Most Christians remain under the impression that non-human animals were put on Earth - by God - for us to use as we see fit. In their minds, this includes testing household products on them, making a mockery of their pristine beauty in circus, eating and hunting them for sport or food when other viable options of nutrition exist. Contrary to popular opinion, such notions are diametrically opposed to what God has commanded.
It is not surprising that today's Christians rarely show compassion towards animals. In recent years there has been an influx of theology from TV evangelists, and those seeking status and financial gain; who seem to have sold their souls in exchange for a theology other than the one revealed by Jesus. This notion is what some term "prosperity theology." This theology has proven through practice, that it is more concerned with financial gain and worldly success, than it is with the message of Jesus the Messiah.
This prosperity theology is new, for throughout the history of Christianity and human history itself, though there have been other problems - most people have been taught the evils associated with the desire for money rather than a quest for Truth in Christ. For when we make personal comfort the goal of our life, rather than the mind of Christ, then compassion goes out the window, with greed and apathy taking its place.
Jesus himself abrogated this unscrupulous manner of living. Rather he called us to be in the world but not of the world. We are all the People of God and scripture tells us that God will work all things out in the fullness of time. When we analyze the "prosperity theology" we can see why it is so common for Christians not only to forget our Biblical obligations to animals, but also to end up using them in the most abominable ways.
It is a tragedy that secular organizations are today often the ones leading the way in the Animal Liberation movement, when in the 1800s and millennia prior, it had been those dedicated to serving the Divine Will. Extending the Christian ethic of love and redemption to the rest of creation, is quite simply the next logical step from conversion. If we have really been converted to the love of God, then how can we not reach out to the very living beings that He created; thus seeking only to inflict suffering when it is absolutely necessary?
I am not seeking to write an autobiographical synopsis of my progression into the vegan lifestyle and the understanding of the "New Ethic." However, it must be put in perspective - for the reader who might not be aware of the background this information was derived from - that these references are the result of years of struggle against those who use perverted, distortions of scripture as excuses for apathy and brutality.
Accordingly, I have chosen to base this study specifically upon the precepts of Judeo-Christian ideology: as the verdict in this tradition on animals has not always been favorable. The aim of this article is not only to demonstrate that Veganism is a definite aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but also that Hebrew sects of the early church - such as the Nazirenes, whose teachings later endured a difficult translation into Roman mindset - were actually quite dogmatic in insisting that true followers of "the Way" adhere to a lifestyle abstinent from animal products.
According to Genesis, the first book of the Torah, the initial diet of humanity was a vegan diet:
"I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed: they shall be yours for food. All green plants I give for food to the wild animals, to all the birds of heaven, and to all reptiles on Earth, every living creature, it shall be theirs for food." (Genesis 1:29-31)
This is the first commandment given in the Torah, regarding dietary restrictions. What might strike one as somewhat odd, is the fact that this was not a commandment that was being handed down to the prophets of a religious denomination, for the purpose of social reform. This was simply how all of the first human beings are recorded as having eaten, according to the Torah.
Furthermore, one might concoct some obscure interpretation of this passage to justify their conventional diet; noting that this passage states that even the non-human animals subsisted upon vegetation. In Truth, to the contemporary mind that sees nothing but a Hellenized, overly-literal understanding of the Torah, reconciling anything with their superstitious views would prove impossible. For surely lions did not abstain from flesh consumption in the state of Eden.
To come at this verse with a Romanized outlook will invariably doom us to failure. Unfortunately for modern Christians who actually seek out the Truth, our religion has virtually bared adherents from accepting any writings other than those approved by the Council of Nicea in 325 a.d. Conversely, it is no secret among Judaism, that there was a written Torah given to Moses in Mount Sinai and their was also the, esoteric tradition that was only to be passed down orally, and not trusted to the inevitable distortions and mistranslations that tend to occur over time.
For many years these teachings went virtually unwritten. Some of the books of the Old Testament, following the Pentatuch, contain additional textual drafts of this oral tradition. However, the Nazirenes were some of the first people to actually commit such teachings to writing in the Gospel of Aramaic Matthew, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and many of the Gnostic "Christian" texts compiled and buried out of the censors reach in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. At the same time, many of the most explanatory and accepted books of Kabbalah, (literally: "The Receiving," which were also some of the writings transcribed from oral tradition), were penned by authors in Province, France and Spain. Both of these regions were areas where prominent Nazirene political exiles fled to after the fall of Jerusalem.
In these Kabbalistic texts, (namely, the Zohar), it is expounded that "Eden" is both our point of origin and also our evolutionary destination. This meaning that there is a "Superior Eden," ("Pardes"), and an "Inferior Eden," ("Gan Eden"). Accordingly, the Superior Eden is the endpoint, the destination, the final stage in all evolution, to which all life in the manifest world is evolving towards. Bearing this in mind - in an allegoric manner -the state of superior, enlightened Eden is the destination of all life. Accordingly if the unconscious, or "Inferior Eden" entails that mankind subsist off of vegetables by not knowing any other manner in which to live, then conversely, the conscious, or "superior" Eden would necessitate and imply that all beings, which evolve to the gates of said superior Eden, consciously choose to subsist upon vegetative life as well. This is not to say that all forms of life will necessarily evolve to that stage, rather that all which do will, by definition, have "all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed," as theirs for food.
However, after the flood, many Judaic and Christian theologians believe, erroneously, that it was "permissible" to kill and eat a non-human animal.
"Every creature that lives and moves shall be food for you; I give you them all, as once I gave you all green plants. But now you must not eat the flesh with the life, which is the blood, still in it. For the blood is the life."(Genesis 9:3-4)
Many site the above reference, to a purely historic occurrence, as their "Divine Permission" to exploit non-human animals for whatever means they might happen to contrive. The Truth of this matter is nothing of the sort that such people perceive.
After the global deluge that the Torah records happening millennia ago, it is said that Noah had taken every non-aquatic animal indigenous to his region, aboard an ark that he constructed out of gopher wood. So allow us to visualize this for a moment...The water has begun to dry up, Noahs family and all of the animals are delighted to finally get off the dark and dingy boat. Noah looks around only to find the ground covered with the corpses of drowned animals. Similarly, many fish had probably remained on the dry land, dying after the deluge had subsided.
With this image being held in mind, let us suppose, hypothetically, that the traditional belief, that this was when "Elohim-ordained" hunting began, is correct. According to modern misinterpretations of the Torah, the only living animals Noah could kill and eat would be those that God had just told him to save "Two by two." Taking this case in point, are we to suppose that although it was important for these species to be preserved from the destruction of the deluge, now that everything was said and done, God decided that it was a alright for Noah to damn any and every species he chose to kill and eat from, to extinction? For, if one of these animals "two by two," were killed then reproduction would have been impossible. Even the few extra "clean" animals that we are told were taken aboard would have hardly made up for the perpetual slaughter that we are conditioned to believe occurred after the waters subsided.
Now, come back to the image that we left just a paragraph before. The water had dried up, corpses were left scattered all about, Noahs familys food rations were running low. It is at this time that verse 9:3 and 4 come in to play.
But now you must not eat the flesh with the life, which is the blood, still in it. For the blood is the life."(Genesis 9:3-4)
It is an archeological, and Biblical fact that our earliest human ancestors were complete vegetarians, (or vegans). Later, after their exodus from the Congo "Gardens" of Central Africa they migrated up towards where modern Ethiopia is today. It is at this point that the first human tools were developed. However, these were not tools for hunting, they were tools for scavenging! For thousands of years this is how our ancestors lived; as scavenger-gatherers. Furthermore, living in such an equatorial region around the time of last ice-age, (which occurred at the exact same time that our ancestors began scavenging), would definitely give the perception that the entire world had flooded.
More than anything else, the first book of the Torah is a mystical history of how things came to be as they were at the time of the Exodus, (which is the historical reference point of the Torahs original audience). Often times we think of Moses or his Enochian predecessors in the same way that we perceive those who carry on their spiritual legacy today, (with suits, ties, briefcases and the like). However, the fact still remains that the people of Genesis were exactly what Moses claimed they were: "Tribes." The allegorical, mystical-interpretative story-telling style in which the first book of the Torah is relayed is exactly the manner in which one would expect to hear a genealogical, brief history of the world told. This does not imply that the history in Genesis was not Divinely inspired, in fact it proves much to the contrary, that it was. However, it does demonstrate that great religious works are always channeled through the human perspective of th e individual.
Without a doubt one of the chief responses given by those ignorant of the Judaic sanctions for animal welfare is the statement that "animals were created for us to use." A famous Talmudic passage along these lines tells of one Rabbi Judah who felt much the same way. The story told in Baba Mezia 85a tells of a calf being taken to slaughter when it broke away and hid its head under the Rabbis skirt, crying out in terror. The Rabbi then said: "Go, for you were created for this purpose." The heavenly response to the Rabbis indifference was: "Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him." After this, the Rabbi suffered from disease for thirteen years. Not coincidentally, 13 is the number symbolizing unity in Hebrew geomatria, (the numeric equivalents of the Hebrew "alef-bet"). However, one day the Rabbis maid-servant was sweeping the house and was about to sweep away some baby weasels lying before her. Yet, the plagu ed Rabbi intervened, instructing the woman to leave them be. He qualified his instruction by quoting from Psalms 145:9: "And his tender care rests upon all his creatures." After this his attitude had changed towards non-human animals and his disease was lifted.
"He [God] then who at the first was displeased with the slaughtering of animals, not wishing them to be slain, did not ordain sacrifices as desiring them; nor from the beginning did He require them." (St. Peter the Apostle, 1st Bishop of Rome: Clementine Homilies)
Again, when we consider the topic of sacrifice, we often are quick to put the ancient Hebrew tribes in our shoes rather than the other way around. It is easy for one to presume that if sacrifice was altogether wrong and closely linked with primitive pagan rites, then it would have been boldly rejected by the Hebrew people and declared accordingly, with no room for compromise, in the Torah.
However, we must bear in mind the essential role of context in interpreting ancient writings whether they are religious in nature, or simply historical. First of all, consider just how few people in this "enlightened" day and age - where information is right at our fingertips - have accepted the vegan lifestyle, despite the fact that scientific studies have proven time and time again that it is not only the most healthy lifestyle for them, but also for our environment. Now consider that nearly every prophet in Biblical times was rejected by the majority at some point in their ministry, (if not throughout the entirety thereof). It was usually in retrospect that the masses would look back and realized that the "cause and effect" nature of their actions had been foretold by those they paid no mind to. In fact, it was a difficult task - throughout the books of the Old Testament - for the prophets to simply keep the masses from reverting to the surrounding pagan cul tures. This appears to be a problem in our modern context as well.
The early nation of Israel was indeed the cultural-ideology "chosen" to initiate and spread the new paradigm in socio-spiritual thought. However, it is without a doubt that they were at a much lower stage of ethical evolution than we are now, or that even those who followed after them millennia ago, were at. Our capacity for accepting the Truth to such a heightened degree in these latter days is undoubtedly due to the drastic influence of various messengers and prophets throughout the years. However, nonetheless, the reality that we now have access to such knowledge and understanding must be acknowledged.
The Mosaic Law is full of references to the times, occasions and circumstances under which it was considered appropriate to offer sacrifices of all kinds. On the other hand, there are numerous passages - in the Bible and Talmud - which downgrade in importance, or completely reject, animal sacrifice altogether. It is helpful, however, to remember that the Hebrew tradition was likely the first to forego human sacrifice, (as relayed in the story of Abraham and Isaac).
All of this aside, some still believe that there was a legitimate allowance made for flesh consumption after the flood. They hold that Noah desired to eat flesh. However, if Noah was lacking food after the flood waters subsided, then he would obviously desire to eat just about anything. The fact still remains that though God had wiped out all the purely evil people from the face of the Earth, within the heart of Noah there still remained the evil urge; the "Yetzer haRa," a result of the fall, which manifested in a lust for flesh meats. This post-flood allowance only meant that God would not out right stop humans from eating meat, it did not mean that God intended meat eating to be an ongoing diet for humanity.
However, beyond that, as mentioned earlier, the primary reason for the change from a strict vegetarian diet after the flood, was that the waters had destroyed all of the earth's vegetation. Therefore, there was no alternative at the time. If we consider that Noah and his descendants still had a lust for flesh and that there was no other food available at the time, then we can conclude that a meat-based diet was only temporary. Proof for this is the ongoing condemnation, by God, through His Prophets, of animal sacrifice and meat eating. Obviously, the Prophets knew that, by their time, the temporary allowance for flesh eating was over.
Moses, long before the time of the Prophets, also knew that the meat diet was temporary and that the intended laws of God included a vegetarian diet. However, mankind's heart had become so callused and selfish - resultant of the fall that, during his time, Moses could not have introduced pure veganism to the Hebrews, for they would not have listened to him and would have turned from God altogether. Beyond that, it is important to note that when the Torah was received, the Hebrews were exiled in the desert wilderness. Plant life would have been scarce to say the least. Not one of the Hebrew exiles would have claimed that their situation was ideal at all. Therefore, Moses, in accordance with God's plan, allowed animal sacrifice and meat eating. This however, was a compromise to help guide mankind back to a life of compassion. Thus, we are told that God had Moses institute a very strict set of rules for the killing of and sacrificing of animals. St. Peter Tells Us the Following:
"Moses, that faithful and wise steward, perceived that the vice of sacrificing to idols had been deeply ingrained into the people from their association with the Egyptians, and that the root of this evil could not be extracted from them, he allowed them indeed to sacrifice, but permitted it to be done only to God, that by any means he might cut off one half of the deeply ingrained evil, leaving the other half to be corrected by another, and at a future time." (Recognitions of Clement)
This last line refers to Jesus, when he came to abolish animal sacrifice. Jesus was successful, for today Christians see animal sacrifice as inappropriate. Jesus said the following: "I came to destroy the sacrifices, and if ye cease not from sacrificing, the Wrath of God will not cease from you." (Aramaic Matthew)
It was only during this time of darkness, (from the flood, up to about 700 BC), that God "allowed" humans to eat meat. That is why we find certain passages, such as Leviticus 11:3-22 and Deuteronomy 14:4-9 telling the Hebrews which animals they could eat and which ones they could not. These dietary laws, along with the strict slaughtering procedures, were designed to wean mankind from meat altogether, (once they were out of the wilderness and were established as a nation). They were never intended to serve as an example for all times.
Since sacrifices were the universal expression of religion in that period, if Moses had tried to eliminate them, his mission would have failed and Judaism would have disappeared, (or rather, never have emerged). However, animal sacrifices were confined to one central location and the then common practice of human sacrifices and idolatrous practices of the neighboring pagan peoples were eliminated. The prophets often spoke of sacrifices as an abomination to the Lord. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis stated that sacrifices should be replaced by prayer and good deeds. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, and the first chief rabbi of pre-Israel. He not only believed that the future Earthly reign of Messiah, would be one of vegetarianism. He also claimed that when the Temple is rebuilt in that age, that only grain offering will be advocated, according to the teachings of the pro phets.
However, what specific relevance does this discussion of animal sacrifice have to do with veganism? Not all sacrifices involved eating animals for food. "Whole-offerings" were entirely given up, with nothing left behind, but the "shared-offerings" involved a sacrifice of parts of the animal, while the rest was eaten.
The evidence in the Bible does demonstrate a relationship between sacrifice and flesh consumption. While not all sacrifices involved slaughtering for food, all slaughtering for food, (in accordance with Talmudic specifications purported to "reduce suffering"), implied sacrifice. In Leviticus 17:3-4 it is stated that:
"Any Israelite who slaughters an ox, a sheep, or a goat, either inside or outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of the Presence to present it as an offering to the Lord shall be guilty of bloodshed: that man has shed blood and shall be cut off from the people."
The gist of this is that any slaughtering exclusively for the sake of food was bloodshed. This realization alone would necessitate that all who consider themselves to believe in the "New Covenant" sacrifice of Jesus must cease to consume animal flesh. For if Jesus death is the reason why even the most apathetic of Christians view sacrifice as invalid then they must be consistent and realize that there is no other way proscribed for them to "lawfully" consume flesh. Furthermore, remember that Jesus emphasized that he did not intend to "take away" so much as "one letter," (or "Yud" ), of the Law.
When the time was right, God spoke out against animal sacrifice and flesh eating through His prophets. Though others came before them, these Prophets began to be raised up around the 700s BC. Not only did God send Prophets, such as Isaiah, Amos and Hosea, to the Hebrews during this time, but God also sent Prophets to the gentile nations as well. We find arriving not too long afterwards, Pythagoras (570-500b.c); as well as Mahavira (born 599b.c), founder of the Jain religion; and Buddha (563-483b.c.), founder of the Buddhist religion. All these Prophets spoke out against the harming of and or eating of Animals.
It is important not to be misguided by those pastors who erroneously claim that all other religions are "of the devil," for this could never be true. When the Bible speaks ill of a religion, it is due to some abominable behavior of its adherents, such as sacrificing children to a mythological god or worshipping idols, etc. Many religions do nothing of the sort. Ultimately it is important to bear in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:20:
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-external power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
This implies that the "higher moral law" that religions and faiths seek to discover and follow, is actually universal truths and laws that can be observed through the empirical senses. Thus, "enlightenment" is a product of deduction and scientific reasoning (SEEKING), with God subsequently allowing us to come to a holistic conclusion about the Divine Will pertaining to matters of life and socio-spiritual awareness (FINDING). While the Hebrew nation was the first to spread the universalistic revelation that there is only One God, it is clear that others have now begun to follow suit; just as God promised Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed.
Contrary to what we might otherwise expect, St. Clement of Rome, a friend of the Apostle Peter, tells us in the Clementine writings that the Hindu Brahmans worship the same God that the Christians do.
"There are likewise amongst the Bactrians, in the Indian countries, immense multitudes of Brahmans, who also, themselves, from the traditions of their ancestors, and peaceful customs and laws, neither commit murder nor adultery, nor worship idols, nor are ever drunk, never do anything maliciously, but always fear God." (Anti-Nicene Fathers Vol. 8 page 187)
It is furthermore alluded to in the Torah, that the advent of ritualistic slaughter itself was descended from the days of more primitive spiritual understanding, (or misunderstanding). Likewise, it is herein alluded that sacrifice has its roots in paganism.
"They shall no longer sacrifice their slaughtered beasts to the demons whom they wantonly follow. This shall be a rule binding on them and their descendants for all time." (Leviticus 17:7).
It is interesting to note that at the same time that these things were being written, in other regions of the world, such as India and Greece, there was an increasing identification between meat consumption and religious sacrifice; flesh could only be consumed if part of sacrifice. This brings an entirely new perspective to the discussion of animal sacrifice in the Bible. It is not only a discussion of the sacrificial rite; it is also a discussion of flesh consumption as well. Similarly, in many of the prophetic books, sacrifices and subsequently, flesh consumption, are strongly attacked:
I hate, I spurn your pilgrim feasts; I will not delight in your sacred ceremonies. When you present your sacrifices and offerings I will not accept them, nor look on the buffaloes of your shared offerings. Spare me the sound of your songs; I cannot endure the music of your lutes." (Amos 5:21-23)
Similarly, such strong language can be found in Isaiah 1:11-16. Verses such as Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8 and Makkoth 10a of the Babylonian Talmud, state that sacrifices are definitely unnecessary. Of course it will be the first pre-programmed, knee-jerk reaction of any devout flesh eater to suppose that such verses are subject to interpretation. Were the prophets attacking the practice of sacrifice itself, or were they simply opposing the behavior of the people of Israel; stating that their sacrifices were hypocritical or null and void due to their contrary lifestyles? To one who is insistent upon exploiting religion to condone their hedonistic desires, this will be a difficult case to prove. However, the rage of the notorious vegetarian Isaiah, must prove at least partially convincing that it was the practice of animal sacrifice itself that was being assaulted:
"The reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me" (Isaiah 1:13), "There is blood on your hands; wash yourselves and be clean." (1:15-16).
In passages such as Ezekiel 20:21-26 there is insinuation that God was having second thoughts concerning some of the Mosaic statutes. A more realistic interpretation of this would point out that it was not God whose mind changed, but rather the modern prophets of that day, like Ezekiel, who were beginning to view the Divine Will in a more objective light. Thus, they were beginning to see that it was somewhat different than the historic practices of the people.
However, no verse appears to us in as much clarity and unambiguity than the mysterious addition found in early Greek manuscripts of Daniel, between chapters 3:23 and 3:24. When it was ruled by the pagan, sun-worshipping Emperor Constantine and his "Council of Nicea," to be "heretical," it was removed. Since then it has been most readily accessible in the Apocrypha, found in between the Old and the New Testaments in the Catholic Bible under the title of "The Song of the Three," or "The Song of the Holy Three."
In this section, Daniel was away from Babylon, embarked on a journey for King Nebuchadnezzar. During his departure, his fellow vegan Nazirites; "Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo," were to be made an example of by the Babylonian forces that opposed their righteous ways. To make a long story short, they wound up being sentenced to death in the huge furnaces that were used to bake bricks for the Babylonian empire. During their purported execution in the furnace, the three Nazirites were said to have prayed, finally being saved by the Divine presence of God in the form of the primordial Messiah. So far, this much passed the censors knife and remains in the book of Daniel today. However the section that was removed details just what was said in their prayers and meditations amidst the flames from which they emerged unscathed.
"There is no burnt-offering, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense, no place to make offering before thee and find mercy. But because we come with contrite heart and humbled spirit, accept us...Accept our pledge of loyalty to thee, for no shame shall come to those who put their trust in thee. (Song of the Three, Lines 15-17)
After their prayers were heard and they were delivered from the flames, the three Nazirites rejoiced, instructing the Earth, (as an entity), to rejoice and give praises to the Most High. They continue on instructing the same to non-human animals. With such controversial contents it is with little difficulty that we can understand why the Roman State opposed such doctrines. Furthermore, regardless of ones take on this passage, it is clear from both "heretical" and mainstream sources that these Babylonian exiles did not partake in sacrifice, yet nonetheless their prayers were heard and they did not fail to enact the Divine Will.
Again, the Torah was penned by a people wandering in the desert. The Torah proclaims that we must only incur suffering when absolutely necessary. For individuals living in the desert it was not always certain that they could subsist upon a vegetable based diet. Accordingly the Torah contains many laws pertaining to Kosher regulations of how to sacrifice an animal and then eat it. These laws were purported to reduce suffering in a situation where veganism was not an option. However, we do not live in a desert, nor are we fugitive slaves who can not turn back to another land. We live in a world where we can easily reduce the suffering of non-human animals and the environment by eating a vegan diet. Such a lifestyle is exactly in tune with the Spirit of the Torah despite the fact that there are instances where meat eating is condoned when no vegetable life is present.
There can be no doubt that God wanted humanity to elevate itself above such barbaric practices, for the Prophet Hosea says: "They love sacrifice, they sacrifice flesh and eat it, but the Lord has no delight in them." (Hosea 8:13) Referring to animal sacrifices, God Himself says through His Prophet Isaiah: "...I will hide my eyes from you: yea, when you make your prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood...put away the evil of your doings from my eyes; cease to do evil." (Isaiah 1:11-16)
A Midrash (Rabbinic commentary on the Torah) states: "Because the dogs of Egypt did not bark when the Children of Israel fled to the desert, The Holy One, blessed be He, rewarded them with the traif [unkosher] hindquarters of cattle. Therefore, when one who has transgressed the Law of Kashrut approaches the Gates of Heaven the dogs standing there say to him, 'You may not enter because you ate our portion,' and he is turned back."
Now, obviously this means that we are to obey God's commandments; but it has an even deeper meaning. First, it means that dogs (i.e., non-human animals), must have a soul, (called "Nefesh" in Hebrew, "Nafs" in Arabic) or else how could they be "standing at the Gates of Heaven?" Secondly, it means that the Lord has given even dogs the authority to judge us for our actions or else how could they say who may and may not enter into heaven?
It is for this reason that St. Francis of Assisi preached to the animals, that the Baal Shem Tov, (the founder of Hasidism), spoke the language of birds, and Balaam's donkey was capable of apprehending The Angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:23). Therefore, the Baal Shem Tov could say, "All that man has . . . [even] his ANIMALS all conceal sparks that belong to the roots of his soul and wish to be raised by him to their Origin." For example, consider the following portion of Old Testament scripture (Numbers 22:21-34):
"So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab . . . Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in then way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road . "And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall; so he struck her again . . . And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff...Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times? . . . And Balaam said to the donkey, Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you...So the donkey said to Balaam, [Am] I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ev er since [I became] yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you? And he said, No Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face . And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. (Numbers 22:21-34)
It is important to note several things about this passage. First of all, Balaam's donkey, (a non-human animal), not only could SEE the Angel of the Lord, but understood his intention to prevent Balaam from cursing the Children of Israel and, therefore, refused to go past him. Balaam himself, (a human), neither saw the Angel of the Lord nor understood his intention, and in fact punished his donkey three time for bowing to the Will of the Divine.
Therefore, Balaam's donkey, (a non-human animal), clearly had a soul - else how could she have "seen" and "heard" - on a level of awareness, consciousness and cognition - the Angel of Lord, and followed His Will, even to the extent of suffering punishment for it? The Bible tells us that animals have a soul (Gen. 1:20), and that they possess also a spirit, (Eccles. 3:19). The original Hebrew word used in this second passage is Ruach, (or "Ruh" in Arabic), and according to 'Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words', Ruach is used to represent spirit, "but only of an intellectual being." If we add this to the fact that God said; "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck;" then we must conclude that, according to God, the killing of animals is wrong.
The difference between this animal soul, ("Nefesh"), and the human soul ("Neshumah"), is that the latter is capable of perfecting itself and others, while the former is not, but requires the intervention of a human to do so. In all other respects, (and according to King Solomon), they are equal. Thus, it is relayed in Judaism that the lowest level of the human soul is the "Nefesh." Again, in Islam this is referred to as our "Nafs." Nonetheless, though this level of Enlightenment is not as aware of the Reality of the Most High, it is still the animal level of the soul which we all start on our path to perfection from.
Moreover, we are clearly shown in this passage that Balaam's donkey, (a non-animal), was in a state of Grace while Balaam was in a state of sin from which the donkey was attempting to redeem him. This entire passage of Scripture, like the Midrash discussed earlier, clearly shows both that non-human animals possess a soul, and also that God has given them the power to judge us for our sins against them.
A Nazirite is one who expresses their consecration by abstaining from cutting their hair, and drinking products from food that can be used to make intoxicating beverages. They are also forbidden to handle dead bodies, including the corpses of non-human animals purported for food.
"A Nazirite shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, nor shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is produced from the grape vine, from the seeds to the grape skin..
"All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled, during which he separates himself for the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
"All the days that he separates himself for the Lord he shall not come near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because the consecration of his God is upon his head. (Numbers 6:3-7)"
"Neither shall he go to any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or mother. (Leviticus 21:11)
Maimonides, the infamous Judaic author of the Middle Ages, warns us against the tendency to conclude that all forms of bodily pleasure lead to sin, and therefor should be avoided. However, in the end, the debate turns on whether or not the institution of the Nazirite is seen as helpful for achieving self-control while still avoiding excessive asceticism.
This debate mirrors our societys struggle to establish norms and boundaries. Often people seem to lurch from one extreme to the other. In one period, we engage in excessive self-indulgence and permissiveness. In such times, anything is permissible if it is pleasing. During another period, we tend towards repression and total control of others lives. Such people perceive all physical sources of enjoyment with suspicion, seeing only the potential for abuse and self-destructive indulgence that they know they, themselves are capable of.
The traditional "Jewish" answer, has tended to be a rejection of either extreme; standing instead, in the middle of either extreme. However, what should the response of the devout be when living in oppressive societies that tend to view any form of true balance and empathy as an "extreme" ideology? The Nazirites believed that it was the duty of all who sought to enact the Divine Will, to "separate" themselves from the surrounding society.
During stages of Jerusalems occupation by foreign forces, Naziritism flourished. Hence, we have Daniel, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedneggo," who abstained from wine and animal products even under penalty of death:
"Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now the Lord had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your (plural), food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men of your age? The king would then have my head because of you.
"Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael, (Meshach), and Azariah, (Abednego), Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see. So he agreed and tested them for ten days.
"At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal wine and meat. So the guard took away the royal wine and meat and gave them vegetables instead.
"To these four men the Lord gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning." (Daniel 1:8-18)
In those days, such extremism was the avenue through which their point was driven home. Anyone who observed a lifelong Nazirite could see the statement that they were making concerning the wicked ways of the Godless, who often surrounded them. Similarly, one could discern from the length of their locks, how long they had adhered to such a belief system.
However, the hair and such were merely outward manifestations of their inner purity. Two-faced individuals such as Samson were portrayed as having quite long hair that had never been cut in his entire life time, yet still he ate corrupt food, drank intoxicants and milk as he lived a life of debauchery. In the same vein, the story of resistance in the book of Daniel tells not of the four teenage Nazirites utter concern for their hair or beards. It spoke only of their inner purity and concern for the defilement that intoxicants and animal products would bring upon them. Some erroneously state that this food would only have defiled them because it was "sacrificed to idols," yet there is no reference to this belief anywhere! Similarly, wine cannot be sacrificed and furthermore, if it was common practice for the Babylonians to sacrifice their food, then would not the vegetable and the like have been offered up as well, as not all sacrifices where burned?
The answer is that yes they would have. However, the fact that this food was considered "defiled" by the very nature of what it was, is no Biblical secret. However, this is a Truth that many would like to keep veiled behind two thousand years of cultural assimilation and perverted dogmatic misinterpretations.
There are certainly more references in the Bible concerning Nazirites and their oaths of separation from the world. However, our clearest and most accurate portrayal of this ancient Judaic sect stems from the happenings from a few centuries prior to the "common era," on up until the Fall of Jerusalem and the Nazirene Uprising around 70 a.d.
Though there were many sects of Judaism at the time of Jesus, these groups can be divided into two camps. First of all there were the Temple and Priestly centered groups; i.e., the groups that believed in animal sacrifice, such as the Sadducees and Pharisees. The other camp was made up of more spiritually minded Jews who followed the teachings of the Prophets, who in turn spoke out against animal sacrifice. These latter, pro-prophet groups included a number of unknown small sects, as well as the now infamous Essenes.
Out of these pro-Prophet groups came Jesus, the ultimate Prophet and Messiah of the Lord, along with his followers, the referred to throughout church history as the Ebionites, ("the Poor") or as the Nazirenes, ("Nazirite-Essenes"). Once this later group was eventually hunted down and murdered by their opposition, they were soon be replaced by a group known as the Christians, who were started by Paul.
The Nazirines made up the first century church and pre-date the Roman Catholic, Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Churches by almost 300 years. This fact is attested to by history as found in the writings of the Early Church Fathers and the New Testament. The precedence of the Nazirene church serves to show that the doctrine of vegetarianism was a part of the original teachings of Jesus, (and the Prophets before him for that matter), and should be re-established in our churches today.
According to both Jesus and St. Stephen, the Jewish Sanhedrin during Jesus' time was corrupt. The Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin in particular, were made up of mostly Sadducees. They, along with the Pharisees were pro-Priestly and anti-Prophet and therefore, favored animal sacrifice. Jesus and St. Stephen, on the other hand, were of the pro-Prophet lineage and thus, opposed animal sacrifice. Jesus says to the Jewish authorities of his day: "Thus by your own tradition, handed down among you, you make God's word null and void." (Mark 7:13) Also, Jesus says: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." (John 8:44)
St. Stephen, talking to the Jewish authorities, says: "You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]! Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute?" (Acts 7:51 & 52)
Beyond that, John the Baptist is described by the Gospel writers, and Josephus, as a "Righteous One" or "Tzaddok." James too is depicted as being consecrated from his mothers womb, depicted as abstaining from wine, strong drink, and animal foods. We also read specifically that James did not wear wool but only linen.
Often James vegetarianism and the peculiar dietary habits of many of these charismatic Revolutionaries or "innovators," as Josephus said, was taken to be nothing more than asceticism. From what we can see through the valid historical documentation of James and the "Nazirite-Essenes," (or "Nazirienes"), this is not the case. It has more to do with the demands of what is termed "all Righteousness" and "perfect Holiness."
As well, Josephus refers to a prominent political figure of his time who is referred to under the title "Banus." His descriptions of this man completely matches his descriptions of Jesus brother James in later works. Josephus describes him as living "in the wilderness," (a popular pseudonym for the Essenic "Qumran community"). He was also said to eat only "what grew of its on accord," meaning obviously that he consumed no animal products.
Josephus, in reference to the revolutionary insurgents Ananias (not to be confused with the Ananias of the New Testament Ananias and Saphira story), and Ananus, states that the two were arrested:
"On a small and trifling charge...put in bonds and sent to Rome to plea their case before Caesar when Felix was procurator of Judea."
Unfortunately Josephus does not tell us what these "trifling charges" were for which these "certain priests" were being held for as long a five years or more. However, his silence, in and of itself is quite telling, (considering Josephus had sold out the Hebrew Uprising that so many "priests" were being arrested and executed in connection with. He does, in fact, mention that like James, Ananias and Ananus we "very excellent men" and, on account of "their Piety towards God" they were vegetarians.
It is under this heading of "piety towards God" that Josephus - in his lengthy dissertation of the Essenes in the "War" - describes how they "rose before the sun" and prayed toward "the rising sun...bathing their bodies in cold water." Like the priests and Jesus himself, they were said to have worn nothing but white linen when they bathed and ate.
The incarcerated priest were described as followers of the previously mentioned "Banus." Any one with a mild knowledge of the works of Josephus and early Nazirene history, will recognize Banus instantly as James the brother of Jesus, who lead the revolutionary sect after the resurrection of his brother. Similarly, Josephus relays that all of the incarcerated priests, not only Ananius and Ananus but all who were arrested and held under similar charges, were "Essene"-types or "Rechabite Priests" of the Jamesian stripe, choosing to eat nothing but nuts and dates throughout the duration of their incarceration. Taking up the "Righteous One" or Tzaddok theme again, where it is associated with Noah, the first "Tzaddok" mentioned in the book of Genesis. We see an expedition as follows in the Zohar:
"Noah was a Righteous One. Assuredly so after the Heavenly pattern, for it is written: "the Righteous One is the foundation of the world" and the Earth is established thereon. For, this is the Pillar that upholds the world. So Noah was called Righteous in this world...and acted so as to be a perfect copy of the Heavenly ideal...an embodiment of the worlds Covenant of Peace. (Zohar 1:59 on Noah)
The Genesis 9:4 proscription on "blood," - an integral feature of the basic "First covenant" with Moses in mount Sinai and the legendary "Noachid" one preceding it - also constitutes the first and most fundamental elements in James prohibitions to overseas communities, to which Paul seems to be responding in I Corinthians 6-11, (which will be discussed later).
The proscription on blood also relates to James extreme Naziritism and vegetarianism. In turn, these will have to do with a new group embodying many of such Nazirite traits, the Biblical "Rechabites," known also, for their proscription on wine, which is another trait early Church sources will ascribe to James.
In Hebrew, the word "Nazirite," meaning "Consecrated or separated," is based on a root meaning "set aside" or "keep away from." One should remark the play on this word represented by the designation "Nazirene" applied in Jacob of Kfar Sechanias story to Jesus and, it would appear, to James followers as well. In Hebrew "Nazirene," (also spelled Nazoraean, or Nazarean), has a slightly different root, meaning "keeping" or "Keeper." This title is insinuative of the verse in Genesis where Cain, (the embodiment of the totalitarian agriculturist "Aryan" race from the Caucus mountains), cynically questions his Creator if he is his "brother keeper."
Accordingly, if we visualize the antithesis of Cain, (that being Abel), then we see a people who have a stronger leaning towards being "Keepers." The fact that the term Nazirene neglects specification of which facet of existence they seek to be "keepers" in leads one to believe that, as their actions demonstrated, a true "Nazirite," one separating from wickedness, must strive to be the "Keeper" or "Tzaddok" of the world. Along these same lines one might note that Seth was to inherit the birthright of Abel and thus be a sort of refinement or resurrection of Abel. The Nag Hammadi "Gnostic" Gospels never cease in relating Jesus to Seth.
Furthermore, this insinuates the notion of "caretaker," so often ascribed to the verse on dominion by many modern Christian environmentalists. Furthermore, there is absolutely no difference between this terminology and the concepts ascribed to it and the conceptualizations ascribed to the notion of Tzaddikim, or Righteous Ones, ("The Righteous are the foundation of the Earth").
Not only is this "Nazirite" ideology sometimes expressed as "Nazirene," but one should also note the play on it represented by the Hebrew term "Nazir," the "Crown" or "diadem" worn by high priests, which bore a plate inscribed with the words, "Holy to God." Both "the Diadem" and these words have important notices recorded in early church tradition about James. In Hebrew, "Nazir" also has the secondary meaning of the unshorn lock of the Nazirite - their "crown," so to speak - which tradition also says was worn by James. The symbolism inherent in this may have particular relevance regarding Acts substitution of the stoning of Stephen, a name also bearing the meaning of "Crown" in Greek, for the attack on or stoning of James the brother of Jesus.
Unfortunately, when Rome slaughtered the remnants of the early Jerusalem church and their revolutionary communities, they also cut future Christianitys original cord to the true Hebrew understanding of the Torah, and the message of Jesus. In mistranslated scripture, the term "Nazirene" often gets rephrased, particularly in translations as "of" or "from Nazareth," when in fact, it is quite doubtful that there was a definitive city known a Nazereth in those days.
For Church historians such as Eusebius, Epiphanius and Jerome, James was perceived as a life-long Nazirite and vegetarian; terms that are synonymous with each other in the Bible. There is, however, one notable exception to that rule; where Samson is depicted as drinking milk, eating meat and drinking intoxicants. This was purported to demonstrate the hypocrisy he was living in before being betrayed by Delila. As Eusebius puts it quoting Hegesippus in regards to James Naziritsm: "He drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat."
Many Christians everywhere tend to depict Jesus in an image contrary to reality. Throughout history he was depicted as a white man with a fully-developed trim beard, strong European features and not the slightest physical blemish aside from the stigmata upon his hands, and feet, (when he was pierced during the crucifixion). Much evidence in recent history has proven, that on the contrary, the historical personage known as Jesus, was very different than the Euro-centric depiction of him.
Documents from Rome indicate that the Roman government had a warrant for the arrest of a man going by that name. He was depicted as short, dark-skinned, with a pronounced nose, a uni-brow and an undeveloped, scraggly beard. Similarly, the story of Zacheus states only that Zacheus could not see Jesus because "he was too short." Historically we have been told that the "he" in this story was Zacheus, when there is no clear evidence from that passage who is being referred to as too short.
Along this same vein misunderstandings and misinterpretations, we are finding out now that the historical belief that Jesus ate meat has no precedence anywhere in the Bible. Students of esoteric Hebrew mysticism acknowledge the basic fact that different allegoric concepts were utilized throughout oral and written tradition, to convey hidden and deeper meanings. Notions that Jesus fed the multitudes with one boys lunch of fish and bread was very unlikely intended to be taken literally by true seekers. First of all, this traditional, literalist belief defies the very words of Jesus himself. For when he was alone, meditating and fasting in the "wilderness," it is said that he was tempted to turn a stone into bread so he could eat. This was at the end of his fast, according to the passage, so we can only presume that this would not have merely been wrong because he had been fasting. Regardless, Jesus is depicted as submitting to the gripes of the hungry masses who were listening to his lectures, by magically multiplying the fish and bread of a boys lunch. If taken literally, these two stories stand in stark contradiction.
First of all, if this were to be taken at face value, then this still proves nothing about what Jesus ate, for the passage never says that Jesus ate of it. Similarly, this would merely be stretching the use of food that someone else had killed and other people, (who presumably would eat such things), were eating. Accordingly, this passage does not, in any way, indicate that Jesus ate meat. According to a Coptic fragment, the Acts of Thomas; the History of John, and the writings of the Early Church Father Irenaeus, Jesus did not serve fish to the masses, but rather, he served only bread.
In fact, the Gospels record him as calling his disciples away from lives as fishermen; "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Accordingly, the fact that his disciples were fishermen provides more evidence to the contrary, than for the notion that Jesus ate meat. At the last supper, when many other Jewish families were eating lamb, Jesus and his disciples are recorded only as eating matzo and wine. Note that in the context of this passage this was watered-down, fermented juice that contained only enough alcohol to destroy the bacteria of the regions water
In fact, ironically enough, the only reference throughout the entire New Testament, that states that Jesus ate meat, is in Luke 24:42. Herein, Jesus is traditionally understood to have been murdered, then resurrected, and now he is portrayed as asking his disciples for food. Again, it is said that they gave him fish. Before delving any further, one can not have their cake and eat it too. Either Jesus had died and come back to life, being the same para-ghostly figure described in Acts, or he had not and was literally hungry for literal fish. However, Christians do not believe that. Instead we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected in a more spiritual form than what he had been in before the crucifixion. He is believed to be able to disappear, pass through walls, etc. In this form, when he was done talking to his disciples, he is stated to have ascended to heaven. As opposed to the Ascensions of Enoch, Elijah and Moses, Jesus Ascension is recorded or at least commonly believed to have occurred: 1). After he had already died, 2) When he was relatively young in age and 3). When he decided that he was done on Earth. It is not within the scope of this discussion to delve into what all of the esoteric symbolism of these Gospel accounts mean. However, it should suffice to say that it is universally recognized by Biblical scholars that the earliest Greek accounts of the Gospels did not contain any reference to what happened after the crucifixion of Jesus. In fact many Bibles still note this in their translations of the Gospel of Mark. Furthermore, if Christians are to belief that God, cares even the slightest bit about non-human animal life, or of the resources of this world, then it is positively foolish to believe that Jesus (who is depicted as being in a spiritual body), would eat anything at all when he did not need to.
Again, just as is the case with Kabbalistic writings throughout the ages, especially those relayed in a story format, we must always look for the symbolic value of what is being said. With the emergence of the Christian church, was the dawning of the age of Pisces. Similarly, the early church used the ICTHUS, or pictorial depiction of a fish as the symbol of unity in their faith. Furthermore, just like in the book of Genesis, when two "Angels" are said to have been fed physical food, the esoteric understanding of those passages reveals a different, yet constant allegorical language altogether.
Finally, the idea that convinces most vegans and vegetarians to adopt such a rarely treaded path of compassion, is by committing themselves to seeking and following Truth as it is presented. Jesus himself said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Looking at the massive amounts of nutritional research that indicates that eating a plant-based diet is better than eating animal products and accordingly a healthy vegan diet will likely enable us all to live happier, healthier and fuller lives. All of this clearly indicates that the vegan way points us in the direction of Truth, just as Jesus does. If one wishes to follow Jesus in their everyday life then foremost of their concerns should be to follow logical ideas that have been shown by science to be correct and the best way for us to live, ethically ecologically, and nutritionally. In a very real and fundamental way, the ideas that we glean from accurate, unbiased scientific research can be tools to gu ide us towards the same Absolute Truth that spiritual figures like Jesus represent.
After the fall of Rome there were many branched directions in which Judaism evolved. The Jewish historian Josephus described the basis of all Hebrew laws as that of mercy. Beyond that he stated; "Ill treatment of even a brute beast is with us a capital crime."
Furthermore, the Tanchuma, a set of fifth century a.d. homilies penned by Tanchum Bar Abba, details the highest of Divine ethics as including equal concern for all life:
"If men embark on a sea voyage and take cattle with them, and should a storm arise, they throw the cattle overboard, because people do not love animals as they love human beings. Not so is the Lords love. Just as he is merciful to man, so is he merciful to beasts. You can see this from the story of the flood. When men sinned the Lord decided to destroy the Earth. He treated both man and beast alike. But when he was reconciled, he was reconciled to both man and beast alike."
In the middle ages Yehudah Ha-Chassid wrote that, "The greatest sin is ingratitude. It must not be shown even to the brute. That man deserves punishment who overloads his beast, or beats or torments it, who drags a cat by the ears, or uses spurs to his horse."
Probably one of the most remarkable tales of Judaic concern for animals pertains to the Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, one of the foremost developers of modern Kabbalistic theory. Rabbi Luria only lived into his thirties, yet his writings have proven most influential. It is said that during his 16th century life, he showed such infinite respect for all life that he would avoid treading upon insects or even up grass, when it was avoidable. (Akers, pp. 167)
In the nineteenth century Rabbi Shalom Rabinowitz (1859-1916) penned "Cruelty to Living Creatures;" a story devoted to a childs sorrow at the fate of a little fish which is to be eaten shortly. References such as these have evoked the highest respect among devout Jews. The late Rabbi M. Kossowsky, stated that vegetarianism was "the highest pinnacle of ethical achievement."
Furthermore, in modern times, one needs to look no further than the philosophy and aims of Rabbi Avraham Kuk, the first chief rabbi of the reinstated Nation of Israel. Rabbi Kuk wrote a pamphlet entitles, "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace." One of the most exemplary passages contained therein is as follows:
"...the free movement of the moral impulse to establish justice for animals generally and the claim of their rights from mankind are hidden in a moral psychic sensibility in the deeper layers of the Torah."
While in many cases it appears that Judaism is indifferent towards the notion of non-human animal suffering, the above cases, along with many others that space would not permit delving into, demonstrates that veganism is revered as the highest ethical ideal.
To drive the final nail into the coffin of oppression and tyranny, we must first seek to understand the reasons for its existence. We have offered ample evidence to demonstrate that veganism has historically been held as the ideal for ethical living in a Judeo-Christian context. Where then, has this perplexing notion that everything within the manifest world came into existence for the use and exploitation of humanity; the supposed pinnacle of existence, originated?
Western attitudes towards animals have two roots: Judaism and Ancient Greece. These two roots unite in Christianity which prevailed such ideas through its European spread. More enlightened perspectives on our relationship with non-human animals and the world around us only truly emerges when thinkers broke free from the chains of unquestioned church dogma and began to examine the evidence in an unbiased, empirical, and objective manner. However, in the most fundamental respects, oppressive views towards non-human animals are resultant of the attitudes that were blindly swallowed in Europe until the eighteenth century.
To understand the opposing side of this reality we must return to Eden. The Genesis account is clearly one of the most striking examples of myth echoing reality. The first chapter of the first book of the Torah basically describes the physical process of evolution. In essence, it is describing how a suitable animal form emerged for the primordial "Adam Kadmon" or the second chapter, to inhabit. Yet, in the middle of this description, modern apostate scholars have falsely concluded verses 1:26-28 to be justification for the exploitation of the Natural World, (a term usually referring to reality minus human beings).
"Then the Elohim said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the Earth, and all the creatures that move along the ground.
"So the Elohim created man in their own image, in their image they created them, male and female they created them both.
"The Elohim blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:26-28)
Ironically enough, these verses have nothing at all to do with exploiting the Earth, and especially not eating flesh. For the very next verse is Genesis 1:30:
"I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed: they shall be yours for food. All green plants I give for food to the wild animals, to all the birds of heaven, and to all reptiles on Earth, every living creature, it shall be theirs for food." (Genesis 1:29-31)
Clearly, if we are going to conclude that this dominion of "subduing the Earth" included exploiting animals, we must be consistent with the text and admit that this exploitation can not include consumption of animal products. Similarly, since Adam ("Man") was a gatherer in their state of Eden then it seems foolish to believe that these verses have anything to do with exploiting animals for any purpose, including slavery, at all.
Rather, what these verses are referring to is the internal drive of all "higher" evolutionary forms of life, to master their surroundings rather than being mastered by them.
"sub-due, 1. To control, restrain, overcome..." (Websters Collegiate Dictionary)
Certainly given this context, no one in their right theological mind, could conclude that this passage refers to anything other than surviving and creating a sustainable culture, (rather than empire).
So now that the myth of "Mans dominion" has been debunked, let us move on to another biblical misinterpretation...
Bearing in mind that the majority of the first chapters in Genesis are written in allegoric, poet prose, we must realize that most of the text herein is merely the proverbial "tip of the iceberg." The stories in the Torah, especially those of the book of Genesis, are expanded upon and interpreted in Talmudic and Kabbalistic literature. Therein, many of the preconceived, Hellenized distortions are stripped away to reveal the true beauty of the passages that Western "culture" has been so quick to pervert into excuses for pathological and exploitative practices. Verses 3:21-22 continue on:
"The Elohim made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Elohim said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever."
It is stated in the Zohar that there are several accurate dimensions to the interpretations of the Torah. The fact that one story describes both physical and spiritual occurrences at the same time is merely a testimony to the Divine inspiration of the sacred text. The two parallel meanings of the above text are as follows. Spiritually, Kabbalistic literature describes this process of the "Elohim making garments of skin for Adam and his wife" as the primordial spiritual reflection of the Divine being divided into male and female halves, (detailed earlier on in 2:21-24). It is said that they were separated at their rib, or side, rather than the woman being of separate origins and merely a product of one bone. One must bear in mind the esoteric meaning of terminology in Hebrew when considering such verses. They incarnated into separate genders in the manifest world. These bodies, these genders, were the "coats made of skin," that God crafted f or them.
On the other hand, a parallel explanation in the realm of the manifest world may refer simply to a historical occurrence in our hominid ancestry. For reasons unknown to archeologists, humanity left the "Gardens" of the Congo region of Africa and slowly migrated to the regions where the first civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia, between the "Tigris and Euphrates rivers," (thus creating a suitably evolved physical context for the primordial being "Adam Kadmon" to inhabit in "Hu-man" form). Before they got to Mesopotamia, (also before man was Hu-man; like the Elohim, "able to know good and evil"), but before they left the Congo region of Africa, ("Eden"), they began clothing themselves in the skins of dead animals. Like the story of Cain and Abel, this passage has a very real aspect of simply recording historic occurrences surrounding humanitys origins.
No matter how many times I demonstrate the ethical soundness of the vegan lifestyle to typical modern day Christians, the response I get is always the same. First they claim that "God" told us to eat meat. Then they claim that it is all right because "animals have no souls." Finally, when the invalidity of their stance, from a Biblical perspective, has been demonstrated, they turn to Paul.
Paul was the self-proclaimed "Apostle of Jesus Christ," who didnt really arrive on the scene until after the resurrection of Jesus. He began his ministry after spending years persecuting members of the Hebrew Uprising that Jesus was a part of. In fact, Paul was an active conspirator in the assault on "Stephen," in Acts 7:58.
Nonetheless that began to change when, in Acts chapter 9 Paul claims to have been visited by the Ascended Jesus. St. Paul was a late comer to the Nazirene Way and somewhat slow at adhering to Jesus' teachings. The fact that Paul, at first, hunted down Nazirenes and killed them is a testimony to this. The Bible tells us that Paul had a hand in the death of St. Stephen. After Paul had a conversion experience on the road to the Damascus community, he desired to change his ways and adhere to the True Path. Unfortunately, as mentioned, at first Paul did not adhere to the rules set down by Jesus and James. Paul is found disagreeing with James on issues such as dietary rules throughout the New Testament.
Paul eventually does become a vegetarian, although he does so very reluctantly. Since most scholars agree that it was Paul who wrote 1st Timothy or at least one of his followers, then the anti-vegetarian passage in 1st Timothy can be ignored. For obviously, this book was written before Paul decided to become a vegetarian as stated in Romans 14:21 and 1st Corinthians 8:13. Further to this we have a non-biblical source which quotes Paul as saying:
"Jesus commanded me not to eat meat and not to drink wine, but only bread, water, and fruits so that I will be found pure when he wants to talk to me" (Toldot Jeschu, Ms. Vindobona; ed Samuel Drauss, Berlin 1902, p. 113)
Pauls reluctant proclamation of his vegetarianism, to the Hebrew Nazirene community is chock full of last minute verbal "jabs" at James the brother of Jesus.
"Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat [meat], and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscious sees you who have this knowledge, eating in an idols temple, wont he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brother in this way and wound their weak conscious, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."
In the above passage some have claimed that Paul is merely contending with other "believers" over the fact that he was advocating flesh which had been sacrificed to idols. This is traditionally believed to have been the only point of debate. However, in the Book of Revelation 2:14 it is relayed directly from the Angel of the Lord that eating food sacrificed to idols is definitely wrong. So if we are to believe that Paul was aware of this fact then - although he certainly was referring to this as one facet of James contentions with him - the conclusion of the passage; "I will never eat meat again," demonstrates that the issue was being taken up on many levels. Following that passage, in regards to his anthropocentric Roman view of animal welfare, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10:
For it is written in the Law of Moses: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Is it about the ox that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us doesnt he?"
Similarly he says much of the same thing, as he does in 1 Corinthians, in Romans 14:1-4:
"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One mans faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for Gods has accepted him. "
This is not intended as a diatribe against the early misuderstandings of the Apostle of Paul, one need only look to 1 Corinthians 13:4, for that. Therein he claims that the insane Roman emperor Nero, who ruthlessly slaughtered Jews and those whom the Church would later define as "Christians," was "Gods servant." Rather this is intended to give you a peer into the reality that such beliefs are not authentically Biblical in origin, nor do they stem from the Hebrew tradition, (though many modern Jews tend to have assimilated the cultural garbage of European culture now more than ever before). Furthermore, it is ridiculous for us to completely abrogate the teachings and revolutionary life of Jesus simply because of issues that Paul said were eventually reconciled between the Nazirene community and him anyway.
For there are many simple questions that one must ask themselves in order to burst the bubble of some of Pauls earlier contentions. First of all, why does "eating only vegetables" make on "weak" when the book of Daniel claimed that it made both the consecrated and the profane alike strong? Furthermore, modern science accurately demonstrates, time and time again, the nutritional superiority of the vegan diet. Spiritually Judaism as well as every other mystical tradition of that time, practiced at least vegetarianism in one form or another. At best all advocated it as an ideal. Secondly, since Paul was sincere in his statements then he was bound by his word to abstain from meat as well.
According to the writings of the Early Church Fathers, Jesus, his brother James, the Apostle Peter, and the other disciples were vegetarians. We read also in Aramaic Matthew, that Jesus would not eat the traditional Passover meal, which of course contained meat. According to the church historian "Hegesipppus", St. James, the brother of Jesus, was, "holy from his mother's womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh."
In the "Clementine Homilies": St. Peter wrote "I live on bread alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot-herbs; and my dress is what you see, a tunic with a pallium: and having these, I require nothing more."
Further, one ancient church writing containing the teachings of St. Peter, 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 man becomes a fellow eater with devils." We should also note, that Clement of Alexander said: "The apostle Matthew partook of seeds, and nuts, and vegetables, without flesh."
St Basilius the Great claimed: "The body which is burdened with meat is afflicted with diseases. A moderate way of living makes the body healthier and stronger and cuts off the root of evil. The stream of meat meals darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts." St. Gregory of Nazianzen says: "The debauchery in meat meals is an infamous injustice." The apostle Thomas was also a vegetarian as we see when we read the following from the Acts of Thomas: "That which he eateth is bread and salt, and his drink is water from evening unto evening,..." Other apostles are recorded as having also been vegetarians. In fact, the evidence reveals that all the early Christians were vegetarians. Paul, as said earlier, was of course reluctant at first, according to scripture, though he finally came around to accept and understand the rational behind this consistent Nazirene doctrine.
Moses, the greatest ancient Hebrew teacher, was selected for leadership according to the Jewish tradition because as a shepherd he showed great compassion for the animals he cared for. The same was said to hold true in regards to King David. Rebecca was deemed suitable to be a wife for Isaac because she rushed to provide water to ten thirsty camels. According to the Talmud, in Pesachim 109A, after the destruction of the Temple, it was no longer "necessary" to eat meat to celebrate any holiday or festival, and as Christians we also believe that the New Covenant abrogates the outdated practice of physical sacrifice.
The Torah not only permits breaking the Sabbath if it will save a life, it commands it. Jesus showed this connection between saving a human and saving a non-human life on the Sabbath in his teachings. According to him both were obvious justifiable actions. The Torah also forbids us to waste or destroy anything of value unnecessarily. The modern animal agri-business has proven time and time again to run counter to this commandment. The Torah teaches about sharing with hungry people. However, to raise cattle today as much as 70% of the grain in the U.S. is fed to animals destined for slaughter. An estimated 20 million people die from hunger each year while the meat industry wastes 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of flesh. A switch to a nutritious plant-based diet is far more consistent with these and other basic Hebrew values.
Vegans are often asked why they exhibit so much concern for non-human animals in the face of so much human suffering. However, no issue stands by itself. It is not an either or situation, nor could it ever be. We are not posed with the question of concern for human or non-human animals, for many of the most famous humanitarians were at the forefront of helping non-human animals. As it turns out, when we exploit non-human animals, there are generally negative effects for human as a result of these practices.
We are trying very respectfully to challenge people to live up to the Judeo-Christian traditions beautiful and powerful teachings related to taking care of our health, showing compassion for animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, helping the hungry, and also seeking out and actuating a more just and harmonious world.
If we believe that Jesus came to reconcile God's creation to God, and if we believe that by so doing, Christ is bringing creation back to its original state prior to the fall, then, it only makes sense that a Christian try to live the same way that Adam and Eve did. We want to ask all Christians to study their Bibles and Church history, search their hearts and ask themselves if they think killing animals, for fun (hunting), for furs and leather, for entertainment (circuss, zoos and their ilk), or for food, unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY is something they think Jesus would really want them to do. If we are to ever begin to evolve into a society of true and lasting enlightenment, all spiritual revelations and teachings must be thoroughly tempered with the empirical evidence that we can, or will be able to, gather in support or opposition of it. Ideas that reject fundamental basis of reality should never be condoned, nor should they be held as an ideal to "win" over another, more permissive society or people. It is in our hopes and prayers that the light of Truth within this message will shine through into this darkened and spiritually numb world. For more information feel free to write to:
The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel
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