I began a series on Words a few months back, and this article I write now aims at being a continuation of that theme. The word under consideration is the word: True; and a lot of what I am about to write will speak about Christ and about Christians and their faith.
Firstly, – you might have guessed? – I am convince The Truth is Jesus Christ – let’s get that out of the way up front – and now I am going to explain why I am convinced of this by way of looking at this word: True.
Jesus is recorded in John’s gospel as saying publicly: I am the way and the truth and the life – he makes no bones about it; and I am going to show, I hope, how Jesus is True across a spectrum of so many meanings of this word: True.
Any person who picks up the gospels and reads them will understand quite quickly, regardless whether Jesus makes a life-changing impression on her/him of not, that Jesus is True.
In the first place and in regard to a basic interpretation of the word True in everyday life, as when we might say a thing or object or event is/was True; and by that we are meaning that the same thing, object or event is consonant with fact, in the same way as it might be an accepted historical event that is held to be true; or else an act we have ourselves witnessed is held by us to be true.
I believe that only cavillers with axes to grind are able to hold with any tenacity a belief or a profession of a belief that Jesus is/was a myth, a fiction, an imagined non-existent person; and I believe this because it appears to me that any person who has a modest ability to judge what sounds authentic and what sounds a fabrication, will instinctively and in a most visceral sense understand solidly that, regardless of accepting Him and his teachings etc or not, here portrayed before one as a reader is a real person who did live an actual life and who was present in the world at one time; and who as it were “stands existent behind” this figure, this persona, of Jesus, as he is portrayed in the gospels.
Now I am not claiming that my criteria for disapproving a reader of the gospels as being a caviller and with an axe to grind rest upon that reader finding such a figure as the figure of Jesus as He is presented to us in the gospels, to be a fictional, and a fabricated persona, and that same reader asserting there being also no historical person ‘behind’ this persona. No actuality of Jesus which is able to correspond reasonably consonantly in fact with the gospel narratives and with what they say about Jesus. Such an argument besides it being circular is also false and untenable.
I am going to say that those things which Jesus is portrayed as saying and doing in the gospels; these things as a collection of words and deeds being clustered around a single person (or if you like, an entity); and all of these words and deeds being consonant with one another and forming together a harmony of deepest consideration; I believe that in the first place, no author might be so gifted and yet so utterly wastrel of his talents by merely writing down as idle fictions such depths of understanding and such astoundingly self-consistent wonderful words and deeds. The import and the power and the depth of penetration of these deeds and these words are of such formidable magnitude that men and women of all eras since, and of all nations, of all dispositions, of all abilities and understandings, of all the miscellany which makes up humankind, have held onto these same words and deeds as the most important things in their lives and some have considered them so important that they have preferred not to live than to repudiate them and their Owner.
Is a person who repudiates the gospels as being based on facts after having read and considered them; as opposed to a person who admits of an actual person being ‘behind’ their narratives; is such a person not in fact her/himself ‘bending’ the truth of their own apprehensions in order to fit the square peg of their antipathies into the round hole of an almost self-evident contradiction of their thesis that here is no real personage?
It has been said many times but it’s worth saying again, that we have more and better historical documentation on Jesus Christ and his life than we do have on a good portion of the medieval and early renaissance great writers and their lives. Shakespeare is a fiction only to cranks and disputants these days; yet had we half the data we have on Jesus about him we should have several more times data on Shakespeare than we do have.
There are of course special considerations at work which cloud the mind on the issue of the truth or otherwise of the figure of Jesus as he is presented to us in the gospels; and these special considerations are not applicable to Shakespeare or to his fellows. Shakespeare claimed no earth shattering life changing promises indemnified by his self-confessed standing as being The Son of God.
Yet Shakespeare and Jesus have a quality in common which ought to be noted down here. Just as we have reams and reams of writings by Shakespeare, yet even when one has read the corpus one still remains in the dark about what Shakespeare was like as a person; and we can continue till doomsday asking ourselves uselessly the question: where can we find Shakespeare in his works?
Just as Shakespeare is utterly ‘anonymous’ in his writings; here we have Jesus Christ, who never seems to have written down any of his teachings and deeds himself; and who in the gospels is portrayed throughout all of them as ever pointing away from himself whenever he speaks or acts; almost like a person who has no consideration of or for himself, and instead he is ever pointing to God the Father and to the Law of Love and to the plain and simple but very difficult to do Way his Father desires us to live. His whole tenor and object is always to insist that this pointing away from oneself and this pointing towards, in the first place, The Father; and in the second, towards others, towards ‘one’s neighbour’, is the definitive answer to the riddle of life, and the only access to The Kingdom.
Both Shakespeare and Jesus Christ might bear well the epithets ‘non-egoist’, ‘not self-obsessed’ and ‘happy to just be and do, without any fussy ado’. Neither has any braggadocio, any of what we term perversely laudably to be ‘attitude’ or ‘cool’; no desire for self-grandeur, as if they both as it were ‘step back’ and say ‘welcome to my world’ and let you in to see it without their finicky interference.
Just as Shakespeare’s dramatic worlds ‘stand on their own two feet’ without him and his personality being present to ‘prop them up’; so Jesus’s teaching and deeds also ‘stand without any aid’ even of his own witness; and this is because the man Jesus is the very deeds and the words he speaks; there is no filtering or selectivity of ‘what might I say?’ or ‘how should I approach this?’ or ‘how can I make this sound good?’ and so on. Jesus par excellence is ‘WYSIWYG’ – what you see is what you get; – totally up front, wholly, transparently, single and authentic, without duplicity or hedging or fudging or euphemism or circumlocution, or deviance, diversion, or misrepresentational, no traps, no grassed-over pits, nothing over-complicated, nothing smart, no clever-clever conundrums, nothing deliberately trivial or slighting and shallow, all the way straight and forthright and always TRUE AS AN ARROW.
And this true picture of Jesus Christ is ever constant and present always throughout and within all the four gospels; such that as a persona presented in writing as a representation of an actual live flesh and blood human person; the verisimilitude of Jesus as portrayed is almost without a qualm or a doubt wholly and absolutely authentic to any merely moderately receptive reader. The portrayal of him and his meaning for the world is presented in true fashion, and this message and its meaning are truly aimed by him; and are offered to us in a manner true to life by him, and most importantly they ring true so formidably in our heart of hearts that one is unable, unwilling, to let go of him and of his message, his signs. Thus truly he is for so many of us The Way and The Truth and The Life.
True as a wedding pledge is true. True as a level line is true. True as an aim is true. True as an exact representation is true. True as a dearly held passion is true. True as his words and deeds pierce our hearts to their depths. True in that overarching metaphysical sense that His are ‘The Words of Life’; and ‘to Whom else might we go?’. True in their revelatory and explanatory power for life, and of life in abundance, and of meaning for all being and all existence. True as a compass point is true and a good guide to get us where we need to be. True as oak is true in its strength and its glory. True as no deviation from what is right is true. True as an offer is true, valid, authentic, dependable. True as a promise made is true because kept. True as the person who keeps his promise is true.
To finish, and to carry on the link with Shakespeare I have made use of in this article; here is a short four line rhyme which Hamlet in the play sends to Ophelia, his love. I want you to read the lines and accept them not as being lines about a romantic love affair; but as being lines about the way Jesus Christ is always and ever wholly, and cannot be otherwise than, true; absolutely there for us, yesterday today and forever:
“Doubt that the sun doth move
Doubt that the stars are fire
Doubt truth to be a liar
But never doubt I love”