Sanhedrin

(Gr. synedrion), meaning "a sitting
together," or a "council." This word (rendered "council," A.V.)
is frequently used in the New Testament (Matt. 5:22; 26:59; Mark
15:1, etc.) to denote the supreme judicial and administrative
council of the Jews, which, it is said, was first instituted by
Moses, and was composed of seventy men (Num. 11:16, 17). But
that seems to have been only a temporary arrangement which Moses
made. This council is with greater probability supposed to have
originated among the Jews when they were under the domination of
the Syrian kings in the time of the Maccabees. The name is first
employed by the Jewish historian Josephus. This "council" is
referred to simply as the "chief priests and elders of the
people" (Matt. 26:3, 47, 57, 59; 27:1, 3, 12, 20, etc.), before
whom Christ was tried on the charge of claiming to be the
Messiah. Peter and John were also brought before it for
promulgating heresy (Acts. 4:1-23; 5:17-41); as was also Stephen
on a charge of blasphemy (6:12-15), and Paul for violating a
temple by-law (22:30; 23:1-10).

The Sanhedrin is said to have consisted of seventy-one
members, the high priest being president. They were of three
classes (1) the chief priests, or heads of the twenty-four
priestly courses (1 Chr. 24), (2) the scribes, and (3) the
elders. As the highest court of judicature, "in all causes and
over all persons, ecclesiastical and civil, supreme," its
decrees were binding, not only on the Jews in Israel, but on
all Jews wherever scattered abroad. Its jurisdiction was greatly
curtailed by Herod, and afterwards by the Romans. Its usual
place of meeting was within the precincts of the temple, in the
hall "Gazith," but it sometimes met also in the house of the
high priest (Matt. 26:3), who was assisted by two
vice-presidents.