Deciphering Truth in Word and Concept – That we might see

A man testifying about the Truth

The religious leaders had taken care that the Nazarene master teacher could be caught and led from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment (into the Praetorium). There Pilate went out unto them, and asked what accusation they could bring against this man of whom he had heard so many things.

“28  Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium. It was early in the morning when they entered the Praetorium so they should not get defiled but might eat the Passover. 29 Next, Pilate came out toward them and asked: “What is the charge you Jews are bringing against this man?”” (Joh 18:28-29 mhm)

The religious leaders considered the Nazarene an evildoer, who would be a danger for society and for good order. For the chief priests and the elders of the people, it was clear they had to get rid of this ‘dangerous’ man, and therefore they took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.

“1  Now at daybreak the religious hierarchy and elders of the Jewish people counseled together against Jesus so he might be put to death. 2 Having bound Jesus they led him off and turned him over to the governor Pilate.” (Mt 27:1-2 mhm)

From the stories told in the gospel, we know that Jesus told the truth, or the way he saw it. Also, when he came standing before governor Pilate, he became questioned and sincerely answered him.

“11  When Jesus stood in front of the governor, Pilate inquired of him, asking, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered: “You said it.” Mt 27:11 mhm)

“37 So Pilate said to Jesus: “Are you a king, then?” Jesus answered: “You are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born and for this I have come into the world of humankind, so that I should testify about the Truth. Every person who originates from the Truth listens to my voice.”38 Pilate asked Jesus: “What is Truth?” And after having said this again, Pilate went out again before the Jews, “I cannot discover any cause in him.”” (Joh 18:37-38 mhm)

This is also something that can be questioned today. What are people willing to take as the truth?

12 In the process of being accused by the religious hierarchy and Jewish elders, Jesus would not answer 13 Then Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you not listening to how much they are testifying against you?” 14 Still Jesus did not answer Pilate with a single word. Pilate began to marvel very much about Jesus. 15 Now according to the custom during the Jewish festivals the governor would release a prisoner by the choice of the crowd.” (Mt 27:11-15 mhm)

On several occasions Jesus had spoken about his reason to be here, how he could such special works or miracles, and that this was not by his own power, but by the power of the One Who had sent him, his heavenly Father. Like in those times today there are still loads of people (even by those who call themselves Christian) who do not want to believe that Jesus is the sent one from God, authorised by God to speak and handle. They neglect or reject the Biblical Truth.
For them it would be best to question what they want to accept as Truth.

The most common term for “truth” in the Old Testament is אֱמֶת (emeth). The semantic range of אֱמֶת (emeth) includes factuality and validity as well as faithfulness, firmness and reliability. In the Septuagint, it is most often translated using ἀλήθεια (alētheia). πίστις (pistis) or δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē) are also occasionally used. Truth can be predicated of people as well as propositions.

The most common terms associated with truth in the New Testament are ἀλήθεια (alētheia, “truth”), ἀληθής (alēthēs, “true”), ἀληθινός (alēthinos, “true,” “real”), ἀληθεύω (alētheuō, “to tell the truth”), and ἀληθῶς (alēthōs, “truly”).

What is or can be truth

Question is what a person wants to accept as “Truth” or as something which “is so”?
For Bible researchers, truth has all to do with matters which can be proven and/or certified, and which we can consider part of the reality. It is where we may understand and feel a sense of being in accordance with fact or reality, as opposed to being false or in error.
Truth may be used to describe that which is real and genuine, as opposed to fake or only an imitation. It also describes that which is complete versus incomplete and what we want to believe as being genuine and no fantasy.

Questions posed in disdain or genuinely

Bohlinger looks at the by Christopher Croom above-mentioned scene where Jesus stands before Pilate, questioned regarding charges leveled at him by the Jews. In all four Gospels, Pilate is involved in the trial of Jesus (Matt 27:11–26; Mark 15:1–15; Luke 23:1–25; John 18:28–19:22). Luke also references an otherwise undocumented incident involving Pilate and the Galileans (Luke 13:1). When we come to read the interrogation by Pilate in the gospels we should observe the possible attitude with which Pilate proposes this question.

Is Pilate saying this in a mocking tone? Or does Pilate opine with genuine curiosity?

asks Croom and continues:

John Calvin suggests that Pilate laid out this question in disdain. In his commentary on this passage, Calvin says,

“For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth.” {-John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Gospel according to John, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 212.}1
D.A. Carson notes something specific in his view of this passage. Carson offers this beautiful observation.
“Moreover, there is an implicit invitation in Jesus’ words. The man in the dock invites his judge to be his follower, to align himself with those who are ‘of the truth’.”2 {D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 595.}
Carson also goes on to suggest that Pilate may be irritated with Jesus and categorizes the question as “curt and cynical.”{Carson, John, 595}

Our impression is that Pilate wanted to be fair and judge this man, brought before him, correctly.

Addressing the Question

Having now addressed the biblical aspect of this, we must face the question itself and its implications in our world. However, Croom, who holds a Masters’s Degree in Bible Exposition, from Liberty University and is a Ph.D. student of Moral Theology at Columbia International University, does not want to address this from a predominantly “spiritual” perspective (or what Christians might perceive as spirituality), but rather, a practical aspect.

After all, I am a Ph.D. student of practical theology (with a slight lean focusing on ethics and morality). So, I will do what I think I do best—talk about this question’s practical and ethical aspects.

For him Pilate is asking a question that many people ask today.

“How can we know what is true?”

Before we address the question, we should determine its significance. When we speak about truth, or as I will often refer to it as “intellectual virtue,”5{As borrowed from Wood, W. Jay. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous. Edited by C. Stephen Evans. Contours of Christian Philosophy. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998.} In the most practical and simple terms I can provide, what we are discussing is an agreement to the definition of words and concepts and the reality built upon those definitions. In other words, there must be some fundamentally agreed-upon terminology that allows us to understand and decipher the world around us. For now, we will (mostly) lay aside questions of authority for defining those terms and reality and frankly focus on its existence.

If I took some exegetical liberty with the text, as those before me have, I would like to suggest that Pilate is not so far off in his mindset from the subjectivists of our modern-day America. In other words, Pilate did not have an objective standard for truth, and so, this question persuaded his mind to argue with this philosophical difficulty in a way that those on the Areopagus of Acts 17 might have done. So much was Pilate interested in this; he tried to exonerate Christ after a brief consideration of Christ’s statement.

Meaning for the Christian Scholar

What does this mean for the Christian Scholar or Pastor? Well, in today’s world, the Christian Scholar or Pastor finds themselves in one of three positions.

  1. The first position: Understanding and struggling to live with biblical clarity in a  rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths.
  2. The second position: Believing they understand and struggle to live with biblical clarity in a  rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths, but sinking further into the world’s subjectivity.
  3. The third and final position is being oblivious to the difference between the two and sinking further into the world’s subjectivity.

Biblical Clarity

The One Who gave His Word to the world is a God of clarity, a God of order and not a God of chaos. The Divine Creator gave His Words, so that men and women could get to know Him better and could get to know what they have to do to make the best out of their life. Him not being a liar always spoke the Truth and wanted people getting the truth.

“ God is not as man, that he should lie, neither as the son of man that he should repent: hath he said and shall he not do it? and hath he spoken, and shall he not accomplish it?” (Nu 23:19 GenevaBible)

“May that never occur! Rather, let The God be true though every human a liar. Just as it is written: “For surely You will be vindicated in Your Words and victorious in Your Judgments!” (Ro 3:4 mhm)

All those Words dictated by God, written down by serious people who genuinely wanted to write down the sayings of God should give us a picture of the creation and creatures as well as the way God treated them.

When people would read the words like they are presented in the Bible they would find a clear picture of who is who. But the majority of the world wanted to prefer to listen to human beings instead of following the Words of God. This way lots of human theological and philosophical thoughts entered the world. Instead of bringing truth they brought false human teachings in the world.

For example, when the Bible says

“the son of God”

lots of people made it

“god the son”

and by doing so they not only complicated a lot of things, bringing also the false teaching of a “Trinity” as a theological doctrine, making it so much harder for people to see the real Truth.

Presuppositional truth

The organisation which presents itself as “The Church” twisted so many words from the Bible, so that lots of people could not see the trees any more of the forest before them.

Addressing the world with presuppositional truth is not practical in today’s world.

according to , who writes:

I understand how unpopular this will be as a position. Nevertheless, telling a subjectively oriented world of a coming Christ is, while accurate, ineffective — at least, in and of itself. Starting with that will lead to nowhere. However, leading to that point, starting with a classical exposition of the general revelation could yield a more profitable engagement. When Pilate asks, “what is truth?” he questions something already answered in the world around Him that leads back to the Creator of all things.

The General Revelation helps the created creature agree upon the definition of what exists inside of it. For instance, what does the creation (not explicitly Scripture) tell us about the nature of man and woman? The reason this approach is critical is that, as Jay Wood points out,

“there are what are called “basic” or “immediate” beliefs; these form the bedrock of all that we believe, undergirding everything else we are justified in believing.”6 {W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, ed. C. Stephen Evans, Contours of Christian Philosophy (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 84.}

In agreeing upon what exists in the General Revelation, we create what Nicholas Wolterstorff refers to as a control belief.7 {Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984.} That control belief identifies the boundaries in which we can continue to move in our question to build a perimeter around valid words and concepts.

This reason alone is why the Christian Church and the Christian (Scholar, Clergy, or Laypersons) have lost their foothold in the battle for words and concepts. In stepping away from the pursuit of truth, exchanging it for some undefined or unspecific spirituality, the Church began to, like the world, pursue subjectivity in religion, seeking a feeling of connection to God rather than a knowledge of the truth — or even worse, conflating the two, instead of an emotional connection to God being the result of proper knowledge of Him (Jer 9:23-24). This order is the natural order of true faith and spirituality, rooted in truth and reason.

But many, who prefer to take the words of human beings more for granted instead of keeping to those simple words of the Bible, let themselves easily carried away by theological books and letters. They most often do not want to think about what their doctrinal teachings present them, when they hear those simple words, like:

“and the holy Pneuma descended upon Jesus in the bodily shape of a dove. Then a Voice came out of the sky, “You are my beloved Son! I confirm you!”” (Lu 3:22 mhm)

“And a Voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One–listen to him!”” (Lu 9:35 mhm)

“Look! a Voice out of the Sky, saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”” (Mt 3:17 mhm)

“Yet while Peter was talking, look! a shining cloud rested over them, and, look! a Voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son whom I approve–listen to him.”” (Mt 17:5 mhm)

“For he had received from God the Father honor and glory when a Voice occurred to him by the Magnificent Glory: “This is My Son, My Beloved, of whom I have thought well.” (2Pe 1:17 mhm)

The majority this still not wanting to take for the truth, one may wonder if they do not believe the God Who spoke those words and genuinely said that the man standing there was His only begotten beloved son?

Also the majority still not wanting to believe Jesus is that beloved son of God, who sincerely claimed that he could not do anything without that Spirit God Who is greater than him.

People shall have to make the choice, either to believe what so many people say, or to believe what is written in that Great Book of books, the Bible. do you want to think the people tell more the truth than the Bible, the Word of God inspired?

What Pilate expresses is no different from what the Church expresses; each time, we neglect the pursuit of fundamental knowledge about God or portend to others that a relationship to Christ is the fullness of true religion (to the neglect of reason, doctrine, and similar concepts). We especially, as the Doctors and Pastors of the Church, must avoid both logical fallacies and cognitive biases in his assessment of the truth. As those who have General Revelation on our side, we should strive to define truth by the created world, ultimately pointing to Special Revelation.

At the present time we are witnessing that

The world is currently busy changing the definition to well-established truths, such as gender, family, sex, and all the like. The result is that concepts are being redefined through that change. Now, love, good, evil, culture,  and ethics are all being manipulated in an unprecedented way. The truth that Jesus proposes to Pilate is not just a truth that leads to salvation. It is a truth that leads to seeing the world as it was truly meant to be seen.

Conclusion

With and Croom we also dare to ask or call pastors, doctors, scholars to a serious pursuit of the truth.

A pursuit that starts by understanding how the General (or Natural) Revelation provides a piece of evidence to all men. Whether through the existence of a Creator or the law written on man’s heart and the active consciousness of knowing a right from a wrong, in earnest, that comes with it, Christians must answer the call to challenge the world cognitively. We must satisfy the curious nature of man’s mind and heart and respond to the question that Pilate once asked, and so many have asked after him,

“what is truth?”

because we are the only ones with meaningful access to the answer.

If we, the learned and shepherds of the Church, do not understand this, how can we teach those under our care and doctrine? And if those under our care and doctrine do not learn, how can they reach the world?

How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!

And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. (Proverbs 16:16)

++

Please come to read:

  1. Matthew 27 – The Final Hours: Trial, Execution and Burial – Bible Students Intro
  2. Matthew 27 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The Final Hours: Trial, Execution and Burial – #3 Matthew 27:11-14 – “Are You King of the Jews?”
  3. Today’s thought “That we may see and believe” (Febrary 19)
  4. Rejected and Despised by Men
  5. Death of Christ and Silent or Black Saturday #1 Abandonment and burial
  6. When you believe Jesus is God, do you think he died?

One thought on “Deciphering Truth in Word and Concept – That we might see

  1. Pingback: One of the most important Truths | Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher

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