A few months ago, I was speaking to a sister-in-law of mine. She, a tolerant, believing, Christian asked me how I felt that a person could be good without the bible. I am sure that she was particularly referring to the New Testament. I related that I felt that all societies have a basic idea of good and bad. There is no society that I know of that condones random killing, stealing, etc. You don’t have to be a Christian or a member of any religion to understand that. Further, I contended that even if you felt you needed a “rule book” you would be poorly served by referring to the New Testament since a great deal of it was “borrowed” from older writings.
Although she didn’t ask me to prove it, I was wondering if I really could present some proof of what I was contending. So I challenged myself to do so. It turns out that this was easier than I could imagine (God bless you, Google!).
A lot of the New Testament has been change over the years from the time it was adapted until the time of the printing press, but historians have been able to find in the 4th century bible The Golden Rule.
Luke 6:13 had it as: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Matthew 7:12 had: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
Is this unique? Not really.
From the Buddhist book UdanaVarga 5:18 we have: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Hmmm, sort of sounds like the golden rule. Historians tell us that the UdanaVarga dates back to 450BC – a little bit before Jesus’ time.
From the Confucian Analects 15:23 we have: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you”. Analects dates back to 475BC.
From the Hindu Mahabharata 5:1517: “This is the sum of duty: Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata dates back to 800 years before the time of Christ.
From Jainist Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” This dates to about 600 years before Christ.
From Taoism, Tai Shang Kan Ying P’ien 2nd century BC: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss”
So what does this all prove? Well, one of the earliest Christian leaders, Justin Martyr who did most of his writings in about 150-160 CE did address a lot of the earlier gods who mysteriously had the same story and philosophy as The Christian God. He came to the conclusion that the devil had planted the stories so that we mortals would be confused!
Sounds OK to me.