The Scriptural Chain of Custody

bullet%20casingWhy Should We Trust It?

Every day, in courtrooms across America, evidence is introduced to make cases of one kind or another. Juries have to assess this evidence and decide for themselves whether or not the evidence is reliable. One of the most important questions the jury has to ask (and answer) is whether or not a particular piece of evidence presented in court is actually the same piece of evidence that was collected from the crime scene.

Let’s say that we are at the scene of a murder (as "first-responders") and find that the victim has been shot with a 9mm handgun. A single 9mm bullet ‘casing’ is lying on the ground next to the victim. Eventually, this bullet casing is going to be collected, tested and presented in court. The casing may end up being the pivotal piece of evidence in our case, connecting the suspect to the murder. How will the jury know (or trust) that this casing is the same casing that was observed at the crime scene?

The Chain of Custody

One way to be certain that the casing is legitimate is to trace the "chain of custody" related to the casing itself. Who touched the casing at the crime scene? Who handled it in the period of time between the collection and the eventual presentation in court? Do we have good reason to believe that the casing was present in the crime scene in the first place? Do we know who handled the casing along the way and what they observed and recorded about the casing at each step of the investigation? A good defense attorney may try to accuse the detectives of inserting the casing into the investigation even though it was never actually present at the scene.

How can we determine that the casing was legitimately at the crime scene in the first place? One way to determine this is to trace back the "chain of custody" and see if each appearance of the casing is dated and chronicled. First, we need good reason to believe that a responding officer observed the casing at the scene and carefully collected it and booked it into evidence. Next, we need good reason to believe that the transition of this casing occurred appropriately as the detectives examined it. We next need to have good reason to believe that the detectives delivered the casing, uncorrupted, to the criminalists for examination and eventually retrieved this evidence for presentation in court. If these conditions can be satisfied, we can trust that the casing is legitimate.

The Scriptural Chain of Custody

It’s important to determine the chain of custody related to the casing because it provides us with a level of confidence and trust related to the casing itself and it helps us determine the truth about what happened at the crime scene. Something very similar is needed for us to trust the truth related to the historicity of Jesus and the validity of the Christian Worldview. There is an important category of Christian evidence that must be assessed and traced if we are to have confidence in what we know about Jesus of Nazareth. The validity of the casing was traced from the crime scene to a place of assessment (the court room). The eyewitness accounts related to Jesus (the Gospels) must be traced from the "scene of the crime" (the life of Jesus) to a place of assessment (the Council of Laodicea where early Christians formally assessed which ancient texts were the accurate writings of the eyewitnesses)…


The Scriptural Chain of Custody

The Poached Egg

Recommended Resources: Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus | How We Got the Bible