1

John 8:14 New International Version

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.

John 5:31 - New International Version

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.

I appreciate Jesus may well have had witnesses / or did not even need witnesses. However, that does not get away from the fact that John says at at v14 doesn't need witnesses and at v31 he does need witnesses.

3
  • 2
    It might be worth putting the NASB back in, so then you could ask which translation is more accurate, and whether the contradiction only appears because of a poor translation, or alternatively, whether the NASB is a poor translation because it hides the contradiction.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:26
  • @curiousdannii I prefer to leave it as it is - arguably the better translation and similar to the most used. People can touch on the translation in the A if they want. Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:27
  • 1
    There is a reason Jesus starts his statement in 8:14 with even if, and that reason is precisely because of what he said earlier, in 5:31 (which outlines a very basic and commonsensical general rule, that a positive testimony about oneself is biased, and therefore not objectively trustworthy, except for corroborating testimony of independent witnesses; see also Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28; Revelation 11:3). Of course, that does not imply that something unwitnessed or uncorroborated is therefore of necessity untrue (8:14).
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 19:31

8 Answers 8

4

Let's see the context, NIV John 5:

31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. ...

33“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. ...

37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. ...

39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

Jesus listed 2 human witnesses and 2 supernatural witnesses.

In John 8, Jesus focused on the supernatural witness:

14Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid,

At this point, there was an apparent contradiction with John 5:31. But Jesus explained further:

17In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

how do we reconcil John 8:14 & 5:31?

Without the context, the two verses do contradict. With context, we can see that John 8:17 mentions a 2nd witness. So the rule for 2 or more witnesses is affirmed by both passages.

0
3

It's important to take the earlier statement of Jesus first, before looking at the later statement. The first statement in John 5:31 and, according to the KJV reads, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true." 'Testify' is the same as 'witness'. But the very next verses show that Jesus had not claimed to testify of himself. He added:

"There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John [the Baptist], and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man, but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John, for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me."

As the NIV Study Bible notes explain, John the Baptist had first given valid testimony of Jesus (vs.33), his miraculous works testified on his behalf (vs.36), God the Father testified (vs.37), the scriptures testified (vs.39), as did Moses (vs.46).

Later on, Jesus faced the same stubborn resistance to the overwhelming amount of valid testimony about him that was building up, but which opposers continued to ignore. The Pharisees objected to Jesus having just called himself the light of the world, the light of life. So they claimed he was appearing as his own witness, therefore, his testimony was not valid (John 8:12-14 NIV). Instead of collating all the previous testimony and considering the growing number of miracles, they jumped on one statement Jesus had uttered and said he was appearing as his own witness. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now we can see that there was no contradiction at all between what Jesus said in John 5:31 and what he said in John 8:14. But there was clear ignoring of all the previous, valid testimony that had accompanied Jesus right from the time of John the Baptist till that hour - on the part of those who hated Jesus.

2

Jesus admits that if he bears witness of himself (and none else does so) then this is not a true (reliable) witness. See John 5:31, quoted above.

And yet if I judge, My judgment is true; because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent Me. [John 8:16 KJV]

But there is another witness : the Father who sent the Son.

And behold a voice from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." [Matthew 3:17 and Mark 1:11 and Luke 9:35 and Mark 9:7 and Matthew 17:5 KJV]

2

Superficially, John 5:31 and 8:114 appear to be about the same subject - the Judgment by Jesus of Himself. But closer inspection reveals a very important difference between the two, giving, in both cases, by the same verse and confirmed by the context.

Before getting into the details of this, let us remind ourselves of the article of Torah Jurisprudence that at least two independent witness are required for serious crime:

Deut 17:6 - On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but he shall not be executed on the testimony of a lone witness.

John 5:31 Jesus is discussing the (unreal) possibility that He acts alone, without God and thus concludes that if He did so, His actions and judgement would not be valid. Indeed, in the previous verse, Jesus declared that He does nothing without acting in concert with the Father.

John 8:14 Jesus is further answering His critics by saying that:

14 Jesus replied, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is valid, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you do not know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true, because I am not alone; I am with the Father who sent Me. 17 Even in your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. 18 I am One who testifies about Myself, and the Father, who sent Me, also testifies about Me.”

Thus, Jesus' claims His testimony is valid for two reasons:

  1. He has personal knowledge about where He came from which makes his witness statement valid
  2. He has a second more weighty witness in the Father, making two witnesses

The Pulpit commentary comes to the same conclusion when commenting in John 5:31 -

If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. At first sight this is in direct contradiction to John 8:14, where, in reply to the Pharisees' "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself; thy witness is nor true," he replied, "Though I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; because I know whence I came, and whither I go." The absolute unison with the Father, which he was not only conscious of, but had also revealed to the Pharisees, lifted his own word to the grandeur of a word of God. The Divine beamed through the human, the infinite through the finite. Here he says, "If I bear - if I and I alone were bearing witness to myself," then - supposing a case, which, as a matter of fact, is impossible - "my witness is not true." If he were acting alone, which is an inconceivable supposition, seeing that in the depths of his consciousness he knew that he was one with the Father, then for his human nature to break away thus from the Father and disdain his testimony would nullify and falsify his witness. He is not bearing witness alone. John 5:31

1

Both statements a almost idenical.

Ἐὰν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ,* ἡ μαρτυρία μου οὐκ ἔστιν ἀληθής· (John 5:31, NA28)

κἄν is a contraction of καί + ἐάν.

κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ,* ⸉ἀληθής ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία μου (John 8:14, Na28)

However, both are subjunctive. They are 3rd class conditional sentences.

        3.      Third Class Condition

     a.      Definition

The third class condition often presents the condition as uncertain of fulfillment, but still likely. There are, however, many exceptions to this. It is difficult to give one semantic label to this structure, especially in Hellenistic Greek (note the discussion below). The structure of the protasis involves the particle ἐάν followed by a subjunctive mood in any tense. Both the particle (a combination of εἰ and the particle ἄν) and the subjunctive give the condition a sense of contingency. The apodosis can have any tense and any mood. This is a common category of conditional clauses, occurring nearly 300 times in the NT.28 -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 696). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thus, the context is important.

John 5:31 - The Law required two witness. Jesus gave four.

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. (Deut. 19:15, ESV)

According to the law, a person's testimony by itself isn't legally valid.

John 8:14 Jesus continued with "... for I know where I came from and where I am going," (from John 8:14, ESV)

Jesus' testimony about himself:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, ESV)

Jesus came from the Father and he was about to heal the blind man in John 9.

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:5–7, ESV)

Thus, Jesus' witness was substantiated by the Father and his healing the blind man. Jesus had two witnesses plus his own that he is the light of the world.

1
  • I note the answers & appreciate Jesus may well have had witnesses / or did not even need witnesses. However, that does not get away from the fact that John says at at v31 doesn't need witnesses and at v14 he does need witnesses. Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 9:28
1

The meaning of expressions is partly affected by the context, even in the Bible, so taking them in isolation is always dangerous. Looking at the context helps in this case as well.

In ch8 v13, the accusation "you are bearing witness to yourself" means "you offer no human testimony to back you up". So "my testimony is true" means "I don't need support from human testimony". He explains his case further by pointing out in v18 that "the Father witnesses to me."

In ch5 v31, the statement "my testimony is not true" comes with the precondition "IF I bear witness to myself", so he admits that he needs support from other testimony. BUT he is not saying that he needs support from human testimony; in fact in v34 he says "Not that the testimony which I receive is from man". No, the support for Jesus comes from the fact that "the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me" (v37).

In summary, on the one hand, the passage in ch5 says "I do not need testimony from men, but I do need it from the Father".

On the other hand, the passage in ch8 says "I do not need testimony from men, but I do need it from the Father."

In short, the two passages are saying the same thing, and the contradiction created by taking two extracts in isolation is artificial.

0

The Pharisees had just raised this objection directly (John 8:13):

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”

In John 8:14, Jesus is speaking in veiled terms about his coming from God. He does not say directly "I am from God", but rather I know where I came from and where I am going.

John 8:14 can be paraphrased "Though it seems to you I bear witness of myself, it is not true: for the Father bears witness of me."

John Chrysostom's commentary here:*

“Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true, for I know whence I come. What does this mean? “I am of God, am God, the Son of God, and God Himself is a faithful witness unto Himself, but you know Him not."

* Homily LII on John

-2

By using John Gill's commentary: Jesus spoke has the Messiah/God who needs no witness, however God already had sent the prophet John the Baptist as his witness who was killed.

though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true; which seems contradictory to what he says, in Joh 5:31, and may be reconciled thus; there he speaks of himself as man, and in the opinion of the Jews, who took him to be a mere man; and also as alone, and separate from his Father, as the context shows; therefore his single testimony, and especially concerning himself, could not be admitted as authentic among men; but here he speaks of himself as a divine person, and in conjunction with his Father, with whom he was equal; and therefore his testimony ought to be looked upon, and received as firm and good, giving this as a reason for it

Jesus uses kal vahomer, "how much more" approach to validate his testimony. If his word alone is valid, how much more it is when the father testifies about me. v18 I am one who testifies about myself, and the Father who sent me testifies about me.

Two witness rule: exceptions are always there:

One of the scholars showed that the rule “by two witnesses shall a matter be established” should not be regarded as an all-inclusive and rigid rule and that, in fact, the courts rely as a matter of course on less than two witnesses, as well as on circumstantial evidence (H.S. Hefetz, “According to Two Witnesses?: Circumstantial Evidence in the Bet Din in Practice” (Hebrew), Takdim, 2 (1989), 59–84. See also *Evidence .)

In one of the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Silberg relied on the concept that testimony of one witness is sufficient to compel an oath by the opposing litigant, in support of the view that testimony of one witness is only considered as contested if it was rejected by opposing testimony (CA 88/49 Rosen v. Biali, 5 PD 72, 73, 78–80).

As a general rule, no single witness alone is competent to attest or testify: there must always be at least two (Deut. 19:15; Sif. Deut. 188; Sot. 2b; Sanh. 30a; Yad, Edut 5:1). The following are some of several exceptions to the general rule: whenever two testifying witnesses would be sufficient to prove a claim, one is sufficient to require the defendant to take an *oath that the claim is unfounded (Shev. 40a; Ket. 87b; BM 3b–4a; Yad, To’en 1:1); thus, in the case of widow claiming on her ketubbah or the holder of a bill claiming on it, where a single witness has testified that the claim had already been settled, the interested party will be required to take the oath before being allowed to recover (Ket. 9:7; Sh. Ar., ḤM 84:5). Conversely, a party who has partly admitted a claim will be excused from taking the oath if he is corroborated by at least a single witness (Rema ḤM 87:6; Beit Yosef ḤM 75 n. 3); and the testimony of a single depositary who still held the deposit was considered sufficient to prove which of the rival claims to a deposit was valid (Git. 64a; Sh. Ar., ḤM 56:1). A woman is allowed to remarry on the testimony of a single witness that her husband is dead (Yev. 16:7; Eduy. 6:1, 8:5; Ber. 27a; Ket. 22b–23a); and the testimony of a single witness is normally sufficient in matters of ritual (Git. 2b–3a; Yad, Edut 11:7). In criminal cases, both witnesses must have witnessed the whole event together (cf. Mak. 1:9), but in civil cases, testimonies of various witnesses to particular facts, as well as a witness and a document, may be combined to satisfy the two-witnesses rule (Sh. Ar., ḤM 30:6).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.