The New Sanhedrin: The Catalyst for Global Unity?
The foundation for the Sanhedrin can be found in the Council of the seventy elders established by Moses, “So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.”
At this point it is important to note that the term Sanhedrin is not actually a Hebrew word. The name comes from the Greek: συνέδριον (synedrion) meaning: “sitting together.” Counting Moses, it consisted of 71 members. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “It was the final authority on Jewish law and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death as a rebellious elder. The Sanhedrin was led by a president called the nasi (lit. “prince”) and a vice president called the av bet din (lit. “father of the court”). The other 69 sages sat in a semi-circle facing the leaders. It is unclear whether the leaders included the high priest.”
The authority of the Sanhedrin continued through the times of the Kings as we read, “Moreover in Jerusalem, for the judgment of the LORD and for controversies, Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the chief fathers of Israel, when they returned to Jerusalem.”
There are 22 New Testament references to the “councils” (K.J.V.) that were active during the time of the ministry of Jesus. In fact, Jesus was most likely tried by this body of judges (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:55; and Luke 22:66,67). The apostles were brought before them (Acts 5), and the first martyr, Stephen, was arrested and tried by them (Acts 6:8-15). In about AD 30, the Great Sanhedrin lost its authority to inflict capital punishment and thus faded on the political stage in Israel.