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Was Jesus A Vegetarian?

Dateline: 02/14/98

This is part of a short debate I had with a guy on UseNet, who was yet another discoverer of hidden secret knowledge in the Bible. Sigh....

RW: The Bible contains a mystic/esoteric code which was recetnly cracked. One fact that shouldn't surprise us is that Jesus was a vegetarian, and that eating meat is a sin.

I have a few questions, RW:

1. The Passover meal included lamb. How did Jesus celebrate Passover (aka the Last Supper) with the disciples without eating lamb?

RW: Jesus came to earth to explain our sin. Which is eating meat. Therefore his disciples too would be vegetarian. Since Jesus was privilege to the knowledge of vegetarianism to be the way then the Passover would have been vegetarian.

2. If Jesus was a vegetarian, why did he feed thousands of people with bread and meat -- twice?

RW: In the mystic language all reference to food can mean *experience* and learning. Therefore fish and bread can mean teachings. Jesus fed them all. You will also notice He got back a certain *number* of baskets. Numbers are very big in the mystic/esoteric writings.

3. If we should be vegetarians, why did God make humans omnivores? Why do we have incisors as well as molars? Why can we digest and derive nutrition from meat?

RW: They have shown animals conform to their environment much faster than previously thought. They actually begin to physically change to fit their environment within one generation. Therefore man could very well have had complete teeth just like cows and simply have begun to conform to eating meat.

We may not be able to digest and derive nutrition from meat as well as we think. It has been shown that feeding animal protein to giraffes causes a lack of health.


4. How about Jesus eating meat in front of the disciples just after the Resurrection?

RW: This I am not too sure about. I have not been able to be quite sure whether He specifically asked for *meat* or simply food. This has been postualted as one way of proving to his disciples that He was actually alive.. by eating.

Finally, I'm curious about Rom. 14, which speaks about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul discusses the issue of a clean conscience before the Lord without the slightest hint that meat-eating itself is a moral issue. How do you respond?

RW: Obviously the above passages were written by someone who did not understand what the true teachings of Jesus were (Guide's note: Paul didn't understand the teachings of Christ?!). I agree that one should not look down on those who eat meat but one should explain to them the error of their ways. I doubt very much if these people actually knew that this is the specific thing which Jesus condemned.. they would continue to kill and eat the animals. "Do I eat the blood of bulls and goats?" We are specifically TOLD in many different passages that we are "GUILTY OF SHEDDING BLOOD".This blood is the blood of the animals. This is the *unknown sin which causes death*. It is also the *iron judgment and iron sword*. The iron in meat is the protector of the animals. We eat the meat and the iron builds up in our bodies and causes our premature deaths. Robs us of our health. Believe it or not.

Besides the relatively innocuous issue of whether or not Jesus himself was a vegetarian, I thought this debate was an interesting showcase of the top two Bible study methods to avoid: prooftexting and out-of-context quotation (although it's the only instance I've seen in which the references aren't even given!). In the last paragraph, RW quickly stitches together the following verses (emphases mine):

"The multitude of your sacrifices - what are they to me?" says the LORD. I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations - I cannot bear your evil assemblies" (Isa. 1:11-13).

The full passage's context pretty clearly shows there's nothing about eating here; only the sin of empty religious ritual devoid of true relationship to God.

A handful of verses talk about the guilt of shed blood -- but they talk about shedding man's blood, not animals' blood (see Exod. 22:2-3; Deut. 19:10-13; 21:8-9; 22:8; 1 Kgs. 2:31-33; Isa. 59:3; Jer. 26:15; Ezek. 22:4; Hosea 12:14; Acts 5:28; 1 Cor. 11:27).

One verse, Lev. 17:3-4, does mention bloodguilt in relation to animal sacrifice, but the guilt is due to sacrificing the animal someplace besides the Lord's altar.

No verse in the Bible mentions an "iron judgment." In fact, the words "iron" and "judgment" don't even appear together in one verse anywhere in the Bible. Neither does the phrase "iron sword" or the words "iron" and "sword" -- the closest is the phrase "sharp sword and iron scepter" (Rev. 19:15).

I'm going to guess he meant the phrase "die by the sword" in reference to judgment, a "formula" phrase that appears in the Bible 11 times. Jesus only used it once: "'Put your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword'" (Matt. 26:52).

Nothing here about meat; it's about a life of violence leading to a violent death.

"A text, out of context, is a pretext." Stitch together enough sentence fragments and phrases and you can make the Bible "say" almost anything. To demonstrate, let's pretend I'm a card-carrying member of the Hemlock Society and a Kevorkian fan, and I want to "prove" that Jesus taught we should all commit suicide:

1. "Judas...went away and hanged himself" (Matt. 27:5).
2. "Jesus said, 'Go and do likewise'" (Luke 10:37).
3. "'What you are about to do, do quickly,' Jesus said" (John 13:27).

'Nuff said.

Grace and peace,

GFH


Was Christ a Vegetarian? by Ted Altar

The following arguments are to be found, for
the most part, in Keith Akers' very useful, A
Vegetarian Sourcebook, 1993. Another
sourcebook I would also highly recommend for
its scholarship is Lewis Regenstein's Replenish
the Earth: The History of Organized Religion's
Treatment of Animals and Nature
--Including the
Bible's Message of Conservation and Kindness
Toward Animals, 1991.

"I Require Mercy, Not Sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13 & 12:7)

This is a significant message when we
remember that in the context in which this was
said meat eating was commonly considered part
of these sacrifices. Sacrificial offerings often
entailed meat consumption and a strict reading
of Leviticus 17: implies that, indeed, all meat
consumption necessitated a sacrifice. Also, the
noted confrontation of Jesus in the Temple
suggests that he was not at all pleased by the
desecration of the Temple by the money
changers AND by "those who were selling oxen
and sheep and pigeons" (John 2:14-15) since
these animals were being sold for sacrifice
before being eaten.

No Unequivocal Biblical Reference to Christ Eating or Buying Meat

Consider the verse where it is said that Jesus'
disciples "were gone away unto the city to buy
meat" (John 4:8). This translation from the
King James version has been misunderstood as
meaning literally "meat". In fact, the Greek
word for "meat" from which the James
translation based its choice for this word,
simply meant nutrition in the generic sense.
Hence, the Revised Standard Version now
simply translates this same passage as "his
disciples had gone away into the city to buy
food".

Regenstein notes that nowhere in the New
Testament is Jesus depicted as eating meat and
"if the Last Supper was a Passover meal -- as
many believe -- there is, interestingly, no
mention of the traditional lamb dish".

Did Christ Eat at Least Eat Fish? (e.g., Luke 24:43)

Note that on the two occasions where he is said
to have eaten fish, these were after his death
and resurrection. Also, we should maybe keep
in mind that fish was a well known mystical
symbol among these early Christians. The
Greek word for fish (Ichthys) was used as an
acronym whose initials in Greek stood for
"Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior". Given how
the early Christians employed the term, there
is therefore good historical evidence for the
argument that all of the "fish stories" that
managed to get into the gospels were intended
to be taken symbolically rather than literally.

Biblical Breaks and Contradictions

We should not forget that the Bible is not
complete and its many inconsistencies require
thoughtful interpretation. For instance, we
have the contradiction between Genesis
1:29-30 with Genesis 9:2-3. Some scholars
interpret the first prescription for
vegetarianism as the preferred diet, and
suggest that it was only after God became
grievously disappointed with human sin and
flooded the earth did the second provision
become permitted, and not without qualification
(and maybe only as an expedient for the
situation). To take another example, the New
Testament makes repeated attacks on meat
offered to pagan idols (Acts 15:20; Revelation
2:14), but Paul gives assurances that eating
such flesh is all right if no one is offended
(Corinthians 10:14-33). Paul, then, would
seem to be contradicting Christ.

Examples of Early Christians

Not a few Christian scholars have concluded
vegetarianism to be the more consistent ethic
with respect to the spirit of Christ's teachings.
For example, we have the Ebionites,
Athanasius, and Arius. Of the early church
fathers we have Clement of Alexandria, Origen,
Tertullian, Heronymus, Boniface, St. Jerome,
and John Chrysostom. Clement wrote, "It is far
better to be happy than to have your bodies act
as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the
apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and
vegetables, without flesh". One of the earliest
Christian documents is the `Clementine
Homiles', a second-century work purportedly
based on the teachings of St. Peter. Homily XII
states, "The unnatural eating of flesh meats is
as polluting as the heathen worship of devils,
with its sacrifices and its impure feasts, through
participation in it a man becomes a fellow eater
with devils". Many of the monasteries both in
ancient times to the present practiced
vegetarianism. For instance, Basilius the
Great's order, Boniface's order, Trappists
monks, etc. Also, we have the examples
provided by the stories around some saints like
Hubertus, Aegidius and Francis of Assisi.

Indirect Historical Evidence

Knowledge about how the Essenes, the
Nazoreans and Ebionites lived suggests that
Christ was probably a vegetarian. The Essences
were Jews who were remarkably similar to the
early Christians as evinced in their deemphasis
upon property and wealth, their communalism
and in their rejection of animal sacrifices. The
first Christians were known as the Nazoreans
(not to be confused with Nazarenes), and the
Ebionites were a direct offshoot from them. All
three groups were vegetarian which is
suggestive of the central role such a practice
once played in Early Christianity.

Paul's need to constantly deal with these
vegetarians is also evidence of how prevalent
they were and not a few fellow Christians, it
would seem, took issue with Paul. Paul, if he is
consistent with his words, would have been
vegetarian (Corinthians 8:13), notwithstanding
his opposition to the Ebionites. According to
Clement of Alexandria, Matthew was a
vegetarian. Clementine `Homiles' and
`Recognitions' claim that Peter was also a
vegetarian. Both Hegisuppus and Augustin
testify that the first head of the church in
Jerusalem after the death of Christ, namely
Christ's brother James the Just, was a
vegetarian and raised as one! If Jesus's parents
raised James as vegetarian then it would be
likely that Jesus was also so raised.

Conclusion

Given the above points, it is reasonable to
believe that vegetarianism would be consistent
with, if not mandated by, the spirit of early
Christianity, a spirit that advocated kindness,
mercy, non-violence and showed disdain
towards wealth and extravagance. Meat eating
would hardly have been considered the way of
the humility, non-extravagance and love for all
of God's creation. Hence, the orthodox early
church father, Christian Hieronymous, could
not but be compelled to conclude:

The eating of animal meat was
unknown up to the big flood, but since
the flood they have pushed the strings
and stinking juices of animal meat into
our mouths, just as they threw quails in
front of the grumbling sensual people in
the desert. Jesus Christ, who appeared
when the time had been fulfilled, has
again joined the end with the
beginning, so that it is no longer
allowed for us to eat animal meat.

Postscript: What Happened After Christ?

Maybe an even more important question than
that of whether or not Christ was a vegetarian,
was why Christianity later abandoned its
vegetarian roots. Steven Rosen in his book,
Food for the Spirit, 1987
, argues:

The early Christian fathers adhered to a
meatless regime...many early Christian
groups supported the meatless way of
life. In fact, the writings of the early
Church indicate that meat eating was
not officially allowed until the 4th
century, when the Emperor Constantine
decided that his version of Christianity
would be the version for everyone. A
meat eating interpretation of the Bible
became the official creed of the Roman
Empire, and vegetarian Christians had
to practice in secret or risk being put to
death for heresy. It is said that
Constantine used to pour molten lead
down the their throats if they were
captured.

Ironic indeed that pagan Rome here would
have this longstanding influence upon
Christianity.

In any case, I think we can all be thankful that
it is a lot easier today to be a vegetarian. The
occasional rudeness and social disapproval a
vegetarian must tolerate is a pretty small
inconvenience in comparison to Constantine's
way of dealing with vegetarians.

To cite another sad example: in southern
France a group of Albigensian vegetarians (a
Cartharist religious group) were put to death by
hanging in 1052 because they refused to kill a
chicken!


[While I'm not a Christian myself, I do find
these questions interesting and even
important. There is a large body of good
impartial scholarship on this issue that is worth
reading. Remember, many Christian groups
from the time of Christ have practiced
vegetarianism. The Seventh Day Adventist
maybe being the most well known in the U.S.
And even within other mainstream Christian
groups, and even Jewish groups, there exists
among them all at least some minority opinion
held by respected members who would forward
the merits of vegetarianism being the more
consistent practice with their principles. You
might also take a look at Andrew Linzey's book,
Christianity and the Rights of Animals. -- Ted]

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