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#4.06 OUT OF THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES

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Introduction 4.06

This is a bible study showing how to use two or three witnesses to interpret scripture. Scripture is written in such a way that part of any truth may be in one place, and another part in another place. So to get the whole truth these parts have to be put together. This is illustrated by God's commandment on how to judge people under the Law.

(Numbers 35:30) "Whoever kills 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."
(Deuteronomy 17:6) "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he who is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness shall he not be put to death."
(Deuteronomy 19:15) "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sins: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."
(Matthew 18:16) "But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
(John 8:17) "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true."
(2 Corinthians 13:1) "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

This is a good example of itself. The fact that at least "two or three witnesses" are required to establish any truth from scripture is itself established by six separate scriptures! What is a witness? In this context it appears to mean separate scriptures, not necessarily separate prophets. For example, as this was true before Jesus said it (Matthew 18:16), otherwise he could never have said it, the witnesses would be those in (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15) all written by Moses. Paul also said it in a similar way, "This is the third time I am coming to you." (2 Corinthians 13:1), as if to indicate that his coming three times was equivalent to three witnesses. So every important scriptural truth must be established by at least two separate scriptures, otherwise it cannot be counted as valid. Some examples will clarify.

#4.061 Example 1: How did Saul die?

2 SAMUEL 1:1-10
1 Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag;
2 It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes torn, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.
3 And David said to him, Where have you come from? And he said to him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.
4 And David said to him, How did the matter go? I pray you tell me. And he answered, The people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.
5 And David said to the young man who told him, How do you know that Saul and Jonathan his son are dead?
6 And the young man who told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.
7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, Here am I.
8 And he said to me, Who are you? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.
9 He said to me again, Stand, I pray you, upon me, and slay me.
10 So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them here unto my lord.

1 SAMUEL 31:3-6
3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.
4 Then Saul said to his armour bearer, Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armour bearer would not; for he was very afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.
5 And when his armour bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him.
6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armour bearer, and all his men, that same day together.

1 CHRONICLES 10:3-6
3 And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers.
4 Then said Saul to his armour bearer, Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armour bearer would not; for he was very afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.
5 And when his armour bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.
6 So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.

Note: If we read one account of Saul's death (2 Samuel 1:1-10) by itself, we could believe the young Amalekite's account of how Saul died, but we would be wrong to do it because the young man's story was a lie. He invented it because he thought that David would be pleased with the news and reward him (2 Samuel 4:10). However, David was far from pleased and ordered him killed for his confession of killing the Lord's anointed (1 Samuel 1:14-16). The true story of how Saul died is given by the other two scriptures (1 Samuel 31:3-6; 1 Chronicles 10:3-6), which agree with one another, both coming from inspired writers (2 Timothy 3:16). The true account here is given by the two witnesses (Scriptures) which agree with each other, proving the point, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." It also verifies the principle that no scripture should be interpreted by itself (See #5.1), and there is a warning here also to take note who is doing the speaking (See #4.16).

#4.062 Example 2: Was Zedekiah Jehoiachin's brother or his uncle?

2 KINGS 24:6
6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.

2 KINGS 24:15-17
15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
16 And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all who were strong and able for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.
17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

1 CHRONICLES 3:15
15 And the son's of Josiah were, the first born Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.

2 CHRONICLES 36:9-10
9 Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
10 And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and he made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.

Note 1: If we were to read statement "he made Zedekiah his brother king" (2 Chronicles 36:10), by itself, we could mistakenly believe that Zedekiah and Jehoiachin were brothers. However, if we look elsewhere in the scripture, we find that, "the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, his Father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah." (2 Kings 24:17), that Jehoiachin was the son of king Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:6), and also that Zedekiah was Jehoiakim's younger brother (1 Chronicles 3:15). Thus we have two witnesses which make Zedekiah Jehoiachin's uncle (2 Kings 24:17 and 2 Kings 24:6 with 1 Chronicles 3:15), compared to one which says he was his brother (2 Chronicles 36:10); so which is right? According to our rule we go with the evidence of the two witnesses, that Zedekiah was in fact Jehoiachin's uncle. So why then is he referred to as his brother (2 Chronicles 36:10)?

Note 2: In order to explain the discrepancy, we must go back to the original Hebrew. The word translated "brother" (2 Chronicles 36:10) is the Hebrew noun אָח, (Htr. 'ach [Strongs 251]) which has a wide range of meaning. It is used in the following ways:

(1) Of a brother with both the same parents. In this sense it is used of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:2, 8-11), of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:6, 11, 23 etc.), of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:1-2; 28:1-2 etc.), and many others.

(2) Of a half brother, having only one parent in common. One example here is Abraham and Sarah, where the actual parentage is given (Genesis 20:12). Another example is Joseph and his half brothers (Genesis 37:2, 4-5), and yet another is Amnon and Absolom, the sons of David (2 Samuel 13:4, 7-8). Amnon was David's first son, who's mother was Ahinoam the Jezreelitess (2 Samuel 3:2), and Absasom was his third son who's mother's name was Maacah (2 Samuel 3:3).

(3) Of a nephew or uncle. The example here of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah is not the only one in scripture; there is also the example of Abraham and Lot. In some places the scripture indicates that Lot was Abraham's nephew:

(Genesis 11:27) "Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran: and Haran begat Lot."
(Genesis 11:31) "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son:"
(Genesis 12:5) "And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brothers Son,"
(Genesis 14:12) "And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed."

In other places the scripture refers to Lot as Abraham's brother:

(Genesis 13:8) "And Abram said to Lot, I pray you, let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, because we are brothers.
(Genesis 14:14) "And when Abram heard that his brother Lot had been taken captive, he armed his trained servants born in his own house,"

The same Hebrew word is used in these scriptures, as in the example of Jehoiachin.

(4) Of a human relationship to an animal, with whom he has some kind of similarity in situation.

(Job 30:29) "I am a brother to dragons (or jackals), and a companion to owls."

So we can see in these examples that it is not only important to check for two or three witnesses, but it is also very important to examine the Greek or Hebrew words involved in what we are analyzing (See #4.18 Check the Original Language for Word meaning and Usage).

#4.063 Example 3: Water Baptism in Who's Name?

MATTHEW 28:18-19
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:

ACTS 2:38
38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

ACTS 8:14-16
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them:
15 Who, when they came down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.)

ACTS 10:47-48 (Peter)
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as us?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

ACTS 19:4-5
4 Then Paul said, John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people, that they should believe in him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

COLOSSIANS 3:17 (Paul)
17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Note: Here we have all the scriptures concerning whose name we should use to baptize people in the New Testament. One says, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:" (Matthew 28:19), and five others indicate some use of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. At first sight these look contradictory, because it appears as if Jesus commanded baptism "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;" but the apostles never did it. Using our principle of scriptural interpretation, out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, to obtain the correct method, it comes down clearly in favour of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is only one witness for the "name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:" (Matthew 28:19). The apparent contradiction is soon removed when it is understood that Jesus was not referring to water baptism in Matthew 28:19. This is one case where our principle of scriptural interpretation solves very simply what would otherwise be a difficult problem to solve. It is amazing that the vast majority of Christians still baptize using the wrong name today, because they do not use God's scriptural principles of interpretation. For a fuller explanation, and the meaning of Jesus' words, see the study, RP108 Water Baptism by Immersion in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

#4.064 Did the Apostle Paul Habitually keep the Sabbath or Sunday?

ACTS 20:7 (KJV)
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

ACTS 13:14-16
14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.
15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and you that fear God, give audience.

ACTS 13:5
5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogue of the Jews, and they had john also for their minister.

ACTS 13:42-44
42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44 And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

ACTS 16:13
13 And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by the river side, where prayer was customary to be made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women which resorted there.

ACTS 17:1-2
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.

ACTS 18:1-4, 11
1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came to them.
3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and worked: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and Greeks.
11 And he continued there a year and six months teaching the word of God among them.

Note: Many Christians argue for keeping Sunday instead of the Sabbath in modern times, and one of the scriptures that they use to justify it is Paul preaching on "the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7). However, if we look at the evidence for Paul keeping the Sabbath, it seems clear from these scriptures that Paul habitually attended synagogues on the Sabbath days, where possible; "every Sabbath" (Acts 18:4), and reasoned with them out of the scriptures. In this particular case, at Corinth, it was over a period of "a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." (Acts 18:11), and so would mean 78 consecutive Sabbath days. With one occasion recorded at Salamis (Acts 13:5), two at Antioch (Acts 13:14, 13:44), another at Philippi (Acts 16:13), three at Thessalonica (Acts 17:2), his total Sabbath attendances come to eighty five. This compares to one instance on the "first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), which wasn't Sunday incidentally; it was Saturday evening after Sunset. So applying our rule, out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, it comes totally in favour of Paul being a habitual Sabbath keeper, not a habitual Sunday keeper. For more information See, RP208 #4.07 Paul Preached at Troas on the First Day of the Week.

#4.065 Example 5: Was the Veil of the Temple Torn Before or After Jesus Died?

MATTHEW 27:50-51
50 When Jesus had cried again with a loud voice, he yielded up the spirit.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks split;

MARK 15:37-38
37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit.
38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom.

LUKE 23:45-46
45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in the midst.
46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the spirit.

Note: If we read Luke's account of the veil being torn in two by itself, we could believe that after the veil was torn Jesus prayed before he died. However, if we consider the accounts of Matthew and Mark we see that the veil of the temple was torn after Jesus died. Which is right? According to our rule, "out of the mouth of two or three witnesses," we would conclude that the veil was torn after Jesus died. This agrees with your typology in the bible, because the physical flesh of Jesus was a type of our spiritual "flesh":

(Romans 8:4) "For the law being powerless, in which it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of the flesh of sin, condemned sin in the flesh."

Thus, as the physical flesh of Jesus had to die in order to enter into the presence of the Father, [and the veil was a type of his flesh (Hebrews 10:20)], so the spiritual flesh of the individual has to be crucified (Galatians 5:24) before the believer can truly enter the presence of God. Thus our reasoning from the scriptures here agrees with our rule, that the order of the scripture in this case can be decided out of the mouth of two witnesses (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37).

These examples have shown us the importance of sticking to scriptural principles when trying to interpret scripture. "Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses" is just one principle illustrated here.

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