What is Truth? (Part 1)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • John 18:37-38 ESV 
  • Matthew 2 ESV 

Interesting resources

The fundamental question of life

No matter who you are, what your background is, or what you think of now; humanity has always been trying to understand things. We all want to know what is the truth and how to find it. These questions can be anything from what does it mean to be alive, how should we organize society, or even how does the universe work? On a basic level, there are 5 fundamental questions that have plagued humanity:

  1. Who am I (what’s my worth)?
  2. Where did I come from?
  3. What is my purpose?
  4. What happens when I die?
  5. How do I tell right from wrong?

These questions fundamentally determine a lot of things depending on how you answer them. If you think you are not worth much, how easy will it be for you to be a leader? If what you do is not contributing to society, why work? On the other hand, if you are so important, are other people equal to you? If you are the only thing that matters, is it wrong to treat other people like animals? 

What happens when you do? If this life is all there is and there is nothing else, why not go crazy now? Do everything you want because this is the only chance you get. Once you die, there are no consequences, right? But what if this was not the end? What if after you die something else happens. Would that change how you live now? Would you treat people differently if you were accountable for your life even after you died?

Depending on how you ask and answer these questions affects a lot about what you want, what you believe, and how you act. The search for truth is one that people have grappled with for as long as there have been people. Yet the Bible sits in a controversial position. Does the Bible contain the truth? Is it only part of the truth or is it the whole truth?

This question is found over and over again through the bible. One of the most pivotal points is when Jesus is in front of Pilate. The people are trying to arrest him and have him executed because he claimed to be God and could save them from their sins. This is a big deal. They arrest him and send him to Pilote so they can have him arrest him. While talking to Jesus some people want Jesus as their king and during the conversation, this happens:

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”…

John 18:37-38 ESV

This simple question, what is truth, holds a great amount of weight. Because there is a lot leading up to this question, we need to explore it a bit more. If we want to ask this question, we need to explore a bit about the Bible. This way we can ask some questions about whether or not the Bible may contain any truth at all. After this, we can then explore what it says. 

What is the truth?

May religions and philosophers have tried to come up with different ways to ask what truth is. The bible is no different. There are many truth claims about the bible and many people claim things about the bible. But in order to give this a fair look, we need to take away what people say about the bible and look at what it actually says. The best way is to put away what we think we know about the bible and approach it with a fresh set of eyes.

“The only barrier to truth, is the presumption that you already have it.”

Dr. Chuck Missler

Oftentimes if we come in thinking the bible is false, thinking we already know what something says or think it says something else, we won’t be able to tell if it has any truth. For this reason, we will try to do a few things and ask the following questions.

  1. What does the Bible actually say? (Can you point out a chapter and verse?)
  2. What is the context around the passage? (what does it say immediately before and after this verse, does that change anything)
  3. What is the historical and or cultural context that it is addressing? (What we think today is not the only way people think in history)

We are not living in Judea around 30 A.D when the Romans are in charge. We have laws that aren’t the same and concepts that those people won’t think are possible. Imagine explaining a cellphone to someone to someone back then. It is a small box that can access all the world’s knowledge. It can let you talk to someone far away without seeing them. It lets you buy something from someone you have never met and doesn’t live in your country. As far as we know, their understanding of electricity is lighting when it rains and maybe that static shock you get from rubbing your feet on the ground. We need to be clear to understand what the bible actually says in order to start seeing what claims it might make about truth.

Of course, I don’t want to sneak up on you and trick you. We will take a bias that the bible is right and is the truth. But we still need to accurately see what it says. Often many people make claims about the bible that the bible never says and then claim the bible is wrong because of it. For instance, you heard of the Three Wise Men who came to Jesus in the manger right? Well, it turns out there were not 3 wise men anywhere in the new testament. First things first, where they’re even wise men in the bible? Well yes, you can find it here:

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, … 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1, 11 ESV

When you read in the passage, it does not say there were three of them. Reading the context, what it does say is that there are three gifts so often people connect that one gift came from each of the wise men, and so on. Just from the text, we see that this seems to be a miss conception. Now, of course, we could get into the history of the world and that is the word for wise men is μάγος (mä’gos G3097 ) which relates to some Medo-Persian priest and has its roots in the old testament. But we will leave this be for now and ignore any cultural implication. The point of this is that traditions have come up and it doesn’t seem like those traditions are rooted in what the Bible actually says. If we want to see if the Bible claims any truth, we will need to see what it actually says.