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.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Golden Rule: The Teaching of Our Lord

IN JUDAISM, THE GOLDEN RULE is one that is derived from Revelation. (This is true despite the Book of Tobit, the canonicity of which has been rejected by the Jewish religious authorities, though the Church has held it canonical and inspired.) In Christianity, the Golden Rule is part of Revelation itself, not only as a result of the Book of Tobit, but also as a result of the direct teaching of the Word of God as revealed in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. What the Jewish scholars learned through a sort of analogia fidei, Christ taught with authority of the God who reveals, and who cannot deceive or be deceived. Whereas for the Jew, the Golden Rule is accepted fides rabbinica, for the Christian, the Golden Rule must be accepted fides divina. Without doubt, the Golden Rule is directly revealed by Christ. Not to accept it is to be a heretic. But, that said, how are we to understand it?

Ancient Persian and Islamic Miniature of Jesus on the Mount

Christ's revelation of the Golden Rule as a principle of moral action is found in two different places in the Gospels. First, it is found as part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as related in the Gospel of Matthew. Second, it is found as part of Jesus' "Sermon on the Plain" in the Gospel of Luke. The Gospels either are referring to the same sermon, or to two different sermons close to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry after his selection of his apostles. For our purposes, it really matters not which.

Matthew 7:12Luke 6:31
All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophetsAnd as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner.
Omnia ergo quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite eis haec est enim lex et prophetae.Et prout vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite illis similiter.
Πάντα οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οῖ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται. Καὶ καθῶς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.

At once, it is apparent that Christ's teaching is universal. It applies to the way we should treat all men (human beings), ἄνθρωποι, homines. It is an ethic that spreads out beyond the confines of Israel, and those followers of Jesus that were to become the new, spiritual Israel, that is, those members of his Church. This Golden Rule should govern Christians' relationship with all men, including non-believers. Implied by this universal ethic is that the behavior of all men, regardless of whether they are followers of Christ, ought to be similarly so bound. That is, Christ appears clearly to nestle this teaching as part of the natural law in addition to being part of the Law and the Prophets, though he clearly expects us to act beyond it. The Gospel of Matthew, traditionally thought to be aimed at a Jewish audience, stresses the Golden Rule's link with the Law and the Prophets. If it includes the Law and the Prophets, then it includes the natural law that is positively promulgated in the Law and the Prophets. Luke, on the other hand, aimed at a Gentile audience, does not mention the link of the Golden Rule with the Mosaic law. Other than this, the Matthean and Lucan formulations do not seem to be significantly different, though the Matthean version seems more substantive (what is to be done), and the Lucan verison more procedural (how it is to be done) in emphasis.

Good Samaritan: Stained Glass Window by Marc Chagall

The other apparent thing is that Christ's formulation of the Golden Rule is affirmative in nature: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is not the negative formulation which we saw reflected in the Book of Tobit or in Rabbi Hillel: do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. The affirmative formulation appears to impose affirmative obligations or duties on behavior; whereas the negative formulation appears to impose restrictions on behavior. Both formulations, however, equally require a self-assessment as part of the ethical life. There is a suggestion, then, that our inner life is not so damaged by the Fall so that it is no longer indicative of right. Christ rejects any notion of a Calvinistic total depravity. We have still, even after Adam's Fall, somewhat of a reliable inner moral compass. Things we wish tell us how we should act towards others. This suggests that our wishes have some objective standard which they reference, to wit, the natural law. But our wishes are not whims, as they must be understood within the difficult ethic of the Beatitudes, a teaching which immediately precedes that handing down of the Golden Rule, which call the disciples of Christ to a supernaturally-based ethic, and within which that rule must be understood.

Perhaps most striking of all is that, when these formulations of the Golden Rule are viewed within the contexts of the greater sermons of which they are part, Christ takes us out of the ethical realm of justice, into the entirely new ethical realm of love, and love of that certain, rigorous kind: caritas or agape. It is clear that the Golden Rule as envisioned by Christ is more than: "Do justice!" It is: "Love!" It is, in fact, a justice that requires us to bear injustice in a manner so as to redeem it. And so we cannot simply stop at the words of the Golden Rule itself, we must explore their context, and we must explore it within the life of Christ, who was the personification of that Golden Rule, its end and its fulfillment. Ultimately, the Golden Rule, at least for a Christian, is the imitatio Christi. Since this requires the supernatural life of Grace, it suggests that Christ's formulation of the Golden Rule has both natural and supernatural aspects to it.

Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Chapters 5 through 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. The event receives relatively lengthy treatment by Matthew, representing approximately ten percent of the Gospel. And so it should, as the Sermon on the Mount presents "the perfect standard of the Christian life," ad mores optimos pertinet, perfectum vitae christianae modum. St. Aug., D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 1.1. The Golden Rule comes towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Crowds are gathered in the areas, drawn by the reputation of Jesus for healing the sick, and somewhere near Capernaum Jesus climbs a hillside to address his disciples, it appears separate from the crowds, though there is some ambiguity about it. These are the teachings for his followers. He begins with the counter-intuitive Beatitudes. I say counter-intuitive, but that is not necessarily so. The Beatitudes are all tied to the reality of eternal life after this temporal life, and, if life after judgment is part of the moral equation, then counter-intuitiveness disappears. Though they clearly reference eternity, the Beatitudes "respond to the desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart," Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1725, a desire which extends beyond this life. The Beatitudes are counter-intuitive only to a materialist.

Jesus names as blessed or happy--beatus or μακάριοι--the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger or thirst for justice, who are persecuted, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers. It follows that we should be poor in spirit, mourn, hunger and thirst for justice, expect persecution, be meek, merciful, pure of heart, and become peacemakers. St. Augustine ties these beatitudes to the Isaiahan gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2-3): he attaches fear to humility, the poor in spirit; piety to the meek; knowledge to those that mourn; fortitude to those who hunger and thirst; counsel to those who are merciful; understanding to those who are pure of heart; and wisdom to those who are peacemakers. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 4.11. St. Augustine has an interesting perspective on Christ's beatitude regarding the peacemakers:
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." [Matt. 5:9] It is the perfection of peace [in pace perfectio est], where nothing offers opposition; and the children of God are peacemakers, because nothing resists God, and surely children ought to have the likeness of their father. Now, they are peacemakers in themselves who, by bringing in order all the motions of their soul, and subject them to reason--i.e., to the mind and spirit--and by having their carnal lusts thoroughly subdued, become a kingdom of God [edomitas fiunt regnum Dei]: in which all things are so arranged, that that which is chief and pre-eminent in man rules without resistance over the other elements, which are common to us with the beats; and that very element which is pre-eminent in man, i.e., mind and reason, is brought under subjection to something better still, which is the truth itself, the only-begotten Son of God. For a man is not able to rule over things which are inferior, unless he subjects himself to what is superior. And this is the peace which is given on earth to men of goodwill; this is the life of the fully developed and perfect wise man.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 2.9. Christ's teachings are not ordinary teachings, they are divine; and those who adopt them will be markedly different from the mass of men. They will be as salt, which flavors the bland, and preserves meat. They will be as light on a hilltop, which dispels darkness and gives guidance to one who journeys from afar.

As if to make clear the unique yet the traditional basis of his teaching, Jesus expounds the Law next. There is no question of the Law's abrogation, but of its fulfillment. "Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled." Matt. 5:17-18. St. Augustine sees this sentence as containing two meanings:
In this sentence the meaning is twofold. We must deal with it both ways. For he who says, "I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill," means it either in the way of adding what is wanting, or of doing what is in it [aut addendo dicit quod minus habet aut facideno quod habet]. Let us then consider that first which I have put first: for he who adds what is wanting does not surely destroy what he finds, but rather confirms it by perfecting it; . . . For, even if those things which are added for completion are fulfilled, much more are those things fulfilled which are sent in advance as a commencement [Dum enim fiunt etiam illa quae adduntur ad perfectionem, multo magis fiunt illa quae praemissa sunt ad inchoationem]."
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 8.20. The Commandments remain binding on Christ's disciples. Matt. 5:19. Not only are they binding, they must be internalized, expanded, broadened so that they govern more than external acts: we are to govern our innermost dispositions by force of law. Christ demands that our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. What Christ means by this is that
unless you shall fulfill not only those least precepts of the law which begin the man, [inchoant hominem], but also those which are added by me, who am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

nisi non solum illa minima legis praecepta impleveritis quae inchoant hominem, sed etiam ista quae a me adduntur, qui non veni solvere legem sed implere,non intrabitis in regnum caelorum.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 9.21. We are then to go beyond the minimal precepts of the natural law, the law which is the inchoate law of man, quae inchoant hominem. We are to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Matt. 5:48. And this requires metanoia, conversion, belief in Christ and the will to follow him, all of which clearly require prevenient, actual, and sanctifying grace. The promises contained in the Beatitudes are a gratuitous gift of God, they are supernatural, as is the grace that leads us to the kingdom beyond this earth to which they beckon. They set standards for the supernatural law of grace, for the right loving of God, and for the "use of earthly things in keeping with the law of God." Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 1727-9.

In instituting his new law, Christ fulfills the Law and the Prophets, and does not abrogate the Mosaic law in its fundamentals, nor the natural law. He does, however, abrogate some law. He abrogates that positive law of Moses that allowed divorce, and stiffens up the marriage law so that it was as it was in the beginning. Disciples simply are not allowed to have the hardness of heart that excused the Mosaic accommodation.

A similar change of heart is demanded of the disciples in regard to their dealings with men. Christ disdains personal vengeance, and even the desire for personal vengeance, and this even in the face of gross injustice, and manifestly wrongful imposition, unfair advantage, or exploitation by their fellow men. In the most extreme way, Jesus clearly rejects any Vergeltunsgedenken-- the ethic of loving one's friends, and hating one's enemies. This thinking had perhaps crept into the thinking of the Jew in Palestine through Hellenistic influence, since the principle is extraneous to the Law and the Prophets.
You have heard that it hath been said, Though shalt love they neighbor, and hate they enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that prosecute and calumniate you.
Matt. 5:43-44. We are to avoid hypocrisy and moral ostentation or display, and so alms should be given in secret, fasting, and prayer should be in secret. The Lord then teaches his disciples the Pater noster, Matt. 6:9-13. He requires us to forgive those who sin against us, under the penalty of not having our own sins forgiven, a serious sanction indeed. Matt. 6:14-15. We are to avoid setting our sights on temporal wealth, at least to the extent that it occupies our heart or claims mastery over us. Of these temporal things, we are, at least from an internal standpoint, to be almost dangerously carefree, so great ought to be our trust in the divine Providence. We are not privy to the heart of other men, hardly even our own, and so we ought to withhold judgment. Matt. 7:1-2. We are to shun hypocrisy. Matt. 7:3-5. We ought to implore God for his good gifts, confident he will answer. Matt. 7:6-11. It is after all these moral teachings that Christ brings out the Golden Rule: "All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do also to them. For this is the law and the prophets." Matt. 7:12. Christ continues: this is no easy law: "Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wides is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" Matt. 7:13-14.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Christ gives a shorter, similar sermon while standing "in a plain place," in the company of his disciples and a crowd. Again, the crowds were attracted by Christ's reputation in the healing of diseases and the casting out of demons. Christ similarly starts his discourse with a shortened version of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, those than hunger, those that weep, those that are hated for the sake of belief in Christ. It is to be expected, and, in the light of eternity, such temporal evil is essentially nothing. Luke 6:21-25. Christ follows his Beatitudes with analogous woes: Woe to those who are rich, who are filled, who laugh, who are blessed because they have rejected Christ. Luke 6:26-28. Again, Christ demands an internal apathy to the goods of this world, to such a degree that if struck on one cheek, we ought to have the disposition to offer the other. If cursed, we ought to pray for the one cursing. If unjustly dispossessed of a cloak, we ought to have no internal qualm at letting our coat be taken. Within this context, Jesus offers the Golden Rule: "And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in like manner." Luke 6:31. The disciples of Christ are expected to have a norm of behavior that exceeds, that is, transcends, the natural law. And for this, clearly supernatural Grace is required, as Grace is even required, under our post-lapsarian nature, to abide by the natural law.

In its most rigorously applied sense, the Golden Rule of Christ is sublime. Though it does not contradict the natural law, it certainly calls the disciple way beyond it, indeed to the point of natural absurdity. The natural law does not require that one suffer injustice passively, or have an attitude that would welcome even more injustice. The natural law does not demand that one allow a thief to take his cloak, and certainly not to add insult to injury by giving the thief his coat, or by developing an attitude that would welcome it. It does not oblige us to give our possessions to whoever asks for them. It does not enjoin us from striking in self defense at the man who would strike us, much less cheerfully offering that he injure us more. The natural law may, indeed, permit the that we battle injustice, that we effect punishment, that we demand restitution; and, in some cases actually demand that we do these things. It permits and sometimes requires us to fight injustice, to resist theft, to guard our possessions, and to defend our life and that of our family against an unjust aggressor, to fight a war that is just by just means. The natural law allows and sometimes demands that a party exercise judgment, enforce just punishment, and, in appropriate cases, even capital punishment. The natural law allows us reasonably to favor our family, our neighborhood, our country, above others, though not at others' exclusion. These things cannot be regarded as moral evils, and in fact are frequently morally compelled, as long as they follow the rule of reason, an ethic which is difficult enough. The natural law is what makes us men, and Christ did not come to un-men us. To suggest that Christ's teachings contradict the natural moral law is plain heresy, as it assumes a contradiction in the legislation of God, and division between the God of Creation and the God of Redemption. It is a Gnosticism, a vicious dualism of sorts.

And yet, there is something different in Christ's teaching that cannot be disregarded, but it must be rightly understood, in that it is ensconced in Semitic hyperbole, and so must not be literally understood. We are not morally compelled physically to pluck out our eyes if our eyes cause us to sin (Matt. 18:9); else all Christ's disciples would, like Oedipus, run around blind. Similarly, we would be slaves to the will of others, particularly the unjust who would demand all our goods, all our labor, and abuse our physical integrity. Christ's disciples would be slaves to the unjust, pawns of evil, if his statements to offer the other cheek, to give up their coat to the man who pilfered their tunic through suit, to labor in servitude for two miles, when they had already been wrongfully recruited to walk one were to be taken literally. Indeed, as St. Augustine points out, Christ himself did not follow these teachings literally, though it cannot even be entertained that he failed to act in complete integrity with his moral teachings:
But in truth, the Lord Himself, who was certainly the first to fulfill the precepts which He taught, did not offer the other cheek to the servant of the high priest when smiting Him thereon; but, so far from that, said, "If I have spoken evil, hear the witness of the evil; but if well, why do you smite me?" [John 18:23] Yet was He not on that account unprepared in heart, for the salvation of all, not merely to be smitten on the other cheek, but even to have His whole body crucified.

At vero ipse Dominus, qui utique praecepta quae docuit primus implevit, percutienti se in maxillam ministro sacerdotis non praebuit alteram sed insuper dixit: Si male locutus sum, exprobra de malo; si bene, quid me caedis? Non tamen ideo paratus corde non fuit non solum in alteram maxillam caedi pro salute omnium, sed etiam toto corpore crucifigi.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.58. If literal compliance with these injunctions is not what Christ intended, then what is it that Christ intended to teach?

St. Augustine addresses the facially controversial teaching of Our Lord regarding how his disciples are to act when confronting injustice. Unquestionably, the Lord is demanding something supernatural from his disciples. Their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, and that is to say by implication that it must exceed that of the Mosaic law, and, by further implication, that of the natural law. In coming to grips with the meaning of Christ's teaching, St. Augustine distinguishes between the unjust act itself--whether it be a physical assault that results in the loss of an eye, or a tooth, or a struck cheek, or whether it is an unjust appropriation of personal property, or of personal services, or anything else for that matter--, and the response to it. In terms of the response to an unjust act, St. Augustine distinguishes between the internal attitude and the external response. He also distinguishes between those sorts of injuries that allow for compensation or restitution of property, money, or labor, and those that do not, and only allow for punishment.

St. Augustine notes that Christ's moral teachings would prohibit a man from intentionally committing an act of injustice against another, and so all men would by natural law and Christ's teaching be prohibited from intentionally assaulting another so as to remove an eye, or a tooth, or to steal his cloak, to slap his cheek, or force him to walk a mile. "[A]ny one who is the first to do harm to another, with the desire of inuring and hurting him," stands at the farthest end of injustice. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.57.

In terms of the proper response to an act of injustice as taught by Jesus, St. Augustine distinguishes various levels of responses.

First off, in responding to an injustice, it would obviously be unjust to exact from the wrongdoer more than the wrong he inflicted, that is, it is unjust to exact a disproportionately greater punishment or greater compensation from the wrongdoer than the wrongful act itself. Thus, it would be unjust to demand two eyes for the loss of one eye. This disproportionate response is clearly prohibited by Christ's teaching.

Secondly, one could demand from the wrongdoer proportionate punishment or compensation. This is the "lesser righteousness" (iustitia minor) of the Pharisees (and the natural law), which requires us "not to go beyond measure in revenge," non excedere in vindicta modum. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.56; that is, any response would be in proportion to the wrong done. The Mosaic law ("eye for and eye, and tooth for a tooth") as well as the natural law demands proportionality between the wrong and either compensation or punishment. Yet it must be recognized that this requirement is an "incomplete, by no means severe, but merciful justice," inchoatam non severam sed misericordem iustitiam. 19.56. Proportionality is a "merciful justice" because he who is punished or required to compensate in an amount equivalent to the wrong done still obtains a measure of forgiveness, "for the party who injures does not deserve merely as much punishment as the man who was injured by him has innocently suffered," poenam meretur nocens quantam ille qui ab eo laesus innocens passus est. 19.57.

Going beyond a proportionate response, one may envision a person who exacts less punishment or less compensation from a wrongdoer than the wrong inflicted, say one blow instead of two. But such a person, though he exceeds the minor iustitia of the Pharisees and scribes, still "does not come fully up to that magnitude of the precept which belongs to the kingdom of heaven." 19.57. Even he who demands nothing in terms of punishment or compensation "approaches the Lord's precept, but yet he does not reach it."
For still it seems to the Lord not enough, if, for the evil which you may have received, you should inflict no evil in return, unless you be prepared to receive even more.

Parum enim adhuc videtur Domino, si pro malo quod acceperis nihil rependas mali, nisi etiam amplius sis paratus accipere.
What more does Christ require of us? Christ demands from his followers an internal attitude such that not only would they not exact any punishment or compensation from the wrongdoer, but that they would be open to additional insult. They are to have the tolerant, welcoming attitude toward the wrongdoer that one has to another that he loves, an attitude such as a mother has to her infant children, a man to a friend who is sick, or a guardian to his mentally incompetent ward, "at whose hands they often endure many things."
And if their welfare demand it, they even show themselves ready to endure more, until the weakness either of age or of disease pass away. And so, as regards those whom the Lord, the Physician of souls, was instructing to take care of their neighbors, what else could He teach them, than that they endure quietly the infirmities of those whose welfare they wish to consult? For all wickedness arises from infirmity of mind: because nothing is more harmless than the man who is perfect in virtue.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.57. Christ therefore asks such equanimity of attitude that, when confronted with injustice, not only would we not demand equivalent compensation or punishment, or no compensation or punishment: we must develop the attitude that would accept, even welcome, additional injustice. "My heart is prepared, O God, my heart is prepared." Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum. D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 19.58.

The internal disposition is what is at the heart of Christ's teaching. Jesus is not teaching a literal compliance. If he were teaching such literal compliance, then one who has learned to offer the other cheek, to walk another mile, to allow the taking of his coat, would satisfy Christ's requirement, even though he has not developed love toward the wrongdoer. But many have learned to live with injustice whose souls rankle toward their wrongdoers. "For many have learned how to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they are struck." 19.58. What if someone struck us in the arm, are we excused from Christ's law because we were not assaulted on the face? Clearly, these precepts have "reference to the preparation of heart, not to a vain show of outward deed," ad praeparationem cordis non ad ostentationem operis praeceptum recte intellegitur. One is not obliged literally to walk a mile on foot, but one should be "prepared in mind to do it." 19.61. Moreover, the obligation applies not just to the matters mentioned, but "everything which on any ground of right we speak of as being ours in time," in omnibus faciendum est quae aliquo iure temporaliter nostra esse dicimus. 19.59. What is required of the disciple is an attitude of equanimity (aequo animo tolerarare) regardless of what is wrongfully forced upon him.

But does this internal attitude require external equivalent? Despite this mental attitude, must we physically or literally allow ourselves to receive greater insult? The answer is no as long as the good of the wrongdoer or the common good is regarded. In approaching this question, Augustine distinguishes between those sorts of injuries that can be compensated and those that cannot. 20.62. Alternatively, he distinguishes wrongs that can be compensated only by punishment and not restitution (assault=being struck on the cheek), by restitution only (wrongful suit=taking the cloak through judicial process), or by both restitution and punishment (forcing another to walk two miles without judicial process). 20.66. But regardless of the type of wrong: "In all these classes . . . the Lord teaches that the disposition of a Christian ought to be most patient and compassionate, and thoroughly prepared to endure more." 20.66.

In confronting those situations where punishment is the only remedy, the Christian is not precluded from obtaining inflicting punishment "as avails for correction (quae ad correctionem valet), and as compassion itself dictates (pertinet ad misericordiam)." 20.62. We are, however, to inflict punishment with the same attitude that a mother corrects her child, or a father his son, or God his own. 19.63.
No more, therefore, is sought for, except that he should punish to whom, in the natural order of things, the power is given; and that he should punish with the same goodwill which a father has towards his little son, whom by reason of his youth he cannot yet hate. For from this source the most suitable example is drawn, in order that it may be sufficiently manifest that sin can be punished in love rather than be left unpunished; so that one may wish him on whom he inflicts it not to be miserable by means of punishment, but to be happy by means of correction, yet be prepared, if need be, to endure with equanimity more injuries inflicted by him whom he wishes to be corrected, whether he may have the power of putting restraint upon him or not.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 20.63.

Hence, in this class of injuries which is atoned for by punishment, such a measure will be preserved by Christians, that, on an injury being received, the mind will not mount up into hatred, but will be ready, in compassion for the infirmity, to endure even more; nor will it neglect the correction, which it can employ either by advice, or by authority, or by [the exercise of] power.
D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 20.66.

In regard to those injuries which may be compensated for by restitution, whether in labor or money. The Christian may seek compensation from the wrongdoer, but in doing the Lord requires that the Christian be patientissimum et misericordissimum et ad plura perferenda paratissimum, "most patient and compassionate, and thoroughly prepared to endure more." 20.66.

Love is at the heart of Christ's moral teaching. Without love, compliance with the Law of Christ is impossible. "For without this love, wherewith we are commanded to love even our enemies and persecutors, who can fully carry out those things?" St. Augustine, D. Serm. Dom. in Monte, 21.69. For this reason, Jesus instructs us to be perfect, as God who is love is perfect. "Yet in such a way that God is understood to be perfect as God, and the soul to be perfect as a soul," Deus . . . perfectus tamquam Deus, et anima perfecta tamquam anima. 21.69.

In discussing the part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount that invokes the Golden Rule in his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine again begins at the lowest end of the spectrum of righteousness and climbs to the highest demand of the Lord. At the lowest end would be a misanthrope or a spoiled child, who hates even those who love him. "That man therefore rises a certain step," from this lower rung, "who loves his neighbor, although as yet he hates his enemy." To St. Augustine, this is the righteousness of the Pharisee, that is of the Mosaic law, which allowed the hatred of one's enemies. Cf. Deut. 7:2. It is an ethic that is available to the Heathen. It is not, however, in keeping with the real tenor of the Old Testament revelation, nor even with the natural law. Any preferential ethic in the Mosaic dispensation is to be "understood as the voice of command addressed to a righteous man, but rather as the voice of permission to a weak man." 21.70. That is to say that both the natural law and the Torah would in their full rigor reject a Vergeltungsgedenken and would demand a prudential sort of Golden Rule. But we are to go significantly beyond that, and Christ, who is the end of the law, and the fulfillment of it, does exactly that, both in his teaching and by his example. Christ calls us to shun any Vergeltungsgedenken as it relates to our relationship with our fellow men. And so any historical accommodation to men's weakness in the Mosaic Law is by Christ foreclosed. He does for the Golden Rule something similar that he died to marriage.

In Christ's view, as related in the Gospel of Matthew, the Golden Rule is equivalent to the Law and the Prophets: haec est enim lex et prophetae. Christ did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. Matt. 5:17. Since Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and the Golden Rule is an equivalent to those, it follows that Christ is the fulfillment of the Golden Rule. That is, Christ's life is a revelation, the ultimate standard, of how one is to live one's life so as to do to others what we would have them do to us. The two great commandments of love of God and the love of our neighbor are equally a summation of the Law and the Prophets. Matt. 22:40. Therefore, the Golden Rule requires us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This would mean that the Golden Rule cannot be interpreted in a manner that would violate the love of neighbor or the love of God.

In discussing the Golden Rule, St. Augustine states that when Christ enjoins us to do unto others what we would like them do do to us, there is an implied understanding that it is in reference to good, which explains the differences between the Latin text before him which limits the rule expressly to the good, and the Greek text that does not mention it.
For the thought occurred, that if any one should wish something wicked to be done to him, and should refer this clause to that—as, for instance, if one should wish to be challenged to drink immoderately, and to get drunk over his cups, and should first do this to the party by whom he wishes it to be done to himself—it would be ridiculous to imagine that he had fulfilled this clause. . . .For the expression used, "whatsoever ye would," ought to be understood as used not in a customary and random, but in a strict sense. For there is no will except in the good.

Occurrebat enim quod, si quisquam flagitiose aliquid erga se fieri velit et ad hoc referat istam sententiam, veluti se velit aliquis provocari ut immoderate bibat et se ingurgitet poculis et hoc prior illi faciat a quo sibi fieri cupit, ridiculum est hunc putare istam implevisse sententiam. . . . Id enim quod dictum est: Quaecumque vultis, non usitate ac passim sed proprie dictum accipi oportet. Voluntas namque non est nisi in bonis.
II.22.74. We might end our reflections on Christ's teaching on the Golden Rule in Matthew and Luke by quoting Wattle's summary of it in his book The Golden Rule:
In sum, though the golden rule was not part of the written Torah, it may be said to be fulfilled in Jesus' life and teachings. The traditional golden rule is preserved, adjusted from a negative to a positive formulation, deepened in context, and associated with the overturning of the principle of retaliation.
Wattles, 57.


  1. W Lindsay WheelerApril 26, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    Got a real question concerning this. I don't think the Golden Rule nullifies the Curses laid upon the Jews in Deuteronomy Chapter 28. I mean if we all followed the Golden Rule---then, God could not carry out his curse laid upon the Jew when he fails to follow "Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God".

    The Curses of Chapter 28 Deuteronomy are pretty bad, terrible and exacting. If the Jews refuse to "hear", then these curses come into effect. They are to happen. Why then do Catholics have to apologize for history? Who exactly is carry out the Deutercanonical curses? Fairies? I mean someone has to carry out those, do they not? Otherwise, the word of God has no teeth, now does it? Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids. There is no punishment for breaking covenant is there? Are not Christians the Arm of the Lord, to carry out his Will?

    Hasn't the traditional Catholic Church taught the suppresion of the Jews? Does this affect the Golden Rule? How does the Golden Rule work? Did not Jesus say, "If you love me, you will obey me"? Are the curses to be carried out?

  2. Those curses are pretty bad, I agree. But the curses all appear to pertain to compliance with the Law. How does all that relate to the fact that Christ was the fulfillment of the Law? Isn't a Jew under the obligation to follow Christ? If a Jew follows Christ, and disregards the Law, is he subject to the curse? That can't possibly be the case. And if the curses are transferred to lack of belief in Christ, then aren't we all subject to them, since we are all, spiritually speaking, Semites, as Pius XII noted?

    If the curses still operate, then I don't see why the Church should be considered the dispenser. Why couldn't the Arab or the Muslim be the divine dispenser?

    These are just my random thoughts on a very curious topic.

  3. I do bring up interesting topics don't I.

    The trigger of the curses is at LXX Deut. 28.15 "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt NOT HEARKEN to the VOICE of the Lord thy God, to observe all his commandments, as many as I charge thee this day, then all these curses shall come on thee, and overtake them".

    Did you know that in the Septuagint that the Ten Commandments are labelled in the Greek: "Tous Deka Logos"? So when St. John calls Jesus Christ, the Logos, Jesus Christ is not only Logos of the Natural Law, but also the walking, talking Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the Visible incarnation of the Ten Commandments!

    As per their covenant, which is a group contract, they had to obey the Logos, whenever. They have to hearken to the Voice of God at anytime, anywhere. Jesus Christ is God, is the Voice of God. They rejected that. Their rejection of Christ, triggered the curse. Did they not, after one generation, be expunged from their land? Are they not cursed to wander?

    If anything else, these curses can be seen to be fulfilled throughout the last two thousand years, haven't they? They prove the veracity of the Bible!

    But there is another lesson in the OT. God commanded the Israelites to exterminate a whole people down to even their domesticated animals. The Israelites did not completely obey and carry out those orders. They saved some underage girls and domesticated animals. Then, God visited upon them the punishment that was due to the others. The OT is there for a purpose, and since Cromwell and Napoleon Bonaparte (and the influence of Freemasonry) gave liberty to the Jews, it seems to me, that God is visiting iniquities upon the European peoples.

    God judges both people in groups and as individuals. The Mosaic covenant is a group covenant. They rejected God as a group. Their leaders did. Only upon their acceptance of Christ, as a group, would the Curses be lifted. That is why even in their state of Israel, they have NO rest. And because Christian peoples have become effeminate, evils are now following us. I fear that Islam is becoming the God's arm of vengenance.

  4. Could you elaborate more on that Greek and Latin Difference? Did the translation into Latin change the meaning?

  5. I posted this in the Isocrates and the Golden Rule thread and I don't know if you go back to read old posts but this should be pertinent here as well:

    Now comes a real doozy. Jesus meeting the Syro-Phonecian woman in today's Lebanon. Jesus went to Tyre. There a woman begged him to heal her daughter. Jesus did nothing. She then came up to him and asked him to heal her daughter.

    Jesus refused by saying: "It is not right to give the food of the children to the dogs".

    First, Jesus refuses her request! Is this the Golden Rule? Is this Universalism? Who are the "children"? Are they not his kinsmen? Is not Jesus King Of Jews? (the Jews being his children since he is Monarch?) He is refusing to help her! Moreover, he is using a racial epithat! "Dogs" is a Hebrew slang for the Indo-European who kept dogs. (By the way the animal moniker for the tribe of Judah is the Lion, {from the cat family}).

    She humbles herself, and she beats Jesus in a game of wits when she says, "Even the dogs lick the crumbs that fall from the Children's hands".

    Jesus makes a special point to say, "FOR THIS SAYING". He only healed her daughter, because she humbled herself by acknowledging first that she is a dog and second, she beat him in a game of wits. She is entirely right in using something in the Natural Order, like Aesop and Jesus himself, to prove a point.

    How does this square with the Golden Rule? Shouldn't, under the current intrepretation of the Golden Rule, have cured her daughter unconditionally? You would think so! But no. Jesus did not. He only did because of HER SAYING. His gifts and his miracles were for his children, not for foreigners. In the healing of the centurion's servant, Jesus did that on the behest of Jews who asked him to grant the centurion's wish.

    Jesus was racially conscious. He reserved his work for his people. Again the lesson of this situation is missed by most and sundry in the Christian Church. While the Church preaches against racism---it seems Jesus practiced it! Jesus followed the Natural Law in which he is the author! All Hail to the Christ!

    My question does the Golden Rule allow discrimination?

  6. I can't possibly address all your comments! Each one would take a lot of thought, and time, and I feel I'd be walking about a minefield. So, without any claim to any definitiveness, I will offer more like my opinions or pensees on some of these things.

    One the curse of the Jew: If the Jew is obligated to believe in Christ, as I think he is, then he is no different than the mass of men. I have still not worked out even a hypothesis on the status of the Old Covenant since the coming of the New Covenant, and there are things pertaining to the Old that simply don't apply. Are the curses one of those? Or are the curses now upon all men, irrespective of whether they are Jew or not, who reject the Gospel of Christ, who, as you put it, is the Decalogue made Flesh.

    On Cromwell and Napoleon, I see the problem as less related to the granting of full citizenship to the Jew, than as one related to increase secularism. The Jew could only be granted full citizenship if Christendom was dismantled, and if the nation state became independent from God and his Christ. The problems in Europe are less related to the granting of citizenship to the Jew than secularization and paganization of society. If, instead of the Jew, Muslims or Atheists had been given full citizenship, I think you have the same problem. Perhaps this is evidence that the curses apply to the Gentiles who, at one time, had aggregately accepted Christ, but have aggregately denied him.

  7. I think there is truth that God judges people and groups or communities. He visits justice on families, and he judges whole cultures. I understand that there are angels assigned to cultures, to nations, to communities, so it seems that these things are considered in God's Providence. They have reality. Individualism is not the whole truth, it is but a part.

    On the Greek v. Latin translation, I'm not sure to what you refer. Do you refer to the Deuteronomy or the Decalogue?

    You cite an interesting case regarding Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, etc. Another is Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well: "Salvation comes from the Jews."

    There is a problem applying the Golden Rule to Christ since He is God. The Golden Rule takes into consideration the relationship between you and the other. So when applied to a superior, it is applied differently than when to an inferior. Applied literally, it would mean that Christ has to treat others as he would expect himself to be treated, which means he would have to worship men. This cannot be.

    Christ refuses these women's requests. Why? I do not know. He refuses my requests. Why? I do not know. He refused a lot of requests, but I do not think this impugns the universalism of his message. In God's Providence, Christ refuses some, and grants others. We cannot even attribute like or dislike to his grant or refusal of requests, as there are many for whom God has great solicitude that he has refused things. Paul and his thorn in the flesh come to mind. One thing I think we can agree is that Christ did not suffer from any prejudice or bias that was unreasonable or against the natural law or eternal law. This by definition. So if it seem that he did, I think we have to work around that. Perhaps Christ was testing her sincerity. I don't think the Golden Rule requires Christ to heal all men and women of their physical infirmities, or to grant all men riches. If this were true, then we have proof positive that Christ does not follow it. Rather, we must understand that God knows these things are, at most, physical evils, and that the greater good, in particular spiritual good and the workings of his Providence must be considered. The only thing that would be governed by the Golden Rule, it seems, is the request for Salvation. That is one request, from what I understand, Christ absolutely grants if the person is well-intentioned.

    You say that Jesus was racially conscious. I don't know how he couldn't be. He knew he was Jew, and he knew who was a Gentile and who was a Samaritan. To say he was not conscious of the races that he created would be untenable.

    Does the Golden Rule allow discrimination? What do you mean by discrimination? That's the real question. The Golden Rule allows me to discriminate between my family and another man's family, between my compatriots, and those of other countries, between my fellow Catholics and those of other confessions. I may favor my family above others, but not to the absolute exclusion of others. I think this is true for culture, religion, or anything else that is part of our humanity. I think we can have reasonable regard for our race. For example, is it reasonable for a black man to be proud that he is black? I think so. Is it reasonable for a Jew to be proud to be a Jew? I think so. Is it reasonable for an Italian to be proud to be an Italian? I think so. Is it reasonable for a European to be proud to be a European? A Catholic to be a Catholic. Of course. But may this discrimination go so far as to deny another group basic human rights? Of course not. Can Jewish congregation discriminate between applicants for a position of Rabbi and refuse the office to a non-Jew? Of course. But though reasonable discrimination as exist, there is such a thing as unreasonable, invidious discrimination. This latter is clearly against the natural law and the Golden Rule both.