Christians frequently cite the so called “Golden Rule” as stated in the bible as evidence that the bible was inspired by god. They claim that, until Jesus spoke those words, that in all of human history, no one had ever thought about treating enemies with kindness, and that this proves the bible is inspired by a peaceful and loving god.
For reference, I have compiled the following list below. It demonstrates some examples of the golden rule, as stated by people, from other religions, from throughout the ancient world.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, by any means. There are countless other examples, but I think that these illustrate the point rather clearly. Here then is the list;
- The Eloquent Peasant (2160-2025 BC) – One of the oldest examples of the golden rule.
Do for others, so that you may cause them thus to do for you.
- Homer (c. 1100-850 BC) – Author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Considered by the ancient Greeks as the first and the greatest of the epic poets. The importance of Homer to the ancient Greeks is described in Plato‘s Republic, which portrays him as the protos didaskalos, “first teacher”, of the tragedians, the hegemon paideias, “leader of Greek culture”, and the ten Hellada pepaideukon, “teacher of [all] Greece”. Homer’s writings were emulated throughout the ancient world. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds in Egypt.
I’ll be as careful for you as I’d be for myself in like need. I know what is fair and right. (The Odyssey)
- Leviticus (700-332 BC) – The Biblical book of Leviticus
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)
- Thales of Miletus (624-546 BC) – One of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece, widely regarded as the father of Greek philosophy.
Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.
Do not to your neighbour, that which you would not like done from him. (Fragment 10.3)
Forgiveness is better than revenge.
Avoid speaking evil not only of your friends, but also of your enemies.
- Exodus (c. 600-400 BC) – Old Testament book of Exodus
“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
- Buddha (c. 6th-4th Centuries BC) – The founder of Buddhism
There is nothing dearer to man than himself; therefore, as it is the same thing that is dear to you and to others, hurt not others with what pains yourself (Dhammapada, Northern Canon, 5:18).
Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.(Sutta Nipata, 705)
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter. (Dhammapada 10. Violence)
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udanavarga 5:18)
Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill. (Dhammapada 10. Violence)
- Acaranga Sutra (c. 6th-4th Centuries BC) – Early Jainism religious texts, compiled based upon the teachings of Mahavira.
Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant. (Acaranga Sutra)
Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential. (Acaranga Sutra)
A monk should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Jaina Sutras, Sutrakritanga, bk. 1, 10:1-3)
A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. (Jaina Sutras, Sutrakritanga, bk. 1, 11:33)
In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self. (Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara)
- Lao Tzu (c. 6th-4th centuries BC) – Chinese philosopher
To those who are good to me, I am good; and to those who are not good to me, I am also good; and thus all get to receive good. (Tao Te Ching 49)
- Confucius (551-479 BC) – Chinese philosopher
Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. (Analects 15:24)
What I don’t want done to me, I don’t want to do to others. (Analects 5.12)
the ren man, wishing himself to be established, sees that others are established, and, wishing himself to be successful, sees that others are successful. To be able to take one’s own feelings as a guide may be called the art of ren. (Analects 6:30)
- Maeandrius of Samos (522 BC) – Is quoted in the Histories, by the Greek historian, Herodotus around 450 BC
What I condemn in another I will, if I may, avoid myself. (Histories 3.142)
- Mohism (470-391) – A Chinese school of Philosophy
A person of universal love will take care of his friend as he does of himself, and take care of his friend’s parents as his own. So when he finds his friend hungry he will feed him, and when he finds him cold he will clothe him. (Book of Mozi, ch. 4)
If people regarded other people’s families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. (Book of Mozi)
- Isocrates (436-338 BC) – One of the ten Attic orators. Among the most influential Greek rhetoricians.
Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others. (Nicocles 6)
- Aristippus of Cyrene (435–356 BC) – Founder of the Cyrenaic school of Philosophy, and a pupil of Socrates, taught that one should
Cherish reciprical benevolence, which will make you as anxious for another’s welfare as your own.
- Plato (c. 428–347 BC) – The most celebrated philosopher in human history
I’d have no one touch my property, if I can help it, or disturb it without consent on my part; if I’m a man of reason, I must treat the property of others the same way (Laws).
- Mahabharata (c. 4th century BC) – One of the two major Hindu Epics of Hinduism
One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. (Anusasana Parva, book 13.113 , v.8)
A man should wander about treating all creatures as he would like himself to be treated. (Sutrakritanga 1.11,33)
- Aristotle (384-322 BC) – One of the great Greek Philosophers, and teacher of Alexander the Great, who spread Greek philosophy to the Hebrew world. Often called the first scientist.
As the virtuous man is to himself, he is to his friend also, for his friend is another self” (Nicomachean Ethics 9:9)
- Mencius (c. 385-289 BC) – Confucianist philosopher
Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence. (Works bk. 7, A:4)
- Tirukkural (c. 3rd-1st centuries BC) – Part of Tamil religious scripture.
Why does a man inflict upon other creatures those sufferings, which he has found by experience are sufferings to himself ? (K. 318)
Let not a man consent to do those things to another which, he knows, will cause sorrow. (K. 316)
It is the determination of the spotless not to do evil, even in return, to those who have cherished enmity and done them evil (K. 312)
The (proper) punishment to those who have done evil (to you), is to put them to shame by showing them kindness, in return and to forget both the evil and the good done on both sides (K. 314)
- Tobit (225-175 BC) – The Apocryphal book of Tobit
Do to no one what you yourself dislike. (Book of Tobit 4:16)
- Hillel the Elder (110 BC – 10 AD) – One of the most revered scholars in Jewish history.
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary. (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a)
What you wish your neighbours to be to you, be that to them.
Wish that you may be able to help your enemies (Sentences of Sextus)
- Philo of Alexandria (25-50 BC) – A Jewish Philosopher
Don’t do to another what you’d be unwilling to have done to you. (Hypothetica 7:6)
For the purposes of comparison, here is the golden rule as stated by the gospels;
Jesus (c. 1-33 AD) – The golden rule as presented in the gospels.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
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