Allison-The non-rule nature of the golden rule

I am nearing the end of Dale Allison’s The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination.

The 7th chapter of Matthew turns from the topic of possessions to that of how to treat others. First off, we hear that we must avoid judging them. However, this doesn’t refer to judging right from wrong or to the courts judging criminality. Allison says that in this context to judge means to condemn. Don’t condemn others so that you won’t be condemned at the last judgment. It is very close in meaning to the idea that we forgive so that we may be forgiven.

Jesus gives a kind of humorous illustration. In a carpenter’s shop (does this kind of illustration come naturally to the historical Jesus?) one might get a splinter of wood in one’s eye. Absurdly, Jesus imagines not noticing a huge beam in your own eye but seeing a tiny speck in your neighbor’s.

There are different kinds of seeing. There is seeing for the purpose of finding fault (v. 3). But there is also the “seeing clearly” in v. 5, which is seeing for the purpose of helping.

Allison doesn’t know what to do with the “pearls before pigs” remarks in v. 6. He gives a run down of some of the opinions commentators have had from the Didiche to Bonhoeffer and Luz. He thinks the general point of putting the verse here may be to counter the idea that we should carry being non-judgmental to unreasonable lengths.

The Sermon sums up the treatment of neighbor with what we call the Golden Rule in verse 12. Allison objects to the name, because his whole book is claims that the Sermon on the Mount does not consist of rules.  This follows a section about the gifts of God. God gives us good gifts even though we are evil (evil in the concrete sense already covered in the Sermon: raging, lying, committing adultery, getting divorced, acting religious for show, grasping for wealth, condemning others). So the idea that we should gift others with the gifts we desire, stands upon the mercy and generosity of God.

That we should do for others what we desire for ourselves is not unique to Jesus. You can find the idea in many traditions, and Jesus says it sums up the law and the prophets.

The point of the so-called Golden Rule is to call us to “exceptional benevolence”. It is another way of drawing us to love our neighbors (p. 160).

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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