The Biblical Meaning of Truth

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.”

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Read more at First Things

More about: Biblical Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf