In Knowledge through Ritual, the theologian Dru Johnson argues that people come to true knowledge through deeds rather than through reflection. To ground this argument in the Bible, he cites Yoram Hazony’s understanding of the Hebrew word emet, usually translated as “truth.” Peter Leithart writes:
Johnson points out that, in the Bible, the word “truth” can apply to actions such as treatment of a servant, anointing, or walking; to statements; and to things like tent pegs, roads, and seeds. A concept that covers so much diverges from our normal understandings of truth. . . .
For the Hebrew Bible . . . truth is primarily “reliability”: “A true cut (or maintaining a true course in a ship) is one that reliably ‘is what it ought to be.’” Quoting Hazony, [Johnson] adds that “in the Hebrew Bible, that which is true is that which proves, in the face of time and circumstance, to be what it ought; whereas that which is false is that which fails . . . to be what it ought.”
This is quite a striking definition, [according to which truth] is evident only over time, as true things prove themselves against the ravages of circumstance. . . . A tent peg is true because it’s reliable over time, just as a statement is true. . . .
As Hazony puts it: “On the biblical conception . . . it would seem that the truth or falsity of the spoken word . . . cannot be known until it has proved itself reliable in the course of investigation, which is to say, in the course of time.”