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The Illegal, Criminal Trial of Jesus

28 Mar

Criminal Attorney, J. E. Ingram (1924), wrote a wonderful book analyzing the trial of Jesus Christ. The title of this book: Criminal and Illegal Trial of the Nazarene Peasant. Ingram was a criminal lawyer, practiced in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, over 90 years ago.

Ingram’s work brings the charges against those who brought the charges against Jesus–everything from His arrest, to His questioning, and the times at which the trial proceedings occurred. I will summarize Ingram’s points in this blog, and include the laws broken by the authorities at the time. These laws will be placed in quotes, followed by their references, and a conclusion. I will begin with the initial charge levied against Jesus of Nazareth.

THE INITIAL CHARGE
The charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish authorities was that He broke Mosaic Law, and committed blasphemy against Jehovah. Furthermore, as Ingram puts it, “The criminal indictment brought against the defendant before the highest court of Roman justice, Pilate and Herod, was treason against the government of Rome and Caesar.”

I. THE ILLEGAL ARREST OF OUR SAVIOR

A. The Jewish law prohibited all proceedings by night.
B. “The testimony of an accomplice is not permissible by Rabbinic law propter affectum and propter delictum, and no man’s life, nor liberty, nor his reputation can be endangered by the malice of one who has confessed himself a criminal.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 274)
C. “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

II. JESUS BEFORE ANNAS (CAIAPHAS) WAS ILLEGAL

A. The Jewish law prohibited all proceedings by night.
B. “Be not sole judge, for there is no sole judge but One.” (Mishna, Pirke Aboth 4:8)
C. “A principle perpetually reproduced in the Hebrew scriptures relates to the two conditions of publicity and liberty. An accused man was never subjected to private or secret examination, lest, in his perplexity, he furnish damaging testimony against himself.” (Salvador, Institutions de Moise, pp. 365-366)

III. THE INDICTMENT AGAINST JESUS WAS ILLEGAL
A. “The entire criminal procedure of the Mosaic Code rests upon four rules: certainty in the indictment; publicity in the discussion; full freedom granted to the accused; and assurance against all dangers or errors of testimony.” (Salvador, Institutions de Moise, p. 365)
B. “The Sanhedrin did not and could not originate charges; it only investigated those brought before it.” (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol 1, p. 309)
C. “The evidence of the leading witnesses constituted the charge. There was no other charge; no more formal indictment.” (Innes, The Trial of Jesus Christ, p. 41)
D. “The only prosecutors known to Talmudic criminal jurisprudence are the witnesses to the crime. Their duty is to bring the matter to the cognizance of the court, and to bear witness against the criminal. In capital cases, they are the legal executioners, as well.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 110)

IV. THE SANHEDRIN COURT PROCEEDINGS WERE ILLEGAL BECAUSE THEY WERE HELD AT NIGHT
A. “Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:1)
B. “Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during the day time only.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 112)
C. The reason why a capital offense trial was not held at night because oral tradition says, “the examination of such a charge is like the diagnosing of a wound–in either case a more thorough and searching investigation can be made by daylight.” ((Maimonides, Sanhedrin III)

V. SANHEDRIN CONVENED BEFORE THE OFFERING OF THE MORNING SACRIFICE, WHICH MADE THE SANHEDRIN’S ACTIONS ILLEGAL
A. “The Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice.” (Talmud, Jerus, Sanhedrin I:19)
B. “No session of the court could take place before the offering of the morning sacrifice.” (Lemann, Jesus Before the Sanhedrin, p. 109)
C. “Since the morning sacrifice was offered at the dawn of the day, it was hardly possible for the Sanhedrin to assemble until the hour after that time.” (Mishna, Tamid, The Perpetual Sacrifice, 50:3)

VI. THE PROCEEDINGS WERE CONDUCTED ON THE DAY PRECEDING A JEWISH SABBATH; ALSO ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD AND THE EVE OF PASSOVER. THESE PROCEEDINGS WERE ILLEGAL.
A. “Court must not be held on the Sabbath, or any holy day.” (Betza, Chapter 5:2)
B. “They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on that of any festival.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin IV:1)
C. “No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold sessions on the Sabbath or any of the seven biblical holidays. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be commenced on Friday or the day previous to any holiday, because it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than over night, or to continue them on the Sabbath or holiday.” (Rabbi Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 67)

VII. THE TRIAL OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT WAS CONCLUDED WITHIN ONE DAY
A. “A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began.”
B. “But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it can not be concluded before the following day.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin, 4:1)

VIII. THE CONDEMNATION SENTENCE WAS PRONOUNCED AGAINST JESUS BY THE SANHEDRIN AND WAS FOUNDED UPON HIS UNCORROBORATED CONFESSION
A. “We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make a confession of guilt before a legally constitutional tribunal, such confession is not to be used against him, unless properly attested by two other witnesses.” (Maimonides, Sanhedrin 4:2)
B. “Not only is self-condemnation never extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but not attempt is ever made to lead a man on to self-incrimination.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 133)

IX. THE CONDEMNATION OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE THE VERDICT OF THE SANHEDRIN WAS UNANIMOUS
A. “A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial has the effect of an acquittal.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 141)
B. “If none of the judges defend the culprit, and all pronounce him guilty, and having no defender in the court, the guilty verdict was invalid and the sentence of death could not be executed.” (Rabbi Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 74)

X. THE SENTENCE OF CONDEMNATION WAS PRONOUNCED IN A PLACE FORBIDDEN BY LAW; THE HIGH PRIEST TORE HIS CLOTHES; AND THE BALLOTING WAS IRREGULAR
A. “After leaving the hall (Gazith) no sentence of dath can be passed upon anyone soever.” (Talmud, Bab., Abodah, Tarath (Idolatry), Chapter 1:8)
B. “A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place.” (Maimonides, Sanhedrin 14)
C. “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrates to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.” (Leviticus 21:10)
D. “And Moses aid unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons, ‘uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people.'” (Leviticus 10:6)
E. “In ordinary cases the judges votes according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital trial, the reverse order was followed. That the younger members of the Sanhedrin should not be influenced by the views or arguments of their more mature, more experienced colleagues, the junior was in these cases always the first to pronounce for or against a conviction.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, pp. 73-74)

XI. THE GREAT SANHEDRIN MEMBERS WERE LEGALLY DISQUALIFIED TO TRY JESUS
A. “The robe of the unfairly elected judge is to be respected not more than the blanket of the ass.” (Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, p. 182)
B. “As Moses sat in judgment without the expectation of material reward, so also must every judge act from a sense of duty only.” (Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, p. 177)
C. “Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation, or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or the accuser.” (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 108)
D. “Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among his judges.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 37)

XII. THE CONDEMNATION OF JESUS WAS ILLEGAL BECAUSE THE MERITS OF THE DEFENSE WERE NOT CONSIDERED
A. “Then shalt thou inquire and make search, and ask diligently.” (Deuteronomy 13:14)
B. “The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience.” (Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5)
C. “The primary object of the Hebrew judicial system was the render the conviction of an innocent person impossible. All the ingenuity of the Jewish legists was directed to the attainment of this end.” (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 56)

CONCLUSION
Due to the enormity of this case, and the facts that are presented, the Jews broke the law down the line, in making certain to execute the Messiah. However, this was appointed from the foundations of time, that the Son of Man would be lifted up. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but Thine, Father.” The result? “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to laughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32)

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