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What is the fourfold witness?

fourfold witness
Question: "What is the fourfold witness?"

The term fourfold witness is used in two distinct ways by Christian groups. “The fourfold witness of Scripture” is often a reference to the four separate but related accounts of the ministry of Christ in the Bible. These “witnesses” consist of the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Together, these four gospels serve as a fourfold witness of the earthly ministry and character of Jesus Christ.

Others speak of a “fourfold witness” in regard to four distinct lines of evidence that support the truth of Jesus as the Messiah. John 5:30–47 provides the basis for this perspective. The first line of evidence in the fourfold witness is John the Baptist, whose ministry was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus said, “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth” (John 5:33).

The second line of evidence in the fourfold witness is the works Jesus performed. Jesus points to this line of evidence Himself: “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36). These works consisted of teachings, healings, and miracles Jesus performed during His earthly ministry. All of those works proclaimed the fact of who Jesus is.

The third line of evidence in the fourfold witness is the witness of God the Father. After pointing to His miracles, Jesus says, “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me” (John 5:37). This could be a reference to the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17) or to a divine conviction in people’s hearts.

The fourth line of evidence in the fourfold witness is the Old Testament Scriptures: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40). Jesus’ opponents were experts in the Law of Moses and were thoroughly trained regarding the many prophecies of the coming Messiah. Yet they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This is why Jesus concludes His response to the Jewish leaders with these words: “Do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45–47).

In Jewish culture, only two witnesses were required to provide adequate testimony during a trial. Jesus provided four witnesses for Himself—double the required amount. Further, His witnesses included God the Father and the Word of God, the two highest forms of authority possible. The powerful testimony concerning Jesus clearly showed His true identity, despite the fact that He was rejected by the Jewish leaders.

Recommended Resource: Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third Edition by William Lane Craig

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