The Hearsay Rule and the Gospels

image

Atheists and skeptics will often invoke what is known as the hearsay rule in an attempt to dismiss the claims of the Gospels. Of course, if they were consistent in this application much of what we know about history would also have to be summarily dismissed as well.

Author, instructor, and former cold case homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace, in this article, addresses the issue of the hearsay rule by pointing out a major problem with this, saying,

Imagine you are a witness to a homicide. After observing the murder, you are interviewed by a detective and several years later find yourself testifying in court. The prosecutor would certainly question you on the stand, and the defense attorney would also have the opportunity to cross-examine you. Now let’s change the scenario slightly. Imagine instead that you observe the same homicide, tell a friend all about the murder in minute detail but then suffer a heart attack and die. Can the prosecutor call your friend into court to tell the jury about your observations? No. The defense in this case has a right to cross examine the original witness to the crime, and this “second tier” testimony would not allow them access to the original witness. For this reason, the testimony of your friend would be deemed “hearsay” and excluded from the trial. 

This is completely reasonable and understandable. However, when addressing historical events, there are different standards of evidence. He explains,

It’s reasonable to examine the Gospel authors and ask (1) if they were present during Jesus’ ministry, (2) if they can be corroborated in some way, (3) if their testimony has been altered over time, or (4) if they possessed a bias that should exclude their testimony altogether. But it is unreasonable to reject the apostolic accounts simply because they are dead. If we took that approach with everything from the past, we couldn’t even be certain of our own personal family histories. That’s an unreasonable (an impractical) standard to embrace.

I recommend Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity highly.

Image credit: http://www.bing.com

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Hearsay Rule and the Gospels

  1. However, as Voltaire said,”History is a pack of lies we play on the dead.” Rousseau concurred saying, “The falsification of history has done more to mislead humans than any single thing known to mankind.” The point is that so much of history has been rewritten or as Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

    • If history is a “pack of lies”, how do you know that Voltaire said that? And since Rousseau is dead, that simply must be a falsification of him, and since Churchill was defeated, the victor must have wrote that about him.

  2. It’s reasonable to examine the Gospel authors and ask (1) if they were present during Jesus’ ministry,

    NO, THEY WERE NOT.

    (2) if they can be corroborated in some way,

    NO, IT CANNOT BE.

    (3) if their testimony has been altered over time, or

    YES, IT VERY MUCH HAS. (see http://wp.me/p6TMmO-FQ )

    (4) if they possessed a bias that should exclude their testimony altogether

    ABSOLUTELY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s