GOLDEN RULE, THE:
By this name is designated the saying of Jesus (Matt. vii. 12): "All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them." In James ii. 8 it is called "the royal law." It has been held to be the fundamental canon of morality.
In making this announcement, Jesus is claimed to have transcended the limitations of Jewish law and life. The fact is, however, that this fundamental principle, like almost if not quite all the "logia" attributed to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, had been proclaimed authoritatively in Israel. In the instructions given by Tobit to his son Tobias (Book of Tobit, iv.), after admonishing him to love his brethren, the father proceeds to urge upon the son to have heed of all his doings and to show himself of good breeding ("derek ereẓ") in all his conduct. "And what is displeasing to thyself, that do not unto any other" (verse 15). Again, there is the well-known anecdote in which Hillel explains to a would-be proselyte that the maxim "not to do unto one's fellow what is hateful to oneself" is the foundation of Judaism, the rest being no more than commentary (Shab. 31a). See Brotherly Love and Didache.Meaning of "Ḥaber."
It has been argued (by Hilgenfeld, Siegfried, and recently by Bousset) that the maxim of Hillel applied, like the Biblical command "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. xix. 18), only to fellow Jews. In proof of the contention, the word "ḥaber" used by Hillel is noted. As in a technical sense Ḥaber designates a member of the Pharisaic fraternity of learned pious men, so here, according to the scholars referred to above, it has a restricted significance. The circumstances under which Hillel was speaking preclude the possibility of his having thought of the technical meaning of the word. He addresses himself to a non-Jew who at best could not for years hope to be a ḥaber. "Ḥaber" is the usual rendering for the Hebrew "rea'" (neighbor). Much philological hair-splitting has been used to restrict the meaning of this word to "compatriot," but the context of Lev. xix. 18 makes it plain that "rea'," as interpreted by these "holiness laws" themselves (see Ethics), embraces also the stranger. Tobit's admonition proves the same. After speaking of "brothers," i.e., men of his race and people, the father proceeds to give his son advice regarding his conduct to others, "the hired man," for instance; and in connection with this, not in connection with the subject of his marriage, he enjoins the observance of the Golden Rule.
Love of one's friends and hatred of one's enemies are nowhere inculcated in Jewish literature, despite the fact that Bousset ("Religion des Judenthums," p. 113), referring to Matthew v. 43, calls this verse the comprehensive statement of Jewish ethical belief and doctrine. Either the second half of the sentence is an addition by a later hand, or, what is more likely, it resulted from a misapprehension of a rabbinical argumentative question. According to Schechter the statement should read as follows: "You have heard that ["ettemar" = ἐρρέθη] it has been said [in the Law] 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor.' Does this now mean ["shomea' ani"] love thy neighbor [friend] but hate thine enemy?" No. Nevertheless while Jewish ethics has never commanded and paraded love for an enemy, it has practised it (Chwolson, "Das Letzte Passahmahl Christi," p. 80). Hillel in another of his sayings speaks of love for all creatures ("ha-beriyyot"), which term certainly embraces all humanity. Nor is it true that the seeming universalism of this sentence (Abot i. 12) is restricted by the addition "bring them toward the Torah," as Bousset, following Hilgenfeld, would have it appear. "Torah" is the equivalent of the modern "religion," and if Jesus in the Golden Rule declares it to be "the law and the prophets," he puts down merely the more specific for the wider implications of the word "torah." R. Akiba ascribed the wider application to the command "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. xix. 18; Sifra Ḳedoshim to the verse [ed. Weiss, p. 89b]; comp. Gal. v. 14; Rom. xiii. 8; Yer. Ned. 41c; Gen. R. xxiv.; and Kohler in
The negative form of the Golden Rule marks if anything a higher outlook than the positive statement in which it is cast in Matthew. "What you would have others do unto you," makes self and possible advantages to self the central motive; "what is hateful to you do not unto another," makes the effect upon others the regulating principle. But be this as it may, the Golden Rule is only an assertion of the essentially Jewish and rabbinical view that "measure for measure" should be the rule regulating any one man's expectation from others (rights), while more than measure should be the rule indicating one's services to others (duties). The former is phrased "middah keneged middah" (Nedarim 32b), and "ba-middah sheadam moded modadin lo" (Soṭah 8b); the latter is "li-fenim mishshurat ha-din" (B. Ḳ 99b), or to be "ma'abir 'al middotaw," that is, of a forgiving, yielding disposition (see Cruelty).
- Jacob Bernays, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, i. 274-276;
- L. Lazarus, Zur Charakteristik der Talmudischen, Ethik;
- Herm. Cohen, Die Nächstenliebe im Talmud, Marburg, 1888;
- idem, in Jahrbuch für Jüd. Geschichte und Litteratur, 1900;
- L. Löw, Ges. Schriften, i. 45;
- Chwolson, Das Letzte Passahmahl Christi, p. 60, St. Petersburg, 1892;
- Güdemann, Nächstenliebe, in Oesterreichische Wochenschrift, 1900;
- idem, Neutestamentliche Studien, in Monatsschrift, 1893, pp. 1 et seq.;
- Bacher, Ag. Tan. i. 7 (2d ed., p. 4);
- Felix Perles, Bousset's Religion des Judenthums, Berlin, 1903;
- Hirsch, The Times and Teachings of Jesus, Chicago, 1891.