WHAT IS TRUTH?



1/12/16

Philosophers have struggled with the concept of what truth is for several thousand years, with many of them perhaps still not coming to an accurate understanding of it.

The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which literally means to un-hide or hiding nothing. It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for truth is emeth, which means firmness, constancy and duration. Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

Truth can be understood in terms of scientific and mathematical terms, and any rational person would agree that when numbers add up correctly, then they total to a number which is true. We can't argue that gravity is a true reality and that it exists in our universe. Of course, man is still in the process of discovering new scientific realities, as he probes the universe, and examines even the smallest particles. Truth can be understood in these terms quite rationally, and with less disputes about the accuracy of what is being discovered and revealed.

However, when we begin to examine what truth is in a philosophical or spiritual sense, then the answers don't come as readily to us. We can say that the world we live in and see around us is truly the world that we live in. But even many of the ancient Greeks knew that a world beyond the one we see and touch exists. For even when one understands and considers such attributes as love or beauty, these same philosophers wondered if beauty or love, or wisdom, existed outside of what we see in the world around us.

Those that have lived a life of meditation and austerity, claim to believe a spiritual world exists beyond their senses. Some as we know, deprived themselves of food, clothing, and companionship, thinking that a life style like this, would enable them to find inner peace and enlightenment. And yet a life style that would deprive one’s self of things such as these, doesn’t assure that they would find what “truth” is. Many have their own ideas about what truth is.

We have a very interesting account of someone who inquired about this very concept of truth. Pilate asked the Son of God about this when Jesus was brought before him.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' 34 Jesus answered, 'Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?' 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.' 37 Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.' 38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" John 18

Later on, we also have the account when Thomas asked Jesus:

5 Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?' 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14

What these great philosophers and sages failed to consider was that their seeking after what truth was, was to be found in the person of Jesus himself. It wasn’t some lofty concept hidden away in a treasure chest, or buried deep beneath a mountain, but it was simply to be found in a relationship with the Lord himself.

But how could that be? How could something so profound and lofty be answered simply in a person? Surely, Plato, and Aristotle, and Kant, Hume, and Voltaire, couldn’t have been wrong in their inquiries and mental exercises. They spent countless hours and even an entire life time in search of finding the answers to their questions. They shut themselves up to live the life of a hermit, and probably shunned many of the pleasures and materialism, that most of their peers were dong, in search of truth.

Relativism says that all truth is relative, and that there is no absolute truth. But then one can ask “if all truth is relative,” then is that statement absolute, or representative of a relative truth? This sounds perplexing, but perhaps you get my point. And Nietzsche coined the statement 'What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms -- truths are illusions -- coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.

Some would argue that it is arrogant to assume that one answer is right and that another one is wrong. But can we argue the fact that only one key would open a door, or that a teacher would insist that only one answer to a math problem is correct?

Ravi Zacharias puts it, 'The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you're on the receiving end of a lie.' And nowhere is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

To conclude, Pilate asked the question about what truth is, and he overlooked the idea that many things can have truth, but that there is only one absolute truth. Actually, Pilate thought that Jesus was on trial, but actually he was, but he failed to find the answer.

Stephen Hanson