LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
April 28, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.,
Since we are still in the period between Passover and Pentecost in which the resurrected Jesus appeared to the Apostles and gave to them their final instructions before his ascension, I would like to share a few thoughts on the nature of evidence. Luke tells us that Jesus stayed with the Apostles for a period of about forty days. The number forty is used in Scripture as a round number for a period of testing or instruction. Pentecost is fifty days from Passover, so we do not know exactly when Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, but he was back in Jerusalem with his Disciples for the Festival of Weeks. It may have been nearer to Pentecost than the ten days.
Luke is the most careful of the Gospel writers in matters of historical accuracy and the use of eye witness accounts. He uses the phrase in the first chapter of Acts, “He (Jesus) showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” Later in the chapter he quotes Jesus as telling the Apostles, “You will be my witnesses.”
In a courtroom setting witness testimony trumps all other forms of evidence. Forensic evidence is all the rage today and has spawned several very good TV series. However, criminal scientific investigation does not outweigh first hand eye witness evidence. In the courtroom the strongest evidence is the eyewitness account.
Most of our knowledge is not based on the empirical evidence that is the standard of the hard sciences. Empirical evidence requires that the data be repeatable in as many situations as possible to assure that the conclusions are as highly probable as possible. Just how much of the knowledge contained in any encyclopedia is dependent on repeatable scientific experimentation? It is hardly possible to repeat Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill in order to establish its truth. We do not question the event because we have reliable witness to the facts of the matter. The knowledge established by the so called “scientific method,” as useful and as interesting as it may be, forms only a small fraction of what we know to be true.
The Uniform Sunday School Lesson for this week comes from the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. It is the story of the healing of a blind man by Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in the year 29 AD. It is a lengthy account and is a fascinating study of how a group of people who are reluctant to believe something deals with the evidence. The Pharisees were a party of Judaism that was zealous for a very strict observance of not only the religious regulations of the Torah, but the traditions that were built up to protect the faithful from breaking any of those regulations. Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath because he did not see a positive act of mercy as an infringement upon the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees disagreed. They considered such an act as working, and sinful.
Their first attempt was to deny the man was blind. The witness of neighbors and even the man’s parents thwarted that assertion. They tried to call the man who was healed a liar, but that didn’t work either. They finally end up calling the healed man a nasty name and throwing him out of the synagogue. If you don’t like the evidence, just call the witnesses names and assign them to some limbo where you do not have to deal with it.
The Gospels are not backward in laying out the evidence.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at email@example.com).