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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Was the Sanhedrin?

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Don Stewart

The word "Sanhedrin" is a combination of two Greek words meaning, "seated together." They were a ruling body of seventy-one members with the High Priest as the chief officer.

Were They Patterned After Moses?

The number was probably patterned after the seventy elders of Israel that the Lord established under Moses.

The Lord therefore said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you" (Numbers 11:16).

The Council Of The Elders

They are called the "council of the elders" in the gospels.

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them (Luke 22:66).

They Were Under Roman Authority

Since Israel was subject to the Romans in Jesus' day the Sanhedrin ruled under the Romans in civil and religious matters. They were not allowed to put anyone to death. Therefore they sent Jesus to Pontius Pilate to have Him put to death.

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him, and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor (Matthew 27:1,2).

They Had No Right To Execute Jesus

They acknowledged to Pilate that they had no right to execute.

So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled John (John 18:29-32).

The Sanhedrin Was Abolished After Jerusalem Was Destroyed

The Sanhedrin was abolished after the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70. The control over the city of Jerusalem was no longer theirs.


The Sanhedrin was a Jewish council of seventy-one members. They were patterned after the seventy elders that God established through Moses. In the gospels they are called, "the council of the elders." In Judea, they were under Roman authority and could not carry out capital punishment. This is why we find them sending Jesus to Pilate after they had condemned Him to death. They acknowledged to Pilate that they did not have the authority to execute anyone. When Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 the Sanhedrin ceased to exist.

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