Jesus said, “You will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
St. John had something else about Jesus and the truth in Chapter One of his Gospel. There he said, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
God’s sacred truths are taught indirectly in our first reading for today, in the Book of the Prophet Daniel.
Although the Book of Daniel seems to give the account of events from the later years of Nebuchadnezzar who ruled in Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C., in fact the details in the Bible’s story about Nebuchadnezzar do not match what we know from history.
Language experts who closely examine ancient texts are a hundred percent in agreement that this book was composed between 167 and 164 B.C. at a time when the Jews were being persecuted by the Syrian king Antiochus !V.
That Antiochus IV after robbing the temple of its gold tried excusing his action by saying he only wanted to modernize the Jews. He mounted a golden statue of Zeus on the altar, and he opened youth gymnasiums where he fed the young men non-kosher food. Those events have strong echoes in this story. The heroic young men would not eat unclean food, and would not bow to the wicked king’s statue.
There are some factual legends behind the book. There was a prophet named Daniel at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but Bible scholars believe that God inspired a skillful story teller to compose this fiction.
Most of us as kids were made to believe everything in the Bible to be factual. Well, that was wrong. The Bible contains fables and all kinds of literature that are not factual. However, there is solid truth underlying all the stories.
In teaching grade school Bible classes for twenty-four years I was often met with young people who believed respect for the holy book obliged them to take everything as factual. While admiring their good intentions we must lead them to see that in places God uses fictional accounts where he wants us to discern the vital truths by reading between the lines.