Handling an Objection: We Can’t Trust Eyewitness Testimony!
by Eric Chabot
Can we trust eyewitness testimony? I have seen this conversation arise in my own outreach efforts. Perhaps you have as well. By the way, the issue of whether we can trust eyewitness testimony in relation to a miracle claim is both a historical and a philosophical issue. If you want to read up on whether historians are able to verify miracle claims, you can read more here: If you want to read more about some of the responses to philosophical objections to miracles, click here:
Hopefully, both the Christian and the non-Christian should be able to agree that since historians can’t verify the events directly, they rely on things such as written documents (both primary and secondary sources), external evidence/archaeology, and the testimony of the witnesses to the events. New Testament faith is portrayed biblically as knowledge based upon testimony. It is common for the Christian to cite some of the following passages:
• Acts 2:32: “This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it.”
• Acts 3:14-15: “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.”
• Acts 5:30-32: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
• 1 John 1:1: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life”
• Acts 10:39 : “We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.”
• Acts 4:19-20: “Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
• 1 Peter 5:1: “So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.”
• 2 Peter 1:19: ” We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
• John 21:24: “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.”
Despite the Christian’s appeal to testimony and witness in the New Testament, the skeptic assumes that it has been shown that eyewitness testimony is very unreliable in a court of law. How can the Christian possibly try to propose that eyewitness testimony is one of the reasons we can trust the events in the New Testament?
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