The story that we have in the gospels of Mark and Matthew (Mark 14:53-65; Matthew 26:57-68) of the Trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin seems to contradict many passages in the Mishna in the tractate Sanhedrin, like, for example:

a. Capital cases could not be tried at night (Sanh. IV:1).

b. Capital judgments were to be delayed to the next day (Sanh. IV:1).

c. Therefore capital cases could not be tried on the eve of a Sabbath or of a festival day (Sanh. IV:1).

d. It was illegal to pass the death sentence anywhere except in the Hewn Chamber in the inner forecourt of the temple.

e. An attempt was to be made to find witnesses for the defense (Sanh. V:4).

f. False witnesses were to suffer condign penalties (Sanh. XI:6).

g. Capital cases had to open with arguments for acquittal (Sanh. IV:1).

h. The younger members were to speak first so as not to be influenced by the older members (Sanh. IV:2).

i. In capital cases all could not speak in favor of condemnation (Sanh. IV:1).

Some people, like Haim H. Cohn and skeptics on the internet, argue that this would make the story an anti-semitic incertion/addition/invention into the Gospels, just supposed to make the Jews look bad.

The same people argue that the fact alone that this trial was being conducted during the Preparation of the Passover makes the story impossible to have happen in a first century Palestine context.

Any thoughts on it?

  • 3
    It would be good to see references to support "some people argue" - who argues this? Since the parallel passage appears in both texts, such an insertion would probably have to predate the authorship of Matthew or Mark - which would be peculiar for Matthew which is clearly written to a Jewish audience, and most academics place Mark as earlier. You'd essentially need such an insertion to take place prior to 70CE, many decades before we see any anti-Jewish sentiment creep into Christian writings.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 4, 2023 at 13:48
  • 2
    Also, hi Calvin - welcome to BH.SE, thanks for contributing! Don't forget to register your account so you can continue to interact with your Question and any Answers, and please do take the Site Tour to learn more about how it all works here.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 4, 2023 at 13:50
  • @Stevecanhelp Oh, hi Steven! Thanks for reading and answering my question. I decided to keep the term broad ("some people argue") because not only scholars, like Haim H. Cohn, argue in favor of the theory that the Trial before the Sanhedrin is some kind of invention or addition, but also many skeptics on the internet. I'm thinking of registering my account here on BH.SE, the community seems really friendly and more open to questions, differently from websites like Quora, even though there are good people there.
    – user53371
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


Yehuda Nasi was the final and principal redactor of the Mishna in the second and third centuries of the common era.

The date of the redaction is more than a century after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the dispersion of the sanhedrin, and well into the period of conflict between rabbinic Judaism and the upstart sect of Christianity. So the text had a lot of time to develop in directions that possibly did not conform to actual practice during the period of the temple. The safeguards for capital cases might be late additions, or additions that were made specifically as a reformation of the actual practice. Or the safeguards might have been early but the sanhedrin was composed of people who did not follow the practices stated in the Mishna.

Secondly, the Mishna is a normative text, not a historical text. It sets out the law as it should be practiced, not as it was actually practiced and there is plenty of witness in the Talmud to non-normative judicial practice during the Roman occupation at the time of Jesus.

For these reasons, the Mishna does not help us understand the actual historical circumstances of the trial or its coverage in the NT.

  • 1
    Thanks! That really helps to answer my question! But I still wonder if the Trial would be conducted at the Eve of the Passover, would the high Jewish authorities at Jesus's time really work at such an important day? And, if it's not much, could you cite some Talmud passages where non-normative judicial practices are being done during that time? But, again, thank you for your answer!
    – user53371
    Jan 4, 2023 at 20:56

If the story was invented, the inventors would make everything smooth and complying to rules of Law, but they told as it was the case.

We know from Gospels that the Law could be violated due to escalated murderous passions against the Lord. Remember Nicodemus, who reprimands the members of Sanhedrin for trying to violate the existing procedures of the Law (John 7:51) and punish the Lord without even questioning Him. The response he gets is a classical “red herring” fallacy: “He is from Nazareth, Messiah cannot come from Nazareth”; but this did not remove the necessity of the questioning procedure.

So, what can hinder us from trusting the Gospel account and accept that due to raised passions, the Law’s regulations were not followed consistently at time of the Lord’s arrest? Nothing to hinder.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.