What is Truth?
At John 18:37, 38 we find this interchange of words between Jesus and Pontius Pilate (which started when Jesus was on trial):
(Pilate) 'You aren't a king, are you?'
(Jesus) 'You're the one who's saying that I'm a king. The reason why I was born and why I came into the world is to testify to the truth, and everyone who's on the side of the truth listens to my voice.'
(Pilate) 'What is truth?'
Pilate's cynical and sullen question certainly seems appropriate in the world that we're living in today, because truth – real, absolute truth – is very difficult to find. And what people usually accept as truth is often shaded by propaganda, news sources, what they were taught in school, what they were taught in church, or the word of 'authorities.' And though only the most ignorant will accept everything they are told unflinchingly and without question, this is what most religions expect of us.
The fact is: if we're really searching for the truth, we must be willing to question everything that we've been taught, and then change our thinking to wherever that leads us. For a wise person once said, 'Our minds don't control our beliefs; our beliefs control our minds.'
Notice that Jesus was someone who believed in the importance of truth, for he told us that the reason why he came to the earth was to 'testify to the truth.' And this is why Christians should place a highest priority on both telling and searching for the truth when it comes to truth from the Bible. However, many (like Pilate) have simply become too cynical in their disgust for religion and have concluded that knowing the truth really doesn't matter, so they've given up in their search. Please don't do that, because it can be found if you keep on seeking, knocking, and asking.
Unfortunately, religions are the main obstacles to finding and teaching the truth. For almost all have leaders who have set themselves up (or have been held up by others) as unquestionable (infallible) sources of truth. You can easily identify such ones by the way they teach. For rather than humbly indicating that the things they teach could be true, they usually insist that you believe all their teachings, predictions, creeds, doctrines, and opinions (every religion has theirs). And the foremost obstacles to really finding truth thereafter are these barriers that such people create.
Creeds (beliefs) are lists of fundamental 'Church' doctrines that are written to be memorized by its members, which religions claim should never be questioned by the 'faithful.' And although these creeds may have been created by the misunderstanding of people who lived even hundreds of years ago, and often just to control the masses through fear and superstition, the religions that teach them are virtually locked into them, for these are their basic 'truths' that define who they are.
Doctrines are the individual basic teachings that are never to be questioned or researched. But realize that when religious debate is no longer allowed and people stop searching for truth, that's where spirituality ends; for they stop thinking and learning. The song, Old Time Religion (for example) encourages this, by urging people to unthinkingly adopt the beliefs of earlier generations.
Rules are the endless collections of laws that are created by religious hypocrites (like the Pharisees), which also define a religion. These are usually no more than the personal preferences of some person in power who has twisted things to make it look like the rules came from God by taking selected so-called 'Bible principles' (just the ones they choose, not all of them) and turning them into 'laws,' which are not otherwise clearly spelled out as such in the Bible. These laws often specify what types of clothing we may wear, how we groom ourselves, what we eat or drink, what types of entertainment we choose, matters of sexual conduct that aren't specifically spelled out in the Bible, the things we may choose to observe or celebrate, and many other things. And while propriety and good sense should always be important in a Christian's life, no religion should do what Paul said they shouldn't be doing, when he wrote at 1 Corinthians 4:6): 'Don't go beyond the things that are written!'
Over the centuries since Jesus and his Apostles first formed what we have come to know as 'Christianity,' innumerable creeds and doctrines have been formed that have since gone unquestioned by people who were usually (through threats or the unavailability of the Bible) denied any opportunity to check the truth of what they were being taught╔ this is why there are now more that a thousand different religions that call themselves 'Christian.' Such diversity proves that religion has become the primary obstacle to truth, for they all state: 'To become one of us, you must believe this╔' or even, 'To be baptized as one of us, you must say that you believe this╔ ' As the result, people start believing things blindly without doing the necessary Bible research to find out if what they are being taught really is the truth.
Is this truly the Christian way? No, for remember what was said of those at the synagogue at Berea (at Acts 17:11): 'Now, these people were more noble-minded than those in ThesSalonica, because they eagerly welcomed the Word and studied the Scriptures each day to make sure that the things [they were being told] were true' (gr. anakrinontes tas graphas ei echoi touta hautos or, examining the writings if were these/things so).
The fact is: Truth can stand up to examination! Yet, religions tell us that there's no need for us to examine or question the meaning of scriptures, because they've already determined 'the truth' for us╔ and this should never be questioned! So this is why most people no longer care to 'study the Scriptures each day,' because they're not allowed to ask questions. Rather, members are encouraged to read just the things that the religion writes or the things they teach from their pulpits╔ which is mind control!
Too often we find that Christians are encouraged just to 'follow along' in their Bibles and not to 'waste time' looking for scriptures that may disagree. And in so doing, people are subtly discouraged from doing any personal deep Bible research╔ for they're told that this will only confuse them and mislead them into 'apostasy' or 'heresy' (finding out that what they are being taught is wrong).
However, true Christianity still invites questions, research, and the right to come to different conclusions. In fact, it encourages a deep study of the Bible, because this is where real truth is found. But whenever a religion says such a thing as, 'We ARE the truth,' it's best to run! For what they are really saying is: 'You may not disagree with us even when we are WRONG!'
So, where can we find truth? It can only be found through a never-ending study of God's Word╔ not just the 'New Testament,' but the whole Bible! For if you don't believe the beginning, there is no reason to believe the rest. And remember that when we stop searching, knocking, and asking, this proves that we have already drawn our own conclusions without considering all the evidence. So we have (like all religions) stopped learning, for we have created our own creeds and doctrines.
You say that you don't have time for such study and research? If you have time to read a book of someone else's teachings or to listen to them teach, you have time to actually read the Bible. And which is more important if you are truly seeking, knocking, and asking (not trusting someone else to give you the answers)? And remember that there are more than a thousand 'Christian' religions that all teach something different╔ much of which isn't THE TRUTH.
Jesus placed a high priority on the need for his followers to find the truth. Notice what he said about this:
Notice that Jesus wasn't telling us to 'Worship at the church or synagogue of your choice.' Rather, he was telling us to seek the truth. And can we really say that 'we've found the truth' if we can only believe what someone else (not the Bible) tells us?
So, where can we find the truth? Jesus told us (at John 17:17): 'Your Word is the truth.' And then Paul wrote at 2 Timothy 3:16: 'All the Scriptures are inspired (Breathed) by God.' So, we find the truth by reading the Bible. And not just selected scriptures (the ones you know so well) or just parts of the Bible, the whole Bible! For when Paul wrote that 'all Scriptures are inspired by God,' he was talking about the only Scriptures he had at the time, what people call 'the Old Testament.'
Then, what did Jesus mean when he said (at John 8:32), 'The truth will set you free? If you look up that Bible verse and read what follows, you'll notice that the people in JeruSalem who were listening to him at the time were very offended by those words, so they were quick to remind him that they were already a free people. Yet, as Paul later pointed out, they really weren't free. Rather, they were slaves to the Old Law and to their own sins. And that's one of the reasons why Jesus had come╔ to free them from all of that, with truth.
Are there people today who also think that they are free while they're really in slavery to something? Absolutely! We are all slaves to sin and death, many of us are in slavery to fear of what will happen to us at death, and most are slaves to some sort of religious or atheist dogma and tradition╔ but with truth comes freedom! And if we're afraid to keep searching for the truth, we aren't – nor will we ever be – free.
However, with all the importance that Jesus and the Bible writers put on truth; is truth the thing that will save us? Well, from our Bible research to this point, we can prove that no religion is teaching 100% unvarnished truth (just ask us)╔ so if truth is required for salvation, no one will be saved! Therefore, true Christians cannot afford to become satisfied and settled in their beliefs. For when we stop searching for the truth with an open and clear mind, we lose our spirituality and our relationship with God.
For example: Do you think that you can explain to others right from wrong (good from evil)? If you could forget everything that you have been taught and then go back to the Bible to see what it actually teaches, you would likely have quite a different opinion from what you have now. For if you would actually look at the lives of people (like AbraHam and David) whom God loves and compare their lives to your current opinions, you would start to see how far your ideas are from those of God. Do you quote the Old Law when giving an answer? Then you probably don't understand the meaning of the New Covenant. Study the Bible with a free and open mind!
One of the other freedoms that come with learning the truth is the freedom from hatred of those who disagree with us and in developing a new-found sorrow for those who insist that they are always right. For first of all; you'll realize that you too still have much to learn and that the mark of a true Christian isn't proving that we are right, but that we love other Christians even when they don't fully understand the truth yet. Who are we to condemn those who claim to be the servants of God? As Paul wrote at Romans 14:4: 'Who are you to judge the house servant of another? He only stands or falls before his own master╔ and he can stand, because the Lord can make him stand!'
The 'Dark Ages' of Europe were called that because they are recognized as a period of mental darkness that was created by religion. For blind adherence to false religious doctrines and laws stifled art, science, learning, and human development. Religion in particular, was to blame for this darkness, for it used the threat of being tortured in the fires of Hell if anyone disagreed, which kept people ignorant, shaking in fear, and unwilling to question the things they were being taught. Also, the people weren't allowed to own Bibles, nor were they being taught how to read.
However, with the Protestant Reformation (which began in the early 1500s) came a time of change, as Bibles were for the first time being translated into the common languages, then printed and distributed, and people were learning to read (bringing an end to the Dark Ages). But because many people started to learn from their Bible reading that they weren't being taught the truth, some of the early Bible translators (such as Huss and Tyndale) were literally slowly-roasted over fires for their efforts╔ for this growing knowledge of what the Bible truly says infuriated the dominant religion. Yes, the people were learning THE TRUTH!
Notice that the thing that made this period so unique in history, is that people were willing to be flayed or buried alive (and thousands were) just to read the Bible! The result of this was the institution of some wonderful new religions with some amazingly better understandings of what the Bible really teaches╔ more truth! But oh, how time has changed all of that! For today, most Bibles sit on shelves dust-covered and unread, and hardly anyone is interested in (or would be willing to die for) reading them! Since today, most people prefer to listen to whatever they want to hear at some church╔ which they consider righteousness.
Back in those days, many of those new religions were horribly persecuted and some were literally stamped out╔ while those that survived became lethargic, formed political and national alliances, and settled comfortably into their own false doctrines and creeds. So with time, and as the Bible became commonly available, most Bible reading and searching for the truth ended for the people in these religions, and their minds once again became blinded to truth by creeds and doctrines, which discouraged Bible reading and asking questions. Yes, we've gone from the time when people couldn't read the Bible, to the time when they were willing to die for reading it, to a time when nobody wants to read it, because it already comes prepackaged by some religion.
Another period of spiritual awakening happened close to the end of the Nineteenth Century. At that time, once again, the availability of new Bible translations caused people to examine the things they were being taught in their churches. Also, people started to recognize from Bible prophecies that world events seemed to indicate that the time Jesus foretold (at Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) had arrived. So Bible reading and research peaked as people once again started searching for the truth.
The several different religions that started to form then were referred to as 'Adventists,' although most didn't adopt Adventist as part of their name. They were called this, because they were looking for the advent (or coming) of Jesus. Many of these Adventist groups were unique in that they rejected the old doctrines and creeds of established religions and once again started searching the Bible to find truth. And some did find more truth. How? Not by accepting the views of 'authorities,' but by sitting down together and discussing all the scriptures on a subject, then trying to find the harmonious truth that proves all the Scriptures to be 'inspired of God' and true.
Notice that the Adventists aren't true Protestants, because they weren't protesting the teachings of the Catholic Church as did those of the Sixteenth Century; they were just looking for something new and better (the truth).
What the Protestant Reformation and the later forming of the Adventist groups accomplished, was to create periods of spiritual awakening and renewed independent research of the Bible. However, this always riled the hatred of established religions, which viewed the new groups as upstarts and dangerous competitors. Why, if you search the Internet today, you'll still find hundreds of pages that rail against different Adventist groups, although it has been more than a hundred years since most of them were formed.
However, the interesting thing about the Protestant Reformation and the establishment of Adventist groups is that despite all the arguments against them and their teachings, they have definitely affected the beliefs of almost all religions since then. For such doctrines as Purgatory, Hell Fire, and the Trinity are no longer as widely accepted – at least, not in the same forms as they were in the past.
The sad thing about the Adventist groups is that although they had so much right (as did the early Protestant Churches), they too have allowed time,
disillusionment, and/or the growth of religious authority to jade them. So all have stopped progressing as they've grown into large religions. For as they grew and
became more respectable, they too:
* Established doctrines
* Gained an exalted view of their own authority
* Started threatening and oppressing any who would question or disagree.
So, what we really have in most religions today could be referred to as a pseudo/christ/ocracy, a rule by the false anointed and the worship of men who call themselves the Chosen, the Anointed, or the Saints. Does the Bible speak of such a thing happening in the last days? Yes, and in almost those very same words; for Jesus said (as recorded at Matthew 24:24): 'Egerthesontai gar pseudochristoi kai pseudoprophetai,' or, 'Will/arise for false/anointed and false/prophets.'
We realize that many Bibles translate the word pseudochristoi as false Christs╔ giving the impression that people would come claiming to be Jesus. But what it really says is that false anointed and false prophets would arise in the last days. For the Greek word christoi just means Anointed (or Chosen).
Remember what Jesus said about this as recorded at Matthew 23:8-12: 'But not you! Don't [have people] call you rabbi, for you have but one teacher, while you are all just brothers. Nor should you address anyone on earth as Father, because there's just One who's your Father, the Heavenly One. Don't even be called leaders, because you have but one Leader, the Anointed One. Rather, the greatest one among you must be your servant. For whoever promotes himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.' Yes, the demagogues hate this scripture.
Do you remember what Jesus said as written at Matthew 7:7, 8?
'Keep asking and it will be given.
Keep searching and you will find.
Keep knocking and it will be opened.
For all will receive, who keep asking;
All who keep searching, will find;
And [the door] will be opened to all those who knock.'
But, won't independent deep Bible research lead you in the wrong direction (as most religions warn)? For when you doubt, doesn't that eventually lead to 'apostasy' or 'heresy?' Definitely not! Notice what Jesus went on to say thereafter (at Matthew 7:9-11): 'For, of which man isn't this true: When his son asks him for bread, he won't hand him a stone, and if he asks for a fish, he won't hand him a snake! So if you in your wicked condition give good gifts to your children; how much more so will your Father in heaven give good things to those who keep asking?'
As you can see; Jesus taught us that asking, searching, and knocking doesn't lead us astray, it leads us to God and the truth! However, when we adopt a church creed or doctrine, we stop obeying that command.
For more information, see the linked Note, 'Apostasy and Apostates.'
Doesn't the fact that the Bible has already been researched and commented on through hundreds of years mean that there's nothing left to learn through study? Definitely not! For although the Bible has remained the same, our research has proven that there is still much hidden truth to be found on even the most fundamental of teachings. Why, the fact that there are so many opposing religious doctrines proves that we need to keep an open mind; for each religion can quote their favorite scriptures to prove that they are right. However, there is only one truth, which can usually be found somewhere between the extremes!
Yes, it's a fact that all religions claim that they encourage Bible reading╔ but that really isn't true of any of them! For they only encourage such reading when it's found in their publications or when it is read from their pulpits. This is 'directed' Bible reading, so that you aren't 'led astray.' And such discouragement of independent Bible research is what is directly responsible for the lack of interest in Bible reading today. Yes, religion is the barrier that prevents people from finding the truth!
What has happened to most people who call themselves 'Christians,' is that they've become used to looking for quick answers╔ they're not searching, asking, or knocking. Rather, they're trying to find packaged or franchised 'truth' in the research, doctrines, and creeds of others. So, most people are familiar with just a few favorite scriptures in the Bible, which they use to try to prove the doctrines that their religion has taught them. And they only read new Bibles (such as this), to see if it provides them proof of what they've been taught.
As the result, despite the fact that the Bible is the most published and translated book in the world, it has become one of the world's least read publications. It's considered by most as no longer interesting, since religious people have already been taught what to believe; therefore, reading it will only confuse them. So, not many today would be willing to be tortured and die, as were those in the early Protestant Reformation, just to read and research the Bible. And what others once literally died to read, just sits there on shelves gathering dust╔ and this is true in all religions╔ yes, even yours.
Today, all religions claim that their teachings are the truth. Why, some of them even dare to refer to themselves as 'the Truth.' But the question that we should all ask is: Do they still offer their members the opportunity to sit down together and discuss all the scriptures that bear on a subject, and then try to search for the harmony even if that leads to discarding old doctrines? Or rather, have they appointed 'authorities,' which claim some special choosing or anointing by God to do all the heavy Bible research, while calling all who disagree or question their teachings 'apostates' or 'heretics?'
Oh yes; it's a fact that if anyone has really found the truth, he or she should all be following in that way unwaveringly╔ but never without the ability to question whether such teachings or doctrines are true╔ because, this is how 'the truth' is found!
The interesting thing about the truth is that it has nothing to fear and it can withstand all challenges and questions. So, no one who has the truth should ever be afraid of those who ask questions, or do research, or who doubt. Only false teachers have something to fear from independent Bible research and the questions and doubts that will be raised; for it is the raising of these questions and doubts that lead to finding the truth.
So as you can see, religion is the great quandary. We need it to remain (or to become) spiritual people and to enjoy the association of other spiritual people. However, while most religions claim that they teach us to love each other, they actually promote hatred for anyone who disagrees with their doctrines. So if you have found a group of spiritual people among whom you can freely express differing opinions and ideas, you've truly found a gem. However, never forsake regular Bible reading (keep on reading the whole Bible)! For reading religious books or magazines, or for listening to sermons is where you just learn doctrines! The Bible is the only real source of truth╔ all else is just the ideas of men!
The inevitable outcome of those who think that they have the truth and that God is on their side, can be seen in the documented histories of the Catholic Church. For, whenever religious leaders are considered the only source of truth from God, their rule then becomes absolute, their flocks think these leaders can do no wrong, and they can no longer be questioned when it comes to matters of faith. This becomes clearly visible whenever people start quoting the decisions a prelate, a religious body, a book, or a magazine to prove scriptural points to each other, rather than quoting the Bible. And we see such actions everywhere╔ especially when it comes to the more zealous religions!
Recognize that once the rule makers (think Pharisees) take over and start creating their laws and doctrines, all who disagree will feel their wrath.
The next step, of course, is the inquisition and repression of any who would question or contradict╔ which is the same thing that started in the Church of the Sixteenth Century (the Inquisition). And although laws keep religions from torturing and murdering anyone today, many still have their means╔ they can shun, excommunicate, and disfellowship. And although such actions may sound quite mild, the effect is often the same as killing a person spiritually. For this action often results in the loss of their friends, their jobs, and their families, since in the eyes of their congregation or church, they have been killed and are now considered as dead with no hope of salvation.
Was this the way in the First-Century Christian Congregation? No! For more information, see the linked document, 'Removing the Wicked from the Congregation.'
Have you ever wondered why Jesus, when he was speaking of his return, asked the question (found at Luke 18:8): 'However, when the Son of Man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?'
He obviously had a good reason to ask that, for he must have known that people in the last days would be following 'the broad road' by adopting the religious ideas and doctrines of others, rather than doing their own Bible research╔ they would be following the teachings of the 'false anointed' and 'false prophets' who claim full knowledge and inspiration by God.
If you're happy with that, what can we say? But we hope that the faith will be found on the earth╔ in you. However, for that to be true, you will have to search for the truth! You will not find complete truth through the written teachings of men as they dispense it through their magazines or books, just in the Bible. As Paul wrote at Romans 3:4: 'Let God be proven true even if that makes every man a liar.'
Our purpose in publishing this Bible and its commentaries isn't to create new doctrines or a new religion. There are too many doctrines and religions already. We don't recognize ourselves as infallible authorities, nor do we claim to understand the full truth. We will just continue to do our own research of the Bible. Rather, it is our hope to awaken all those who love God to the need for a renewed effort to personally search for Him by studying His Word as found in the Bible, and to put aside the baggage of doctrines, opinions, and creeds. That's why we have spent so many years in developing this Bible translation╔ and it's why it reads so differently.
A common question that we receive from our readers is, 'So, what are you saying?' or, 'What's the bottom line?' For what they would like us to do is give them answers (or doctrines) to believe in, because that's the shortcut. And that's the problem with religions now; they provide the shortcuts╔ but there are no shortcuts to truth. So you'll notice that most of our commentaries don't reach any definite conclusions╔ we're still studying and learning.
Therefore, we don't offer the Commentaries and Notes that you will find here as truth. They are just the observations of the translators and records of our discussions. Everything is open for correction, as we learn more about the meanings of Bible words. In fact, in several places you'll find differing opinions, because we (unlike the hypocrites) don't claim to know all the answers. Rather, we are still searching, knocking, and asking, and we urge you to do the same. But this can only be accomplished by your reading the whole Bible╔ perhaps five Chapters per day? Remember that people once died horribly just to have this privilege╔ does it mean life or death to you? We hope so!
Your friends and brothers, the 2001 Translating Group.