History of the Legal-Historical Method
Ancient Rome adopted this principle of attesting facts by two or more eyewitnesses within its ancient courts (cf. the Roman Corpus of Civil Law). However, Egypt, Greece, India, and Crete were also using this standard. The Law of Moses embedded this procedure into Israel’s commonwealth. Moses wrote, “Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deut 19:15b ESV; cf. 19:15–21). This legal maxim continues now as essential to the founding of English common law and the U.S. judicial system. The U.S. Constitution declares, “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” (Art. 3, Sect. 3). This legal maxim is so ancient and fundamental that the Bible attributes this method as coming from God.
The Historical Method:
- Receive a report of a significance event from a competent source.
- Collect detailed accounts from two or more primary sources about the event.
- Cross examine the primary sources for two or more points of agreement to confirm or contradiction to invalidate the accounts.
- Table details of the event only supported by one primary source until verified.
- Form a plausible account explaining the attested details from the perspective of the sources.
- Search for two or three additional sources to test the original sources.
- Set aside accounts that contradict upon two or more essential points for later examination.
- Record the facts and report the conclusion with the best explanation that accounts for the factual details.
- [An independent source can establish traditional history that is highly probable when attested as reliable on two or more other accounts.]
How Sources Attest Facts
Facts are actual occurrences of events. Two or more sources verify a fact. Verify means to prove the truth of, as by evidence or testimony; confirm; substantiate. Confirming an event by two or three primary sources, “witnesses,” is still the legal maxim of proof. Sources may be called “witnesses” that include documents, monuments, traditions, and trace evidence. Evidence in a court of law, verification of historical events, the sources of honest journalism, and reports of the scientific method rely on at least two witnesses as the standard of evidence and foundation of attested facts. Every scientific experiment needs two or more witnesses to confirm that it is true without two or more contrary witnesses. This is why peer-review is needed to cross-examine discoveries.
The maxim of multiple witnesses holds true. Proving events by two or more witnesses is essential. For instance in legal attestation, 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.