Tough Questions Answered

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Is Testimony Really That Unreliable? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

There are 3 ways that a person can gain knowledge: experience, reason, and testimony.  Experience simply means that we observe something directly with one of our five senses for ourselves (e.g., “There is a computer screen in front of me”).  Reason means that we make rational and logical inferences from knowledge we already have to new knowledge (e.g., syllogisms).  Testimony means that we gain knowledge by hearing it from another person (e.g., “Napoleon was a short man”).

For the average person, it would seem that much of what we know about the world comes from testimony, from facts we hear from other people.  Think about it.  If you just start listing in your mind all the things you know about every sort of subject, a tremendous amount of it you read in books, were taught by teachers and professors in school, read on a blog, and heard from your friends and family.

We rely very heavily on testimony because as a person who is limited in space and time, we cannot possibly experience everything directly that we want to know.  Any knowledge you have about places in the world you’ve never been is because of testimony.  Any knowledge of people whom you have never met is because of testimony.  Any knowledge of human activity from before you were born is known from testimony.

Let’s take two special cases of where testimony is used: law courts and human history.  Every day, criminals are convicted of serious crimes based on evidence from testimony.  Attorneys and judges always want to know who saw what.  There are other kinds of evidence used in courts, to be sure, but there is no doubt that our legal system would completely fall apart if testimony was disallowed.

Are there sometimes mistakes made by witnesses in recalling what they saw?  Sure there are.  But often the way we know a  mistake was made is because of someone else’s testimony!  In other words, we trust one person’s testimony about the facts over another person’s testimony.  We don’t just throw out all testimony and call it all unreliable.  We work to determine whose testimony is credible by using standard criteria.

What about human history?  The truth is that just about everything we know from human history is based on testimony.  We read written accounts left behind by people who directly experienced the events of history.  Are there testimonies from history that we think are false?  Absolutely.  How do we know they are false?  Often because they contradict other testimony that we trust more.  Without testimony, however, we would know precious little about anything that happened before we were born.  Historians, like jurists, employ criteria to discern which testimony from history is credible and which is not.

If testimony is so important to our everyday lives, to our legal system, and to our knowledge of history, then why do skeptics of Christianity seem to downplay its reliability so much?  We tackle that in the next post in this series.


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Comments

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    One of the criteria that courts use in assessing the credibility of testimony is whether it comports with the scientific evidence and the laws of science. Every month or so I read about a case where a man is released from prison after being exonerated by DNA testing that was not available at the time of his conviction. Often these convictions were obtained by eyewitness testimony, but the courts know that the science is more trustworthy. No sane prosecutor files charges based on eyewitnesses if the scientific evidence contradicts their testimony.

    The relevant question isn’t why skeptics seem to downplay the reliability of testimony so much, because they don’t. Skeptics of Christianity simply acknowledge its well-documented and well-understood limitations. The relevant question is why Christian apologists continue to resort to such fallacious arguments. The answer to that is because they’ve got nothing else.

    I doubt that this will stop you from trotting out the usual canards that apologists love so well, but at least you have been forewarned.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Interesting example regarding Napoleon. He was about 5’6.5″ tall, which was actually a decent height for a man of his era. So, a good example of why one should not just rely on hearsay.

  • Hiero5ant

    The extent of the reliability of testimony, and the effects on reliability of various external factors, is a question eminently amenable to scientific study; in fact, the literature on this topic is voluminous.

    Will this series actually cite this actual evidence, taking a synoptic view of the problem and establishing a methodology for evaluating cases, or will it consist entirely of cherry-picking isolated cases and anecdotes which appear favorable to your position while ignoring the evidence in the literature?

    Time will tell.

  • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

    I think it’s funny you define knowledge in such simplistic terms but not surprised in the least to see you try to elevate ‘testimony’ to be central. Testimony is identical to assertion, identical to assumption, unless it is supported by additional evidence. This additional evidence may be explicit or implicit. Regarding claims made about causal effect, then knowledge (known as ontology, meaning what we know) is only as reliable as its methodology (known as epistemology, meaning how we know). If what we know through testimony is presented without supportive evidence, then the problem is revealed not by its ontological assertion but by its lack of verification in its epistemology. In other words, such ‘knowledge’ is equivalent in all ways to delusion if it cannot be verified by extrinsic evidence.

    Testimony that makes a claim about causal effect can be dismissed if this burden of proof is neither accepted nor provided. For example, if someone claims, “Faeries cause computer problems,” and offers a computer problem to be evidence for the claim, then we have to remember that what we know – a computer with problems – in no way offers us any verification for the how we know faeries caused it. The epistemology to simply accept the testimony of another without evidence for the causal claim is synonymous with gullibility.

    It is to reduce gullibility – the ability to fool ourselves – that skeptics maintain the need for those who make positive causal claims to bear a burden of proof for them. This is not unreasonable.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I don’t think we need look any farther than the title of the post to find our answer to that question. A series that actually wanted to look at the evidence would be titled “How Unreliable Is Testimony?” rather than “Is Testimony Really That Unreliable?” The purpose clearly is not to truly examine the limitations of testimony, but to reassure the gullible that no matter how unreliable testimony might be, it’s not that unreliable with “that” being some straw man level of hyper-skepticism that Bill will attribute to unbelievers.

  • Hiero5ant

    That previous “hyperskeptics” post definitely does not augur well for this new series.

    The apologist says, “skeptics believe ____”, and then half a dozen skeptics (including the original philosopher whose remarks in the podcast were misreported) post below, uniformly saying “no, that is not right, none of us believe that.”

    And yet here we go round the mulberry bush again, with the apologist explaining why “skeptics seem to downplay the reliability of testimony” as though the previous corrections had never occurred.

    Will this series acknowledge the relevant difference between 1) taking your word for it that you are Bill Pratt when I meet you on the sidewalk, 2) taking your word for it that you are Bill Pratt when my job is a bank teller and you are attempting to withdraw money without any form of ID? (note that neither scenario has jack to do with squat re: “naturalism” or “materialistic bias”.)

    How about taking your word for it when you say your name is Bill Pratt and you’ve found a cure for cancer? How about when you testify that your name is Bill Pratt and you were once dead for three days?

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com/ DagoodS

    “Testimony” as in statements under oath (and penalty of perjury) in court is not the same as historical statements; neither are the same as claimed facts made by others. To mash all three under the same heading of “testimony” is a gross mischaracterization.

    I would further note testimony is important within our legal system, NOT because we find it particularly reliable, but rather because it is often the only form of evidence we have. Indeed we have numerous rules of evidence (especially hearsay) deliberately limiting testimony due to its unreliability.

    In addition to what Vinny JH said, juries and judges will always rely upon evidence such as photographs, video, samples, exhibits and documents in the stead of testimony. If the archeological evidence states Jericho was destroyed in 1550 BCE, and the “testimony” is that it was destroyed 150 years later—juries reject the “testimony” every single time, due to credibility issues.

    Bill Pratt, this could be an interesting topic to explore, but I beg of you…please…for your own credibility…avoid comparing historical claims to our current legal system and how it treats “testimony.”

  • Tom Rafferty

    Bill,

    You keep embarrassing yourself with these posts. Are you not reading the pushback?

  • Boz2012

    Bill Pratt said: “Historians, like jurists, employ criteria to discern which testimony from history is credible and which is not.”

    And what do historians say about ancient claims of magic and miracle?

  • http://aisforatheist5760.blogspot.com A is for Atheist

    I hope you do realize that “his-story” is just that. Much of what was recorded as history is what the rulers of any particular time wanted recorded. History is subjective, and anything considered “reliable” history, must be corroborated by outside sources. The Bible is NOT corroborated by outside sources, and fails the test for historicity.
    Not only does the bible fail the test for historicity, eyewitness testimony has been proven over and over again in court rooms to be unreliable–which is why in court rooms, eyewitness testimony is not given as much weight as hard evidence.

    Furthermore, the bible fails when we apply deductive logic and inductive logic. The bible fails to meet the criteria for consistency, validity, completeness and soundness. Finally, it also fails to meet the criteria for plain old common sense.

    I acknowledge that much of what we learn has been passed down to us by way of testimony, or from the experiences of others. So, let’s assume what you say is true–that eyewitness testimony is reliable, and let’s see how well the Christian handles the other “prong” to this fork.

    Let me provide you with an example that I use against another blogger, JW Wartick. Using your criteria, we have the eyewitness testimony of Emperor Fu Hsi According to Fu Hsi, in the Bamboo Annals, unicorns are not rhinoceroses, and they rule from heaven, and they never use their horn for evil, and they bring good to humans. This too, is “eyewitness testimony”, so according to what you say, then the unicorn must be true! According to what you say,Krishna must also be god, because there are many eyewitness testimonies to his so-called accomplishments. Etc. etc.

    I hope you see the problem now in relying on “eyewitness testimony” as a proof without any supporting evidence–especially when it does not meet the criteria for consistency, validity, completeness and soundness–or even common sense.

  • MaryLouiseC

    I find what J. Warner Wallace (Pleaseconvinceme.com) says about eyewitness accounts interesting simply because he’s not just an ex-atheist, but a cold case homicide detective who deals with these kind of “courtrooom” issues about which everybody is discussing here. I don’t have time to paraphrase his arguments and they’re really quite lengthy. But if anybody is interested in looking at this from a detective’s point of view, visit him here:

    http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/pg83510

    I have Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses on my shelf, but have yet to read it. This discussion makes me eager to have the time to get at it and see what he has to say on the matter.

    I do think, however, that the number of cases overturned by DNA evidence, are few and far between and should not be used to “prove” that eyewitness accounts aren’t trustworthy. Sometimes they might not be. Sometimes they’re bang on. The cases that have been turned over on the basis of DNA findings don’t prove that the eyewitness accounts of the gospels and the Book of Acts aren’t accurate. In fact, Luke in particular, is credited with being a very reliable historian.

    I also think that there is a post-modernist tendency in some to underevaluate eyewitness testimony. People like Foucault have made some doubt that we can really know anything about the past, that nothing is reliable, that everybody has their own axe to grind when it comes to relating events.

    I took a degree in history at a secular university and have worked through how we can know what we know about all kinds of people, events and issues down through the centuries. Consequently, I am not as skeptical of the historian’s ability to get at the truth as others.

    Some of you might be interested in John Dickson’s The Christ Files in which he looks at the process of historical study. It’s a good read.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Cases overturned based on DNA testing don’t prove that eyewitnesses testimony aren’t trustworthy, but they do show that it is less reliable than scientific evidence and that’s how the court view it.

  • rericsawyer

    In the sciences, it’s called Peer Review – It isn’t that “testimony” is not valued, after all, that is what experimental results are. But peer review is essentially one witness saying something like “Hey, look at this! I think it means X” and everyone else comes and witnesses this thing, maybe moves the bits to get a slightly different view, someone does it again to see if it comes out the same, and the weight of multiple testimonies adds up.

    So Bill is partly right in questioning and universal distrust of testimony, everything including hard science is by testimony – even my own experience is for me to doubt until I say “hey, look at this!”

    But it doesn’t rise much above the level of “suggestion for thought” until it is multiple testimony of independent witness, looking at the phenomenon through different lenses, skeptics included. Even the Bible notes that it would be unsound to convict a person based on the testimony of one witness only.

    I think that is the (sometimes) virtue of a blog like this, in that it does get some questions out away from the testimony of people who are already convinced about what the evidence will prove. Everyone tends to see what they we expect to find, skeptic and believer alike. Putting these thoughts out is one way of acknowledging that fact, and of dealing constructively with it.

  • Tom Rafferty

    “Everyone tends to see what they we expect to find, skeptic and believer alike.

    No, you are wrong. A skeptic can look “above” the din of confirmation bias and other tricks of the mind to use the tools of science to best see reality.

    Testimony is one (the weakest??) method of determining the truth of a claim. Applied to history, it is a especially weak.

    As Cuba Gooding said, “Show me the money!!” Evidence is the key to reality.

    Simple, if you REALLY think about it.

  • rericsawyer

    No, I disagree. Testimony IS evidence, Evidence is testimony. Anything other than “philosophizing” about a statement (“x is true because it should be true”) is observation and testimony. It’s the bedrock of science. But whether it is eye-witness recollection, or DNA analysis in a lab, it stands or falls on the same criteria. Neither one is a magic truth technique. When scientific observation is believed simply because it wears the name “science” then it has returned to the dark ages.

    As to the ability of the skeptic to rise above the tricks of the mind, I will meet you part way – If by “Skeptic” I am allowed to mean someone who looks at all evidence with the awareness of the possibility of hidden and undetected bias, including the evidence of his own mind, then I grant your point. However, skepticism in this sense is not restricted to those who disbelieve in religion. It is also quite possible for a skeptic in the sense I first used it to be a true believer in skepticism; willing to employ those tricks of the mind so as to leave his skepticism unchallenged.

    There is a Christian account that illustrates the difference; the story of the man popularly called “doubting Thomas.” When Thomas was told by the other disciples of Jesus that they had seen him post resurrection, Thomas was skeptical. He would not change his opinion based on the testimony of the others. But when he was presented with direct evidence himself, he changed. He was quite ready to abandon his skepticism when he thought it was successfully chalanged.

    My point here is not whether Thomas’ evidence really was sufficient, or if the story even happened. Obviously, I believe it did. My point is that, in this story, Thomas was a skeptic in the sense in which I said I would agree with you. But he was not a skeptic as a faith position. He had no interest in working to maintain his skepticism. Many do.

    Skepticism can be an open mind, or it can be a religious faith (wearing all the intellectual trappings of a religious faith) masquerading as an open mind. I think this difference is a question as worthy of thought as any other.

  • Tom Rafferty

    Based on your analysis of “skepticism” above, we are essentially in agreement. As you noted, Thomas indeed changed his mind after exposure to EVIDENCE that challenged his prior belief. Had he remained an unbeliever, he would have been a “denier”, not a skeptic. Thus, in this biblical account, Thomas was a true skeptic.

  • Tom Rafferty

    Regarding your statements about “testimony”, I still must disagree. While I agree that testimony may be loosely defined as a form of evidence, testimony without evidence is very weak. True evidence is factual and can be observed concretely by others. In my opinion, this definition of evidence is the common form and is the highest level of support for what is real.

  • rericsawyer

    Tom, perhaps this is putting too fine a point on it, but I think reported observation (“testimony”) is at the very heart of concrete evidence. God help me if I should get a reputation an empiricist (fortunately, I think He does), but the core of Bacon’s scientific method is observation, as distinguished from analysis.

    Going back to the courtroom, we often differentiate between “eye-witness testimony” and forensic evidence. At one time, the eye-witness was the gold standard, now it is in disfavor. But whether the observation is of a running figure through the shadows, a size 10-1/2 Nike footprint, or sworls and loops in a fingerprint, they are all equally observations of something, by someone, they are all subject to the same internal tricks of the mind that will trip us up every time –particularly if we simply assume the veracity of a particular type of observation, or “testimony”

    True evidence is indeed factual –but how are we to know what is true, unless we already know (or assume) what the facts are? You give a suggested answer, in that it can be observed by others. That goes back to my original point of “peer review” being a requirement of good science. But even without all that, evidence, even solitary testimony, is factual –the fact being “John said x” You have to bring in other testimony to get to “John SAW x” and a lot more to prove that “John accurately understands what he saw” all the way to “Steven is guilty” This is equally true whether John was peeping out of his window, or John was analyzing DNA

    I don’t mean to praise the first-person “this is what happened to me, so I know it’s true” up to the level of unimpeachable source. But I think it is an equal mistake to elevate “science” to the same level. All depend alike on observation, and have the same potential errors which must be anticipated, guarded against and sought out. (I guess by our agreed definition, this labels me a skeptic?)

  • Andrew Ryan

    “But whether the observation is of a running figure through the shadows, a size 10-1/2 Nike footprint, or sworls and loops in a fingerprint, they are all equally observations of something”

    I think you’re equivocating between definitions of ‘observation’. You seem to be saying there’s no difference in reliability between
    a) Someone trying to remember what they observed several weeks after an event – a notoriously unreliable source of testimony; and
    b) A permanent record of, say, a fingerprint that can be checked, observed and re-observed by anyone.

    There is NO COMPARISON between the two.

  • rericsawyer

    Andrew, you are pretty close to the mark, but I think there is a great similarity.

    As you note, careful recordkeeping greatly increases the reliability of the report.
    And as I have noted several times, repeated observations by others greatly increases the reliability of the observation, as do things such as the predictive value of the observation –the expectation that if Steven touches this glass, we will get the same fingerprint as exist on THAT glass.

    My point is that all of these rest, at bottom, on observation, “testimony” if you will. I do NOT think this is a bad thing! But since all are observed by humans, ALL are subject to the type of observational errors humans are prone to making. Certain crime labs (our own, here in Houston for one) have had their reputation fall on hard times recently, as errors proved rampant. These errors were not caught for years because everyone from prosecutors to judges to juries to defense attorneys took the observations of people in white coats to be the infallible “Pronouncements of Science.”

    The “scientific method” is not a magic truth machine; it is principally a way to systematize the understanding that knowledge comes through experience (empiricism) but that observers were prone to certain errors. Therefore methodological techniques for minimizing, identifying and correcting those errors, when they inevitably occur, were developed.

    The awareness that knowledge is built on fallible observation by humans is central to science. It is quite perilous to discard a truth so foundational.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “The “scientific method” is not a magic truth machine”

    I never said it was, but it’s by far the best method we have, and it’s immeasurably more reliable than eyewitness testimony. The equivalence you draw between the two is bonkers!

    There have been cases where people have sworn blind they got attacked by a black man, given testimony that got someone sent to prison, and then later it’s shown that the actual attacker was of a completely different race. Our memories are massively compromised, especially in times of duress.

    “These errors were not caught for years”

    So how were these errors eventually caught? If they were caught by ‘fallible observation’, how do you know they WERE errors?

  • Tom Rafferty

    Science is based on observation and experimentation. It mainly used inductive reasoning, thus, does not yield “proof”, but the likelihood the observation and/or the results of the experiment being real. There are many levels of “evidence”, from uncorroborated testimony through controlled, double-blind studies that have been peer-reviewed and replicated. The number of people supporting the evidence also is significant. For everyday activities that are common, a simple testimony from one person who you trust based on past experiences with him/her maybe all that is necessary to satisfy someone that the testimony probably is true. However, ANY claim of the supernatural is, by definition, extraordinary and required a higher level of evidence before acceptance is warranted. This principle is solidly within science. However, the theist seems to ignore it.

  • Andrew Ryan

    You seem to subscribe to the idea that if you have two methods of getting evidence, eg eyewitness testimony and DNA evidence, if one can’t say that either is infallible, then one might as well say both are as unreliable as each other.

    Sorry Eric, but this is evidently nonsense.

  • rericsawyer

    Andrew and Tom, I will take on last stab at the conversation –from your responses, it often seems that my point must be either too obtuse, or too poorly stated to get through. But just an attempt:

    For what it’s worth, my response to Bill’s title, “Is Testimony Really That Unreliable?” is “well yes, it is. I think there are things that may be said in his support, as titles can be chosen as provocative, but that’s my first reaction. I am not on the side of “Mrs. Cleary saw it, so that proves it.” Nor do I have a position that would denigrate science. I quite agree that almost everything useful that has been discovered, has been discovered, or at least verified, through the scientific method.

    Tom, I totally agree with your gradations of evidence from a single untrained, biased observer through carefully designed double-blind, peer reviewed and replicated studies. Also, I have made your point before in these pages that science does not deal in proof, but in probability which may rise to the level of approximating proof, although it can never get there.

    Andrew, my main point was not that both the casual observer and the body of science literature were of equal value – that would clearly be nonsense. But the point is that they both reside on that same continuum Tom suggested –opposite ends, agreed, but neither one has passed over a horizon label “unquestionable truth.” Science does not get a pass free from skepticism just because it wears that label. “Science” itself or “the scientific method” recognizes that principals in that it is an elaborate systematized effort to minimize and correct the errors produced by relying on observation.

    And Andrew, when you ask how were the errors (in Houston’s crime lab) caught, if not by fallible observation, it seems to me that you are making Bill’s point (and even using his construction), as well as mine.

    Of course they were caught by fallible observation! That’s the only kind there is.

    Tom, I hear you getting back to the overarching point in asserting that “any claim of the supernatural” requires a higher degree of evidence based on its essential nature as extra-ordinary. I am in complete agreement. And agree that your scruple is entirely within science. “Ordinary” defines the preponderance of the evidence, Supernatural defines an exception. That is and should be a tough sell.
    That is why I don’t get terribly excited by arguments about how many individuals may have seen the risen Christ, and how reliably we have or don’t have their testimony, etc. It isn’t enough.

    But I do have enough testimony from a large variety of post first century Christians who have personal observations and experiences that seem somewhat coherent, combined with a body of thought I find compelling and consistent that I am compelled to not just “review the literature” but perform the experiment myself. I found and find the results of the three to be in agreement, and sufficient.

    That’s it for me on this topic. And with that, I will leave any last word to you.

  • Tom Rafferty

    rericsawyer, very nice comment. I will only respond by stating that my investigation of the evidence for Christianity does not overcome the “extraordinary evidence” barrier, in my opinion. In addition, natural explanations for ALL of Christianity seem more probable than any supernatural activity, again, in my opinion.

    I am done on this post also.

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  • Eric Chabot

    Tom
    Rafferty,

    You say ” Bill, You keep
    embarrassing yourself with these posts. Are you not reading the pushback?”
    I don’t think he is embarrassing himself at all. I think they pretty much deal
    with the same old skeptical objections in a fair and balanced way. You are the
    one who keeps repeating the same old line, “Extraordinary claims require
    extraordinary evidence”…which is really just a throwback of many of Hume’s
    arguments. I assume you have read the many counterarguments to Hume?

    Also,
    we seem to be trying to look at testimony in the present and then trying to
    apply it to the past. In antiquity, Richard Bauckham notes in his book Jesus
    and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony,

    ” The Greek word for “eyewitness”
    (autoptai), does not have forensic meaning, and in that sense the English
    word“eyewitnesses” with its suggestion of a metaphor from the law courts, is a
    little misleading. The autoptai are simply firsthand observers of those events.
    Bauckham has followed the work of Samuel Byrskog in arguing that while the
    Gospels though in some ways are a very distinctive form of historiography, they
    share broadly in the attitude to eyewitness testimony that was common among
    historians in the Greco-Roman period. These historians valued above all reports
    of firsthand experience of the events they recounted. Best of all was for the
    historian to have been himself a participant in the events (direct autopsy).
    Failing that (and no historian was present at all the events he need to
    recount, not least because some would be simultaneous), they sought informants
    who could speak from firsthand knowledge and whom they could interview(indirect
    autopsy).” In other words, Byrskog defines“autopsy,” as a visual means of
    gathering data about a certain object and can include means that are either
    direct (being an eyewitness) or indirect (access to eyewitnesses). Byrskog also
    claims that such autopsy is arguably used by Paul (1 Cor 9:1; 15:5–8; Gal
    1:16), Luke(Acts 1:21–22; 10:39–41) and John (19:35; 21:24; 1 John 1:1–4). One
    of the greatest assets of Bauckham’s book is the reminder that ancient
    historians thought that history had to be written during a time when
    eyewitnesses were still available to be cross-examined.

    You say ” Bill, You keep
    embarrassing yourself with these posts. Are you not reading the pushback?”
    I don’t think he is embarrassing himself at all. I think they pretty much deal
    with the same old skeptical objections in a fair and balanced way. You are the
    one who keeps repeating the same old line, “Extraordinary claims require
    extraordinary evidence”…which is really just a throwback of many of Hume’s
    arguments. I assume you have read the many counterarguments to Hume?

    Also,
    we seem to be trying to look at testimony in the present and then trying to
    apply it to the past. In antiquity, Richard Bauckham notes in his book Jesus
    and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony,

    ” The Greek word for “eyewitness”
    (autoptai), does not have forensic meaning, and in that sense the English
    word“eyewitnesses” with its suggestion of a metaphor from the law courts, is a
    little misleading. The autoptai are simply firsthand observers of those events.
    Bauckham has followed the work of Samuel Byrskog in arguing that while the
    Gospels though in some ways are a very distinctive form of historiography, they
    share broadly in the attitude to eyewitness testimony that was common among
    historians in the Greco-Roman period. These historians valued above all reports
    of firsthand experience of the events they recounted. Best of all was for the
    historian to have been himself a participant in the events (direct autopsy).
    Failing that (and no historian was present at all the events he need to
    recount, not least because some would be simultaneous), they sought informants
    who could speak from firsthand knowledge and whom they could interview(indirect
    autopsy).” In other words, Byrskog defines“autopsy,” as a visual means of
    gathering data about a certain object and can include means that are either
    direct (being an eyewitness) or indirect (access to eyewitnesses). Byrskog also
    claims that such autopsy is arguably used by Paul (1 Cor 9:1; 15:5–8; Gal
    1:16), Luke(Acts 1:21–22; 10:39–41) and John (19:35; 21:24; 1 John 1:1–4). One
    of the greatest assets of Bauckham’s book is the reminder that ancient
    historians thought that history had to be written during a time when
    eyewitnesses were still available to be cross-examined.

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