The Credibility of Eyewitnesses

Posted on: February 1st, 2015

Just how reliable are the memories and stories of eyewitnesses? Can we be sure about events when someone says, “I saw everything?” I recently watched a television show where they were trying to answer these questions. To set up the test, producers selected several people to witness a staged event. They were at different angles and distances from the incident, but they all had a good view. The trial scene was short and had only a few details to cut down on what they had to recall.

To see how well people remember, each person had to answer questions about what they saw and heard. I also answered the questions to see how I would do. “What color was the mugger’s shirt?” We did not all agree or get it right. “Which way did he go when he left the scene?” Some said north and others said south, but I was not sure. This little test proved what many of us already knew; eyewitnesses can and often do get it wrong.

No one had any reason to lie and everyone answered to the best of their memory. Still all of us got some details wrong. Eyewitness accounts can be wrong for many reasons in real life cases. Some people lie to support an agenda and others get it wrong due to outside influences. Too much time may pass between witnessing a scene and having to recall the details. However, as shaky as eyewitness reports can be, we still want to hear from people who saw and heard the events.

What if we had complete confidence in what eyewitnesses told us? If I could know every word is true and every detail right, then I would fully trust the story. To have this measure of belief all the factual evidence would back up the witnesses. They would tell the same story and support one another. Unfortunately, since this seldom happens, we must decide who and what to believe.

The story of Jesus tells about the most wonderful life ever lived. It is about God’s love for us and the Son’s sacrifice to redeem us. The story is one I want to believe, but I was not there to see with my eyes or to hear with my ears. If I am going to accept what the Bible says about Jesus then I will do it because I believe the evidence and witnesses.

John the Baptist bore witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

John 1:32-34 – And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. (33) I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

The Father and the works of Jesus bore witness about Him.

John 5:36-37 – But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. (37) And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.

Old Testament Scriptures bore witness about Jesus.

John 5:39-40 – You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that
bear witness about me, (40) yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Holy Spirit testified about the Lord.

John 15:26 – “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Apostles were eyewitnesses from the beginning of Christ’s ministry, to His death and resurrection, and then finally His ascension and the establishment of the church.

John 15:27 – And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Miracles bore witness to Christ and confirmed the apostles teaching.

Acts 2:22 – “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–

Mark 16:20 – And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

These are the witness I choose to believe and the apostles are the eyewitnesses whose testimony is true about every detail and account. Who will you believe?
Terry Starling