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§ 197. Vain Attempts of the Sanhedrim against Christ. (John, vii., 40-53.)—Dispute in the Sanhedrim.—First Decision against Christ.

Christ continued his labours in Jerusalem for a time after the close of the feast. The Sanhedrim gradually assumed a more hostile attitude, and would have taken violent measures at once, had not a division ensued between the fanatical zealots who held that any means were justifiable, and those who, with various degrees of hostility, were more moderate in their opinions and feelings. Even during the continuance of the feast they had sought to seize his person, but part of 298the multitude were on his side; and even the officers of the Sanhedrim that were sent to take him, unable to resist the impression of his appearance and words, returned with the exclamation. “Never man spake like this man.”

The dominant party sought to secure the immediate condemnation of Jesus as a violator of the law and a blasphemer; but there Were others who felt the power of his words and works more than they openly confessed; as, for instance, Nicodemus, who said, “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” This had to be admitted even by the rest; but, as is usual in such cases, the more moderate party incurred the suspicion of the zealots. And when the latter found that they could not succeed in condemning Christ personally, they proposed, to lessen his influence at least in some degree, that every one who acknowledged him as Messiah should be excommunicated. In this they presupposed that the Sanhedrim was the highest legislative and executive authority in religious affairs; and that no recognition but its own, of any Divine calling, and especially of the highest, the Messiahship, would be valid. The result was, that, although no decisive judgment was pronounced against the person of Christ, it was made punishable for any one to recognize him apart from the authority of the Sanhedrim. This, then, was the first decree pronounced against Christ. (John, ix., 22.)

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