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The testimony of an expert witness depends on the competency of the witness, whereas, the testimony of an ordinary witness is validated by corroborating testimony.

We are free to challenge an expert to ensure his testimony does not wander outside the scope of his expertise. The testimony of an ordinary witnesses should be corroborated by other voices.

The witnesses to the gold plates of the Book of Mormon are presented as expert witnesses where we are supposed to trust them without outside corroboration.

What is the nature of the witness of the Apostles in the gospels? How does the answer affect our presumptions in hermeneutics?

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I think you are trying to apply modern legal concepts to books written 2000 years ago. –  DJClayworth Nov 1 '11 at 19:55
    
Actually I am just asking if the apostles expected us to believe them simply because they said so, or do they expect us to corroborate their testimony somehow. If the former, then how can we challenge their 'mistakes'. If the latter, then how much of the gospel can be corroborated and by what? I think the gospels differ from the letters in how they treat their testimony. –  Bob Jones Nov 2 '11 at 5:05
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That's nothing to do with the concept of an 'expert witness'. Expert witnesses are those with particular expertise. The difference is that an expert witness can testify about their opinion - another witness can only testify to facts. –  DJClayworth Nov 2 '11 at 13:28
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There were multiple apostles, so their individual testimony is corroborated by the other voices, right? –  GalacticCowboy Nov 3 '11 at 22:25
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Jewish law at the time (and still) requires two witnesses for anything. There's no notion of "experts" being different. –  Gone Quiet Apr 23 '12 at 14:38
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2 Answers

Were the apostles “expert” witnesses?

If I understand the thrust of the question correctly, you are asking how the apostles expected their testimony in the gospels to be received - but in the process you appear (perhaps unintentionally) to be conflating the original audience and modern readers into a single group.

I would prefer to delineate those who read the gospels into at least two, and probably several more groups, and indeed the different gospels may even have been written with different audiences in mind. Luke at least seems to be primarily addressing a converted reader:

1:1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. ESV

From the perspective of 'Theophilus', it seems likely that Luke was regarded as an 'expert' - and he may well have taken on trust things he wrote whereas a man encountering Luke's gospel today for the first time might

  1. have preconceived animosity towards religion
  2. have a sensible policy of not believing things just because someone wrote them
  3. have already put their trust in some other person or faith than the one Luke holds

, to name but a few possibilities.

Given that:

19:15“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. ESV

It seems reasonable not to expect someone who is not already a believer to accept the testimony of Luke alone - and indeed I find it very helpful that the we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses from the varied Bible texts.

The remaining question then becomes whether Luke (or indeed God) intended his gospel to be a tool for convincing/persuading those who do not believe that it is a true account of the important facts about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as for building up 'Theophilus' (and perhaps other believers).

This goes to the heart of how a man is converted - is it the moment before he hears the gospel, so he can receive it, or the moment after, as he chooses to respond. In either event, at least for John, that intent is explicit:

20:31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ESV

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"... how the apostles expected their testimony in the gospels to be received" The message of Christ and the apostles was not a new message. All they said Jesus did was said to validate that the law and prophets were fulfilled. When we say Matt said so, we should be asking "In what way were prophecies fulfilled in what Matt said." Luke recorded things that demonstrated that Jesus fulfilled scripture as the means to persuade us, not as a testimony of a new message and messenger. We believe that Jesus is the C, SOG because he fulfilled scripture, not because Luke said he was. –  Bob Jones May 5 '12 at 3:39
    
we don't believe Luke because he was an apostle, but because his testimony is corroborated by scriptures. We have their testimony in the gospels and can validate it the same way the Bereans did, by checking the Old Testament. When we "buy their story" because they are apostles, we treat them as expert witnesses. –  Bob Jones May 5 '12 at 3:42
    
but speaking as a gentile convert, what reason do I have to trust the Old Testament first? The agreement certainly lends itself to the overall picture or integrity of all the witnesses but I for one trusted the apostles first :-) –  Jack Douglas May 5 '12 at 7:18
    
So to you the apostle is an expert witness, which is an anachronism according to others here. If the early Jewish Christians did not accept them as experts when they spoke of the Jewish Messiah, what warrant do gentiles have? I suspect, if the truth be known, in your case, a sheep recognized the voice of his shepherd through the NT authors, and with time learned to understand his words. So the initial trust was really in the shepherd, which trust was imputed to the authors. –  Bob Jones May 8 '12 at 3:46
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The simple answer is "no", none of the disciples were expert witnesses, certainly not in the modern sense, and more importantly, not in the sense of their time, whether according to the Pharisees or the Sadducees, both of who demanded a high standard of education in Jewish tradition and adherence to that tradition to be considered as witnesses at all for anything other than mundane issues.

There is no evidence to think that the disciples were particularly educated men in the sense that would be required to be considered valid witnesses then, and some evidence think the contrary. They appear to have chosen themselves or been chosen by Jesus, not on the basis of education, but on the basis of their conviction, their commitment and their willingness to hear a new idea that others burdened by doctrinal education could not hear. They might also have been chosen on the basis future leadership potential although the text itself does not indicate whether this is so.

When the disciples received the mission of being apostles following the resurrection, it doesn't appear from the text that not being considered expert witnesses in the sense of their time hindered them in any way. No one then seemed to be particularly worried by that fact. I don't think that we need to be either, as that is apparently not the message that the text intends to give us.

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