Rules Of Evidence

As I mentioned in my book review of David Limbaugh’s Jesus On Trial, he presents the evidence for the validity of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus Christ as if he were presenting a cae before the jury. As a trial begins, a judge will share with the jurors the rules for considering the evidence that is being presented. Here is a fantastic summary from Mr. Limbaugh—

“Applying the rules of evidence. … These rules are the ancient documents rules, the parole evidence rule, the hearsay rule, and the principle of cross-examination. 

“The common law ancient documents rule presumes a document is truthful unless it is self-contradictory, inaccurate, or there is internal evidence of text tampering. The one challenging the document generally shoulders the burden of proof. Unsolved problems or lack of clarity in the document don’t necessarily invalidate it as erroneous or unreliable. …

“The parole evidence rule provides that external, oral testimony or tradition will not be admitted into evidence to add to, subtract from, vary, or contradict an executed written instrument such as a will or a contract. This means the document, absent any applicable exceptions, will stand on its own. … 

“The hearsay rule precludes a witness from testifying as to what others may have said and, generally speaking, requires the witness to have firsthand knowledge of the matter to which he is testifying. As applied to the New Testament documents, this rule lends credence to New Testament authors who say they were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. 

“The cross-examination principle holds that the more the testimony holds up once it is subjected to rigorous cross examination, the more credible we deem it to be, which, incidentally, is one reason for the hearsay rule, i.e., it excludes testimony from witnesses that can’t be subjected to cross-examination. … Law professor and historian John Warwick Montgomery, who rigorously applied all these evidentiary rules to an examination of the Bible, finds the witnesses who were challenged to confirm having witnessed Jesus’ resurrected body did so ‘in the very teeth of opposition, among hostile cross-examiners who would certainly have destroyed the case of Christianity’ had such accounts been contradicted by the facts. 

Josh McDowell summarizes Montgomery’s approach to New Testament examination as giving the document the benefit of the doubt, which is another way of saying the burden of proof is on the critic or challenger. So, Montgomery writes, ‘One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradiction or known factual inaccuracies.’ Applying this approach and similar ones, McDowell argues that we can’t just assume that what appears to be a difficult passage constitutes a valid argument against it. We must be sure we correctly understand the passage using accepted rules of interpretation.”

I present some evidence for the inspiration and validty of the Bible in these two posts: The inspiration of Scripture and Can we really know if the Bible is God’s Word?

Jesus On Trial (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I love studying Christian apologetics and learning how to explain to skeptics and seekers the eternal value in the Bible as it points me to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. David Limbaugh has given apologetics a new slant in his book Jesus On Trial.

Mr. Limbaugh uses his personal story from a childhood church attendee, to a skeptic of Christianity, to a reluctant seeker of the truth, and finally to a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus. But he also lets us see how he examined the evidence for the truth claims of the Bible through the eyes of a trained lawyer. 

Throughout this book you will discover legalese terms like rules of evidence, items of probative value, rules of logic, and expert testimony. Each chapter feels like another witness Mr. Limbaugh has called to testify, or another piece of evidence that needs to be weighed and evaluated, and we the readers are empaneled as the jury deciding the case. As witness after witness takes the stand, as more evidence piles up, and as Mr. Limbaugh delivers his closing argument, the preponderance of evidence seems to make an airtight case of the truth claims in the Bible. 

Whether you are looking for answers or hunting for evidence to use in discussions with your friends, Jesus On Trial is a reference book to which I believe you will repeatedly return. 

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