In a recent Q&A (Update #311), you said that the Bible requires the testimony of two eye witnesses to convict a person, but this seems to be incorrect. The Scriptures talk about witnesses who are testifying before the judge–not persons witnessing a crime with their eyes. Therefore, it seems that two witnesses could testify to scientific evidence or circumstances to establish a connection with a crime, including DNA, fingerprints, blood stain or similar evidence. What do you think?


To clarify, our stance against serving on a jury is based on many Biblical passages and principles, not just on the requirement of two witnesses. For an in-depth discussion on this issue, please read our Q&A in Update #289.

Regarding the requirement of two witnesses, we discussed this in several previous Q&A’s (compare Update #311 and #66). We pointed out that the Bible requires the “testimony” of at least two witnesses to establish the guilt of a person. The context makes it abundantly clear that these witnesses have to be “EYE witnesses” of the crime–circumstantial or “hearsay” evidence is simply not admissible or sufficient, according to the Bible, to convict a person.

Deuteronomy 17:6-7 reads that “whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” The Authorized Version says, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death.” It is established, then, that witnesses had to speak or testify. In order to give relevant testimony, they had to testify about the alleged crime of the accused. As we will show, they had to be “EYE” or “EAR” witnesses–who had observed the crime–and who were asked to testify about what they themselves saw and heard, with sincerity, certainty and total honesty. It will also become clear that the term “witness” cannot be applied to someone not present at the scene of the crime. A “scientific expert” who testifies about “DNA evidence” simply does not fit the BIBLICAL definition of “witness.”

The Nelson Study Bible states: “The guilty was condemned to death only after guilt was established by two or three witnesses (compare Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28).” In all the Scriptural examples quoted by the commentary, the reference is to EYE witnesses–not to persons who give “hearsay evidence” or testify about some “scientific CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence.”

The New Bible Commentary: Revised adds that the witnesses had to be of “unquestioned veracity and unanimous opinion… and the severe penalty was to be imposed only on the basis of irrefutable evidence.” In fact, when more than two witnesses were available, they all had to come forward and testify, and all of their testimony had to be unanimous. If it was not, the accused could not be condemned. (This shows that “testimony” of “scientific experts” would not be admissible or conclusive, in any event, as the “experts” of the prosecution and the defense seldom, if ever, agree on anything.)

Notice the following comments by Soncino:

“Although his crime was brought to the notice of the judges both in secret and in public…, no sentence of death can be passed unless there are two witnesses to testify… Everyone who WITNESSES THE CRIME, even if the number be more than the two witnesses required, has to appear before the court to be questioned.”

The testimony or witness of one person was not sufficient. Neither was mere hearsay. Leviticus 5:1 does not allow for testimony of second-hand knowledge as being sufficient to convict a person. The passage reads: “If a person sins on hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter–if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.”

First, note, that a witness is someone who has HEARD the utterance of the oath–that is, he was PRESENT when it occurred. This is further confirmed by the fact that he has “SEEN” it. The additional expression, “or known of the matter,” is a misleading English rendering. The words, “of the matter” were added and are not found in the Original. The Hebrew word for “known” is used in a variety of senses, but it describes foremost the act of “ascertaining by SEEING” (see Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, No. 3045). It does not describe obtaining second-hand knowledge in some way from someone else.

It is also important to realize that the person addressed in Leviticus 5:1 is charged not to HIDE relevant facts, but to testify to them. However, his testimony alone would not be sufficient, as noted, to convict a person–at least one more witness had to corroborate his testimony. On the other hand, Proverbs 25:8 cautions us not to go to court too hastily, which includes the warning that we must be sure of our testimony, as the Bible provides harsh penalties for an untruthful witness.

The Bible does refer, in describing legal procedures, to documentary or other “scientific” evidence, but we must note the context. For instance, in Jeremiah 32:10, the prophet is signing a deed in the presence of witnesses–again showing that witnesses are those who are PRESENT so that they are able to testify later to the event. This procedure will again be followed in the Millennium, so that the veracity of a legal deed is established without doubt (compare Jeremiah 32:44).

In addition, “scientific evidence” was permitted to exculpate an accused–clearing him of wrongdoing–but never to convict him.

Exodus 22:10-13 provides: “If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, NO ONE SEEING IT, then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good… If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then HE SHALL BRING IT AS EVIDENCE, and he shall not make good what was torn.”

Let us also note Deuteronomy 22:13-15. In that case, a newly-married woman is accused by her husband of having committed fornication prior to her marriage. She can establish her innocence by producing “the evidence of [her] virginity” (verse 15) by spreading the “cloth [with the evidence of the woman’s virginity] before the elders of the city” (verse 17). If, however, no such evidence can be produced, because the allegation is true, then the woman will be convicted (verses 20-21), “IF it had been proved by the evidence of two witnesses” (Soncino).

A similar situation is described in Numbers 5:12 ff. In that case, no witnesses are found to testify about the adultery of a wife, but the husband becomes suspicious. God designed a special supernatural procedure to establish innocence or guilt of the accused (compare Update #311).

In conclusion, the Biblical requirement of at least two witnesses for a conviction speaks clearly of EYE witnesses who are able to testify what they themselves have WITNESSED. To stretch this clear requirement and allow for “testimony” of “scientific experts” about what a particular piece of “scientific evidence” might or might not establish, goes far beyond the strict Biblical injunctions.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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