What was the origin of the Sanhedrin?

The word “Sanhedrin” is from a Greek word that means “assembly” or “council”. It was first initiated when God told Moses in the wilderness to assemble seventy elders of Israel to help him judge the conflicts brought before him .

 “the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.” (Numbers 1:16)

During New Testament times the Sanhedrin served as a Supreme Court within Judea. They assembled in Jerusalem and were made up of 70 men, plus the high priest. The Gospels state that Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus’ death, and Gamaliel was mentioned as a member in Acts 5:34 only 2-3 months months later. So Gamaliel may have been on the Sanhedrin when Christ was crucified, unless Gamaliel replaced Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathaea after the crucifixion.

Luke 3:2 indicates there was a joint high priesthood “of Annas and Caiaphas” with Caiaphas being the puppet high priest of his father-in-law Annas who had been deposed as high priest in 15AD, but who was now acting as the president of the Sanhedrin. Annas also had 5 sons who also became high priests.

The parable in Luke 16:28-39 suggests that the beggar Lazarus may actually be the Lazarus who was raised from the dead, and the “rich man” and his five brethren, refers to the high priest, Annas, and his five sons.

The majority of people in the Sanhedrin, including Annas and Caiaphas, were Sadducees. The history of the Sadducees and their tension with the Pharisees, is fascinating and gives insight into the motivation behind the high priest and his bloodthirsty passion to have Christ killed. That will be the topic of the next post.

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