What was the Sanhedrin?

by Matt Slick

In the New Testament context, the Sanhedrin is not explained, but it appears to be the highest court of the Jews which met in Jerusalem and consisted of a council of leaders.  In Luke 22:66 we see Jesus being tried before the council of elders, which consisted of both chief priests and scribes.  The term comes from the Greek sunevdrion (sunedrion), and the word occurs over 20 times in the New Testament.  In Mark 15:1 Jesus is before the elders and scribes and the whole council (Sanhedrin) before being delivered to Pilate.  In Acts 4 the Sanhedrin sat in judgment of the preaching of Peter and John.  And in Acts 23 both Pharisees and Sadducees sat in on the Sanhedrin.

A variety of theories have developed concerning the Sanhedrin of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The three most prevalent are that the Sanhedrin was composed of political leaders, including some priests and aristocrats; that the Sanhedrin was composed of religious leaders knowledgeable in the law, including priests, Pharisees, and scribes; and that there were two Sanhedrins, one political and the other religious. 1


  • 1. Achtemeier, Paul J., Th.D., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.