Do Jews Have a Different Notion of Truth?
A television interview with a prominent Polish Catholic intellectual raised hackles in the Jewish world today. The Times of Israel reports:
Henryk Zielinski, editor-in-chief of the Catholic weekly Idziemy, said this on February 24 during an interview with TVP, according to the complaint that the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland filed on Monday with Poland’s National Council of Radio and Television. Jews have “a completely different system of values, a different concept of truth,” Zielinski said. “For us, the truth corresponds to facts. For the Jew, truth means something that conforms to his understanding of what’s beneficial. If a Jew is religious, then truth means something God wants.”
Here is a longer version of Fr. Zielinski's argument, from a blog post on his website:
In Greek-Roman civilization, truth is the compatibility of our thinking and speaking with the facts and the objective state of reality. The truth is revealed as existing regardless of our will and acceptance. In Jewish culture, truth is intentional-moral. What is considered right and subordinated to good is true. The untrue will be what does not serve him, even if it is justified in facts.
The ultimate point of reference in distinguishing the truth from falsehood is for the religious Jew the highest good which is God. For an unbelieving man, but stuck in the Jewish mentality, this is the point of reference of his own "I", which will result in the recognition that everyone has their own truth. For the Zionist, the criterion of recognizing something as true will be the good of the Jews and the State of Israel. (Emphasis added)
Judaism, to be sure, follows a divine command ethics (one follows God's will because it is God's will), while the Church (for the most part) argues that its ethical doctrine is founded in the natural law which can be understood by human reason. But it is nonsense to suggest that Judaism invents "the truth."
Zielinsky's nose is out of joint because some Jewish leaders have made an issue of Polish complicity in the Holocaust -- as he explains clearly in the same post.
It is Zielinsky who doesn't like certain facts because he can't bear to think about them. Anyone who imagines that Jews don't acknowledge facts prejudicial to them should read Jeremiah.
One indicator of the Jewish regard for the truth is the contribution of Jews in fields where the truth is hardest to dispute, namely science. According to Wikipedia, Jews have won 172 Nobel Prizes in scientific fields: 35 in physics, 54 in chemistry, 54 in medicine, and 29 and in economics. 320 Christians have won Nobel Prizes in the four "scientific" categories. Of these, Catholics have won 10 in physics, 10 in chemistry, 16 in medicine and 1 in economics.