If animals had religion, humans would be the devil.
“But God states in the Bible that we can eat meat.”
Is the Bible Against Animal Cruelty?
The media regularly report on numerous cases of animal cruelty from around the world. Most governments pass laws protecting animals.
Is the Bible against animal cruelty? Pope Benedict XVI, invoked Sacred Scripture when he told a journalist in 2002 that “degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
Within its pages, there are remarkable statements about animal care.
“A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:9).
“But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck…” (Isaiah 66:3).
Surely respect for all living creatures is the responsibility of all Bible believers.
Original Diet in Genesis
Genesis 1 and 2 are among the best pro-animal texts in the Bible. It is there we discover that the original diet for both humans and animals was vegan. This is repeated three times in the early chapters of Genesis.
“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” – Genesis 1:29–30
Permission from God to eat certain animals was granted only after the flood story since the flood would have destroyed most vegetation.
“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” – Genesis 9:3
Scholars observe that the exact word used in the Septuagint in Genesis 9:3 “herpeton” which they say means something like “reptile” or “crawling creatures” but the exact meaning is not clear. It seems to temporarily give permission to only eat animals such as crabs, abalone, lobsters, and snails, or perhaps just animals without blood.
This is consistent with the very next verse. Genesis chapter 9:4 reads: “But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.”
The next verse then seems to indicate that if you kill those animals, God will seek your life by the very animals you kill.
“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it” – Genesis 9:5 (KJV)
Reuben Alcalay’s complete Hebrew-English Dictionary provides a startling literal translation of this verse: “Your life I will seek at the hand of every creature you slay.” (Genesis 9:5)
Future Diet According to the Bible
The ideal future diet described in the Bible is also vegan.
“In that day I will also make a covenant for them with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the animals that scurry along the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land. And I will make then lie down in safety.” (Hosea 2:18)
“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox…”( Isaiah 65:25).
These texts refer to a non-meat diet.
So according to the Bible vegetarianism or veganism is the ideal norm in the beginning and in the future. In-between Christians describe humans as being in a fallen state.
Some would claim all things are permitted, but the truth is all things are not wise. (1 Cor 10:23).
Biblically it appears that in the afterlife, there will be no meat eating. This must be the perfect will of God. Do you want to do his will on earth as it is in heaven?
Bible and Veganism
Throughout the Bible, you will see that flesh was not the ideal diet but was temporarily permitted because of the lust of fallen human.
There are several occasions in the New Testament where the word ‘meat’ is translated from five original Greek words; Broma, brosimos, prosphagion, trope and phago. In none of these instances can animal flesh be explicitly concurred. The original words refer to general sustenance.
In the wilderness, God sustained the Israelites on a diet of manna. Manna was described as similar to coriander seed – a vegan dish, to be sure. The Israelites complained and demanded meat instead of God’s choice – the filling and healthy manna.
So who were these meat-lovers? The Torah described them, in Hebrew, as ‘ha’asafsoof.’ The Jewish Publication Society translates this word as “the riffraff.” This is one of many instances of the Torah expressing disdain for meat-eating.
“The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat!…Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it because you have rejected the LORD.” (Numbers 11:18-20)
In Numbers 11:4, the Hebrew word used to describe the riffraff’s desire for meat is “ta’avah.” The Jewish Publication Society translates that as “gluttonous craving.”
“While the meat was still in in-between their teeth they were destroyed.” (Numbers 11:33).
In Deuteronomy 12:20, when the Israelites are getting their final instructions before entering the Land of Israel they are told that they can eat meat if they have ‘the urge’ to do so. The “urge” is described as “ta’aveh” – a gluttonous craving.
It is clear that meat eating was not God’s ideal diet.
Veganism and Church History
Evangelicals in early 19th century England like William Wilberforce and Hannah More were strong advocates for animal protection.
There were Christians in the early church who taught that neither man nor animals were not created to eat meat. Vegetarianism and veganism were popular amongst the early Christians.
Most of the writings of vegetarian Christian sects were destroyed during the persecutions of ‘heretics’ by the Church, although ancient fragments of manuscript still survive. The following piece of Aramaic scripture, stored in the Vatican library, has been quoted in several vegetarian publications;
“Jesus answered; and the flesh of slain beasts in his body will become his own tomb, for I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and whoso eats the flesh of slain beasts eats the body of death.”
Other early Christian historical documents observe that many influential Christians during the formative centuries of Christianity were vegetarian. Basil the Great, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and many others were all vegetarians.
Origen’s work Contra Celsum quotes Celsus commenting regarding vegetarian practices among Christians with whom he had contact.
Augustine opposed vegetarian Christians, yet he stated that their numbers were many. He states that the vegetarian Christians who “abstain both from flesh and from wine” are “without number.”
(St. Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic Church 33).
The Clementine Homilies, a second-century work purportedly based on the teachings of the Apostle Peter, states, “The unnatural eating of flesh meats is as polluting as the heathen worship of devils, with its sacrifices and its impure feasts, and through participation in it a man becomes a fellow eater with devils.”
“All the apostles abstained from meat and wine.” (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospels 3:5).
“Jacob, the brother of the Lord, lived on seeds and plants and touched neither meat nor wine.” (Epistulae ad Faustum XXII, 3).
“James, the brother of the Lord, was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh.” (Hegesippus)
“And happiness is found in the practice of virtue. Accordingly, the Apostle Matthew partook of seeds and nuts and vegetables without flesh” (Clement of Alexandria)
The early Christian vegetarians that Paul talked about clearly were offended by the thought that other believers might sacrifice animals or eat meat; they believed that all followers of Jesus should be vegetarians. So who are these trouble-making vegetarians who must not be offended? Comparing the disputes over vegetarianism and animal sacrifice in Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 to 10 with the murky food dispute in Galatians 2, it appears that these trouble-making vegetarians were the leaders of the early church — James, Peter, and John.
Jesus and Veganism
At the end of John’s Gospel, the writer concedes that the New Testament can contain only a fraction of Christ’s teachings.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them was written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25).
When Biblical parables mention meat dishes, it appears they were incidental terminology which his audience could relate to.
In the early church, some Christian groups maintained that Jesus was himself a vegetarian according to the definition of the time.
James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the early Jewish Christian Church, was a vegetarian. In fact, in ecclesiastical history, Eusebius states that James was even raised by his parents as a vegetarian. Why would his parents do this unless they were vegetarians too? (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.23.5–6)
If they were vegetarian and raised their family as vegetarian, does that mean Jesus was raised as a vegetarian?
There are no recorded instances in the Gospels of Jesus eating red meat.
Epiphanius quotes the Gospel of the Ebionites where Jesus has a confrontation with the high priest. Jesus chastises the leadership saying, “I am come to end the sacrifices and feasts of blood; and if you cease not offering and eating of flesh and blood, the wrath of God shall not cease from you; even as it came to your fathers in the wilderness, who lusted for flesh, and did eat to their content, and were filled with rottenness, and the plague consumed them.”
In Acts chapter 4 the early Christians were known as the Ebionites, the Jewish Christian group that Jesus brother James was the leader of. Their writings disclosed that God did not want animals killed. (The Clementine Homilies 3:45).
They even went so far as to condemn those who even taste meat [Homilies 7.5, 7.8). These Jewish Christians believed that God never gave Moses any commandments to sacrifice animals, nor instructions for war and that these were later additions.
Jewish history clearly shows that many Jews opposed the concept of a bloodthirsty God who desired animal sacrifices. These voices are also echoed in the pages of the Bible.
“For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Jeremiah 7:22).
Jesus himself twice quoted the prophets when he said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, quoting Hosea 6:6).
The temple incident in the gospels was interpreted by early Christians as evidence for his disdain for animal sacrifices. We note that he made the whip specifically to drive out the animals, not to strike the people.
“In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves, he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
This is clearly a reference to the words of Jeremiah.
“Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:11)
From the writing of Jeremiah, it appears he opposed animal sacrifices.
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