This term is used in song titles and in the ever-popular urban slang dictionary as “A phrase used when the user is accomplishing some ridiculous feat, or is doing something like a boss.” 1 I’m not sure I’ve ever done something like a boss, but you know what that means without even knowing what it means.
What’s the importance of a witness?
It might depend on several things, but the relevance is not the same today as it was in antiquity. Today, you snap a picture, you post it on Twitter or Instagram and boom, you got it, no need for witnesses, the whole world knows about it just like that. Take for instance Alyssa Milano’s now infamous Tweet about abstinence. Oops.
Witnesses mattered because false accusations occurred then, just as they do now. To establish what was true from what was false the Bible requires two or three witnesses. This makes sense. It’s logical.
WITNESS (Heb. ˓ēḏ; Gk. mártys).† A person who gives testimony to establish the truth of a charge or a statement of fact. The legal requirement for confirming allegations was that there should be two witnesses (Deut. 19:15). In Old Testament society giving testimony as a witness was a formal confirmation basic to mutual trust in society. Legal documents were signed by witnesses. In the case of capital punishment by means of stoning, witnesses were required to throw the first stone. The importance of witnesses for confirmation is underscored by the Decalog’s proscription of perjury (Exod. 20:16). 2
A witness protects the accused as well as the accusor, and here we have the basis of civilized society. Our justice system uses a similar format, in that a jury system is made up of peers that can make judgments against the accused and protect the rights of citizens through a due process.
While I could layout all the biblical texts and give reasons why this is important, I have something else in mind, and it deals with cults. I will travel to San Francisco this week and whenever I’m there I encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, isn’t it interesting that “witnesses” is in their name?
9 All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true. (Is 43:9) 3
Maybe it’s obvious or not, but notice it says bring witnesses to prove them right. The prophet knew the law of God, he knew to show something you needed witnesses. Matthew Henry commenting on this passage said, “The patrons of idolatry are here called to appear, and say what they have to say in defence of their idols.” 4
We have no small amount of evidence of the importance of witnesses but look at the very next verse of Isaiah 43, verse 10, which by the way is where the Jehovah’s Witnesses get their name.
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me. (Is 43:10)
For the Jehovah’s Witness to have credibility in their religious system they need witnesses. The Scripture affirms this and the very text they draw their name from agrees. However, what we see with consistency, in cults and cultic type churches is a lack of proper witnesses. Mormons, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even evangelical type churches that remain closed societies deny the importance of this central teaching of Christianity. Charles Taze Russell “reinvented” Christianity according to his biases, and rather than take the witness of Scripture itself, he found ways around the doctrines he didn’t like.
I look forward to my discussions this week with the JW’s, I’ve always found them pleasant and enjoyable to talk with, although it gives me great sorrow at their deception. I pray the Lord uses his word to open eyes and convict hearts that this very basic necessity of God is being violated in their very name.
2. Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 1061.
3. All Scripture used unless otherwise noted: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016)
4. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1158.