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Judge / Court


For Jews, one person alone could not make a judgement. The minimum number of judges required was three in small villages of less than 120 men. If the number was higher in the village, Sanhedrin, or court of twenty-three judges judged the cases. The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, comprising seventy-one, was the supreme court of Jews. Thus, there were three classes of courts: The Great Sanhedrin, the Lesser Sanhedrin, and the Court of Three or Seven. The head (nasi) of the Sanhedrin or its three members had to duly authorize and ordain judges. Such judges would be God-fearing Jews. Verdict of a single Jewish judge was considered only as an advice and had no juridical value.

Exodus 18: 13-27 describes the required qualifications of minor judges. They should be “able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain” (Ex 18:21). In the parable of the persistent widow, the judge whom the widow approached was just the opposite of these qualifications because he did not fear God and had no respect for humans. So, even if the judge in the parable was a Jew, he did not meet the standards of the Holy Scripture.


Though we have civil judges by profession, in a spiritual sense we are not judges of others because of our limited knowledge. James the apostle asks: “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jm 4:12). Jesus came not to judge but to save humanity. As his followers, our mission is also to help the salvation of others. Jesus will come again to judge us according to our implementation of his laws in our lives.


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