How Eyewitnesses Work

We all know the contemporary importance of eyewitnesses, but do we understand the long-term importance of an eyewitness?

Let me give you an example of how an eyewitness account continues to have significance for generations to come.

My wife is the youngest child in her family. Her father was the youngest child in his large family. Her father had a brother who was a Doughboy in WWI, serving under General John J. Pershing. We are blessed to have the pocket sized New Testament that Martha’s uncle carried with him to the battle field. We have a picture of the troop ship that carried him to Europe.

Martha and I both knew this aged uncle. Do you think we have any question believing that General Pershing lived or that WWI happened? Do you think my children or grandchildren who never saw this man have any problem believing that “Uncle Elmer Layton” fought in Europe? Even though my grandchildren are very far removed from 1917, they know these things because I knew an eyewitness.

Eyewitness testimony carries across generations.

That’s what happened with the resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle John witnessed the appearances of Jesus over a forty day period before Jesus’ ascension to heaven. John had many disciples with whom he shared the events of Jesus’ life. All of the other apostles and disciples did as well.

We know that John had a disciple named Polycarp (AD 69-155). He had never seen Jesus, but he knew Jesus lived, taught, died on the cross, and was raised from the dead. He knew Jesus appeared multiple times to His disciples. Polycarp was the link to the eyewitness. Not only do we have John’s eyewitness account, but we also have Polycarp’s testimony of what John said about Jesus. By the way, Polycarp also died a martyr because of his faith in Christ.

One of the most important theologians of the Christian church was Irenaeus (AD 130-202) who testified to hearing the preaching of Polycarp. Irenaeus gave us information about the books of the Bible and wrote against heresy. From Irenaeus through Polycarp and John, we know that the early church considered the four gospels as Scripture and rejected the gnostic gospels that started appearing in the second century.

Jesus’ resurrection is supported by excellent and broad eyewitness testimony. That testimony continues because of the writings, sermons, and teachings of John, Polycarp, and Irenaeus.

One Comment

  1. Scott Hymel
    Apr 23, 2019

    The miracles of Jesus were also widely known, well documented and even supported by pagan historians such as Celsus (late 2nd century AD) among others. Celsus, based on eyewitness testimony, recorded the “miraculous powers” of Jesus and Jesus proclaiming himself a god. Origen, an early church father and theologian also quoted Celsus. (See The True Word, in Contra Celsus, 1:28)

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, — Colossians 1:9 (NIV)