Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

June 18, 1971 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1971-06-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Wide Attention Drawn to Harper, Row Publication

Historic Injustices Analyzed, and Truth About Jesus Trial,Death
Outlined in Israel Supreme Court Justice Haft.. Cohn's Study

Israel Supreme Court Justice
Haim Cohn has earned many
laurels. As lawyer and jurist, as
a leader in movements to elevate
the standards of the less priv-
ileged he has rendered many serv-
ices and he has labored with dis-
tinction as Israel's representative
on the United Nations Commission
on Human Rights and on ad hoc
UN committees. His most lasting
achievement may prove to be his
most scholarly work, "The Trial
and Death of Jesus," a Harper
and Row volume that has drawn
worldwide attention.
In its English translation from
the Hebrew, this very impressive
and convincing work enriches the
vast library that has already been
published on the subject. In the
last century alone, Justice Cohn
calls attention, 60,000 books have
been published on the subject,
many on the trial itself but "few
. . . by lawyers and legalistically."
At the very outset Justice
Cohn points out that "the larg-
est concession which even the
great liberals among the heir-
archy of the Catholic Church
would nowadays be prepared to
make would be to absolve the
Jewish people as a whole, and
the Jews of later generations,
from a guilt which—they hold
—attaches irrevocably to the
Jews whom the Gospels accuse
of an active part in the trial."
Justice Cohn sifts the material
available to arrive at valid con-
clusions which had been over-
looked or ignored because the mat-
ter had been left to theologians
and it was assumed that "nothing
was left to be done" about the
condemnation of Jews.
The position assumed by the
Catholic Church and by many
theologians, the errors in the New
Testament, the inconsistencies and
falsehoods are among the issues
thoroughly exposed in Justice
Cohn's work of research. He
points to "cardinal mistakes," in
Christian ranks, among them the
assumption that "the attitude of
contemporary rabbis toward Chris-
tianity and its founder must have
been identical with that of their
Jerusalem precursors toward
Justice Cohn avoids "involve-
ment in the centuries-old argument
as to the historicity or nonhistori-
city of Jesus himself, his ministry,
or any particular episodes Of his
life, or, for that matter, the life
of Pontius Pilate and his gover-
norship of Judaea."
Emphasizing that it is the
lawyer's privilege not to take
reported facts for granted, Jus-
tice Cohn, in his approach to
his extensive review of the
Gospels and their contents as
they affect the Jews in relation
to the death of Jesus, asserts
that "there is no shred of
respect in an investigation, of
this kind: even the greatest
genius, even the holiest of men,
by undertaking to interpret ;re-
ported facts, implicitly invites
a critical assessment of his
views; it was only by later
canonizers that some such books
were elevated to the rank of
untouchability and indisput-
The many discrepancies regard-
ing the trial of Jesus, the con-
tradictions in the Gospels, the
misrepresentations are noted, and
the eminent jurist draws on scores
of available sources while analyz-
ing the Gospels to point out the
He indicates that the trial was
conducted by the Roman pro-
curator under Roman law, that
Jews could not have taken an
active part in the trial before
Pilate since the Jewish masses

48 Friday, June 18, 1971

are portrayed in the New Testa-
ment as "ardent admirers and
sincere wellwishers of Jesus."
Justice Cohn shows that since
Jesus was arrested by Roman and
Jewish troops it stands to reason
that the Romans initiated the
action. The arrest was on Pass-
over night, and the trial was to
be held the next day. The preju-
diced reference to Jewish guilt is
refuted in the indication that
Jesus was taken to the house of
the high priest rather than the
Roman lock-up and the misinfor-
mation about the Sanhedrin is
thoroughly exposed.
Jesus' removal on the night be-
fore the trial to the high priest's
home is given as an indication
that an effort was made to save
his life.
The last-minute effort to fore-
stall the trial by the Romans also
is given as an indication of the
affection in which Jesus was held
by his fellow Jews.
Then there is the refutation
of the crucifixion ever having
been practiced by Jews.
Justice Cohn charges that "the
reports of the trial were written
with tendentious religious pur-
poses, and while they succeeded
in attaining this purpose to an
unsurpassed extent, they almost
obliterated in the process all
traces of historico-legal reality. So
long as their impact is strictly
confined to the religious sphere,
it may be argued that it would
not be the business of legal (as
distinguished from religious or
general) historians to inquire into
the accuracy and reliability of
these reports—though the legal
historian ought not, perhaps, to
stand by, when the religious belief
in the truth of these reports gives
rise to acts of vengeance and per-
secution, perpetrated under the
color of (religious) law, or even

only to popular prejudices which
might result in discrimination and
hatred. It is, however, when law-
yers take up the Gospel stories
and elevate them to the rank of
authentic law reports, that it be-

comes imperative to protest and
try to put matters in the right
Justice Cohn asserts:
"I have tried to show that the
facts (or most of the facts)
emerging from the Gospel
stories, whatever the tendencies
and conclusions expressed by
their authors or appearing on
their face, are compatible with
Jewish innocence no less—nay
much more—than with Jewish
guilt, and that both the trial and
the execution of Jesus were ex-
clusively Roman. In reflecting
on these matters- and arriving
at my conclusions, I have had
no apologetic purposes in mind:
I do not feel called upon, as a
Jew, to defend the Jewish au-
thorities or the Jewish people
of that time against charges
which, however spurious I be-
lieve them to be, have caused
untold sufferings to generations

of innocent Jews throughout the
ages. The allegation being that
Jesus was tried by a Jewish
court, presumably under Jewish
law, his case is port and parcel
of Jewish legal history, and as
such must claim our attention
—quiet apart from the fact that
Jesus was a Jew who taught and
fought and died among his peo-
ple in Jerusalem. And to refute
that allegation is not so much
a vindication of Jewish law and
procedure, as a vindication of
those men who, although not
having judged, have been con-
demned for having judged; and
the condemners, as they have
`sinned in the law,' will have
to be judged by the law."
Justice Cohn especially de-
molishes the allusions to Jewish
guilt in efforts to prove that Pilate
was troubled by a guilty consci-
ence and that the Jews actually
performed the criminal act against
"The Synoptic Gospels rightly
and accurately show that the Jews
took no part in the crucifixon,"
Justice Cohn points out, "and we
may look upon the admission in
John that Roman soldiers had
crucified him (19:23) as indica-
tive of a general consensus that
the crucifixon was verily carried
out by Roman troops under the
supreme command of the gover-
There is also the angle involv-
ing Herod, and Justice Cohn as-
serts that "many scholars deny
the historicity of Luke's account
of proceedings before Herod, and
there are good reasons to doubt
the tradition, apart from the dif-
ficulty of timing."
Justice Cohn examines thor-
oughly the "Jewish Trial
Theory" to disprove that a
legally functioning Sanhedrin
had a role in the death of Jesus.

While criminal jurisdiction was
exercised by the Small San-
hedrin of Twenty-Three, he
states that it was the Great
Sanhedrin of Seventy-One which
has such jurisdiction and that
met in the high priest's home the
given night before Passover,
that: "there is no indication in
Spripture that the 70 elders with
Moses ever exercised criminal
jurisdiction; nor, second, have
we record of the Great San-
hedrin of Seventy-One ever
having done so."
There is a strong concluding
assertion in repudiation of the
anti-Jewish charges, and Justice
Cohn declares:
"Hundreds of generation of
Jews, throughout the Christian
world, have been indiscriminately
mulcted for a crime which neither
they nor their ancestors com-
mitted. Worse still, they have for
centuries, for millennia, been
made to suffer all manner of tor-
ment, persecution and degrada-
tion for the alleged part of their
forefathers in the trial and cruci-
fixion of Jesus, when, in solemn
truth, their forefathers took no
part in them but did all that they
possibly and humanly could to
save Jesus, whom they dearly
loved and cherished as one of
their own, from his tragic end at
the hands of the Roman oppressor.
If there can be found a grain of
consolation for this perversion of
justice, it is in the words of Jesus
himself: 'Blessed are they which
are persecuted for righteousness'
sake: for theirs is the kindness
of heaven. Blessed are ye, when
men shall revile you, and per-
secute you, and shall say all
manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake. Rejoice, and be
exceeding glad: for great is your
reward in heaven' (Matthew

Testimonial Volume 'Of Law and Man' Honors
Justice Cohn; Many Scholars Contribute Essays

Justice Haim Cohn of the Israel
Supreme Court, having earned the
respect and admiration of his fel-
low jurists and of legal scholars
throughout the world, is honored
in a most notable work. A group of
internationally famous authorities
on law, philosophers and men of
letters, combined to pay him honor
through their collected essays in a
volume entitled "Of Law and
This significant work, edited by
Prof. Shlomo Shoham, head of Tel
Aviv University law faculty's Insti-
tute of Criminology and Criminal
Law, was praised in Israel as a
Sabra Books publication. It appears
at the same time as Justice Cohn's
"The Trial and Death of Jesus"
which has been issued by Harper
and ROW, and therefore is an add-
ed landmark in the career of the
great jurist.
It is most appropriate that the
Nobel Peace Laureate of 1968,
Prof. Rene Cassin, should be
contributing the first essay to
the volume "Of Law and Men"
under the title "From the Ten
Commandments to the Rights of
Man." Prof. Cassia, as the prin-
cipal author of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights
adopted by the United Nations
on Dec. 10, 1948, affirms that
"the jubilee of a great Israeli
jurist, Hahn Cohn, who has con-
secrated an important part of his
full career to the problems of
Human Rights, can serve as a
suitable occasion for one of the
artisans of the Declaration to
present his contribution to this

subject." His emphasis is on his
tracing it to the Decalogue. The
issues are faced with frankness,
without apologetics, with Prof.
Cassin's emphasis on adherence
to the basic rules of humanitar-
ianism for all without breaches
or restrictions
The very eminent confreres of
Prof. Cassin pursue the theme on
law and man with definite contri-
butions to the theme, while honor-
ing the jurist who merited the pub-
lication of this work.
In his preface. Dean Amnon
Rubinstein of the Tel Aviv Univer-
sity law faculty points briefly to
"the tenacity with which Haim
Cohn adheres to his principles."
An ever greater emphasis on
human rights is recommended in
the article by. Dr. William Korey,
"Human Rights at the UN—Illu-
sion and Reality." The basic chal-
lenges are explored here.
Chief Justice Zeev Zeltner of
the Tel Aviv District Court adds
to the tributes in Justice Cohn's
honor with his essay "The Strug-
gle for human Rights and Its
'Prof. Maxwell Cohen deals with
"a controversial Canadian experi-
ment" in the essay "Human Rights
and Hate Propaganda." He poses
the question whether legislation
serves a constructive democratic
purpose. He points out that well-
managed countries like the Scan-
dinavian as well as Switzerland,
Netherlands, France and Italy
have found it desirable to have
legislation against group defama-
It is appropriate that a volume
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS in honor of a great Israeli jurist

should include an essay by Prof.
Julius Stone of the University of
Sydney on the topic "Behind the
Cease Fire Lines: Israel's Admin-
istration in Gaza and the West
Bank." Israel emerges out of this
study as an administration with
"most impressive" achievements
and as "the most humane and gen-
erous in modern history."
These essays are in the portion
of the book devoted to "Human
Rights." The second portion deals
with the "Law of Nations" and the
first essay in that part is by former
Supreme Court Justice Arthur
Goldberg on "The Future of Inter-
national Law in an Unruly World."
An Israeli scbotar, the former
deputy permanent representative
to the UN, Shabtai Rosenne, is
the author of the essay "Prob-
lems of Treaty-Making Compe-
tence—Reflections on the Vienna
Convention and the Kamiar
Case" (which was tested in the
Jerusalem as well as the Su-
preme Courts), in the second
portion of the book. The conclud-
ing portion of that part is the
essay on a judgment that was
before the International Court
of Justice, "The North Sea Con-
tinental Shelf Case," by Prof.
Isi Foighel of the University of
Three other parts of the book
deal with "Substance of Law,"
Processes of Law" and "Laws and
In all instances, the role of Jus-
tice Cohn is taken into considera-
tion when dealing, as the authors
do, with "Conscience and Social
Disobedience in the Jewish Tradi-

tion," "Pure Equity," "Corporate
Entity," "Morality of Advocacy,"
"Arab Terrorists' Claims to Privi-
leged Combatancy," "Symmetry in
Choice of Law," "Criminology and
the Penal System," "Jury System,"
"Diversion" and "Victimology."
The authors of the subjects thus
covered are Prof. Milton Konvitz,
Cornell University; Prof. Ralph A.
Newman, University of California;
Srnadar Ottolenghi, Tel Aviv Uni-
versity; Prof. Helen Silving, Uni-
versity of Puertci TheOdor •
Meron ; Israel ministry for foreign
affairs; Yuval Levy,6'rel Aviv Uni-
versity; Barbara Marks, member
New York Bar; Prof. Franco Fer-
racuti, University of Rome; Giu-
seppe Di Gennaro, Italian Ministry
of Justice; Jean Graven, Interna-
tional Association of Penal Law;
Prof. Gerhard 0. W. Mueller, New
York University; and Stephan Hur-
witz, Civil and Military Adminis-
tration, Denmark.
In an extensively documented
essay, Meron shows, in his dis-
cussion of terrorists' claims to
privileged combatancy, how the
law, his case is part and parcel
—quite apart from the fact that
privileged combatancy, how the
to inhuman tactics. He exposes
their objectives of murdering


Many Jewish traditional ap-
proaches are evaluated in the
studies in this notable work.
Tel Aviv University has joined
in acclaiming Justice Cohn's career
in a •high recommendation that "Of
Law and Man" be utilized by lay-
men and in scholastic studies.

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan