The first major concern for the student of the Word concerning the events of this part of Jesus’ life is the Jewish trial. In order to understand Jesus’ trial, there is a need for knowledge concerning Hebrew law and legal practice.
This is not an easy subject to discuss. There is a double base for Hebrew law. The Mosaic Law a.k.a. the Pentateuch along with the Talmud or oral law is built upon it. The Talmudic law is a great volume, and it is complex. It has two parts: Mishnah, which is the basic law. The Gemara is what we would call a commentary on it. The relationship between the two might be compared to the debate over a proposed law in the United States Congress. It is preserved in the Congressional Record along with the resulting law. When examining the Talmud, the law comes first and the Gemara follows. The next complication is that there are actually two Talmuds. There is the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud was written first in the fourth century. The Babylonian Talmud was written in the fifth century. It is four times longer. There is an English translation along with a contemporary format. The Babylonian Talmud might occupy as many as four hundred volumes. Another complication is that there is a puzzling question as to which laws eventually express the Mishnah, which are followed in judicial proceedings at the time of Jesus.
Fortunately, in dealing with the trial of Jesus, the matter is not that difficult when viewed in light of these complications. For one thing, we only need deal with Hebrew law in the matter of a crime punishable by death. This means a capital offense. For another, many scholars have already sifted through this resource. They have taken the time to summarize the relevant principles for the student. I will discuss these principles in my next lesson entitled “Principles of Hebrew Law.”