by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
What is truth? This is not a new question. Perhaps the question’s most memorable voice was Pontius Pilot when he posed it to a silent Jesus.
Probably most everyone would agree that much of early Christian literature was first collected and reported through oral traditions among early Christians. With few written documents. And written records found show that there were as many differing viewpoints among early Christians as there are today.
Consequently, most historians recognize some embellishments probably occurred over time. As well as information left out. And some authors’ accounts destroyed. In fact, some historians have suggested that we have lost 85 percent of Christian literature from the first two centuries. And that percentage only refers to the literature that we know about. So our knowledge from the roots of Christianity may always only be in part.
Do any of these facts impact our love and faith in the Bible and its validity? They don’t for me. That’s because I don’t believe the spiritual meaning of the Word is contingent on human details. For me, the spiritual sense can be felt in heart, regardless of details included or not.
It does disturb me to think that anyone believed they needed to determine what I can know and understand as truth. For example, when I think of the various ancient religious writings that have been surfacing in recent years, what bothers me is that someone long ago decided I couldn’t read these writings and decide for myself what I wanted to believe. Or that someone thought they needed to shape or interpret truth for me and the rest of humanity for all time.
Truth is what it is. Changeless. Eternal.
Lies may be told and believed as truth for centuries. This doesn’t change whatever is the truth.
New lies may be told today. These do not change whatever is the truth.
I do realize that opinions and interpretations of what is understood as truth will be as varied as the number of individuals voicing their opinions and interpretations. This was true centuries ago and I suspect, will likely be true in future times as well.
I think the quest to understand truth is an individual life journey. I can only answer what I myself understand of truth. I think the same is true for all who write about what they understand of truth. And even then, the challenge is in finding the words to express the spiritual meaning of that which is spiritual.
Christian author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote about this challenge. She said English as well as all other languages are “inadequate to the expression of spiritual conceptions and propositions, because one is obliged to use material terms in dealing with spiritual ideas.”
So the search to understand truth continues. And in our search, we question, consider, ponder, explore the possibilities of truth and what it means in our lives. We want to know truth. We long for the most perfect and accurate truth there is in every aspect of our lives. Be it in science, manufacture, art, religion — or history.
Perhaps this is because of our innate spiritual nature. With a God of truth as our Creator, it would be natural for us to be drawn toward the nature of our source — perfect truth. For us to desire to understand who we are and our purpose for being.
Truth never changes. But clearly, our understanding of truth does. And it should. It’s called progress. Growth. And that’s life.
Perhaps one reason for controversial responses to newly discovered ancient writings are because some details challenge truths humanity has longed believed.
In my own search to understand truth, I am endeavoring to keep myself open-minded to truth’s infinite possibilities. I try to approach each possibility with reasonable consideration and exploration. Truth is what it is. Whether it is what I’ve always believed or something entirely different. I want to know the truth.
Of truth, Eddy quotes Agassiz, the celebrated naturalist and author, who said: “Every great scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next, they say it has been discovered before. Lastly, they say they have always believed it.”
So, I’ll keep on reading whatever my fellow truth-seekers write. We learn from each other. It’s all part of the journey to understand — what is truth?