Sharing personal insights from his own spiritual journey and his study of the Scriptures, the late Dwight Pryor, founder of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, reflects on the life of Jesus for Christian readers of Jerusalem Perspective Online.
Are any words of Jesus better known than these: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, KJV)? This ringing declaration holds a prominent place in Western thought, and has exerted a powerful and even prophetic influence upon the American way of life in the last two centuries. Incised on our hallowed U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., it expresses the best of our ambitions and ideals as a nation “under God.”
The view that “The truth shall set you free” seems entirely consistent with our Western disposition and Greco-Roman heritage. After all, did not the Greeks esteem truth above all else? “The True, the Good, the Beautiful”—were not these the triune object of Greek philosophy’s holy quest? But consider this: Jesus was not Socrates. He was a Jewish sage, not a Greek philosopher. His world, his values, his quest were intrinsically and unequivocally Hebraic, not Hellenistic, in character.
In Jesus’ world, the pursuit of truth was not the highest ambition so much as the doing of truth. Truth was a given—in the self-disclosure of the Holy One who is ever “Faithful and True.” The chief task of the Jewish sage, therefore, was to rightly interpret this Divine revelation, preserved in Holy Scripture, and to teach his disciples, by word and example, how to obey the Divine will. Thereby would he bring them into the fullness of life and liberty intended by God.