Instructing Timothy, the youngest apostle, Paul wrote: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning [openly] rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” 1 Tim. 5:19, 20.
On the meaning of “witness,” or martures, Dr. John Davies in A Dictionary of the Bible (The Westminster Press, PA, 1942) says:
“Evidence which could be appealed to was secured by some tangible token or memorial, as a heap of stones (Gen. 31: 46-52), or by calling in men to witness the event (23:10-18), by a written document, as a deed or letter of divorce (Deut. 24: 1, 3; Jer. 32: 10).
The concurrent testimony of at least two witnesses was required under Mosaic law to establish guilt of a capital crime (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; Heb. 10:28; cf. 1 Kings 21: 10, 13; Matt. 26:60). This principle was a general rule in all judicial procedure (Deut. 14:15). The Mosaic law did not sanction the use of torture to extract testimony; See PUNISHMENT. The witness, before his testimony was given, was adjured to tell the truth and to conceal nothing; and then it was sin for him to withhold evidence in his possession (Lev. 5:1; Prov. 24). False witness bearing was denounced in the Decalogue (Exo. 20:16), and when detected, it drew upon the false witness the same penalty that he had attempted to get imposed on the accused (Deut. 29: 16, 19). The witnesses aided in executing a sentence of death.; see STONING. [The historian] Josephus asserts that women and children were excluded from giving testimony by the Mosaic law (Ant. 4: 8, 15). The law itself says nothing on the subject; but the participation of the witnesses in the execution of the of the death penalty would make the exclusion of women and children from witness bearing expedient. Josephus’ statement evidently represents the current interpretation of the Mosaic law in his day [emphasis mine].
The excellent principle involved in having at least two witnesses is capable of broad application in the dealings of man with man (Isa. 8:2; Matt. 17: 1, 2; 18: 16; John 8: 17, 18; 1 Tim. 5:19).
Those who in the face of danger and distress testify to the truth of God are witnesses in the highest sense (Heb. 10, 11; 12: 1). Martyr is a Greek word meaning witness, and it came to signify one who sealed his testimony with His blood, as Stephen and Antipas (Acts 22:20; Rev. 2: 13).”
No greater witness to the truth can there be than the Father’s “true and faithful Witness” (Rev. 3:14), Jesus Christ Himself, who sealed His testimony for time and eternity with His sinless life culminating in His death at Calvary and the perfect atoning blood obtained for the redemption of the fallen human race. This is the witness of a Savior who conquered Satan, death, and the grave and ascended to heaven to become His people’s Advocate and Mediator as High Priest ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, and since 1844 has been conducting the closing work of atonement in the cleansing of the sanctuary which includes the pre-advent or investigative judgment to determine who are worthy of eternal life.
One of the gravest warnings Paul issued is found in the following verses:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries [of the truth]. And anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Heb. 10: 26-31. … (click “Next Post” to continue)