Getting at the Truth Concerning Ancient Trials

PROBLEM:  Few sources exist, and most of them come from authors with clear sympathies

Example 1: Trial of Socrates (399 BC)
Primary sources for information are Plato and Xenophon
---both Plato and Xenophon are disciples of Socrates
---both want to portray Socrates in a favorable light
---both want to use trial to score philosophical points
---no record of prosecution speeches (3 hrs), only defense speech (apologia)

Example 2:  Trial of Jesus (30 AD)
Primary sources for information are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter
---all are early Christians who want to present Jesus as the resurrected savior
---Gospel writers didn't know Jesus personally and were not present at "trial"
---Gospels were written from 20 (Peter) to 30 (Mark) to nearly 70 years (John) after execution
---Gospels each written for distinct audiences (e.g., Mark for Rome, Matthew for Christian community in Egypt, Luke for community in Greece. The geographic origin of Peter is less clear--most likely it was written in western Syria)