The Talmudic examples of Sanhedrin executions are numerous, but none brings a full documentary of the process, only the fact that someone was executed. That raises a lot of questions about the exact procedure - like where do the witnesses go first, is there a secretariat? Is there a physical file and where it's kept? Who's exactly prosecuting - who represents the "state"? And many more.

The Talmud (that was written long after the Sanhedrin of נפשות was dismissed) deals only with theoretical Halachic questions, that are hard to reconcile in a consistent process.

Is there a source (maybe external) for a fully documented Sanhedrin trial from the beginning to the end?

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    From what I understand (based on an article from the TABC Kol Torah publication), historically, Batei Din never really recorded their sessions like current courts do, as there was no particular need to (i.e. there is no 'appeals' process that they need to submit their opinions to, there is no setting of 'precedent'). Based on that, you're not likely to find a complete actual court proceeding from anything older than several years (not even taking into account the lack of historical records from ancient times). Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:38
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    (cont') That's not to say the process isn't documented: Shulchan Aruch details the complete process of court proceedings; you just aren't likely to find a specific historical example. But I''ve been surprised before by what people find, so if someone else has a historical example, I'd be fascinated to see it. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:38
  • It doesn't really seem to me like they would require a prosecutor since the decision doesn't seem to have anything to do with persuasion. It's all about witness testimony.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 15:23
  • What Shu"A, I thought it does not deal with Sanhedrin as it's not relevant today? details the complete process of court proceedings, do you mean דיני ממונות?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 15:24
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    @AlBerko What do you mean by "the state"? My understanding of halachic trials is that they aren't structured at all like modern trials where there's a prosecutor and a defense attorney. There's no complex argumentation. Just a bunch of witnesses come in and say what they saw, and then the judges cross-examine them to confirm whether they're telling the truth.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


While not an actual trial, the Mishnayoth in Sanhedrin starting at Chapter 3 describe precisely how various trials are run.

Starting with how to choose the judges for a small 3-man Bet Din to how the 72-man Sanhedrin functions.

Then we have details about the cross-examination, how to document who-said-what and how and when the final vote is taken.

Finally, we have the various death-sentence scenarios including potential retrials.

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    @AlBerko - there's no reason to assume the earlier Tanoim weren't part of the Sanhedrin. (Each of the very early ones - the Zugoth - was actually the Av Bet Din) Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 13:58
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    @AlBerko The 72-person Sanhedrin lost its ability to judge capital cases 40 years before the destruction. It continued to function in Yavneh for long after the destruction. The Tannaic period began not too long after the construction of the Temple - the division between Tannaim and Anshei Kinesses HaGedolah was the cessation of prophecy, not the destruction. The destruction took place during the days of R’ Akiva, three generations before R’ Yehudah HaNasi. So the Sanhedrin lasted through most of the Tannaic period, which was 11 generations if you count the pairs.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:18
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    No, no you were not. We can start with Shimon Ben Shetach, a very early Tanna, who judged several capital cases (and executed several, but those were extralegal).
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:27
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    No, the case was an actual witch (several, IIRC). They just couldn’t kill her according to the law. Shimon Ben Shetach was absolutely a Tanna. King David was not even close to being a Tanna.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:24
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    @alicht See RH 31a
    – DonielF
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 22:09

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