What is Truth?

What is Truth?

Feb 24, 2015, 9:48 PM |

John chapter 18, verse 38 of the Gospel of John, is often referred to as "jesting Pilate" or "Truth? What is truth?", of Latin Quid est veritas?. In it, Pontius Pilate  questions Jesus' claim that he is "witness to the truth" (John 18:37). Following this statement, Pilate proclaims to the masses (lit., "the Jews" referring to the Jewish authorities[3]) that he does not consider Jesus guilty of any crime. John 18-37-38: 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”


P52, an ancient papyrus inscribed with John 18:37-38
Nikolai Ge "Christ andPilatus" (What is truth?), 1890.

The exact intention of Pilate has been subject to debate among scholars, with no firm conclusion.[1] His statement may have been made in jest that the trial was a mockery, or he may have actually intended to reflect on the philosophical position that truth is hard to ascertain.[1] The Greek word rendered as "truth" in English translations is "aletheia", which literally means "unconcealed" and connotes sincerity in addition to factuality and reality.

This verse reflects the Christian tradition of the "guiltlessness of Jesus" in Pilate's Court.[8] The innocence of Jesus is important in the Gospel of John, given that it emphasizes Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Note that Jesus, although he does not respond to Pilate's question (perhaps because Pilate "went out again" before giving him a chance to) believes he knows the answer. During his prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus tells God, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)

In addition to the guiltlessness of Jesus this verse also reflects the rejection of the truth of God: Jesus, the witness to truth was rejected, ignored and condemned.