Author: Pastor Paul Bartz
1. The gospel of John stresses the themes of truth and light in the context of Christ as creating Son of God and Savior of mankind from sin, death and the devil. In stressing this theme John also contrasts truth and lie. Jesus’ words about the devil being the father of lies, untruth being a part of his nature, are in John 8:44. How does this verse contrast with John 18:38-39?
What is Pilate’s response to Jesus’ use of the word “truth”?
2. Educated Romans and Greeks usually separated the idea of truth in the material world from truth in the philosophical or spiritual realm. To them truth in the material world, such as evidence in a court of law establishing the truth that a suspect was elsewhere during a crime, was objective fact which could be established by witnesses. The Greeks and Romans also had a basic philosophy which established science with the same kind of definition of truth.
3. Statements about God or gods and religious beliefs were seen as truth of a different sort. Truth in religion was whatever was true to the individual believer. It was purely subjective. “If you believe that there is one God, then that is true for you, but don’t insist that it must be true for me also. ” There were hundreds of different beliefs in the Roman Empire, all of which were tolerated.
Public opinion supported this toleration not because of some democratic principle of freedom of religion, but because the prevailing attitude was that religious truth, unlike truth in the material “real” world, was subjective. All who agrees with this one rule were free to do as they wished in their religion.
4. So Pilate asked, “What Is truth?” The world, as Pilate and his contemporaries saw it, did not need to hear any witness of religious truth since religious truth is subjective, not objective, like science. Jesus, on the other hand, makes it very clear that the Roman and Greek understanding of religious truth was not valid.
5. This is why the early Christians were rejected and persecuted by the Romans. In understanding the Roman approach to religious truth we see that Christianity was considered troublesome because of its claims of universal truth. Tacitus referred to Christians as anti-social. It all sounds strangely modern, doesn’t it?
6. It is not difficult to see why Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” is still in circulation today. Western thought today is nearly identical to Roman and Greek thought in separating spiritual truth from “real world” truth – essentially defining spiritual truth as subjective and scientific truth as objective. This separation of truth into subjective-spiritual and objective-scientific also allows many people to accept Christianity as “religiously true,” while evolution is “scientifically true.” But as we have already seen from Scripture, Jesus’ own words challenge and reject this division of truth.
7. In John 3:12 Jesus says to Nicodemus, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” How does Jesus’ statement infer that “religious” and “scientific” truth cannot contradict each other?
This unity of truth is based in the fact that God is the Creator of all things in general and every detail in particular – and He still sustains and upholds the entire creation.
8. How does 2 Corinthians 4:2-3 link truth to both physically verifiable events and spiritual truth. Is 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 concerned with establishing the connection between a physically verifiable event and spiritual reality?
How does St. Paul take great pains to establish physical verifiability? How important is that link to spiritual truth, according to St. Paul himself? Dividing “spiritual-subjective truth” from “material-objective truth” on this point proves disastrous to the heart of the Christian faith. Consequently, St. Paul states in verse 32 that if Christ is not really raised, we might as well eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
9. If two different “truths” disagree with one another, it is not because there are different and conflicting “truths.” It is because one of the “truths” is not truth. It is reasonable to conclude that when there is a disagreement between man’s truth and God’s truth, God’s truth is to be preferred.
The Bible, as the revelation of God, is indeed truth. When it speaks of heavenly things it is just as true, and true in the same sense, as when it speaks about our material world, which is studied by science. The purpose of the Bible is to make us wise unto salvation which is in Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins, which is ours by grace, through faith in His atoning work for us. According to our Lord’s own argument, if the Bible was untrustworthy in earthly matters, we would have reason to doubt what it says about heavenly matters!
Painting: Christ in front of Pilate by Mihaley Muncaksy.
Copyright © 1990 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Paul A. Bartz. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 260 Zimmerman, MN 55398 800-422-4253 www.creationmoments.com