What is Truth?

Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'” John 18:38

As Pilate was questioning Jesus right before His sentencing and death on the cross, Jesus stated to Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) It is then that Pilate questions Jesus and asks Him, “What is truth?”

Today many people ask that same question, “What is truth?” And they also have the same response as Pilate, they do not wait for an answer. In this world of relative thinking we live in, my truth does not have to be your truth. Actually, it can be commonly agreed upon that no truth exists at all. But what good does type of thinking do for our human condition which is constantly seeking for answers to the simplest but yet most relevant question we can ask, “What is truth?” The sad answer to that question is that if we do not find the truth we are looking for we are bound by the search for it or caught in a battle of trying to justify the half-truth we have settled for.

I looked up the word truth that both Jesus and Pilate used in their conversation and then did a word study on that specific Greek word each of them used for “truth”.  The following information is what I was able to pull together from that study. I hope you will have a greater understanding of what Jesus was referring to and what Pilate chose to miss in walking away from the Truth which was standing before him that day.


The Greek Word “alētheia” is the word both Jesus and Pilate use in their conversation. This word literally means the unveiled reality of something which agrees with its character. In this instance the truth Jesus was talking about was the character of God which was manifested in Him. The word here also implies that what is seen by the human eyes is not always what is in agreement with what is really true, instead the truth is the reality of what is behind what we perceive to be true - the untainted truth.

In the case of what Jesus was saying then to Pilate was that it was not just the words that Pilate was hearing from Jesus that were the source of truth, but it was rather the complete character of God which was revealed to those who opened their hearts to really hear the voice of God in what Jesus was saying. Pilate was not only thick in skull but also thick in heart – he only wanted to hear what could possibly let him out of this sticky situation and he was not searching for God or the Savior which God had sent to the world that was now standing in His presence and who was revealing the complete revelation of God's redemptive work for the world.

But see now, what other scripture passages have to say about the truth of Jesus as this specific translated word “alētheia” is used:

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17

(Take the meaning of the word truth and applying it to this verse, it means that Jesus was the one who showed the real meaning behind the law God established originally through Moses – it was presented in perfect form now through Jesus. Jesus and the gospel He gave – His life and His teachings – are the Truth – the complete character of God.)

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” John 8:31-32

(Again, the Word of Jesus is truth and only through resting in all that He says in truth shall we completely understand what real truth is – otherwise we only see our perception of truth. It is the perception of God alone and living in His completed reality that we find freedom from the lies of this world.)

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” James 1:16-18

(It is in living and trusting in the truth God shows us, and not in our own interpretation of what truth is based off of His Word, to which we live lives worthy to be called offerings of service and sacrifice to our God.)

This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 1 John 5:6

(We still have truth with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we listen to the Spirit and all He has to teach us about God, His ways, and His reality about our lives and our situations then we will live in truth and not be deceived.)

As I said at the beginning, many people chose not to listen to truth in this society of relativistic thinking we live in. Yet, if we desire to know God for who He really is and live in the freedom we are given through resting in the Truth of God, then we must listen and trust completely in what God reveals to us through His Word and the Spirit of Truth.

Not all will listen and heed the voice of truth, but for those who make the choice to trust in the Truth of God the search for truth and the battle against the lies of the enemy are a thing of the past.


  1. I was reading in my One Year NLT Bible this morning and read Pilate's question, "What is truth?" It was really nice to then see this devotion regarding what I had earlier read. Thanks for your instructive thoughts.
    Blessings, Janice

  2. Glad to know you are reading with me this year. I have read through the bible many times before over a one year period (mostly from cover to cover or chronologically) and this method of reading a bit of the Old Testament, a bit of the New Testament with a Psalm and Proverb section each day has been very enjoyable - especially in working through Leviticus and Numbers. I am sure our reading/blogging paths will cross many times before the year is up. - Peggy


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