What is Truth?

“‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king…for this I was born… to bear witness to the truth….’ Pilate said, ‘What is truth?’ ...But Jesus gave no answer” (John 18:37, 19:7)

A Christian will see that the question, “What is truth?” is phrased incorrectly. Truth is not a concept: It is a person. Pilate was not open to a discussion as to the meaning of truth. He had his own definition. It was for him whatever he wanted it to be. Like many alive in our time, truth can be anything or everything, a way of imposing one’s will onto others. It’s not objective, an indisputable philosophical or ethical term that cannot be questioned. Truth today is as sincere and meaningful as a salesperson’s pitch for his product. Pilate portrays the irony of our Lord’s words, ‘I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth,’ by his question, ‘What is truth?’ This Jew rejected by His own people and brought to be executed—He claims to have the truth? How odd. To him Jesus is a fanatic, a lunatic or a fool. A cunning revolutionary would not have entered Jerusalem without warriors; he would have hidden and chosen an opportune time for attack. He appeared too intelligent to be out of His mind. Is He such a fool as not to throw Himself on the ground and plead, beg and whine for His life? So he sent Him to be beaten mercilessly to placate the troublesome Jewish leaders demanding His death. Surely they will realize how ridiculous is their claim that He is a threat to Roman authority, the trumped up justification for turning Him in as a criminal.

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” says the Lord. Truth is the way through life. Truth does not appear to a person complete and transparent. It cannot just be contained in a doctrine. It cannot be contained in a book. Even the Bible doesn’t describe it an as idea. Truth is worked out by living. One is born and set on the course towards infinity. What happens on the way affirms, challenges, contradicts and verifies the truth about God in Christ and the relationship with self. At times some are forced to deal with lies, as it was in the last century under communism. A system based on falsehood, run on mistrust and deception. Solzhenitsyn wrote that the only way to overthrow such a government was: “Do not lie; do not surrender to the lie; do not spread lies.” Today’s world rejects Christian truth and morals, replacing them with a modern version Pilate’s conclusion, claiming there is no truth, because there is no God. Be a god for yourself, the world says, and create your own truths. Jesus Christ as Truth must be found and followed in our time by each who is eager to follow the Way and share Life that He offers along with the peace that He gives “not as the world gives.”

Christ as Truth is not objective. He was not a philosopher like Socrates sharing wisdom among his devotees or even a rabbi instructing pupils from the Bible. The peripatetic Son of God “has nowhere to lay His head.” Constantly on the move from the right hand of the Father to and through the womb of the Theotokos and into the world of His time, He was ever challenging the conventions, confusing the authorities and astounding the despondent, ever gathering disciples and bonding them to Himself in the upper room and more securely on the Cross and beyond the tomb. That truth cannot be understood or contained in one’s mind alone or in the heart alone, not at any one moment. It, or rather He, needs always to be born within our souls, developing and expanding as we open ourselves to His Truth on our own way through life and beyond.