My dear Kacvey,

This is a story that you may wish to share with your students about the notion of truth and its value, as truth has lately been subject of assault from liars, conspirators theorists and adepts of alternative truth or alternative universe. The story went way back to the pre-christian era.

In Book XI of Jewish Antiquities, Josephus narrated the story of Darius who went to bed, but, after resting a brief part of the night, awoke and being unable to sleep any longer, fell to talking to his three bodyguards. Darius asked his first bodyguard whether wine was the strongest thing,  and the second whether kings were, and the third whether women were, or whether truth was the strongest of all. Darius also promised his three bodyguards that whoever should give the truest and most intelligent speech on the subject would be bestowed sumptuous and enormous gifts including the honorific title of “Kinsman.”

When Darius had set these questions for them to examine, he took his rest. Then in the morning he summoned the nobles, satraps and toparchs of Persia and Media, and, taking his seat in the place where he was wont to give judgement, he bode each of the bodyguards give his opinion on the matters in question in the hearing of all.

And the first bodyguard began to speak on the power of wine. When he ceased speaking, the second bodyguard began speaking about the power of the king. When he ceased speaking, the third bodyguard began to discourse on women, and then on truth, saying: “I have now shown how great is the strength of women, but none the less both they and the king are weaker than truth. For although the earth is very great and the heavens high and the sun swift, yet all these move in accordance with the will of God, and, since He is true and just, we must for the same reason believe truth also to be the strongest thing, against which no injustice can prevail. Furthermore, all other things that possess strength are by nature mortal and short-lived, but truth is a thing immortal and eternal. And it gives us, not beauty, that fades with time, nor wealth, of which fortune may rob us, but what is just and lawful, and from this it keeps away injustice and puts it to shame.”

The third bodyguard name is Zorobabelos. When Zorobabelos ended his speech on truth, whereupon the assembly acclaimed him as the best speaker, saying that it was truth alone which had unchanging and unaging strength. And the king directed him to ask for something beyond what he himself had promised, for, he said, he would give it to him for being wise and showing himself more intelligent than the others.  “You shall,” he added, “be seated next to me and be called my Kinsman.”

When the king had said this, Zorobabelos reminded him of what he had vowed to do if he obtained the throne: this was to rebuild Jerusalem and construct the temple of God there and restore the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken as spoil to Babylon.