Yesterday, I introduced a blog series on Phil. 4:8. We will be examining the Greek word for each of the English nouns after the famous "Whatever is" statements in Phil. 4:8.
The first "whatever is" statement is: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true,..."
The Greek word for the English word "true" is ἀληθής (alēthḗs). This means to be 'without a lie' (Zodhiates, 2000).
The word appears in the New Testament 26 times, 21 of which the word simply means 'true.'
3 Times it occurs as 'truthful.' It also occurs once as 'truly' in (Jn. 4:18) and once as 'real' in Acts 12:9, describing that what the Angles had done was real and not a vision or something fake.
Here are some of the definitions for this Greek word in context of Phil 4:8 via some of the popular and established Bible Dictionaries:
True in conduct, sincere, upright, honest and just (Zodhiates, 2000).
Not concealing, instead truthful (Strong, 2009).
Honest, truthful, having integrity (Mt 22:16) (Swanson, 1997).
Consistently “upright,” (Kittel, 1964).
There are two themes that catch my eye. First, is the idea of merely living honest and truthful. The second is living 'upright.' Living true is not just about living honestly, even many atheists attempt to live honest and truthfully. What is interesting is that to be 'true' according to his passage is also to live true to a moral standard, to live 'upright.' I believe Paul had this in mind when he chose this Greek word but we will be looking more at the other Greek words in this verse as the series continues and I believe that the moral upright standard will continue to be a theme. As with all of Paul's theology, righteousness is so important. Living upright is one of the facets to righteousness.
How do we live this way?
Think truthfully. Dwell on things that are true. Live honestly. I get the strong sense from my studies that we are to live as valid Christians (Beasley-Murray, 2002, p. 129). By this we are to actually be real about every aspect of our lives. We are to be honest and truthful in all things. We are to honor Christ with our words, actions, thoughts and behaviors. In every way we are to be upright and authentic. We are to be true saints, true followers of Christ, true scholars of the Word and true in every step we take. We need Christ to help us as we walk honestly at every step of the way.
Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: John. Word Biblical Commentary (129). Dallas: Word,
Vol. 1: Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G.
Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (248). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Strong, J. (2009). Vol. 1: A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The
Hebrew Bible (9–10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New
Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.).
Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.