Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, February 22nd, 2024
the First Week of Lent
There are 38 days til Easter!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Witness (2)
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

In confirmation of the gospel message the NT appeals to two kinds of witness, in themselves distinct, but serving the same end.

1. The human witness to Christ.-The primary business of the Apostles was to testify as eyewitnesses to the facts of the earthly life of Christ and above all to His resurrection. The ability to do this was the qualification demanded in the successor to Judas (Acts 1:22), and the ground on which the Apostles justified their claim to preach Jesus (Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:39) and to speak with authority in the Church (1 Peter 5:1). This witness could be borne only by those who had been specially chosen to do so, and had been trained by personal communion with the risen Christ (Acts 10:41, 1 John 1:2; 1 John 4:14). It is noticeable that St. Paul is careful to show that he had experienced this, though not in the same way as that in which it had been granted to the older apostles (Acts 22:15, 1 Corinthians 9:1). It soon became clear that this witness must be given at the risk of liberty and life, and, though in the NT μάρτυς does not pass absolutely into the sense of ‘martyr’ (see Martyr), yet in Rev. the μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ, in nearly every case, is connected with suffering (e.g. Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4). In 1 Timothy 6:13 a like connexion of ideas is applied to our Lord Himself, who is said to have ‘witnessed the good confession’ before Pontius Pilate. A similar sense may attach to μαρτύρων in Hebrews 12:1 if we regard the ‘cloud of witnesses’ as consisting of those who have already sealed their faith by suffering. But the word may here mean no more than interested onlookers watching those engaged in the warfare which they themselves have already accomplished.

2. The Divine Witness.-Throughout the apostolic writings runs the conviction that God is constantly witnessing in various ways to the truth of the gospel. In Acts 14:3; Acts 15:8 miracles are taken to be the means by which the preaching of Christ among the Gentiles is so attested (cf. Galatians 3:5). But it is chiefly through the work of the Holy Spirit that this witness is borne. This work is seen in the individual and in the Church. The hope that Christ has made us sons of God is converted into a certainty by the voice of the Divine Spirit speaking within us (Romans 8:16). In 1 John 5:6-11 the meaning of this witness is drawn out in fuller detail. Christ’s coming was by water (baptism) and blood (the Cross). But these historic facts must be brought into personal relation with every life, or they have no reality for that life. It is the Holy Ghost who does this. He teaches every man to know that new life has come to him because Christ accepted His mission and died upon Calvary. ‘There are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood’ (v. 8). This witness is Divine (v. 9); every one can test it in his own heart (v. 10); and it consists of the possession of eternal life through the Son (v. 11). But the witness of the Holy Spirit to Christ is not confined to this inward conviction. It appears also in the bestowal of charismatic gifts on the faithful (Hebrews 2:4), especially that of preaching, which exists only to testify to Jesus (Revelation 19:10), and in the fulfilment by Christ of Scriptures in which the Spirit has spoken of Him (Hebrews 10:15; Hebrews 10 :1 Peter 1:11).

The consistency with which the NT writers dwell upon this varied testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christ is remarkable. Modern preaching has not yet fully recovered this note, but there is an increasing sense of the need of it, and the results of evangelistic work, especially in the foreign mission field, are daily illustrating its meaning in the life of the Church.

Literature.-H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT, London, 1909; D. W. Forrest, The Authority of Christ, Edinburgh, 1906, ch. vii.

C. T. Dimont.


The word οὐαί occurs freely in the LXX , in the Book of Enoch (esp. xciv., c.), and in the Gospels, but is found only twice in the Epistles (1 Corinthians 9:16 -‘Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel,’ and Judges 1:11, where a reference is made to the false teachers in the Church-‘Woe unto them! for they went in the way of Cain,’ i.e. as men in the wrong, entertaining a murderous hostility towards the lovers of truth. The idiom here is the familiar one of prophetic denunciation-‘Woe be to.’ The sense in 1 Corinthians 9:16 is ‘Woe is mine,’ i.e. ‘Divine penalty awaits me’).

In the Apocalypse, the word is used followed by the accusative in Revelation 8:13. The solitary eagle flying across the sky cries with a great voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth’ (the three-fold woe possibly corresponding to the three plagues yet to fall upon the earth). The idea here is hardly that of denunciation, but of ominous announcement. Similarly in Revelation 12:12 (where the accusative instead of the dative is again used)-‘Alas for the earth and for the sea.’ οὐαί introduces each section of the three-fold dirge of lamentation uttered by the mourners of fallen Babylon (Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:16; Revelation 18:19) and is followed by the nominative-the broken construction suggesting the emotion of the mourners.

οὐαί is used in Revelation 9:12; Revelation 11:14 as a feminine substantive (‘woe,’ ‘calamity’) indicating the disasters following the blowing of the last three of the seven trumpets. The first woe is the plague of tormenting locusts; the second is the slaughter wrought by the fiery horses and their angel riders; the last is apparently the final overthrow of Satan and the completed destruction of the wicked in the drama of 12-20.

H. Bulcock.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Witness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​w/witness.html. 1906-1918.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile