The Trial of Christ
David K. Breed
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The Trial of Christ is a book by Missouri attorney David K. Breed, published in 1948 (copyright wasn't renewed on time). Here, the author presents the case of Christ, and whether he could have avoided being crucified. The conclusion is no, because it was meant to be, but before that, Breed points out major discrepancies between Jewish and Roman legal procedures and the gospel accounts. For instance, the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, would never have met on the Sabbath, nor condemned a man to death on the same day as his trial. Roman law also gave defendants many rights we now take for granted, such as the right to a public trial, and to cross-examine witnesses, which were not followed either. Definitely a book that makes you think, and wonder if the gospel narratives regarding the actions of the Sanhedrin, were used to stir up anti-Semetic feeling.
This book has 48 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1948 (copyright wasn't renewed on time).
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Excerpt from 'The Trial of Christ'
To a Christian Lawyer, the Trial of Christ has a deep significance because we know that the legalistic errors in that trial, condemnable though they be, nevertheless fulfilled prophecy and thereby served a purpose. Theological writers have many works that show how the Old Testament Prophecies were fulfilled in what did take place; indeed, many passages of the Gospel Record are quoted from the Prophets. A further word on this point will be found in our Epilogue, but we limit ourselves, for the present, to the legal phases of the Trial of Christ.
In using the word "trial" in its legalistic sense, the author is not unmindful of the fact that Christ was thrice "tried", or, more properly speaking, tempted by the Devil. However, any study of the trial in the spiritual sense is left to homiletical writings, such as Dr. Clarence Edward Macartney's recent book, Trials of Great Men of the Bible, in which Chapters XI and XV deal with the temptations of Christ.
Christian and Jewish people alike in every generation are taught considerable from the Old Testament Scriptures dealing with the Mosaic Law. Those who are not themselves attorneys perhaps little realize that many of the basic principles of modern law go back to ancient roots. At least one modern writer has attempted to prove, for example, that the idea of due process of law expressed in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of The United States was not an invention of reformers of our Civil War era but rather a recognition in modern law that it is illegal to punish one who has not been duly convicted of crime upon a trial conducted with due deference to the law of evidence.
In modern times, Sir William Blackstone, a great British statesman and jurist, wrote that "When civil society is once formed, government at the same time results, of course, as necessary to preserve and to keep that society in order. Unless some superior be constituted, whose commands and decisions all the members are bound to obey, they would still remain as in a state of nature, without any judge upon earth to define their several rights and redress their several wrongs." In other words, the function of Government is to give all people security from the encroachment of one another, upon what has been called in our basic American law, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
To make our point very clear, before proceeding to a further chapter where we will deal in detail with "Reversible Errors," it seems well to emphasize that in modern legal parlance a mistake made by a trial judge is deemed Reversible Error, if the mistake is so serious as to be grounds for a new trial. Glaring examples would be to let a man's partner sit on a jury at his trial; for a Judge to hear a case in which lie is an interested party, or has already formed an opinion; or to permit a witness to testify to hearsay instead of facts. These are some of the "Reversible Errors" on which a new trial can be had and are often spoken of by misinformed business men as "technicalities," as when they say a certain gangster "got off on a technicality" or "got a new trial on a technicality."
Before leaving our discussion of legal principles, it seems well to point out that after a Court Reporter has taken down the testimony of a trial in the first instance, upon appeal being taken to a higher court by either party, the higher Court does not again hear the witnesses but passes upon the case upon the typewritten or printed transcription of the notes taken by the Court Reporter. Such notes together with the various formal documents filed by lawyers in the lower court are (as we have written) referred to collectively as "the record on appeal." Although the Court erred in the Trial of Christ by not keeping any records (so far as we know) when at that time court reporters were known to Roman and Hebrew law and custom, the record in the synoptic Gospels is, however, sufficient to enable us to pass intelligent review, were we an Appellate Court, upon the illegalities of the Trial of Christ.