Truth In The Old Testament

On Truth in the Old Testament

The Old Testament word for truth is ‘EMMet. As usual in Hebrew, the flavour of the word is conveyed by the meanings associated with its root. ‘EMMet derives from ‘ ah-MUN, which has the connotation of support, security, reliability, dependability, stability. One of the many words derived from ‘aman means “master craftsman”, so we can picture truth as something well-made, lasting and solid, that doesn’t break when you lean on it – the craftsman’s definition of ‘true’, as in the wall built “true to plumb” in Amos 7.

The word EMMet is closely associated with another word from the same root which means “faithfulness”. In the Old Testament, the truth of God is defined by the character of his actions toward Israel. The record shows that God keeps covenant even when Israel breaks it. His truth is associated in prophecy and song with his steadfast love, his righteousness, and his justice. It is not dependent on our response to it; our responses are dependent on it. While we were yet sinners, he loved us.

God’s truth is not some abstract philosophical idea, that makes you right when you think it. Bible scholar Walter Moberly writes: “When the Psalmist celebrates Yahweh’s guidance and commandments as ‘EMMet, he does not just mean that they are true as opposed to false … but that they are trustworthy and reliable for people to base their lives on”.

From this perspective, Jesus’ personification of truth is understood as his faithful, consistent,  lifelong witness to the Father, obedient through suffering to the point of death on a Cross. This is the extent of his availability to us as a true friend. Whatever we go through, reliable old God is ever there, always dependable, in the One whose Name is called “faithful and true”.

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