Devarim 17:6 says that the testimony of two or three witnesses should be used to determine the death penalty for someone who was found to have bowed to idolatry. Rash"I implies that all the witnesses have to concur and form a unified testimony - whether that means 2 or 3 people. I.e., if you have 2 that say one thing and the 3rd says the opposite, the entire group is invalidated.

I'm curious if there are exceptions to this unified concurrence. For example, I recall reading that regarding the witnesses that come to Jerusalem for the purpose of Kiddush hachodesh (new moon), two witnesses need to concur. The witnesses are questioned, and if a group of two appear and the two give different opinions, Sanhedrin waits for an outsider to appear and concur with one of the others so that eventually they will have two concurring witnesses.

Can this same scenario apply to criminal or civil cases, in general? Or is Rashi's explanation regarding unity applicable only to this specific scenario of serving idolatry?

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    To the extent that we let a father and son come to testify for kiddush hachodesh, so that an outsider can join with one of them.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 14:20
  • It’s been a long time since I learned Makkos, but I’m pretty sure I remember a Gemara where the answer is a resounding “No.” I can’t look it up now, but I suspect it would be on 5b-6a, if someone wants to have a shot at it.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


Rambam Hilchot Edut 5:3-4:

מַה שְּׁנַיִם נִמְצָא אֶחָד מֵהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל בָּטֵל הָעֵדוּת אַף שְׁלֹשָׁה וְהוּא הַדִּין לְמֵאָה. נִמְצָא אֶחָד מֵהֶן קָרוֹב אוֹ פָּסוּל בְּטֵלָה הָעֵדוּת בֵּין בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת בֵּין בְּדִינֵי נְפָשׁוֹת

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁנִּתְכַּוְּנוּ כֻּלָּם לְהָעִיד. אֲבָל אִם לֹא נִתְכַּוְּנוּ כֻּלָּם לְהָעִיד מַה יַּעֲשׂוּ שְׁנֵי אַחִים בִּכְלַל הָעָם וְרָאוּ הָעָם כְּשֶׁהָרַג זֶה אֶת זֶה אוֹ כְּשֶׁחָבַל בּוֹ אוֹ כְּשֶׁחָטַף חֵפֶץ מִיָּדוֹ

Just as with two witnesses, if one is found to be a relative or disqualified, the testimony is void, so too with three, and so too with 100, if one is found to be a relative or disqualified, the testimony is void, in both monetary and life-or-death cases.

When does this rule apply? When they all intended to testify. However, if they did not all intend to testify, what should two brothers do, if they are among the people who saw A kill B or injure him or snatch an object from him?

This rule thus applies in general in all cases.

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    "what should two brothers do..." and then what? the final procedure is missing - what do we do in such a case - how do we arrange the witnesses?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 21:29

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