Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 1

THE GOLDEN RULE WAS CENTRAL TO THE MORAL TEACHINGS of the early Church. Interestingly, both negative and positive formulations appear to have been adopted as normative. Frequently, both positive and negative formulations are combined in the same text.

We saw in the prior posting various formulations of the Golden Rule, including those of the Didache, at text which dates to the late first and early second century, and which was very clearly reliant on Jewish sources. The Didache was highly regarded by the early Church, as Eusebius the first Church historian tells us, it was well-nigh considered canonical.

As a moral teaching, the Golden Rule was ubiquitous. We will review various formulations of it. Unfortunately, not all of these texts in their original languages are easily accessible.

In the Disdascalia Apostolorum:
But for men who obey God there is one law, simple and true and mild -- without question, for Christians -- this, that which you hate that it should be done to you by another, you do not to another [cf. Tob 4.15]. You would not that a man should look upon thy wife evilly to corrupt her: neither look thou upon the wife of thy companion with evil intent. You would not that a man should take away thy garment: neither do thou take away that of another. You would not be reviled and insulted, or beaten: neither do you to another anyone of these things. But if a man revile you, do you bless him; for it is written in the Book of Numbers: He that blesses is blessed, and he that curses is cursed [cf. Num 24.9; Gen 27.29]. And in the Gospel also it is written again: Bless them that curse you [Lk 6.28; Mt 5.44]. And to them that do you evil, do not you evil; and do good to them that hate you [Lk 6.27], and be patient and endure, for the Scripture says: You shall not say: I will render to mine enemy evil, even as he has done to me: but be patient, and the Lord will be your helper, and will bring a recompense upon him that does you evil [Prov 20.22]. And again He says in the Gospel: Love them that hate you, and pray for them that curse you, and you shall have no enemy [Mt 5.44;Lk 6.27; Did 1.3]. Let us attend then, our beloved, and understand these commandments and keep them, that we may be sons of the light [cf. Jn 12.36; Eph 5.8; 1 Th 5.5].

Eis autem hominibus, qui oboediunt Deo, una lex est simplex, vera, sine quaestione Christianis constituta ita: Quod tibi fieri ab alio oderis, tu alii ne feceris. Non vis uxorem tuam ut quis adtendat in malo ad corrumpendum eam; nec to proximi tui mulierem adtendas in malo. Non vis pallium tuum ab alio tolli; nec tu alii tuleris. Non vis vulnerari aut iniuriam pati aut detrectari de te; nec tu alii ita facies. Se maledicata te quis; tu benedic illum, quoniam scriptum est in libro Numer(or)um: Que benedicit, benediceter, et qui maledicit, maledictus erit. [Propterea] similiter et in Evangelio scriptum est: Benedicite maledicentes vos. Eos qui vos nocent, nolite renocere, sed sustinete, quoniam dicit scriptura: Ne dicas noceam inimicum meum, quonian me nocuit; sed sustine, ut Dominus te adiuvet et vindictam faciat super eum, qui te nocuit. Nam iterum in Evangelio dicit: Diligite odientes vos et orate pro maledicentibus vos et inimicum nullum habebitis. Intenti igitur simus mandatis istis, dilecti[ssimi], ut filii lucis inveniamur, cum ea agimus.
Disdascalia, I.1-2 (R. Hugh Connolly, trans. with modernization; Latin from Franz Zaver von Funk) [Cf. Apostolic Constitutions 1, 1.]

The Epistula Apostolorum or Epistle of the Apostles is an apocryphal work, and yet of early origin, the text of which has been found in Ethiopic and Coptic.
But look now, I give unto you a new commandment: Love one another and [one leaf missing in Coptic] obey each other and (that) continual peace reign among you. Love your enemies, and what you do not want done to you, that do to no one else.
Ron Cameron, ed. The Other Gospels, 142 (18 Duensing version].

The Apologia ad Autolycum of Theophilus, an early apologetic work of the 2nd century bishop, Theophilus of Antioch, notable for being the first Christian text to use the word "Trinity," (Greek τριας or trias) clearly makes reference to the Golden Rule in its negative formulation.
But God at least, the Father and Creator of the universe, did not abandon mankind, but gave a law, and sent holy prophets to declare and teach the race of men, that each one of us might awake and understand that there is one God. And they also taught us to refrain from unlawful idolatry, and adultery, and murder, fornication, theft, avarice, false swearing, wrath, and every incontinence and uncleanness; and that whatever a man would not wish to be done to himself, he should not do to another; and thus he who acts righteously shall escape the eternal punishments, and be thought worthy of the eternal life from God.

Theophil. ad Autolyc., II.34 (Schaff, trans.).

Icon of St. Aristides of Athens

The Gospel of St. Thomas, an apocryphal Gospel discovered in 1945 in Coptic, is an assembly of 114 sayings (or logia) attributed to Jesus. The apocryphal Gospel clearly shows Gnostic influences. One of the logion (No. 6) states the Golden Rule in a negative formulation, exceedingly succinct: "do not do what you hate."

Jesus said, "Do not lie, and do not do what you hate, because all things are revealed before heaven. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered that will remain without being disclosed."

Gospel of Thomas in Coptic (Logion 6) Containing the Golden Rule

Aristides, a Christian apologist living in Athens in the 2nd century, composed an apology following a persecution of Christians after Emperor Hadrian was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Church historian Eusebius states that Aristides's apology was presented to Hadrian in 126 A.D. (Hist. IV.3.3). In Chapter 15 of that work, the Golden Rule is stated in its negative formulation as a summary and is included as a general principle among an list of concrete behaviors that Christians follow:
But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and. rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.
(D.M. Kay, trans.)

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

No comments:

Post a Comment