- TRUTH (Heb. אֱמֶת, ʾemet). The Bible often speaks of God as "the God of truth" (e.g., Jer. 10:10; Ps. 31:6), as does the Talmud where this synonymity climaxes in the famous dictum: "The Seal of God is truth" (Shab. 55a; TJ, Sanh. 1:5). The same idea is also found in medieval Jewish philosophy (Maim., Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah 1:4; Joseph Albo, Sefer ha-Ikkarim, 2:27). In rabbinic theology "Truth" is one of the 13 attributes of God (cf. Ex. 34:6). In Judaism truth is primarily an ethical notion: it describes not what is but what ought to be. Thus, in the Bible, truth is connected with peace (Zech. 8:16), righteousness (Mal. 2:6ff.), grace (Gen. 24:27, 49), justice (Zech. 7:9), and even with salvation (Ps. 25:4ff.; cf. Avot 1:18, "The world rests on three things – truth, justice, and peace"). In maimonides ' and Hermann cohen 's concept of God as the absolute paradigm of morality, from "the God of truth" follows the human virtue of "truthfulness" (H. Cohen, Religion der Vernunft (1929), index, S.V. Wahrhaftigkeit). Since God keeps truth (Ps. 146:6), only the man who speaks truth can come near Him (Ps. 145:18; Yoma 69b). Thus, also, Moritz lazarus (Ethik des Judentums, 2 (1911), 123ff.) and E. Berkovits (God and Man (1969), ch. 2) translate emet as "faithfulness" (emunah), identifying it ultimately with Jewish faith. God acts truthfully in that He keeps His word. Human truthfulness is to be faithful to God and man. This is specified in many ways: to speak truth even in one's heart (Ps. 15:2ff.); always to quote correctly (Meg. 16a); to engage in commerce honestly (Mak. 24a); and to abstain from all deceit and hypocrisy (BM 49a; Yoma 72b; Maim., Yad, De'ot 2:6). In sum, as God is truth so Judaism as a whole is the practice of truth (BB 74a). Jewish philosophers generally accepted the Greek notion of truth as "correspondence with reality" (saadiah gaon , Book of Beliefs and Opinions, preface and 3:5; Abraham ibn daud , Emunah Ramah, 2:3). Even such intellectualism, however, is ultimately superseded by biblical ethicism (e.g., Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:53, end). In modern Jewish philosophy, Hermann Cohen designates the normative unity of cognition and ethics as "the fundamental law of truth" (Ethik des reinen Willens (1904), ch. 1). Martin buber also identifies Jewish faith (emunah) with truth as interpersonal trust. Thus, truth as a human, ethical criterion is commonplace throughout the mainstream of Jewish thinking. (Steven S. Schwarzschild)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.