15.03 The Three Jewish Trials

15.03 The Three Jewish Trials

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.03 The Three Jewish Trials

Unit 15

The Passion Escalates


Chapter 03

The Three Jewish Trials



15.03.00.A. JESUS IS EXAMINED BY CAIAPHAS. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. Members of the Sanhedrin were seated in a semi-circle, similar in size to that of a threshing floor as Caiaphas stands to accuse Him. It was there where Jesus told them who He was, and it was the high court, representing the nation of Israel that rejected Him.

15.03.00.A. JESUS IS EXAMINED BY CAIAPHAS. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. (3)

15.03.01 Introduction

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15.03.01 Introduction

As stated previously, the Supreme Court was comprised of twenty-four Sadducees (chief priests), twenty-four Pharisees (Elders), twenty-two scribes (Pharisees) and one high priest, but the Pharisees were not permitted to judge capital cases. While the membership was seventy-one, only twenty-three of a “Small Sanhedrin” was needed to conduct a trial.  Therefore, the term “whole Sanhedrin” or “entire court” has a reference to the minimum number required for a trial, not the full membership of the court. Of the twenty-three, eleven votes were needed to acquit and thirteen votes were needed for conviction. The number of court members present at the trial of Jesus is unknown.


For centuries, the Sanhedrin was the institution that shaped the religious life of all Jews.  It was renowned for its compassion, fairness, and mercy. In 30 B.C., Rabbi Hillel became the President of the Supreme Court.  He was one of the most influential religious leaders of the Second Temple Period and his name has been associated with the best rabbinic schools in Jewish history. His presidency, of four decades, was likewise known for compassion and wisdom. He probably was in this office when Herod the Great questioned rabbis and the magi as to where the Christ was to be born (Mt. 2:3-5). Hillel was also the grandfather of Gamaliel, the teacher of Saul of Tarsus, who became known as the Apostle Paul.  However, shortly after his death, Annas was appointed to the presidency and the moral character of the sacred institution collapsed. The Sanhedrin continued to be in a moral free-fall during the time of Jesus, and because of high court’s condemnation of Him it would lose its reputation, and eventually fade from history.[1]



15.03.01.Q1 What 25 rules of justice were broken by the Sanhedrin when the high court condemned Jesus to death?


The religious aristocrats had no shortage of reasons to execute Jesus.[2]  In their desperate process to have Jesus executed, they violated a host of oral laws of jurisprudence, as recorded in the tractate “Sanhedrin” of the Mishnah.[3] Note the following violations:[4]


  1. There was to be no arrest by ecclesiastical authorities that was influenced by a bribe (Ex. 23:8).[5]


  1. There was to be no trial after sunset (after three stars appear in the sky).


  1. No judges were permitted in the arrest of the accused, so as to keep judges unbiased.


  1. No trials were to be held before the morning sacrifice.


  1. No trials were to be held on the Sabbath or on the eve of the Sabbath.


  1. All trials were to be public. Secrecy of any form was forbidden.


  1. Trials were to be held only in the Hall of Judgment (Chamber of Hewn Stone).


  1. Judges were not to argue for a conviction of the accused.


  1. Every accused person was to have at least one defender.


  1. Capital cases had to be tried over a minimum of two days.


  1. The high priest (Caiaphas) was not permitted to tear his clothing.


  1. Charges against the accused could not originate with the judges.


  1. Once a trial began, no additional charges could be added to the original charge.


  1. The charge of blasphemy was applicable if the accused applied the Name of God (YHWH) to himself or if the defendant pronounced the name of God.


  1. The accused could not be condemned by his testimony alone, but had to be in perfect agreement with two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6).


  1. Judges were not permitted to question the accused, only the witnesses.


  1. If a guilty verdict was to be pronounced, it had to be given on the day following the trial.


  1. The condemned was not permitted to be executed on the same day as his sentence was pronounced. (Since Herod the Great decreed that the authority of capital punishment be removed from the Sanhedrin – except for Gentiles who entered the holy areas of the temple – this exception was in force prior to Herod’s decree.)


  1. Any judge who had a personal interest or conflict with the accused had to remove himself from the judicial process.


  1. Among the judges, the youngest had to vote first as not to be influenced or persuaded by the older and more experienced judges.


  1. No Baal-Rib, or legal counsel, was appointed to defend Jesus.[6]


  1. No witnesses were called to defend Jesus.


  1. The proper procedure for a trial was,


  1. First the accusation


  1. Then the defense


  1. A defendant could not be beaten, tortured, or scourged prior to the trial.


  1. Judges were to be kind and humane to the defendant.


Concerning any final decision of the Sanhedrin:


  1. If a trial was concluded with a favorable verdict, it could be concluded on the same day as it began.


  1. If an unfavorable verdict was given then it must be concluded on the following day.


  1. No announcement was to be given at night.


These rules were intended to protect the accused and prevent any possible error of an inaccurate verdict. Therefore, no such trial could legally have been held on the day prior to a Sabbath or festival. The three Jewish trials of Jesus would fail on every count, and be uniquely different from any other.[7]

[1]. The Sanhedrin was dissolved in 358 but resurrected later for a short period of time in 1806 by Napoleon where it functioned near Paris. It was discontinued with the rise of anti-Semitism. But the high court was finally re-eastablished in Israel in October of 2004.

[2]. See 12.04.08.Q1 What were the 12 reasons the Jewish leadership planned the death of Jesus?


[3]. The complete judicial procedure for the high court is found in the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.1 through 5.5.


[4]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:1.

[5]. Judas was paid a bribe of thirty pieces of silver.


[6]. Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 2:517-18.


[7]. See Appendix 21 for the seven proclamations of the innocence of Jesus.



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15.03.02 Jn. 18:13-14 Jerusalem




13 First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people.


Annas was the high priest from A.D. 6 to 15 and a devoted Sadducee.  There is, at times, some difficulty identifying the high priest.[1] Acts 4:6 identifies him as holding the position, while Luke 3:2 appears to identify both Annas and Caiaphas as holding the position jointly. The difficulty is resolved by understanding that a former high priest was still called by his title as an honor, even though he no longer functioned in the office of priesthood.  In a similar manner today, a retired president of a nation continues to be addressed as “Mr. President.”


History reveals that Caiaphas was in the official position.  However, his retired father-in-law, Annas, was still respected in an unofficial capacity, as he had been deposed by procurator Valerius Gratus, who held the rulership position prior to Pontius Pilate.[2]


The high priest, who was to represent the people before Almighty God, was the single most important destructive influence to kill Jesus. Both men were delighted to see Jesus tied, bound, and in court.  Caiaphas remembered all too well the trouble Jesus caused him previously – the two cleansings of the temple caused financial losses, not to mention the humiliation he and his fellow Sadducees received.  For him this day was long overdue. He finally had the opportunity to apply revengeful justice, as he desired. His corruption in the temple was so well known, that centuries later when the Talmud was written, his name was associated with the sacred sites being converted into a “market-house” and “den of robbers.”

“Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews.”   Caiaphas was the official supreme leader of Judaism.  As the high priest of the temple, he gave direction in the affairs of the faith.  The Greek equivalent is “Petras,” which means “rock.” It is the same name Jesus gave to Peter (Jn. 1:42), indicating that His testimony would build a church.  Ironically it is also the same root name that in Hebrew means Caiaphas, who would try to kill Him.[3]  Evidently, God the Father agreed. IN all probability, Satan never had a more trusted friend in the temple than he had in Caiaphas.




Finally, it is interesting that Caiaphas “advised” his fellow supporters on the question.  In fact, the attendees of this court were selected men whom he controlled and manipulated.  They all owed him favors, as he was the wealthiest and most powerful Jew in the country.  Everyone present was successful, to some measure, in religious or business enterprises, due all or in part to Caiaphas. It was time now for Caiaphas to collect on his many favors and gifts.  The judges of the Supreme Court were in fact purchased and paid for by its president.


A profound statement uttered by Caiaphas was, “it was advantageous that one man should die for the people.”  That was precisely why Jesus came, but obviously not in the manner Caiaphas understood.  He desired to have Jesus put to death to protect his own position in the temple and end the onslaught of insults.   More importantly, he was afraid Jesus might cause the Romans to take tighter military control of Jerusalem. He was aware that any collision with Roman authorities would endanger his powerful position, which had afforded him and his extended family extreme wealth and luxury. Beginning at this point, the trial of Jesus was illegal in every manner possible.

[1]. See 03.06.21, 03.06.22, and 03.06.26 as well as the terms of service in Appendix 1.


[2]. See terms of service in Appendix 1.


[3]. Kennedy, “Christ’s Trials and Ours.” 6.


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15.03.03 Jn. 18:15-17



15 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple. That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest; so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard. 16 But Peter remained standing outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the girl who was the doorkeeper and brought Peter in.

17 Then the slave girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?”

“I am not!” he said.


“Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple.”  Peter has often been criticized for his betrayal of Jesus, yet he and another disciple were brave enough to follow Him when all others deserted Him.  Most scholars believe that the other disciple was John, an “acquaintance of the high priest” because according to Acts 4:6, he, as a kinsman of the high priest could enter the home of the high priest.  However, Peter did not have that status, so he had to wait outside. On another occasion (Jn. 20:5), John and Peter ran to the tomb of Jesus. When they arrived, Peter went right in, but John had to wait outside for a moment.  Why?  According to Jewish law, John would have become defiled if he entered the tomb where there was a dead body, since he was a member of the family of priests.[1]


Peter’s lack of strength and boldness to be a true and faithful witness underscored his human weakness and the dire need for Pentecostal power.  After the Pentecost event however, he was a completely transformed man; from a disorganized disciple who had the profound gift of saying the wrong things at the wrong time, to a dynamic apostle who spoke with profound wisdom and closed his life as a martyr in Rome.


“That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest.”  The fact that John was a relative of the high priest Caiaphas, underscores the religious divisions that existed within some families. John came from a relatively orthodox family of Pharisees while Caiaphas was of the Hellenistic Sadducean dynasty. No two people could have been extreme opposites. However, since John was a relative, he had access to the inner circles related to Caiaphas.

[1]. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 24.



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15.03.04 Jn. 18:19-23




19 The high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus answered him. “I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple complex, where all the Jews congregate, and I haven’t spoken anything in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who heard what I told them. Look, they know what I said.”

22 When He had said these things, one of the temple police standing by slapped Jesus, saying, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”

23 “If I have spoken wrongly,” Jesus answered him, “give evidence about the wrong; but if rightly, why do you hit Me?”


Jesus asked him, “Why do you question me?” According to Oral Law, the Sanhedrin was not permitted to ask the accused any questions, but only to hear the testimonies of two or three witnesses. Just as Jesus was being cross-examined by the leading religious leaders, Josephus expressed the same idea but used the term “principal men” in his description of those who were responsible for accusing Jesus before Pilate.[1]


Jesus now stood before Annas, the retired high priest who had previously been an unofficial agent of the Roman Empire as his priestly position was secured by an appointment.  He was actually “president emeritus” of the Sanhedrin.  Sitting in this judicial position, he was clearly acting illegally. The trial should have begun with an accusatory charge and witnesses.  The fact that Annas asked Jesus various questions reveals his failure to follow judicial procedures.


Questions concerning the disciples were important because other messianic pretenders,[2]  as well as the Zealots, also had disciples and attempted to overthrow the empire. His questions then focused on the doctrine.  Jesus simply stated that He had spoken many times in the synagogues, at the temple, and in an open forum; He held no secrets. However, apparently one of the officials did not appreciate some of His answers and consequently struck Him.  To this Jesus responded, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong.  However, if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” With this, Jesus won His case and the next illegal trial was before Caiaphas.

[1]. Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3.


[2]. A partial listing of an estimated 60 messianic pretenders is found in Appendix 25 “False Prophets, Rebels, Significant Events, And Rebellions That Impacted The First Century Jewish World.”

15.03.05 Second Trial: TO CAIAPHAS THE HIGH PRIEST

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15.03.05 Lk. 22:54 (See also Mt. 26:57-58; Mk. 14:53-54 Jn. 18:18-24) Second Jewish Trial




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15.03.06 Lk. 22:55-57; Mt. 26:69-72 (See also Mk. 14:66-70a; Jn. 18:25)



Lk. 55 They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, and Peter sat among them. 56 When a servant saw him sitting in the firelight, and looked closely at him, she said, “This man was with Him too.”

57 But he denied it: “Woman, I don’t know Him!”


Mt. 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant approached him and she said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean too.”

70 But he denied it in front of everyone: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!”

72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man!”


15.03.06.A. A MODEL OF THE PALACE OF CAIAPHAS THE HIGH PRIEST. The palace of Caiaphas was located within the Old City walls during the Second Temple Period, but is outside today’s Old City walls.

The opulent homes of the Sadducees were only a short distance from the temple.  They enjoyed so much political favor with the Romans that a private road was constructed from the temple to their homes. It was also built so they would not become “defiled” by the common people. Therefore, the distance they forced Jesus to walk was relatively short.  Their planned execution of Jesus was under way, with only a minimal sense of legal procedure.  Night trials, even if held in a private home, were illegal under both Jewish and Roman laws.[1]


15.03.06.B. THE STEPS TO THE HOUSE OF CAIAPHAS.  Scholars believe these steps date to the first century or earlier and, therefore, Jesus would have walked on them.[2]  It is very possible that this walkway was the route taken by Jesus to the prison basement under the home of the high priest.[3]  Photograph by the author.


15.03.06.C. A WALL SCULPTURE DIPICTING JESUS ARRESTED AND TAKEN TO CAIAPHAS.  The sculpture depicts Jesus being beaten as He is taken to the home of the High Priest.  It was the intent of the Sadducees not only to kill Him, but to destroy the royal honor the crowds gave Him when He entered the city on a donkey.  Photograph by the author.


15.03.06.D. THE PRISON BASEMENT OF CAIAPHAS.  In the palace basement of Caiaphas, one can see the holes in the stone pillars and header through which chains were placed to hold prisoners – it was a private prison. Today the site is honored by the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (Latin: at the Cock’s Crow).  Photograph by the author.

It was common in ancient times for those in religious and government authority to have prisons in the basements of their homes.  These prisons did not always have iron bars, but rather, had holes in walls and columns to which prisoners were chained. Jesus would have been chained to one of these columns and possibly beaten.[4] In A.D. 333, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, whose personal identity remains a mystery, made this comment about the ruins of the house of Caiaphas:

From there one ascends to Zion and there appears to be where stood the house of Caiaphas the priest, and the column is still there, on which they flogged Christ.


Pilgrim of Bordeaux[5]

The prophetic words of the Psalm writer most certainly reflected the thoughts of Jesus as He was in the dungeon (cistern) prison.  The painful pressure that caused perspiration of blood was still upon Him.  His agony continued as He pleaded to His heavenly Father.

                1 Lord, God of my salvation,

            I cry before You day and night.

2 May my prayer reach Your presence;

                        Listen to my cry.


3 For I have had enough troubles,

and my life is near Sheol.

4 I am counted among those going down to the Pit.

I am like a man without strength,


5 abandoned among the dead.

I am like the slain lying in the grave,

whom you no longer remember,

and who are cut off from Your care.


6 You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit,

in the darkest places, in the depths.

7 Your wrath weighs heavily on me;

You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves. Selah


8 You have distanced my friends from me;

You have made me repulsive to them.

I am shut in and cannot go out.

9 My eyes are worn out from crying.


Psalm 88:1-9a

[1]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 415.

[2]. However, recent scholarship seems to conclude these are A.D. 4th century steps over a previous walkway.

[3]. Torrace, “Cross, Crucifixion.” 1:343.

[4]. Liefeld, “Prison, Prisoner.” 4:870; Knapp, “Prison.” 3:975.

[5]. Quoted by Baldi, Enchiridion Locorum Sanctorum. 729.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.03.07 SECOND JEWISH TRIAL: BEFORE CAIAPHAS

15.03.07 Mk. 14:55-60; Mt. 26:63; Mk. 62b-66  




Mk. 55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but they could find none. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but the testimonies did not agree. 57 Some stood up and were giving false testimony against Him, stating, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will demolish this sanctuary made by human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’” 59 Yet their testimony did not agree even on this.  60 Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?”


Mt. 63 But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”


Mk. 62b Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

63 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?          

64 You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.


Jesus no longer remained silent as to His identity.  He spoke of Himself as the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Almighty One, an allusion to Psalm 110:1.  He also spoke of returning one day on the clouds, an allusion to Daniel 7:13.  These were no idle words, but they underscored His claim of divinity. While Jesus was enduring the second illegal trial, Peter was experiencing great stress and turmoil that would lead him to deny Jesus three times.


“The whole Sanhedrin.”  This judicial system was organized during the Babylonian exile, but its biblical foundation is based upon Numbers 11:16, where Moses gathered seventy men to help him rule Israel.[1] If only twenty-three members were present, the Court was known as the Small Sanhedrin.[2]  The term “whole Sanhedrin” is problematic if applied only to the counsel of seventy-one members, because it was known that some of its members believed Jesus to be the Messiah (i.e. Nicodemus).  However, the term was also applied to the Small Sanhedrin.  When this group assembled, the high priest personally selected a group of Sadducees, elders, and scribes, and this entire (or “whole”) group determined that Jesus would die. The Small Sanhedrin was considered the quorum of the larger body and met regularly on the second and fifth days of the week.[3]  Hence, Caiaphas was able to quickly assemble twenty-three selected men who would conspire with him to perform illegal trials and have Jesus executed.


Many were giving false testimony against Him.”  To maintain some resemblance of legality, at least two or three witnesses had to be called to testify against the accused (Deut. 17:6; 19:15-18).  It is interesting to note that there was not a single “witness” of those who were healed or raised from the dead.  Lazarus, who lived hardly a half-hour’s walk from the court, was not asked to appear.  In fact, these same leaders contemplated his death (Jn. 12:10).  There was a deliberate attempt to leave out those who would testify on behalf of Jesus, not only in the form of witnesses of those who were healed, but also the Sanhedrin members who were sympathetic to Jesus (i.e. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea).[4]


On an important side note, another member of the Sanhedrin who evidently was not under the control and manipulation of the House of Annas and Caiaphias, was a staunch Pharisee named Gamaliel. In Acts 5:33-34 Gamaliel expressed concern that Peter and John might be of God.  Clearly he would not have approved of the trial of Jesus.


The phrase, “Many testified falsely against him,” is a powerful indictment against the religious establishment. It was obvious that there was a Jewish conspiracy against Jesus, for if there wasn’t, then He and all of His disciples would have been arrested and tried by the Romans, not the Sadducees.  The irony is that the Jews had extremely harsh punishments for those who gave false testimony. Yet it was the only kind that the Sadducees were able to generate in their mock trial.  Their own laws provide an awesome sentence against them.


According to the Jewish method of scourging, those who were found guilty of a crime deemed worthy of scourging, such as giving a false testimony, were tied to a pillar with chest and back bare.  They were whipped no more than forty times (Deut. 25:1-3) with a third of the floggings upon the chest and two-thirds upon the back.[5] This is the same kind the Apostle Paul endured five times.  However, those who were false witnesses received eighty scourges. While this form of punishment was harsh, the Jews went to great lengths to write rules and regulations for its use.  For example, a false witnesse who was responsible for anyone else receiving a scourging was subject to eighty stripes.


We testify that such-a-one is liable to suffer the forty stripes’, and they are found (to be) false witnesses, they must suffer eighty stripes by virtue of the law “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16) and also by virtue of the law, “Then do to him as he intended to do to his brother” (Deut. 19:19).

Mishnah, Makkoth 1.3


Furthermore, a false witness who was instrumental in causing a death would receive punishment of death, not eighty stripes.  According to the Oral Law instituted by both the Pharisees and Sadducees, the punishment would be as follows:


If others came and proved false the evidence of these others, and yet others came and proved their evidence false, even if (there came) a hundred (pairs of witnesses to prove false the evidence of them that went before), they must all be put to death.  Rabbi Judah says: This would be a conspiracy: but the first pair alone is put to death.

Mishnah, Makkoth 1.5


It can be safely assumed that those who testified against Jesus never received any punishment.  The Jewish scourging was far less cruel than the Roman method.  Whereas a scourging was simply a whip with a number of leather strips, sometimes with knots, a Roman flagellum had pieces of iron or bone in the leather strip to increase the torture.[6]


I will demolish this sanctuary made by human hands.” The false witnesses could not agree with each other, nor did they quote Jesus accurately (Jn. 2:19). This statement was repeated when Stephen was martyred (Acts 6:14).  Jesus never said that He would destroy the temple but said that if they would destroy the temple, after three days He would raise it. Of course, He was referring to the temple of His own body. Regardless of how the phrase was understood, either as a metaphor of His body or the physical building (which it wasn’t), clearly Jesus indicated He had superhuman power. However, such a statement always had a powerful impact as seen with the prophet Jeremiah.  When he predicted the destruction of the temple he was threatened with death (Jer. 26:1-9).


As previously stated, it was the policy of the Sanhedrin that once a trial began, new charges were not permitted.  In addition, no person could be condemned by his confession alone.  His accusers and false witnesses had become entangled in a web of lies that would have left them guilty of perjury in any other court.  Jesus listened quietly as one false witness hopelessly confronted and contradicted the testimony of another. The overriding goal of the Court was not justice or protection of the sacred Scripture, but to condemn Jesus to death.  In the hysteria of the moment, they broke whatever laws, codes, and traditions necessary in order to achieve their end. To use the modern idiom, they believed that “the end justifies the means.”


Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” This phrase in the original language is not only a demanding question, but also reminds Jesus that He is under oath.[7]


“But Jesus kept silent.”  Silence was an incredible response – one they never expected. What did His silence mean?  Was it a confession of guilt? Yet the mockery of the trial and the conflicting testimonies against Him were all worthless. Furthermore, His miracles and skill in verbal debates were well known and now, suddenly there were no miracles and no debates that could save His life.  Certainly some who were present must have questioned, why. Only later would they realize that they witnessed responses that were the fulfillment of prophetic plans.


“By the living God.” This is an amazing statement by Caiaphas, who accused Jesus of blasphemy. The reason is that simply to say the Divine Name was considered blasphemy; therefore, what Caiaphas accused Jesus of doing, he did himself.[8]  There are several Jewish references to the prohibition of speaking the name of “God,” such as,


The blasphemer is not culpable (guilty) unless he pronounces the Name itself.

Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7.5[9]


Another example of the Jewish custom to avoid using the name of God is to substitute the word “glory” for “God.”[10]  This custom continues among some Jewish sects today, while others spell the name as “G-d.”  Josephus gave a brief but concise consequence that falls upon those who violate the name of God.


He that blasphemeth God, let him be stoned, and let him hang upon a tree all that day, and then let him be buried in an ignominious and obscure manner.

Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.6 (202)


In bold language the historian said that one who does not speak the name of God in a sacred manner will suffer three consequences.


  1. He will be stoned to death.


  1. His body will be hung on a tree because that is an enternal curse (Deut. 21:22-23).


  1. He will not be buried in a family tomb, but will be disconnected from his family forever.


Obviously the accusation of blasphemy was quite serious.


I place You under oath.”  In modern American courts a witness has the opportunity to not “swear under oath,” but rather, to “affirm,” that his statements are true.  In the Jewish Court this option did not exist.  In a Jewish court an oath was upon the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whereas in a Roman or other Gentile court an oath was upon the name of a pagan deity.[11] An example of the latter would have been when Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem and Joseph had to take a Roman oath concerning his family in the census count. Now Caiaphas placed the oath upon Jesus, and therefore, anything Jesus said was under oath.  The purpose was to have Jesus testify against Himself, another violation of Jewish jurisprudence.


“Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” To this, Jesus responded by turning the statement to Caiaphas, making him responsible for the violation of due process.   Matthew’s account (26:63) of this statement reads, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” This question is significant in that not only did Jesus give an affirmative answer, but He did so under oath.  Clearly this gives credibility that oaths can be made in judicial situations. Even though He previously stated (Mt. 5:33-37) that, in general conversation, oaths should not be made at all.  


As to the next subject, the idea that the temple would be rebuilt was revolting.  It meant that the existing temple would be destroyed, and to add tension to the tense discussion, everyone knew that the existing structure did not resemble Ezekiel’s temple. That opened the opportunity to examine the words of the prophet Zechariah who said that the temple would be rebuilt (6:12-15).  In the first century there were two opposing opinions as to who would rebuild the temple:


  1. God Himself would rebuild the temple, and


  1. The Messiah would rebuild it.

Therefore, Caiaphas probably reflected upon the words of Zechariah and the discussions among the rabbis when he asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah?”  There are three points to be considered in this matter:


  1. Caiaphas knew that many believed Jesus to be the m/Messiah


  1. Caiaphas knew that Jesus did not decline the name, but rather, in a number of conversations Jesus justified the use of it.


  1. Caiaphas knew that thousands saluted Jesus as the m/Messiah when He rode into Jerusalem in a symbolic manner representing a king.


Therefore, Jesus began with a sophisticated answer that would lead to another question:   “If I ask you, will you not answer?”   From  now on  the  Son  of  Man  will  be  seated  on  the right hand of the “Power.”  That leads Caiaphas to ask, “Are you the Son of God?”  Jesus very carefully went from a political issue to a theological one with Old Testament reflections, namely, Genesis 14 (Abraham and Melchizedek) and Psalm 110, “The Lord said to My Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” This was connected with the words of judgment in Daniel 7, “The Son of Man.”  Isaiah also referred to this when he said, “He will be seated at the right hand of the Power” (Isa.10:33; Lk. 22:69).  This is called a hypostatic term.[12]  The “son of man” figure is found in some Jewish writings as one who had authority in the final judgment (1 Enoch 37-71), so the language was not new to the Sanhedrin court.[13]


“The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power… clouds of heaven.” In this statement, Jesus did not refer to Himself as the “Son of God,” nor did He refer to the “right hand of God” – both statements would have been considered blasphemy according to the Oral Law and as later recorded in the Mishnah, chapter titled Sanhedrin, section 7.5 (see above). Yet Jesus did clearly speak of His divine nature.  He alluded to the opening of Psalm 110, which was divine in character. Furthermore, Isaiah 9:5 hints at a human child as being a “wonderful counselor, mighty God.” When Jesus used the term “Power,” He clearly reflected upon the term “mighty God” in Isaiah 9:5. This is theologically known as the “hypostatic union,” the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in a single individual existence.[14]

Now Jesus was before judges who were about to take His earthly life.  By this statement, He warned them there would be a time when they would be before Him. This was a clear statement of His divinity and His claim to have power over their eternal destiny. In the book of Enoch, there are numerous references to the Son of Man as one who is from heaven and comes to earth.  In fact, the terms Son of Man and Son of David [15] became synonyms for Messiah by the first century.[16] The expectations were that this “Son” would excel David’s triumphs.[17] Furthermore, the phrase clouds of heaven is a direct quotation from Daniel 7:13.  This statement not only announced that Jesus was the Messiah, but that He was also equal to God. The term Power was another term used to refer to God, similar to today’s use of the term the Almighty.[18]


The response was predictable – the Sadducees were enraged to the point of hysteria. “The high priest tore his robes.”  It was the custom for people to tear a small section of their clothing to show deep sorrow and mourning.  However, according to the Mosaic Law, it was strictly forbidden, under punishment of death, for a high priest to do likewise.  According to the Oral Law, it was symbolic of a guilty verdict.[19]  For this action, the high priest who should have been condemned to die, instead announced the death sentence on the One who gave life.  The right to exercise capital punishment was removed from the Jews, with the exception of any Gentile who would enter the most sacred place of the temple. But in general, all executions were controlled by the Romans.[20]  To Caiaphas, the crucifixion of Jesus would solve a political problem, so it had to be done.  To God, the crucifixion of Jesus would solve a sin problem, so it had to be done.


“Why do we still need witnesses?”  The fact is that there were no other witnesses. The testimonies of the disciples were not desired (they were absent) and those whom Jesus healed and taught were unaware of this miscarriage of justice.  Therefore, Caiaphas used the words of Jesus against Him.  Caiaphas functioned as chief accuser, chief witness, prosecutor, and judge.  He would also have been the chief executioner, if the Romans permitted him.  Everyone present was intimidated by his control and with the threat of excommunication, loss of wealth, or even death (Jn. 12:10; Acts 9:2).


“You have heard the blasphemy.” The English word blasphemy or blaspheme is from the Greek term blasphemia, meaning to insult. But it also suggests that the one who blasphemes has placed himself in the place of God and thereby, degrades Him.[21] That includes insulting Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well. Hence, it is a profoundly serious charge. It is truly difficult for modern students to comprehend the powerful condemnation that was associated with blasphemy in the biblical era. The first time the gospels record the Pharisees insulting God was when they accused Jesus of casting out demons with the demonic power of Beelzebub (Satan).[22]  That was true blasphemy and a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.



15.03.07.A. THE BURIAL OSSUARY OF CAIAPHAS. In 1990 construction workers accidentally uncovered the family tomb of Josephus bar Caiaphas[23] south of Jerusalem’s Old City. Inside was the most elaborate ossuary or “bone box” ever found in Israel that contained the skeletal remains of a sixty year old man.  There is complete certainty that these are the remains of the high priest Caiaphas, as his full name was recorded on the ossuary in the same manner it was recorded by the historian Josephus.[24] See also the ossuary of Miriam (04.03.01.A).


Because of the writings of Josephus, archaeologists in 1990 were able to identify the ossuary of the renowned high priest.[25] The historian recorded the full name of the High Priest “Josephus Caiaphas,”[26]  or more properly stated, “Joseph who was called Caiaphas of the high priest-hood.”[27] The name “Caiaphas,” as used in Scripture strongly appears to have been a popular nickname, whereas the formal name on the ossuary is “Joseph bar Caiaphas.”[28] The discovery of his ossuary and family tomb are unique for several reasons.


  1. While the tomb had the appearance of an attempted break-in, the would-be grave robbers were never successful. Therefore, the tomb of the most aristocratic religious family of the time of Christ remained secured.


  1. The floral and geometric patterns on the ossuary are typical of the Greek cultural influence upon Judaea that was acceptable to the Jews. The custom originated with the Greeks, but the reason is unknown. Nonetheless, the Romans appreciated the custom and continued the practice. Beautifully carved stone ossuaries, such as the one shown above, could be afforded only by the affluent and were used for about a century.[29]


  1. There were sixty-three individual skeletons placed in a dozen ossuaries and laid to rest in this family tomb. Some scholars believe this is a high number of ossuaries for a single tomb, but then, this was a very wealthy family.


Of particular interest is the ossuary of a woman who was a member of the Caiaphas household, and her bone box reveals how Hellenistic the Sadducees really were. Among the House of Caiaphas ossuaries were the remains of a woman identified as “Yehochana, daughter of Yehochanan, son of Thophlos, the high priest.”  When her bones were examined, a bronze coin, dating from King Agrippa (A.D. 42-43) was found in her skull. This incredible discovery attests to the idolatrous practices and beliefs of this high priestly family.  According to Greek mythology, when someone died, he or she would have to cross the River Styx to enter paradise.  However, the river flowed into hell (literally, the hell of fire),[30] and could not be crossed without help. That person was a ferryman named Charon to whom the deceased had to pay a fee to take him or her across the river to enter paradise and avoid an eternity in hell. When this woman died, a coin was placed in her mouth, so her soul could make payment to Charon.[31]


The coin found in Yehochana’s skull reveals two significant insights of the Sadducees.


  1. It illustrates how deeply Hellenism had become entrenched in the Sadducean community.


  1. The Sadducees had always prided themselves in not believing in an afterlife, but apparently some did not want to take any chances in case they were wrong.


The high priest Caiaphas and his family were to represent themselves and the Jewish people before their Creator. Ironically, the house of Caiaphas instead was the most vile and pagan imaginable. Evidently this practice was common among the Gentiles as well as the Hellenized Jews. Another first century (A.D.) tomb was discovered in Jericho which contained a skull with a coin. The coin date is the sixth year of Herod Agrippa’s reign.[32] This was only a couple of decades after Jesus who paid the price for eternal salvation.


Among Christians today there is another mythical story.  Some have said that the act of entering the Holy of Holies was so sacred that the high priest had a rope tied to his ankle in case God would kill him if there was sin in his life.  The rope would have permitted other priests to pull the body out of the sacred sanctuary.  However, rabbinic writings, which describe the details of temple worship services, fail to mention this rope. Rabbis in Jerusalem today, who have reconstructed many second temple vessels, likewise do not recognize the rope story.[33]  Furthermore, if the story was true, then God failed miserably to place His judgment of death on Annas and Caiaphas because they were possibly the two most corrupt high priests in Jewish history.

[1]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:1; Tompson, “Sandedrin.” 3:1390-91.

[2]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.1.

[3]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4.1.

[4]. One Jewish scholar informed this writer that the Talmud says that Joseph of Aramathea was the younger brother of Heli, the grandfather of Jesus. It is this writer’s opinion that this is doubtful, but the subject could be an interesting research for another student.


[5]. See also 2 Cor. 11:24 and Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.21, 23; See also 14.01.04.Q2 “What was the difference between Jewish and Roman scourges?”



[6]. Greenberg, “Scourging.” 4:245-46; See also 14.01.04.Q2 “What was the difference between Jewish and Roman scourges?”


[7]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 463.

[8]. Bock, “Blasphemy and the Jewish Examination of Jesus.” 610-11; Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 373-74.


[9]. See also Philo, Moses 2.203-6.


[10]. For example, in the Mishnah, Yoma 6.2 is the statement, “Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever!” Obviously the term “glory” was substituted for the name “God.” Another substituted term is “Blessed One,” is found in 1 Enoch 77:2 and in the Mishnah, Berakoth 7.3.


[11]. Link and Tuente. “Swear, Oath.” 3:737-43.


[12]. Grudem, Systematic Theology. 558.  A hypostatic term is one that is associated with the hypostatic union.  The “union” refers to Christ as being totally diVine, while also being totally human.

[13]. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 374.


[14]. Flusser, “At the Right Hand of the Power.” 42-43, 45.

[15]. The messianic title “Son of David” appears in the following three groups of passages in the gospels where it is always reflective of the Davidic Covenant: 1) In various healings by Jesus – Mt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mk. 10:47-48; Lk. 18:38-39. 2) In connection of the harassment the religious leaders gave Jesus – Mt. 22:42-43, 45; Mk. 12:35, 37; Lk. 20:41, 44, and 3) The praise the crowds gave Jesus at His entry into Jerusalem – Mt. 21:9, 15; Mk. 11:10. See Rogers, “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra. Part 1 of 2. 158-78.


[16]. Richardson, “David.” 59-60.


[17]. Psalm of Solomon 17; ben Sirach 47:11; 1 Macc. 2:57.


[18]. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 374 n81.


[19]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:5.

[20]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 406-08.

[21]. Barclay, A New Testament Wordbook. 51.

[22]. See 09.01.03.Q1.


[23]. Reich, “Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes.” 38-44.

[24]. Josephus, Antiquities 18.2.2 and 18.4.3.


[25]. Reich, “Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes.” 41.

[26]. Josephus, Antiquities 18.2.2; Shanks, In the Temple of Solomon and the Tomb of Caiaphas. 36; Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 2, 240-44; Greenhut, “Burial Cave.” 31-33.

[27]. Josephus,  Antiquities 18.4.3.

[28]. Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. 205-10.


[29]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 238-45.

[30]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:40.


[31]. Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 244; Greenhut, “Burial Cave.” 35-36.

[32]. Gathercole. “The Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said What?” 56.


[33]. The Temple Institute, a Jewish organization in Jerusalem, has reproduced most of the vessels of the Second Temple Period.  Many of these can be seen at the Temple Treasures Institute (across from the Western Wall), 24 Misgav Ladakh Street, Jerusalem. According to information given to this writer personally in November, 1999, these items were made with extreme care for the sole purpose that when the messiah comes, they will be available for His use in the new Temple (cf. Ezek. 40-48).


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.03.08 JESUS IS ABUSED

15.03.08 Lk. 22:63-65 (See also Mt. 26:67-68; Mk. 14:65)




63 The men who were holding Jesus started mocking and beating Him. 64 After blindfolding Him, they kept asking, “Prophesy! Who hit You?65 And they were saying many other blasphemous things against Him.


The mistreatment of Jesus, mocking Him as a pseudo-king, may seem like an indignity or insult in today’s Western culture. But in the first century where honor and respect were high virtues, to hit, spit upon, and slap someone with an open palm were high indignities punishable by heavy fines.[1] In the past Jesus often embarrassed the leading religious leaders when they tried to trap Him, and He told them the truth about their lives. Now it was pay-back time. A similar game was played by the Greeks, according to an account found in the Onomasticon, authored by Pollux.[2] These humiliations were similar to the modern children’s game called Blindman’s Buff.


The Sanhedrin blindfolded Jesus and mocked Him and His prophetic ministry.  He often demonstrated His divine insight into the lives of other people, knowing the inner secrets of men and women. How strange that they would say, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” since this mockery itself was a fulfillment of prophesy.  They were so engulfed with hatred that they did not recognize themselves fulfilling the same prophecies they taught to their own students.  Furthermore, it was illegal to hit an accused person and the violator was subject to a two hundred denarii fine; to spit on the accused was worthy of a four hundred denarii fine.


These mockers were the men who sat in the judgment seat. They understood it was a sin for a Jew to physically harm another Jew, but now they had stirred up so much uncontrolled hatred among themselves that any sense of justice was totally removed.  It should be noted, however, that some men, such as Nicodemus, were not a part of this violation of dignity against Jesus.


“Prophesy! Who hit You?” The striking of Jesus was, no doubt, for two reasons:

  1. To slap anyone in this honor-focused culture was huge insult. To strike a king was always worthy of capital punishment.
  2. However, there was a children’s game that was centuries old. In Greece, the second (A.D.) century writer Pollux described the game called Kollabismos. In his work, titled Onomasticon, he describes how one child covered his eyes with the palms of his hands while another hit him and asked him to identify which hand was used to strike the blow.[3]

A pictorial of a similar game was uncovered in a 4,000 year old tomb in southern Egypt.  Beni Hassan was a high ranking government official (c. 1892 B.C.) whose tomb has many wall pictures.[4] One of those images portrays a player on his knees while two others, unseen by him, hit or pretend to hit his back with their fists.[5] Whether this was a child’s game is unknown.

Therefore, the cultural message of slapping or striking of Jesus was not only an insult, but also a humiliating action reflecting child’s play.


15.03.08.Q1  What were the reasons the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy?

There were a number of reasons, some more serious than others. But when combined, these provided a strong argument for their rejection of Him.  The reasons are:


  1. Jesus forgave sin, and as such, He claimed to be God because only God can forgive sin.


  1. He spoke with His own authority. Rabbis often spoke on the authority of one or more other rabbis, but Jesus spoke as if He was the final authority.


  1. Jesus said that His miracles were signs of Divine power. While the Jewish leaders believed that the messianic miracles that Jesus performed were certain identifiers of the messiah, they rejected them and Him.


  1. Jesus referred to God as Abba, or Abba Father,[6] just as He probably used the endearment term imma for mamma.[7] They could not accept any person refer to God in such an affectionate manner.


  1. Whereas previous prophets warned the people of God’s judgment, Jesus said they would be judged on how they responded to His words. This in effect, was a statement that He was God.


  1. At times Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God. Since a son was seen equal to his father, the words of Jesus were understood that He was equal to God.


  1. Jesus supposedly said that He would destroy the temple (He didn’t say this, but His accusers claimed that He did). Twice before Jesus had cleansed the temple and the merchants quickly went back to business as usual. They could hardly tolerate the cleansings, but the words of destruction were too much for them.


There can be no question that those who rejected Him did so for very profound reasons – reasons that believers understood, especially after the resurrection, and reasons they died for.


15.03.08.Q2  Where was Annas during the trial?

 Annas, the godfather of religious crime and corruption, was not always present during the trials of Jesus. Why? Scholars believe that he was probably performing the Passover duties in the temple that normally would have been performed by Caiaphas. But due to the urgent nature of the moment, Caiaphas had to run the Sanhedrin and get rid of Jesus before the people discovered what happened and before the Passover officially began. Otherwise, a riot was destined to occur.

[1]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 24, page 8.


[2]. Pollux, Onomasticon 9.113; The Onomasticon is a list of Greek names of places and people, with explanations noted that was authored by Julius Pollux about the year A.D. 180.

[3]. Pollux, Onomasticon 9:129.


[4]. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/09/09/the-beni-hasan-asiatics-and-the-biblical-patriarchs.aspx.   Retrieved September 6, 2014.


[5]. Cited by Flusser. “Who is it that Struck You?” 31-32.

[6].  While the term abba has often been defined as a child’s expression of daddy, language scholar James Barr has suggested that abba was a solemn adult address to father. See Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 2;  Mould, Essentials of Bible History.


527; Vine, “Abba.”Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:1.


[7]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 110.   



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 21, 2015  -  Comments Off on 15.03.09 PETER DENIES JESUS AGAIN

15.03.09 Mt. 26:73-74a; Jn. 18:26-27a



Mt. 73 After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, “You certainly are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.” 74a Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!”


Jn. 26 One of the high priest’s slaves, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden?”

27a Peter then denied it again.





While Jesus was on trial, Peter was denying Him.  The first denial appears to have occurred at midnight and the denial was given in a casual and simple manner. The second denial was probably at 3:00 a.m. at which time Peter swore under oath that he did not know Jesus.  Obviously, his emotional pressure was intensifying. Sometime thereafter someone recognized him by his accent at which time he cursed Jesus. This detail is preserved in the Greek language, but is often lost in translation.[1]


“Your accent gives you away.”   There was a strong difference in dialect between Jerusalem and Galilee.  In fact, the Aramaic language spoken in Galilee, a/k/a Galilean Aramaic, was a branch of Middle Western Aramaic and clearly different from the Aramaic of Jerusalem.[2] Scholars believe this was due, in part, to the many Jews who returned from Babylon and settled in the province of Galilee in the second century B.C. When Ezra and Nehemiah returned from Babylon, there is no mention (in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) of anyone settling in Galilee or Perea, only in the tribal areas of Judah and Benjamin as well as in Jerusalem.  By the first century, the difference of voice inflections was so significant that some priests from Galilee were not permitted to speak words of blessing in the temple because their pronunciation of the gutturals was misleading.[3]  The following comment refers to priests from three northern towns.  In this quotation, the purpose of a priest lifting his hands was for pronouncing a blessing.  This ark was not the lost Ark of the Covenant, but a piece of furniture called an “ark” in which the Torah scroll was kept.


A priest from Haifa or Beth Shean should not lift up his hands.  It has been taught to the same effect; ‘We do not allow to pass before the ark either men from Beth Shean or from Haifa or from Tib’onim because they pronounce alif as ‘ayin and ‘ayin as alif…. If you were a Levite, you would not be qualified to chant, because your voice is thick.

 Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 24b


The gospel narrative gives a great deal of difficulty to critics who claim that this gospel is a fabrication, because Peter is shown to be a coward and liar.  The once brave man, who was willing to die for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, now denied Him repeatedly.  He could not be placed in a more degrading light than he is portrayed by Matthew and John.  No creative fabricator would have placed the hero in this position.  When examining the Pseudepigrapha books, the heroes are always individuals who were victimized by others but never guilty of their sins (i.e. Testament of the Patriarchs).  In the gospels, Peter is one of the central figures in the life of Christ and has a reputation of making embarrassing comments, hasty decisions and, in this case, the ultimate sin of denying knowledge of Jesus. The gospel writers were determined to record the truthfulness of the events, no matter how shameful one individual or another would appear.  Peter, no doubt, was very much alive when this was written, yet after the resurrection, his life was profoundly changed (see Acts).  This account, which reveals some of the failures of the disciples, is another Testament to the accuracy of the gospel writers.

[1]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 24, page 9.


[2]. Cohen, “Galilean Aramaic: Its Linguistic and Historical Significance.” 53.

[3]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 1:168-69, 171.


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