A complete trial includes seven things: a prosecutor, a defendant, a judge, the charges, a venue, a date, and a verdict.
In the trial I have postulated, I believe we can specifically identify six of these with direct evidence.
A seventh can be identified generically (John Doe 1, John Doe 2, Jane Roe 1, and Jane Roe 2) but more precise identification requires inference and faces massive public opposition.
(1) In 1997 William Arnal identified Luke 17:34-35 as a gendered couplet written in the legal genre.
This gendered couplet is the trial summary issued to the defendants after the trial, or used for some similar purpose.
This was not Arnal’s conclusion. He simply believed it was necessary to establish genre before further interpretation was possible.
The couplet itself is a primary source embedded in the gospel story.
The gendered couplet is evidence of 1) the defendants, 2) the sexual transgression charges, and 3) the verdict.
W. E. Arnal, “Gendered Couplets in Q and Legal Formulations. From Rhetoric to Social. History”, in: JBL 116 (1997)
(2) In 1962 Jacob Neusner brought three Talmud passages together in a single long footnote on p.93 of his book, A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai, ca 1-80 C.E., published by E.J. Brill.
Two of the three passages appear to be Roman-style formularies (legal documents) used by the prosecution in trials.
These two passages confirm the nature of the charges (same-sex sexual transgression), and the fact of two different legal systems interacting (Roman and Jewish).
The third passage is evidence of 1) the prosecutor, 2) the fact of a trial, and 3) the issues of the trial (the charges). It also contains evidence, direct and inferential, of Jewish embarrassment about their accountability to Roman supervision.
The first two passages are Massekhet Semahot 8.7 and ySanhedrin 7.5. The third passage is Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:2.
The first two of these appear to be primary source documents used at trial. The third is an augmented primary source documents.
These descriptions above are not present in Neusner. He “simply” wanted on record the connection between these scattered Talmud passages and their connection to R. Yohanan b. Zakkai.
(3) The third source is Antiquities of the Jews 18.4.6 by Josephus.
This source identifies the judge in the case, Philip the Tetrarch. It describes his judicial style. It implicitly suggests that his jurisdiction was a patchwork of legal systems and customs.
In terms of the postulated trial, Antiquities of the Jews is a secondary source. It does not make reference to any specific trial. It does, however, describe a Rome-approved official authorized to adjudicate a capital trial.
So far we have sourced five elements of the trial: 1) the verdict, 2) the prosecutor by name, 3) the charges, 4) the judge by name and 5) four unidentified defendants. We found this information in two ancient primary sources and one ancient secondary source.
Two aspects remain of trials in general and the postulated trial in particular, the venue and the date. To be pertinent, the venue and date would need to establish that the three trial participants (the judge, prosecutor, and the defendants) were or could have been present simultaneously.
This is circumstantial evidence.
(4) Venue: Bethsaida
The city of Bethsaida was in the jurisdiction of Philip the Tetrarch. Yohanan b. Zakkai was posted in ‘Arav, a 2-3 day journey from Bethsaida. An urban area like Bethsaida would be home to any number of sexual minorities.
Thus, Philip the Tetrarch, Yohanan b. Zakkai, and numerous sexual minority individuals and couples could have been present in Bethsaida simultaneously.
(5) Date: 30 C.E.
Numismatic archaeological evidence establishes both the date and the location.
In 1987 Rami Arav and his team of archaeologists unearthed coins at et-Tell. These coins commemorated the founding of Bethsaida-Julias by Philip the Tetrarch in 30 C.E. Et-Tell was officially renamed Bethsaida by the government of Israel in 1995.
The legal and political elevation of an ordinary fishing town to an official imperial city was a momentous event. This event was the catalyst for arrests, and for the trial postulated above.
The postulated trial occurred in time for the trial results to be reflected in Bethsaida’s city charter. That charter required the ratification of the imperial senate in Rome. The timing of the arrests and trial(s) would have been calculated to work within this timeframe.
Further understanding of the accused is contingent upon the plausibility of the conjectured trial(s). The identity of the four defendants (John Doe 1, John Doe 2, Jane Roe 1, and Jane Roe 2) awaits confirmation of whether a trial occurred.
To see a list of other posts related to the Evidence, the Bethsaida Trial and the Gay Jew Jesus, click here.