What is Truth?

by Tom Smith

Last Updated: September 15, 2006 



The Watchtower Society has established their own definition for truth. In “Aid to Bible Understanding”, the definition of a “Lie” is given, in part, as follows:

The opposite of truth. Lying generally involves saying something false to a person who is entitled to know the truth and doing so with the intent to deceive or injure him or another person(3)

It is important to note the following in this definition:


-          It “generally” meets this definition, so this is not an absolute definition. It appears that there may be circumstances where a statement within the definition of a lie could be re-defined as not a lie.

-          It is not a lie if something false is said to a person not entitled to the truth. And according to the Watchtower, this includes those that they classify as “God’s foes” (4), which presumably may include those opposed to the Watchtower Society (and their teachings), who teach that they are God’s “prophet” on earth(5), and the “God’s organization”(6).


This leaves considerable latitude for the individual Jehovah’s Witness. To be fair, and to their credit, the definition of a lie does not permit them to lie under oath. In contrast, let’s see what scripture has to say about lying:

Ex 20:16

16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.



Ex 23:1

23:1 "You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.



Deut 19:15-20

 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.



Ps 52:3

3 You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness.



Ps 109:2

2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful Have opened against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue.


Ps 119:29-30

Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously. 30 I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.



Ps 119:163

163 I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law.



Prov 6:16-19

16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,

18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,

19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.



Prov 12:17

17 He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit.



Prov 14:5

5 A faithful witness does not lie, But a false witness will utter lies.



Prov 19:5

5 A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies will not escape.



Jer 8:8-9

8 "How can you say, 'We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.

9 The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?



Rom 13:8-10

8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."



There are many more examples. It should be noted that the Watchtower definition of lying does not circumvent what these scriptures say since they speak about speaking falsely, and none of the scripture, nor are there any scriptures which endorse or speak positively about saying something false.


In their defense, the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the following examples from scripture, which they claim show that God endorses lying in certain circumstances:




Rahab was a harlot who is recorded in scripture as hiding the Israelite spies to protect them when they were scouting out Jericho. In return for her service in protecting them, they promised Rahab and her family safety when the Israelites attacked the city. Here is the account from scripture:

Josh 2:1-7

2:1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country." 4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them." 6(But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.


Since Rahab was a harlot, it appears clear that she was not a believer at that point in time. There is reason to believe, however that she did become a believer because she is record in Hebrews 11 as a person of faith. She apparently did believe that it was the right thing to do to protect rather than betray these men, and scripture does state that in that regard she did the right thing:

Heb 11:30-32

 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.


There is nothing that endorses the fact that she lied, but she protected the men in the best way that she knew how. Fortunately, even when we fail, our justification is not in our own merit, but our justification is through Jesus who, through his sacrifice on the cross, washes away our sins, including lying. We see other Old Testament saints, such as David who committed murder, but yet was included amongst the men of faith in Hebrews 11. Therefore the inclusion of Rahab as a woman of faith does not suggest that God endorsed her sin of lying, but rather her faith in God, and in the coming Messiah justified her in the eyes of God despite her sins.




The claim is that God honoured and endorsed the lie that Sarai was Abram sister. Let’s look at the record from scripture on this topic:

Gen 12:10-17

 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you."


14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.


First, it is important to note that Abram lied to Pharaoh for personal protection. This was not a direction from God, and indeed showed no faith in God’s ability to protect them from harm, but rather he choose to take things into his own hands, something that we see time and time again throughout scripture, and it caused problems. In this case, plagues fell upon Pharaoh for having taken in another man’s wife and when he found out about it, he was angry for having been deceived. Nothing in scripture endorses what Abram did in lying to Pharaoh.




The Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently say that Jesus did not tell the truth in John 7:

John 7:8-10

 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.


The claim is that Jesus said that he was not going but misled them and then went. But that is not what he said. He said that he was going to the feats yet, but that they should go, and he later followed after they had gone. He said that his time was not yet, so the time was not right for him to leave. Later when he was ready, he did leave for the feast. There was no deception stated or implied.




The Watchtower has redefined the definition of a lie to allow them, under certain circumstances to mislead or provide false information and yet feel that they are in concert with God’s will. Nothing in scripture gives any such allowance or comforts those who give such false testimonies.





1)      New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Copy right 1961, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania

2)     Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.

3)     Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, P.1060, Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

4)     Watchtower, June 1, 1960, Page 352, Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

5)     Watchtower, April 1, 1972, Page 197, Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

6)     Watchtower, January 15, 1983, Page 27, Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.


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