08 SEPTEMBER, 2007
Have You Met My Friend, "Truth"?
In today’s Messianic world, we see a great deal of discussion
about a concept called truth, or perhaps clarified, “Truth” with
a capital T. But what this is, what it means, and how it impacts
a person’s life and relationship with God is often defined in
various ways. As certain people search to find “the Truth”—as
they call it—what are they specifically searching for? What is
it that people seek?
When I think of “truth,” I cannot help but be reminded of
Yeshua’s words, “If you continue in My word,
truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the
truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). The truth of God is
something that His followers are to know, and it will make them
free. It will make people free from the power of sin, free from
the lures of the Adversary, and free to fulfill the calling and
mission that He has assigned to each of us. The truth of the
gospel is intended to redeem people from the consequences of
sin, and into a new relationship with God via His Son. The truth
of God’s Word is to empower us for His service in the world.
Yeshua further says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes,
He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on
His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He
will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13). The Holy
Spirit is to guide all of God’s people into the truth, as the
Spirit is to give a born again Believer discernment to
distinguish between what is of Him and what is not of Him. The
relationship between salvation and “truth” is undeniable from
any cursory reading of the Apostolic Scriptures. Paul writes
Timothy that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to
the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:3, ESV).
The concept of
“truth,” however, is not just seen in the “New Testament.”
Indeed, the underlying vocabulary of our Scriptures are laced
with concepts that are all connected to “truth.” Genesis 15:6,
describing the Patriarch Abraham, is one of the most important
verses in all of the Bible. We are told that Abraham “believed
in the Lord; and He
reckoned it to him as righteousness.” The Hebrew verb rendered
as either “believed” or “trusted” is aman (!ma),
appearing in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice), the
“basic mng. to be firm, trustworthy, safe” (CHALOT).
aman is an important term used in the Hebrew Scriptures,
because it is related to a variety of other key terms seen in
the Tanach, including: omen (!ma),
“faithfulness,” emun (!ma),
“firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,”
“firmness, faithfulness, truth,” and the all important
“verily, truly” (BDB).
While the meaning of the verb aman can change slightly
among the different verb stems, “The basic root idea is firmness
or certainty” (TWOT).
When Abraham “believed God” it was not just a matter of
acknowledging His existence; Abraham had to have a firm
confidence in the promises made to him by God and trust that God
was going to see him through no matter what. This is why Paul
reminds the Galatians, “Look at Abraham: he put his faith in
God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness”
(Galatians 3:6, NEB).
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the English concepts of belief, faith,
and trust are all uniquely tied together. The Psalmist declares,
“O Lord, who may
abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who
walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth
[emet] in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2). Only the one who can
have firm trust in the Lord is he who himself “acknowledges the
truth” (NJPS)—and this truth is only that which comes from the
Creator. This truth is what can be relied upon, firmly believed,
and confided in during life’s arduous journey. As Psalm 43:3
should remind us, “O send out Your light and Your truth [emet],
let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to
Your dwelling places.”
The Greek Scriptures offer us a little more variance than the
Hebrew Scriptures when it relates to God’s “truth,” but
nothing so significant that the underlying idea of firm
confidence is skewed. In fact, more dimensions are added.
A critical verse that should guide us is Romans 10:9, where Paul
you confess with your mouth Yeshua
Lord, and believe
in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be
saved.” The Greek verb commonly rendered as “believe” (“trust”
in CJB) is pisteuō (pisteuw),
which “denotes reliance, trust, and belief.” Important related
terms used throughout the Greek Apostolic Scriptures (and also
the Septuagint) include: pistis (pistiß),
“‘trust’ or ‘faith,’” and pistos (pistoß),
“‘faithful’ or ‘trusting’” (TDNT).
Both Paul (Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3) and James (3:23) use the
verb pisteuō to describe the “belief” or faith of
Abraham. But it is not just enough to “believe” in something;
one must also “be convinced of someth.” (BDAG).
The main term
used in the Greek Scriptures (both LXX and NT) for “truth,”
however, is alētheia (alhqeia),
which BDAG primarily defines as “the quality of being
in accord with what is true, truthfulness, dependability,
uprightness in thought.” A third, and interesting
definition, which BDAG also provides is “an actual
event or state, reality.”
What this seems to communicate is that when the “truth” is
talked about in the Gospels and Epistles, not just are
the ideas of confidence and reliability communicated, but also
something that is factual.
TDNT makes the
important point, “It denotes a reality that is firm, solid,
binding, and hence true. With reference to persons it
characterizes their action, speech, or thought, and suggests
And of course, all of us believe that what comes from God and
the teachings of our Messiah Yeshua is of a Divine character
that is firm in integrity.
What does this all mean for us as Messianic Believers—especially
those who believe that God is restoring a Torah foundation to
His people? All of us have certainly heard or talked a great
deal about “the Truth” at some point or another. But I would
point out that in many cases this “Truth” is not necessarily
that of which the Scriptures speak. The Bible encourages us to
believe, have faith, and trust in the One who is to guide us
into His perfect plan. The truth which the Bible admonishes us
to have is that which comes from God and is a clear
demonstration of His perfect character. It can be relied upon,
and we can confide in that truth when life’s circumstances
demand that we turn to Him. God’s truth composes those
principles whereby we can be a blessed people and live according
to His will.
In contrast, what we see in various sectors when “the Truth” is
talked about is often vague. Many people discuss that they are
on a quest for “Truth,” but what this is sometimes is not very
clear. Are people searching for something that can be believed
and depended upon? Are people searching for those principles
that can guide them through perilous times? Or, are they looking
for something else?
Sometimes “the Truth” with a capital T that is talked about in
the Messianic world is something different than what the Bible
calls us to. This “Truth” is viewed as an antithesis to “lies.”
Certainly, while we do live in a world of both
truth and lies—what
constitutes a lie must also be considered before we can
describe a concept as such. There are many things that indeed
are lies. But then there are many things that are probably
hastily classified as lies, or even as half-truths, when
considered more clearly are often incomplete ideas lacking
information. When Messianic Believers have had to reevaluate
common Christian concepts of the Law of Moses, in too many
instances what are classified as “lies” are often those
incomplete ideas lacking information. We are blessed to have
access to data that Christians two to three hundred years ago
did not have. Yet, many of these departed saints did indeed have
the truth of the gospel, and of holy living correct. Many
of their teachings up to this day are reliable and dependable—just
as the terms for belief, faith, and truth all embody.
I would urge some extreme caution in the days ahead—especially
as our Messianic theology matures and branches out—concerning
how you use the term “truth.” The truth as defined in the
Scriptures is something that is dependable and factual, aiding
someone in his or her relationship with God. Otherwise, is “the
Truth” we commonly hear and talk about just a person or a friend
whom we desire to meet? If we capitalize this term, what are we
trying to communicate? Just what point are we trying to make?
Should we not be concerned with the information that stands
behind the truth, rather than forcing this concept? Is it not
the uprightness of reality embodied by this word that is
to convince others—not the word itself?
all of us at one point or another have made the error of
capitalizing the word “truth.”
We have gone along with a trend, neither thinking it through nor
considering what we were communicating. We thought it was our
“duty” to make a point. But does it really make a point?
If our understanding of “truth” is not substantiated via
reliable data—and most importantly founded in the steadfast
character of the God whom we serve—then at most our “Truth” is
just a person whom we may never meet. I pray that this is not
the case. I hope that the truth we can present as Messianics is
more than just capitalizing a word that needs to remain
uncapitalized. I hope that this truth is something that can
guide people to a better relationship with the Lord via
obedience, and will enable people to have a firm belief, faith,
and indeed trust in Him!
(B.A., University of Oklahoma; M.A., Asbury
Theological Seminary) is the editor of TNN
Online (www.tnnonline.net) and is a Messianic
He is a 2009 recipient of the Zondervan Biblical
Languages Award for Greek.
is author of
numerous books, dealing with a wide range of
topics that are important for today’s
Messianic Believers. He has also written many articles on
and is presently focusing his attention on Messianic commentaries
of various books of the Bible.
William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and
Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, the
Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988), 20.
Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles
A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old
Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 53ff, 54.
Jack B. Scott, “!ma,”
in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K.
Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980),
R. Bultmann, “pístis,” in Geoffrey
W. Bromiley, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament, abridged (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985),
Frederick William Danker, ed., et. al.,
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,
third edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
G. Quell, “alētheia,” in
Indeed, our ministry made this error in
several of the early editions of OIM News (2003-2004),
and has learned via experience that truth is a concept
that must be validated by verifiable data (cf.
Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians
13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19), not just our making mention of