What is Truth (Part Two)- John 18:33-38

As we return to our examination of the encounter between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus has connected the concepts of king and truth, telling Pilate that He (Jesus) has a king and His king is the one who is “the truth”. Jesus has come to bear witness to His king, and confronts Pilate with the choice of who his king (his truth) will be. We find Pilate’s response in verse 38 in the famous reply “What is truth?”. What is of particular interest in this response is something seen in the Greek but missed in the English. Pilate answers here using the Greek interrogative tis. In English, we use the words who, what or why, but in Greek tis is used for all three, it can be used as who, what or why depending on context. Pilate’s response could also be properly translated as “who” is truth”, again highlighting the idea of truth as not only something but also as someone. So we return again to the main point to be observed in this encounter, that every human being “chooses” their truth, we each choose what we will accept as true or reject as nonsense. This is because God has made it this way, as we find in Genesis 3:22. In this verse, Adam and Eve have disobeyed God and “fallen”, they have chosen to reject what God says is right (or true) and decide for themselves. God Himself confirms the truth of this by stating that “Now they have become like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The Hebrew translated “knowing” here is yada, and it is most commonly used to refer to sexual relations between a husband and wife. It comes from a root meaning “to produce”(for the marriage union is intended to produce children), and here is used in the sense of to determine or decide for themselves, to produce what is good or evil, right or wrong, true or not true. Adam and Eve made the choice to determine for themselves what is right and wrong, to choose for themselves what is true or not, and God allowed their choice, and He also does so for every human being. This is what theologians are referring to when they use the term “free will”, that God has given every human being the privilege of deciding for themselves how they will define truth, what they will accept as true or reject as not true, up to and including the choice to reject God Himself, to reject the one who is “the truth” as king and turn to another as their source of truth. What is of particular interest in all of this is that this choice is made in the presence of and often in spite of any evidence that may be present, it is completely subjective. Philosophers have also “discovered” this. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with the study of knowledge, which attempts to answer the questions : What is knowledge? What can we know? What is the difference between opinion and knowledge? The idea of knowledge has been traditionally defined as a “justified, true, belief”. The basic idea here is that a belief becomes true when it is “justified”, and there are differing opinions as to what “justifies” a belief, or makes it true. What is of interest here is the philosophers “discovery” of what Jesus (and Genesis thousands of years earlier) tells Pilate (and us) here in John 18, that at the very bottom of it all, truth is a choice, that what we will accept as true is based on a choice each individual makes in his or her heart, often in spite of evidence to the contrary. Epistemologists have presented three “types” of epistemologies. Empiricists believe that knowledge is justified by sense experience, that what can be known is only what can be verified by the five senses, that if you can’t see, feel, touch, measure something it cannot be. Rationalists believe knowledge is justified by human reason, that what can be known must fit within the confines of human reason, that if it does not make sense it cannot be. Revelationists believe that knowledge is justified by divine revelation, that what can be known is what has been revealed by God. The reason all of this is mentioned here is merely to point out the that each of these epistemologies is based on faith, that each of them begin with a leap in the dark, with an assumption that cannot be “proven”, but must be assumed beforehand, that each of them is the playing out of Genesis 3:22, human beings determining for themselves what is true or not, with a trust in what cannot be completely or objectively known. With this we return to Jesus and Pilate. Pilate has been presented with a choice, he must choose his epistemology. Will Jesus tell him what is true, or will Caesar? Pilate here chooses Caesar, and his epistemology leads to his action, which ultimately is the crucifixion of Jesus. We are all prisoners of our epistemologies, our choice of what we will accept as truth determines the courses our lives will take and the paths we will walk. Jesus came to bear witness to “the truth”, and just as he did with Pilate, he confronts every human being with a choice, a choice to accept He and His Father as truth, or someone or something else as truth. It is my prayer that every human being would one day accept Jesus as their truth, and that every believer would live their lives every moment of every day with the Word of God as their “epistemology”, as what they will accept as true, and that all other sources of truth would be rejected as false or inadequate.

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Jesus Christ  //  Nature of Man  //  Salvation and Redemption

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