Unintentional Witness Corroboration

It is written:

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

Jay Warner Wallace is a former atheist who became a Christian after his extensive investigation of the Gospels. Being a homicide detective, he brought his considerable training to bear in his examinations of the claims of Christianity.

In his book, Cold-Case Christianity, Wallace discusses how detectives who examine the testimonies of various witnesses to an event assume there will be minor differences between such. This is primarily because the witnesses testify of what they witness from different vantage points.

Wallace then notes how this relates to his study of the Gospels:

“If nothing else, we have to remember that an eyewitness account can be reliable in spite of apparent contradictions. While we might complain about two accounts that appear to differ in some way, we would be even more suspicious if there were absolutely no peculiarities or differences. If this were the case with the Gospels, I bet we would argue that they were the result of some elaborate collusion. As we examine the gospel accounts, we need to give the writers the same benefit of the doubt we would give other eyewitnesses. Human eyewitnesses produce human eyewitness accounts; they are often idiosyncratic and personal, but reliable nonetheless.” (J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates The Claims Of The Gospels, 85-86 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook).

He then goes into greater detail regarding something called unintentional witness corroboration:

“As we discussed in chapter 4, one of the most important tasks for a detective is to listen carefully when multiple eyewitnesses provide a statement about what they observed at the scene of a crime. It’s my job to assemble the complete picture of what happened at the scene. No single witness is likely to have seen every detail, so I must piece together the accounts, allowing the observations of one eyewitness to fill in the gaps that may exist in the observations of another eyewitness. That’s why it’s so important for eyewitnesses to be separated before they are interviewed. True, reliable eyewitness accounts are never completely parallel and identical. Instead, they are different pieces of the same puzzle, unintentionally supporting and complementing each other to provide all the details related to what really happened….When I first read through the Gospels forensically, comparing those places where two or more gospel writers were describing the same event, I was immediately struck by the inadvertent support that each writer provided for the other. The accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail that raised a question, this question was unintentionally answered by another gospel writer (who, by the way, often left out a detail that was provided by the first gospel writer)….As someone who was new to the Bible, I began to investigate whether or not anyone else had observed this phenomenon and found that a professor of divinity named J. J. Blunt wrote a book in 1847 entitled Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of the Old and New Testament, an Argument of Their Veracity; with an Appendix, Containing Undesigned Coincidences between the Gospels and Acts, and Josephus. This was one of the first books about the Bible I ever purchased. In his section related to the Gospels and the book of Acts, Blunt identified the very same inadvertent parallel passages I discovered when examining the Gospels forensically. Blunt described the phenomenon as a series of “undesigned coincidences” and identified over forty locations in the New Testament where this feature of unintentional eyewitness support could be seen on the pages of Scripture. Let me give you a few examples of what we are talking about here….As a cold-case detective, I’ve experienced something similar to this a number of times. Often, questions an eyewitness raises at the time of the crime are left unanswered until we locate an additional witness years later. This is a common characteristic of true, reliable eyewitness accounts.” (Jay Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates The Claims Of The Gospels, 183-187 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Colorado Springs, CO; DavidCook).

He provides examples of the Gospel writers provide this unintentional witness corroboration in numerous places, which argues strongly for their credibility and authenticity. The following chart provided some specific examples:

Puzzling Passage

Questions Raised By

The Text

Unintentional Witness Corroboration Text

Answer Provided To Questions

Matthew 8:16

Why wait till evening to bring sick people to Jesus?

Mark 1:21; Luke 4:31

Because it was the Sabbath.

Matthew 14:1-2

Why did Herod tell many of his servants that he believed Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead?

Luke 8:3; Acts 13:1

Many of Jesus’ followers were from Herod’s household.

Luke 23:1-4

Why couldn’t Pilate find a charge against Jesus, even though He claimed to be King?

John 18:33-38

Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world.

Matthew 4:18-22

Why would Peter and Andrew and James and John drop everything to follow Jesus just because He said “follow Me?”

Luke 5:1-11

The Apostles witnessed the miracle of the fish (which also explains why James and John were “mending (fixing/repairing) their news” in Matthew’s account.

Matthew 26:67-68

Why would the men who were hitting Jesus say, “Who hit You?” They were standing right in front of Him! Why would that be called “prophesying?”

Luke 22:63-65

Luke provides the detail that Jesus was blindfolded while He was being punched.

Matthew 26:71

Why did the maid notice Peter?

John 18:16

John pointed out Peter to her.

Mark 15:43

Why did Mark say that Joseph of Arimathea acted boldly?

John 19:38

Joseph was secretly a believer in Jesus.

Mark 6:30-44

Why was there a crowd gathered together before Jesus and the Apostles arrived?

John 6:1-13

Because they had heard of Jesus’ miracles, and it was Passover

John 6:1-13

Why did Jesus single out Philip and Andrew?

Luke 9:10-17 & John 1:44

They are both from Bethesda.

What did Wallace conclude regarding the Gospels?

“I decided to investigate the claims of Christianity (to see if they could be defended) before I ever decided to call myself a Christian. My investigation (some of which I described in section 2) led me to conclude that the Gospels were reliable.” (Jay Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates The Claims Of The Gospels, 255 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Colorado Springs, CO; DavidCook).

The evidence and the verdict are in: Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

What will you choose to do with that knowledge?

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