On October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reinstated after an absence of almost 1600 years. The ceremony reestablishing the tribunal took place at the city of Tiberias, a city on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea where the Sanhedrin's last meeting took place in 425 A.D.
The original Sanhedrin was established when God ordered Moses to choose seventy men from among the elders of Israel to judge the nation (Numbers 11:16-17). [The word 'Sanhedrin' is from the Greek word sunedrion, meaning "to sit together.] From that time, the council would serve as both a legislative (law making) and judicial (law interpreting, i.e., courts) body for all matters pertaining to Torah law. Members of the Sanhedrin were men distinguished by their knowledge of Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy, also known as the five books of the Law), their fear of God, their wisdom and humility, their love of truth, and an indifference to money and possessions.
The power of the Sanhedrin grew during the Babylonian captivity. By the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, the tribunal served effectively as the nation's supreme court. In 7 A.D., the Romans forbade the Sanhedrin to carry out the death penalty, thus fulfilling the prophecy found in the words of Jacob to his son, Judah, in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (a reference to the Messiah) comes." The Sanhedrin ruled that Jesus was worthy of death, but they had to take Him before the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, so that he could pronounce a death sentence.
During the Middle Ages, perhaps the greatest of all Torah scholars--Maimonides--wrote a summary of all the steps that would need to be taken to reestablish the Sanhedrin. It is those instructions that were followed in 2004. The Sanhedrin then determined a list of "cardinal issues" that needed to be addressed, including:
- Moral issues such as abortion and the rights of women abandoned by their husbands
- Renewing the annual Passover sacrifice
- Determining the exact length of the Biblical cubit
- The precise location of the original Temple
- Proposal for disengagement from Gaza and Samaria
- The status of the so-called "lost" tribes of Israel
- Restoring the Davidic monarchy
In Part 2, we'll take a look at the connection between the Sanhedrin and the rebuilt Temple