Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

Tractate Sanhedrin, Herbert Danby tr. [1919], at

15. The Beguiler to Idolatry.

M.VII. 10a. "He who acts the part of a beguiler " 2 refers to one commoner who beguiles another commoner. If he have said, "There is a god in such a place who eats this, drinks that, benefits in this way, does harm in that way," then only in such cases among the capital charges laid down in the Law, is it proper to lie in wait for the criminal. If he have said this to two people they act as his witnesses, bring him to the court and stone him. If he have said it only to one, this one may reply, "I have some friends who would consent in this"; but if the idolater is crafty, and will not speak of it before them, witnesses may be concealed behind a wall. Thereupon the first witness

p. 104

M.says, "Tell me between ourselves what you said to me before." He does so. Then the former replies: "How can we leave our God who is in Heaven and go and worship wood and stone?" If he retract what he said, good; but if he say, "It is our duty and good for us," they who are behind the wall bring him to the court and stone him.

He is guilty as a beguiler who says, "I will worship (other gods)," "I will go and worship," "Let us go and worship"; "I will sacrifice," "I will go and sacrifice," "Let us go and sacrifice"; "I will offer incense," "I will go and offer incense," "Let us go and offer incense;" "I will make libation," "I will go and make libation," "Let us go and make libation"; "I will bow myself down," "I will go and bow myself down," "Let us go and bow ourselves down."

T. X. 11. In the case of any one who is liable to death penalties enjoined in the Law, it is not proper to lie in wait for him except he be a beguiler. How do they lie in wait? Two disciples are stationed in an inner room, while the culprit is in an outer room. A candle is lit and so placed that they can see him as well as hear his voice And so they did to Ben Stada in Lud. 1 These same two disciples are

p. 105


appointed as witnesses against him, and stone him. His case may be begun by day and finished by night; they may begin and end it on the same day, whether he be guilty or not; they may arrive at a verdict by a majority of one whether it be for conviction or acquittal; all may plead for acquittal or all for conviction; one who pleads for acquittal may retract and plead for conviction. 1 The eunuch and the childless can act as judges, and, according to R. Jehuda, even those who are biased in the direction of severity.

XI. 1. As for others liable to death penalties in the court, they can only be condemned at the mouth of witnesses, and even so, only if they have been warned and told that they are liable to the penalty of death in the court. R. Jose, the son of Jehuda, says: "They must also be told what manner of death they will incur." No matter whether all or only some of the witnesses warn him, he is guilty; but R. Jose would acquit unless all his witnesses warn him, for it is written: AT THE MOUTH OF TWO WITNESSES, 2 that is, until two witnesses warn together; though R. Jose allows that if the first witness warned him and then went away, and the second warned him and then went away, the man would be liable to the penalty.

2. If he be warned and answer nothing, or if he be warned and nod his head, or even say, "I know," he cannot be made liable to the death penalty; he is not liable until he say, "I know; but even so I am committing the offence." 3. If, for example, he be seen defiling the Sabbath, and be told, "You must know that it is the Sabbath, and it is written, THOSE WHO DEFILE IT SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH," 3 even if he say, "I know," he is free from penalty; he is free until he

p. 106


say, "I know; but even so I am committing the offence."

4. Or again, if he be seen slaying a man, and be told, "Know that he is a son of the covenant, and it is written, WHOSO SHEDDETH MAN'S BLOOD, BY MAN SHALL HIS BLOOD BE SHED," 1 even if he say, "I know," he is free from penalty; he is free until he say, "I know; but even so I am committing the offence."

5a. R. Jose said, "If he warn himself, he is free from penalty, for it is written: IF AN UNRIGHTEOUS MAN RISE UP TO TESTIFY AGAINST HIM OF WRONG-DOING, 2 etc.; therefore he should be warned by others, and not by himself."


103:2 Deut. 13. 6-1 "Commoner" is mentioned to exclude the "false prophet" who (Mishnah XI. 5) is punishable by strangulation.

104:1 Sanh. 67a continues: "Whom they hanged on the eve of the Passover." Ben Stada was the son of Pandera. (Then why is he called the son of Stada?) R. Hisda said: "The husband of his mother was called Stada, and her seducer Pandera." But the husband was known to be Pappus ben Jehuda, and the mother's (real) name Miriam M’gadd’la (the women's hairdresser). And Stada was the name applied to her in that s’tath da, "she went astray" from her husband." On the identifications arising from this, see R. T. Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (London, 1903), and G. H. Box, The Virgin Birth of Jesus (London, 1916), Appendix I.

105:1 Customary rules for capital trials in his case are in abeyance. See Mishnah IV. i; cf. Tosefta VII. 2b. III. 3.

105:2 Deut. 17. 6.

105:3 Exod. 31. 14.

106:1 Gen. 9. 6.

106:2 Deut. 19. 16. His testimony is invalid.

Next: 16. He who leads a Town astray