Why do you know what you know?
Pliny the Elder (who perished at Pompeii in the eruption of Vesuvius) wrote what was considered the first encyclopedia called Natural History. In it, he described creatures such as a man with a dog’s head, one-eyed humans, and dwarf-like creatures with a single food protruding from the center of their bodies.
Most accepted Pliny’s descriptions as accurate sight unseen. His tales got retold as truth for centuries.
But then, the age of discovery happened. Men like Columbus and Vasco da Gamba begin to explore beyond the horizons.
One such was Ferdinand Magellan. His armada completed the first circling of the earth.
Magellan went with a different sense. As author Laurence Bergreen wrote, he went with a sense of “autopsis.” The term is Greek, meaning “to see with your own eyes.” (Our English term “autopsy” comes from it.) He went to see for himself. Bergreen commented that men once relied on what others told them. Now they would see the world with their own eyes.
Before 1440, the clergy was the conduit of God’s will. They described and defined what God wanted. But when Gutenberg invented movable type, the Bible could be printed. And then, men like William Tyndall and John Wycliffe took it a step further. They translated the Bible into the language of the average man, who could read it for themselves.
The medieval gave way to the modern. People could see the truth for themselves.
It marked the change from medieval to modern. In the previous, you relied on what others told you. In religion, the priest was the conduit of God’s word. You could only rely on what he told you. If he told you wrong, you believed it.
Social media lets anyone parade as an expert. Most pass along what they read from someone who read from someone else.
Many speakers and preachers do the same. They tell you what they learned from graduate school, not what they learned in life.
The knowledge is four-day-old bread stale and is worthless.
The learned experts pontificate and pronounce. Too many rely on what they were taught or the title worn by some men. Yet, the only sure way to know the truth is to see it yourself.
We need to live our lives with a sense of autopsis.
No one knows the truth until he sees it for himself.
The doctor Luke praises the Bereans for their autopsis approach to Paul. He records:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, ESV)
The need to search for oneself became clear to me 25 years ago.
I was part of a mission team that planted a church in Klaipeda, Lithuania, after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Priests had taught parents who taught children.
I had two young ladies translating for me. As is typical, translators must process what they hear to translate it accurately. I could tell they were learning. They were also growing angry.
I was not the target of their irritation. Instead, the women asked, “why didn’t our parents tell us this?”
I wanted to sidestep a family schism, so I explained it this way:
It is like someone trying to describe DaVinci’s, Mona Lisa. They never saw it, but others told them how it looked. They only told you how others told it to them. Then, one day, you go to Paris, to the Louvre. You see it for yourself. Now, it looks nothing like the picture described.
Your parents told you what they had only heard from others. But now that you have seen it for yourself, you have to decide what to do with the truth you learn.
All I was telling them was to approach their lives with autopsis…to see for yourself. Listen to others but learn for yourself. Check out the truth for accuracy and reliability. If not, you can only blame yourself.
You do not have to sail the oceans, but you can plumb the depths of truth for yourself. Until you see it for yourself, you won’t know the truth.