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From Greek. Name applied to the higher courts of law which in the latter period of the Second Temple administered justice in Palestine according to the Mosaic law. It dealt with serious cases, both criminal and capital. Sanhedrin is also the name of a tractate of the Talmud which deals fully with the composition, powers, and functions of the court.

Two types of Sanhedrin existed side by side: the Great Sanhedrin with 71 members, and several lesser Sanhedrin with 23. According to tradition, both were instituted by Moses, but the first reference to a functioning Sanhedrin is from 57 B.C.E. Some scholars maintain there was also a Sanhedrin with more political powers. The president was called the nasi; his deputy, the ab bet din; and the expert or specialist on any given case, the mufla. The Great Sanhedrin met in the Chamber of Hewn Stone in the Temple of Jerusalem. Decisions required a majority of the votes to be valid. The Sanhedrin organized in Yavneh after the destruction of the Second Temple was purely religious in character.

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