How Lawful Was The Trial Of Jesus?
Jesus’ trial and execution were neither the lawful implementation of Jewish nor Roman law.
Below are some facts to remember as this Easter approaches.
1. Jesus was arrested by the priests and elders who were in fact his judges, with no formal charges presented to them by witnesses as required by law. The Sanhedrin (Jewish court) was not permitted to originate charges against any individual.
2. The judges had already bribed a witness in the person of Judas Iscariot.
3. Jewish law, when a person’s life was involved, permitted only daylight proceedings. Jesus, however, was arrested, examined, tried and convicted in the course of one night. The entire process took place on the day before the Sabbath and the annual Sabbath, which is forbidden by Talmudic law.
4. At the trial two witnesses accused Jesus of saying that he would destroy the temple. This was the charge against him. The judge, however, convicted Jesus on an entirely different charge - blasphemy - and turned him over to the Romans on a third charge - treason.
5. The Roman procurator found Jesus not guilty, and yet handed him over for execution at the insistence of a mob stirred up by the Jewish leaders.
So this extraordinary chain of events and its horrific conclusion occurred because the officials charged with enforcing the laws wanted Jesus convicted and executed. And if that necessitated that they act outside the law, then so be it.
Note: All the illustrations on this post are by French painter James Tissot (1836-1902). Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper. Brooklyn Museum.