I Am The Way, The Truth, And The Life

John 14: 1 – 8

42a0691f86808bcdb8bbe3db4d9e4d86I am the way, the truth, and the life (so most translations) is a fairly literal translation of the Greek text. Of the major modern language translations, only German Common Language Translation (GeCL) has a dynamic equivalent: “I am the way, and I am also the goal, since in me you have the truth and the life.” Even this restructuring is rather ambiguous for the average reader. What is the relation between the words way, truth, and life? In the present context Jesus as “the way” is the primary focus, and “truth” and “life” are somehow related to Jesus as “the way.” Thus there are two possible interpretations: (1) The emphasis may be on the goal to which the way leads (note GeCL). If this exegesis is followed, one may translate “I am the way that leads to the truth and to life”; or, expressed more fully, “I am the way that leads to the truth (about God) and to the life (that God gives).” (2) However, the emphasis may be on the way itself. If this exegesis is followed, “truth” and “life” must be taken as qualifiers of “way,” which is primary in the context. One may then render “I am the true way, the way that gives people life.” Or, more fully, “I am the way that reveals the truth (about God) and gives life (to people).” In effect, the two possible interpretations are close in meaning, and it is difficult to argue for one against the other. However, the context would seem to favor the second.

That the way is in primary focus in this passage is indicated by the words of Jesus in the second half of this verse: no one goes to the Father except by me. That is, the way is in focus, and the Father is the goal to which it leads. God is the source of all truth and life, and Jesus leads people to him.

In most languages it is quite possible to speak of Jesus as “a way” or “a road,” in the sense of a means by which a person may arrive at a particular destination. However, in some languages “way” or “road” does not have this metaphorical possibility, and one must use a term which more closely identifies the concept of “means,” that is, “I am the means by which people know the truth about God.…” In such cases Jesus’ statement could be rendered “I am the one by whom people know the truth about God and receive the life that God gives” or “… become truly alive” or even “… have true life.”

Rather than employ a negative such as no one followed by an exception such as except by me, it may be better in some languages to make the entire expression positive and include the concept of totality, for example, “All people must go to the Father by me” or “I alone am the one by whom people go to the Father.” This relation of Jesus to the Father as being a “way” or “road” may be rendered in some languages as “I am the only road that leads to the Father” or “… that leads to my Father.”

Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on the Gospel of John (p. 457). New York: United Bible Societies.