What is truth?

After Jesus was arrested by the Jewish religious authorities, they brought him before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. An interesting exchange took place between Jesus and Pilate:

John 18:28-38 ESV

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.   So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  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.”  Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him…”

The Jewish authorities brought Jesus before Pilate in order to try Him as a criminal. Pilate asked them bluntly what Jesus was charged with. They did not give a direct answer, replying, If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.
[In Luke’s account the High Priest and his men are more explicitly accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” This puts Pilate’s following question to Jesus in context.] Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of Jews. Jesus replied by saying that His kingdom is not of this world. Pilate said, So you are a king?; this was the heart of the matter for the governor since Caesar did not tolerate competitors. 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. What a claim! Pilate muttered, What is truth? and rather than waiting for an answer, turned around and left the room.

Unfortunately, there are many like Pilate who do not seem to be interested in truth. At the same time, we all assume such a thing as truth exists. Many deny that such a thing as absolute truth exists, but no one lives as if truth is relative. It is impossible to deny truth without degenerating into utter nonsense.

When someone tells you there is no such thing as absolute truth, a question to ask them is, “Is that absolutely true?,” or “Are you absolutely sure that’s true?”

On the other hand, many other people vociferously proclaim their beliefs are the only truth. The problem is that they can’t all be right. Is Hinduism or Buddhism true? If one is true, then the other must be false. In fact, it is conceivable that both are wrong.

If we say Christianity is true, which denomination or movement is the closest reflection of reality? There are Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist, and numerous other groups under the umbrella of Christendom.

Even if we all innately understand that some things must be true, how can we know what is true? How do we determine what is true and what is false? Over the course of the next few posts, I’d like to explore these issues. I hope you’ll join in the discussion. I hope to persuade you that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that this truth is knowable. I’d eventually like to persuade you that Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to your deepest questions.

In fact, what He has to say is much more important than anything I can say about Him.

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.

By His grace, I hope to remove any obstacles that may keep you from hearing Him.

Ecclesiastes 7:19 ESV

Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

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3 thoughts on “What is truth?

  1. Are you seeking an answer to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” from other believers, or anyone’s take on the answer to that question?

  2. Hi Jared, I have been surveying students on university campuses for a couple of years. I go out once a week for a couple of hours and typically survey 4-5 students. The first question on the survey is “Is it ever possible to know absolute truth about anything?”

    It’s a little depressing to see how few people say yes. Even the Christians I survey answer no or leans no. I try to talk to the students after the survey. Perhaps in future conversations I will begin to probe why they say no. I don’t understand why they pay to go to university if they don’t believe it is possible to know truth. If it’s not possible to know truth, why are they paying to learn the laws of nature? Why pay to learn the charge of the electron? Why pay to learn mathematics?

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your future posts here.

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