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The Trial of Christ, by David K. Breed, [1948], at

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We have listed in a previous chapter some seventeen reversible errors in the trial of Christ. Chandler, in his lengthy discussion, lists many more. Rollins lists eighteen. But the number is not important because one error is enough to justify reversal of a case under modern law, 62 and there have been instances where many allegations of error were brushed aside by an appellate court, as in the Lindbergh kidnapping case, where Mr. Hauptmann unsuccessfully charged the Court with 57 errors. 63 Men like Rabbi Drucker, in examining the Trial of Christ, claim it never could have taken place because the members of the Sanhedrin were too learned to err as widely as they did, and too religious to hold such proceedings before the morning hour of

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worship in the Temple. But ample proof of what was done exists in the sacred writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the historical writings, 64 and the admissions of later Jewish scholars like Rabbi Klausner, to whom we have referred.

As to the particular errors in the trial, we know that the Romans had shorn the Sanhedrin of much of its old power as the highest court of Judaism; yet we also know that it was tolerated by the Romans as a sort of provisional or local government in Jerusalem at the time, much as our Government gives a partial freedom to our American Indians in tribal matters, or as the British heretofore permitted sovereignty of some Princes and Maharajahs in interior India. We do know that the Sanhedrin still had some power, subject to Appeal to the Romans; 65 and that in modern times there has always been a like appeal from India and The Dominions to

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the Privy Council in England, 66 and is now a right of appeal to The Supreme Court of the United States from colonial courts in Hawaii or Porto Rico. 67

Thus established, the Sanhedrin did have jurisdiction to give punishment for Blasphemy, provided it met in a certain place, during the morning hour after the morning worship service in the Temple had ended, and conducted its sessions according to all the required procedure which included rules that it should not meet on feast days or the Sabbath, nor without having court reporters present, and then should reach a verdict of guilty only on a divided vote after two days’ deliberation. We have given these requirements and referred to the authorities in our chapter on the Assignments of Error.

Similar restrictions on the power of the Courts are in effect today. Title 28 of the Judicial Code of the United States covers a few hundred printed pages that are filled with the jurisdictional details of our courts

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[paragraph continues] —how that they shall meet in certain cities on certain days and that appeals from District Courts in the various states are heard by a particular Circuit Court of Appeals for that Circuit (or area), how the nation is divided into ten judicial circuits, how that appeals from Alaska, Hawaii, and the United States District Court for China go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes the seven most western states), while those from Porto Rico go to the First Circuit (Maine Area), Virgin Islands to the Third Circuit (Pennsylvania area), and Canal Zone cases to the Fifth Circuit which embraces several states that border on the Gulf of Mexico. All ten of the Circuit Courts of Appeals are reversible on certain points by our Supreme Court. 68

The first two errors we assign, as to process on a Holiday, or at night, are ideas that existed from time immemorial, 69 and still exist with modifications. No process issues in Missouri on Sundays or Holidays, for example, except where necessary to keep

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a defrauder or nonresident from absconding. 70 Modern Courts can, however, validly be in session at night, although the practice is not to begin a hearing later than midafternoon, except for the convenience of some out-of-town witness who must needs go home on a night train.

The third alleged error revolves around the action of Caiaphas in trying to get Jesus to testify against himself. We all know that in modern jurisprudence, no human right is quite so closely guarded as that, in a trial before a jury no man shall be compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case. 71 On the other hand, prior to the actual trial, police of our time interrogate suspects for hours in an effort to obtain a "confession", and unless unfairness or duress is shown these confessions are competent evidence. 72 Furthermore, some scholars argue that Caiaphas’ action was necessary because any witness who testified to Christ's claims of Messiahship would himself commit blasphemy.

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[paragraph continues] Perhaps this point may be well taken. However we feel that Jews could have been found to testify to the fact of blasphemy without repeating the exact words of our Saviour. We know that in actual courtroom practice today, witnesses frequently use the expression "obscene and vulgar language" and Judges seldom press them for exact phraseology. Our feeling is that Caiaphas went too far and that a modern Court would reverse the judgment on this point.

The fourth error we assign is that Caiaphas had no jurisdiction because his palace was not the meeting place of the Sanhedrin. English Courts at one period of their history were rather strict about the Courts at Westminster Hall. American State Courts have been more liberal, perhaps due to the fact that in pioneer days circuit judges actually rode the circuit and held court on horseback or under a tree or wherever justice demanded, although our Federal Courts have usually been better housed, more dignified, and therefore more strict in matters of place —or "venue" as we call it. In the last decade or more, however, the increase of copyright

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causes in our Federal Courts has caused our Judges, on occasion, to adjourn from the Courthouse to the Cinema’ to determine whether or not two motion pictures were so similar as that the latter infringed the copyright of the older; and our feeling is that this point is not so important, although Edersheim points out that it would have been a valid objection at the time. 73

Caiaphas is alleged to have erred a fifth time, by sitting as Judge in the case after having expressed a desire for Jesus’ death. 74 No doubt there should have been several judges in the Sanhedrin trial and if any were prejudiced against Jesus, he should not sit in judgment in the case. 75 Surely this would have been gross error before any American court today. In fact, Judges often disqualify themselves if there is any question of self-interest involved. During the third week of May, 1947, a Judge in an Illinois murder case refused to proceed and called in a substitute Judge because two sons of the regular judge were attorneys opposing each other in the

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case. Those who argue that Caiaphas did err in this regard base their argument on John 11:50 where Caiaphas is quoted as desiring Jesus’ death, while others say there is little or no evidence as to whom Judas conspired with. We feel that error was committed.

Jesus was left unguarded on Caiaphas’ Palace Porch and was abused by the mob. 76 This was cruel and unjustified. Those who abused Him should have been punished—but as grounds of reversible error the argument is a weak one.

No modern law references can be given on several of the points, for the reason that the Courts in America have never had occasion to pass upon the powers of the Sanhedrin. As to the power of that body in Capital Cases 77 and when not regularly in session 78 enough has already been said. 79

Jesus had no counsel! Here is implied what is probably the most serious defect in the whole procedures, both Jewish and Roman.

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[paragraph continues] Here is a question on which there can be little doubt. All the writers agree that Jesus had no counsel, and there is no Scripture that says he did. The problem raised is as to whether there were lawyers before the Sanhedrin in those days. The writings of St. Paul abound in legal references, and there is some evidence that he was a lawyer. 80 Chandler denies that there were counsel for Christ before the Sanhedrin, or counsel at all, ever, but says part of the Judges should have defended Him and that an unanimous verdict was error because there always had to be a doubt of guilt and if a verdict was unanimous a prisoner had to be freed. 81 Defendants today have a constitutional right to counsel and we feel that failure to provide counsel for Jesus was error both before the Sanhedrin and, as we shall see later, before Pilate. 82

To summarize here: The Jewish trial was illegal from start to finish under the then

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existing Hebrew Law; the arrest was illegal; 83 the private examination before Caiaphas was illegal; 84 the informal indictment was illegal because the Sanhedrin was a trial court 85 with no power to originate charges; 86 the Sanhedrin had no power to hold a trial at night, 87 or before the morning sacrifice 88 or on a holiday or Sabbath; 89 or to conclude a trial by a verdict of "guilty" on the day the trial commenced; 90 or to convict upon an unsupported confession without corroborative evidence; 91 or by an unanimous verdict; 92 and sentence was passed in the wrong room, upon irregular balloting and the High Priest unlawfully rent his clothing; 93 sentence

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was passed by a prejudiced court 94 without a diligent inquiry into the merits of the case. 95

We submit that this last point is the crux of the case: that if the Sanhedrin had really heard and honestly weighed the evidence they would have concluded that Christ is the Messiah—is Our Redeemer! 96


51:62 Rose vs. Knobelock, (Kansas City Ct. App., Mo., 1946) 194 S. W. 2d, 943.

51:63 Hauptmann vs. State, 115 N. J. L. 412, 180 Atl. 809, Cert. den. 296 U. S. 649, Hab. Cor. Den., 297 U. S. 693.

52:64 Tacitus, Ann., xv:44; Whiston (Ed), Works of Josephus, p. 497; Smith, The Life and Letters of St. Paul; Chandler op. cit.; Edersheim, op. cit.; etc.

52:65 Smith, op. cit., p. 30; Wilfley, St. Paul the Herald of Christianity, p. 22; Encyc. of Religion & Ethics, vol. ix, p. 185; Goldberg & Benderly, Student's Outline of Jewish Knowledge, v. 3, pp. 516 ff.

53:66 Blackstone's Commentaries, *231.

53:67 Judicial Code, Sec. 128 as Amended; in, Federal Code Annotated, vol. 7, Sec. 225 of title 28, p. 715; U. S. C. A., tit. 28, § 128.

54:68 Fed. Code Ann. Tit. 28, Sec. 225 ff., particularly 225 (d) ff.

54:69 See footnotes 7 and 8, supra.

55:70 Missouri Code of Civil Procedure, Sec. 8; Revised Statutes of Missouri (1939) Sec. 907.

55:71 U. S. Constitution, Amend. V; Numbers 35:30; Wigmore, Laws of Evidence, Sec. 2039.

55:72 State vs. Faber, (Mo., 1945) 182 S. W. 2d, 552.

57:73 Edersheim, op. cit., II, 556.

57:74 Rollins, op. cit., p. 21 & ff.

57:75 See footnote 18.

58:76 Mark 14:65; Edersheim, op. cit., II, 563.

58:77 See footnote 20, Supra.

58:78 See footnote 21, Supra.

58:79 See discussion, Supra, of our pioneer circuit courts and our system generally.

59:80 See Appendix A, Infra, as to Lawyers, particularly St. Paul.

59:81 See discussion, Infra.

59:82 Edersheim, op. cit. II, 555; Missouri Constitution of 1945, Art. I, Sec. 18; Constitution of U. S., Amendment VI.

60:83 Chandler, op. cit., I, 219-238.

60:84 Ibid, 238-247.

60:85 Compare, modern distinction between a Grand Jury and a Petit Jury—beyond the scope of our study; See, Corpus Juris, or Bouvier's Law Dictionary on "Grand Jury" or "Petit Jury".

60:86 Chandler, Ibid, I, 248-254.

60:87 Ibid, 255-259.

60:88 Ibid, 260-262.

60:89 Ibid, 263-266; Mishna, San., I, 1.

60:90 Chandler, op. cit., I, 267-270.

60:91 Ibid, 271-278.

60:92 Ibid, 279-286; But American Law usually requires an unanimous verdict in criminal cases; consult local Statutes.

60:93 Chandler, op. cit., I, 286-294; Leviticus 21:10; Leviticus 10:6.

61:94 Chandler, op. cit., I, 295-308; see, for proof of prejudice, John 7:37-53; John 11:41-53; Luke 22:1-3; Matt. 26:3-5; on false witnesses, Deut. 19:18-21; on "Due Process", Num. 35:30.

61:95 See Deut. 13:14.

61:96 See our last chapter, Infra.

Next: Chapter VIII. Errors in the Roman Trials