Tag: Truth

Alētheia, 2

I have said that “truth” is a person—namely, Jesus Christ. But there is more, I think, that can be said about this. Taking cues from Heidegger, I understand alētheia as denoting “disclosure.” The noun alētheia is actually the negated form of the verb lēthō, which means something along the lines of “to be hidden” or “to be outside one’s notice” (e.g., see Mk 7:24). But when “a-” is put in front of lēthō, the opposite is meant, namely, an un-hiddenness. If lēthō means “closure,” then a-lēthō (or simply, alētheia) means dis-closure. The word alētheia, or “truth,” then, means to take something that is veiled or hidden and un-veil or un-hide it. At its most fundamental level, “truth” is the uncovering of that which is covered, it is the revealing of that which is hidden. This is what truth is in everyday life. When a person “tells the truth,” they disclose reality. That is, they show what is, in fact, the case. Suppose, for example, that an archeologist comes upon an ancient, mysterious (but very beautiful) object. The scene is at first confusing, perhaps even perplexing. But after years of research, the archeologist discovers the truth—the truth about the object, who made it, where it came from, its significance, etc. When we say the archeologist “discovers the truth” about the object, what we really mean is that the archeologist un-veils the mystery; he/she reveals and un-covers the reality of the object (e.g., that it was crafted in the Bronze Age). “Truth,” therefore, is an un-veiling, an un-covering, and an un-hiding.

And this is the essence of the person of Christ. The one true God is revealed, unveiled, and disclosed in Christ. When Jesus says in Jn 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” it is in the context of showing the Father: “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (v.7). Phillip begs to see the Father, and Jesus’ reply is telling, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Phillip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (vv.8-9). To know Jesus is to know God.

Moreover, Jesus is the picture “of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). As Gadamer has taught us, all pictures have the essence of presentation—i.e., they image-forth. This is their mode of being. He says, “A drama really exists only when it is played, and ultimately music must resound (T&M, 115).” I wonder if there is not a parallel here? Just as sound cannot be separated from the essence of music and just as performance cannot be separated from the essence of a drama, so also is Jesus the very real presentation and revelation of God to the world. Indeed, it is through Christ that the divine drama is being revealed, disclosed, and unveiled. Why? Because Jesus is Truth.

Alētheia, 1

What is truth? Most define “truth” as “that which corresponds to reality.” I agree. Whatever concurs with reality, that thing, whatever it is, is the truth. The proposition, “These words are written in the English language,” is true insofar as it corresponds to reality. Considering these words are, in fact, “written in English,” then that proposition is to be taken as true. But consider the following: “Diese Worte sind in englischer Sprache geschrieben.” Is that proposition true? No, it is not. The reason, of course, is because it runs contrary to reality, for it is written in German, not English.

According to Christian tradition, “truth” (alētheia) is much more than a proposition, it is a person. “I am the way, the alētheia, and the life,” says Jesus of Nazareth (Jn 14:6). Of course, it is easily understandable, I think, why Christians would believe that Jesus is the embodiment of alētheia. He is for us, after all, the ultimate reality. He is the logos, the most fundamental reality there is (Jn 1:1-3). Of course, as logos (“Word”), Jesus is the “through-which” all things were created (Col 1:16). The Genesis account of creation (Gen 1) remains the backdrop for John’s Christology, to be sure; there is to be no doubt about the Jewish overtones in John’s use of logos, I think. But I believe John’s use of logos would appeal not just to a Jewish audience, but to a Greek audience as well. The logos, after all, was believed to be the foundation of all cosmic order (something a few Greeks mused about from time to time). And yet John says that Jesus of Nazareth is logos. Jesus, therefore, is to be seen as the central part of fundamental reality and order, for everything that is and has being finds its basis upon the divine logos. In this way, Jesus is alētheia, since truth is that which corresponds to reality, and Jesus as logos is the basis for ultimate reality. Truly, one can say that the Christos, as the logos, sustains the cosmos.