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.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 4

There are several references to the Golden Rule in the Clementine Homilies. These fictitious homilies, somewhat Gnostic or Ebionite (and anti-Pauline) in trend and which may be characterized as Tendenz-Romance, are part of the Pseudo-Clementine Literature or Clementina. Purported to have been written by Pope St. Clement I, the work appears to have been originally written in the early fourth century A.D.

Pope St. Clement I, Fictitious Author of the Clementia

In Book 7 of the Clementine Homilies, Peter is said to have addressed the people in Tyre. During the course of that homily, Peter enjoins the people to turn to God and reject the teachings of Simon Magus. His elaboration on the Golden Rule is notable because it suggests that we ought to have an internal dialogue as a result of applying that rule in whatever circumstance we confront. The rule adopted is the positive formulation:
Wherefore, as then ye were deceived by the forerunner Simon, and so became dead in your souls to God, and were smitten in your bodies; so now, if you repent, as I said, and submit to those things which are well-pleasing to God, you may get new strength to your bodies, and recover your soul's health.

And the things which are well-pleasing to God are these: to pray to Him, to ask from Him, recognizing that He is the giver of all things, and gives with discriminating law; to abstain from the table of devils, not to taste dead flesh, not to touch blood; to be washed from all pollution; and the rest in one word,-- as the God-fearing Jews have heard, do you also hear, and be of one mind in many bodies; let each man be minded to do to his neighbor those good things he wishes for himself.

And you may all find out what is good, by holding some such conversation as the following with yourselves: You would not like to be murdered; do not murder another man: you would not like your wife to be seduced by another; do not you commit adultery: you would not like any of your things to be stolen from you; steal nothing from another.

And so understanding by yourselves what is reasonable, and doing it, you will become dear to God, and will obtain healing; otherwise in the life which now is your bodies will be tormented, and in that which is to come your souls will be punished.
Ps. Clem., Hom., 7.4. We also find a similar invocation by Peter when he was a Tripolis. In this homily, Peter ties the reason for the Golden Rule to the fact that we are made in the image of God, and it is the recognition that our neighbor is made in the image of God that provides the underlying justification or impetus for the Golden Rule. There is also a link between the Golden Rule and the Works of Mercy, as if the latter are corollaries to the former:
You are the image of the invisible God. Whence let not those who would be pious say that idols are images of God, and therefore that it is right to worship them. For the image of God is man. He who wishes to be pious towards God does good to man, because the body of man bears the image of God.

But all do not as yet bear His likeness, but the pure mind of the good soul does. However, as we know that man was made after the image and after the likeness of God, we tell you to be pious towards him, that the favor may be accounted as done to God, whose image he is.

Therefore it behooves you to give honor to the image of God, which is man -- in this wise: food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, care to the sick, shelter to the stranger, and visiting him who is in prison, to help him as you can.

And not to speak at length, whatever good things any one wishes for himself, so let him afford to another in need, and then a good reward can be reckoned to him as being pious towards the image of God. And by like reason, if he will not undertake to do these things, he shall be punished as neglecting the image.
Ps. Clem., Hom., 11.4. In the Recognitions of Clement, a dialogue between and old man and Aquila is related. As part of that discussion, the topic of the existence of evil and free will is broached. The Golden Rule in its negative formulation is discussed as a summary of Christian morals:
But those things for which we are to be judged are most easy to be understood, and are dispatched almost in a word. For almost the whole rule of our actions is summed up in this, that what we are unwilling to suffer we should not do to others.

For as you would not be killed, you must beware of killing another; and as you would not have your own marriage violated, you must not defile another's bed; you would not be stolen from, neither must you steal; and every matter of men's actions is comprehended within this rule.
Ps. Clem., Recog., 8.56.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell


  1. I would like to note here that in all the posts on the Golden Rule refer as examples to the "Tous Deka Logos", the Ten Commandments. Not one example yet mentions slavery. There is NO example that mentions the caste system as evil; that aristocracy is evil; segregation is evil. There is also no mention of racism.

    Yet, in modern times, the Golden Rule is used by the Church Heirarchy to teach that slavery is wrong, segregation is wrong, racism is wrong. The Golden Rule has to do with morality (of stealing, of adultery, of murder), not with politics and it seems that now, in modern times, the Golden Rule is being used to dismantle the Natural Order among human beings. And what I see is that the Natural Moral law is being used to dismantle the original Natural Law.

  2. An interesting point. There is material in the early Church where the Golden Rule is applied to treatment of slaves, that is, that they ought to be educated in the Faith, treated with some sort of dignity, etc. But the issue of chattel slavery does not seem to have been definitively addressed until much later. We have Papal teaching by Pope Eugene IV in his bull Sicut Dudum (1435), Pope Paul III in his bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Pope Gregory XVI’s 1839 bull, In Supremo, reiterated the papal teaching against enslaving “Indians, blacks, or other such people." In 1888 and again in 1890, Pope Leo XIII condemned chattel slavery. I think by that point in time it was clearly the ordinary teaching of the Church.

    I am supposing that the prohibitions against slavery by the Popes were based upon it being a violation of the natural moral law.

    Words like "racism" "segregation" are simply words too vague to be absolutized. I think the point is that unreasonable segregation or unreasonable racism cannot be justified as consonant with the natural law. Does that mean there is such a thing as "reasonable racism" or "reasonable segregation"? It may seem odd, but affirmative action, which is nothing but racism, justifies itself by being "reasonable racism," that reason being to make up for past wrongs. Is there such a thing as "reasonable segregation"? Some blacks have suggested that the dismantling of all black schools has been detrimental, and that it is reasonable to allow such segregation. And many of the elders I have spoken with give instances of unreasonable and forced desegregation.

    We can dispute all day about what is reasonable, and a lot changes with the mores of the time, something the natural law will consider.