It may well be an intentional white lie. This suddenly reminds me back when over 20 years ago, in the department coffee room one professor said that it is better to flat out intentionally lie to oversimplify in the beginning. The students, overwhelmed with all these new and alien concepts already, cannot possibly have the capacity to follow and understand the complete truth at that point anyway. They must first understand the general and important ideas that we veterans take for granted and forget how difficult those ideas really are, before they are able to understand the nitty gritty details of the complete truth.
Back then the grad student me just couldn't understand why he would do that, although I did wisely hold my tongue. And now having taught intro Java myself for fifteen years, at some point I tell my students that I do exactly this, and one of these semesters (as usual, it is always the next one) I am going to carry with me one of those old time clicker counters and press it every time I tell such a white lie, and at the end of the course it should show a value of about thirty.
For example, in the beginning when we write the first classes and methods, I say something like "When you write a Java method, the order in which you write its statements is absolutely essential, because changing the order of two statements in a million line program could totally change the behaviour of not just that one method but the entire program. However, the order in which you write the fields and methods in the class can never make a difference to anything."
Click. Of course it can, since initializers are executed in the order of declaration. (And this order would probably affect the results of reflection also... but as I like to say in my classes whenever any questions of this nature spontaneously emerge, I type the question in Google search box and say "O Stack Overflow, enlighten us again with your wisdom" before pressing the return key to make students chuckle when I click the first link of the results page to read the Stack Overflow answer.) But at that point, it is enormously more important to make the students fully understand that methods are not executed in the order that they are written, but in the order in which the outside world invokes them. Any minor technical inaccuracy that I need to do to make them understand this is well worth the price.
Remember that we are dealing with people who need to be explained the difference between returning a value from the method versus printing it on the console.
When we get to arrays, I don't use the terms "pass by value" and "pass by reference", but simply say that when giving an array object as argument to a method, the method receives only the memory address where that array object is stored. The caller and the method therefore share the very same object, so any modifications that the method makes to the array object will remain there after the control has returned to the caller. And then compare the example methods
public int reverse(int a)
public void reverseInPlace(int a)
In the last lecture of the course, I go through a bunch of interesting and important and interesting little details that I tell them would logically have belonged to the earlier lectures, but at that point would have only confused them. But now, having worked through all my labs and listened to the previous lectures, they are ready to learn and understand them. One of those little details just so happens to be the computer science terms "pass by value" and "pass by reference" (and why not take a peek at Wikipedia page "Evaluation strategy" while we are at it, to give them a quick sneak preview of how programming paradigms other than that of Java really exist out there), which inspired me to write this response when I saw this question.