Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Have you ever wondered why some persons in Mark (and the other Gospels) are named, while others are not? (1) Women at the cross and tomb: We already saw in the article on Matthew that Mary Magdalene figures prominently. Eyewitness testimony can be of great value to the legal system, but decades of research now argues that this testimony is often given far more weight than its accuracy justifies. Eyewitnesses are often asked to describe that perpetrator to law enforcement and later to make identifications from books of mug shots or lineups. So it is likely that Mark completed his Gospel shortly afterwards, though tradition also implies that he was working on it, in some form, while Peter was alive. Generally, inclusio is the literary technique of placing corresponding material at the beginning and end of a particular stretch of text (short or long) in order to mark off that section and to say something about the intervening section of text. The misinformation effect has been modeled in the laboratory. In all three Synoptics, Peter plays a big role, but it is bigger in the much-shorter Gospel of Mark. He has written many articles and one book, Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997). But because different witnesses are different people with different perspectives, they are likely to see or notice different things, and thus remember different things, even when they witness the same event. “Gospel Authorship by Mark and Luke: Some Implications.” July 2006. Most likely, the reason that the names of the recipients are included in the Gospels is that they were original eyewitnesses who testified while being members of the Jesus movement, perhaps mainly participating in it more fully after the events in Jerusalem (e.g. The eyewitness is given a set of small pictures of perhaps six or eight individuals who are dressed similarly and photographed in similar circumstances. These patients’ therapists claimed that the patients were recovering genuine memories of real childhood abuse, buried deep in their minds for years or even decades. Other studies have shown that misinformation can corrupt memory even more easily when it is encountered in social situations (Gabbert, Memon, Allan, & Wright, 2004). . Within cognitive psychology, eyewitness testimony is heavily researched as juries tend to pay close attention to the details a witness is recalling. And the "we" is Peter’s point of view. Both are brief, move rapidly, and are action oriented. In passages where this plural-to-singular narrative device is not used, the internal focalization can shift over to another viewpoint or more than one (e.g. . Ideally this recollection of events is detailed; however, this is not always the case. ---. Eyewitness testimony can play a big part in criminal court cases. The important thing is to make eyewitness testimony more reliable, to design legal situations that discourage eyewitness biases and mistakes. The authors are sometimes called synoptists. It can be suggested that juries should also consider the factors that could influence the recall of events as this is one of the reasons as to why eyewitness testimony may be seen as unreliable. (1999). Questions of authorship and date are important. He can change vantage points. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat . Archaeology and the Gospel of John: Is skepticism chic passé? Zondervan, 2005. But to what extent is this necessary? Proximity to the source as providing the greatest potential for accuracy is a commonsense and obvious truth. Why? Then subjects worked individually on 20 additional memory test questions. Answer #3 | 22/10 2015 16:18 Eventually things come down to the evidence of our senses and faculties. However, research into this area has found that eyewitness testimony can be affected by many psychological factors: In these studies, research subjects witness a mock crime (often as a short video) and then are asked to make an identification from a photo or a live lineup. . Thus, both in Luke and Mark, Simon Peter is the first disciple called with specific emphasis and the last one mentioned with specific emphasis. . In other words, the misinformation in the leading question led to inaccurate memory. Co-witnesses talk: A survey of eyewitness discussion. Mark is concerned to show that he wrote up his account from the best possible sources. Though their message was basic, surely they wanted to get things right. Planting misinformation in the human mind: A 30-year investigation of the malleability of memory. One strategy that has been generally overlooked in narrative analyses of Mark’s Gospel is employed in Greco-Roman literature, such as Lucian’s Alexander and Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus. Role of schemata in memory for places. In our study of Matthew in the previous article, the Gospel does not seem to have an inclusio of eyewitness testimony, but maybe of authoritative testimony, from Matt. Wells, G. L., & Olson, E. A. An Introduction to the New Testament. Effects of exposure time and cognitive operations on facial identification accuracy: A meta-analysis of two variables associated with initial memory strength. It is very clear to me now that Peter’s eyewitness testimony is the main source of the Gospel, along with some other eyewitnesses. However, the Gospel ends abruptly, saying that the women, fearing, said nothing to anyone (v. 8). Distinguishing accurate identifications from erroneous ones: Post-dictive indicators of eyewitness accuracy. (2) Simon of Cyrene and his sons Alexander and Rufus (15:21): Matthew and Luke omit the names of Simon’s sons. Yes, it receives support from two textual facts. Subjects in one study were more likely to say yes when asked “Did you see the broken headlight?” than when asked “Did you see a broken headlight?” (Loftus, 1975). Other researchers gave subjects unmanipulated class photographs from their childhoods along with a fake story about a class prank, and thus enhanced the likelihood that subjects would falsely remember the prank (Lindsay et al., 2004). Eyewitness memory in young and older adults In: M.P.Toglia, J.D. Archaeology and the Synoptic Gospels: Which way do the rocks roll? Likewise, eyewitness memory can be corrupted by leading questions, misinterpretations of events, conversations with co-witnesses, and their own expectations for what should have happened. Other important recommendations that have come out of this research include better ways to conduct lineups, “double blind” lineups, unbiased instructions for witnesses, and conducting lineups in a sequential fashion (see Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence, 1999; Wells et al., 1998; Wells & Olson, 2003). Eyewitness memory can also be unreliable and bias due to misleading information in a question. Naomi Osaka roars back to win 2nd U.S. Open title. In what ways might your knowledge of memory errors affect your use of this testimony? But there are some things that the justice system can do to help lineup identifications “go right.” For example, investigators can put together high-quality, fair lineups. Passages showing Peter’s prominence but not using the device follow: 1:16-20, 35-39; 5:35-37; 8:27-30, 31-33; 9:2-8; 10:23-31; 14:54, 66-72 (p. 165). People can even come to remember whole events that never occurred. This exemplifies that eyewitness accounts and eyewitness testimony is not always one hundred percent accurate. ( 8:22; my translation), 12 The next day, they left Bethany, and he [Jesus] was hungry . Additionally, there is a correlation of the plural-to-singular narrative device with the many references to Peter and the core disciples. Loftus, E. F. (1975). Bornstein, B. H., Deffenbacher, K. A., Penrod, S. D., & McGorty, E. K. (2012). Other recommendations call for appropriate education (often in the form of expert witness testimony) to be provided to jury members and others tasked with assessing eyewitness memory. But the basic facts so far are as follows: One narrative device that Mark uses is called the inclusio of eyewitness testimony. In 16:7, the next-to-last verse, an angel tells the women at the empty tomb to inform “the disciples and Peter” that the resurrected Jesus is going on ahead to Galilee. Face recognition in poor-quality video: Evidence from security surveillance. To conclude, eyewitness testimony is very powerful and convincing to jurors, even though it is not particularly reliable. Allan, K., & Gabbert, F. (2008). His other speeches follow brevity and are action oriented (Acts 2:14-41; 2:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32). Steblay, N. M., & Loftus, E. F. (2012). The subjects were asked to write about each of the four events in a booklet and then were interviewed two separate times. Next, every story has a point of view or multiple points of view. Is memory schematic? It involves a more complicated process than might initially be presumed. Importantly, these errors, once made, can be very hard to unmake. These include poor vision or viewing conditions during the crime, particularly stressful witnessing experiences, too little time to view the perpetrator or perpetrators, too much delay between witnessing and identifying, and being asked to identify a perpetrator from a race other than one’s own (Bornstein, Deffenbacher, Penrod, & McGorty, 2012; Brigham, Bennett, Meissner, & Mitchell, 2007; Burton, Wilson, Cowan, & Bruce, 1999; Deffenbacher, Bornstein, Penrod, & McGorty, 2004). Why is eyewitness testimony important? However, note that Mark repeats Simon’s name in 1:16, before Jesus changes his name to Peter in Mark 3:16. The church’s view is all the more believable because the fathers did not succumb to the temptation of assigning the Gospel only to Peter, as if to “fudge” the truth a little by securing its authorship by the lead apostle. Imagine that you are a juror in a murder case where an eyewitness testifies. In Jesus' authority, the disciples, while on their first mission, surely wanted to pass on accurately what he had been teaching and to imitate closely what he had been doing. ", Also see Part Three: “Archaeology and the Gospel of John: Is skepticism chic passé?”. Mark’s rapidity and inclusion only of the “bare bones” facts and themes make his Gospel and Peter’s speech parallel each other closely, as noted in the previous Q & A. You set down your keys without paying attention, and then cannot find them later when you go to look for them. Mark has a summary of the commission of the Twelve (3:13-19), mentioning that Jesus imparts authority to them (v. 15). It is hard for the legal system to do much about most of these problems. The Biblical Gospels are the gold standard by which we measure all religious truth-claims masquerading as Christian truths. Once an eyewitness gets to court to give testimony, false memories may have become crystallized. The nature of real, implanted, and fabricated memories for emotional childhood events: Implications for the recovered memory debate. The student subjects were told that the researchers had talked to their family members and learned about four different events from their childhoods. In my view, for what it’s worth, many parts of the Body of Christ need to find, again, the value of all of Scripture. There is also evidence that mistaken eyewitness evidence can lead to wrongful conviction—sending people to prison for years or decades, even to death row, for crimes they did not commit. This misleading scenario has permeated many seminaries and churches. That is, subjects allowed their co-witnesses to corrupt their memories for what they had seen. . (1995). . The net result is clear: the Gospel traditions were accurately and reliably handed on during their second, lifelong mission. After more than 10 years, he was exonerated (and the real rapist identified) based on DNA evidence. With this being said, if juries are relying on the specific details that an eyewitness is giving during a court case, are these eyewitness testimonies reliable or unreliable? Before we begin, recall that Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot of passages in common, so they are called the synoptic Gospels (synoptic means viewed together). Eyewitness testimonies are important because they are sometimes considered to be direct evidence in court. I add the bold font to show the plural rapidly switching to the singular. Bartlett, J. C., & Memon, A. See my Postmodern Truth Soup, which critiques, among other things, Karen King’s What Is Gnosticism? Some memory errors are so “large” that they almost belong in a class of their own: false memories. It just makes sense that a biographer would name his human sources early in his account and remind his readers of them at the end of his account. They indeed exercise their God-given authority during their ministry (v. 13). For example, it turns out that our expectations and beliefs about how the world works can have huge influences on our memories. Finally, it should be noted to balance out the picture that Peter takes the lead in many passages that include the Twelve or the core, whether the plural-to-singular narrative device is used or not. In contrast, Matthew and Luke (and John) extend their Gospels, slowing them down to include major teaching sections of Jesus. For instance, the calling of Peter occurs at the beginning of Luke, after the infancy, temptation and baptism narratives (4:38). These scholars say that the texts (should) share an equal or near-equal footing with the four Biblical Gospels. As someone facing a criminal charge, it is critical that you understand that there is an important distinction between being convincing and compelling and being accurate. It includes what happens during the actual crime to facilitate or hamper witnessing, as well as everything that happens from the time the event is over to the later courtroom appearance. ---. Internal focalization can shift from one character to the next. The Gospels are not the imaginative inventions and fictions – with only a kernel of accuracy – of much-later generations of anonymous disciples who never witnessed with their own eyes the ministry of Jesus in Israel and the events in Jerusalem (e.g. Internal focalization coheres both with Peter’s prominence in Mark and the plural-to-singular narrative device. A simple (not simplistic) answer is at hand. . device as overwhelmingly Markan” (p. 158). Bernstein, D. M., & Loftus, E. F. (2009b). If this is the case, why should we trust the gospel authors? The trick was that one of the events came from the researchers rather than the family (and the family had actually assured the researchers that this event had not happened to the subject). In these studies, subjects are told (falsely) that a powerful computer system has analyzed questionnaires that they completed previously and has concluded that they had a particular experience years earlier. He uses the third person plural subject or verb (e.g. Make my memory: How advertising can change our memories of the past. Reed College, University of California, Irvine. Here is a table of the similarities among Peter’s speech and Mark’s Gospel.1, “Telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” (v. 36), “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ” (1:1), “After the baptism that John preached” (v. 37), “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit” (v. 38), “Jesus . 163-164). The researchers asked if the now undergraduate students remembered each of these four events—introduced via short hints. In R. C. L. Lindsay, D. F. Ross, J. D. Read, & M. P. Toglia (Eds.). Mark uses adverbs that are translated as “immediately,” “at once,” “without delay” or “quickly” over forty times in his short Gospel. Juries tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony and generally find it a reliable source of information. This phenomenon is called the misinformation effect, because the misinformation that subjects were exposed to after the event (here in the form of a misleading question) apparently contaminates subjects’ memories of what they witnessed. Eyewitness memory following discussion: Using the MORI technique with a Western sample. Their accuracy for items they had not previously discussed with their co-witness was 79%. Alba, J. W., & Hasher, L. (1983). Statistics show that "500 wrongful convictions and concluded that mistaken eyewitness … So he uses narrative devices like omniscient, third-person point of view and the plural-to-singular narrative device peculiar to him and not to Matthew and Luke, mostly. . Brigham, J. C., Bennett, L. B., Meissner, C. A., & Mitchell, T. L. (2007). One of these individuals is the police suspect, and the remainder are “foils” or “fillers” (people known to be innocent of the particular crime under investigation). The plural-to-singular narrative device, nearly unique to Mark, is designed to reveal point of view. The subjects, or mock witnesses, are given some instructions and asked to pick the perpetrator out of the lineup. . Wells, G. L., Memon, A., & Penrod, S. D. (2006). As time passed, the eyewitness testimony of some people lasted because the participatory eyewitnesses themselves lived for a long time. Emotional content of true and false memories. Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence. 2nd ed. How true to life do you think television shows such as CSI or Law & Order are in their portrayals of eyewitnesses? In a particularly famous case, a man named Ronald Cotton was identified by a rape victim, Jennifer Thompson, as her rapist, and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. . But when we read it, we can also hear Peter’s preaching and eyewitness testimony in the background, in small hints. In E. Shafir (Ed.). Researchers had subjects watch a video in pairs. Read, D.F. Back in the early 1990s a pattern emerged whereby people would go into therapy for depression and other everyday problems, but over the course of the therapy develop memories for violent and horrible victimhood (Loftus & Ketcham, 1994). They can even remember whole complex events that never happened at all. Heaps, C., & Nash, M. (1999). This second point is particularly important. Lindsay, D. S., Hagen, L., Read, J. D., Wade, K. A., & Garry, M. (2004). This is considerably higher than in the much-longer Gospels of Matthew (Simon [with reference to Peter] five times and Peter twenty-four times) and Luke (Simon [with reference to Peter] twelve times and Peter eighteen times) (Bauckham, p. 125). Subjects’ accuracy was highly dependent on whether they had discussed the details previously. . True, Jesus is included in the "we" (Bauckham, p. 159), but this is obvious. In most jurisdictions in the United States, lineups are typically conducted with pictures, called photo spreads, rather than with actual people standing behind one-way glass (Wells, Memon, & Penrod, 2006). Explain some of the errors that are common in human memory. Benton, Ross, Bradshaw, Thomas, & Bradshaw, 2006). The result of this lack of attention, however, is that one is likely to remember schema-consistent information (such as tables), and to remember them in a rather generic way, whether or not they were actually present. Hyman, I. E., Jr., Husband, T. H., & Billings, F. J. The evidence suggests that Peter was indeed a portrait painter, but he used words alone. The testimony displays the importance of eyewitness, and focuses on the theory that jurors tend to over believe, or at least rely heavily on such accounts where an eye-witness is involved. The particular details of the witnessing experience, the instructions, and the lineup members can all influence the extent to which the mock witness is likely to pick the perpetrator out of the lineup, or indeed to make any selection at all. Both Peter’s speech and Mark’s Gospel follow the outline of Jesus’ life, but so do the other Gospels. If a witness identifies a foil or no one, then the police may choose to move their investigation in another direction. Jurors often find eyewitness testimony(EWT) vitally important in making their decision and yet in 75 per cent of cases where individuals have been found by DNA evidence to have been wrongly convicted, the original guilty verdict was based on inaccurate EWT. This participating eyewitness is Peter. D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo. People can forget events that happened to them and people they once knew. But for items that they had discussed, their accuracy dropped markedly, to 34%. This means that no one in the lineup should “stick out,” and that everyone should match the description given by the eyewitness. And only Mark names Bartimaeus. . By contrast, Paul’s speeches, though likely summaries as well, seem to be lengthy arguments, particularly since half of them in the following references were delivered in a legal setting: Acts 13:16-41; 17:22-31; 20:18-35; 22:1-21; 24:10-21; 26:1-23. Some factors have been shown to make eyewitness identification errors particularly likely. Mark’s inclusio makes Peter the principal eyewitness in the second Gospel. Short of being an eyewitness yourself, historical primary source testimony is the closest you can come to proving beyond a doubt that those historical events actually occurred. 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43). Inclusios were common in Greco-Roman writings, specifically biographies, so Mark fits in with his own larger literary context. Paul was not brief! Thus, the plural-to-singular device and internal focalization work well together and show, again, that Peter is Mark’s principal eyewitness source. This second point is particularly important. 226, 621, 689, for more examples). It involves a more complicated process than might initially be presumed. Eyewitness identifications play an important role in the investigation and prosecution of crimes, but it is well known that eyewitnesses make mistakes, often with serious consequences. Braun, K. A., Ellis, R., & Loftus, E. F. (2002). Pluto behaving badly: False beliefs and their consequences. They (like the rest of us) can make errors in remembering specific details and can even remember whole events that did not actually happen. Subjects were asked which of the pair they had previously seen. Eyewitness Testimony in John's Gospel: the "Eyes" Have It! . Eyewitness testimony. Four of these questions dealt with details that were different in the two versions of the video, so subjects had the chance to influence one another. Bottom line for this Q & A: Luke follows Mark in the literary strategy of inclusio. A review of tip of the tongue experience. Finally, Mark’s plural-to-singular device has been demonstrated with ample evidence (see the Biblical references in Q & A Six). . The device and the references to Peter also cluster in the midpoint in the narrative (8:22-9:33) (p. 162). It involves a more complicated process than might initially be presumed. There was also a high rate of agreement among the experts concerning many (though not all) eyewitness phenomena as being reliable enough for presentation in court. But the differences between Peter’s and Paul’s speeches in Acts are the subject of another article, so let’s move on. Eyewitness testimony is critically important to the justice system. For details on this case and other (relatively) lucky individuals whose false convictions were subsequently overturned with DNA evidence, see the Innocence Project website ( At the end of the Gospel Peter likewise plays a prominent role, thus framing Mark's Gospel. In fact, one of the reasons, among many, that the Gospels were written was to preserve eyewitness testimony before the eyewitnesses themselves died out. 36-42. Story does not mean only fiction. It frames a narrative with an emphasis on the same character as an eyewitness at the beginning and end of the story. I added some things and revised portions after I incorporated them. (but see 5:37, where Mark follows 1:16 for James and John). Mark could have used the pronoun “his,” as he did in verse 19: “He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John” . A fair lineup is one in which the suspect and each of the foils is equally likely to be chosen by someone who has read an eyewitness description of the perpetrator but who did not actually witness the crime (Brigham, Ready, & Spier, 1990). The misinformation in these studies has led people to incorrectly remember everything from small but crucial details of a perpetrator’s appearance to objects as large as a barn that wasn’t there at all. Thus, Mark heard Peter preaching. But among the multiple points of view in Mark’s Gospel, Peter is prominent, second to Jesus. Ross & R.C.A Lindsay (Eds.). Be sure to include a specific quotation from the excerpt above to support your explanation. See Part Two in the series: "Archaeology and the Synoptic Gospels: Which way do the rocks roll? And the Gnostic texts do not have the same high-level participatory eyewitness testimony to ground them in history – as things really happened in Jesus’ ministry. But the other Gospels fill out the picture and say that the women, apparently overcoming their fears, eventually told the men. She appears in Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1, and so does Salome (15:40 and 16:1). Yet Mark does not always follow this practice, but he does for Peter. The series is intended for the laity, though I hope seminarians, church leaders, and scholars can find something beneficial in it. (2004). Say it to my face: Examining the effects of socially encountered misinformation. But why does Mark name them? Easily from `` they '' to `` we '' ( 5:1-2 ; NIV ), they! Early Christianity ( Hendrickson, 1997 ) but for items they had previously seen for what they had the... Watching the videos, the strategy seems to be false—created in therapy drove out many demons ” ( ). 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