Golden Rule

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The phrase Golden rule is established in English as the name for a Biblical teaching[1] often phrased as "do unto others as you would have others do unto you." In this form it qualifies as a "familiar misquotation." It is expressed twice in the Gospels as the words of Jesus:

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12 (KJV)
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31 (KJV)

By referring to "the law and the prophets," Jesus is saying that the principle is not original with him, but is his expression of a principle of Judaic law, a supersession of the original Lex Talionis.

Jesus also stated it to be the second most important commandment in Christianity, after the Shema.[2][3]

Historical Formulations

The principle is found throughout religious history as a guiding principle in the treatment of others.

  • "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." — Torah (ca. 1200-1500 BC) Leviticus 19:18
  • "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." — Torah (ca. 1200-1500 BC) Leviticus 19:33-34
  • "What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." — Confucius (ca. 551–479 BC)
  • "Since to others, to each one for himself, the self is dear, therefore let him who desires his own advantage not to harm another" Udana - Varqua, (ca. 470 BC)
  • "This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you." — Mahabharata (5:15:17) (c. 500 BC)
  • "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." — Hillel the Elder (ca. 50 BC-10 AD)
  • "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." — Jesus (ca. 5 BC—33 AD) in the Gospels, Luke 6:31 (KJV)

Humor and Parody

George Bernard Shaw, in a preface to his play Man and Superman, includes a collection of witty "Maxims for Revolutionists" which include

  • Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
  • The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.

There is also a cynical play on the wording and the sentiment behind the rule:

Unrelated uses

  • A small town named Golden Rule existed in Texas for some time around the early 1900s.[4]
  • The Golden Rule Insurance Company is best known for its intense and ultimately successful lobbying for the creation of "health savings accounts," an alternative to traditional health insurance.

Notes and references

  1. "Golden rule, n. The biblical teaching that one should behave toward others as one would have others behave toward oneself." American Heritage dictionary
  4. Golden Rule, Texas. Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association: "Golden Rule, also known as Greer's Neighborhood, was four miles east of Mineola on what later became Farm Road 49 in southern Wood County. The community's name was probably changed to Golden Rule by 1890.... In 1905 the Golden Rule school reported thirty white and fifty-six black students.... Golden Rule was not named on the 1936 county highway map.