When an Understatement Serves as a Lie
GOD’S Word is truth. How could it be otherwise, since justice is one of Jehovah’s cardinal attributes and “it is impossible for God to lie”? (John 17:17; Heb. 6:18, NW) That fact gives us strong basis for faith, even as the money-loving prophet Balaam was forced to tell King Balak, who offered bribes to get Balaam to curse Israel: “God is not a man that he should break his word, nor a human being that he should change his mind.”—Num. 23:19, AT.
In direct contrast with Jehovah God stands Satan the Devil, concerning whom Christ Jesus, in addressing the religious leaders of his day, said: “He is a liar and the father of the lie.”—John 8:44, NW.
Of course, the motive for using falsehoods and deceit is a selfish one, a desire to gain one’s ends by “fair means or foul”. Selfish men, in an effort to appear righteous or because of realizing that they cannot get away with out-and-out falsehoods or lies, resort to half-or part-truths or understatements to give a false impression. However, their ulterior motives prompting them to such a course, and the resultant blinding of the people to their own best interests, make such purveyors of half-truths as guilty in the sight of God as if they had uttered out-and-out lies.
A flagrant example of an understatement serving as a lie appeared in Collier’s magazine for October 4, 1952. Telling of the progress in translating the Bible into English the writer makes the following understatement: “In 1525, the first English-language New Testament was printed in Germany and smuggled into England, where it was widely read despite the opposition of church officials (they were at odds with its translator William Tyndale).”
What would the public gather from that parenthetical statement? Simply that there was a personal disagreement between the “church” and Tyndale. Could they or would they appreciate that the issue was that of giving the common people a Bible in their own tongue? Would they gather from that that the Roman Catholic clergy in Tyndale’s day were so notoriously ignorant of God’s Word that Tyndale said: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than the great body of clergy now know”?
Would the readers be able to gather from that parenthetical statement that there was so much opposition to putting the Bible into print that he found “there was no place to do it in all Englonde”, necessitating his having to do it on the continent? And would they gather that this being at odds with the “church” was so serious that spies were sent to entrap him even outside of England; that one of these, posing as a friend interested in Bible translation, betrayed Tyndale, causing him to be strangled and then burned at the stake? And would they gather from that that Tyndale’s last words were: “O Lord, open the king of England’s eyes”? No, they would not. All of that is glossed over by the parenthetical understatement, “they were at odds with its translator, William Tyndale.” Truly understatements do serve as lies.