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Before the world flood, all humans and all animals were vegetarians or likely vegans, according to the Book of Genesis.
The first reference to food:Genesis 1:29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you, it shall be for food.
Likewise to the animals:Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air, and to everything that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for food: and it was so.
Hence, the original and perfect food for humans and animals was vegetarian, not meat as confirmed here:Genesis 2:9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
This is what was eaten by both the humans and the animals. Then came the day when God instructed Noah to prepare the ark for the coming flood. Note God's instruction:Genesis 6:21 And take unto you of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to you; and it shall be for food for you, and for them
Note that Noah brought "food for you, and them..." Humans still did not eat animals, nor did animals eat animals; otherwise, there would have been no need to bring the food. Noah could have brought extra animals to slaughter and eat.
After the flood, the survivors left the ark. Then God allowed Noah and his family to begin eating animals (presumably there would have been nothing to eat for a year or more until the plants reseeded).Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall all of you not eat.
5 Know that your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
Here, Noah is told that even as humans were previously given only vegetation to eat, now they would be allowed to eat animals under certain conditions. Verse four gives the fundamental condition. The blood must be drained before eating. Other requirements were added under the Sinai and Rabbinic Laws for Jews, but draining the blood was commanded for all of Noah's descendants. Note that life is "contained in the blood." Even when the blood is drained from meat as God requires, it is impossible to remove all of it. Therefore, when eaten, one will consume a portion of the being's life, which the Torah frowns upon and may have dire consequences for one's neshama or soul.
Notice what happens to human beings who decide to take part in this new dietary allowance, "The blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man."
Due to eating animals, violence increases within human and animal society. Note that nowhere are humans commanded to eat their fellow creatures; it is merely allowed. It is a fact that those societies that encourage the eating of their fellow creatures have higher crime rates, wage more wars of aggression, etc. According to the Bible, eating animals is directly related to increased violence, and history demonstrates this is true.
Between the covering of human beings with animal flesh and the Flood, the world became a violent place. The Laws given to Noah moderate what people may and may not eat especially blood. Biblically, meat is allowed if the blood is properly drained. Most meat eaters today do not observe the biblical requirements. Those who observe the Seven Noahide requirements should take particular care in this area. It is obvious from the scriptures that meat-eating is allowed, but it requires a high price. Among many aboriginal people, the hunter apologizes before killing an animal for food and offers to be the food next time. Likewise, in the Indian Vedas, Hindus, who generally abstain from meat, are allowed to eat animals to prevent starvation; however, that doctrine says that the acquired karma for doing so otherwise usually results in taking birth as an animal in the subsequent life. Under the biblical conception of gilgul neshamat, all rebirths are in human form.
There is little information about what Rabbi Yeshua did or did not eat. We know the Essenes were vegans, like many mystics, including John the Baptist. The only reference to Yeshua eating is this:Luke 22:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish and a honeycomb.
43 And he took it and did eat before them.
Here, Yeshua ate some quantity of fish. Many people who eat fish still consider themselves vegetarian, though I have never understood this as fish are also conscious beings with faces. In any event, Yeshua was not a strict vegan. Since no one mentions him following an unusual diet in the Gospels, it seems safe to assume that he ate like almost everyone in his Jewish community. There is no sure way to know based on the texts we have to say. However, veganism would certainly be harmonious with his emphasis on love and compassion if he was.
Paul's famous comment is one of the main proof texts used to defend eating animals. Let us consider it in context:I Corinthians 8:1 Now, concerning things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love (Greek: agape) edifies.
2 If anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if anyone loves God, the same is known of him.
4 As concerning the eating of those things offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no other God but One.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or earth, [as there be gods many, and lords many,]
6 To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Nevertheless, there is not in everyone that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But food commends us not to God: for neither if we eat are we the better; nor if we eat not are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge sit to eat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of the one who is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 When any of you so sin against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, all of you sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if food makes my brother offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother offend.
Paul is speaking of not judging people due to eating this particular religiously rejected food because of the laws of avoda zara or foreign worship. In context, the teaching refers to eating meat sacrificed to Pagan gods. The issue was not about eating meat in general but about eating Pagan sacrifices (which were cheaper because the Pagans had to do many offerings each day). Some argued that this forbidden food must not be eaten. However, Paul determined that as long as Yeshua's talmidim were not eating the foods for religious reasons, it was not idolatry and so was acceptable. Here is a fundamental difference between Derech Yeshua Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism. Derech Yeshua stresses the kavanah or intention as the most important, while Rabbinic Law focuses more on the action. Therefore, Paul warns that those seeing this freedom in practice could be led to commit avoda zara. Reiterating this teaching on freedom, in Romans 14:14, Paul says, "Nothing is unclean of itself, but to one who deems anything unclean, to that person, it is unclean."
Paul teaches that food and other religious strictures do not commend anyone to God. God seeks the kavana or intention behind our actions. From the biblical perspective of Derech Yeshua, eating meat is not the deciding factor of one's spirituality, regardless of its source.
In the Olam Haba (the Messianic age that will follow the War of Magog), Mashiach ben David will restore balance to the planet, and then, 'The lion will lay down with the lamb.' Then, all beings will return to a peaceful vegan diet as in the beginning.Isaiah 11: 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.And again:
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing infant shall play on the asp's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse [i.e., The Mashiach] who shall stand for an unmistakable sign to all people; he shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.Isaiah 65:25: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD
So we understand that animal eating is permitted during the Olam Hazeh and until HaMashiach comes and rectifies the world. However, many people sincerely seeking the Kingdom of HaShem already embrace this biblical diet. We affirm that HaMashiach has yet to come as these things remain undone.Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the anointing, that we might be justified through our faith."
The Jewish Temple sacrifices aimed to demonstrate the severity of our sins, to make us feel responsible for the slaughter of the innocents that human sin perpetrates so that we would repent of our sins. Personal teshuvah or repentance is what God wanted the whole time:Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand oil rivers? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you, only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Yes, biblically, people are free to kill, eat, and wear the flesh of defenseless animals if they want, other than pork and a few other specifically forbidden animals, but can you honestly picture Yeshua killing defenseless animals when there was no need to do so? Can you picture the Prince of Peace slitting the throats of defenseless animals? I cannot.
Before the flood, people were vegan, and we will be vegan again in the New Earth. Why not avoid this pain and suffering now? Love animals, do not eat them!
Health-wise, humans do not need to eat meat. Does it seem godly to cause such needless pain and suffering to those in our care? Our job as humans is to be caretakers of the planet. Eating animals makes no sense and seems spiritually indefensible to me, even given our allowance to do so.
How about you?
Jude 1:22 Some having compassion, make a difference"
Acknowledgement: When I wrote this piece in 1997, I was a vegetarian, not strictly vegan. I observed this diet for several years. Today I no longer do, but I continue to believe it is the preferable diet.
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* By John of AllFaith, © 1997, updated October 18, 2023
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