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Was Jesus a Vegetarian?
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Was Jesus a Vegetarian?

As Easter approaches, let's tackle the question that is often brought up at this time: was Jesus a vegetarian? Some vegans and vegetarians say that he was, and those who are not fans of the vegetarian lifestyle (and even those who are) maintain that he wasn't. Of course, the more important question is that in a modern world, would Jesus be a vegan, if He walked the earth today? They didn't have tofu, tempeh, seitan and gourmet nut cheese in Biblical times!

In fact, the Christian church has quite a history of vegetarian eating, despite the modern attitude of today's churches. Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarian, as are many Quakers. And William Cowherd (from the Bible Christian Church) helped create the world's first vegetarian society, back in 1847.

The first chapter of the Bible is called Genesis, which is the story of creation. It writes how in the world before sin (before Adam and Eve took a bite of the apple), everyone was vegan:

And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.' Genesis 1:30.

Some scholars say that God only allowed the consumption of meat after the flood as a temporary measure, because there were no plants to eat. Of course one of The Ten Commandments is 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'. But there is no add-on to say that 'this only applies to humans'.

I require mercy, not sacrifice. The Book of Matthew

But Didn't Jesus Ask People to Eat Meat?

The Bible is a collection of stories that were originally created in an ancient language called Aramaic. And somewhere along the way, the translations of some words were changed. As an example, many times the Bible mentions the word 'meat' which in fact the original word was 'trophe' which means 'nourishment. So when the Book of John states that the disciples of Jesus went to the city to buy meat, in fact they went to the city to buy nourishment. That is why it reads 'and when he had received meat, he was strengthened'.

Again in the chapter of Luke, the word 'phago' is translated as meat, when the Book should read 'and Jesus commanded to give her food' (not 'meat').

Why Did Jesus Feed the 5000 with Fish?

The famed parable is of course often brought up. Some scholars again say this is due to the translation and in fact the Greek word for fishweed (a type of seaweed) could have been the real food. Others say that Jesus asking the disciples to give up their jobs as fishermen to follow him, could be asking them to follow a more peaceful profession. When Jesus eats fish in the Bible, scholars remind us that the Greek word for fish is 'ixous' which is used to describe Jesus, and is not necessarily referring to the food.

But Doesn't God Have Dominion Over Animals?

Yes, just like a mother has dominion over her child. But she wouldn't try to kill it. Dominion means 'control'. But this can be good control or bad control. If you are a peace negotiator in a hostage situation, you are trying to control the situation so that no-one gets shot. If you are controlling your dog on a leash as you cross a busy road, you are trying to prevent you both getting run over.

Pope Francis has become a much-loved Pope, known for his humility and compassion. He has embraced everything about animal welfare (and took his Papal name in honor of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Although not necessarily vegetarian himself, he cooks his own simple suppers in a small apartment (refusing to feast on big banquets). And he has said that we must reject the notion that our being created in God's image gives us absolute domination over other creatures.

Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Proverbs 31:8

Does It Really Matter?

Not really. Most of us would probably accept that if you are an Inuit who lives in the wild with nothing to eat but seal - then it's a sad reality to keep alive (just as for a polar bear). Back in Biblical times, even if Jesus did eat meat and fish, this would not have been through choice, but as the only way to eat.

What is more relevant is whether he would eat meat and fish and dairy today. Jesus was all about compassion. And in a world where there are plenty of alternatives, it seems obvious that he would be enjoying vegan cheesecake!

Further Reading

The Lost Religion of Jesus is a wonderful book by Keith Akers, giving proof that Jesus was the trailblazer of today's version of today's ideal man: a peaceful, minimalist vegan.

Jesus People for Animals is a website dedicated to helping Christians become vegan. It offers evidence from scripture and reasons to go vegan, plus a free vegan starter kit.

A man is about to be eaten by a bear. So he prays to God to make the bear a good Christian. To his amazement, the bear puts his giant paws together in prayer. He then says, 'I thank thee Lord, for this meal I am about to receive!' From The Dominion of Love (a book in which Norm Phelps tackles those who use the Good Book as an excuse for animal abuse).

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