instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, June 01, 2009

μεγαλη η αληθεια

3 Esdras 3:1-5:6 tells the story of three servants of King Darius who decide to have a contest of wisdom. Each argues for what he considers to be the strongest thing in the world.

The first says wine is strongest, because "it leads astray the minds of all who drink it."

The second says the king is strongest, because "whatever he says to [his subjects] they obey."

The third says women are strongest, because women "have the mastery over men." But he adds that truth is victor over all things. He explains:
The earth is vast, and heaven is high, and the sun is swift in its course, for it makes the circuit of the heavens and returns to its place in one day. Is not the one who does these things great?

But truth is great, and stronger than all things. The whole earth calls upon truth, and heaven blesses it. All God's works quake and tremble, and with him there is nothing unrighteous.

Wine is unrighteous, the king is unrighteous, women are unrighteous, all human beings are unrighteous, all their works are unrighteous, and all such things. There is no truth in them and in their unrighteousness they will perish.

But truth endures and is strong for ever, and lives and prevails for ever and ever. With it there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked. Everyone approves its deeds, and there is nothing unrighteous in its judgment. To it belongs the strength and the kingship and the power and the majesty of all the ages. Blessed be the God of truth!
The story continues:
When he stopped speaking, all the people shouted and said, "Great is truth, and strongest of all!"
The Septuagint has the people saying, "megale he aletheia kai huperischuei," which I understand to mean, "Great [is] the truth and [it] prevails." This is the source of the motto of the Laetare Medal, and the inspiration for the conclusion of Judge Noonan's Laetare Remarks a few weeks back (remember?):
We can work together, serenely secure in that trust that the truth will out.
Does the above story bear the interpretive weight Judge Noonan ascribes it? Certainly pro-life people can work together with pro-abortion people to some extent, perhaps even to a great extent, but in what sense do we have serene security that "the truth will out"?

I'm coming back to this a lifetime (in blog-years) later, because I think it's worth understanding what we can by faith have serene security regarding.

In particular, given that the truth prevails, does it prevail in a way that gives serene security that abortion will soon be outlawed in the United States? I don't see how the context of the story in 3 Esdras supports the claim that it does. And if it doesn't, then what serenity or security does faith that the truth prevails give pro-lifers in working together with pro-abortioners?