The Jesus Creed Lite

All of the Torah and all of the Prophets, Jesus says, are summed up in this simple golden rule: “do to others what you want them to do to you.” Allison says no one called this the “golden rule” before the 18th Century, but what I would call it is the Jesus Creed Lite: it is a variant of the second half of the Jesus Creed (loving God, loving others). To do to others what you want them to do you is to love them as yourself.
What is perhaps indicative of the importance of this saying is that Jesus says living according to the golden rule is to live the whole Torah and the whole Prophets. This is nothing short of amazing. What is also amazing is that it is this very idea that is found in the early Church on the “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14) and James (2:8-10) both say the second half of the Jesus Creed fulfills the whole Law. So, we have to connect Matthew 7:12 to 22:34-40.
Shammai, according to tradition a contemporary of Jesus, said that the whole Law is summed up (said while standing on one foot, an image for reducing to short summary) in “do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Allison gives a basketful of other references, from Judaism and the whole world where such a moral axiom is used. Because it is inherently house-wisdom, learned at the knees of wise fathers and mothers, we would do well to avoid thinking Jesus has one-upped the Judaism of his day by saying this in the positive form (“do” rather than “don’t do”). The positive form is more consistent with his focus on loving others (a positive directive).
Finally, I see no reason to think the golden rule is self-serving. The golden rule assumes that Jesus’ followers will be thinking of themselves, caring for themselves, etc., and just builds on it: as we care for ourselves, so we should care for others. Self-centeredness is not assumed; nor does this kind of saying cover so much that those who struggle with self-image are somehow ruled right off the map.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard

    I find your thoughts and application here illuminating. Thanks Scot.

  • http://www.communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard

    Also I think there’s a powerful antidote in doing. Doing good acts for those we may not like, for example.

  • http://tishbyte.blogspot.com c.baruch

    Good stuff…
    I think you were thinking of Hillel, not Shammai. Shammai was more for strict observance, whereas Hillel, his contemporary, tended to condense things down with sayings like what you quoted, so you could know why you were being Torah observant. Their followers were always at odds with eachother.
    Hillel was the grandfather of Gam’liel, Paul’s mentor, and the one who saved the apostle’s necks. Hillel could have been one of the rabbis who was amazed at Jesus’s wisdom at the age of 12.

  • http://www.michaelhidalgo.blogspot.com Michael Hidalgo

    Scot
    I appreciate your sight, and enjoy reading what you have to say.
    Your comment about Shammai when you say, “Shammai, according to tradition a contemporary of Jesus, said that the whole Law is summed up (said while standing on one foot, an image for reducing to short summary) in ‘do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.’” should be applied to Hillel, another Rabbi who lived a little before Jesus and was a contemporary of Shammai.
    According to the Babylonian Talmud, this is the account of Hillel and Shammai, and standing on one foot:
    “A certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ Thereupon he repulsed him with the rod which was in his hand. When he went to Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn.’”
    - B. Talmud, Shabbat 31a
    Thanks so much for your fresh thinking.
    Michael Hidalgo
    http://www.michaelhidalgo.blogspot.com


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