The Mishna in Sanhedrin disscuses a court of three being sufficient to judge damages. However it does not say the name of this court. Is this court named a בית דין or is this court named a סנהדרין.

Assume the court has complete authority over the land unlike today's courts where they can only have a case if both parties are willing to step outside the state's legal system.

  • 1
    Sounds like an ordinary Beis Din. A "small" Sanhedrin requires 23 judges.
    – shmosel
    Commented May 22 at 22:40
  • Ok thank you. Please post answer with source. Also perhaps a court of 3 is called "very small" ? Also further - what if there is a court of 23 potential judges but only 3 are selected for each case?
    – zunior
    Commented May 22 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


A court of three judges is not called a Sanhedrin. The term Sanhedrin is applied to courts of 71 judges and 23 judges, never to a court of 3 judges.

See, for example, chapter 1 of Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shoftim and chapter 1 of Mishnah Sanhedrin.

The great Sanhedrin consists of 71 judges: "a supreme court is established in the Temple. This is called the Great Sanhedrin. It was composed of 71 judges" (Sefaria translation, Hilchot Shoftim 1:3) (See also Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6)

The court of 23 judges is known as the minor Sanhedrin. "In addition, two courts of 23 judges each are appointed. One holds sessions at the entrance to the Temple courtyard. and the other at the entrance to the Temple Mount. In addition, in every city in Israel in which their are 120 or more adult males, we appoint a minor Sanhedrin. They hold court at the entrance to the city, as implied by Amos 5:15: "And you shall present judgment in your gates." How many judges should be in such a court? 23." (Sefaria translation, Hilchot Shoftim 1:3) (See also Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6)

Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6 reads in part as follows: "The Great Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one judges, and a lesser Sanhedrin was composed of twenty-three." (Sefaria translation)

A court of three judges is a bet din. "When there are less than 120 adult males in a city, we appoint a court (בֵּית דִּין) of three judges. For a court should never be less than three. In that way, there will be a majority and a minority if there is a difference of opinion in any particular judgment." (Sefaria translation, Hilchot Shoftim 1:4)

See also Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:1 - Cases concerning monetary law are adjudicated by three judges. Cases concerning robbery and personal injury are adjudicated by three judges. (Sefaria translation)

  • Very very good - thank you for the full answer
    – zunior
    Commented May 22 at 23:49

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