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psychoceramics: Was Jesus a Vegetarian by Ted Alter

Was  Jesus  a  Vegetarian?  
by  Ted  Altar  
The  following  arguments  are  to  be  found,  for  the  most  
part,  in  Keith  Akers'  very  useful,  A  Vegetarian  
Sourcebook  ,  1989.  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  Jesus  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 Jesus  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  Jesus  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.  
  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  Jesus Time on Earth?  
  Maybe  an  even  more  important  question  than  that  of  
whether  or  not  Jesus  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  
  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 Altar]

Ernest but always politically incorrect.

Drinking 10 to 12 glasses of clean water
is the most important and fundamental acts
of sane living. How can we trust anyone
who doesn't do that much?