The struggles of a catholic progressive

According to Simon Blackburn, although the Golden Rule “can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”, the rule is “sometimes claimed by Christianity as its own”. The “Golden Rule” has been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth: “Therefore all things whatsoever would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A similar form appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583). The Golden Rule also has roots in the two old testament edicts, found in Leviticus 19:18 (“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself”; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 (“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God”).

The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, also express a negative form of the golden rule:

“Do to no one what you yourself dislike.”

—Tobit 4:15

“Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes.”

—Sirach 31:15

At the time of Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, the negative form of the golden rule already must have been proverbial, perhaps because of Tobit 4:15. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

—Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the golden rule:

Matthew 7:12

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Luke 6:31

31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28

25And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

26What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you understand it?” 27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ”

28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do that, and you will live.”.

The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”, by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that “your neighbour” is anyone in need.[46] Jesus’ teaching, however, goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasises the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgement, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.

In one passage of the New Testament Paul the Apostle refers to the golden rule:

Galatians 5:14

14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this;Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

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