of it within, and half without the holy place. In answer to
this assertion it is observed, "But if this indeed be true, 1st,
What do then those words of our Saviour mean, They will deli-
ver you up to the councils? 2d, How did they put Stephen to
death? 3rd, Why was Paul so much afraid to commit himself
to the council, that he chose rather to appeal to Cæsar ?"

"The Talmudists excellently well clear the matter, and the

Because כיון דחזו דנפישי לחו רוצחין ולא יכלו למידן,reason was this

they saw murderers so much increase, that they could not judge
them-they said therefore, it is fit that we should remove from
place to place, that so we may avoid the guilt of not judging
righteously in the room Gazith,' which engaged them to do so.
The number and boldness of thieves and murderers were so
great, and the authority of the council so weak, that they neither
could nor dared put them to death."

And again it is said in another Talmudical tradition, "Since
the time that homicides multiplied, the beheading the heifer
ceased, Sotah. fol. 47. I.; so in the case of adultery: and since
the time that adultery so openly advanced under the second
temple, they left off trying the adulteress by the bitter water,
&c. Maimon. in Sotah. chap. iii. So that we see the liberty of
judging in capital matters was no more taken from the Jews by
the Romans, than the beheading of the heifer, or the trial of the
suspected wife by the bitter waters was taken away from them,
which no one will affirm."

"The slothfulness of the council destroyed its own authority, the law slept while wickedness was in the height of its revels; and primitive justice was so out of countenance, that as to uncertain murders they made no search, and against certain ones they framed no judgment. The Sanhedrim, from mere inactivity, or a foolish tenderness towards an Israelite, as a seed of Abraham, so far neglected to punish bloodshed, and other crimes, that wickedness grew so untractable, that the authority of the council trembled for fear of it, and dared not kill the killers. In this sense that saying must be understood, 'It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,' for it is evident, when they make this assertion, they do not deal fairly with Pilate; for their authority of judging had not been taken from them by the Romans, but lost by themselves, and despised by the people. Under these circumstances it was only exercised when there was no danger to be apprehended. They were happy enough to use it when they had the opportunity of judging, persecuting, and torturing poor men and Christians; and they would certainly have condemned our Saviour to death, had they not feared the people, and if Providence had not otherwise determined it." Lightfoot mentions many other circumstances which took place after Judea had long been subject to the Roman yoke,



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Jo. xviii. 37.

fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but Jerusalem.
now is my kingdom not from hence.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then?
Jesus answered,

Mark xv. 2. and said unto him,

Jo. xviii.37. Thou sayest that I am king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth



truth heareth my voice.

Every one that is of the

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he

which clearly affirm the opinion, that the authority of the coun-
cil in capital matters was not taken away by the Romans; and
he agrees with Biscoe, in supposing that it was gradually, from
various causes, relinquished by the Jews themselves, and that it
imperceptibly lapsed into the hands of the Romans (e).

The Romans were always the ruling power wherever their
conquests extended. They varied in the privileges they granted,
but uniformly retained in their own hands the influence of the
sword. The consequence would naturally be, that on all import-
ant occasions nothing could be done without their sanction or
connivance. The Municipia and some provinces were certainly
allowed nominally to be governed by their own laws and cus-
toms: but this very permission seems to have introduced such
irregularities into the government, that they petitioned to have
the anomalous privilege removed, and to become at once sub-
ject to the Roman laws. The reason evidently was, that the
power of the sword, the influence of the Roman name, and their
unavoidable interference in the government of their native
magistrates, had greatly interrupted, and oftentimes suspended,
the practice of their national laws and such, as it appears to
me, was the situation of Judea, at the time of our Lord's con-
demnation. The power of life and death had not been formally
abrogated by the Romans, but the grant which secured to the
Jews their own rights and privileges, had been gradually set
aside by the influence of the Roman authority, which had in
some measure superseded the Jewish magistracy (ƒ).


(a) Biscoe on the Acts, vol. i. p. 116. (b) Οίπερ ἐισὶ περὶ τὰς κρίσεις, ὠμοὶ, παρὰ πάντας τῆς Ιεδαίες.-Ρ. 896, b. 37. (c) Joseph. Antiq. xiv. 10. 2. Bell Jud. 1. vi. 2.4. (d) Kåv ¤λaopnμηon rig eig τῦτον, κολάζεσθαι θανατω-De Bell Jud. l. 2. c. 8. sect. ix. (e) Hebrew, and Talmud. Exercit. vol. ii. p. 248, 249. (f) See Bowyer's Critical Conj. p. 318.; Doddridge; Rosenmuller; the discussion of Lardner, in his Credibility, &c. &c. Lightfoot, in his Talmudical Exercitations upon the Acts, observes, on the occasion of the Sanhedrim granting letters to Paul, to go to Damascus, that the power of life and death was not yet taken from the Sanhedrim. Selden is of opinion that the power of the Sanhedrim to punish capitally was only much interrupted and disused at the time of the crucifixion. Krebsius, quoted by Rosenmuller, is of opinion that the power of inflicting capital punishments, in cases of offences against religion, was left to the Jews, but in civil offences it was taken away-in criminibus autem aliis, e. g. seditionis, tumultus, perduellionis, et ad læsam majestatem Cæsaris pertinentibus, illud jus iis non fuisse concessum. Kuinoel has adopted also this conclusion of Biscoe-Mihi perplacet Angustini et Chrysostomi ratio, etiam Semiero probata, qua Judæorum verba v. 31. ad diem referuntur hoc sensu: nobis non licet quenquam supplicio afficere ob religionem diei festi; erat enim παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα, xix. 14-42. quam eamdem ob causam, neque prætorium ingressi erant coll. v. 28.— Kuinoel in Joan. 19. 31.

had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith Jerusalem.


Lu. xxiii. 4. the Chief Priests and to the people, I find no fault in this


Jo.xviii. 38. I find in him no fault at all.

Mark xv. 3. And the Chief Priests accused him of many things: but Mtxxvii.12. when he was accused of the Chief Priests and elders, he answered nothing.



Mark xv. 4.


Then saith Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

And he answered him to never a word.

And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee.

But Jesus answered nothing:

Mtxxvii.14. insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly,

Lu. xxiii.5.





MATT. XXVii. part of ver. 2. and 11.

2 -and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
11-And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.-

MARK XV. part of ver. 1, 2, 3. 5.

1 -and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And
he answering-Thou sayest it.

3-he answered nothing.

5 so that Pilate marvelled.

LUKE Xxiii. part of ver. 1. ver. 3. and part of ver. 4.

1-and led him unto Pilate.

3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? and he answered him, and said, Thou sayest it.

4 Then said Pilate to

JOHN Xviii. part of ver. 33. 38.

33 and said unto him, Art thou the king of the Jews?


Christ is sent by Pilate to Herod.

LUKE Xxiii. 5—12.

And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean.

And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad : for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

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