Was Paul a member of the Sanhedrin?


Was it a requirement of a member of the Sanhedrin to be married and if so how could Paul be a Pharisee and unmarried?


I am not sure if it really was a requirement that a man must be married to be a member of the council or Sanhedrin. The Bible does not say, and so I cannot say for sure.

People can take statements and make them apply further than they were actually intended. A good example of this is in regard to pastors. I Timothy 3:1,2 says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” Some try to make this mean that unless a man is married, then he cannot pastor a church. But that is not the point of the statement. The point of the statement is that he cannot have more than one living wife. The Bible never mentions Timothy, Titus, Barnabas, James, John, etc., as having wives; and yet, all of these men fulfilled the role of overseer of churches. The apostle Paul had the care and oversight of many churches, but he was not married while he was doing it (he was either never married, or else widowed). II Corinthians 11:23-28 says, “ARE THEY MINISTERS OF CHRIST? (I speak as a fool) I AM MORE; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, THE CARE OF ALL THE CHURCHES.”

Some have stated that Paul was widowed, because they say that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. I have always considered the language of I Corinthians 7:1-9 to be saying that Paul never was married (that it was his “gift” that he never had that strong desire), but the passage does allow for him to have been widowed, if that was indeed the case. “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”

Another important note on this subject is that the Bible never says that being a Pharisee meant that you must also be a member of the Sanhedrin. We are told (in other books) that the Sanhedrin consisted of only 70 or 71 members. After Paul’s conversion, he still referred to himself as a Pharisee, but he certainly was not a member of the Sanhedrin at that time. Acts 23:6 says, “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I AM A PHARISEE, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” Paul obviously considered himself a Pharisee while just a young man, just like his dad was a Pharisee. A person did not have to be a member of the Sanhedrin to be a Pharisee. In fact, it is obvious, from the verse above, that many Sadducees were also on the Sandedrin, and they disagreed very strongly with some of the important doctrines that the Pharisees held dear.

Why did Paul still refer to himself as a Pharisee? Obviously, the main reason was to try and get out of the trouble in which he found himself. But it was not a lie. The point he was making was on the doctrine of the resurrection. The Pharisees beleived in the resurrection of the dead, and so did Paul. Acts 23:8 says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” The sad part was that many of the Pharisees did not beleive in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, was Paul ever a member of the Sandedrin? The Bible never says that he was. We never see him sitting on a council, but see him rather as an active and very zealous young man out persecuting Christians. Acts 7:57-8:3 says, “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”