An accomplice was used in the arrest
It was Judas, one of the disciples, who led the religious authorities to Christ for his arrest:
"And immediately, while He was still speaking (in the Garden of Gethsemane), Judas, ONE OF THE TWELVE, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, 'Whomever I kiss, He is the One; SEIZE HIM and lead Him away safely.' As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, 'Rabbi, Rabbi!' and kissed Him." (Mark 14:43-45)
If Jesus was believed to be a criminal, then the twelve disciples (including Judas) could easily have been considered accomplices in his illegal activities. The use of an accomplice to effect the arrest or conviction of a person was forbidden by Jewish / Hebrew law:
"The ancient Hebrews forbade the use of accomplice testimony . . . The arrest of Jesus was ordered upon the supposition that He was a criminal: this same supposition would have made Judas, who had aided, encouraged, and abetted Jesus in the propagation of His faith, an accomplice. If Judas was not an accomplice, Jesus was innocent, and His arrest an outrage, and therefore illegal." (W. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus, Vol. 1, pgs. 228-229)
The merits of the defense were not investigated
No investigation by the court was initiated to determine the merits of any accusations:
"If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. AND THE JUDGES SHALL MAKE CAREFUL INQUIRY . . . " (Deuteronomy 19:16-18)
Hebrew law provided no lawyers to defend or prosecute. The judges were the defenders and the witnesses the prosecutors. Therefore, the court was supposed to seek for evidence ONLY in behalf of the accused:
"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 also. Of an official accuser or prosecutor there is nowhere any trace in the laws of the ancient Hebrews." (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 110)
"The judges leaned always to the side of the defendant and gave him the advantage of every possible doubt." (W. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus, Vol. 1, pgs. 153-154)
The arrest was carried out at night to hide sin
The arrest of Jesus was set in motion by the chief priests bribing Judas to take them to him during the NIGHT:
"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him." (Matthew 26:14-16)
"'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.' . . . Jesus answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.' And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot . . . Having received the piece of bread, he (Judas) then went out immediately. AND IT WAS NIGHT." (John 13:21, 26, 30)
"Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was DAILY with you in the temple teaching, and YOU DID NOT SEIZE ME . . .' " (Mark 14:48-49)
Judas would not have been needed if the religious leaders were merely looking for ANY opportunity to make an arrest. For, as Jesus stated above, he OPENLY taught in Jerusalem's temple and therefore could have been taken at any time. What the council wanted, however, was to HIDE the evil they were doing! His arrest in the middle of the night was the beginning of the council's planned SUBVERSION of the entire legal process so that they could "legally" murder him! Perverting justice is condemned in scripture:
"You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to PERVERT JUSTICE." (Exodus 23:2)
"You shall do NO INJUSTICE in judgment . . . You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:15-16)
"YOU SHALL NOT PERVERT JUSTICE . . . " (Deuteronomy 16:19)
The trial was held at night
Jewish law permitted only proceedings that took place during the daylight hours:
"Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night." (Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:1)."Criminal cases can be acted upon by the various courts during daytime only, by the Lesser Sanhedrions (Sanhedrins) from the close of the morning service till noon, and by the Great Sanhedrion (Sanhedrin) till evening." (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 112)
The trial was held before morning sacrifice at temple
The proceedings were illegal based on Jewish law because the court convened BEFORE the offering of the morning sacrifice:
"The Sanhedrin sat from the close of the morning sacrifice to the time of the evening sacrifice." (Talmud, Jer. San. 1:19)
The trial was held before one of God's annual feast days
The trial was illegal, based on Jewish law, because it began on a day before the high Holy Day known as the First Day of Unleavened Bread (John 18:28):
"They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath nor on that of any festival." (Mishna, San. 4:1)"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 continue them on the Sabbath or holiday" (Jesus the Christ: A study of the Messiah and His mission, J. Talmage, pgs. 646-647)
The trial was too short
Both trials were completed in the space of less than five hours. Jewish law says:
"A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began. But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it cannot be concluded before the following day." (Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:1).
There is little doubt that the starting time of the first trial (about 2 a.m.) and its shortness (around three hours) were sought after by the enemies of Jesus because:
It minimized the chances that council members who may or would have advocated him (they were not informed of the first trial) suddenly or accidentally showed up.
- It rendered nearly impossible the chances that any witnesses of the defense could be notified and arrive at the trial in time to offer their testimony.
Trial was not held before impartial Judges
The judges at the trial HATED the accussed that was brought before them:
"After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him." (John 7:1)
"Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, THAT THEY MIGHT FIND AN ACCUSATION AGAINST HIM.
"Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled (on the Sunday before the crucifxion) at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and PLOTTED TO TAKE JESUS BY TRICKERY and kill Him. " (Matthew 26:3-5)
Jewish law expressly forbids a person from judging a case if they are already negatively biased either against the accused or the accuser:
"Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or of the accuser." (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 108)
"Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among the judges." (Benny, Criminal Code of the Jews, p. 37)
Those who would have possibly voted AGAINST punishment or the death penalty were not at the trial. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich member of the Sanhedrin, was likely not invited to the first trial. If Joseph had been at the trial He would not have voted for the death penalty:
"Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had NOT consented to their (the council) decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. " (Luke 23:50-51).
It was Joseph of Arimathea, not one of the eleven disciples, who went to Pilate and asked for the dead body of Jesus. After seeing Pilate Joseph had Nicodemus help him prepare the body for burial. Nicodemus was, like Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin who believed in him (John 3:1-2). The resentment and bitterness toward Christ is all the more striking when one realizes the religious leaders who hated him KNEW he was from God!:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (member of the Sanhedrin). This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, WE KNOW THAT YOU ARE A TEACHER COME FROM GOD; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'" (John 3:1-2)
Known false witnesses allowed to testify
The ninth commandment states:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)
Yet KNOWN false witnesses were sought and used during the trial:
"Then some rose up and bore FALSE WITNESS against Him, saying . . . , " (Mark 14:57)
"Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought FALSE testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many FALSE WITNESSES came forward, they found none. " (Matthew 26:59-60)
Lying against someone, especially in court, is something God says He HATES:
"These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A FALSE WITNESS WHO SPEAKS LIES, and one who sows discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19)
The Biblical penalty for being a false witness was fair but severe:
"If a FALSE WITNESS rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days.
"And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, THEN YOU SHALL DO TO HIM AS HE THOUGHT TO HAVE DONE TO HIS BROTHER; so you shall put away the evil from among you . . . Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deuteronomy 19:16-19, 21)
This principle meant that those who LIED in court deserved the DEATH PENALTY for which they were giving testimony! Jewish law also did not allow false testimony during a trial and punished those found to be giving such during a trial:
"Hebrew law provided that false witnesses should suffer the penalty provided for the commission of the crime which they sought by their testimony to fix upon the accused." (W. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus, Vol. 1, pg. 140)
Jesus did not defend himself against the charges made by the false witnesses. The High Priest, frustrated that he will not say anything in his own defense, calls upon GOD to witness the answer given to a very self-incriminating question:
"And the high priest arose and said to Him, 'Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?' But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, 'I PUT YOU UNDER OATH BY THE LIVING GOD: TELL US IF YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD!'
"Jesus said to him, 'It is as you said . . . ' Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, 'He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? . . . ' " (Matthew 26:62-65)
According to Jewish law a person could NOT be condemned based on their own testimony (self-incrimination):
"We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation against himself." (Maimonides, Sanhedrin, 4:2) "Not only is self-condemnation never extorted from the defendant by means of torture, but no attempt is ever made to lead him on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a voluntary confession on his part is not admitted in evidence, and therefore not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of witnesses minutely corroborate his self-accusation." (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 133)
Additionally, the indictment used to justify the death penalty was ILLEGAL because the judges themselves originated the charges. Based on the Bible, a charge against someone was to be brought up by at least two or three witnesses of the alleged crime:
"One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of TWO or THREE witnesses the matter shall be established." (Deuteronomy 19:15)
The Sanhedrin, according to Jewish law, could NOT originate charges. Alfred Edersheim in his Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (book 3, chapter 2) states:
"The Sanhedrin did not, and could not, originate charges. It only investigated those brought before it."
The condemnation charge was false
The High Priest's charge of blasphemy (cursing God or assuming to oneself the rights and qualities of God), which was used to justify sentencing Jesus to death, was INCORRECT because he WAS telling the truth. He was the Son of God!:
"Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, 'ARE YOU THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE BLESSED?'
"Jesus said, 'I AM. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.' " (Mark 14:60-63)
The death penalty was unanimously agreed
ALL those during the first trial who gathered to hear and judge the case called for the death penalty:
"Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" AND THEY ALL CONDEMNED HIM TO BE DESERVING OF DEATH. " (Mark 14:63-64)
It was illegal in Jewish law to unanimously condemn a person to death if there was NO ONE who was a witness for the defense:
"If none of the judges defend the culprit, i. e., all pronounce him guilty, having no defender in the court, the verdict of guilty was invalid and the sentence of death could not be executed." (Jesus the Christ: A study of the Messiah and His mission, James Edward Talmage, pg. 647, quote from Rabbi Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus, p. 74.)
"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)
The sentence was announced in an unlawful place
The final sentence was pronounced in the High Priest's palace (house) (see Mark 14:53). It was illegal to sentence someone to die in any location other than the court's (Great Sanhedrin's) appointed place, which was a chamber in Jerusalem's temple known as the chamber of hewn stones. Commenting on the illegality of the sentencing, Alfred Edersheim in his Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (book 5, chapter 13) states:
". . . the trial and sentence of Jesus in the Palace of Caiaphas would have outraged every principle of Jewish criminal law and procedure. Such causes could only be tried, and capital sentence pronounced, in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, not, as here, in the High Priest's Palace."
Jewish law forbid the sentencing of death in any location:
"A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place." (Maimonides, Sanhedrin, 14)
"After leaving the hall Gazith (the chamber of hewn stones in Jerusalem's temple) no sentence of death can be passed upon anyone soever. " (Talmud, Bab., Abodah Zarah, or of Idolatry, chapter 1, fol. 8.)
Court changes charge after trial
The court illegally switched the charges from an alleged threat that Jerusalem's temple would be destroyed to blasphemy:
"But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, "This fellow said, 'I AM ABLE TO DESTROY THE TEMPLE OF GOD AND TO BUILD IT IN THREE DAYS.'" " (Matthew 26:59-61)
"Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! . . .' " (Mark 14:62-63)
After the trial the Sanhedrin AGAIN changed the charges, this time from blasphemy to treason:
"Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, 'We found this fellow PERVERTING THE NATION, and FORBIDDING TO PAY TAXES TO CAESAR, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.' Then Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" He answered him and said, "It is as you say." So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I FIND NO FAULT IN THIS MAN.' " (Luke 23:1-3)
"From then on (after Christ was scourged, mocked and beaten) Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, 'If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. WHOEVER MAKES HIMSELF A KING SPEAKS AGAINST CAESAR.' " (John 19:12)
Jesus' enemies conveniently switched the charges against him to treason, a Roman crime, so that they could improve their chances of having the Romans (and not them!) do the dirty job of murdering him! When the religious leaders, however, initially presented him to Pontius Pilate they offered NO evidence for their new charge. Although Pilate determined he was innocent and wanted to release him, his desire to gratify the crowd led him to release an innocent man to the soldiers for crucifixion:
"Pilate answered and said to them (the crowd) again, "What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?" So they cried out again, "Crucify Him!" . . . So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified." (Mark 15:12-13, 15)
Pilate has the charge against Jesus written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and put on his cross. While the exact words Pilate wrote are unclear from the gospels, it was likely a version of "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." This charge has nothing to do with his threatening to destroy the temple or blasphemy. It shows that his enemies were willing to do whatever it took, including changing the charges against him a few times, in order to have him DEAD. (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-22).
Jesus' arrest and conviction was a conspiracy by his enemies to subvert and pervert the entire legal process so that he could be put to death. What happened to him is the greatest travesty of justice the world will ever see.
"The pages of human history present no stronger case of judicial murder than the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, for the simple reason that all forms of law were outraged and trampled under foot in the proceedings instituted against Him." (Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus from a Lawyer's Standpoint, p. 216.)