One of the most powerful and effective means of evidence in trials during the legal process is eyewitness evidence. Oftentimes, what someone has observed can tilt a case in a demonstratively different direction. After all, what one infers about a crime based on tangible evidence can’t logically be more conclusive than what one sees about a crime. This is, of course, subject to corroboration … to verifying that what one says they saw is actually what they saw, which entails tying different elements of evidence together to ensure there is consistency among the components.
One of the most reliable sources for corroboration is, as you might imagine, the view of other eyewitnesses. A very early and typical investigative step that police take after a crime is to interview said eyewitnesses. This serves a variety of purposes, but one is to check whether there is consistency among the reports, as well as to piece together a whole of a picture from a number of the parts. That is, if you and I were to look at the same incident, we might see the exact same event but seeing it from different perspectives will result in somewhat different but reconcilable accounts. It’s like describing a car from the side versus from the rear … it’s the same car, but you and I would describe it differently yet accurately.
This same logic is what makes me so excited about studying the Bible (and what should make you excited too). Allow me to explain by sharing the verses that struck me as I read this past week 2 Peter 1-3, and 1 John 1-4 … yeah, this week there were two verses that I felt compelled to share, 2 Peter 1:16-18 …
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
… and John 1:1-3
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
In our system of justice, getting to the truth in a criminal or civil case is a cornerstone. We do that by evidence, and as mentioned above, the strongest of such evidence is the eyewitness testimony. It’s no different in our system of Biblical justice and truth. If we want to rely on the Bible to change our lives, we can really only do so – tangibly, personally, and eternally – if it is true. We can evaluate this based on the evidence. Now, I’m not going to try to present a case for the reliability and historicity of the Bible here … countless others (who are infinitely more talented and capable than I) have already done so. If you’d like to explore any such works, you can comment to this post or email me. But I will make an observation on where that reliability comes from and the usefulness of that fact to you and me.
In the passages above, we have two pillars of faith in Peter and John, both of whom in their epistles (and John’s gospel) provide immeasurable riches in terms of living the Christian life, and in John’s case, looking at the divinity of Jesus and His sacrificial love for us via John’s gospel. It’s one thing if they write what they think or what they heard but when they delineated why they wrote, we get a glimpse into something more powerful. Peter shares that they “saw His majestic splendor” with their own eyes. They heard the actual voice of God from heaven. John notes that in his account of Jesus, he is conveying what they heard and saw. John further says that they touched Jesus. So these are not secondhand accounts … they’re about as eyewitness as their can be. Not only that, but check the pronouns … in both letters “we” is used. Not “I.” This is a plural visual confirmation of who Jesus is, what He did, and how He impacted others.
So why do we care?
Well in the case of the People v. Jesus and the Bible, we should examine the evidence. Again, the fact that the Bible is comprised of 66 books, written by 40+ authors over 1,500+ years, in three languages, on three continents, and has both incomparable internal- and external-consistency with – and in fact accurately predicts – history is not my purpose in writing. What is, is noting that in the conveyance of the very things that Peter and John (two of Jesus’ closest friends, by the way) experienced, we have not just reliability, but we have passion and purpose. In the way they identify the “why” of their letters, they’re in essence saying, “we couldn’t NOT write these things, based on what we saw, heard, and felt personally.” They weren’t the only eyewitnesses who wrote their accounts, either.
So, for us … the compulsion that drove them to share what they experienced is available to us as well. When we read about the immense love of God that drove Jesus to the cross to bear your sin and my sin, we can rest on the fact that it happened because those that saw it are sharing it. When we read about how Jesus took that torturous walk down Via Dolorosa (the way of pain) to Calvary, we can trust that every painful arduous step was for us. When we read about how He was nailed to the cross and looked with compassion on the very ones (not just the Romans and Jews, but us) that put Him there, we have assurance that He did. When we imagine that He pictured you and me individually in His mind as He took that punishment and breathed His last, we actually KNOW it. Why? Because eyewitness accounts corroborate it.
Now, this isn’t the only evidence on which we can rely … other non-Bible-writer eyewitnesses provide that certainty, too. Moreover, as Peter points out in 2 Peter 1:20-21 … “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” So … not just eyewitness accounts … but supernatural inspiration fortifies it all.
Bottom line … when the Bible says Jesus died for our sins, we can believe it. When it says God is love, we can believe it. When it says God wants ALL to come to repentance, we can believe it. When it says that’s merely a function of accepting the free gift of salvation Jesus offers, we can believe it. When it says once we’re in His hands, we can never be taken away, we can believe it. When it says the same grace that saves us can also sustain us through everyday life, we can believe it. We can believe it because it’s brought to us by the letter … eye.
Soli Deo gloria!