Did the Jews Need Permission to Execute Christ?

Q: Why did the Jews need the Roman’s permission to put Christ to death when in other parts of the Bible there are examples of them trying to stone Jesus to death?

A: Rabbinical sources record that forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, the Romans forbade the Jewish authorities to administer the death penalty. This means it was taken away around A.D. 30, and so must have been taken away shortly before the Crucifixion.

The reason the Sanhedrin (the Jewish governing body that sentenced Jesus to death) had to go to the Romans, which the mobs that tried to stone him did not do, is that the Sanhedrin was a formal court, located in Jerusalem, while the mobs were loose collections of people trying to dispense vigilante justice.

Lynch mobs do not care too much about the formal legal requirements concerning the administration of the death penalty. If they did, they wouldn’t be lynch mobs.

Today in Israel, if you are alone in the country and run afoul of a local mob (be it Israeli, Arab, or whatever) you may get stoned (ultra-orthodox Jews are known for sometimes stoning cars that drive on the sabbath, and my friend Fr. Mitchel Pacwa was briefly stoned by an rural mob until an Arab travelling companion put a stop to it), but if you are being tried by a court in a big Israeli city, like Jerusalem, you will get very different treatment and have a much better chance of getting your legal rights honored.

 

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