Daily Archives: October 10, 2014

Defining Yourself By What You’re Not


One of the anti-atheist gems that started popping up around the early 2000s (at least, when I started noticing it) was the claim that atheism has no merit because atheist define themselves by what they’re not. It’s such a negative self-identification. Why not have a positive identification?

This post is going to attempt to be the one-stop potshot to end the whole “defining-yourself-by-what-you’re-not-because-of-Greek-etymology-and-is-therefore-bad” line of reasoning. Ready?

John 14.6

λέγει αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦς Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή: οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ δι᾽ ἐμοῦ.

Oh that wily Jesus, defining himself by what he’s not!

I suppose you didn’t notice it. Jesus, in John 14.6, calls himself the truth. How do you say truth in Greek? ἀλήθεια or aletheia. Well, there’s an alpha at the beginning of that word, just like there is for the word “atheist”. And it has the same function, too. Aletheia literally means something like “un-concealment” or “not-oblivion”.

It might not be too farfetched that the highly educated Greek-writing author of the gospel of John was aware of this etymology and purposefully had Jesus — who is supposed to be offering eternal life — declare himself to be “un-oblivion” or “un-concealment” in this gospel; the only gospel to do so. It may also be one of the reasons why this gospel had so many ties with Gnostics.

So. Defining yourself by what you’re not doesn’t seem very vacuous now, now does it?

1 Comment

Posted by on October 10, 2014 in greek

NeuroLogica Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Slate Star Codex


The Wandering Scientist

What a lovely world it is

NT Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion


Understand your mind with the science of psychology -


Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

Maximum Entropy

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Skepticism, Properly Applied

Criticism is not uncivil

Download PDF

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Research Digest

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Disrupting Dinner Parties

Feminism is for everyone!

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

The New Oxonian

Religion and Culture for the Intellectually Impatient

The Musings of Thomas Verenna

A Biblioblog about imitation, the Biblical Narratives, and the figure of Jesus

The Syncretic Soubrette

Snarky musings from an everyday woman