Who first invented the golden rule?
Answer: Not Jesus.
This post is dedicated to the many people who have claimed to me, without any evidence or research, that the Golden Rule was invented by Jesus, as indicated by the “Do unto others” passage of the New Testament. As though this principle hasn’t been extolled by all the world’s major religions! As though this rule wasn’t used by many religions hundreds of years before the purported birth of Jesus. So for you guys who keep getting this wrong, PLEASE listen up:
The golden rule has been adopted by every major world religion.
Note: You can order a versions-of-the-golden-rule poster here.
A site called Palatine Hill lists some of the oldest formulations of the Golden Rule in reverse chronological order:
- Ancient Egypt.- circa 2000 BCE “Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do.” – The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant 109-110,
- Hebrew Bible – circa 700 BCE “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”
- Zoroastrianism.- circa 600 BCE “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.” – Dadistan-i-Dinik 94:5,
- Buddhism.- circa 500 BCE “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Varga 5:18,
- Confucianism.- circa 500 BCE “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Analects of Confucius 15:24,
- Socrates.- circa 400 BCE “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”
The list goes on and on. Although many philosophers would object, I would add Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative to the mix. I would also add a version I learned from a neighbor when I was a kid “If you smack me, I’ll smack you back.” Or maybe that’s the Inverse Golden Rule or Obverse Golden Rule.
What’s truly interesting is that all decent people (not just believers in God) adopt a rule like the Golden Rule. Thus, there really doesn’t seem to be a religious basis for the rule. At bottom, it is a call for empathy. The more I consider morality, the more I think that it is empathy that is the basis for all workable moral systems. No matter what else a supposed moral system is about, if it’s not founded on widespread empathy (not just empathy toward the small circle of one’s own friends and family), it’s not really about morality.
Anyway, I’m trying to follow the golden rule by posting this information. I appreciated others posting this similar information for my own benefit, so now I’m posting it. Adios.
- Republicans boo the golden rule
- Israel invokes golden rule regarding organ donors
- Golden Gate Bridge in the late afternoon
- Pharyngula’s first rule regarding religion
- More on the Catholic bishops and the HHS rule
- They rule. Really.
- Bill Moyers: On Memorial Day we should honor our soldiers by honoring the rule of law