Friday, 6 May 2011

Or is it Five Commandments?

After yesterday's thoughts on the 'Three Commandments' and how they affect everyday life in the 21st century (not much after removal of the redundant seven), it might be reasonable to ask which parts of biblical teaching are missing from them.

There is no reference in the Old Testament to anything like the 'golden rule' of doing unto others what you would like them to do to you.  In Dan Barker's 'Losing Faith in Faith' (p 347) he comments that this golden rule ought to be referred to as 'The Bronze Guideline' because there are many people who do not want anything done to them at all.

From the christian point of view this rule is a new testament invention, introduced into the law by Jesus.  But is this true?  It seems questionable for several reasons.

The golden rule as it appears Matthew 7:12 is actually a retelling of Rabbi Hillel's teachings in 10 AD.  It pre-dates Jesus significantly.  But that is not all.

Compare this also with the idea from the Brahmins in about 300BC "Hurt not others in ways that you would find hurtful".

Or try the even-earlier Confucian version from around 500BC "Do not do to do unto others what they would not want to be done to them". 

This latter version is surely the best one.

"Love thy neighbour" is also not an Old Testament commandment although Jesus treats it as such.  (Some make a reference to Leviticus 19:18 but that is said to refer specifically to 'the children of thy people' only rather than to generic neighbours of all nations). 

These important philosophies of the golden rule and loving thy neighbour seem much more useful than the first four commandments, probably more desirable three of the others.  They are surely a worthy addition to the three that are legally enforced these days.

I propose that there are now five commandments - source unknown, but probably not ordained by god.  Surely all were completely obvious to people long before the time of Moses!

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