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We find many references in the Talmud to what could be perceived as a Sanhedrin, like Chachamim or Beis-Din, or that Hillel and his descendants were the Nessi'im (of a Sanhedrin presumably), but I don't recall a reference to an specific institution of Sanhedrin, with a team of 71/23 (full-time) judges either before the destruction of the Temple, in the times of the Zugos, or after, when "the Sanhedrin exiled".

I do, however, recall that the Gemmorah does mention numerous places where the Sages meet and did their rulings, like personal homes and esp. penthouses (עליית הגג) or synagogues.

Does the Talmud mention a functioning Sanhedrin, like "this decision was directed in X Sanhedrin voting Y for and Z against"?


*NB: The question is very specific, please don't bother discussing if a Beis Din or a penthouse resembles the Sanhedrin or not.*

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There are at least several specific functioning Sanhedrins mentioned in the Talmud:

  • King David's Sanhedrin

    They at once took counsel with Ahithofel and consulted the Sanhedrin and questioned the Urim and Tummim.
    (Berachot 3b, Soncino translation)

  • King Solomon's Sanhedrin

    He used to go round begging, saying wherever he went, I Koheleth was king over Israel in Jerusalem. When he came to the Sanhedrin, the Rabbis said: Let us see, a madman does not stick to one thing only.
    (Gittin 68b, Soncino translation)

  • Mordechai's Sanhedrin

    For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and accepted of the majority of his brethren. Of the majority of his brethren but not of all his brethren; this informs us that some members of the Sanhedrin separated from him.
    (Megillah 16b, Soncino translation)

  • Tzidkiyahu's Sanhedrin

    And also against King Nebuchadnezzar he rebelled, who had adjured him by the living God. What was [the nature of] his rebellion? — Zedekiah found Nebuchadnezzar eating a live rabbit. 'Swear to me,' exclaimed he, 'not to reveal this, that it may not leak out!' He swore. Subsequently he grieved thereat, and had his vow absolved and disclosed it. When Nebuchadnezzar learned that they were deriding him, he had the Sanhedrin and Zedekiah brought before him, and said to them, 'Have ye seen what Zedekiah has done? Did he not swear by the name of Heaven not to reveal it?' They answered him, 'He was absolved of his oath.' 'Can then one be absolved of an oath?' he asked them. 'Yes,' they returned. 'In his presence or even not in his presence?' — '[Only] in his presence,' was their reply. 'How then did ye act?' said he to them: 'why did ye not Say this to Zedekiah?' Immediately, 'The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence.' R. Isaac said: This teaches that they removed the cushions from under them.
    (Nedarim 65a, Soncino translation)

  • Thank you, anything from the second temple times maybe? – Al Berko Sep 15 at 6:32
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Eduyos 5:6 tells us about four issues on which Akavya ben Mahalalel disagreed with the other Sages. In Sanhedrin 88a there's an argument between Rav Kahana and Rabbi Elazar as to why the rules of zakein mamrei weren't applied to him (Rav Kahana: because he was quoting statements he had heard from his teachers. Rabbi Elazar: because he didn't give practical halachic rulings according to his opinion).

This obviously means that the Sanhedrin of 71 was functioning at the time, and sitting in the Lishkas Hagazis, otherwise there would be no question of executing him as a zakein mamrei anyway (ibid. 14b).

It's not certain when Akavya lived, although he had to have been after Shmaya and Avtalyon (since one of the cases he discusses in Eduyos is based on something they did) and before the Sanhedrin stopped judging capital cases (as above). Toldos Tanaim V'Amoraim suggests that he was a contemporary of Hillel and Shammai.


Also, in Peah 2:6 and Eduyos 7:4, there are cases that were brought to the Lishkas Hagazis for a decision. Neither one specifically mentions the 71 sages, but who else would be sitting there?

  • Thanks for trying. 1. Don't use "obvious" as many other explanations might be offered. 2. Sages discussed a lot of imaginary situation including Ben Sorer veMore, and they pretty much agree he never existed. 3. From those answers, I just get more convinced that the Sanhedrin is not mentioned at all. – Al Berko Sep 16 at 18:11
  • @AlBerko Well, then, feel free to offer some of those many other explanations. Of course the Gemara talks about a lot of unlikely situations, but that's asking what would be done in such a case (were it to occur), not like here, where it's asking why such-and-such wasn't done (in a situation that actually happened). See the difference? – Meir Sep 16 at 18:25
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סנהדרין עא א

אמר ר' יונתן אני ראיתיו וישבתי על קברו...אמר רבי יונתן אני ראיתיה וישבתי על תילה

Sanhedrin 71a

R' Yonatan said, I saw him (Ben Sorer U-Moree) and sat on his grave...I saw it and sat on it's ruins (Iyr Hnidachat)

Obviously, if the beis din was invalid because it didn't consist 23 sages (or 71 sages for Iyr Hnidachat!!!), R' Yonatan wouldn't have tell this story, because those verdicts were meaningless! So, operating sanhedrin did exists during the talmud era.

  • I'm sorry, you write - there wasn't a Sanhedrin and it proves that there was? I'm seriously confused. This story proves that they acted unlawfully in the absence of a Sanhedrin. Read the text - it doesn't say they weren't 23 it says they weren't knowledgable enough to judge. – Al Berko Sep 16 at 18:07
  • @AlBerko No, it proves exactly what Alaychem said - there was a duly constituted sanhedrin of 23, just that this particular one consisted of Tzedukim (ibid. 52b). – Meir Sep 16 at 18:27
  • @Meir Wait why didn't our Sanhedrin act? – Al Berko Sep 16 at 18:50
  • @AlBerko Presumably because the witnesses came and testified at the Tzeduki one. The real Sanhedrin may not even have found out about it until after the deed was done. – Meir Sep 16 at 19:00
  • @Meir Completely revamped the answer because it could be that this sanhedrin was Tzdokim – Alaychem Sep 18 at 5:42

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