International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The word "witness" is used of inanimate things, e.g. the heap of stones testifying to the covenant between Jacob and Laban (Ge 31:44-54), and the So of Moses. (De 31:19,21). The main use of the word is forensic, and from this use all other applications are naturally derived. Important legal agreements required the attestation of witnesses, as in the case of the purchase of property, or a betrothal (Ru 4:1-11, where we are told that the ancient form of attestation was by a man drawing off his shoe and giving it to his neighbor).

In Ac 22:20; Re 2:13; 17:6 the word martus, "witness", seems to be beginning to acquire the meaning of "martyr," as in the King James Version, although the Revised Version (British and American) translates "witness" in the first two passages, retaining "martyr" only in the third with "witness" in the m. For "Tabernacle of Witness" see Tabernacle.