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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: Truth is more than facts for you (John 1:17)

John 1:16-17. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Exegesis and Application

The key defining word in our passage is “fullness” in vs. 16. The Greek word is “pleroma,” which can be translated “complete,” “nothing lacking,” and “fully developed.” John Murray (Principles of Conduct) notes that what John is contrasting here is the partial, incomplete character of the Mosaic law with the “fullness” of the revelation of “grace and truth” in Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “truth” in vs. 17 is the common Greek term, “alethieia.” So to get the meaning of “truth” in our passage, one must look to the context of contrast because “the law given through Moses” was not false or untrue.

There are several Biblical uses for the term “truth,” but for my purpose the Bible speaks of two major types of “truth.”

1) Philosophic “truth,” which is “true” as contrasted with concealment, deception, lying, or the false or untrue. This usage refers to that which accords with deeds, actuality, reliability, accuracy, verifiability, reality and that which is genuine, correct, honest and sincere. It is the definition usually used by Plato, Aristotle and the other Greek and Roman philosophers. In the Bible, it is used in this context in passages such as Matt. 22:15; Mark 5:33; 12:14, 32; Acts 26:25; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 4:2; 6:4-7; 7:14; Gal. 4:16; Eph. 4:25; 2 Tim. 4:3-4;etc. It is this definition of “truth” as contrasted with lying that journalists usually think of, and I will cover this in future blogs.

But it is not the definition of truth in this passage.

2) In vs. 17, the term “true” connotes not so much the “true” in contrast with the false or the real in contrast with the fictitious:
*the absolute (Jesus) is contrasted with the relative (Moses) (John 1:14)
*the ultimate (Jesus) is contrasted with the derived (Moses) (1 John 5:20)
*the eternal (Jesus) is contrasted with the temporal (Moses) (Heb. 9:9)
*the permanent (Jesus) is contrasted with the temporary (Moses) (John 17:6)
*the complete (Jesus) is contrasted with the partial (Moses) (Heb. 10:4)
*the veiled (Jesus) is contrasted with the visible (Moses) (2 Cor. 3:14)
*the substantial (Jesus) is contrasted with the shadowy (Moses) (Col. 2;17).

It is with this definition in mind that the Old Testament speaks of a future redeemed community as a community of truth tellers (Zech. 8:3; cf, Is. 1:26; Jer. 33:16). We Christians are now part of that future community of truth tellers.

What does this mean for the Christian journalist?

1) The Christian journalist must report and write with the first adjective in the above list present in his mind as he crafts his narrative of the story because this is now the true state of reality because of the coming of Jesus Christ.

2) The Christian journalist must report and write in such a way that the context of an event will be understood by the reader. Context, context, context. Partial reporting is sub-Christian reporting. So the Christian journalist needs to know some history, some philosophy, some sociology, and some politics in order to give a complete picture.

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