HILLEL THE ELDER (I Century BC)
He is well known for a ‘Golden rule’ (in the negative version) phrase in the Talmud: “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”. Such phrase was pronounced when Hillel was asked by a non-jew to explain to him as briefly as possible the teachings of the Torah. During Pharisaic Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Hillel and Shammai (50 BC – 30 AD) were the two leading authorities on Judaism of their times. The two had opposing views on the Jewish religion which led to two different schools of thought. In general the House of Shammai had a more rigid interpretation of the Torah which for them justified the idea that only virtuous students should be allowed to study the Torah, where the House of Hillel preached equality concerning religious education. Both schools fought for control at the Sahnedrin. Some historians claim that Jesus might have been influenced by the debate between the two schools (although Jesus was probably a very small child when the two sages died), especially by the Hillel school which like Jesus emphasised the importance of humility and compassion. In addition Jesus’ openness to the Gentiles resembles Hillel’s approach.
Similar Golden Rules throughout history:
-“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself” (Confucius)
-“Do not to your neighbour what you would take ill from him.” (Pittacus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece. The sages lived between the VI and V Century BC)
–“Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” (Isocrates 436-338 BC)
–“This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you” (From the Mahabharata [5:1517], 300 BC)
–“What you shun enduring yourself, don’t impose on others. You shun slavery – beware of enslaving others!” (Epictetus, 50-135 AD).