Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1959

The Bible, Whence Is It? From Heaven Or From Men? (IV.)

Robert H. Farish, San Bernardino, California


The credibility of the testimony of the witnesses needs to be established. This properly follows the section on authenticity in which it was shown that the New Testament is the testimony of the alleged witnesses. If these witnesses were not qualified to give testimony in the matters about which they wrote, then that testimony is not worthy to be received as evidence in proof of the fact of the miracles by which God demonstrated that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by which the message of the ambassadors of the Son of God was confirmed. If they are competent witnesses, their testimony is credible. Those who refuse to accept credible testimony as evidence in proof of the proposition that God declared Jesus to be his Son by raising him from the dead, to be consistent, must refuse to believe any fact which does not fall within the range of their own personal experiences. They must reject as wholly unworthy of belief the fact of "SPUTNIK" and "EXPLORER" to mention two such facts. They must get rid of their power to believe, and in the matter of believing the expressed will of God, that is what will be accomplished if they persist in refusing to exercise their power to believe. All must cultivate a determination to do the will of God.

Paul wrote, "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . . ." (I Tim. 1:15.) That the testimony of the New Testament is worthy of all acceptation is the proposition to be established in this part of the series. This will be done by showing that the witnesses meet all the requirements for qualified witnesses; that they were fully qualified morally and mentally and that they had ample opportunities to know about the matters of fact about which they testified.

There are certain well understood and accepted rules by which the competency of testimony may be determined. "For, as we find good reason to reject testimony in some cases, so in others we find good reason to rely upon with perfect security, in our most important concerns. The character, the number, and the disinterestedness of the witnesses, the impossibility of collusion, and the incredibility of their concurring in their testimony without collusion, may give an irresistible strength to testimony ..." (Dr. Reid's, Inquiry Into The Human Mind, as quoted in Greenleaf On Evidence, in a footnote on page 14.).

That the writers of the New Testament were sincere characters with deep conviction is proved by the sacrifices which they made and the suffering which they endured solely on account of their testimony. These witnesses could have avoided all this sacrifice and suffering simply by keeping silent and such would have been the case if they had not had deep conviction of the truth of their testimony. "There is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labors, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of these accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct." (Paley's Evidences of Christianity, Edited By Whately P. 36). It is axiomatic that self preservation is the first law of man's being. Firm conviction of the truth of their testimony is the only reasonable ground upon which the actions of these witnesses, in resisting the force of this law by testifying to facts, which action they knew would lead to their death, can be accounted for. If they had entertained any doubts with reference to the resurrection of Christ, they would have given in to the urgings of material and temporal interests and would have kept silent. The fact is they refused to keep silent when charged to do so by the authorities, and in face of the punishment threatened by the authorities, said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, Judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard." (Acts 4:19). They spoke when silence would have saved their lives. The suffering courageously endured by these witnesses is irrefragable evidence of their integrity. The argument for the disinterestedness of the witnesses and the impossibility of collusion is also amply sustained by the evidence of their suffering on account of their testimony. They could have no worldly temporal interests which would have been served by this testimony and no man would enter into collusion in order to nothing but pain and loss to himself and all who were associated with him in the effort. The apostle Paul advances this evidence as proof that he was a minister of God . . . ."But in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings' (2 Cor. 6:4, 5.)

The high moral tone of the writings can hardly be reconciled with the idea that the writers were dishonest men. To claim that the Bible is from men, one is honor bound to produce a worthy explanation of how base liars could produce an immaculate code of morals, a code which two thousand years of human experience has been unable to improve.

The recording of testimony uncomplimentary to the witnesses themselves, and the manner in which they recorded it is evidence of the credibility of the testimony. The witnesses report their fears, mistakes, failures, unpopularity and humiliations in a most matter of fact way without either excusing themselves or glorying in their shame. They did not parade their shame nor did they pull a "mantle of charity" over it to conceal it. This course is not the course of men who lack integrity; such men either suppress or flaunt such testimony.

The honesty of the witnesses is further certified by the many minute details which they give. "Their integrity further appears from the minute details and manifold circumstantial allusions, with which their histories abound, .... you know that they mention dates, places, persons, and attendant circumstances with the utmost freedom, and that they make innumerable allusions and statements respecting the existing relations of every kind of the age in which they lived." (The Authority of the Sacred Canon, F. S. Sampson in the University of Virginia Lectures. p. 163)

Concurring testimony of a number of independent witnesses is evidence in proof of the integrity of the witnesses. In the matter under study we have eight witnesses whose testimony is documentary. Their testimony is history and cannot be brushed aside in favor of some human theory based upon suppositions and arbitrary assumptions. The names of these witnesses are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Jude, Peter, and James. In addition to these witnesses, whose testimony is documentary, we have other witnesses boldly referred to by these witnesses in their writings. Paul boldly asserted in his written testimony that there were hundreds of witnesses to the cardinal fact, the resurrection of Christ. ....and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born he appeared to me also." (1 Cor. 15:4-8.) In order to properly appreciate this, one needs to remember that this bold claim was put in writing only about twenty five years after the fact. The depth of conviction and the quality of the integrity of the witnesses is seen in their willingness to go on record, in a very public way, at a time when their claims could be checked. "If Christ hath not been raised", they were false witnesses, out such skillful false witnesses as the world has never known. They displayed a skill in the art of deception which is above human, hence in view of this demonstration of above human skill — miraculous skill, the only alternative to ascribing a divine origin to their testimony is to join the Pharisees and say that the witnesses produced their testimony "by the power of Beelzebub."

Credibility of testimony is greatly increased when the matters of fact are public matters, i.e., matters of general knowledge. This is the case with the facts about which the New Testament is concerned. "While I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched not forth your hands against me". (Luke 22:53.) "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved unto by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know ...." (Acts 2:22.) "For the king knoweth of these things, unto whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner." (Acts 26:26.) These quotations reveal that the apostles in their testimony make the claim that the facts were matters of public knowledge. If they were not matters of public knowledge the claim could have been easily refuted by those to whose attention these things first came.

These are some of the many considerations by which the credibility of the testimony is established. There is an abundance of evidence that could be presented, but this is sufficient to establish that the witnesses are competent and therefore their testimony is "worthy of all acceptation".