One who testifies to any fact from his own personal knowledge. Under the Mosaic law, two witnesses under oath were necessary to convict a person charged with a capital crime, Nu 35:30; and if the criminal was stoned, the witnesses were bound to cast the first stones, De 17:6-7; Ac 7:58. The Greek word for witness is MARTYR, which see. The apostles were witnesses, in proclaiming to the world the facts of the gospel, Ac 1:8,22; 2:32; 2Pe 1:12,16-18; and Christ is a "faithful witness," in testifying to men of heavenly things, Joh 3:12; Re 1:5. The heroes of the ancient church are "witnesses" to the power of true faith, Heb 12:1.
More than one witness was required in criminal cases (De 17:6; 19:15). They were the first to execute the sentence on the condemned (De 13:9; 17:7; 1Ki 21:13; Mt 27:1; Ac 7:57-58). False witnesses were liable to punishment (De 19:16-21). It was also an offence to refuse to bear witness (Le 5:1).
This is the rendering of Heb. '
The testimony or evidence adduced or given in confirmation of an assertion, and so often used judicially. The term also sometimes speaks simply of an expression of mind or feeling. Until God intervenes in power to establish His own purpose in regard to this world, He maintains a testimony to that which He will assuredly accomplish.
The words ????????, ????????, and ????????? are translated both 'testimony' and 'witness.' The idea runs all through the scriptures in respect both to God Himself and to His people. Paul declared before the heathen at Lystra that God 'had not left himself without witness' as to His existence and His goodness, in giving rain and fruitful seasons, filling their 'hearts with food and gladness,' Ac 14:17. The invisible things of God are testified of, "being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, or divinity." Ro 1:19-20.
God having for fifteen hundred years manifested His patience towards the guilty antediluvian world, He, after warning the people by the preaching of Noah, bore witness to His righteousness and His power by the deluge, and at the same time manifested His grace in saving Noah and his family in the ark.
The witness which God vouchsafed of Himself to Abraham was that He was 'THE ALMIGHTY GOD'; to Moses it was 'I AM THAT I AM'; and to Israel, 'JEHOVAH.' The ark was often called the "Ark of the testimony," and the tabernacle was the "Tent of witness," the witness of good things to come. To Nebuchadnezzar God was witnessed to as the 'GOD OF HEAVEN.' To the Christian He is 'GOD AND FATHER.'
Israel were of old God's witnesses, and will also be in the future.
When Christ was on earth He bore witness to God as LOVE and LIGHT. The Lord Jesus is declared to be "the faithful and true witness," Re 3:14; and His works and His words were witnesses that He had come from God. The Father also bore witness to Him as His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. The Lord Jesus confessed before the Jewish council that He was the Son of God, and before Pilate that He was the King of the Jews. Mt 26:63-64; 27:11.
Peter and John were witnesses of the truth before the council, so that they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. Ac 4:13. Stephen also was a true witness, and his testimony led to his becoming a martyr (??????). In Heb. 11 is given a 'great cloud' of witnesses to the principle of faith in Old Testament saints, some of whom were also martyrs. God will to the last have a testimony on earth as seen in His 'two witnesses' of Rev. 11.
In Christianity there are said to be three witnesses
Among people with whom writing is not common the evidence of a transaction is given by some tangible memorial or significant ceremony: Abraham gave seven ewe-lambs to Abimelech as an evidence of his property in the well of Beersheba. Jacob raised a heap of stones, "the heap of witness." as a boundary-mark between himself and Laban.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad raised an "altar" as a witness to the covenant between themselves and the rest of the nation. Joshua set up a stone as an evidence of the allegiance promised by Israel to God.
But written evidence was by no means unknown to the Jews. Divorce was to be proved by a written document.
In civil contracts, at least in later times documentary evidence was required and carefully preserved.
On the whole the law was very careful to provide and enforce evidence for all its infractions and all transactions bearing on them. Among special provisions with respect to evidence are the following:
1. Two witnesses at least are required to establish any charge.
comp. 1Tim 5:19
2. In the case of the suspected wife, evidence besides the husband's was desired.
3. The witness who withheld the truth was censured.
4. False witness was punished with the penalty due to the offence which it sought to establish.
5. Slanderous reports and officious witness are discouraged.
6. The witnesses were the first executioners.
De 15:9; 17:7; Ac 7:58
7. In case of an animal left in charge and torn by wild beasts, the keeper was to bring the carcass in proof of the fact and disproof of his own criminality.
8. According to Josephus, women and slaves were not admitted to bear testimony. In the New Testament the original notion of a witness is exhibited in the special form of one who attests his belief in the gospel by personal suffering. Hence it is that the use of the ecclesiastical term ("martyr." the Greek word for "witness," has arisen.