Evidence, Burden of Proof, and the Bible

If people applied the simplicity of verifying truth, the world would immensely change for the better. There is a simple method for finding the truth. Whether someone is weighing the evidence in law or hearsay and gossip in everyday life, the following legal-historical method allows people to distinguish and discover the truth. However, people have biases and presuppositions. Many do not always want the truth, the responsibility to examine evidence, or the change that truth would make in them. Whether someone believes in the Bible or not, all position claiming the truth must bear the burden of proof. In the case of the Bible, this book claims all truth and presents the evidence to all.

The Standard of Evidence

Confirming events by two or three primary sources is still the legal maxim of proof. This maxim always holds true. Even when the guilty collaborate accounts to escape conviction, an honest and diligent investigation can reveal the deception. By examining two or more eyewitness sources, two or more essential discrepancies between these accounts discover and expose false testimonies. Likewise, two or three primary sources affirm an event when two or more essential points agree within the witnesses’ accounts. Rome adopted this principle of affirming truth into its ancient courts (cf. Roman Corpus of Civil Law). Egypt, Greece, India, and Crete also used this standard. The Law of Moses embedded this procedure into Israel’s commonwealth. This legal maxim was essential to the founding of English common law and the U.S. judicial system, and now continues. “No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court” (U.S. Constitution: Art. 3, Sect. 3). This legal maxim is so ancient and fundamental that the Bible attributes it to coming from God.

Facts are facts when verified. Verify means “to prove the truth of, as by evidence or testimony; confirm; substantiate.” Verifying the truth is one of the purposes of the Bible and something seen throughout its text. Few realize the effect that the Bible has had upon proving facts. The body of evidence in a court of law, verification of historical events, the sources of honest journalism, and reports of the scientific method rely on this principle as the foundation of discovering facts. The Bible carried this principle throughout the centuries unto modern civilization.

Evidence and the Bible

The Bible carries this principle from its beginning to end. The Bible showed the continual reliability and simple practicality of proving each fact by two or three primary sources. First, when the Bible speaks of “witnesses,” the Bible is referring to primary sources. These sources are witnesses including people (John 3:32; 1 John 1:1), actions (Mark 1:44; 6:11; Heb 2:4), writings (Deut 31:26), songs (Deut 19), monuments (Josh 4:22), and trace evidence (Exod 22:9–15; Deut 22:13–21). Second, even if two or three conspired to bear false witness, the Bible teaches to examine thoroughly these witnesses. Comparing the similarities and symmetry of the accounts of an event is the process for investigating sources and attaining every factual detail. Examining and recognizing the consistency and agreement of two or more essential details verifies every part of the actual event. While these details prove true, this process proves the truth of these testimonies. The investigator can detect inconsistencies and disagreements upon two or three explicit contradictions as witnesses that they are dishonest. Thereby, the diligent observer can know the facts and expose the lies.

This standard of testimonial evidence is the foundation of jurisprudence and the basis of civility. The writers of the New Testament used this principle to prove its claims. When opposition openly accused Jesus of evil in the Gospel of John, He turned to this eternal truth for His innocence and proof of His identity. Jesus said in John 8:17, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.” Jesus used this standard to prove who He said He was even when the witnesses were only Jesus and God (John 8:14–18). Sometimes, a person is the only witness besides God, and that does not change the truth or what is evident truth. In John 5, Jesus referred to witnesses proving that He is the Messiah. These witnesses were John the Baptist (5:33–35), God the Father via signs and wonders (5:36–38), and the scriptures (5:39), which include Jesus’s reference to Moses (5:45–47). Jesus was not verifying Himself to make light of a foolish Jewish principle that they used against Him. He was using the scriptural authority of proof.

The writer of John wrote, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe” (John 19:35), “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31), and “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24). John also used this principle of various witnesses to prove the truth in his epistle of 1 John (1:1–4; 5:6–13). This evidence is still the guiding method used to prove Jesus today as it was two thousand years ago. Furthermore, Jesus commanded His apostles to bear witness and thus prove Him in preaching throughout the world (Acts 10:36–43). Only prejudice opposes such eyewitnesses.

Israel’s Standard of Evidence

The judicial system of the Mosaical Law relied upon this standard of verification by two or three witnesses. Judges were essential to civil justice under the Mosaical Law (Deut 16:18–20), and these judges used this exact method (Deut 17:6–7; 19:15; Num 35:30). Israel elected their leaders (Deut 1:13). God revealed to Israel that they can know the truth by two or three witnesses to the point that those found guilty would receive punishments even unto death. Therefore, God required that Israel’s judges conduct a careful and thorough investigation (Deut 19:18–20). Israel applied the wisdom of relying upon the proof of witnesses in everyday life. When Boaz bought land, he did so before witnesses and the elders at the gate of Bethlehem, who judged and confirmed Boaz’s trade by which he gave one of his sandals to bear witness (Ruth 4). Jeremiah also bought land with witnesses, signed a deed that bore witness, and sealed the deed as a prophecy of Judah’s coming captivity (Jer 32). This same affirmation is still used today on contracts, wills, and marriage licenses in the U.S.

All of the Bible centers upon affirming the truth via testimony. Moses wrote in his Law, “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you” (Deut 31:26), hence references to “the two tablets of the testimony” (Exod 31:18), “the ark of the testimony” (Exod 31:7), and “the tabernacle of the testimony” (Exod 38:21). What testimony? The Law of Moses is God’s testimony. Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are the witnesses that form the Mosaical Law as a testimony against God’s people who break His Law.

Evidence and the Gospels

Why are there four Gospels? Do they not bear witness? Besides the uniqueness of the four Gospels, Matthew and John testified of what they saw and heard. Mark and Luke wrote and verified testimonies of other eyewitnesses. Each Gospel affirmed the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels verify the wonderful works that Jesus did proving that He was from God bringing the Truth of God, and God bore witness by these signs and wonders (John 20:30–31; Heb 2:1–4). The Apostles knew what they were doing. They were proving that Jesus is the predicted Messiah from God. Proof after proof fills each Gospel for the world to cross-examine these eyewitness reports.

After Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, His Apostles were willing to testify in court and willing to face the charge of perjury. The exact definition of “perjury” from par meaning “false” and jury meaning “witness.” The Apostles challenged the courts to find them guilty of false witness making them open to receive its due punishment. When the Apostles appeared before the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin, they said, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20), and “we are His witnesses to these things” — Jesus’s death and resurrection (Acts 5:32). The Apostles were never found guilty of perjury. Later, the Jewish court did take their wrath out on Stephen by stoning him to death when they relied on false witnesses. When the unbelieving Jews rose up against the apostle Paul in Jerusalem, he took the testimony of the gospel with him before governors and kings to Caesarea and all the way to Rome (Acts 22:15; 23:11). Paul taught and relied upon the legal maxim of two or three witnesses even in the face of false teachers (2 Cor 13:1; cf. 1 Tim 5:19). By these infallible proofs, the gospel of Jesus Christ spread throughout the world.

The Testimony

As the Law of Moses was a testimony to Israel, Jesus revealed that the gospel is a witness to all the world (Matt 24:14). Paul echoed the same that the gospel is the testimony (2 Tim 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 2:1). Most houses in the U.S. have the witness of the Bible. In each home, the Word of God bears witness. The proof of Jesus fulfilling predictive prophecies and truly doing miracles is more certain than anything else in history. No stronger evidence exists than eyewitnesses. Trace and forensic evidence suffice to support the witnesses. Various witnesses recorded in writing confirm the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament Scriptures deliver the words of these testimonies to the world. What will the world do with these words? The goal of the Apostles was to spread the testimony of the gospel. In 1 John 1:1–4, the apostle John revealed,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

My plea to everyone is to examine the Gospels and honestly pursue the truth with a pure conscience. — Scott J Shifferd