Although the Jews were under Roman rule at the time of Jesus, they were granted authority over those issues that were unique to their customs and religion (see Acts 18:15). The legislative body responsible for administering Jewish law was called the Sanhedrin. Sometimes referred to as the council (John 11:47, Acts 5:27), the Sanhedrin consisted of 71 men selected from among the priests, elders, and rabbis and was presided over by the high priest. It served as a type of Supreme Court that dealt with Jewish customs, traditions, and laws.
Jewish societal law was founded upon the civil codes revealed in the five books of Moses. Because Moses was the author of the first five biblical books, the laws are referred to as the law of Moses. When God originally gave the laws to Moses, He envisioned a state where He would be the head and the people would enforce His legal mandates. By the time of Jesus, the Jews were subject to Roman law. However, the Roman government allowed them to use Mosaic law in order to settle issues relating to their customs. Here is where the work of the Sanhedrin was especially important.The New Testament provides several examples of the Mosaic law being applied, or alluded to, in civic matters: Jewish men were still expected to pay the half shekel temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27, Exod. 30:13); divorces were still being governed by the stipulations set forth by Moses (Matt. 19:7, Deut. 24:1-4); people still adhered to the law of levirate marriage, in which a widow was to marry her husband’s brother (Matt. 22:24, Deut. 25:5); boys were still circumcised on the eighth day (John 7:23, Lev. 12:3); and adulterers were to be punished by stoning (John 8:5; Deut. 22:23-24).
Read some of the civil legislation found in the early books of the Bible. Some of those laws do seem strange to us, don’t they? (See, for example, Deuteronomy 21.) Considering who the Author of these laws is, what should this tell us about how we must learn to trust the Lord in all things, especially those things we don’t fully understand?