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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
MISHNAH. MONETARY CASES [MUST BE ADJUDICATED] BY THREE JUDGES; CASES OF LARCENY AND MAYHEM,1 BY THREE; CLAIMS FOR FULL OR HALF DAMAGES,2 THE REPAYMENT OF THE DOUBLE3 OR FOUR- OR FIVE-FOLD RESTITUTION [OF STOLEN GOODS],4 BY THREE, AS MUST CASES OF RAPE5 SEDUCTION6 AND LIBEL;7 SO SAYS R. MEIR. BUT THE SAGES8 HOLD THAT A CASE OF LIBEL REQUIRES A COURT OF TWENTY-THREE SINCE IT MAY INVOLVE A CAPITAL CHARGE.9
CASES INVOLVING FLOGGING,10 BY THREE; IN THE NAME OF R. ISHMAEL IT IS SAID, BY TWENTY-THREE.
THE INTERCALATION OF THE MONTH IS EFFECTED BY A COURT OF THREE;11 THE INTERCALATION OF THE YEAR,12 BY THREE: SO R. MEIR. BUT R. SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS THE MATTER IS INITIATED BY THREE, DISCUSSED BY FIVE AND DETERMINED BY SEVEN. IF HOWEVER, IT BE DETERMINED ONLY BY THREE, THE INTERCALATION HOLDS GOOD. THE LAYING OF THE ELDERS' HANDS [ON THE HEAD OF A COMMUNAL SACRIFICE]13 AND THE BREAKING OF THE HEIFER'S NECK14 REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF THREE: SO SAYS R. SIMEON. ACCORDING TO R. JUDAH, FIVE. THE PERFORMANCE OF HALIZAH,15 AND THE DECISION AS TO MI'UN16 IS MADE BY THREE. THE FOURTH YEAR FRUIT17 AND THE SECOND TITHE18 OF UNKNOWN VALUE ARE ASSESSED BY THREE. THE ASSESSMENT OF CONSECRATED OBJECTS FOR REDEMPTION PURPOSES IS MADE BY THREE; VALUATIONS OF MOVABLE PROPERTY19 BY THREE. ACCORDING TO R. JUDAH ONE OF THEM MUST BE A KOHEN;20 IN THE CASE OF REAL ESTATE, BY TEN INCLUDING A KOHEN, IN THE CASE OF A PERSON, BY THE SAME NUMBER.
CAPITAL CASES ARE ADJUDICATED BY TWENTY-THREE. THE PERSON OR BEAST CHARGED WITH UNNATURAL INTERCOURSE, BY TWENTY-THREE, AS IT IS WRITTEN, THOU SHALT KILL THE WOMAN AND THE BEAST,21 AND ALSO, AND YE SHALL SLAY THE BEAST.22
THE OX TO BE STONED23 IS TRIED BY TWENTY-THREE, AS IT IS WRITTEN, THE OX SHALL BE STONED AND ITS OWNER SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH24 — AS THE DEATH OF THE OWNER, SO THAT OF THE OX, CAN BE DECIDED ONLY BY TWENTY-THREE.
THE DEATH SENTENCE ON THE WOLF OR THE LION OR THE BEAR OR THE LEOPARD OR THE HYENA OR THE SERPENT25 IS TO BE PASSED BY TWENTY-THREE. R. ELIEZER SAYS: WHOEVER IS FIRST TO KILL THEM [WITHOUT TRIAL], ACQUIRES MERIT, R. AKIBA, HOWEVER, HOLDS THAT THEIR DEATH IS TO BE DECIDED BY TWENTY-THREE.
A TRIBE,26 A FALSE PROPHET27 AND A HIGH PRIEST CAN ONLY BE TRIED BY A COURT OF SEVENTY-ONE. WAR OF FREE CHOICE28 CAN BE WAGED ONLY BY THE AUTHORITY OF A COURT OF SEVENTY-ONE. NO ADDITION TO THE CITY OF JERUSALEM OR THE TEMPLE COURT-YARDS CAN BE SANCTIONED SAVE BY A COURT OF SEVENTY-ONE.
SMALL SANHEDRINS FOR THE TRIBES CAN BE INSTITUTED ONLY BY A COURT OF SEVENTY-ONE.
THE GREAT SANHEDRIN CONSISTED OF SEVENTY-ONE MEMBERS; THE SMALL SANHEDRIN OF TWENTY-THREE. WHENCE DO WE DEDUCE THAT THE GREAT SANHEDRIN IS OF SEVENTY-ONE? — IT IS SAID, GATHER UNTO ME SEVENTY MEN;31 WITH MOSES AT THEIR HEAD WE HAVE SEVENTY-ONE. R. JUDAH SAID IT CONSISTED ONLY OF SEVENTY. WHENCE DO WE KNOW THAT THE SMALL SANHEDRIN IS OF ONLY TWENTY-THREE? — IT IS SAID, AND THE 'EDAH32 SHALL JUDGE … AND THE 'EDAH SHALL DELIVER.33 ONE 'EDAH JUDGES, [I.E. CONDEMNS] AND THE OTHER MAY DELIVER [I.E. ACQUIT], HENCE WE HAVE TWENTY. BUT HOW DO WE KNOW THAT A CONGREGATION CONSISTS OF NOT LESS THAN TEN? — IT IS WRITTEN, HOW LONG SHALL I BEAR WITH THIS EVIL 'EDAH?34 EXCLUDING JOSHUA AND CALEB, WE HAVE TEN. AND WHENCE DO WE DERIVE THE ADDITIONAL THREE? — BY THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE TEXT, THOU SHALT NOT FOLLOW A MAJORITY FOR EVIL,35 I INFER THAT I MAY FOLLOW THEM FOR GOOD;36 IF SO, WHY IS IT SAID, TO INCLINE AFTER THE MAJORITY?37 TO TEACH THAT THE MAJORITY TO 'INCLINE AFTER' FOR GOOD [I.E. FOR A FAVOURABLE DECISION] IS NOT THE ONE TO 'INCLINE AFTER' FOR EVIL [I.E. FOR AN ADVERSE DECISION] SINCE FOR GOOD, A MAJORITY OF ONE SUFFICES; WHEREAS FOR EVIL, A MAJORITY OF TWO IS REQUIRED.
1 ANOTHER ONE IS ADDED, MAKING A TOTAL OF TWENTY THREE.
WHAT MUST BE THE POPULATION OF A TOWN TO MAKE IT ELIGIBLE FOR A [SMALL] SANHEDRIN? — ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY. R. NEHEMIA SAYS: TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY, SO THAT EACH MEMBER SHOULD BE A RULER OF [AT LEAST] TEN.2
GEMARA. Do not LARCENY AND MAYHEM come under the category of MONETARY CASES? [Why then this specification?] R. Abbahu says: The Tanna adds here an explanatory clause, teaching that the MONETARY CASES of the Mishnah refer only to LARCENY AND MAYHEM, but not to admission and transaction of loans3 [i. e. cases of indebtedness]. And both clauses are necessary. For had the Tanna mentioned only MONETARY CASES I might have said that they included also cases of indebtedness. Hence the necessity of the explanatory LARCENY AND MAYHEM; or again had the Tanna mentioned only LARCENY AND MAYHEM, I might have said that these included cases of indebtedness, and that the reason for specifying particularly LARCENY AND MAYHEM is that the regulation requiring three judges is laid down in Scripture In connection with larceny and mayhem (the verse, the master of the house shall come near unto the judges,4 though primarily dealing with cases of larceny,5 includes also those of mayhem, there being actually no difference in regard to an injury whether it is inflicted on one's person or on one's property). The Tanna had accordingly to supplement the MONETARY clause by that of LARCENY AND MAYHEM, to exclude thereby cases of indebtedness.
And what is the point in excluding cases of indebtedness? Shall I say it is to show that three judges are not required for them? But did not R. Abbahu [himself] say that all agree that no judgment given by two in monetary cases is valid? — It is to teach that cases of indebtedness require no Mumhin6 of their adjudication. [This being the case, let us consider] what is the determining principle of the Tanna. Does he hold that we have here an instance of transposition of sections, [in which case all the provisions in this section7 apply to cases of indebtedness]?8 He should then demand Mumhin here also [since the term Elohim denoting Mumhin is mentioned in this place]. If on the other hand, he does not hold this view [and in this case the provisions in this section are limited to the cases of larceny as set forth], where is the authority for the necessity of three judges? — Indeed the Tanna accepts the principle of 'transposition of sections' — and consequently, in accordance with the strict application of the Law, in cases of indebtedness he would require [three] Mumhin — nevertheless they have become exempted from this regulation for the reason advanced by R. Hanina. For R. Hanina said:9 In accordance with the Biblical law, the juridical procedure in regard to the investigation10 and examination11 of witnesses applies to monetary as well as to capital cases, for it is written,
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