Under old English law two disputants would appear before a judge and plead their case. To convince the judge they were truthful, each would have a group of “oath helpers”. These helpers would affirm (or swear) that their man was truthful and would never tell a lie. As you would think, these groups of character witnesses grew larger as time went on. It’s as if “yes” did not mean “yes” and “no” did not mean “no”. Jesus had done away with all that previously when he said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.”
Most of us grew up with additional verbiage that demonstrated our credibility, such as, “I cross my heart and hope to die”, then added the ultimate declaration of our truthfulness, “Stick a million needles in my eye”. (What were we thinking?) The old contract-by-handshake days are gone, unless it is a trusted neighbor or life-long friend. I use “neighbor” in a positive sense, as opposed to the people whose property is next to mine. It’s a term of trust, not necessarily of location.
We also rest our hand on a Bible when swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We then add, “So help me God.” This is added assurance that we will not lie. I wonder sometimes if that still means anything at all. It would be wishful thinking to believe we could ever go back to a time when we could simply be asked a question, and we would be expected to tell the truth. We would have to go back pretty far, to a garden where Adam and Eve hid from God after they disobeyed him and learned some things they weren’t supposed to know. Perhaps that is when mankind learned to lie. We don’t have to go along with that trend.