|The Golden Rule
||[Jun. 22nd, 2011|11:00 am]
Because I'm a lazy sod I've never actually researched the allegation that the sayings of Jesus are plagiarised. Perhaps I will. One shouldn't pass these things on without being sure of the facts. The alleged sources are Jewish, Egyptian even Buddhist. Would first century writers in the Middle East have had access to Buddhist teachings? I don't see why not? If the citizens of Pompeii had Hindu figurines on their sideboards- and they did- why not Buddhist scriptures in their libraries?|
One (positive) way of viewing the Christian scriptures is as a compendium of the wisdom of the ages.
OK, I'm going to do the research. How hard can it be? Here's something for starters.
One of the things Jesus is supposed to have originated, only he didn't is the so-called golden rule. Among those who got there before him was the great Jewish rabbi, Hillel (who died c. AD 10). Challenged to summarise the Law while standing on one leg, Hillel came up with, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."
Palestine is at a crossroads between a lot of different cultures and I think that the religious tradition reflects that. Judaism contains pieces from the general Afro-Asiatic traditions, whose language group it shares. It would not surprise me that Christianity reflects later developments--Hellenism and Alexandrian East-West transfers--in this region.
Something that's beginning to interest me is the crossover between Christianity and Buddhism- both of which were producing key scriptures at around the same time.
While not a saying of Jesus, per se, there appears in 1 John 4:18 an old Egyptian proverb: Perfect love casteth out fear. I'll give it in phonetic Middle Egyptian: MAH-ree DOUN ah-ZEENT.
I don't think that it's fair to claim that Jesus plagarized the Golden Rule: "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."
He's referencing sources, and not claiming it's original to him.
Wikipedia has a pretty good compendium of formulations of Golden Rule-type things from various cultures and religions around the world:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule
Perhaps a more accurate way to put this is not that Jesus plagiarized, but rather that many of his followers
have insisted that much of Jesus' "references" were original thoughts of his own.
After all, it wasn't Jesus who wrote the many books of the New Testament. It was his disciples. And back then, no one really had any thoughts of "Hmmm, I need to footnote this."
But I think what poliphilo
is getting at is that here and now, far too many people ignorantly assume that everything attributed to Jesus was his own original ideas.
arielstarshadow has formulated my answer for me. :)
Now this is a tagline I will be watching for -- I am fascinated by the anthropology of religion, but very well aware that I lack the educational groundwork and resources to even scratch the surface of which monk swiped which myth from whence, and why it seemed the thing to do at the time.
And yet when one compares basic mythic story structures between the Bible and just about any other source, the patterns are plain to discern. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the history I rather knew had to be there.
*Watches over your shoulder.*
This is something I should have done ages ago. Of course the Internet makes it easier. All the texts I want to be looking at seem to be online.
2011-06-22 03:00 pm (UTC)
Absolutely agree that it's only people who haven't really paid attention who think/claim that sayings of Jesus had never been said before - after all, he's quoted as saying that he's quoting!
i thin k that it was largely C S Lewis who scotched that idea for the 1940s and early 1950s, and pointed out that "mere" Christianity incorporates a huge bulk of pre-Christian ethics and beliefs - but I don't know how much he's read these days
I read Lewis- or some of Lewis in the 70s and 80s. I get the impression he's still very popular.
Truth is truth regardless of who said it first. Can we call it plagiarism if someone who says it has never heard of or met the previous source? It has never been a secret that Hillel, who died in the year 10 C.E. during the time that Jesus lived, taught what we know as the golden rule. This is not surprising. My very fundamental study Bible has a footnote that reads as follows: "The so-called Golden Rule is found in negative form ("do not do")in rabbinic Judaism and also in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It occurred in various forms in Greek and Roman ethical teaching. Jesus stated it in positive form ("do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets").
By the way, what a lot or people do not realize is that Jesus quoted from Scripture as well. "Perfect love casts out fear" is Old Testament. New Testament quotes of that proverb are nowhere in the sayings of Jesus - they appear in the book of Romans, and the Epistle of I John. Jesus often presaged a comment with "It is written..." Jesus using common truths in his talks is no more plagiarism than someone today stating a truth without citing a source, which they may or may not be familiar with. Truth = truth. When something rings true a person often adopts it as his or her own.
I don't know about the sayings of Jesus, but you might find this interesting: Budge, E.A. Wallis, (ed) 1923. Barlaam and Yewasef: being the Ethiopic version of a Christianized rescension of the Buddhist legend of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva.
It was among the most popular pieces of Christian literature in Medieval Russia.
Good grief- you can't get more cosmopolitan than that!