What is Truth?
By Dr Christopher Peppler
“What is truth?” Pilot asked Jesus (John 18:38). Ask a typical evangelical Christian thisquestion and the likely answer will be “The Bible is truth”. What we generally mean when wesay this is that we believe that the Bible is the
of truth. Consider for a moment, though,how Peter, Paul, or John would have answered that question. In terms of scriptures, all theyhad was what we call the Old Testament. We know how the apostle John would respond tosuch a question because he wrote ‘
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truthcame through Jesus Christ.
’ (John 1:17-18)Church leaders only finally recognised the collection of writings of the New Testament as‘truth’ in the fourth century. In 367 AD bishop Athanasius listed the current twenty-sevenbooks of the New Testament in his Easter letter. Later, the councils of Hippo in 393 andCarthage in 397 fixed the Canon of scripture, for the Western church. So then, what would theearly Christians have regarded as their source of truth?The Lord Jesus was quite clear in His idea of truth. He said "
I am the way and the truth and the life
”. (John 14:6) It is ironical that when Pilate asked his question, the truth was actuallystaring him in the face!? Jesus often said “I tell you the truth” and His disciples recorded whatHe uttered. Yet, truth is more than what Jesus taught. You see, Jesus himself is the source of truth.This is a critical understanding. If we regard the Bible as the source of truth then we willexpect to find truth only in the form of propositional statements. The Pharisees of Jesus’ daybelieved that the Old Testament scriptures were the source of truth yet Jesus said this tothem;
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
”(John 5:39-40) We tend to regard the Pharisees with patronising condescension yet we oftenmake the same fundamental mistake they did.I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. I am convinced that it is the God-given documentaryrecord of the truth. I am equally convinced that Jesus, himself is The Truth. Therefore, I cometo the Bible not just to interpret its truth but also to find, in and through it, the one who is thetruth, Jesus Christ the Lord. There are big differences in these two approaches to the Bible.On the one hand, we view the Bible through Christocentric spectacles. On the other hand, weview Jesus through biblical spectacles. Of course, the two concepts are intertwined. It is hardto ‘see’ Jesus without the aid of biblical spectacles. Equally, it is hard to know how to usebiblical spectacles unless we focus on Jesus. The Bible is the God-given forum for encountering and learning about and from Jesus, and the Lord Jesus is the interpretive key tounderstanding the Bible.The great Protestant reformers did the church a great service by rescuing it from corruption,ignorance, and religiosity. In their zeal for truth, they brought the scriptures to the fore andmade them accessible to all. However, they shifted the focus from personal truth topropositional truth and from experiential encounter to doctrinal understanding. I am not sayingthat this was their intention but it certainly seems to be the effect that they produced.