Is occasionally taken for any kind of assembly; sometimes for that of the Sanhedrin; at others, for a convention of pastors met to regulate ecclesiastical affairs. Thus the assembly of the apostles, etc., at Jerusalem, Ac 15, to determine whether the yoke of the law should be imposed on gentile converts, is commonly reputed to be the first council of the Christian church. See SANHEDRIN.
spoken of counsellors who sat in public trials with the governor of a province (Ac 25:12).
The Jewish councils were the Sanhedrim, or supreme council of the nation, which had subordinate to it smaller tribunals (the "judgment," perhaps, in Mt 5:21-22) in the cities of Palestine (Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9). In the time of Christ the functions of the Sanhedrim were limited (Joh 16:2; 2Co 11:24). In Ps. 68:27 the word "council" means simply a company of persons. (R.V. marg., "company.")
In ecclesiastical history the word is used to denote an assembly of pastors or bishops for the discussion and regulation of church affairs. The first of these councils was that of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, of which we have a detailed account in Ac 15.
The SANHEDRIN, a term formed from the Greek sunedrion. The Jews' supreme council in Christ's time. Moses' tribunal of seventy seems to have been temporary (Nu 11:16-17), for there are no traces of it in De 17:8-10, nor under Joshua, judges, and the kings. As the permanent great council it probably took its rise after the return from Babylon, under the Graeco-Macedonian supremacy. 2Ma 1:10; 2Ma 4:44; 2Ma 11:27, contain the earliest allusion to it. The number was probably derived from Moses' council. Its members were the chief priests or heads of the 24 courses, and those who had been high priests; also the elders and scribes learned in Jewish law (Mt 26:57,59; Mr 15:1; Lu 22:66; Ac 5:21). Seventy-one is the number, according to Jewish tradition, to correspond to the 70 and Moses (Nu 11:16). Others say 72, since to the 70, Eldad and Medad are to be added (Nu 11:26).
The president was called nasi'; generally the high priest (Mt 26:62). The vice-president is called "father of the house of judgment" in the Talmud One scribe registered the votes for acquittal, another those for condemnation, according to the Babylonian Gemara. They sat in the form of a half circle; the vice-president or the oldest at the president's right hand, the rest sat before these two according to their dignity. The Gazzith or council hall was in the S.E. corner of a court near the temple. Sometimes they met in the high priest's palace (Mt 26:3). In Christ's time the sessions were moved from Gazzith to a hall further from the temple, but still on mount Moriah. Its final seat was at Tiberias. They tried cases of idolatry and false prophets. On this allegation Jesus, and subsequently Peter, John, Stephen, and Paul were brought before them (Joh 11:47).
Their authority extended even to Jews in foreign cities (Ac 9:2). The Gemara states that power of life and death was taken from them just forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, coinciding with Joh 18:31-32. The confirmation and execution of a capital sentence rested with the Roman procurator, from whence they took Jesus before Pontius Pilate on a different charge from that of blasphemy, for which the Sanhedrin condemned Him, namely, that of treason against Caesar, the only one which Pilate would have entertained. The stoning of Stephen (Ac 7:56, etc.) was an illegal assumption of power, an outbreak of fanatical violence, as also the execution of the apostle James in the procurator's absence (Josephus, Ant. 20:9, section 1).
There were two lesser courts or "councils" (Mt 10:17) in Jerusalem; one in each town of Palestine, 23 members in each in a town of 120, three when the population was below 120 (Talmud). They were connected with the several synagogues and possessed the right of scourging (2Co 11:24); but Josephus represents the local courts, as constituted by Moses, to have consisted of seven, with two Levitical assessors apiece. Mt 5:21-22, "the judgment," perhaps alludes to such courts. There was also a privy "council" to assist the Roman procurator when he chose to consult them (Ac 25:12).
1. The great council of the Sanhedrin, which sat at Jerusalem. [SANHEDRIN]
2. The lesser courts,
of which there were two at Jerusalem and one in each town of Palestine. The constitution of these courts is a doubtful point. The existence of local courts, however constituted, is clearly implied in the passages quoted from the New Testament; and perhaps the "judgment,"
applies to them.
3. A kind of jury or privy council,
consisting of a certain number of assessors, who assisted Roman governors in the administration of justice and in other public matters.
COUNCIL sometimes denotes any kind of assembly; sometimes that of the sanhedrim; and, at other times, a convention of pastors met to regulate ecclesiastical affairs. It may be reasonably supposed that as Christianity spreads, circumstances would arise which would make consultation necessary among those who had embraced the Gospel, or at least among those who were employed in its propagation. A memorable instance of this kind occurred not long after the ascension of our Saviour. In consequence of a dispute which had arisen at Antioch concerning the necessity of circumcising Gentile converts, it was determined that "Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and elders about this question."