By Eusebio Tanicala
Since 1960 when I first attended classes at Philippine Bible College, I have heard students and preachers using the argument that “a witness is one who has personally seen somebody or personally heard something that he testifies about.” Evidently the students and young preachers of that period have invented this superficial definition of the term “witness” which they employed in discussions against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have never accepted that superficial definition of the term “witness.”
Many of our preachers when confronting “Jehovah’s Witnesses” ask the question: “A witness is one who has seen something or somebody, have you ever personally seen Jehovah that you witness for Him?”
After almost fifty years, the above ignorantly framed and wrongly premised question is still used by some preachers. Because I feel that the argument or question framed is wrong, I write this article so that educated Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t sneer at our preachers. And I hope our preachers would stop using wrong arguments.
Lately, a preacher excitedly related to me how he silenced a group of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” He told me that he asked the question: “A witness is one who has seen what he testifies about, have you ever seen Jehovah that you say you are a witness of Jehovah?” Since the group did not answer him back, our preacher felt he had silenced these people. He felt victorious.
Question: Is it true that the term “witness” necessarily refer to one who has personally seen the one he witness about?
Answer: No, it is not true that a “witness” is one who has seen the person he bears testimony of or gives witness about.
The Old English form of the word is “witness” which meant knowledge or testimony. And in the Old English language a person who has knowledge or testimony was called a witnesser. So the argument that a witness should have personally seen or has personally heard of that which he testifies of is not correct. In view of this, I appeal to my preaching brethren to stop using a wrong definition and wrong argument.
Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary, Vol. 2, page 1446 says about the term witness, “1. A person who has seen or knows something; 2. In law, one who has knowledge of facts relating to a given cause and is subpoenaed to testify.” I challenge doubters to check up with knowledgeable lawyers how they define the term witness. Ask them if seeing is an essential requisite of one to be a witness.
From the dictionary definition, one could witness based on his knowledge. Witnessing is not based only on the act of seeing.
In the Bible the term witness may mean testimony or one who gives a testimony. It may mean martyr or one who is passionate about a cause or an idea. Many of the passages in the New Testament that are translated “witness” come from the Greek words or derivatives of martus, marturia, and marturion. Please check up your Strong Bible Concordance on page 1064.
Now I submit passages (NKJV) where the term “witness” are found which refer to inanimate objects or no-person entities. Such passages tell us that “seeing” is not always the basis of true witnessing.
- Genesis 21:30 says that seven ewe lambs are called witnesses
- Genesis 31:44 points to a covenant as a witness; 31:48, 52 point to a heap of stones as a witness
- Deut. 4:26 says that heaven and earth are witnesses
- Deut 31:19 & 21 a song serves as a witness
- Joshua 22:26,27 & 34 tell us that an altar is a witness
- Job 16:8-9 points to a shriveled face as a witness.
- Our Lord says in Matt. 24:14 that the gospel after it has been preached into all the world would be a witness to the coming of the end of the world
- John 5:36 & 10:35 record that works are called witnesses
- James 5:3 tells us that rust or corrosion of metal money is also called a witness
- Conscience is called a witness in Romans 9:1.
The above verses should be sufficient to prove that a “witness” is not necessarily one who has seen somebody or something.
Brethren, the strength of one’s argument should be based on the truth and correctness of one’s premises and not based on the ignorance of the unschooled rural Jehovah’s Witnesses. Let us not bluff the ignorant people by our ignorance.