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Jesus claiming to be God would have been a clear case of blasphemy (unless, of course, he actually was God).

Yet before his trial, according to Matthew 26

"Now the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrini were seeking false testimony against Jesus in order to put Him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward."

Given Trinitarians claim there is clear evidence of Jesus claiming to be God (such as 'Before Abraham was, I am' and 'I and the Father are one') and that the statements were made publicly in front of a hostile group of scribes and Pharisees, why couldn't Caiaphas find any witnesses to attest to these statements, and instead had to seek false testimony in order to put Him to death?

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    You seem to have missed verses 63-66 and the parallel passages from Mark 14:61-64 and Luke 22:67-71. – Lucian May 20 at 21:06
  • @Lucian Can you be more specific? What do you think about 63-66 and the parallel passages is important here? – One God the Father May 20 at 21:10
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    The expression son of God interpreted as blasphemous by the religious Jewish audience. – Lucian May 20 at 21:12
  • @Lucian If 'the Son of God' wasn't understood to be a co-referent for 'the Messiah', why do you think they completely pass over it when he was brought to Pilate? (Luke 23:2) Compare Mark 14:61-64, where the 2 terms are used synonymously. – One God the Father May 20 at 21:25
  • You are basically asking us if Johnny is really the thief everyone says he is, how come no charges of thievery were brought at his trial ?, to which I pointed out that the tribunal basically asked him if he is indeed the son of a thief. – Lucian May 20 at 21:54
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A simple statement, like “I am God” is unambiguous. Had Jesus ever uttered those three words in front of witnesses while on earth, he would have been instantly stoned to death by outraged Jews who would not have held to the protocol of only the Roman government having the authority to put people to death – they would have done it behind the Roman’s backs. To the Jewish people, it is blasphemy for any human to claim to be God. So, because Jesus had to die as the Son of God the way the scriptures foretold (which ruled out being stoned to death), his actions spoke for him, until the time eventually came to speak clearly. His actions were such that he did things only God could do, (especially forgiving sins which no prophet prior to him had ever done) and it was those actions that rattled the religious leaders so much. They knew that the people could see how extraordinary Jesus was; that the people were listening to Jesus’ teaching; that many were following him.

There were witnesses to Jesus saying things like, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death”, and “If ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins”, and “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all [men] should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father”, and much more like that. Yet at the time of trial before the Sanhedrin, those statements in and of themselves could not be made to equate with “I am God”. Of course, in light of Jesus’ resurrection they most certainly can! But you ask about his trial and Caiaphas not “mentioning” any clear statement of Jesus that made him out to be God. That is because Jesus never clearly said, “I am God.” Even when Jesus said that he existed before Abraham lived; “Before Abraham was, I Am” – and they tried to stone him to death for that – those five words fall short of a legal charge of the blasphemy of a man claiming to be God.

That is why false witnesses had to be listened to, because even though many of those religious leaders had heard astounding claims from Jesus’ own lips, they could not (legally speaking) amount to evidence that Jesus had publicly claimed to be God. He never did. And for good reason.

For a start, that could be misleading (according to Trinitarian understanding of the complexity of the one Being of God). There is more to the one Being of God than the Word incarnate, made flesh, walking amongst other men who beheld his glory, that of the only-begotten of the Father (John 1:1-14). Jesus knew that if they didn’t understand that complex truth, they would instantly claim grounds for stoning him to death, but he had to complete his mission on earth. “My time has not yet come” he said several times during that mission. But when his time DID come, he went for it, telling those who hatefully asked him if he was “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed”, he said, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-64)

This led to instant cries of “Blasphemy!” and they all condemned him as guilty of death, according to Jewish law (not Roman law).

That is why Jesus held back openly stating his deity until that moment, when his time had come. Then the embarrassment of false witnesses and clashing testimonies could be swept aside by them. Jesus stating that he was also the Son of God, “the Son of the Blessed”, was too much for those who only thought him to be a man. Those who were prepared to accept that Jesus was a good man still knew the significance of him claiming to be the Son of God – which went way beyond mere humanity! Were it not true, it would have been blasphemy. They thought it was not true. But if it is true that Jesus is God incarnate, then it is blasphemy for people to deny that truth.

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    +1 Thanks for this substantive answer - I especially like the idea that the statements are only clear enough retrospectively. Note that blasphemy does not require claiming to be God - simply falsely claiming to be the Messiah is blasphemy, especially when under oath to God. This is what they find him guilty of (and what is the charge they give to Pilate). 'the Messiah' and 'the Son of God' are routinely used as co-referents in the NT, by Nathanael, Peter, Caiaphas himself, and Martha, among other people. – One God the Father May 21 at 16:53
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    To clear up the ambiguity...Isaiah 9:6 "and his name will be called Wonderful, counsellor, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, Prince of peace." It's pretty obvious the Jews were very familiar with the messianic prophecy and who it would be. There is no doubt claiming even to be the Messiah was punishable by death because the Messiah was to be GOD INCARNATE! – Adam May 21 at 20:32
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    @ One God the Father actually you are quite wrong there. The Jews absolutely believed the messiah would be God(that is the point of Isaiah 9:6). It was simply that they believed he would setup an earthly kingdom in fulfillment of prophecy (such as the one in Isaiah). They did not realise that the plan of salvation was for God to take on the punishment for sin (which is death). This is why the trinity is a critical theology. Unless one understands and accepts this, one cannot understand the plan of salvation. I refer you to the story of Job re the charge that Satan made against God – Adam May 21 at 22:56
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    Take a look at the references in any study bible. Isaiah 9:6 is pretty clear. Consider the following references...Deut 10:17, Isaiah 10:21, Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 22:22, Daniel 2:44, Mat 1:1, Mat 1:23, Mat 28:18, Luke 2:1, John 3:16...i strongly urge you to actually take the time to read ALL of those references that come straight out of the study bible referencing column right next to Isaiah 9:6. These are most definitely merely NOT my interpretations! Taking doctrine, then trying to manipulate writings to fit that doctrine. This is the JW method, that is why they write their own bible. – Adam May 23 at 0:46
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    @OneGodtheFather that depends on how you wish to interpret John 14:9 "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father." John 14:10 "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" John 5:19 "...For whatever the Father does, the Son also does." When combined with Old Testament prophecies its pretty obvious what it means. The Son of Man (Jesus Christ), is INCARNATE God. He talks of His Father in heaven because Phillipians 2:8 "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" – Adam May 23 at 12:08
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Obviously we can't be certain of the motivations of people who died 2000 years ago, but we can do some speculation.

  1. The Sanhedrin probably didn't want to get into the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah or not. They must have been aware that plenty of people believed Jesus was the Messiah, and they probably didn't want people to go round saying "The Sanhedrin killed the Messiah just because he told them who he was". They would much rather have found him guilty of something that all people would have agreed deserved death, even if they had to fake the evidence for it.
  2. Getting together evidence isn't that easy. They didn't have weeks to summon all the people who might have heard Jesus say something - the trial was done in a hurry in the course of a few hours.
  3. Not everybody who heard Jesus say that might have wanted to testify. Getting involved in a contentious political trial is a risky business, and you can be in trouble if the wrong side eventually wins. And that's leaving the question of conscience...
  4. The Jewish leadership does not have the authority to put Jesus to death. They need something that will convince the Romans that he deserves to die. A claim to be God doesn't cut it. In the end they do take the "he claimed to be the Messiah" to Pilate because they have nothing else, and spin it as "He claimed to be king of the Jews", but they might have looked for a better charge first.
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No true disciple would testify against Jesus in order to have him crucified.

True disciples would rather die.

The whole 'trial' was a mockery of justice and unlawful. No ethical person, never mind spiritual person, would want to engage with such disreputable behaviour.

But also, sadly, 'they all forsook him and fled'.

And no others could be found who could get their story straight and agree together about the time and the date and the circumstances of any statements that had (supposedly) been made which could be relied upon to convict of a capital offence.

For this was the whole object of the exercise . . . . unlawful murder.

And that did not require genuine witnesses who would honestly report what had been actually said.

A concocted charge in order to murder an innocent man requires liars, not honest witnesses.

And in their hurried, desperate, murderous haste, they were not able to manage to gather a couple of witnesses who could agree sufficiently to present a valid case to the Roman authorities, who, alone, had the right to publicly and lawfully crucify Jesus of Nazareth.

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The high priest Caiaphas did ask Jesus if He was God at His trial. In fact, at Matthew 26:63 Caiaphas set a trap when he asked if Jesus was "The Messiah, the Son of God" thus asking if Jesus was the ONE person who was BOTH the Messiah and the Son of God, committing Jesus to the view of a divine Messiah. This is what Jesus himself finally answered to.

Most Bibles in regards to Matthew 26:63 use the word "whether." Indicating that a statement applies whichever of the alternatives mentioned is the case. In this case Caiaphas is asking the one Person of Jesus Christ two things. (1) Are you the Messiah/Christ and (2) the Son of God.

Now, among those that believed the messiah was to be a divine figure any claim to be the Messiah would have been a claim to deity - that would have been a given. BUT, among those who did not believe the Messiah was a divine figure such a conjunction would be necessary in order for the court to secure a conviction - which was their objective from the beginning of the trial.

The Jews already had it in for Jesus. But they could not just kill him because they felt like it. They had to have a trial and it had to prove that Jesus committed a crime worthy of death.

Also, (and as I already stated) claiming to be the messiah is not blasphemy worthy of death. From the time of Jesus even up until today throughout history people have claimed to be the messiah. I don't know of anyone being brought to trail and executed for making the claim.

The bottom line is that Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God because He really was the one and only Son of God, as in "Immanuel, God with us." (Matthew 1:23). The Jews like many people to this day do not believe Jesus.

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  • +1 Thanks for discussing the idea that it was claiming to be the Son of God. What reason do you have to believe that 1st C Jews thought that being the Son of God = God? – One God the Father May 24 at 5:37
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    @OneGodtheFather I started a new thread specifically addressing your exact question. Hope it helps and thanks for the +1 – Mr. Bond May 24 at 21:38
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According to Trinitarians, if Jesus was saying things that clearly made Him out to be God, why didn't Caiaphas mention it at Jesus' trial?

Being instituted as high priest by Roman authorities, he needed a legal pretext to execute Jesus in the eyes of the Roman governor of the Roman province of Judaea: Pontius Pilate.

First of all, we have to remember that at the moment of Jesus’ trial there were two high priests in Jerusalem: Annas and Caiaphas and they needed a Roman legal reason to condemn Jesus to death, not a Jewish religious reason.

But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. - John 19:15

Although Caiaphas was high priest that year, he was appointed to this position by the power and will of Rome, and not by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Thus it would be normal that some of the populace would still consider Annas to be the true high priest, since he was deposed by the Romans. We can see that the political circumstances surrounding Christ’s Passion were very complex.

Annas and Caiaphas are two high priests mentioned during Jesus’ public ministry (Luke 3:2). In that period of history, high priests were installed and removed by Roman rulers. While it is not recorded in the Bible, the tradition is that the Romans had deposed Annas and made Caiaphas the high priest. So, officially, Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, was high priest during Jesus’ ministry, but Annas, the former high priest, still held significant sway and was still called a high priest (John 18:13).

When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He was brought before Annas to be questioned (John 18:13; 19–23). Annas sent Him to Caiaphas (John 18:24). The Sanhedrin was also involved in this questioning (Matthew 26:57). Jesus was led away from Caiaphas’ house to stand before Pilate (John 18:28), who then sent Jesus to Herod (Luke 23:6–7), who returned Him to Pilate (Luke 23:11). Pilate eventually condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion, after declaring Him innocent three times (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

Jesus’ trial before Annas and Caiaphas was marked by false testimony and conflicting reports of what Jesus had done and said (Mark 14:56). Through it all, “Jesus remained silent and gave no answer” (verse 61). Caiaphas began to despair of finding enough evidence to put Jesus to death, but then he asked Him directly, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (verse 61). Jesus answered, “I am. . . And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (verse 62). At this, Caiaphas tore his clothes, decreed Jesus to be a blasphemer, and turned Him over to a mob who beat Him (verses 63–65). - What is the account of Annas and Caiaphas?

We must recall that the office of high priest, first conferred on Aaron by his brother Moses, was normally hereditary and for life.

Annas had been high priest from A.D. 6 to 15. The Romans had removed him from office yet he still wielded considerable power behind the scenes. Five of his sons succeeded him as high priest. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas - the high priest who was in office at the time of Jesus ministry.

In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness (Luke 3:2).

Annas is still called "high priest" even though he was not serving in that capacity at the time.

Jesus Was Brought To Annas First

His power was obvious. When Jesus was arrested He was brought to Annas first rather than Caiaphas.

And led him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people (John 18:13,14).

The examination before Annas was unproductive.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said. When he had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, "Is that the way you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike me?" (John 18:19-23).

Annas then sent Jesus away to Caiaphas the current high priest.

So Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:24).

Caiaphas then conducted the next phase of Jesus' trial.

Caiaphas was the ruling High Priest at the time of Jesus ministry (A.D. 18-36). He was the son-in-law of Annas.

Caiaphas predicted the necessity of the death of Jesus.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that he might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill him (John 11:49-53).

He is the one who plotted to kill Jesus.

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they were saying, "Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people" (Matthew 26:3,4)

Caiaphas is the one whom charged Jesus with blasphemy.

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus ^said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!" (Matthew 26:63-66).

Caiaphas sent Jesus to Pilate to have the death sentence carried out.

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled (John 18:28-32).

Whatever the motivations were in regarding Caiphas’ intentions during the trial of Jesus, they were certainly influenced by the Sanhedrin and the religious, political situations of that moment in time. In an nutshell, it was complicated.

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