Why TWO Witnesses? What’s so special about the number two, that it is the number of witnesses in Revelation?
As noted in "Part 1: The Two Witnesses in Revelation" (this link will open in a new page), there are not one… not three… but TWO witnesses. But why two?
The notion of pairings goes all the way back to the very beginning, to Creation, in the Book of Genesis. In Genesis 1:27, we read:
“So God made man to look similar to Himself: in God’s image He created him. Male and female, He created them.”
And this pairing of male and female is also very famously noted in the story of Noah and the Ark, also in Genesis.
of every type of living thing, two of each type will you lead into the
ark, to keep them alive with you; they will be a male and a female.”
Of course, not all pairings are of a male with a female. According to Mark 6:7, the 12 primary disciples of Jesus, all male, were sent out in pairs as well.
“And He [Jesus] called the twelve [disciples] to Himself, and began sending them out two by two…”.
So, it’s not as though having TWO witnesses is unusual, from a Biblical point of view. But this just expands the question to “Why does the number two occur so often in Scripture?” and “Why are there so many pairings?”
With a male and female pair, their physical differences dictate the necessity of the coupling. For the other sets of two there is a rule, given to us through Moses in Deuteronomy 19:15, which states:
“One witness is insufficient for convicting anyone
of any crime, any sin, which the person may have committed. Such matters
must be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
This is echoed in Deuteronomy 17:6 and Numbers 35:30.
Obviously, an individual can falsely accuse someone, and become a “false witness”. This is so problematic that God includes the prohibition of false witnessing as one of the Ten Commandments.
“You must not give false witness against your neighbor”.
Deuteronomy 5:20 records the same commandment again. Paul the Apostle reiterates this rule in 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; and Hebrews 10:28. And Jesus utilizes the rule in Matthew 18:16.
From these verses, we see that a minimum of TWO witnesses are NECESSARY to confirm what someone says. Also, we have that two… or a maximum of THREE… witnesses are SUFFICIENT for this purpose.
Why is it sometimes three? When is it three that we need? Why is it only Two Witnesses in Revelation? First, notice that this idea of two OR three appears elsewhere in Scripture.
According to Matthew 18:20, Jesus said:
“For anywhere two or three come together in My Name, I am there among them.”
In Ecclesiastes, we have the following passage:
“9 Two are better than one; they receive a good reward for their efforts.
10 If one falls, the other will help him get back up; but for him that is alone, it is woeful to fall, because there is no one to help him get back up.
11 Again, if two rest together, they stay warm; but how can one be
12 An enemy may defeat one person, but two will withstand the enemy; and a rope with three strands is not easily broken.”
Either two is enough, or it is not; either three is unnecessary, or it is required. Again, why does the Scripture say to us two OR three?
There is a deep answer to this; but we will have to wait until "Part 10: Two Witnesses Final Observations" (this page will open in a new window) for that answer. For now, we will settle with a partial answer to the question “Why TWO witnesses?”:
We need AT LEAST two witnesses, because one witness can be false; and for that reason, God requires AT LEAST two witnesses.
Let’s turn now to another old question in Part 3: Zebedee’s Wife’s Request.
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