"What Is Truth?"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306

Context: This is the famous question put by Pilate to Jesus after the Jews had led Him into the hall of judgment. Pilate has asked them what accusations they have brought, and their reply is that Jesus is a malefactor but that it is not lawful for them to put anyone to death. Pilate, with the ultimate responsibility of the judgment thrust upon him, inquires of Jesus if He considers Himself to be the King of the Jews, for on the answer depends Jesus' guilt in the eyes of the Roman Imperium. Jesus' reply is the famous "My kingdom is not of this world." He goes on to say that He was born "to bear witness unto the truth," and that "every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." Pilate's almost despairing question was used by Bacon as the opening sentence of his Essay on Truth. "'What is truth,' asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." In turn, Aldous Huxley used Bacon's phrase "Jesting Pilate" as the title of a volume of essays (1926). The passage from John follows:

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Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jew: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

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