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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Did Jesus Receive a Fair Trial?

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Don Stewart

The trial of Jesus is the most famous in history. The question is whether Jesus received a fair trial. Among believers there are two responses. One view is that the religious leaders kept the letter of the law but not the spirit. The other perspective is that a number of illegal things occurred.

Was It Bad Law?

It has been argued that the trial of Jesus is the classic example of following the law in a bad way. The religious leaders, it is contended followed the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. While they may have done everything correct in a technical way they did not follow the clear intention of the law.

The Trial Was Illegal

Traditionally Christians have argued that the trial of Jesus consisted of one illegal act after another by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling authority. Some of the main problems with the trial of Jesus include the following.

1. There Was No Possibility Of A Fair Trial

To begin with, the Sanhedrin should have never held the trial. They had plotted to kill Jesus ahead of time. Consequently they were hardly in a position to render a fair verdict as to his guilt or innocence. This is especially true of the High Priest Caiaphas. He is the one who said that it was necessary for Jesus to die for the entire nation. The High Priest was the supreme judge in Israel. It was his responsibility to see that a person be given a fair trial. At the very least, he should have not participated in trial in any manner. Yet he was the driving force behind the arrest and trial of Jesus. Therefore there was no possibility that Jesus could have been given a fair trial.

2. A Capital Trial At Night Was Illegal

It was illegal to try capital cases at night. By doing so the Sanhedrin broke the law. When a person's life was at stake the trial could only be held during the day.

3. They Should Not Have Looked For Witnesses After The Trial Started

According to Jewish law, a trial starts when witnesses come forward to testify. The Sanhedrin should not have gone out to look for witnesses. The witnesses come first, then the trial.

4. They Should Not Have Looked For False Witnesses

Not only should the Sanhedrin have not looked for witnesses, they certainly should not have looked for false witnesses if Jesus were to be given a fair trial. The verdict, of course, was never in doubt.

5. The False Witnesses Should Have Been Punished

Since the Sanhedrin knew the testimony of the witnesses was false, these witnesses, according to Jewish law, should have been punished. The fact that they were not is another illegality.

6. The Judgment Should Have Been Delayed Till Next Day

In capital cases, judgment was to be delayed until the next day. The fact that they pronounced judgment immediately is another sign of the illegal nature of the trial.

7. There Not Supposed To Be A Trial On Day Before The Sabbath Or Before Holy Days

Since the judgment in a capital case could not be rendered until the next day, it was illegal to try someone on the day before the Sabbath or before some holy day. During the Sabbath day or holy day there could be no legal meeting of the Sanhedrin. Consequently the timing of the trial was also illegal.

8. They Never Considered Jesus' Testimony

There is also the problem of Jesus' testimony. When Jesus was put under oath he acknowledged that he was the Messiah - the promised Deliverer. This admission of Jesus was what caused the Sanhedrin to cry out that he was guilty of death. However, they never stopped to consider the possibility that Jesus was telling the truth. There was not the slightest interest in attempting to find out whether Jesus may indeed be the promised Messiah. There was no evidence that was allowed to be given on Jesus' behalf and they weighed no evidence before making their judgment.


When all the facts are weighed it becomes clear that those who tried Jesus on that night were not interested in giving him a fair trial. The verdict had been determined ahead of time. They only went through the motions of the appearance of a fair trial. Jesus was illegally and wrongfully tried.


There is a question as to whether or not Jesus received a fair trial. Some have argued that the trial of Jesus was legal but not ethical. It was the textbook example of using the law in a bad way. The traditional view among Christians, however, is that the trial of Jesus was illegal in a number of ways. First, there was no possibility of him receiving a fair trial because the verdict had already been determined in advance. It was also illegal to try someone at night for a capital crime. According to Jewish law witnesses were needed to start the trial. The trial did not begin and then a search got underway for witnesses. The witnesses used at Jesus' trial were false. Not only should their testimony have been rejected they themselves should have been punished. Because judgment in capital cases had to be delayed until the next day no trial should have been held before the Sabbath day. Finally, and most important, Jesus admission to being the Messiah was never seriously considered. As soon as he admitted his identity they charged him with blasphemy and declared him guilty. There was not the least bit of effort to determine if his claims may have been true.

Therefore when all the facts are considered we conclude that Jesus' trial was the greatest injustice in all of history.

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