"The Sermon on the Mount" - The central panel on the pulpit of St Stephen's Church, Bournemouth, as carved by Nathaniel Hitch.
|Book||Gospel of Matthew|
|Christian Bible part||New Testament|
Matthew 7:12 is the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This well known verse presents what has become known as 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
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you
- shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
For a collection of other versions see BibleGateway Matthew 7:12
This verse is considered to be a summation of the entire sermon. Some editions append it to the end of Matthew 7:7-11, and the rule does seem to be an expansion on the teaching about prayer in that section. However, the word therefore and the mention of the law and the prophets implies that this is a more far reaching teaching. Davies and Allison note that this is indicated by the mention of the law and the prophets, which links the verse back to Matthew 5:17, the start of the teaching on ethics. The verse is most closely linked with the teaching to "love thy enemies" in Matthew 5:44. In Luke 6:31 the Rule is present just after the teaching about enemies, making the link even more explicit. Luz notes that as well as summarizing the sermon, this rule also adapts it to normal life. While verses like Matthew 5:29 seem incompatible with reality, the teachings in this verse can reasonably be attempted by all.
Richard Thomas France notes that the negative form of the Golden Rule, or the "Silver Rule" as it is sometimes called: 'don't do to others what you don’t want them to do to you', appears in several works of Greek philosophy and also in earlier Jewish writings. It also appears in other traditions such as Buddhism and Confucianism.
When Jesus spoke to the Sadducees, his words would have been most familiar to them. In the Torah, Moses gives The Shema to his people in the book of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the most important of all Jewish prayers. It is a declaration of faith and a pledge of allegiance to God. Twice daily, recitation of the Shema Israel is a mitzvah for the Jewish people -- it is said upon rising in the morning and going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when petitioning him. The Shema Israel is the first prayer taught to Jewish children and it is the last words a Jew says before death. The Shema is recited in preparation for the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and at the end of the holiest day, Yom Kippur. Judaism teaches that the name of God is not read aloud in the Shema; it is replaced with Adonai ("my Lord")
As Reginald H. Fuller says in his Preaching the New Lectionary:
"The summary of the law is not original with Jesus. Its two parts represent a combination of Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18. Nor is the combination itself original to Jesus, for it is found in at least one earlier Jewish work, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, an amalgam of wisdom and apocalyptic materials.
"Jesus’ thought was similarly cast in both molds, wisdom and apocalyptic, and the summary of the Law represents the wisdom facet of his teaching. Jesus undoubtedly appeared not only as the final apocalyptic preacher but also as the authoritative declarer of God’s wisdom.
"In the Jewish parallels, the two commandments stand side by side, as a convenient summary. Jesus understands the interlocking of the two commandments in a new and quite radical way.
"You cannot have one without the other. Without the love of neighbor, the love of God remains a barren emotion; and without the love of God, love of neighbor is but a refined form of self-love." 
Luz notes that some scholars see the positive version as being very important because it instructs all disciples to work actively for the good of others, not simply to desist passively from doing harm. However, Luz notes that in actual implementation there is not a great deal of difference between the two formulations. He ascribes much of the efforts to divide the two ideas to anti-Judaic prejudices of many Biblical scholars. Early Christian writers saw little difference between the two versions, and several paraphrased this verse with the negative form.
The good end does not justify the evil means. The Golden Rule may not be perverted to justify and an evil means. St. Augustine noticed this problem and commented on how many redactors rephrased this verse as "whatsoever good you desire…"
The concluding phrase indicates that Jesus is here presenting the Golden Rule as a valid summary for the entirety of moral law. It might also be a reference to Hillel, whose negative formulation of the Golden Rule ended with a similar statement that it represented the totality of Biblical teachings. The author of Matthew presents a second summation of religious law at Matthew 22:40, where Jesus tells his followers there are but two laws: to love God and to love neighbour. While phrased differently, these two basic laws are essentially the same.
- Davies, W.D. and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1988-1997.
- Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhlem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
- Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
| Gospel of Matthew