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What is Truth?

  • Randy Robison Life Today
  • Updated Jul 15, 2010
What is Truth?

Pilate had a problem. The Jewish leaders kept bringing Jesus Christ before him and demanding his crucifixion. He could not find any justification for it, but he needed to keep the peace between the Jewish people and the Roman government. Pilate's brief interrogation of Jesus brought little clarity to the problem because Pilate was viewing things from a human perspective while Jesus was operating on a spiritual level. 

Pilate asked Him about the accusation that He claimed to be a king.

"You are right in saying I am a king," Jesus replied. "In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

Frustrated, Pilate responded with a common philosophical question of the day, "What is truth?"

Some things never change. For over 2000 years, mankind has asked, "What is the truth?" And, like Pilate, so many people have missed it (even though it was right in front of them) because they were asking the wrong question. The question is not what is truth, but rather who is truth.

Jesus made it very simple for us. He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life." But instead of asking, "Who is truth?" we continue to echo Pilate's words, "What is truth?" As long as we ask that question, we will continue to leave as empty-handed as Pilate.

A non-Christian friend of mine once remarked, "All you Bible-thumpers act like you are the only ones that know the truth." I responded, "We do. It's Jesus." Like Pilate, this made no sense to him because he viewed the truth as a what, not a who. The simple, yet profound, shift in our thought process changes everything.

I should differentiate between "what is true" and "truth." While it's true that grass is green and hot air rises, we wouldn't say that grass and hot air are "Jesus." That's clearly not the meaning of Jesus' claim. Our English word for truth comes from the Old English trēowth which means "fidelity." It is akin to the Old English trēowe, meaning "faithful." One modern definition is "conformity to reality or actuality."

Jesus is the source of all truth. He is dependably correct in all matters. He is the reality to which we must conform. Since Jesus is the truth, he is the most reliable source for the truth. He routinely began his teachings in the New Testament with the phrase, "I tell you the truth." ("Verily, verily" in King James parlance.)

In that light, it's interesting to look at other scriptures related to truth and substitute Jesus' name:

"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth Jesus and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (Psalm 25:4-5)

"I have chosen the way of truth Jesus; I have set my heart on your laws." (Psalm 119:30)

"They perish because they refused to love the truth  Jesus and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10b)

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

It's also interesting to look at famous quotes from philosophers and others throughout history, to gauge whether or not their perception of the truth has any merit:

"The truth Jesus is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." —Winston Churchill

"Whenever you have truth Jesus, it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected." —Mahatma Gandhi

"The love of truth Jesus has its reward in heaven and even on earth." —Friedrich Nietzsche

"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth Jesus: not going all the way, and not starting." —Buddha

"Anyone who doesn't take truth Jesus seriously in small matters cannot be trusted and large ones either." —Albert Einstein

"Truth Jesus is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away." —Elvis Presley

It even works to disprove some foolish statements regarding truth:

"There are various eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes and, as a result, there are various truths Jesuses, and as a result there is no truth Jesus." —Friedrich Nietzsche

"Say not, 'I have found the truth Jesus,' but rather,'I have found a truth Jesus.'" —Kahlil Gibran

"The words of truth Jesus are always paradoxical." —Lao Tzu

Since these last three quotes are wrong in light of truth as a who instead of a what, it's an indication that their views of truth are flawed. Even those whose statements are true, such as Gandi's and Buddha's, were like Pilate; truth stood in front of them, but they couldn't grasp that it was in the form of a person, Jesus Christ.

Philosophical theories of truth often attempt to answer the "nature question": What is the nature of truth? Properly stated, it should be: What is the nature of Jesus Christ? People look to the stars or the hills for truth, but they are focused on creation instead of the Creator. Some look inside themselves to find truth, but given our sinful nature, that's like looking in an oil drum for drinking water. In the worst cases, people look toward unholy spirits for guidance. But Jesus clearly said that He is "the truth," not "a truth," and followed it with "no man comes to the Father but by me."

That's why Paul warned the church, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:6-8)

Truth, according to the world, is relative or unobtainable. Jesus, however, is an absolute. He is present and he is faithful. He is the only way. Any other "path" to truth leads to destruction. But when you know The Truth, He will set you free.

This article originally appeared on Life Today. Used with permission.

Publication date: July 15, 2010