Analects 5.11 “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men…” 我不欲人之加諸我也,吾亦欲無加諸人。(己所不欲,勿施於人)

Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them…”

Commenting on these two important dicta, James Legge suggested that the statement from the Analects is a “simple, unconstrained negation,” whereas the golden rule of the Gospel is higher.

I disagree completely. The latter may in fact lead to imposing on others what is unwanted and possibly other forms of harm. In contrast, the former at least avoids causing harm to others as one experiences and understands.

YH: I don’t know Chinese, but the two sayings do seem subtly different. If I understand the translation, the gist of the Confucian maxim is ‘what I don’t want others to do to me [evil] I don’t wish on others [or perhaps ‘I should not wish on others’]. The Christian version seems to be enjoining positive treatment of others.

BM: Not subtly, but practically different!

ML: Greek prepositions are tricky, though. A more recent translation says ‘do *for* others, which has a different resonance in English compared to ‘do *to* others’. I wonder which came first? Confucius before Matthew, but Matthew was referring to Hebrew scriptures, and I’m hazy about when they were written down.

BM: Are you thinking of this? Πάντα οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι,
οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· If I understand correctly it was based on Deuteronomy 6:5. But Jesus had a new and radical interpretation according to Reginald Fuller.

ML: I hadn’t got as far as actually looking at the Greek! This makes it all way more complicated! ‘poiein’ means ‘do’ or ‘act’ but it also means ‘bear’ as in ‘bear fruit’. So it could mean ‘bear witness’ or ‘see’ or ‘behave towards’ others. No wonder there is work for so many theologians in the world. It’s a bit beyond my Greek skills! Though I could see that there were lots of dative cases which can mean ‘to’ or ‘for’ or ‘with’ or all kinds of different things.

NK: The history of western christian civilization was all about imposing others.

BM: Alas Christians have done a lot of good but also a lot of harm.

VR: I don’t think you can blame the Rabbi Jesus for all that’s been done in his name!

BM: I believe in all monotheistic religions, it’s my way or no way – from Jehovah, Moses, Jesus, to Mohamed. Confucianism advocates pluralism and inclusivity.

VR: Those forms of Christianity are not common in the UK as they are in the USA. I think the evangelical sects at work in Asia and South America have enormous amounts of funding from the USA. None of my Christian friends here would associate themselves with them.

BM: This is precisely my point, ordinary “Christians” in the West would not want to associate with fundamentalism. But radicalism is not limited to the evangelical sects which are in the minority here in Asia. The three founders of the “Occupy Central” movement here in Hong Kong belong to the “ordinary” churches including a pastor from the Baptist church. The local terrorist movement advocating martydom and self-destruction was a university professor and a Christian, and even the poster boy teenager Joshua Wong who famously declared “war” and “independence” are from the big churches including the Anglican. This is something that is left unreported in Western media but discussed with great concern here. Of course the perpetrators themselves have a different perspective and narrative: