Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 3

St. Clement of Alexandria recognizes the Golden Rule in its affirmative formulation and in its negative formulation. He states it affirmatively in his Paedagogus. He states it negatively in his Stromata.
And by one God are many treasures dispensed; some disclosed by the law, others by the prophets; some to the divine mouth, and others to the heptad of the spirit singing accordant. And the Lord being one, is the same Instructor by all these. Here is then a comprehensive precept, and an exhortation of life, all-embracing: "As you would that men should do unto you, do likewise to them."
Paed. 3.88.1 [III.12].
Those, then, will not escape the curse of yoking an ass with an ox who, judging certain things not to suit them, command others to do them, or the reverse. This Scripture has briefly showed, when it says, "What you hate you shall not do to another." [Tobit 4:15]
Strom., 2.139.2 [II.23]

A certain Evagrius, probably a Gallic monk who was the disciple of Martin of Tours, in his Altercatio legis inter Simonem Iudaeum et Theophilum Christianum (dating from the 5th century), has the Christian Theophilus tell Simon the Jew that the Golden Rule (in its negative formulation) is part of the "circumcision of the heart":
All concupiscence of desire he removed from the heart. For this is the circumcision of the New Testament, that God Christ, Son of God, extended: that we circumcises ourselves from desire, avarice, malice, cupidity, theft, fraud, fornication, and all that which you do not want another to do to you, you do not do to another. This is the circumcision of the Christians, which the first saints had, that is, Enoch, Noah, Job, Melchizedek, which did not have circumcision according to the flesh, but according to the heart.

Omnis concpiscentia libidinis de corde concipitur. Proinde circumcisio novi testamenti talis est, quam Deus Christus Filius Dei, ostendit, ut circumcidamus nons libidinem, avaritiam, malitiam, cupidtatem, furta, fraudes, fornicationem, et omne quod tibi non vis fieri, alio ne feceris. Haec est circumcisio Christianorum, quam et primi sanctorum habuerunt, scilicet Enoch, Noe, Iob, Melchisedec, qui non carnis sed circumcisionem cordis habuerunt.
Lib. V, 70-78.

In the Sentences of Sextus, a collection of ethical aphorisms perhaps written in the second century, and at one time popular with Christians, we find both negative and positive formulations of the Golden Rule. Originally written in Greek, it was translated into Latin by Rufinus:
No. 79: Qualem vis esse tibi proximum tuum, talis et tu esto proximis tuis.

That which you wish your neighbor to do to you, the same should you do to your neighbor.

No. 179: Ea quae pati non vis, neque facias.

What you do not want to happen to you, do not do to another.

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 2

CONTINUING WITH OUR CITATIONS of sources of the early Church in the area of the Golden Rule, we begin with St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon (Lugdunum) in the Roman province of Gaul. We find mention of the Golden Rule in his famous work Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies. St. Irenaeus addresses the Gnostic bias against the Old Testament, even to the point of holding that one God is revealed in the Old Testament, and another God revealed in the New Testament. He refers to the so-called Council of Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15, and the efforts to determine how much of the Mosaic law applied to the Gentile converts. The council is to have resulted in the following decree:
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, that they may declare our opinion by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden that these necessary things: that you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from fornication; and whatsoever you do not wish to be done to you do not to others: from which preserving yourselves, you shall do well, walking in the Holy Spirit.

Placuit enim sancto Spiritui, et nobis, nullum amplius vobis pondus imponere, quam haec, quae sunt necessaria: ut abstineatis ab idolothythis, et sanguine, et fornicatione; et quecunque non vultis fieri vobis, aliis ne faciatis: a quibus custodientes vos ipsos, bene agetis, ambulantes in Spiritu sancto.
Adv. haer., III.12.14. St. Irenaeus appears to reference the so-called Council of Jerusalem, and the Latin text of his Adversus Haereses appears to add a formulation to the Apostolic decision in Acts 15 that is not found in most of our Bibles, specifically, that part that proposes the Golden Rule as the "necessary things" (quae sunt necessaria). The so-called "Western text-type" manuscripts (e.g., the Codex Bezae) contain this additional "Golden Rule" injunction, whereas the Alexandrian text-type (e.g., the Codex Sinaiticus or the Codex Vaticanus, upon which our versions appear to rely) do not. An example of the differences may be noted by comparing Acts 15:22-29 in the New American Standard Bible with an English translation of the same section in the Codex Bezae.

Codex Bezae

Acts 15:22-29,
Codex Bezae
Acts 15:22-29,

22. Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, Judas called Barabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.

23. And they wrote a letter by their hands containing as follows. The apostles and the elder brethren unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting:

24. Forasmuch as we have heard that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment;

25. it seemed good unto us, having come to one accord, to choose out men, and send them to you with your beloved Barnabas and Paul,

26. men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every trial.

27. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves also shall tell you the same things by word of mouth.

28. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

29. that ye abstain from idol sacrifices, and from blood, [and from things strangled], and from fornication and whatsoever ye would not should be done to yourselves, ye do not to another. From which if ye keep yourselves ye do well, being sustained by the Holy Spirit. Fare ye well.
22. Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas-- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,

23. and they sent this letter by them, "The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.

24.Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

26. men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27. Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.

28. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:

29. that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."

(For the English translation of the Codex Bezae, see

Bardaisan (Syriac: ܒܪܕܝܨܢ, Bardaiṣān) (154–222 A.D.), also known as Bardesanes, was a Syrian Gnostic frequently compared to Origen. He wrote about the Golden Rule in both its negative and affirmative forms in his book Liber Legum Regionum, 11.
For two precepts are laid before us that fit beautifully and decorously with liberty. First, that we shall never serve any evil upon anyone, from that which we would not will to befall to ourselves. And the other, that we should do that which is good, what is pleasant to us and what we desire to have done to ourselves. For what man is it that is so bodily ill that he cannot avoid to steal, to lie, or not to commit adultery or fornication, or to be envious, or deceive?

Duo enim sunt praecepta coram nobis posita quae libertati pulchra sunt et decora: primum nempe ut servemus nos ab omni malo, et ab eo quod nollemus nobis fieri: alterum ut faciamus id quod bonum est et quod diligamus et desideremus nobis etiam fieri. Quis est homo qui ita infirmus est ut nequeat se abstinere a furto aut mendacio, aut ab adulterio, aut a stupro, aut ab invidia et falsitate?
Patrologia Syriaca, Vol. 2, 550.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 1

THE GOLDEN RULE WAS CENTRAL TO THE MORAL TEACHINGS of the early Church. Interestingly, both negative and positive formulations appear to have been adopted as normative. Frequently, both positive and negative formulations are combined in the same text.

We saw in the prior posting various formulations of the Golden Rule, including those of the Didache, at text which dates to the late first and early second century, and which was very clearly reliant on Jewish sources. The Didache was highly regarded by the early Church, as Eusebius the first Church historian tells us, it was well-nigh considered canonical.

As a moral teaching, the Golden Rule was ubiquitous. We will review various formulations of it. Unfortunately, not all of these texts in their original languages are easily accessible.

In the Disdascalia Apostolorum:
But for men who obey God there is one law, simple and true and mild -- without question, for Christians -- this, that which you hate that it should be done to you by another, you do not to another [cf. Tob 4.15]. You would not that a man should look upon thy wife evilly to corrupt her: neither look thou upon the wife of thy companion with evil intent. You would not that a man should take away thy garment: neither do thou take away that of another. You would not be reviled and insulted, or beaten: neither do you to another anyone of these things. But if a man revile you, do you bless him; for it is written in the Book of Numbers: He that blesses is blessed, and he that curses is cursed [cf. Num 24.9; Gen 27.29]. And in the Gospel also it is written again: Bless them that curse you [Lk 6.28; Mt 5.44]. And to them that do you evil, do not you evil; and do good to them that hate you [Lk 6.27], and be patient and endure, for the Scripture says: You shall not say: I will render to mine enemy evil, even as he has done to me: but be patient, and the Lord will be your helper, and will bring a recompense upon him that does you evil [Prov 20.22]. And again He says in the Gospel: Love them that hate you, and pray for them that curse you, and you shall have no enemy [Mt 5.44;Lk 6.27; Did 1.3]. Let us attend then, our beloved, and understand these commandments and keep them, that we may be sons of the light [cf. Jn 12.36; Eph 5.8; 1 Th 5.5].

Eis autem hominibus, qui oboediunt Deo, una lex est simplex, vera, sine quaestione Christianis constituta ita: Quod tibi fieri ab alio oderis, tu alii ne feceris. Non vis uxorem tuam ut quis adtendat in malo ad corrumpendum eam; nec to proximi tui mulierem adtendas in malo. Non vis pallium tuum ab alio tolli; nec tu alii tuleris. Non vis vulnerari aut iniuriam pati aut detrectari de te; nec tu alii ita facies. Se maledicata te quis; tu benedic illum, quoniam scriptum est in libro Numer(or)um: Que benedicit, benediceter, et qui maledicit, maledictus erit. [Propterea] similiter et in Evangelio scriptum est: Benedicite maledicentes vos. Eos qui vos nocent, nolite renocere, sed sustinete, quoniam dicit scriptura: Ne dicas noceam inimicum meum, quonian me nocuit; sed sustine, ut Dominus te adiuvet et vindictam faciat super eum, qui te nocuit. Nam iterum in Evangelio dicit: Diligite odientes vos et orate pro maledicentibus vos et inimicum nullum habebitis. Intenti igitur simus mandatis istis, dilecti[ssimi], ut filii lucis inveniamur, cum ea agimus.
Disdascalia, I.1-2 (R. Hugh Connolly, trans. with modernization; Latin from Franz Zaver von Funk) [Cf. Apostolic Constitutions 1, 1.]

The Epistula Apostolorum or Epistle of the Apostles is an apocryphal work, and yet of early origin, the text of which has been found in Ethiopic and Coptic.
But look now, I give unto you a new commandment: Love one another and [one leaf missing in Coptic] obey each other and (that) continual peace reign among you. Love your enemies, and what you do not want done to you, that do to no one else.
Ron Cameron, ed. The Other Gospels, 142 (18 Duensing version].

The Apologia ad Autolycum of Theophilus, an early apologetic work of the 2nd century bishop, Theophilus of Antioch, notable for being the first Christian text to use the word "Trinity," (Greek τριας or trias) clearly makes reference to the Golden Rule in its negative formulation.
But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe, did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God. And they also taught us to refrain from unlawful idolatry, and adultery, and murder, fornication, theft, avarice, false swearing, wrath, and every incontinence and uncleanness; and that whatever a man would not wish to be done to himself, he should not do to another; and thus he who acts righteously shall escape the eternal punishments, and be thought worthy of the eternal life from God.

Theophil. ad Autolyc., II.34 (Schaff, trans.).

Icon of St. Aristides of Athens

The Gospel of St. Thomas, an apocryphal Gospel discovered in 1945 in Coptic, is an assembly of 114 sayings (or logia) attributed to Jesus. The apocryphal Gospel clearly shows Gnostic influences. One of the logion (No. 6) states the Golden Rule in a negative formulation, exceedingly succinct: "do not do what you hate."

Jesus said, "Do not lie, and do not do what you hate, because all things are revealed before heaven. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered that will remain without being disclosed."

Gospel of Thomas in Coptic (Logion 6) Containing the Golden Rule

Aristides, a Christian apologist living in Athens in the 2nd century, composed an apology following a persecution of Christians after Emperor Hadrian was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Church historian Eusebius states that Aristides's apology was presented to Hadrian in 126 A.D. (Hist. IV.3.3). In Chapter 15 of that work, the Golden Rule is stated in its negative formulation as a summary and is included as a general principle among an list of concrete behaviors that Christians follow:
But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and. rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.
(D.M. Kay, trans.)

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Golden Rule as Summa et Radix Iustitiae: Height and Root of Justice

IN ST. PAUL'S EXPRESSION IN HIS EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS, God sent forth his Son to man in the fullness of time. (Gal. 4:4). Christ's teaching on the Golden Rule was equally opportune. It was as if the world had been philosophically and conceptually prepared to receive the Gospel. By a providential convenience, Jewish ways of thought were translatable into philosophical concepts by which they could be communicated to the pagan. By Providential timing, the urbane Greek and the Roman who had adopted the Greek's thinking, were able to understand rude Galilean fishermen. In the areas of morals, it was the Stoic moral philosophy that was most consonant with the Christian revelation. The Stoics embraced a cosmopolitan view of man, and believed in a universal or common rule of reason that informed a natural law that bound all men. This included the notion of the Golden Rule. As evidentiary of the Golden Rule among the Stoics, we may mention the Roman Seneca (4 B.C.-65 A.D.), whom Dante placed in the First Circle of Hell, the place for the virtuous unbaptized pagans, and whom the rigorous Tertullian endearingly referred to as "Seneca almost one of us," Seneca saepe noster. De anima, 20.

The Death of Seneca by Peter Paul Rubens

In both the handling of anger, and the apportionment of benefits, Seneca invoked the Golden Rule as the measure of right.
Let us put ourselves in the place of the man with whom we are angry; as it is, an unwarranted opinion of self makes us prone to anger, and we are unwilling to bear what we ourselves would have been willing to inflict.

Eo nos loco constituamus quo ille est cui irascimur: nunc facit nos iracundos iniqua nostri aestimatio et quae facere vellemus pati nolumus.
De Ira, III, 12.3.
Let us consider, most excellent Liberalis, what still remains of the earlier part of the subject; in what way a benefit should be bestowed. I think that I can point out the shortest way to this; let us give in the way in which we ourselves should like to receive.

Inspiciamus, Liberalis virorum optime, id quod ex priori parte adhuc superest, quemadmodum dandum sit beneficium; cuius rei expeditissimam videor monstraturus viam: sic demus, quomodo vellemus accipere.
Seneca, De Benef., II.1.1.

The importance of the Golden Rule in the early Christian community is evidenced by the fact that it is not only included in the Didache (Διδαχή), but it is virtually placed at the beginning of that compilation of Apostolic teaching:

The Apostles' Teaching
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love (agapēseis, ἀγαπησεις) God who made you; second, [love] your neighbor as yourself, and in all things you would not want done to you, do not do to another.

Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου, διαφορὰ δὲ πολλὴ μεταξὺ τῶν δύο ὁδῶν. Ἡ μὲν οὖν τῆς ζωῆς ἐστιν αὕτη· πρῶτον ἀγαπησεις τὸν θεὸν τὸν ποιήσαντά σε, δεύτερον τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν· πάντα δὲ ὅσα ἐὰν θελήσῃς μὴ γίνεσθαί σοι, καὶ σὺ ἄλλῳ μὴ ποίει.
Didache, 1.1. This teaching, which seems almost identical to the teaching of Hillel or that of the "Two Ways" of the Essenes, seems clearly to have been borrowed from the Jewish thinking of the time, and with which Jesus was apparently familiar and confirmed. Though it ought to be noted that the negative formulation of the rule has been adopted in the Didache, not the positive formulation given it by Christ.

So it was that the "golden rule thus proved to be a meeting ground for philosophical and biblical ethics." Wattles, 69.

The Good Samaritan by Henrik Stefan

In his polemic against Marcion, Tertullian adopts both the negative and positive formulations of the Golden Rule:
Thenceforth Christ extended to all men the law of His Father's compassion, excepting none from His mercy, as He omitted none in His invitation. So that, whatever was the ampler scope of His teaching, He received it all in His heritage of the nations. "And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise." In this command is no doubt implied its counterpart: "And as you would not that men should do to you, so should you also not do to them likewise."

Exinde Christus in omnes legem paternae benignitatis extendit, neminem excipiens in miseratione, sicut in vocatione. Ita et si quid amplius docuit, hoc quoque in haereditatem gentium accepit. Et sicut vobis fieri vultis ab hominibus, ita et vos facite illis. In isto praecepto utique alia pars eius subauditur: Et sicut vobis non vultis fieri ab hominibus, ita et vosne faciatis illis.
Tertullian, Contra Marc., IV.16.

In his Dialogue with Trypho, St. Justin Martyr ties the Golden Rule with the second great commandment of Christ, and the second table of the Ten Commandments: to love one's neighbor as one's self: "The man who loves his neighbor as himself will wish for him the same good things that he wishes for himself, and no man will wish evil things for himself." Dial. Trypho, 93.

Lactantius (ca. 240 - ca. 320), the Cicero Christanus, or Christian Cicero, called the Golden Rule the summa of justice (in the Divine Institutes), and the root (radix) of justice (in the Epitome).
But the root of justice, and the entire foundation of equity, is that you should not do that which you would be unwilling to suffer, but should measure the feelings of another by your own. If it is an unpleasant thing to bear an injury, and he who has done it appears unjust, transfer to the person of another that which you feel respecting yourself, and to your own person that which you judge respecting another, and you will understand that you act as unjustly if you injure another as another would if he should injure you. If we consider these things, we shall maintain innocence, in which the first step of justice is, as it were, contained. For the first thing is, not to injure; the next is, to be of service.

Sed radix iustitiae et omne fundamentum aequitatis est illut, ut non facias quod pati nolis, sed alterius animum de tuo metiaris. Si acerbum est iniuriam ferre et qui eam fecerit videtur iniustus, transfer in alterius personam quod de te sentis et in tuam quod de altero iudicas, et intelleges tam te iniuste facere, si alteri noceas, quam alterum, si tibi. Haec si mente voluamus, innocentiam tenebimus, in qua iustitia velut primo gradu insistit. Primum est enim non nocere, proximum prodesse.
Lactantius, Ep. div. inst., 55 (60).
We ought to consider ourselves in another's place. The summit of justice consists in this: that you do not do to another that which you not want to suffer from another.
Nos ipsos in altero cogitemus. Nam fere in hoc justitiæ summa consistit, ut non facias alteri, quidquid ipse ab altero pati nolis.
Lactantius, Inst. Div., VI.23.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Monday, April 26, 2010

Golden Rule: The Teaching of Our Lord

IN JUDAISM, THE GOLDEN RULE is one that is derived from Revelation. (This is true despite the Book of Tobit, the canonicity of which has been rejected by the Jewish religious authorities, though the Church has held it canonical and inspired.) In Christianity, the Golden Rule is part of Revelation itself, not only as a result of the Book of Tobit, but also as a result of the direct teaching of the Word of God as revealed in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. What the Jewish scholars learned through a sort of analogia fidei, Christ taught with authority of the God who reveals, and who cannot deceive or be deceived. Whereas for the Jew, the Golden Rule is accepted fides rabbinica, for the Christian, the Golden Rule must be accepted fides divina. Without doubt, the Golden Rule is directly revealed by Christ. Not to accept it is to be a heretic. But, that said, how are we to understand it?

Ancient Persian and Islamic Miniature of Jesus on the Mount

Christ's revelation of the Golden Rule as a principle of moral action is found in two different places in the Gospels. First, it is found as part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as related in the Gospel of Matthew. Second, it is found as part of Jesus' "Sermon on the Plain" in the Gospel of Luke. The Gospels either are referring to the same sermon, or to two different sermons close to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry after his selection of his apostles. For our purposes, it really matters not which.

Matthew 7:12Luke 6:31
All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophetsAnd as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner.
Omnia ergo quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite eis haec est enim lex et prophetae.Et prout vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite illis similiter.
Πάντα οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οῖ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται. Καὶ καθῶς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.

At once, it is apparent that Christ's teaching is universal. It applies to the way we should treat all men (human beings), ἄνθρωποι, homines. It is an ethic that spreads out beyond the confines of Israel, and those followers of Jesus that were to become the new, spiritual Israel, that is, those members of his Church. This Golden Rule should govern Christians' relationship with all men, including non-believers. Implied by this universal ethic is that the behavior of all men, regardless of whether they are followers of Christ, ought to be similarly so bound. That is, Christ appears clearly to nestle this teaching as part of the natural law in addition to being part of the Law and the Prophets, though he clearly expects us to act beyond it. The Gospel of Matthew, traditionally thought to be aimed at a Jewish audience, stresses the Golden Rule's link with the Law and the Prophets. If it includes the Law and the Prophets, then it includes the natural law that is positively promulgated in the Law and the Prophets. Luke, on the other hand, aimed at a Gentile audience, does not mention the link of the Golden Rule with the Mosaic law. Other than this, the Matthean and Lucan formulations do not seem to be significantly different, though the Matthean version seems more substantive (what is to be done), and the Lucan verison more procedural (how it is to be done) in emphasis.

Good Samaritan: Stained Glass Window by Marc Chagall

The other apparent thing is that Christ's formulation of the Golden Rule is affirmative in nature: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is not the negative formulation which we saw reflected in the Book of Tobit or in Rabbi Hillel: do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. The affirmative formulation appears to impose affirmative obligations or duties on behavior; whereas the negative formulation appears to impose restrictions on behavior. Both formulations, however, equally require a self-assessment as part of the ethical life. There is a suggestion, then, that our inner life is not so damaged by the Fall so that it is no longer indicative of right. Christ rejects any notion of a Calvinistic total depravity. We have still, even after Adam's Fall, somewhat of a reliable inner moral compass. Things we wish tell us how we should act towards others. This suggests that our wishes have some objective standard which they reference, to wit, the natural law. But our wishes are not whims, as they must be understood within the difficult ethic of the Beatitudes, a teaching which immediately precedes that handing down of the Golden Rule, which call the disciples of Christ to a supernaturally-based ethic, and within which that rule must be understood.

Perhaps most striking of all is that, when these formulations of the Golden Rule are viewed within the contexts of the greater sermons of which they are part, Christ takes us out of the ethical realm of justice, into the entirely new ethical realm of love, and love of that certain, rigorous kind: caritas or agape. It is clear that the Golden Rule as envisioned by Christ is more than: "Do justice!" It is: "Love!" It is, in fact, a justice that requires us to bear injustice in a manner so as to redeem it. And so we cannot simply stop at the words of the Golden Rule itself, we must explore their context, and we must explore it within the life of Christ, who was the personification of that Golden Rule, its end and its fulfillment. Ultimately, the Golden Rule, at least for a Christian, is the imitatio Christi. Since this requires the supernatural life of Grace, it suggests that Christ's formulation of the Golden Rule has both natural and supernatural aspects to it.

Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Chapters 5 through 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. The event receives relatively lengthy treatment by Matthew, representing approximately ten percent of the Gospel. And so it should, as the Sermon on the Mount presents "the perfect standard of the Christian life," ad mores optimos pertinet, perfectum vitae christianae modum. St. Aug., D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 1.1. The Golden Rule comes towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Crowds are gathered in the areas, drawn by the reputation of Jesus for healing the sick, and somewhere near Capernaum Jesus climbs a hillside to address his disciples, it appears separate from the crowds, though there is some ambiguity about it. These are the teachings for his followers. He begins with the counter-intuitive Beatitudes. I say counter-intuitive, but that is not necessarily so. The Beatitudes are all tied to the reality of eternal life after this temporal life, and, if life after judgment is part of the moral equation, then counter-intuitiveness disappears. Though they clearly reference eternity, the Beatitudes "respond to the desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart," Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1725, a desire which extends beyond this life. The Beatitudes are counter-intuitive only to a materialist.

Jesus names as blessed or happy--beatus or μακάριοι--the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger or thirst for justice, who are persecuted, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers. It follows that we should be poor in spirit, mourn, hunger and thirst for justice, expect persecution, be meek, merciful, pure of heart, and become peacemakers. St. Augustine ties these beatitudes to the Isaiahan gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2-3): he attaches fear to humility, the poor in spirit; piety to the meek; knowledge to those that mourn; fortitude to those who hunger and thirst; counsel to those who are merciful; understanding to those who are pure of heart; and wisdom to those who are peacemakers. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 4.11. St. Augustine has an interesting perspective on Christ's beatitude regarding the peacemakers:
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." [Matt. 5:9] It is the perfection of peace [in pace perfectio est], where nothing offers opposition; and the children of God are peacemakers, because nothing resists God, and surely children ought to have the likeness of their father. Now, they are peacemakers in themselves who, by bringing in order all the motions of their soul, and subject them to reason--i.e., to the mind and spirit--and by having their carnal lusts thoroughly subdued, become a kingdom of God [edomitas fiunt regnum Dei]: in which all things are so arranged, that that which is chief and pre-eminent in man rules without resistance over the other elements, which are common to us with the beats; and that very element which is pre-eminent in man, i.e., mind and reason, is brought under subjection to something better still, which is the truth itself, the only-begotten Son of God. For a man is not able to rule over things which are inferior, unless he subjects himself to what is superior. And this is the peace which is given on earth to men of goodwill; this is the life of the fully developed and perfect wise man.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 2.9. Christ's teachings are not ordinary teachings, they are divine; and those who adopt them will be markedly different from the mass of men. They will be as salt, which flavors the bland, and preserves meat. They will be as light on a hilltop, which dispels darkness and gives guidance to one who journeys from afar.

As if to make clear the unique yet the traditional basis of his teaching, Jesus expounds the Law next. There is no question of the Law's abrogation, but of its fulfillment. "Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled." Matt. 5:17-18. St. Augustine sees this sentence as containing two meanings:
In this sentence the meaning is twofold. We must deal with it both ways. For he who says, "I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill," means it either in the way of adding what is wanting, or of doing what is in it [aut addendo dicit quod minus habet aut facideno quod habet]. Let us then consider that first which I have put first: for he who adds what is wanting does not surely destroy what he finds, but rather confirms it by perfecting it; . . . For, even if those things which are added for completion are fulfilled, much more are those things fulfilled which are sent in advance as a commencement [Dum enim fiunt etiam illa quae adduntur ad perfectionem, multo magis fiunt illa quae praemissa sunt ad inchoationem]."
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 8.20. The Commandments remain binding on Christ's disciples. Matt. 5:19. Not only are they binding, they must be internalized, expanded, broadened so that they govern more than external acts: we are to govern our innermost dispositions by force of law. Christ demands that our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. What Christ means by this is that
unless you shall fulfill not only those least precepts of the law which begin the man, [inchoant hominem], but also those which are added by me, who am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

nisi non solum illa minima legis praecepta impleveritis quae inchoant hominem, sed etiam ista quae a me adduntur, qui non veni solvere legem sed implere,non intrabitis in regnum caelorum.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 9.21. We are then to go beyond the minimal precepts of the natural law, the law which is the inchoate law of man, quae inchoant hominem. We are to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Matt. 5:48. And this requires metanoia, conversion, belief in Christ and the will to follow him, all of which clearly require prevenient, actual, and sanctifying grace. The promises contained in the Beatitudes are a gratuitous gift of God, they are supernatural, as is the grace that leads us to the kingdom beyond this earth to which they beckon. They set standards for the supernatural law of grace, for the right loving of God, and for the "use of earthly things in keeping with the law of God." Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 1727-9.

In instituting his new law, Christ fulfills the Law and the Prophets, and does not abrogate the Mosaic law in its fundamentals, nor the natural law. He does, however, abrogate some law. He abrogates that positive law of Moses that allowed divorce, and stiffens up the marriage law so that it was as it was in the beginning. Disciples simply are not allowed to have the hardness of heart that excused the Mosaic accommodation.

A similar change of heart is demanded of the disciples in regard to their dealings with men. Christ disdains personal vengeance, and even the desire for personal vengeance, and this even in the face of gross injustice, and manifestly wrongful imposition, unfair advantage, or exploitation by their fellow men. In the most extreme way, Jesus clearly rejects any Vergeltunsgedenken-- the ethic of loving one's friends, and hating one's enemies. This thinking had perhaps crept into the thinking of the Jew in Palestine through Hellenistic influence, since the principle is extraneous to the Law and the Prophets.
You have heard that it hath been said, Though shalt love they neighbor, and hate they enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that prosecute and calumniate you.
Matt. 5:43-44. We are to avoid hypocrisy and moral ostentation or display, and so alms should be given in secret, fasting, and prayer should be in secret. The Lord then teaches his disciples the Pater noster, Matt. 6:9-13. He requires us to forgive those who sin against us, under the penalty of not having our own sins forgiven, a serious sanction indeed. Matt. 6:14-15. We are to avoid setting our sights on temporal wealth, at least to the extent that it occupies our heart or claims mastery over us. Of these temporal things, we are, at least from an internal standpoint, to be almost dangerously carefree, so great ought to be our trust in the divine Providence. We are not privy to the heart of other men, hardly even our own, and so we ought to withhold judgment. Matt. 7:1-2. We are to shun hypocrisy. Matt. 7:3-5. We ought to implore God for his good gifts, confident he will answer. Matt. 7:6-11. It is after all these moral teachings that Christ brings out the Golden Rule: "All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do also to them. For this is the law and the prophets." Matt. 7:12. Christ continues: this is no easy law: "Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wides is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" Matt. 7:13-14.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Christ gives a shorter, similar sermon while standing "in a plain place," in the company of his disciples and a crowd. Again, the crowds were attracted by Christ's reputation in the healing of diseases and the casting out of demons. Christ similarly starts his discourse with a shortened version of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, those than hunger, those that weep, those that are hated for the sake of belief in Christ. It is to be expected, and, in the light of eternity, such temporal evil is essentially nothing. Luke 6:21-25. Christ follows his Beatitudes with analogous woes: Woe to those who are rich, who are filled, who laugh, who are blessed because they have rejected Christ. Luke 6:26-28. Again, Christ demands an internal apathy to the goods of this world, to such a degree that if struck on one cheek, we ought to have the disposition to offer the other. If cursed, we ought to pray for the one cursing. If unjustly dispossessed of a cloak, we ought to have no internal qualm at letting our coat be taken. Within this context, Jesus offers the Golden Rule: "And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner." Luke 6:31. The disciples of Christ are expected to have a norm of behavior that exceeds, that is, transcends, the natural law. And for this, clearly supernatural Grace is required, as Grace is even required, under our post-lapsarian nature, to abide by the natural law.

In its most rigorously applied sense, the Golden Rule of Christ is sublime. Though it does not contradict the natural law, it certainly calls the disciple way beyond it, indeed to the point of natural absurdity. The natural law does not require that one suffer injustice passively, or have an attitude that would welcome even more injustice. The natural law does not demand that one allow a thief to take his cloak, and certainly not to add insult to injury by giving the thief his coat, or by developing an attitude that would welcome it. It does not oblige us to give our possessions to whoever asks for them. It does not enjoin us from striking in self defense at the man who would strike us, much less cheerfully offering that he injure us more. The natural law may, indeed, permit the that we battle injustice, that we effect punishment, that we demand restitution; and, in some cases actually demand that we do these things. It permits and sometimes requires us to fight injustice, to resist theft, to guard our possessions, and to defend our life and that of our family against an unjust aggressor, to fight a war that is just by just means. The natural law allows and sometimes demands that a party exercise judgment, enforce just punishment, and, in appropriate cases, even capital punishment. The natural law allows us reasonably to favor our family, our neighborhood, our country, above others, though not at others' exclusion. These things cannot be regarded as moral evils, and in fact are frequently morally compelled, as long as they follow the rule of reason, an ethic which is difficult enough. The natural law is what makes us men, and Christ did not come to un-men us. To suggest that Christ's teachings contradict the natural moral law is plain heresy, as it assumes a contradiction in the legislation of God, and division between the God of Creation and the God of Redemption. It is a Gnosticism, a vicious dualism of sorts.

And yet, there is something different in Christ's teaching that cannot be disregarded, but it must be rightly understood, in that it is ensconced in Semitic hyperbole, and so must not be literally understood. We are not morally compelled physically to pluck out our eyes if our eyes cause us to sin (Matt. 18:9); else all Christ's disciples would, like Oedipus, run around blind. Similarly, we would be slaves to the will of others, particularly the unjust who would demand all our goods, all our labor, and abuse our physical integrity. Christ's disciples would be slaves to the unjust, pawns of evil, if his statements to offer the other cheek, to give up their coat to the man who pilfered their tunic through suit, to labor in servitude for two miles, when they had already been wrongfully recruited to walk one were to be taken literally. Indeed, as St. Augustine points out, Christ himself did not follow these teachings literally, though it cannot even be entertained that he failed to act in complete integrity with his moral teachings:
But in truth, the Lord Himself, who was certainly the first to fulfill the precepts which He taught, did not offer the other cheek to the servant of the high priest when smiting Him thereon; but, so far from that, said, "If I have spoken evil, hear the witness of the evil; but if well, why do you smite me?" [John 18:23] Yet was He not on that account unprepared in heart, for the salvation of all, not merely to be smitten on the other cheek, but even to have His whole body crucified.

At vero ipse Dominus, qui utique praecepta quae docuit primus implevit, percutienti se in maxillam ministro sacerdotis non praebuit alteram sed insuper dixit: Si male locutus sum, exprobra de malo; si bene, quid me caedis? Non tamen ideo paratus corde non fuit non solum in alteram maxillam caedi pro salute omnium, sed etiam toto corpore crucifigi.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.58. If literal compliance with these injunctions is not what Christ intended, then what is it that Christ intended to teach?

St. Augustine addresses the facially controversial teaching of Our Lord regarding how his disciples are to act when confronting injustice. Unquestionably, the Lord is demanding something supernatural from his disciples. Their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, and that is to say by implication that it must exceed that of the Mosaic law, and, by further implication, that of the natural law. In coming to grips with the meaning of Christ's teaching, St. Augustine distinguishes between the unjust act itself--whether it be a physical assault that results in the loss of an eye, or a tooth, or a struck cheek, or whether it is an unjust appropriation of personal property, or of personal services, or anything else for that matter--, and the response to it. In terms of the response to an unjust act, St. Augustine distinguishes between the internal attitude and the external response. He also distinguishes between those sorts of injuries that allow for compensation or restitution of property, money, or labor, and those that do not, and only allow for punishment.

St. Augustine notes that Christ's moral teachings would prohibit a man from intentionally committing an act of injustice against another, and so all men would by natural law and Christ's teaching be prohibited from intentionally assaulting another so as to remove an eye, or a tooth, or to steal his cloak, to slap his cheek, or force him to walk a mile. "[A]ny one who is the first to do harm to another, with the desire of inuring and hurting him," stands at the farthest end of injustice. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.57.

In terms of the proper response to an act of injustice as taught by Jesus, St. Augustine distinguishes various levels of responses.

First off, in responding to an injustice, it would obviously be unjust to exact from the wrongdoer more than the wrong he inflicted, that is, it is unjust to exact a disproportionately greater punishment or greater compensation from the wrongdoer than the wrongful act itself. Thus, it would be unjust to demand two eyes for the loss of one eye. This disproportionate response is clearly prohibited by Christ's teaching.

Secondly, one could demand from the wrongdoer proportionate punishment or compensation. This is the "lesser righteousness" (iustitia minor) of the Pharisees (and the natural law), which requires us "not to go beyond measure in revenge," non excedere in vindicta modum. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.56; that is, any response would be in proportion to the wrong done. The Mosaic law ("eye for and eye, and tooth for a tooth") as well as the natural law demands proportionality between the wrong and either compensation or punishment. Yet it must be recognized that this requirement is an "incomplete, by no means severe, but merciful justice," inchoatam non severam sed misericordem iustitiam. 19.56. Proportionality is a "merciful justice" because he who is punished or required to compensate in an amount equivalent to the wrong done still obtains a measure of forgiveness, "for the party who injures does not deserve merely as much punishment as the man who was injured by him has innocently suffered," poenam meretur nocens quantam ille qui ab eo laesus innocens passus est. 19.57.

Going beyond a proportionate response, one may envision a person who exacts less punishment or less compensation from a wrongdoer than the wrong inflicted, say one blow instead of two. But such a person, though he exceeds the minor iustitia of the Pharisees and scribes, still "does not come fully up to that magnitude of the precept which belongs to the kingdom of heaven." 19.57. Even he who demands nothing in terms of punishment or compensation "approaches the Lord's precept, but yet he does not reach it."
For still it seems to the Lord not enough, if, for the evil which you may have received, you should inflict no evil in return, unless you be prepared to receive even more.

Parum enim adhuc videtur Domino, si pro malo quod acceperis nihil rependas mali, nisi etiam amplius sis paratus accipere.
What more does Christ require of us? Christ demands from his followers an internal attitude such that not only would they not exact any punishment or compensation from the wrongdoer, but that they would be open to additional insult. They are to have the tolerant, welcoming attitude toward the wrongdoer that one has to another that he loves, an attitude such as a mother has to her infant children, a man to a friend who is sick, or a guardian to his mentally incompetent ward, "at whose hands they often endure many things."
And if their welfare demand it, they even show themselves ready to endure more, until the weakness either of age or of disease pass away. And so, as regards those whom the Lord, the Physician of souls, was instructing to take care of their neighbors, what else could He teach them, than that they endure quietly the infirmities of those whose welfare they wish to consult? For all wickedness arises from infirmity of mind: because nothing is more harmless than the man who is perfect in virtue.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.57. Christ therefore asks such equanimity of attitude that, when confronted with injustice, not only would we not demand equivalent compensation or punishment, or no compensation or punishment: we must develop the attitude that would accept, even welcome, additional injustice. "My heart is prepared, O God, my heart is prepared." Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.58.

The internal disposition is what is at the heart of Christ's teaching. Jesus is not teaching a literal compliance. If he were teaching such literal compliance, then one who has learned to offer the other cheek, to walk another mile, to allow the taking of his coat, would satisfy Christ's requirement, even though he has not developed love toward the wrongdoer. But many have learned to live with injustice whose souls rankle toward their wrongdoers. "For many have learned how to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they are struck." 19.58. What if someone struck us in the arm, are we excused from Christ's law because we were not assaulted on the face? Clearly, these precepts have "reference to the preparation of heart, not to a vain show of outward deed," ad praeparationem cordis non ad ostentationem operis praeceptum recte intellegitur. One is not obliged literally to walk a mile on foot, but one should be "prepared in mind to do it." 19.61. Moreover, the obligation applies not just to the matters mentioned, but "everything which on any ground of right we speak of as being ours in time," in omnibus faciendum est quae aliquo iure temporaliter nostra esse dicimus. 19.59. What is required of the disciple is an attitude of equanimity (aequo animo tolerarare) regardless of what is wrongfully forced upon him.

But does this internal attitude require external equivalent? Despite this mental attitude, must we physically or literally allow ourselves to receive greater insult? The answer is no as long as the good of the wrongdoer or the common good is regarded. In approaching this question, Augustine distinguishes between those sorts of injuries that can be compensated and those that cannot. 20.62. Alternatively, he distinguishes wrongs that can be compensated only by punishment and not restitution (assault=being struck on the cheek), by restitution only (wrongful suit=taking the cloak through judicial process), or by both restitution and punishment (forcing another to walk two miles without judicial process). 20.66. But regardless of the type of wrong: "In all these classes . . . the Lord teaches that the disposition of a Christian ought to be most patient and compassionate, and thoroughly prepared to endure more." 20.66.

In confronting those situations where punishment is the only remedy, the Christian is not precluded from obtaining inflicting punishment "as avails for correction (quae ad correctionem valet), and as compassion itself dictates (pertinet ad misericordiam)." 20.62. We are, however, to inflict punishment with the same attitude that a mother corrects her child, or a father his son, or God his own. 19.63.
No more, therefore, is sought for, except that he should punish to whom, in the natural order of things, the power is given; and that he should punish with the same goodwill which a father has towards his little son, whom by reason of his youth he cannot yet hate. For from this source the most suitable example is drawn, in order that it may be sufficiently manifest that sin can be punished in love rather than be left unpunished; so that one may wish him on whom he inflicts it not to be miserable by means of punishment, but to be happy by means of correction, yet be prepared, if need be, to endure with equanimity more injuries inflicted by him whom he wishes to be corrected, whether he may have the power of putting restraint upon him or not.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 20.63.

Hence, in this class of injuries which is atoned for by punishment, such a measure will be preserved by Christians, that, on an injury being received, the mind will not mount up into hatred, but will be ready, in compassion for the infirmity, to endure even more; nor will it neglect the correction, which it can employ either by advice, or by authority, or by [the exercise of] power.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 20.66.

In regard to those injuries which may be compensated for by restitution, whether in labor or money. The Christian may seek compensation from the wrongdoer, but in doing the Lord requires that the Christian be patientissimum et misericordissimum et ad plura perferenda paratissimum, "most patient and compassionate, and thoroughly prepared to endure more." 20.66.

Love is at the heart of Christ's moral teaching. Without love, compliance with the Law of Christ is impossible. "For without this love, wherewith we are commanded to love even our enemies and persecutors, who can fully carry out those things?" St. Augustine, D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 21.69. For this reason, Jesus instructs us to be perfect, as God who is love is perfect. "Yet in such a way that God is understood to be perfect as God, and the soul to be perfect as a soul," Deus . . . perfectus tamquam Deus, et anima perfecta tamquam anima. 21.69.

In discussing the part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount that invokes the Golden Rule in his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine again begins at the lowest end of the spectrum of righteousness and climbs to the highest demand of the Lord. At the lowest end would be a misanthrope or a spoiled child, who hates even those who love him. "That man therefore rises a certain step," from this lower rung, "who loves his neighbor, although as yet he hates his enemy." To St. Augustine, this is the righteousness of the Pharisee, that is of the Mosaic law, which allowed the hatred of one's enemies. Cf. Deut. 7:2. It is an ethic that is available to the Heathen. It is not, however, in keeping with the real tenor of the Old Testament revelation, nor even with the natural law. Any preferential ethic in the Mosaic dispensation is to be "understood as the voice of command addressed to a righteous man, but rather as the voice of permission to a weak man." 21.70. That is to say that both the natural law and the Torah would in their full rigor reject a Vergeltungsgedenken and would demand a prudential sort of Golden Rule. But we are to go significantly beyond that, and Christ, who is the end of the law, and the fulfillment of it, does exactly that, both in his teaching and by his example. Christ calls us to shun any Vergeltungsgedenken as it relates to our relationship with our fellow men. And so any historical accommodation to men's weakness in the Mosaic Law is by Christ foreclosed. He does for the Golden Rule something similar that he died to marriage.

In Christ's view, as related in the Gospel of Matthew, the Golden Rule is equivalent to the Law and the Prophets: haec est enim lex et prophetae. Christ did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. Matt. 5:17. Since Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and the Golden Rule is an equivalent to those, it follows that Christ is the fulfillment of the Golden Rule. That is, Christ's life is a revelation, the ultimate standard, of how one is to live one's life so as to do to others what we would have them do to us. The two great commandments of love of God and the love of our neighbor are equally a summation of the Law and the Prophets. Matt. 22:40. Therefore, the Golden Rule requires us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This would mean that the Golden Rule cannot be interpreted in a manner that would violate the love of neighbor or the love of God.

In discussing the Golden Rule, St. Augustine states that when Christ enjoins us to do unto others what we would like them do do to us, there is an implied understanding that it is in reference to good, which explains the differences between the Latin text before him which limits the rule expressly to the good, and the Greek text that does not mention it.
For the thought occurred, that if any one should wish something wicked to be done to him, and should refer this clause to that—as, for instance, if one should wish to be challenged to drink immoderately, and to get drunk over his cups, and should first do this to the party by whom he wishes it to be done to himself—it would be ridiculous to imagine that he had fulfilled this clause. . . .For the expression used, "whatsoever ye would," ought to be understood as used not in a customary and random, but in a strict sense. For there is no will except in the good.

Occurrebat enim quod, si quisquam flagitiose aliquid erga se fieri velit et ad hoc referat istam sententiam, veluti se velit aliquis provocari ut immoderate bibat et se ingurgitet poculis et hoc prior illi faciat a quo sibi fieri cupit, ridiculum est hunc putare istam implevisse sententiam. . . . Id enim quod dictum est: Quaecumque vultis, non usitate ac passim sed proprie dictum accipi oportet. Voluntas namque non est nisi in bonis.
II.22.74. We might end our reflections on Christ's teaching on the Golden Rule in Matthew and Luke by quoting Wattle's summary of it in his book The Golden Rule:
In sum, though the golden rule was not part of the written Torah, it may be said to be fulfilled in Jesus' life and teachings. The traditional golden rule is preserved, adjusted from a negative to a positive formulation, deepened in context, and associated with the overturning of the principle of retaliation.
Wattles, 57.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Golden Rule in Classical Judaism

THE GOLDEN RULE BECAME A COMMONPLACE IN JEWISH THOUGHT, certainly by the time of the Hellenistic period, and it is perhaps most succinctly and colorfully summarized by Rabbi Hillel as related in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 31A):

שוב מעשה בנכרי אחד שבא לפני שמאי, אמר לו: גיירני על מנת שתלמדני כל התורה כולה כשאני עומד על רגל אחת. דחפו באמת הבנין שבידו. בא לפני הלל, גייריה. אמר לו: דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד - זו היא כל התורה כולה ואידך - פירושה הוא זיל גמור.

On another occasion it happened that a certain non-Jew came before Shammai [a rival scholar to Hillel] said to him, “I will convert to Judaism, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away with the builder's tool that was in his hand. He came before Hillel and said to him, "Convert me." Hillel said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

(AJWS translation). Contrary to the Golden Rule as enunciated by the Oriental tradition (e.g., Confucius) or by the philosophers or sophists (e.g., Isocrates), the Golden Rule in the Jewish tradition was clearly built upon Revelation. In Hillel's view, the rule is a succinct summary of the Torah, which contains the Jewish foundations of their relationship with God and with their fellows, and it only needs to be expanded upon by further study and learning. Some scholars have argued that Hillel's negative formulation of the Golden Rule is exclusive and not universal: that it pertains only among the compatriot Jews, and excludes from its pale non-Jews. This argument is based upon the grounds that Hillel uses the term ḥaber (הבר‎) [translated as "neighbor" above], rather than rea' (רע), in its formulation. The term ḥaber has a variety of meanings, from "scholar," to "associate," "colleague," or "fellow." It may also be used more generally to refer to "companion" or "friend." It also has been used to mean a member of a society or order, especially a religious Pharisaical society or confraternity intended to void contact with the unclean by following the Mosaic law and its prescriptions rigorously. Generally, the term is more exclusive than the rea' (רע), the general Hebrew term for "neighbor." Thus, these scholars argue, when Hillel refers to the ḥaberim, he is excluding those outside the household of Israel or of his own school; that is, he advances a Vergeltungsdenken ethic. See Jewish Encyclopaedia (s.v. "ḥaber " and "Golden Rule"). To the contrary, others argue that the context suggests a broad construction of the word ḥaber. Why would Hillel use the term ḥaber in its most technical exclusive sense when speaking to a Gentile? In this context, some suggest it is within the meaning of ḥaber to be synonymous with the general word for neighbor rea' (רע). Moreover, to interpret Hillel in such an exclusive sense is against the ethos of the Jew. "Love of one's friends and hatred of one's enemies are nowhere inculcated in Jewish literature." Jewish Encyclopaedia (s.v. "Golden Rule") (though it candidly admits: "Nevertheless, while Jewish ethics has never commanded and paraded love for an enemy, it has practiced it." But then haven't we all been less than perfect?) What is probably more true is that the principle was both exclusive and inclusive, sort of like the manner the expression St. Paul uses it in his epistle to the Romans (1:16; 2:9; 2:10): First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Some sort of exclusionism is not unexpected in a people believed to be a people set apart are chosen.

Rabbi Hillel the Elder: Detail from the Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem

Most fundamentally, within the Jewish revelation, the Golden Rule finds its genesis in Genesis: specifically, the notion that God created man, and and all men have a common father in Adam. Though the Scriptures clearly distinguish between the Jew and the Gentile, and even between Jewish tribes, that does not allay the fact that fundamentally, under the concept that all men are, in a more or less distant sense, sons of the same father, and so brothers. The goyim or Gentile herefore demand some reciprocity, and cannot ever be regarded as subhuman, even if they could be regarded as slaves. Golden Rule thinking is the result of "recognizing [the] moral implications in the fact that others are like oneself." Wattles, 42.

Moreover, the Jew had something the Greek never had. Jews had the experience of being held captive to the Egyptian, of being aliens and sojourners, of living among those who were not of their tribe, of being gerim (גרים). This historical fact was liturgically and ritually renewed so as to be constantly present on their minds. The exceptionalism that the Jew claimed as a result of Yahweh's choosing them as his special people is balanced by Yahweh's own injunction upon them not to forget their captive and pilgrim past
.כאזרח מכם יהיה לכם הגר ׀ הגר אתכם ואהבת לו כמוך כי־גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים אני יהוה אלהיכ

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

(Lev. 19:34). There is nothing like this among the Greeks, and such a demand almost compels the abandonment of any notion of strict Vergeltungsdenken.

Among themselves, the Jews were not to seek vengeance against one who had harmed them.
לא־תקם ולא־תטר את־בני עמך ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני יהוה

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Lev. 19:18 (NAB). The moral distance in between the Levitican οὐκ ἐκδικᾶταί σου ἡ χείρ καὶ οὐ μηνιεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς τοῦ λαοῦ σου (Lev. 19:13, Septuagint) and the Greek τὸ τοὺς φίλους ἄρα εὖ ποιεῖν καὶ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς κακῶς (Plato's Republic, 332d) is massive. There is a moral "leap in doing" between the two patterns of right and wrong. The rejection of any Vergeltungsdenken was enunciated in Jewish wisdom literature which sought to internalize the external precepts of the Torah. Wattles, 44. So, for example, we find it in the book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) (28:1-4), in a passage that is redolent of the Lord's Prayer:
The vengeful will suffer the LORD'S vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the LORD?
Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins?
The great scholar Hillel did not craft his Golden Rule whole cloth when responding to the importunate Gentile. The Golden Rule had already found its way into the sapiential parts of the Book of Tobit (Tobias) 4:15(16), in that part where Tobit gives advice to his son Tobiah, not unlike Dioynysius Cato did to his son, or Polonius to Laertes. Among the maxims Tobit gives his son, we find a clear expression of the Golden Rule in its negative formulation.
Do to no one what you yourself dislike. (NAS)

Quod ab alio odis fieri tibi vide ne alteri tu aliquando facias. (Vulgate)

Et quod oderis, alio ne feceris. (Itala)

ὃ μισεῖς, μηδενὶ ποιήσῃς (Septuagint)
[I could not find Tobit in its Hebrew or originally Chaldean text with this verse.]

The Letter of Aristeas (or Pseudo-Aristeas), a work famous for its description of the translation of the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek (giving us the Septuagint), and cited by the Jewish historian Josephus, provides another interesting evidence of the centrality of the Golden Rule as a part of Jewish religious ethical teaching. The Letter of Aristeas has a part that describes to the Egyptian king the wisdom of the Jew by reciting the Golden Rule as a central principle, and it is phrased in both its negative and positive formulations.
The king received the answer with great delight and looking at another said, "What is the teaching of wisdom?" And the other replied, "As you wish that no evil should befall you, but to be a partaker of all good things, so you should act on the same principle towards your subjects and offenders, and you should mildly admonish the noble and good. For God draws all men to himself by his benignity."

Ἀποδεξάμενος δὲ εὖ μάλα καὶ τοῦτον ἐπιβλέψας εἶπεν, "Τί ἐστι σοφίας διδαχή?" ὁ δὲ ἕτερος ἀπεφήνατο. "Καθὼς οὐ βούλει σεαυτῷ τὰ κακὰ παρεῖναι, μέτοχος δὲ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ὑπάρχειν ἁπάντων, εἰ πράσσοις τοῦτο πρὸς τοὺς ὑποτεταγμένους καὶ τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας, εἰ τοὺς καλοὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπιεικέστερον νουθετοῖς· καὶ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἅπαντας ἐπιεικείᾳ ἄγει."
207. (English from R. H. Charles.)

For the Jew, the Golden Rule was incorporated within the greater notion of obligation to God and to neighbor, specifically, as encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. The Golden Rule was therefore well-rooted in a greater understanding of man's relationship to God and man's relationship to his fellow men. This synaxis is clearly displayed in a manuscript found among the Dead Sea Scrolls known as "The Two Ways." Its teaching clearly is at the foundation of the early Christian text the Didache (Teaching of the Apostles):
The way of life is this: First, you shall love the Lord your maker, and secondly, your neighbor as yourself. And whatever you do not want to be done to you, you shall not do to anyone else. And the interpretation of these words is: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not bear false witness, do not fornicate, do not steal, do not covet what belongs to your neighbor.
Wattles, 47 (quoting David Flusser, "The Ten Commandments and the New Testament" in The Ten Commandments in History and Tradition, Gershon Levi, ed. (Jerusalem: Magnes Press: Hebrew University), 235. [I could not independently verify this text.]

Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph

This synaxis of the Golden Rule with the Ten Commandments flowed into the later Rabbinic tradition. As an example of this, one may cite the story given in the Abot de Rabi Nathan (The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan). This book, compiled sometime between the 8th and 10th centuries A.D., tells a story of Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph (ca. 50-135 A.D.) of another encounter between a young man in a hurry and this Rabbi:
It happened that one came to R. Akiba and said to him, "Rabbi, teach me the whole Law all at once." He answered, "My son, Moses, our teacher, tarried on the mountain forty days and forty nights before he learned it, and you say, Teach me the whole Law all at once! Nevertheless, my son, this is the fundamental principle of the Law: That which you hate respecting yourself, do not to your neighbor. If you desire that no one injure you in respect to what is yours, then do not injure him. If you desire that no one should carry off what is yours, then do not carry of what is your neighbor's.
Wattles, 49 (quoting George Brockwell King, "The 'negative' golden rule, Journal of Religion 8:268-79, 268 (itself quoting the Avot de Rabbi Nathan, ed. Schechter (2nd ed. n.d.), chp. 26, p. 53)).

It would appear, in summary, that the notion of the Golden Rule as a summary or synopsis of the Law and the Prophets was well-established by the time the Word of God became man. This teaching of the Golden Rule as a good summary of the sum and substance of the Law and the Prophets continued in a dual stream. On the one hand, it was continued in vibrant fashion in the Rabbinic teachings of classical, post-diasporan Judaism. On the other hand, it was incorporated into Christianity through the words of Christ as reflected in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Apostolic teaching as reflected in the Didache. The Christian Fathers further viewed the Golden Rule as part and parcel of the natural moral law, which bound all men from the beginning of creation until the end of time, and even into eternity. For the Christian, this principle of the natural moral law was an eternal principle of the eternal law.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Golden Rule Among the Ancient Greeks: Plato against Vergeltungsdenken

THE SOPHIST ISOCRATES IS FREQUENTLY GIVEN THE HONOR of having been the first Greek to promote the "Golden Rule" ethic with some clarity. We saw, however, that the rule as promoted by Isocrates was intertwined with the Greek principle of Vergeltdungsdenke, or "repayment thinking." Under this ethic, one was to do good to one's friends, and was to do evil to our enemies. It was also intertwined with and "us" versus "them" mentality, arising from the internecine warfare between the Greek city states, and, perhaps equally important, the outright prejudice against everything non-Greek, that is, anything barbarian. Thus the world was parted into two, one favored, and one disfavored. Such greater self-regarding, other-exclusionary ethic was inconsistent with the Golden Rule being a general ethical principle. One feels that Isocrates used the rule as a slogan, and not a principle.

With Socrates and Plato (it is hard to tell the two apart, since Socrates is, in the main, presented to us through Plato's dialogues), there appears to have been something different injected into the mix. This "something different" can be seen in three of Plato's dialogues: the Cirto, the Phaedo, and the Laws. (See Wattles, 32-36.)

Plato and Socrates from Medieval Manuscript

In the Platonic dialogue Crito, the issue of justice and injustice is broached in a dialogue between Socrates and his friend Crito. Socrates has been condemned to death by his fellow Athenians, and Crito visits Socrates before the sentence has been carried out to persuade him to escape from prison, flee Athens to a safe harbor at Thessaly/ Thereby, Crito argues, he will spare him the embarrassment of not being able to save his friend. Moreover, Socrates will both spare himself from death, and preserve himself for his friends. But Socrates, who applied reasoning to the moral life, and advanced the notion that virtue (In Greek: aretē, or ἀρετή) was a form of knowledge, and thus it could be taught (Cf. Meno), applies reason to Crito's arguments and finds them wanting. The opinions of men ought not to be regarded in answering the question of right or wrong; it is only the opinions of good men, the wise that ought to be considered. The opinions of the vulgar, or the opinions of the unthinking crowd therefore ought to be safely bracketed from the decision of right or wrong. Socrates rejects the argument that, by fleeing against the laws and judgment of his fellow Athenians, he is acting in accordance with justice. In approaching this question, Socrates begins with a principle that rejects outright the Greek Vergeltdungsdenke, or "repayment thinking" ethic:
Socrates: Then we must do no wrong?

Crito: Certainly not.

Socrates: Nor when injured injure in return, as the many imagine; for we must injure no one at all?

Crito: Clearly not.

Socrates: Again, Crito, may we do evil?

Crito: Surely not, Socrates.

Socrates: And what of doing evil in return for evil (τί δέ; ἀντικακουργεῖν κακῶς πάσχοντα), which is the morality of the many (ὡς οἱ πολλοί φασιν)--is that just or not (δίκαιον ἢ οὐ δίκαιον)?

Crito: Not just.

Socrates: For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him?

Crito: Very true.

Socrates: Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I would have you consider, Crito, whether you really mean what you are saying.
Crito 49c. (Jowett, trans.) Then, in the remainder, Socrates applies this principle by personifying the Athenian law and asking whether the law itself (which represents the multitude of Athenians), though it has harmed him by condemning his to death, it had before that done him well, and it would be, in any event, harmed by his escape. He is not to do good to the law (obey it) when it favors him, and to harm the law (disobey it) when it disfavors him. The irony that Socrates rejects the morality of the vulgar, only to end up captive to the will of the vulgar, ought not to escape us. But Socrates's points "remains true, regardless of the controversy about the degree of irony present here." Wattles, 33.

The dialogue Phaedo presents Socrates in similar context. He is being visited by his friends in prison as the death sentence is imminently to be carried out. In this dialogue, the issue of immortality and the legitimacy of suicide looms large. What is particularly fascinating about this dialogue is that Socrates applies the Golden Rule in analyzing our relationship to God. Socrates applies what may be called an analogia moralis or analogia moralium, a moral analogy or analogy of morals in coming to the conclusion that suicide is wrong. Again, the Socratic irony (which always is nearby) is apparent: it is unjust to commit suicide, but it is nevertheless just to suffer the unjust sentence under law which requires forcible suicide by the drinking of hemlock.

The dialogue, in this case between Cebes and Socrates, accepts the existence of the gods and the afterlife. It assumes, further, that we have a duty to the gods, indeed God (in the singular) (τὸ θεοὺς εἶναι ἡμῶν τοὺς ἐπιμελουμένους, Phaedo, 62b); Wattles, 35. We are, as it were, chattels of the gods, Phaedo, 62b, and, just as if we would be upset if one of our possessions destroyed itself, so, likewise, would God be upset if we destroyed ourselves through suicide.
“Well then,” said he, “if one of your chattels should kill itself when you had not indicated that you wished it to die, would you be angry with it and punish it if you could?”

“Certainly,” he replied.
(Phaedo, 62c) (Fowler, trans.) In the dialogue, then, the Golden Rule, which can be applied in relationships which contain a relationship of subordination and not strict equality, is extended by analogy into the context of the relationship between man and God. How is it that we would want a subordinate to act towards us, were we in the position of the a superior or superordinate? The answer to that question may be analogized so as to answer what our duties to God ought to be. Under this concept, the Golden Rule is applicable in guiding our relationship to God. (While there is real insight here, one must remember that the Golden Rule is content neutral, or as Wattles calls it "free-floating," Wattles, 36-37, and so it can be easily corrupted, or improperly recruited, by not being properly founded upon a greater ethic or, worse, upon an erroneous ethic. Thus, for example, a follower of Satan, or one who entertains the erroneous concept of a violent, tyrannical Allah, would apply the Golden Rule with vicious results.)

Stained Glass Window showing The Good Samaritan by Marc Chagall

The "Golden Rule" thinking is also applied by Plato in the context of relationships between men of commerce, where there is equality of relationship, and in the assessment of good laws. Plato does this in his Laws, in addressing the laws that ought to govern property:
In the next place our business transactions one with another will require proper regulation. The following will serve for a comprehensive rule:—as far as possible, no one shall touch my goods nor move them in the slightest degree, if he has in no wise at all got my consent; and I must act in like manner regarding the goods of all other men, keeping prudent mind.
Laws, 913a (Bury, trans.) So does the Athenian say.

In his application of the Golden Rule thinking, Plato avoids the Vergeltdungsdenke of the masses, the hoi polloi, which infected the formulation of that rule, or at least its application, in Isocrates. Rejecting any Protagorean notion that man is the proper measure of things, Plato rests his application of the Golden Rule on a greater ethic. In Plato:
The person using the golden rule thinking, Socrates or the Athenian, is virtuous, loyal to the highest conceivable standard of goodness. The conditions that block the objection [that one ought not to make man the measure of things] are, first, that no free-floating golden rule is presented as a sufficient moral measure; and, second, that the wants of Socrates and the Athenian are hardly unregulated--they both strive for the divine measure. Such idealism would facilitate the insight necessary to apply the golden rule appropriately. Ennobled wants do not exceed what is fair.
Wattles, 36.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell