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Were Jesus of Nazareth & Early Christians Vegetarians?
Were Jesus of Nazareth and the Early Christians Vegetarians?
Interview with Dr. Christian Sailer, press officer for Universelles Leben
Why do you think it is important whether we live as vegetarians or eat meat?
When we eat meat we are participating in a bloody massacre. Its victims are living beings that trustingly look to us and feel joy and pain as long as they live. On their march to death into our kitchens, they suffer unspeakable torment -- in the confining prison cells of industrial factory farming, on endless animal transports and finally in the slaughterhouses, where they are killed under deafening screams of fear and, very often are only partially numbed as they are cut up and processed into carcass pieces, which ultimately land on our plates. While we eat our steaks, we repress this bloody processing, so that we don't lose our appetite.
More and more contemporaries are asking themselves whether this bloody frenzy toward the animals is consistent with Christian ethics and morals. This question was long repressed, because the churches deny that animals have a soul. According to the Catholic Catechism, animals should still be treated as commodities; they should be given no human love and they may be tortured in animal experiments.
According to your opinion, what did Jesus of Nazareth teach about how we should treat animals?
That is actually the decisive question. Unfortunately, not everything that He taught is written down in the traditional Bible. As is well-known, it developed many decades after Jesus had lived and contains what was passed down by hearsay and what seemed important to the authors of the Bible. Additionally, the official Bible presents only a selection of the countless scriptures that emerged during the first centuries after Christ. One of the earliest and best authorities of the many reports on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Church father Hieronymus, who compiled the first complete edition of a Latin Bible, once said concerning the topic of vegetarianism: 'The consumption of animal flesh was unknown up until the great flood; but since then we have had the fibers and the stinking juices of animal flesh stuffed into our mouths ... Jesus Christ, who appeared when the time was fulfilled, again spanned the bow from the end to the beginning, so that we are no longer allowed to eat animal flesh...' Many apostles, who were vegetarians, also saw it this way, for example, Peter and John, and James, the brother of the Lord, who after the crucifixion of Jesus became the leader of the original community.
How did Jesus Himself live?
A life other than that of a vegetarian could hardly have been consistent with the teaching of the Nazarene. Can you imagine that the teacher of peaceableness and mercy would have limited this mercy to humans and excluded the animals? Can you imagine that His warning 'The one who takes up the sword will perish by the sword' would have excluded the butcher's knife? In scriptures that were not included in the official canons of the Bible, but were just as important for the Early Christians, it was reported how Jesus of Nazareth condemned cruel acts toward animals. These were the so-called Acts of Peter as they are called in the professional theological language. Jesus' love for animals can be seen most clearly in the long concealed scripture 'The Gospel of the Perfect Life,' which was published by the Englishman Ouseley at the beginning of the last century. There, it is reported that Jesus set captive birds free, called to order those who abused horses and admonished camel drivers not to beat the animals but to treat them like brothers. To one of these camel drivers, Jesus said: 'Has not the same God created this animal and your children who serve you from the same material and have you not both received the same breath from God?'
This text, which you mention as 'The Gospel of the Perfect Life,' is not generally known, is it?
That's right. But presently, this text is known worldwide, because the Spirit of God also refers back to this text; He reveals Himself again through the mouth of a prophet. In the great Christ-revelation This Is My Word, the life and teachings of the Nazarene are reported in detail. One can find there much that has fallen by the wayside in the official Bible. Interestingly enough, this Christ-revelation also tells about the Passover meal that Jesus of Nazareth had with His apostles before Easter. We learn interesting new aspects here: for example, that Jesus never gave the order that a lamb be slaughtered, but that He was offered pieces of a prepared lamb as a gift and that as a guest, He didn't want to refuse this gift out of politeness.
The Spirit of the Christ of God which is revealing itself in the present time says the following about His activities as Jesus of Nazareth: 'I instructed My own that man should not willfully kill an animal nor should he consume the meat of animals that were killed for the consumption of their meat.' At the same time, he pointed out that one should never pressure anyone and treat him intolerantly, but should generally indicate that it is not consistent with the laws of God to eat meat, so that the particular host who prepared and offered the meal will also gain this insight someday 'of his own volition and without pressure.
If Jesus of Nazareth taught this, then how is it possible that most Christians are not vegetarians?
The peaceable teaching of the Nazarene became lost when Christianity became a state religion under Emperor Constantine. Then pacifism as well as vegetarianism was scorned. One had to go to war and had to eat meat, if one did not want to be an outcast from state, society and church. This terrible tradition has continued right up until today and has corrupted the conscience of Christians. Jesus of Nazareth announced: 'See, I make all things new.' The Church since Constantine says: 'We would rather keep the old.' In contrast to this, the Original Christians say today in the name of the animals that look to us trustingly: 'What has eyes, we do not eat' and the animals call to us: 'Let us live!'
Mankind is standing before an evolutionary step, before a change in our culture. Leonardo da Vinci, who already became a vegetarian when he was young, correctly predicted that eating animals would one day be condemned just as much as cannibalism. And the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy concluded: 'As long as there are slaughterhouses there will also be battlefields.' If we want to do justice to our responsibility as Christians and want to create a more peaceful world, then we must end not only war among people, but also the bloodbath against the animals. Every one can contribute to this, by changing the way he lives and eating less and less meat, finally abstaining from it completely.
From Kingdom of Peace 6/03
Hidden Sources Part 1
The First Christians Were Vegetarians
'But Jesus also ate meat' say many who want to use religion to justify eating meat. This is an error: Jesus gives no justification for eating hot dogs and lamb chops '
The man from Nazareth and the first Christians were vegetarians
During the past 2000 years this knowledge has been suppressed, falsified and turned into its opposite. This was a betrayal of the peaceableness of the Nazarene and has led to the fact that killing and eating animals has become a bloody matter of course in the 'Christian' western world. How was it possible that the way of life and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have become so distorted on such an important issue?
Errors in the Bible
The gospels of the Bible that report about the life of Jesus did not emerge overnight, but over the course of centuries, during which time what should or should not belong to the 'Holy Scriptures' was hotly debated. In addition, the texts available for this choice did not stem from contemporaries of the Nazarene, but were written accounts from what had been passed down over time. When in the 4th century, the 'Church father' Hieronymus put together the first complete Latin edition of the New Testament as commissioned by Pope Damasus I, the numerous contradictions, incomplete writings and various interpretations of this Biblical material nearly drove him to despair. He wrote to Pope Damasus I that posterity would condemn him as a falsifier of the Bible, because he had to choose and decide at his own discretion what was right or wrong, incomplete or requiring supplementation. He admitted to having added and changed many a thing. What was not taken into consideration at all at that time were the so-called apocryphal (concealed) scriptures, which were not included in the official text of the Bible. In part they were destroyed; in part they remained missing for about 1800 years, having been only recently found again. All in all, the Bible proves to be incomplete, like the torso of a statue. Much of what Jesus of Nazareth said and did is not contained in it. This is also confirmed by the Bible itself, for it says that Jesus did yet 'many other things,'(Jo. 21:25) that were not written down. Because church Christianity of today accepts as authoritative only what is in the Bible, it admits at the same time that only a selection of what Jesus taught is recognized. And whether it really was as is stated in the Bible is another question.
Did Jesus eat the Passover lamb?
According to the Gospel of Luke, for instance, Jesus asked: 'Where is the room in which I can eat the Passover lamb with my disciples?'(Lk. 22:11) At that time, thousands of lambs were sacrificed and eaten for the Passover Feast, after their throats had been cut while still alive 'the priests required this kind of slaughtering 'in thankful remembrance for being rescued from slavery in Egypt. Conspicuous, however, is the fact that during this meal Jesus explained the Original Christian supper at the Lord's table with the help of bread and wine and did not even mention the supposedly main course of meat.
Thus far, this is according to the information in the Bible. And according to the Gospel of the Ebionites, outside of the Bible, Jesus answered the question of where the Passover Feast should be set up as follows: 'Do I long to eat this Passover meat with you?'(cited from Epiphanes, Contra Haereses 30: 22 & 4)
The fact that Jesus rejected animal sacrifices also fits with this statement. Concerning this, He often quoted the word of God given through Hosea 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'(Mt. 9:13; 12:7) So, what really happened?
Only in 1989 did a newly revealed gospel bring to many certainty and a surprising result as well: In the Christ-revelation This Is My Word given through the prophetic word, Christ corrects and deepens the different views and speculations inside and outside of the Bible. And He explained: 'Neither the apostles nor the disciples gave the order to slaughter a lamb. But as a gift of love, parts of a prepared lamb were offered to Me as well as to the apostles and disciples. With this, our neighbors wanted to make a gift for us, for they did not know better ... I instructed My own that man should not willfully kill an animal nor should he consume the meat of animals which were killed for the consumption of their meat. However, when people who are still unknowing have prepared meat as nourishment and make of it a gift to the guest, offering it with the meal, then the guest should not reject the gift.
For there is a difference whether a person consumes meat because he craves for meat or as a token of gratitude to the host for his effort.
However, when it is possible for him and outer circumstances and time permit, the knowing person should give general indications to the host, but should not want to set him right. When the time is ripe, the host, too, will understand these general indications.'(This can be read in more detail in This Is My Word, The Christ-revelation which meanwhile has become known to true Christians all over the world. p. 786f.)
And so, Jesus did not hold to feasting customs, but He never put Himself above His host in a teachy way, and on such occasions He ate small amounts of meat. He also knew that one does not attain heaven through a healthy way of eating and drinking and that a person's thoughts, for instance, can influence his life more strongly than what he partakes of externally. Thus, someone who takes Jesus and His vegetarian way of living as a role model can also ask himself whether he is a 'vegetarian' in his thoughts. But if someone does not want to believe what Christ revealed here through the prophetic word and if he wants to continue to justify his consumption of meat with Jesus' behavior, then he could also ask himself if he otherwise keeps His commandments.
The life of Jesus and His death are also a symbol for mankind. He was born in a stable with animals and some shepherds were among the first visitors to the newborn. This symbol says that Christ did not come solely for the people, but also for the animals. And ca. 30 years later, He died in great pain before the gates of the city, while in the city they had just begun slaughtering lambs, which would shortly be served as roast at the Passover celebration. Nothing has changed since then either: The man from Nazareth still hangs on the cross in the Catholic churches and after church service, the lamb or the ox or the pig is still festively consumed.
Woe to you!
It is again the 'Church father' Hieronymus who writes something noteworthy about this. He spanned the time from the great flood to the coming of Jesus and explained: 'Up until the great flood eating meat was unknown; but since then our mouths have been stuffed with the fibers and stinking juices of animal flesh, like the quail that were thrown to the rebelling, sensual people in the desert. Jesus Christ, who appeared when the time was fulfilled, again joined the end with the beginning, so that we are no longer allowed to eat animal meat.'(Adversus Jovianianum 1:30) Jesus of Nazareth felt the pain of the animals who were laid on the butchering tables of the people. And when He saw how a man beat an animal, He called: 'Woe to you who do not hear how it laments to the Creator in heaven and cries for mercy! But three times woe to those over whom it cries and laments in its pain.' These words of Jesus are passed down in the Acts of Peter, an apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, which was written ca. 180 A. D. And one can remember them in the death cries of the animals in today's slaughterhouses, which the animals often only enter after being beaten upon.
The body of death
That a 'gentle' and 'loving' slaughter is not the answer comes from another scripture kept secret: from the Gospel of the Egyptians, written ca. 110 A. D. There Christ is quoted with the sentence: 'Eat every plant; do not eat those afflicted with bitterness.'(cited from Clemens of Alexandria, Stromateis 3:9 & 66) This means nothing other than to nourish oneself as a sensible vegetarian. Since Jesus had an inner connection to nature, He knew which plants are 'bitter' for people, which in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, meant 'poisonous' or 'indigestible.'
But this knowledge was kept from the people in church Christianity just as was the complete text of the Gospel of the Holy Twelve (also known as the Gospel of the Perfect Life or the Gospel of Jesus). Only a few pages and scraps of paper found were recognized by the churches. The complete text of this gospel was received via inspiration in the year 1902 by the English theologian Gideon Jasper Richard Ouseley who wrote it down again and published it. It contains many reliable details. And so, Jesus said to His disciples: 'God is just and bountiful and has ordained that man shall live by the fruits and seeds of the earth alone.'(38:4)
This is comparable to the Gospel of Peace of the Essenes. According to statements of the Hungarian researcher Edmond B. Sz'kely, an Aramaic version is kept under lock and key in the Vatican. After having had a brief look into it, as he himself says, he wrote the text from memory. According to it, Jesus taught: 'And the flesh of slaughtered meat in his body will become his own grave. For verily I say to you: The one who kills, kills himself, and the one who eats of the meat of slaughtered animals eats from the body of death.'(p. 41) 'a sentence that fits with what we otherwise know about Jesus.
In another passage Jesus speaks about a lamb that was killed for consumption and He warned the people: 'Become peaceable, so that you do not [also] become cadavers and are eaten.' This can be read in the Gospel of Thomas written ca. 150 A. D., which Egyptian farmers found in 1945 while plowing near Nag Hammadi on the Nile. Considered to be a sensational find, it indicates that already 2000 years ago people knew that the murder of animals is the death of humans. There is a saying: 'God's mills grind slowly,' but man's cruelties to animals today are falling back on man faster and faster, if he does not repent of these and change his ways.
What is behind the miracle of the fishes?
For the former fishermen among the disciples of Jesus, changing their ways also meant changing their occupation: 'I will make you become fishers of men,' said Jesus, 'And immediately they left their nets and followed him.'(Mk. 1:17-18) According to the report in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gained their trust through an enormous catch of fish that was contrary to the prognosis of fishing experts. In the original text it says about this that the nets were 'constantly torn,'(Greek past tense) so that the animals could again swim freely, which one can understand as a symbol: Animals love freedom just as you humans do, so stop catching them! It may very well be that the new (German) Protestant-Catholic unity translation of the Bible (1984) changed the text so that the nets only 'threatened to tear,' but even so, it does not say in the Bible that the disciples took the catch and sold it.
However, in other passages, the Bible claims that Jesus multiplied fish to be eaten, but here, too, the Christ-revelation This Is My Word gives an explanation. In it, Christ corrects the word of the Bible, saying that as Jesus of Nazareth He did not create any living fish, 'so that they be killed again.' Instead, He created dead fish from the spiritual substance of the Earth and to this He said: 'I gave them the dead fish and, at the same time, I offered them bread and fruits to eat, so that they could recognize the difference between living and dead nourishment, between highly-vibrating and low-vibrating food.'(more detail in: This Is My Word, ob cit., pp. 371-2)
Animals want to serve man as their big brother and so man shall also serve the animals, his fellow creatures. When Jesus of Nazareth was 40 days in the desert, He lived among the 'wild animals.' (Mk. 1:13) And there, He surely did not hunt them with bow and arrow or throw spears at them; rather, He understood their language and lived in peace with them.
For a brief time, what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied several hundred years before became reality: 'The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding ... The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them.' (Is. 11:2, 6)
From Kingdom of Peace 6/01
Hidden Sources Part 2
The First Christians Were Vegetarians
Animals would have been spared much suffering if we had listened to Jesus of Nazareth, who called upon His followers to not eat meat. Yet in the gospels of the Bible only a few traces are found which show His connection to nature and animals, for example, in His story about the birds of the air which do not worry (Mt. 6); or in the parable about the mustard seed, where out of a very small seed a large tree grows in which birds may nest. This is how it will be in the emerging Kingdom of Peace, which in the beginning is small like a mustard seed, then grows 'larger than the other plants.'(Mt. 12.
And when Jesus lived in the desert 'with the wild animals'(Mk. 1), then perhaps one gets an inkling of the great plan of God to re-establish the former paradise on Earth. But the Bible informs us only very inadequately or even wrongly about how, in a totally practical way, Jesus treated the animals and what specific steps an individual can take in this direction. This is why in the first part of this series we indicated ancient sources outside of the Bible where more information is found, and which is more exacting. In this article we want to report about whether the Christians kept to Jesus' suggestion to not eat meat.
'He never ate meat'
Much information about this topic is in the book by the theologian Carl Anders Skriver, The Way of Life of Jesus and the First Christians (L'beck 1973). He wrote, for example, about Peter, one of the better known disciples, quoting him from the Clementine Homolies (sermons), a script that comes to us via Clemens, the head of the Roman community, and that appeared ca. 220 in Palestine. According to it, Peter lived on bread and olives to which he sometimes added vegetables (XII:6). And about the disciple, John, one can read the well-known church historian, Eusibius, (ca. 300) that he 'never ate meat.'(Church History II., 2:3) Similar things are reported about the disciple Matthew. The church father Clemens of Alexandria (3rd century), recognized as reliable by both friends and enemies, writes about Matthew that he lived 'from plants and never touched meat,'(Paidagogos [='The Pedagoge,' the first Christian ethics book] II, 1:16), just as the disciple Matthew, who was voted into the circle of the twelve after the death of Judas. And Carl Anders Skriver adds that according to writers of the 2nd century, the apostles Andrew, Philip and Thomas as well as Mark and Luke were vegetarian (p.15).
That others would soon join the original group of twelve, which held the main responsibility for Early Christianity in its infancy, is shown by the example of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth, and the first leader of the original community in Jerusalem. In the Bible, next to the animal-loving apostles Peter and John, he was considered to be one of the three 'acknowledged pillars'(Paul, Gal. 2:9). The church father Hegesipp (ca. 180) writes about James: 'He enjoyed neither wine nor hard liquor nor did he eat anything that had a soul'(Eusebius, Church History II 23, 5:6). And church father Augustine, (354-430) who was canonized by the Catholic Church explains: 'James, the brother of the Lord, lived from seeds and plants and touched neither meat nor wine'(cited from Skriver, p.14).
The way of life of the Early Christians in Palestine is a bone of contention for many people. For, as always, the temple with its daily animal sacrifices is the religious and political center of society. And with each of the many celebrations during the course of the year, certain slaughtering methods are prescribed and eating certain pieces of meat at feasts is not only considered an eating habit but obedience toward a God who supposedly commanded this. This is why James' way of life and that of the early community which was friendly to the animals was considered a falling away from God and His commandments 'an accusation for which James was stoned to death by the adherents of the priests in Jerusalem in the year 62 AD. His successor, Simeon, a cousin of Jesus, nevertheless remained faithful to this way of living as well as his successor Justus (after 107) (Skriver p.15ff.) And so, one can assume that the first Christians were vegetarians, and at that, out of conviction.
Whose word is valid?Jesus of Nazareth had explained to the people a few years previously that the regulations governing sacrifices did not originate with God, but with the caste of priests, and He said: 'I have come to abolish the sacrifices and if you do not refrain from sacrificing, then the anger will not leave you alone,'whereas with 'anger' he meant the negative consequences of the law of sowing and reaping. These words of Jesus are documented in the Early Christian gospel of the Ebionites (beginning of the 2nd century) which the Church destroyed a few years later. There are only a few sentences remaining which the Catholic Church father Epiphanius (ca. 400) quoted in his book, 'Against Teachers of False Doctrine.'
Epiphanius also reported that the Ebionites (after a man called Ebion) answered the question of why they strictly refused meat and sacrificing cults by saying that Jesus had said so. (Contra Haereses, 30,18:9)
And yet a great majority of the people preferred to continue to listen to the priests rather than the man from Nazareth. The temple in which the animals were slaughtered gained in significance and was first finished as a work of art in the sixties. Almost at the same time, the rebellion against the Roman occupying forces began, which ended in a catastrophe with over 100,000 dead and the destruction of the temple in the year 70 AD. Some of the survivors came to their senses and one can read in a Jewish source: 'When the temple was destroyed, the number of those who practiced abstinence in Israel increased; they neither ate meat nor drank wine. '(Talmud, Baba Batra 60 b)
The end of the war and of the temple could have meant a new beginning in society and in relation to the animals. Yet it is exactly some of those, who referred themselves back to Christ and were thus shut out of the synagogues, of the remaining houses of prayer, who gradually made compromises, and meat was again taken and eaten. In any case this is what we can read in a document about the Christians in Palestine at the beginning of the 2nd century, from the letter of the Roman envoy Plinius to the Emperor Trojan. Plinius wrote to Rome that 'the meat of the sacrificed animals for which there were hardly any buyers, now finds good sales everywhere.'(Epistula (= letter) X, 96).
Yet before the people who called themselves Christians in Palestine began eating meat again, the dam had been broken already in other parts of the Roman Empire.
How did it come to this? While the followers of Jesus at first only had to maintain a position against the Jewish priests and their adherents, already around the year 50 a new front had built up. An outsider named Paul began to gain people for Christ on his own, and outside of Israel. At first, because Paul had been a party to those who earlier in Jerusalem had persecuted the followers of Jesus for the Pharisees, there was much joy with his conversion 'an experience in which, according to him, Christ appeared. But very soon conflict arose between the early community in Jerusalem and Paul, because in many respects Paul deviated from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, for example, in his view that faith was enough for the salvation of the soul, whereby Jesus had again and again indicated the right deed.
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Response from Lewis Regenstein:
There is no mention in the Bible of Jesus' ever eating animals in his lifetime, even at the Last Supper, probably a Passover dinner, where the lamb dish is traditional.
Jesus did NOT say, as indicated above, "where is the room where I can eat the Passover lamb."
On two occasions, after his death and the resurrection, Jesus is said to have consumed fish, but never "animals".
kindness to animals is an integral part of the teachings of Jesus and the
And he stressed that even the lowliest of creatures is cared for by the Almighty, saying of even the 'lowliest" of creatures, the sparrows, "not one of them is forgotten before God," and "one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father [caring]"
(Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29).
It is not necessary to refer to obscure or non-existent books from the Bible, since the Scriptures themselves are full of passages forbidding cruelty to animals, as is summarized in the attached article I did for the Atlanta Constitution.
If you would like more info on this, please let me know.