An interesting thing happened on my way to researching this week’s readings. The Gospel of John—GJohn—has a thing about Truth. I did a word search of the Bible for “truth” and found, to my surprise, only 35 mentions in the whole of the OT, the most in Jeremiah at 7. It appears 102 times in the NT with 23 in GJohn and 19 more in his three letters. By comparison, all of Paul’s letters use the word 29 times, GMatthew 1, GMark 2, and GLuke 1. The word “true” adds another 15 in GJohn and 11 in Revelation. This count is all from NIV.
A search of ESV yields GJohn “truth” 23 and “true” 22.
Without going into detail, the newer translations have included all the new studies of the oldest manuscripts and have updated some of the sentences. How a word is used in a given sentence depends on the context of the sentence, or even the who section. It can also vary from writer to writer—remember that professional scribes did most of the writing. The result is that GJohn 9:24 now reads, A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” NIV The underlined phrase is not found in older translations.
I checked the Greek words used by GJohn and found aletheia used 18 times, alethes—true—3 times, alethines—true—once, and kalos—good—once. Notice that all but one are essentially the same word. In the three letters, John used aletheia all 19 times.
John’s stress on truth cannot be ignored, especially in our current cultural climate. How can two deeply committed Christians have opposite views on Trump, climate change, vaccinations, and the age of the universe? Why can’t we both look at the known facts and agree?
It turns out that we can’t even agree on what is a fact. I told my high school students a zillion times that a fact can be proved true or false. Yes, a fact can be false, but only if it can be proved.
Is the world flat or a sphere? There is still disagreement. Some argue that a scientist cannot be trusted. Nor can the government. Contrary to popular misconception, few sailors believed the world was flat, and they would fall off the edge if they sailed too far. Having watched ships appear on the horizon, top sails first, then mid, then bottom, and finally the boat itself, how could they not realize the roundness of the earth. If you stand on the eastern border of Colorado and look west, you should see a 14,000-foot mountain only a couple of hundred miles away. But you can’t.
Do you take my point? We can’t even debate because we disagree on the facts.
It turns out we are motivated by our emotions rather than our knowledge. Facts are less important than feelings.
What does that have to do with today’s lesson?
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ESV
These are the words of Jesus. We must accept them as true, unquestionable. What did he mean when he said, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth? The root for understanding is to remember that God is Truth. If I am in close relationship with God, His Spirit will fill me with the Truth of God. His Truth is not limited. It includes the universe and all that is in it. But that universe is a small portion of His Truth.
Some Christians who insist that the earth is 6,000+ years old say that God created this earth with rock formations that included rock that looked like animals. Dinosaurs never existed. If they had, Noah would have had them on the ark. When scientist say that they have proof that the rock containing what appears to be bones is 60 million years old, some simply say that is impossible because the Bible does not lie.
What is the truth? To say that God created rock layers containing bone-like rocks is to say that God lied to us. God who is Truth.
The examples like that are endless. Facts vs. emotion.
Jesus does not want us to love him with our hearts alone. We must commit our minds and bodies as well. If I believe in my heart that America is the New Jerusalem, what does God have to say about that? In the May 19 reading we learned that the New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven at the end of time. Is America the New Israel? Again, we see the Twelve Tribes in Heaven and in the New Jerusalem.
We can’t let our emotions take over our thought processes. God as the God of Truth wants us to study and understand the world and universe around us, the better to understand who He is and our role in the lives He has given us.
It is too easy to assume that I meet people and see things happening and from all that I assume I understand the world. The reality is that what I see, read, and hear is only a sliver of reality. I need to trust experts who study tens of thousands, even millions, of examples before reporting to us what they have found. It is a fact that most Americans living below the poverty line work an average of 60 hours a week. It is a fact that Spanish speaking immigrants increase our national wealth. It is a well-documented fact that vaccinations are a safe prevention of deadly diseases.
When we attack people without checking the facts we are turning away from the God of Truth.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.