The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Now the members of the court gather and take their seats in the circle, so they can look into each other's faces. Two learned Scribes are at each end of the judges' seats, and below them are three rows of Scribes, scholars, disciples, and lawyers practising before this august court. If a judge were absent, his place was filled by one of these attorneys from the front row, and another took the latter's seat. As soon as Jesus was seen coming in, court opened with the cry: " Everyone who knows of a defense concerning the defendant may come and tell it before the court."
Rabbis warned witnesses with these words, " Beware that the whole world was trembling when the Holy One, blessed be He, spake on Mount Sinai. Thou shalt not bear the name of the Lord falsely. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin." 1 The procedure of the court was very strict regarding witnesses. But we find no record of that court which tried Christ that night. Perhaps it was not a court of record, for there was no appeal from the full Sanhedrin.
There was a large court-room in Jerusalem called Beth Ya'azeq, where the magistrates of the Beth-Din, " The House of Law," examined the witnesses before they gave their testimony before the Sanhedrin, 2 and we suppose that there the witnesses were prepared to give their evidence against Christ.
The criminal procedure of the Jewish court was as follows. If they found no cause of action, if the witnesses did not agree, if the accused proved his innocence, they dismissed the case. If they found him guilty at night they adjourned the court till morning and went to eat a little. But they were forbidden to drink wine that day. Outside the court-room they discussed the case, two by two, all night. Every chance must be given the accused. A majority ruled.
When the court sat, they began by hearing the defense first, and not as in our courts by taking testimony against the prisoner. That was the reason both high priests began at first to question Jesus. As Christ was accused of blasphemy in making himself the Son of God and the Messiah, which the court looked on as worthy of death, he did not put in any defense. He pleaded guilty to the question: "Art thou the Son of God?" and the trial ended right there.
The Talmud says the questions were asked the witnesses as follows: " The crime was committed, 1, In what Sabbath Period ? For the years were divided into periods of seven years, called Sabbath Periods. 2, In what year of the Sabbath Periods ? 3, In what month ? 4, On what date of the month ? 5, What day of the week ? 6, At what hour of the day ? 7, In what place was the crime committed ? " Each witness was asked these questions. The cross examination was severe. If the witnesses contradicted themselves as we see in the case of Susanna, whom Daniel delivered, the accused was set free. Every chance was given the accused.
The law required at least two witnesses to convict. " By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he die that is to be slain. Let no man be put to death when only one beareth witness against him." (Deut. xvii. 6.) The witnesses were sworn on the name of God, or on His attributes. 3
They had understood the Lord's words, when he said if they would destroy his body, the temple of the Holy Ghost, he would raise it up on the third day, as a threat against the Temple, and in their eyes that was a deadly crime. The prophet Jeremias had foretold that the Temple would be destroyed, and that roused all the priests and people against him, for it was punishable by death.
Behind the judges' seats, with three doors opening into the house proper, were the judges* chambers, where the judges were accustomed to retire for consultation. Be hind these rooms and farther to the east were the living rooms of the house. On the left was a door leading to a stairway down to the subterranean prison, under the judges' chambers. This jail had many cells where prisoners were confined. In one of these Jesus was imprisoned that night after his condemnation. In others Peter and John were guarded for a whole night, when they had cured the lame man in the Temple after Pentecost.
A great crowd of people filled the whole house keeping the Passover, which was customary from the most remote times, foretelling the tragedy of that terrible night. Lamps hung from the roofs and ceilings of the rooms, torches and candles burned in hands of numerous per sons, and the place was lighted up as bright as day. In the middle of the porch a large fire had been lighted, for the nights of April are cold in Jerusalem, 2,700 feet above the sea. Around this fire stood soldiers, Temple guards, servants, maids and witnesses of the lowest class, who had been bought up to give false testimony. The women were pouring out wine and other drinks for the soldiers, and baking large yellow cakes made of unbolted flour, for the people were hungry.
The long garments of men and women, flowing down to the feet, are bound by the cincture around the waist, white turbans are on their heads, the varied colors, white, brown, blue, with the wide stripes made a picturesque scene, as the torches and terra cotta lamps shone on them. The members of the great Council of the Sanhedrin were known by the large flowing cloak called the Imation. No one seemed to be still or silent for a moment. It was all excitement. Talk, shouts, arguments, cries, disputes were heard on every side. There were seen Jews from every land under the sun into which they had scattered since the days of David's reign, when the commercial instincts of the Jewish race broke out after the destruction of the city under the Babylonians had scattered Israel. People to the number of nearly 2,000,000 had come up to the city of their fathers to celebrate the Easter Passover, which began that night, the 14th day of Nisan, and would last for seven days till the 21st day or moon of the month.
Peter and John had hurried to the high priest's house, and had succeeded in penetrating through the vast con-course of people filling the streets of Sion, till they came to the door. John was acquainted with the high priest, and he called one of the servant maids of the house, and she let them in. They stood by the fire warming them-selves as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea entered. From where they stood they could see and hear all that took place. Soldiers and Temple guards were stationed near the door, and along the passage they kept an opening through the crowd for the Prisoner to pass up to the court.
A great shouting and commotion in the streets tell them that the Prisoner is approaching. Caiphas and the seventy members of the Court now take their places on the raised platform, curl their limbs under them and wait.
Caiphas as presiding judge wears a long white garment like a cassock. Around his waist is a wide purple girdle wound many times around the body. Over all he wears a long mantle of a dull red color, embroidered with flowers of many hues. It is trimmed with gold fringes which glisten in the light when he moves. In form and shape it is about the same as the cope used in church services. This cope is fastened on the shoulders and chest with large ornamental gold clasps. His head-dress is a high miter of cloth of gold, with two ribbons of the same material hanging down behind. The sides of his miter were opened, and the head-covering somewhat resembled the bishop's miter.
The other members of the Council wore garments resembling those of the high priest, but not so rich or orna mental. Their heads were covered with large white turbans without ornamentation, and their cloaks were of various stripes and colors. They seemed very serious and solemn, but there was a gleam of satisfaction in Caiphas' face, and the others could not repress the joy that animated them. (Isaias xxx. I)
"But they holding Jesus, led him to Caiphas the high priest, where the Scribes and the ancients were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off to the high priest's palace. And going in he sat with the servants to see the end." (Matt, xxvi. 57. 58)
As the soldiers and Temple guards led Jesus into the palace and across the hall, pandemonium seemed to have broken loose. Groans, hisses, insults were showered on him. As he passed by Peter and John warming themselves, he looked at them, but without turning his head so as not to betray them. They dragged and pushed him up into the Council-chamber, and there he stood in his wet garments, covered with saliva, holding his mockery of a scepter in his bound hands before his judges. As soon as silence fell on the crowd, Caiphas exclaimed in a voice heard throughout the building:
"Thou art come then at last, thou enemy of God! Thou blasphemer, who dost disturb the peace of this holy night."
The reed is taken out of Christ's hand and handed up to Caiphas, who reads the scroll to the other judges. Then in the most insulting language, the high priest demanded of Jesus that he would give an account of him self. They wanted him to plead guilty to the charges, which Annas had written against him on the parchment. But Jesus kept silence. " He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth; he shall be led as sheep to the slaughter, and shall be as dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth." (Isaias liii, 7)
The archers struck the Lord, at the same time shouting, " Answer at once. Speak out. Art thou dumb ? " Caiphas, who was of a fiery temperament, became very much excited, and losing his temper asked him numerous questions. Annas sitting at his right hand also asked questions, and demanded that Christ speak to the high priest. But Jesus stood there, his hands tied, his eyes cast down to the floor, and replied not a word.
The archers, the Temple guards, and the men standing around got very much excited, for calmness is seldom seen among Orientals, and they tried to force him to speak by heaping on him repeated blows. " I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence. I was dumb and I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it; remove thou my scourge from me. The strength of thy hand hath made me faint in rebukes." l But to every accusation, and to every stroke Jesus opened not his mouth. Finding that they could not make him plead guilty they called for the witnesses against him.
1 Bab. Talmud, Art. Shebuth, Cap. vi., p. 77.
2 Talmud, Babyl, Shejalim. Vol. iv. p. 39.
3 The Talmud following Gen. xxiv. 3, where the Hebrew has the word Memra " The Word," gives the following words under the heading of Oaths :—Sbeburoth, Eil, Eloechu, Eloim, Eloechem, Eieh Asher, Aleph Daleth, Yah, Shadai, Zebaoth, these being the name of God in His essence or nature. They might swear them on the following names of God's attributes: Hagodai, "tine Great"; Hayibor, "The Mighty "; Hanora, "The Awe-Inspiring"; Haadir, 4l The Glorious " ; Hackazak, " The Strong " ; Haamatz, " The Omni potent ; " Haazaz, " The Powerful "; Chanun, " The Gracious "; Racbum, " The Long Suffering." The word Jehovah and its root Jah, with the substitute Adonai, were used only in the prayers and never in court.