Second Session of the Sanhedrim

After the Sanhedrim had pronounced Him guilty of blasphemy, and so worthy of death, it suspends its session to meet at break of day. During this interval Matt. xxvi. 67, 68. Jesus remains in the high priest's palace, exposed to Mark xiv. 65. all the ridicule and insults of His enemies, who spit Luke xxii. 63-65. upon Him, and smite Him. As soon as it was day Matt, xxvii. 1, 2. the Sanhedrim again assembles, and, after hearing His Mark Xv. 1. confession that He is the Christ, formally adjudges Luke xxii. 66-YL Him to death. Binding Him, they lead Him away to Luke xxiii. 1. the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, that he may execute the sentence. Judas Iscariot, learning the issue Matt, xxvii. 3-10. of the trial, and that Jesus was about to be put to Acts i. 18, 19. death, returns the money the chief priests had given him, and goes and hangs himself.

Condemned to death as a blasphemer, Jesus was now given up by the council to the abuse of His captors and of the crowd ; and cruel personal violence was added to most contemptuous speech. Salvador denies that the council would have permitted Him to be so treated in its presence; but it is to be remembered that most of its members cherished the most bitter and vindictive feelings against Him, and in their fierce fanaticism thought that no mercy should be shown to one guilty of such a crime. (Compare Acts xxiii. 2.) According to Matthew, the judges themselves seem to have taken part in this abuse; but Luke confines it to those that held Jesus.

It has been inferred from Matt, xxvii. 1, and Mark xv. 1, that there was a second and later session of the Sanhedrim than that at which Jesus was tried.1

1 Greswell, iii. 203; Friedlieb, 326.

Others oppose that the Sanhedrim continued its session after the trial proper had ended, having as the special subject of consultation how the sentence pronounced against Jesus could he carried into effect.1 The language of these two Evangelists is not decisive as to the point. That which most implies a new and distinct session is the designation of time. Matthew : " When the morning was come, irpwias Se yevo/xevrjs, all the chief priests," &c. Mark: " And straightway in the morning," cuflews em To 7rpwt, <fcc. This allusion to the fact that it was morning, seems to have some special significance, and may refer to the fact that capital cases could not be legally tried in the night; and hence a morning session was necessary. " Capital cases were only to be handled by day." a This is affirmed by Salvador, (quoted by Greenleaf:) " One thing is certain, that the council met again on the morning of the next day, or of the day after, as the law requires, to confirm or to annul the sentence; it was confirmed." Neither Matthew nor Mark states that the place of session had been changed, though perhaps their language may intimate a meeting more largely attended.3

Our decision as to a second and distinct session of the Sanhedrim will mainly depend upon the place we give to the account in Luke, (xxii. 66-71.) Is this examination of Jesus identical with that of Matt. xxvi. 57-68, Mark xiv. 53-65 ?4 Against this identity are some strong objections: 1st. The mention of time by Luke: "As soon as it was day." This corresponds well to the time of the morning session of Matthew and Mark, but not to the time when Jesus was first led before the Sanhedrim, which must have been two or three hours before day. 2d. The place of meeting: "They led" Him into their council," avtjyayov avTov eis To oweSpior cauTcov.

i Meyer, Ellicott, Lichtenstein. a Lightfoot; see Friedlieb, Arch. 95.

3 Compare Mark xiv. 53 with xv. 1. In the latter case, " the whole council" being expressly mentioned.

* Meyer, Alford, Lichtenstein, Ebrard.

This might better be rendered, " they led Him up into their council chamber," or the place where they usually held their sessions.1 Whether this council chamber was the room Gazith, at the east corner of the court of the temple, is not certain. Lightfoot (on Matt. xxvi. 3) conjectures that the Sanhedrim was driven from this its accustomed seat half a year or thereabout before the death of Christ. But if this were so, still the " Tabernce," where it established its sessions, were shops near the gate Shusan, and so connected with the temple. They went up to that room where they usually met.* 3d. The dissimilarity of the proceedings, as stated by Luke, and which shows that this was no formal trial. There is here no mention of witnesses—no charges brought to be proved against Him. He is simply asked if He is the Christ; and this seems plainly to point to the result of the former session. Then, having confessed Himself to be the Christ, the Son of God, He was condemned to death for blasphemy. It was only necessary now that He should repeat this confession, and hence this question is put* directly to Him: " Art thou the Christ ? tell us." His reply, " If I tell you ye will not believe. And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go," points backward to His former confession. To His reply they only answer by asking, " Art thou then the Son of God ?" The renewed avowal that He was the Son of God, heard by them all from His own lips, opens the way for His immediate delivery into Pilate's hands.3 4th. The position which Luke gives (xxii. 63-65) to the insults and abuse heaped upon Jesus. There can be no doubt that they are the same mentioned by Matthew and Mark as occurring after the sentence had been pronounced, and before the second session to ratify it.

1 See Meyer in loco; Rob. Lex., Art. ffvvtdpiov: here " as including the place of meeting; the Sanhedrim as sitting in its hall."

2 So Krafft, Greswell. See, however, against this, John xviii. 28, which implies that Jesus was led, not from the temple, but from the palace of Caiaphas, to Pilate. This would not disprove the fact of a second session of the Sanhedrim, but shows that it was held at the same place as the first.

3 See Stier, vii. 336 ; Greswell, iii. 204.

From all this it is a probable, though not a certain conclusion, that Luke (xxii. 66-71) refers to the same meeting of the Sanhedrim mentioned by Matthew (xxvii. 1) and Mark, (xv. 1,) and relates, in part, what then took place. Alford thinks that Luke has confused things, and relates as happening at the second session what really happened at the first. This meeting was, then, a morning session, convened to ratify formally what had been done before with haste and informality. The circumstances under which its members had been convened at the palace of Caiaphas, sufficiently show that the legal forms, which they were so scrupulous in observing, had not been complied with. The law forbidding capital trials in the night had been broken; the place of session was unusual, if not illegal; perhaps the attendance, so early after midnight, had not been full. On these accounts it was expedient that a more regular and legal sitting should be held as early in the morning as was possible. At this nothing was to be done except to hear the confession of Jesus, to pronounce sentence, and to con«i suit in what manner it could best be carried into effect.

One object of this morning session was to consult how they might put Him to death ; for, although they had condemned Him, they had no power to execute the sentence. To put Jesus to death, they must then have at least the assent of Pilate. Their plans for obtaining this will appear as we proceed. Being again bound, He was led early in the morning before Pilate.

So soon as Judas learned what the Sanhedrim had done, he knew that the Lord's fate was decided, and bitterly repented of his treachery.1

1 That this was upon the same day, seems fairly inferable from Matt, xxvii. 8, rore tda>pf &c.

Taking the money, the price of his crime, lie carried it back to tbe cbief priests and elders, confessing bis sin in betraying innocent blood. It is not said where he found them, whether at the palace of Caiaphas or at their own council chamber in the temple. If the latter was the case, we have a ready explanation of the fact that " he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed." * That part of the temple in which he cast them, is defined as ev ro> vaa>, which, according to the uniform usage of the term in the Gospels, cannot mean any thing else than the inner court, or court of the priests, or holy place.'2 Into this it was not lawful for him to enter; but he could approach the entrance and cast the silver within ; or, in his remorse and despair, entering the holy place, he casts it down at the feet of the priests, who, it may be, were there, preparing to offer the morning sacrifice. From thence he departs and hangs himself. But how is this statement to be reconciled with that of Peter, (Acts i. 18,) that, " falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst —/cat 7rprjvr]<s ycvofxtvos cXaKrjcre ^xecros—and all his bowels gushed out." De Quincy3 finds here only a figurative statement that " he came to utter and unmitigated ruin," and died of a " broken heart." The language is obviously to be taken in its literal sense; and the bursting asunder of Judas may readily have happened after he had hung himself. Such a thing as the breaking of a cord, or a beam, or bough of a tree, is not unusual; or, at the moment when the body was about to be taken down, it may by accident or carelessness have fallen. Hackett,4 referring to a suggestion that he may have hung himself upon a tree overhanging the valley of Hinnom, says: " For myself, I felt, as I stood in the valley and looked up to the rocky terraces which hang over it, that the proposed explanation was a perfectly natural one.

i See Greswell, iii. 219. a Meyer, Alford.

3 Essay upon Judas Iscariot. * III. Scrip., 266.

I was more than ever satisfied with it." He found the precipice, by measurement, to be from twenty-five to forty feet in height, with olive trees growing near the edges, and a rocky pavement at the bottom, so that a person who fell from above would probably be crushed and mangled, as well as killed.1

Meyer finds proof that Matthew, in his statement that Judas " hanged himself," and Luke, in his report of Peter's statement that he " burst asunder," followed different traditions, in the fact that, as self-murder was very unusual amongst the Jews, Peter could not have passed it by in silence. But, as the falling and bursting asunder were subsequent to the hanging, and presupposed it; and as the event had taken place but a few days before, and was well known to all present; there was no necessity that he should give all the details.

Probably the money which had been paid to Judas, had been taken from the treasury of the temple ; and the priests and elders, unwilling to return to it the price of blood, determine to buy a field to bury strangers in. Peter (Acts i. 18) speaks as if Judas had himself bought it: " Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity." Perhaps he maybe here understood as speaking oratorically, and as meaning only to say that the field was bought, not by himself in person, but with his money, the wages of his iniquity.2 If so, the actual purchase of the field was doubtless made after the Lord's crucifixion, as the time of the priests and elders was too much occupied upon that day to attend to such a transaction. Matthew narrates it as taking place before the crucifixion, in order to finish all that pertained to Judas.

1 As to the various traditional accounts of Judas' death, see Hofmann'sLeben Jesu, 333. Bjnaeus (ii. 431) gives a full statement of the various opinions up to his day. Arculf, (Early Travels, 4,) A. D. 700, speaks of being shown the large fig tree from the top of which Judas suspended himself.

2 Alexander in loco; Lechler.

Others make Judas to have purchased a field before his death with part of the money he had received ; and in this field he hanged himself; and the priests, after his death, with the remainder of the money, to have purchased another.1 Thus there were two fields, both called " the field of blood," but for different reasons: one as bought with the price of blood, the other as the place where Judas hanged himself. It is said that "ecclesiastical tradition appears from the earliest times to have pointed out two distinct, though not unvarying spots, as referred to in the two accounts." Early travellers mention Aceldama as distinct from the spot where Judas hanged himself.2 Maundrell also (468) mentions two Aceldamas; one on the west side of the valley of Hinnom, and another on the east side of the valley of Jehosaphat, not far distant from Siloa. To the latter Saewulf (42) refers as at the foot of Mount Olivet, a little south of Gethsemane. That two fields are referred to by the Evangelists, is doubtful; and the former solution of the discrepancy is to be preferred.

The field of blood is still pointed out in the eastern part of the valley of Hinnom. " The tradition which fixes it upon this spot reaches back to the age of Jerome, and it is mentioned by almost every visitor of the Holy City from that time to the present day. The field or plat is not now marked by any boundary to distinguish it from the rest of the hillside." 3 Hackett4 observes : " Tradition has placed it on the Hill of Evil Council. It may have been in that quarter, at least; for the field belonged originally to a potter, and argillaceous clay is still found in the neighborhood. A workman, in a pottery which I visited at Jerusalem, said that all their clay was obtained from the hill over the valley of Hinnom." A charnel house, now in ruins, built over a cave in whose deep pit are a few bones

i See Greswell, iii. 220; Smith's Bib. Diet., i. 15.

a So Maundeville, Early Tray. 175.

3 Robinson, i. 354. * 111. Scrip., 267.

A charnel house, now in ruins, built over a cave in whose deep pit are a few bones much decayed, is still shown. Some would identify it with the tomb of Ananias mentioned by Josephus.1

Our purpose does not lead us to inquire into the motives that impelled Judas to betray his Lord. The theory, however, advocated by many,2 that, sharing the general Jewish expectations as to the Messianic kingdom, and fully believing Jesus to be the Messiah, he had no intention of imperilling His life, but wished only to arouse Him to direct and positive action, cannot be sustained. If, knowing the supernatural powers of Jesus, he had no fears that He could suffer evil from the hands of His enemies ; and delivered Him into the power of the Jewish authorities in order that He might be forced to assert His Messianic claims, why should he bargain with them for thirty pieces of silver ? He could in many ways have accomplished this end, without taking the attitude of a traitor. The statements of the Evangelists about his covenant with the chief priests, his conduct at the arrest, his return of the money, the words of Peter respecting him, and especially the words of the Lord, " Good were it for that man if he had never been born," conclusively show that he sinned, not through a mere error of judgment, while at heart hoping to advance the interests of his Master, but with deliberate perfidy, designing to compass His ruin.3

* War, 5.12. 2. So Barclay, De Saulcy. 2 De Quincy, Whately.

3 See Winer, i. 635; Ebrard, 524; Christian Review, July, 1855.