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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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WITNESS . This is the rendering of Heb. ‘çd and ‘çdah and of the Gr. martys, martyria , and martyreô , and compounds of this root. The primitive idea of the Heb. root is to repeat, re-assert, and we find the word used in the following connexions: (1) Witness meaning evidence , testimony , sign (of things): a heap of stones ( Genesis 31:44 ), the Song of Moses ( Deuteronomy 31:26 ), Job’s disease ( Job 16:8 ), the stone set up by Joshua at Shechem ( Joshua 24:27 ). So in the NT the dust on the feet of the disciples was to be a witness against the Jews ( Mark 6:11 ). (2) Witness signifying the person who witnesses or can testify or vouch for the parties in debate; e.g . God is witness between Jacob and Laban ( Genesis 31:50 ); so Job says, ‘My witness is in heaven’ ( Job 16:19 , cf. also 1 Samuel 12:5 ff., Jeremiah 29:23 ; Jeremiah 42:5 ). In the NT God is called on by St. Paul to witness to his truth and the purity of his motives ( Romans 1:9 , 2 Corinthians 1:23 etc.). Akin to this meaning we have (3) Witness in a legal sense . Thus we find witnesses to an act of conveyancing ( Jeremiah 32:10 ), to a betrothal ( Ruth 4:9 ), while in all civil and criminal cases there were witnesses to give evidence, and references to false witnesses are frequent (cf. Proverbs 12:17 ; Proverbs 19:5-9 ; Proverbs 21:28 ; Proverbs 25:18 etc.). See also Justice (II.), 2 ; Oaths. In the NT the Apostles frequently appear as witnesses ( martyres ) of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus ( Luke 24:48 , Acts 1:8 ; Acts 2:32 ; Acts 3:15 etc.). The heroes of the faith are called the ‘cloud of witnesses’ ( Hebrews 12:1 ), and Jesus Himself is ‘the faithful witness ( martyr )’ in Revelation 1:6 ; Revelation 3:14 (cf. 1 Timothy 6:13 ). Cf. also artt. Ark, § 1 ; Tabernacle, § 7 ( a ).

W. F. Boyd.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Witness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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