How Many Witnesses? or Is Supporting the Bible From the Bible Circular Reasoning?

How many eye-witnesses are enough to establish a fact? Is it circular reasoning to use the Bible to support facts in the Bible? According to Old Testament Law for the Jews, any testimony was to be received only on the word of two or three witnesses. Within the pages of Scripture, we find many, many witnesses, across hundreds of years, hundreds of miles, and diverse backgrounds and situations, giving first-hand accounts of the most important events in world history.

Nothing is more critical to human reality than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Christ did not rise from the dead, men have no recourse for sin other than judgment. But if Jesus Christ rose from the dead as the Bible proclaims, then every person who ever lives must consider and engage this important fact, for if Christ rose from the dead, men are under condemnation by God for our wrong-doings, and will be judged and found guilty. Faith in Christ, believing that His death and resurrection have purchased both God’s forgiveness of our wrongs because Christ covered our penalty, and everlasting life in an eternal, loving, and beautiful relationship with God through Christ.

So, how many witnesses would be required before we should believe such a remarkable claim as that God has raised Christ from the dead? And is it reasonable to consider the Bible as sufficient evidence? If we understand first that the Bible, though one book, is an anthology of books and letters written over the course of 15 – 20 centuries, from many areas of the middle east; authors who largely had never met one another, who spoke different languages from each other, and had different upbringing and experiences from one another, we can see that there is a good reason to accept the truth of the contents. In the New Testament – the portion of the Bible where those writings by men who had known Jesus Christ during His time on earth – we find six authors who specifically attest to the personal eye-witness of themselves or others, of Jesus’ teaching, Jesus’ miracles, His death on the cross, His burial in the garden sepulchre, and His resurrection from the dead. Some of those six cite many other witnesses, including Paul’s assertion in 1 Corinthians 15 that over 500 people saw the resurrected Christ at one time, in addition to the original apostles, and ultimately to Paul himself, being eye-witnesses of the living Christ. Peter and John specifically state that they and others not only saw Jesus, but also touched Him, and Luke accounts that Jesus ate real food prepared by the men.

Consider some of the passages that record the witness of those who came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who was born, died, and rose from the dead, so that men could be reconciled to God and enjoy everlasting life as children of God:

Luke 1: 1-4

Seeing that many did take in hand to set in order a narration of the matters that are fully believed among us, as they did deliver to us, who from the beginning became eye-witnesses, and servants to the Word, it seemed good also to me, having followed from the first after all things exactly, to write to thee in order, most noble Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of the things in which you were instructed.”

2 Peter 1: 16-18

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”

1 Corinthians 15: 1-8

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

1 John 1: 1-3

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life – for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us – that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

Acts 1: 21-22

Which of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Acts 5:27-32

“… the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did not we strictly command you that you should not teach in this name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree. Him has God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things …’”

Acts 10: 35-41

But in every nation he who fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him.

The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) – that word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.

And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.

Him God raised up the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.”

1 Peter 5:1

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…”

1 John 2:13

I write unto you, fathers, because you have known Him Who is from the beginning.”

John 1:14

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Acts 1:1-4

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

And, being assembled together with them …”

Acts 4: 19

But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge; for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Luke 24:34-48

[the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus] returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!’

And they told what things were done in the way, and how He was known by them in breaking of bread.

And as they thus spoke, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, ‘Peace be unto you.’

But they were terrified and frightened, and believed that they had seen a ghost.

And He said unto them, ‘Why are ye troubled?’ and ‘Why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I myself. Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and his feet.

And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, ‘Have you here any food?’

And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them.

And He said unto them, ‘These are the words which I had spoken to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.’

Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

And you are witnesses of these things.’”

John 1:12  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”