"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21
III. Trial and Error 

The story most central to the Christian Bible is the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As noted above, the prophets anticipated only a general resurrection of the righteous, not one limited to the messiah, so I won’t address that further here. But the N.T.’s account of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus greatly conflicts with what the Torah and Talmud tell us about the Jewish system of legal juris prudence at the time of the Second Temple.

A. Background: the Jewish legal system during the Second Temple

As a starter, you should have some background into some relevant fundamentals of the Jewish legal system in effect during the Second Temple.

1. First: No trials of any kind were held on any day but Mondays and Thursdays, which were market days and ensured the highest chance that witnesses could be found and available. (In addition, it was believed that those are the days when G-d’s holy court was in session.) Furthermore, no trial could be held on a Jewish festival such as the first or last day of Passover. Source: Talmud tractate Moed Katan 16a.

2. Second: Jewish law requires (then and now) that a person accused of a capital crime be convicted only if (a) two valid witnesses come forward and testify that the accused was warned that doing X would result in the death penalty; and (b) two valid witnesses testified that after the warning, the accused violated the law anyway. A false witness was liable to the same punishment as would have been given to the accused — hence a strong deterrent against perjury. Moreover, a defendant could not be convicted on his own testimony. These are fundamental principles you’ll find in the Torah itself. E.g. Deut. 16:6

3. Third: When one stands accused of a capital crime, a towncryer was to go out through the community and announce that so-and-so was accused of such and such and is being tried at such and such time. In addition, the towncryer was to also announce that any witnesses favorable to the defendant should step forward to the Sanhedrin. This was not a short process and could not be done in a single day. Source: Talmud tractate Sanhedrin.

4. Fourth: Execution was only permitted by four methods under Torah law: stoning, burning, beheading and strangulation. These are the words used in the translation, but the Talmud explains that “burning” required that the convicted felon drink a liquid metal that would kill him immediately, and that beheading did not mean literally to remove the head, but merely severage of the windpipe and the artery to the brain, resulting in immediate death also. The Talmud taught that these methods were all designed to limit disfigurement of the body and result in rapid death with limited pain. Source Talmud tractate Sanhedrin, among other places. In tractate Yevamos 120b there is discussion of crucifixion as a strictly Roman practice. Furthermore, it was taught that if a person testified (on behalf of a widow seeking proof of her husband’s death) that so and so was crucified, but he did not actually see the body after death, then there is no proof of death as people had been known to survive cruicifixion.

5. Fifth: The Torah strictly prohibits a body of an executed criminal from being hung out for view past nightfall. Deut. 21:22-24. Furthermore, it would be prohibited to transport a body through a public area to a private area (such as a cave) on the Sabbath. Talmud Tractate Shabbos.

6. And sixth: The death penalty was carried out rarely in Israel. According to Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, if an execution occurred more than once in seventy years, that court would be considered “murderous tribunal.” Mishna Makkos 1:10. Besides the issue of a stigma on the court, executions were rare because of the high standards of evidence required for a conviction. To put this in context, Texas, this year alone, executed 40 prisoners.

Part III: Trial and Error (continued)

B. With these six principles in mind, lets examine the trial and execution of Jesus.  

1. First, the NT says that the trial was on a Friday, and that on the night before, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. Accordingly, that would mean that his trial was on the first day of Passover. Here is a violation of two legal principles — his trial was not on a Thursday or Monday as required, and it was on a holiday when no trials whatsoever could be held.

2. Second, there were no witnesses of a warning to Jesus and no witnesses of his actual crime. The NT account of his trial shows that he was convicted on his own testimony. This is a severe violation of the Torah.

3. Third, there is no account in the NT of any call for defense witnesses.

4. Fourth, the choice of execution methods violates Torah completely. If convicted for Sabbath violation or false prophecy, the appropriate punishment was stoning. Why use a Roman torture method that took days to kill the felon, if it did at all, and resulted in a mutilated corpse?

5. Fifth, if the trial and execution were indeed held on Friday, there are several problems, including limited time for a trial, and limited time for the execution. A crucifixion on a Friday afternoon was certain to run over through Shabbat and then later. Assuming that the 120 judges of the Sanhedrin would have permitted a crucifixion (which is unlikely), one would doubt that they would have risked having Jesus die on the cross after the Sabbath began Friday night. Because of the Sabbath laws, they would have been unable to carry the corpse to a burial site, and leaving the corpse on the cross overnight would be a Torah violation.

6. Finally, sixth, there is no record teaching that the court of that era was known to be reckless with the use of the death penalty. Yet, not only was Jesus crucified, but so were two petty criminals, according to the NT, and their crimes did not even justify the death penalty under Jewish law.

C. G-d needed to experience pain?

One more note: With the rushed trial and execution, Jesus could not have been put on the cross until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. And then he’s taken down before sundown. That means, at most, he spent just four or five hours on the cross. If G-d wanted to understand the suffering of man, and did so by living the life of Jesus, you would think he would have hung there and taken the pain a little longer.

Taken together, these discrepancies between the Jewish legal system and the depiction of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus raise grave questions regarding the credibility of the account.

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