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Treatise X. The Sanhedrin Chapter VII, The Talmud

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The Talmud, by Joseph Barclay, [1878] 1. Four punishments were permitted to the supreme court,—stoning, burning, beheading, and strangling. R. Simon said, "burning, stoning, strangling, and beheading." The preceding chapter is the order of stoning. 2. The order for those burned was to be sunk in dung to their knees. And men put a hard towel in a soft one, and encircled his neck. One pulled on one side, and another pulled on the other side, till the condemned opened his mouth. And one lit a wick, and cast it into his mouth, and it went down to his bowels, and it consumed his intestines. R. Judah said, "if he died in their hands, they did not complete in him the order of burning; only they opened his mouth with tongs against his will, and lit the wick, and cast it into his mouth, and it went down to his bowels and consumed his intestines." Said R. Eleazar the son of Zadok, "it happened with the daughter of a priest, who was immoral, that they surrounded her with dry branches and burned her." The Sages replied, "because the court at that time was unskilled." 3. The order of those beheaded was to have their heads struck off with a sword, as is the custom of governments. R. Judah said, "that was an abuse; they only rested his head on a block, and hewed it off with an axe." The Sages replied to him, "no death is a greater abuse than that." The order for those strangled was, that they were sunk down in dung to their knees, and they put a hard towel inside a soft one, and encircled his neck. One pulled on one side, and another pulled on the other side, till his soul departed. 4. These were stoned; . . . . a blasphemer, and an idolater, and he who gave his seed to Molech, and one with a familiar spirit, 1 and a wizard, and he who profaned the Sabbath, and he who cursed father or mother, and he who came to a betrothed maid, and an enticer to idolatry, and a withdrawer to idolatry, and a sorcerer, and a son stubborn and rebellious. 5. The blasphemer was not guilty till he expressed the NAME. Said R. Joshua, the son of Korcha, every day they examined the witnesses under a substituted (feigned) name, for example, "José shall beat José." When the judgment was finished, they could not execute him under the nickname, but they withdrew all men outside, and interrogated the principal witness, and said to him, "tell us clearly what thou hast heard?" and he said it. And the judges stood up on their feet, and rent their garments, 2 and they were never sewn again. And the second witness said, "even I (heard) as he," and the third said, "even I (heard) as he." 6. One committed idolatry, whether he served the idol, or sacrificed to it, or burned incense to it, or made a libation to it, or bowed down to it, or accepted it for his god. And also, he who said to it, "thou art my God." But he who embraced it, and kissed it, and honoured it, and dusted it, and washed it, and anointed it, and dressed it, and put shoes on it, transgressed a negative command. He who vowed in its name, and performed the vow in its name, transgressed a negative command. "He exposed himself to Baal peor?" "That is positive service." "He cast a stone to Mercury?" "That is positive service." 7. He who gave his seed to Molech 1 is not guilty till he hand it to Molech, and pass it through the fire. "If he hand it to Molech, and do not pass it through the fire, (or if) he passed it through the fire, and did not hand it to Molech?" "He is not guilty till he hand it to Molech, and pass it through the fire." One has a familiar spirit, when the Python speaks from his arm. But the wizard speaks with his mouth. These are to be stoned, and inquiry from them is forbidden. 8. He who profaned the Sabbath by aught which renders him guilty of presumption is to be cut off; 2 but if he profaned the Sabbath in error, a sin-offering (is required) from him. He who cursed father or mother is not guilty till he curse them by the NAME. "If he curse them with a substituted name of God?" R. Meier pronounces him "guilty:" but the Sages "free him." 9. "If one came to a betrothed maid?" "He is not guilty, except she be a virgin and betrothed, and in the house of her father." "If two came to her?" "The first is to be stoned and the second strangled." 10. "The enticer to idolatry?" "This ordinary man enticed an ordinary man; he said to him, 'there is an object of fear in such a place, so it eats, so it drinks, so it does good, so it does evil.'" Of all who are guilty of death in the law, we are not to set witnesses in concealment to convict them, except in this case of an enticer to idolatry. When he has spoken of his idolatry to two persons, they as witnesses bring him to the judgment-hall, and stone him. If he spoke thus to one, this one replies, "I have companions who desire to hear so and so." "If he be cunning, and he does not speak before them?" "Witnesses are concealed behind a wall, and he says to the idolater, 'tell me what thou saidst to me alone,' and the idolater told him. And he replied to him, 'how can we leave our God, who is in heaven, and go and serve wood and stone?'" "If the idolater returned from his sin, it is well; but if he said, 'so is our duty, and so it is excellent for us,' they who stood behind the wall bring him to the judgment-hall, and stone him; if he said, 'I shall serve, I shall go and serve, let us go and serve; I will sacrifice, I will go and sacrifice, let us go and sacrifice; I will burn incense, I will go and burn incense, let us go and burn incense; I will pour a libation, I will go and pour a libation, let us go and pour a libation; I will bow down, I will go and bow down, let us go and bow down'—the withdrawer is he who says, 'let us go and serve idols.'" 11. The sorcerer, who has done the act, is guilty of death, but he is not guilty who merely deludes the eyes. R. Akiba said in the name of R. Joshua, "two sorcerers can gather cucumbers—one gathers them and is free, but another gathers them and is guilty. He who has performed the act is guilty. He who has merely deluded the eyes is free." 191:1 The words in the original, Baal Aob, are supposed by some to denote a ventriloquist, as such persons are called in the LXX. ἐγγαστριμύθοι, and also from Aob, meaning a "bottle" or "stomach." Aob seems however much more likely to be allied to the Coptic word for "a serpent" or "Python," Acts xvi. 16. 191:2 Matthew xxvi. 65. 192:1 The image of Molech was made of brass. It was hollow within and heated with fire outside. It stood in the valley of Hinnom without the walls of Jerusalem. Kimehi says the image of Molech contained seven chapels. These chapels are supposed by some to represent the seven planets. In the first chapel flowers were offered; in the second, turtle doves or young pigeons; in the third, lambs; in the fourth, rams; in the fifth, calves; in the sixth, oxen; "but whosoever offered his son, they opened to him the seventh chapel." The face of Molech was like the face of a calf, and the image stretched forth its hands "as a man who opens his hands to receive something of his neighbour." "They kindled the image with fire, and the priests took the babe and put it into the hands of Molech, and the babe gave up the ghost." They called it Tophet, because they made a noise with drums (tophim), that the father might not hear the screams of his child and have pity upon him. And they called it Hinnom, because the child roared (menahem) in his anguish. Others say it was called Hinnom, because the priests used to say, "May it profit (‏יהנה‎) thee—may it be sweet to thee." 192:2 Cutting off is generally supposed to have extended to the family as well as the guilty person. It seems to have included the future as well as the present life.

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1 Ahmed M = "Jewish traditions describe different sorts of corporal punishments and capital punishments."
2 Ahmed M = "The harshness of the death penalty indicated the seriousness of the crime."
3 Ahmed M = "Jewish philosophers argue that the whole point of corporal punishment was to serve as a reminder to the community of the severe nature of certain acts. "