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Author: Dwight A. Pryor
Few sayings of Jesus are better known or more widely quoted than this: “You shall know
the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) These memorable words,
prominently incised on the U.. upreme !ourt building in "ashington, #.!., hold a
cherished place in our "estern culture. Unfortunately, they often are misplaced in our
!hristian thinking. To better apprehend them we need to return to the original Jewish
matri$ in which our %essiah operated.
The cultural ancestors of "estern thought, the &reeks, esteemed truth abo'e all else. The
holy grail of their philosophical pursuit was the True, the &ood, and the (eautiful. )t
seldom occurs to us howe'er that Jesus of *a+areth was not a &reek philosopher, -e was
a Jewish sage. -is mission was much closer in spirit to %oses than ocrates. Jesus.
orientation to life and 'alues was fostered not by the -ellenism of &reece and /ome but
by the -ebraic world'iew of the (ible and 'enerable Jewish traditions.
)n Jesus. world, the pursuit of truth was not the highest good so much as the doing of it.
Truth was a gi'en0in the elf1disclosure and #i'ine instruction 2torah3 of the -oly 4ne
of )srael. The paramount task of )srael.s sages, therefore, was to rightly interpret the
#i'ine re'elation preser'ed in the -ebrew criptures, and to teach their disciples, by
word and by e$ample, how to obey the #i'ine will. The fullness of life intended and
blessed by &od is found in hearing and obeying -is word.
The study of cripture is supremely important in Jewish tradition because Torah
2Teaching3 is di'inely gi'en. tudy that leads to obedience is reckoned as the highest
form of worship of the Almighty. An astute Jewish scholar, Abraham Joshua -eschel,
puts it this way: 5The &reeks study to comprehend6 the -ebrews study to re'ere.7
almud orah 2study of the "ord of &od3 formed the basis of religious life in Jesus.
first1century world. Unlike for the ancient &reeks, Jewish learning is not a 8pastime. for
the few0it is a 8life1time. for e'eryone. %ore than a leisurely inquiry for the wealthy,
study1as1worship is a life1transforming encounter for all who would ser'e &od. )t is an
act of de'otion that passionately engages the whole person0heart, soul, mind and might.
%ore than a holy pursuit, it is a pursuit of the -oly.
The Rabbi Jesus
)n the light of this Jewish frame of reference we can see more clearly the significance of
the Jesus. promise in the Fourth &ospel: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall
make you free.”
First, we should note that this statement is made to belie'ers and preceded by a condition:
“!f you "ontinue in my word# you are truly my dis"iples# and then...” (John 8:3$). )n
other words, Jesus is not proffering an abstract principle or philosophical proposition6 he
is e$tending a personal in'itation0to walk after him as disciples and study1to1obey his
econd, to “know the truth” is to be personally and passionately in'ol'ed with the 9ord
in an intimate %aster1disciple relationship. -ebrew learning is more than an
accumulation of information or data. %a&at 'lohim 2knowledge of &od3 is an e'er
increasing intimacy and re'erence toward the 4ne who is Faithful and True.
al'ation is a gift, but discipleship is a walk. "e must grow in the grace and in the
knowledge of our 9ord to be wholly free. As we are 5co'ered in the dust7 of (a) Yeshua
2the /abbi Jesus3, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds under his instruction
5Truth7 in the &reek sense is important but does not finally set us free. "e can be filled
with scholarly information and still be terribly bound by the brokenness of our souls and
li'es. An intimate, obedient and disciplined relationship with &od is the 5knowledge7
that truly sets us free.
Raising Up Disciples
The man :eshua, Jesus of *a+areth, was on a mission from &od during his lifetime: to
raise up many disciples. "e should take his life and mission ;ust as seriously as we take
his death, burial and resurrection. :es, the commitment to 5walk after7 or 5follow7 the
%aster and learn of &od.s ways can be costly, but the rewards are priceless0
righteousness, peace and ;oy in &od<s redempti'e reign.
(efore departing from his disciples, Jesus imparted unto them an abiding obligation: his
mission was now to become their 8co1mission.. They were to imitate him. )n their going,
they were to make disciples too, teaching the nations to keep his commandments. That
continuing obligation rests upon Jesus. followers today. "e cannot fulfill the command
5to make disciples7 howe'er unless we first become students oursel'es,
The %aster Teacher from *a+areth embodied the best of the Jewish world'iew regarding
the significance and sanctity of learning. 4ur li'es of holy learning and obedience will
bring credit to our 9ord and honor to our &od, and set us free to be more and more like
the 4ne who is e'er Faithful and True.
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