TWELVE REASONS WHY JESUS' TRIAL WAS ILLEGALBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
The trial of Jesus Christ was without legal precedent. Although Pilate found him innocent, he was convicted and executed. The following are twelve reasons that the arrest, trial, and conviction of Jesus was illegal.
1. There was no legal basis for Jesus' arrest, because no one had presented a formal charge of any crime; he was simply taken. Moreover, those who went with Judas to have Jesus arrested included the priests and eldershis judges (Lk.22:52)among whom were the ones who bribed Judas!
2. Jesus was subject to a secret preliminary examination at night (Jn.18:12-14, 19-23). Jewish law permitted only daylight proceedings.
3. The indictment against Jesus was illegal, because the judges themselves brought up the charge without any prior testimony by witnesses. The Jewish court (the Sanhedrin) was not allowed by law to originate charges.
4. The court illegally proceeded to hold its trial of Jesus before sunrise so that no one would be available to testify on his behalf.
5. Even though Jewish law did not permit the trial of a capital offense to begin on a Friday or on the day before an annual festival day, Jesus was arrested and tried the day before the Sabbath, that also happened to be the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Jn.18:28; 19:31).
6. Jesus' trial was concluded in one day, but the law in the Mishna says, "If a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it [a criminal charge] cannot be concluded before the following day" (Mishna, "Sanhedrin" IV, 1). This was done to allow sufficient opportunity for any witnesses in support of the accused to present themselves. Jesus' trial was conducted in private and completed in less than nine hours.
7. Two false witnesses charged Jesus with saying he would destroy the temple made with hands (Mk.14:58), yet he was condemned by the court on the charge of blasphemy. And he was condemned on his own testimony (Lk.22:67-71). However, according to Jewish law, a person could not be condemned by their testimony.
8. The merits of Jesus' defense were not considered. The high priest did not "inquire, and make search, and ask diligently" (Deut.13:14) to see whether Jesus' statement was blasphemous. The law in the Mishna says, "The judges shall weigh the matter in sincerity of their conscience" (Sanhedrin IV, 5). Instead, the court pronounced sentence without deliberation!
9. Those who would have voted against condemnation were not at Jesus' trial. Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the court, yet he was not there (Lk.23:50-51). Jesus' opponents had made sure that only those who hated him would be there.
10. The sentence was pronounced in a place forbidden by law. The trial took place at the high priest's house (Lk.22:54), and according to the law, a death sentence could be pronounced only in the court's appointed place.
11. Most of the judges were not legally qualified to try Jesus because most were his enemies. In such cases, Jewish law required these judges to disqualify themselves in order to ensure that the accused would be tried by impartial judges.
12. The court illegally switched the charges from blasphemy to treason when the case went before Pilate. Jesus' opponents wanted him killed but they did not want to do it themselves. Therefore, they charged him with treason (Lk.23:2)a crime against Romeso the Romans would be responsible for his death. No evidence of treason was ever presented (Jn.18:29-30), and after a brief interview, Pilate determined that Jesus was not guilty of treason (Jn.18:38; 19:4; Matt.27:18).
Understanding the political implications of the situation, Pilate allowed the Jews to crucify an innocent man.
The trial of Jesus was a mockery of justice. However, this illegal trial did fulfill the prophesies concerning the condemnation of the Messiah by the covenant people.