A relationship of conformity pertaining to God's intellect by which He is perfectly and truly Himself and determines the being of all things according to His idea of them (ontological truth); understands fully and accurately His own being and that of all other things (logical truth, only virtually in God); and sincerely manifests Himself to man in divine revelation (moral truth).
The OT word for truth is 'ĕmet, which conveys not only the idea of truthfulness and fidelity to one's word but also of the firmness, steadiness, reliability, and objective accuracy of that word. It is related to the word amen ('āmēn ), Israel's sure affirmation that a statement or revelation of God is certain. The word 'ĕmet means that God as truth can be trusted, relied upon, that He and His utterances are a solid base or guide for directing one's own actions and give a guarantee of practical certitude. This theme runs through the entire OT. In this sense, God "renders" truth in 2 Sm 2.6. The prophets, too, have the certainty of truth in 1 Kgs 17.24 and Jer 23.28. God's words and law are ‘ĕmet, that is, a solid reality on which a man can base his life [cf. Psalm 118 (119); 26 (27).3; Jn 3.21]. And, in fact, God's truth (a certain way of life) demands a corresponding truth from man (observance of God's law, or morality).
In the OT ‘ĕmet goes with ḥesed. The word ḥesed means God's goodness, loyal devotedness, gracious kindness. These two notions of devotedness and fidelity, or truth, convey the fact that God is utterly faithful to His self-appointed responsibilities toward Israel, as well as that Israel has experienced this constancy: God is rich in devotedness and fidelity (Ex 34.6).
In the NT, with the Greek word άλήθεια certain Hellenistic overtones are added, particularly in the Gospel and Epistles of St. John and in St. Paul. Here truth suggests the manifestation of God's essence, or inner reality, which also casts light on the meaning of created things. God's truth thus delivers man from the blindness of falsehood that surrounds him (Jn 1.9; 8.37, 40, 45; 2 Jn 1–2; 1 Tm 2.4). Thus, history, creation, and the physical universe become a revelation of God Himself, not merely this or that doctrine. God unveils Himself, especially in manifesting throughout history His fidelity to His covenant and election of Israel, culminating in the Incarnation and Second Coming.
The Fathers and the magisterium of the Church speak of God as true, opposing this note to His supposed nonexistence or illusory character (see creeds and Vatican Council I, Enchiridion symbolorum, 3001, 3021). The Church also teaches that God is the font of every truth (Enchiridion symbolorum, 2811), that God is incapable of deceiving man (Enchiridion symbolorum, 3008).
St. Thomas Aquinas explores God as first truth. God is perfectly Himself as He must be because He is infinitely perfect (ontological truth). God knows Himself fully, exhaustively; for if knowledge is a union between knower and known, God is absolutely identified with His own being and with His own act of self-understanding (logical truth). Furthermore, God is the truth of all other things since they depend upon Him for the truth or perfection of their own being; His knowledge of them determines them.
This doctrine relates to the life of Christian contemplation, which seeks the fullness of truth, in that the Christian man, like the Biblical man of both Testaments, must come to perceive God's truth as manifested in things and see their relationship of dependence upon God. This use of the created universe in contemplation can lead the Christian to a heightened understanding and awareness of his intimate contact in this life with God's own being through faith, grace, the divine indwelling, and the gifts. It can also lead to a strengthening of the contact itself to be brought to perfection in the immediacy of the beatific vision.
In addition to theology's interest in the subject of divine truth, there is also a frequent concern of philosophy with many questions about knowing God and knowing Him as the true God, about reconciling natural and possible supernatural sources of truth, and about the objectivity of human knowledge.
See Also: god, articles on; truth; truth (in the bible); revelation, theology of.
Bibliography: a. gelin, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951-), Tables générales 1:975–993. "Wahrheit," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) v.10. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 2498–2502. j. j. von allmen, ed., A Companion to the Bible (New York 1958) 430–433. j. guillet, Themes of the Bible, tr. a. j. lamothe (Notre Dame, Ind. 1960) 32–40. St. Thomas, Summa theologiae 1a, 16, 21; De ver.
[g. j. roxburgh]