The problem of the negative version of the Golden Rule in early Christian ethics

  • Johannes Aakjaer Steenbuch University of Copenhagen


The following paper discusses the principle known as the Golden Rule as formulated by early Christian authors. The principle is known from the gospels according to Luke and Matthew in a positive formulation. In many early Christian writings, however, the rule appears in the negative definition. The paper raises the question why the negative formulation was so widespread. An explanation could be, that while love as a virtue was understood to be the core of Christian practice, a moral principle like the Golden Rule was rather considered to punctuate the boundaries around practice – and that the negative formulation did that job better than the positive.