What are the Biblical and rabbinic sources that say that someone accused of a crime, especially a capital crime, must be proved to have had a prior warning or instruction that the activity was a sin punishable in this world by X, before being so punished? Is there also a source that says that Torah scholars are presumed to know the law, and what is that source?

  • 1
    Makkos somewhere around daf 6b? May 6, 2014 at 21:47
  • Mishna on Sanhedrin 40a talks about warning him (for a capital crime). Maybe the g'mara there expounds on that. May 7, 2014 at 1:02
  • It's all here he.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Yoni
    May 7, 2014 at 4:43
  • @MonicaCellio - the Gemara 41a extends that to other types of sins too.
    – Yehuda
    May 7, 2014 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


As far as the second question, Sanhedrin 8b:

ר' יוסי בר יהודה אומר חבר א"צ התראה לפי שלא ניתנה התראה אלא להבחין בין שוגג למזיד

A scholar does not need to be warned, as warning is only given to differentiate between accidental and intentional sin [and the scholar is presumed to be aware that it is forbidden without being told]

  • 2
    ...and it's a machlokes tana'im.
    – Fred
    May 7, 2014 at 4:18

For the main question see Sanhedrin 40b-41a:

אמר עולא מניין להתראה מן התורה שנאמר (ויקרא כ, יז) ואיש אשר יקח את אחותו בת אביו או בת אמו וראה את ערותה אטו בראייה תליא מילתא אלא עד שיראוהו טעמו של דבר אם אינו ענין לכרת תנהו ענין למלקות דבי חזקיה תנא (שמות כא, יד) וכי יזיד איש על רעהו להרגו בערמה שהתרו בו ועדיין הוא מזיד דבי רבי ישמעאל תנא (במדבר טו, לג) המוצאים אותו מקושש עצים שהתרו בו ועדיין הוא מקושש דבי רבי תנא (דברים כב, כד) על דבר אשר ענה על עסקי דיבור

'Ulla said: Where is the need of warning intimated in the Torah? — In the verse, And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness. Does guilt then depend upon [mere] seeing? Hence it must mean [that he is liable to punishment] only if he 'sees' the reasonableness thereof. And since this is inapplicable to Kareth, we must refer it to flogging.

The school of Hezekiah taught: And if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile; — this implies that they warned him, yet he remained with wilful intent. The school of R. Ishmael taught: And they that found him gathering sticks: that implies that they warned him, yet he continued gathering. The school of Rabbi taught: Because [lit., 'for the word that'] he hath humbled [his neighbour's wife'], teaching, [it is] by reason of 'the word' [that he is stoned].


The source that Torah scholars, if you mean Beis Din or Sanhedrin (and in general), are presumed to know the law is in Devarim (Deutoronomy). "You shall not depart from the words that they say, to the right or to the left." See Rashi there.

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