What is truth? This is the question famously asked by Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus. Jesus, the man best able to ever answer this question says nothing. But, he taught his disciples the answer. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” he said. What does it mean for Jesus to be the truth? How can a person be the truth?
A similar question, about the nature of piety, was asked by Plato in his Socratic Dialogue called “Euthyphro.” I’ll recount a brief version of the story for those unfamiliar:
Socrates is awaiting trial for “corrupting the youth” of Athens. While waiting he meets Euthyphro.
Socrates: Are you a defendant or a pursuer?
Euthyphro: I am a pursuer.
Socrates: Who are you pursuing?
Euthyphro: You will think I’m crazy if I tell you.
Socrates: Why, does the man have wings?
Euthyphro: No, the man I pursuing is my father! A man broke into our estate and stole from us. My father caught him, tied him in chains, left him in the ditch, and called for the authorities. But, the authorities did not arrive in time and the man died of exposure.
Socrates: Your own father! You must know the meaning of piety and justice if you are willing to even pursue your own father. Let me say that I am a student of Euthyphro at my trial. Then they cannot say that I am corrupting the youth, for that which I teach I have learned from my wise teacher, Euthyphro. Tell me Euthyprho, what is piety? Surely you must know.
Euthyphro: Piety is doing as I am doing.
Socrates: I agree that this is an example, but what is the actual meaning of piety besides examples.
Euthyphro: Piety is doing what men consider just.
Socrates: Is any man wise enough to know what is just?
Euthyphro: Perhaps you are right Socrates, no man is. Therefore, I say that the gods are wise enough. Piety is what the gods say is just.
Socrates: But, there are many gods and they do not always agree.
Euthyprho: Piety is then perhaps that which the gods all agree is just.
Socrates: (sometimes using the singular “God” instead of the plural god finally asked the question which is at the heart of the dialogue and called the “Euthyphro Dilemma.”) Is that which is just just because the god’s say so, or does the god’s like that which is already just? (essentially, the question is “what came first, goodness or god(s)?”)
The dilemna asks us to choose whether God > Justice and therefore arbitrary in his choices or Justice > God and therefore God is not God. This is a popular argument made by anti-theists. However, the Bible provides the answer. The dilemma is a false one. There is another option. Rather than > or < a third possibility exists, namely God = Justice.
God himself is the foundation of all that is just and all that is true. He is unchanging in his nature and thus his justice does not change and he is not arbritrary. This is the answer Jesus gives when he tells us that he himself is the truth. The truth is not before God or after God, it is God. The measure of truth is not man as the secular humanists desire, but the measure of truth is God as the Bible tells us. Jesus himself (who is God and declared so when he said "I am" hearkening back to the Yawheh or "I am who I am" of the books of Moses) is the truth.