Tag: Argument from Silence

The argument from silence

[E]ven if all such means of corroboration should fail, and if we meet with a perplexing silence where we might expect to find confirmation, we are by no means justified in rejecting the unsupported testimony, merely on the ground of this want of correlative support. Many instances may be adduced of the most extraordinary silence of historians relative to facts with which they must have been acquainted, and which seemed to lie directly in the course of their narrative. Important facts are mentioned by no ancient writer, though they are unquestionably established by the evidence of existing inscriptions, coins, statutes, or buildings. There are also facts mentioned only by some one historian, which happen to be attested by an incidental coincidence with some relic of antiquity lately brought to light; if this relic had remained in its long obscurity, such facts might (we see with how little reason) have been disputed.

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Augustus Hopkins Strong: The Argument from Silence

A slight amount of positive testimony, so long as it is uncontradicted, outweighs a very great amount of testimony that is merely negative. The silence of a second witness, or his testimony that he did not see a certain alleged occurrence, cannot counterbalance the positive testimony of a first witness that he did see it. We should therefore estimate the silence of profane writers with regard to facts narrated in Scripture precisely as we should estimate it if the facts about which they are silent were narrated by other profane writers, instead of being narrated by the writers of Scripture.

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