Is There Absolute Truth?

The theology discussion group to which I belong has been debating whether or not there is absolute truth. For the most part, many of the writers have been equating Jesus with absolute truth because he has said “I am the way, the truth, and the light,” as well as a few other statements about truth.

The whole idea of absolute truth is that certain things are true whether anyone knows about them or believes in them. This is really a Greek philosophical idea mainly from Plato. Plato taught that the reality we see is not THE reality, but a shadow or image of THE reality that exists in a heaven. For Plato, the ultimate reality was the good, though he also taught about absolute beauty and truth.
I do not believe those who listened to Jesus heard him speaking about an absolute truth in the Greek sense, and that has been the general tenor of the discussions of the group. We are so influenced by Greek thought, knowingly or unknowingly, that it colors our thinking. I doubt seriously if Greek was the language spoken by Jesus when he taught, or if he even spoke Greek at all. Some scholars are of the opinion that as a carpenter Jesus may have had a working knowledge of Greek, but we have no way of knowing.

Jesus’ listeners would have understood truth in the Hebrew sense of the word. This is why Pilate was confused about Jesus: how can Plato’s truth be embodied in a man. Truth to the Hebrews was true as opposed to false. What was true was reliable, firm, and dependable. What is true is real as opposed to what is not real. The Hebrew meanings give evidence of Jesus’ character as Messiah.

We can make a philosophical/theological case for Jesus being absolute truth, but I think it is not helpful in understanding the Scriptures. Apply this Hebrew meaning of truth to the words spoken to the woman at the well: “. . . . worship in spirit and in truth. . . .” Are we to worship God as absolute truth or to worship him because he is true as opposed to what is false?  Is God an abstract idea, or is he reliable and trustworthy?  Is God what is spiritually real as opposed to the many idols we may erect? Apply this to the other statements of Jesus, even “the truth shall make you free,” and we discover a new dynamic to these statements. It is not an absolute truth that sets us free, but Jesus who embodies what is true as opposed to what is false, what is real as opposed to what is not real.

In the writings of the apostle we come across the word “truth” several times. Was he thinking of a Greek absolute truth or thinking of a Hebrew truth as opposed to falsehood? In my opinion, Paul was using truth as opposed to falsehood.

Granted, we appeal to absolutes when we say, “That’s not fair!” Yet, our absolutes are really relative, for my idea of fairness will perhaps vary from your sense of fairness. I am content to view the truth of Scripture or of God or of Jesus as a Hebrew would. Scripture/God/Jesus are true as opposed to what is false; real as opposed to what is not real; reliable as opposed to unreliable. If I could grasp ultimate truth, beauty, and goodness, I would be God. Wanting to know the absolute is the mistake Adam made, but that is another story.

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One thought on “Is There Absolute Truth?

  1. Pingback: Is There Absolute Truth? | Been Thinking About

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