In law and in religion, testimony is a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter. All testimonies should be well thought out and truthful. It was the custom in Ancient Rome for the men to place their right hand on a Bible when taking an oath. The modern term 'testimony' is derived from this tradition.
The origin is "the Indo-European roots *tre- meaning 'three' and *sta- meaning 'stand'. A witness was 'a third person standing by'. From that came the verb testificare 'to bear witness', which evolved into Middle English testify in the fourteenth century."
In the law, testimony is a form of evidence that is obtained from a witness who makes a solemn statement or declaration of fact. Testimony may be oral or written, and it is usually made by oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury. Unless a witness is testifying as an expert witness, testimony in the form of opinions or inferences is generally limited to those opinions or inferences that are rationally based on the perceptions of the witness and are helpful to a clear understanding of the witness' testimony.
When a witness is asked a question, the opposing attorney can raise an objection, which is a legal move to disallow an improper question, preferably before the witness answers, and mentioning one of the standard reasons, including:
- argumentative or inflammatory
- asked and answered
- best evidence rule
- calls for speculation
- calls for a conclusion
- compound question or narrative
- irrelevant, immaterial, incompetent (this is actually not a proper objection because the term "incompetent" is meaningless and the words "irrelevant" and "immaterial" have the same meaning under the Federal Rules of Evidence). Historically, however, the phase had some meaning. Irrelevant evidence referred to evidence that has no provative value (i.e., does not tend to prove any fact). Immaterial refers to evidence that is probative, but not as to any fact material to the case. Incompetent is a catch-all for inadmissible, but typically referred to evidence that is probative of a material fact but is otherwise inadmissible, for example because it is hearsay or privileged. See Black's Law Dictionary (7th Ed.).
- lack of foundation
- leading question
- ultimate issue testimony
There may also be an objection to the answer, including:
Up until the mid-20th century, in much of the United States, an attorney often had to follow an objection with an exception to preserve the issue for appeal. If an attorney failed to "take an exception" immediately after the court's ruling on the objection, he waived his client's right to appeal the issue. Exceptions have since been abolished, due to the widespread recognition that forcing lawyers to take them was a waste of time.
Christians in general use the term "testify" or "to give one's testimony" to mean "the story of how one became a Christian"; less commonly it may refer to a specific event in a Christian's life in which they believe God has done something deemed particularly worth sharing. Christians often give their testimony at their own baptism or at evangelistic events. In the current age of the Internet, many Christians have also placed their testimonies on the internet.
Many holiness churches devote a portion of their mid-week service to allow members to give a personal testimony about their faith and experiences in living the Christian life.
In the Religious Society of Friends, the word testimony is used to refer to the ways in which Friends testify or bear witness to their beliefs in their everyday lives. In this context, the word testimony refers not to the underlying belief, but the committed action which arises out of their beliefs, which testifies to their beliefs. Common areas which modern Friends are said to testify are testimony towards peace, testimony to simplicity, testimony to truth and integrity, testimony to equality.
In some religions (most notably Mormonism and Islam) many adherents testify as a profession of their faith, often to a congregation of believers. In Mormonism, testifying is also referred to as "bearing [sic] one's testimony," and often involves the sharing of personal experience—ranging from a simple anecdote to an account of personal revelation—followed by a statement of belief that has been confirmed by this experience. Within Mormon culture, the word "testimony" has become synonymous with "belief." An individual who no longer believes in the religion is referred to as having "lost their testimony."
Some published oral or written autobiographical narratives are considered "testimonial literature" particularly when they present evidence or first person accounts of human rights abuses, violence and war, and living under conditions of social oppression. This usage of the term comes originally from Latin America and the Spanish term "testimonio" when it emerged from human rights tribunals, truth commissions, and other international human rights instruments in countries such as Chile and Argentina. One of the most famous, though controversial, of these works to be translated into English is I, Rigoberta Menchú. The autobiographies of Frederick Douglass can be considered among the earliest significant English-language works in this genre.
In philosophy, a testimony is known as statements that are based on personal experience or personal knowledge. A statement is accepted on the basis of person's testimony if his or her asserting it renders it acceptable. We can also, rationally accept a claim on the basis of another persons testimony unless at least one of the following is found to be true: 1. the claim is implausible; 2. The person or the source in which the claim is quoted lacks credibility; 3. The claim goes beyond what the person could know from his or her own experience and competence.
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