At the time of Jesus, the ruling Jews did not believe who He was. Even though He proved to them by many facts and fulfilled prophecies, they nevertheless accused Him of blasphemy as they said He was making Himself out to equal with God (John 5:18). They had a validating procedure in place within the Mosaic Law to determine truth, but unfortunately did not rely on it to certify that He is the Messiah:
31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words (KJV)?
The Jews were given certain methodologies within the Mosaic Law to validate truth. Our legal system is based in a large part on the Mosaic Law.
Pediment on the United States Supreme Court with Moses in the center
There are two basic rules of evidence for which a particular event can be validated. If it can be recreated, such as a scientific experiment we use the results of the experiment. For historical events that cannot be recreated credible eye witnesses are used. This is also stated in the Mosaic Law:
30Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die (KJV).
In any case of homicide there needed to be witnesses to the act in order for guilt to be established, and one witness alone was not enough:
6At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.7The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So, thou shalt put the evil away from among you (KJV).
15One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established (KJV).
Moses laid down the principle that more than one witness was necessary to convict a man of a crime. This principle was to act as a safeguard against a false witness who might bring an untruthful charge against a fellow Israelite because of a quarrel, or out of some other impure motive. To insure against a capricious execution, two or three independent witnesses were required. One witness was inadequate because if he lied no one would be able to prove or disprove it. The witnesses were to be the first in the execution of justice. So, if their testimony was later proved false, they in effect would have committed murder and would be liable to execution.
The Lord Jesus using the same concept of validating truth through multiple witnesses as the method for eliminating unrepentant sinners from the Church:
Matthew 18: 15-17
15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (KJV).
The Lord had just spoken about offenses in Matthew 18:7-14, and starting in verse 15 He talked about what should be done when known sin occurs. When a brother sins against another, the two of them should discuss the matter. If the matter can be settled at that level, there is no need for it to go any further. But if the sinning brother refuses to listen … two or three witnesses should be taken along for a clear testimony. This was in keeping with Old Testament precedents, as in Deuteronomy 19:15. If the sinning brother still failed to recognize his error, the situation should be told before the entire church. The disciples probably would have understood Jesus to mean the matter should be brought before the Jewish assembly. After the establishment of the church, on the day of Pentecost, these words would have had greater meaning for them. One who refuses to acknowledge his sin is then to be treated as an outsider, such as a pagan or a tax collector. So, the Jews were well aware of the method using witnesses to verify truth. Jesus begins this next session of Scripture with five (5) independent validations of Himself as God the Messiah.
The First One is confirming the Work of God the Father in Himself
For Jesus seeks to do God’s will during His earthly ministry and does not testify of Himself by Himself. This of course would be circular reasoning, and from a logic standpoint it would be an invalid argument.
30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
31If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true (KJV).
Some would have us believe that you cannot logically use the Bible to validate the Bible. For example, under this line of reasoning one could not logically use one section such as the Old Testament to validate the New Testament. The distinction is that the Bible is not one book. It is a collection of 66 individual books written by 40+ authors over a 1600-year period. It is sewn together in one binding. He asserts that the quality of His judgment on mankind is just because He does it based upon God’s will. God’s will, the Jews knew, was holy and just. So He is attesting to the validation of what He says as believable since He is saying what God has said all along to them through the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law.
The Second One is the Witness of John the Baptist
John was prophesied as the forerunner of The Christ (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). The Jews knew that a person was coming who would introduce the Messiah when He appeared. They asked John if he was the Christ. John said that he was not the Christ, but that he was the one who was the forerunner. (John 1:15, 23):
33Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light (KJV).
The Third One is the Testimony of His Miracles
Jesus then goes on to present a third witness to validate His testimony of being The Christ. He asked them to see the works that He does (John 10:38; Hebrews 2:4):
36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me (KJV).
He performed the miracles of healing; and of raising the dead which he alludes to here. He was also the greatest teacher that has ever been on the planet. The Jews did not understand how He knew so much as they considered Him as being “uneducated”.
The Fourth One is Jesus declaring that God’s Doctrine is independent of Man.
In John 7:16-17 Jesus states that God’s doctrine that He teaches is not His alone as a human. If He were simply a man, He would seek His own glory, not God’s. This validation is enhanced in John 5:37-38 where Jesus says that God’s doctrine does not abide in the Jews:
37And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.38And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not (KJV).
They do not know Him personally. If they knew God, they would have realized that God sent Jesus to preach the doctrine of God, and not the doctrine of man. They did not understand this, nor did they want to understand. They did not believe the prophets before Him and they would not believe Him as God. (Matthew 23:31; Luke 11:47; I Thessalonians 2:15).
The Fifth One is Jesus asking them to Confirm His claims from Scripture.
He says that Scriptures tell of Him coming and giving them eternal life. He states that they will not turn to Him to get eternal life. He tells them that they will listen to others but not Him. This is because they do not love God and do not know God’s voice. They were claiming to trust in Moses and the Mosaic Law, but Jesus countered that with an admonition that Moses accuses them through the Mosaic Law. Finally, Jesus tells them that Moses spoke of Him in the first five books of the Bible. Here Jesus affirms the validity of those books and who the author is.
The Pharisees had devoted their life to studying the Scriptures. Not so much as to what the fundamental plain message was but looking for the minutia and esoteric. Early Church theologian Origen taught that there were three levels of Scripture elucidation:
- The plain message from the text.
- The application.
- The hidden message between the lines.
This is what the Jews were doing. They were looking for the obscure, which is called letterism. They paid so much attention to the details, they missed the central message of the text:
39 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words (KJV)?
It is interesting that Jesus was declaring to them that in their adherence to group acceptance (v.37), they missed Him and His message. Instead of seeking God and what would bring Glory to Him, they continued to seek acceptance from their peers. This is the same as “group think.” Moses wrote of Christ in Genesis 3:15; Numbers 21:9; 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Since they did not believe in Him, they could not possibly believe in Moses either, and their claim to follow the Law was unsubstantiated.
We too have these five proofs, and we also have Christ’s validation of the Old Testament as truth.
- Jesus pointed to “the scriptures.” The only sacred writings that the Jews possessed that foretold the coming of the Messiah were the books of the Old Testament. Here, Jesus validates them as Scripture. He also cited the Old Testament as a true and reliable source of history.
- Jesus cites the very first sentence in the Old Testament (Mark 13:19; Revelation 3:14). Jesus confirmed that He created all things (Colossians 1:15-16). The word“beginning” in Revelation 3:14 refers to the active cause or prime source of the creation.
- He acknowledged that Adam and Eve were created (Matthew 19:4; Genesis 1:27; 5:2)
- Jesus mentioned Adam and Eve’s son Abel in Matthew 23:35. Jesus not only confirmed Abel’s existence, but He referred to his righteousness as well. Also discussed in this verse is the murder of Zechariah, son of Barachias (or Berechiah, as the New King James Version renders it). Undoubtedly, this refers to the prophet of the Old Testament, whose father was Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1).
- Jesus cited Noah’s ark and the Flood in Matthew 24:37-39. He also mentioned the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Luke 17:28-29, 32. Jesus gave personal testimony of the Flood! He corroborated its history, alluded to its causes and reiterated the universal death—except for Noah and his family—that occurred. He also validated the veracity of the Old Testament’s account of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 19.
- Jesus attested to Abraham’s existence. John 8:37. He also recognized Abraham’s son and grandson—Isaac and Jacob in Matthew 8:11.
- He referenced the Prophet Moses in John 5:46-47. Jesus was speaking to Jews who wanted to kill Him (verses 16, 18), and He rebuked them because they did not believe what Moses prophesied about Him in the Old Testament Scriptures.
- Jesus verified that King David lived in Matthew 12:3. He identified King Solomon Matthew 12: 42. These scriptures prove that Jesus Christ believed and accepted the testimony of the Old Testament as absolutely authoritative! He is the God of the Old Testament and saw all the events chronicled in its writings (1 Corinthians 10:1-4; John 8:58; Exodus 3:14).
- The Apostle Paul tells us about the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:15-16. Writings are considered Scripture if they are inspired by God or, more correctly, “God-breathed.” When Paul wrote, the only “scriptures” in existence were the books of the Old Testament. The New Testament was not completed. Paul taught that all Scripture is to be used to establish doctrine, correct false beliefs or errant behavior, and instruct and train in righteousness!
- Isaiah did prophesy concerning God’s Word in Isaiah 40:8. This was repeated in the New Testament in 1 Peter 1:25. Jesus prophesied regarding His words in Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; and Luke 21:33.
The New Testament refers to the Old Testament about 250 times. We cannot accept the New Testament without recognizing the authority of the Old. The two do not contradict, rather they complete each other. The Bible is one complete book. Remember that Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—was also the God and Spokesman of the Old Testament, although it was the Father who directed what Jesus spoke (John 14:10). And God promised in both the Old and New Testaments that His words would be preserved. That is a divine, unbreakable promise of a God who cannot fail.
Daniel E. Woodhead