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biblical vegetarianism

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  • prolifedem1963
    Animal advocacy has a long history within Christianity. Christians today should support animal rights as they support civil rights and / or protection of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2013
      Animal advocacy has a long history within Christianity.  Christians today should support animal rights as they support civil rights and / or protection of unborn children.  Abortion and war are the karma for killing animals.  The peace and pro-life movements will never succeed until the slaughterhouses are shut down.  By killing animals, peace and pro-life activists are only thwarting their own cause.
      "The vegetarian movement," wrote Tolstoy, "ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth."
      According to the Bible, God intended the entire human race to follow a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29). Paradise is vegetarian. Rashi (Rabbi Solomon von Isaac, 1030-1105), the famous Jewish Bible commentator, taught that "God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat its flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together." Ibn Ezra and other Jewish biblical commentators agree. 

      The Talmud says, "Adam and many generations that followed him were strict flesh-abstainers; flesh-foods were rejected as repulsive for human consumption." Although man was made in God's image and given dominion over all creation (Genesis 1:26-28), these verses do not justify humans killing animals and devouring them, because God immediately proclaims He created the plants for human consumption. (Genesis 1:29) 

      In a letter to Pope John Paul II, challenging him on the issue of animal experimentation, Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society argued that the word "dominion" is derived from the original Hebrew word "rahe" which refers to compassionate stewardship, instead of power and control. Parents have dominion over their children; they do not have a license to kill, torment or abuse them. The Talmud (Shabbat 119; Sanhedrin 7) interprets "dominion" to mean animals may be used for labor. 

      Man was made in God's image (Genesis 1:26) and told to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:29). "And God saw all that He had made and saw that it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) Complete and perfect harmony. Everything in the beginning was the way God wanted it. Vegetarianism was part of God's initial plan for the world. 

      "It appears that the first intention of the Maker was to have men live on a strictly vegetarian diet," writes Rabbi Simon Glazer, in his 1971 Guide to Judaism. "The very earliest periods of Jewish history are marked with humanitarian conduct towards the lower animal kingdom...It is clearly established that the ancient Hebrews knew, and perhaps were the first among men to know, that animals feel and suffer pain." 

      After the Flood, God revised His commandment against flesh-eating. Human beings, since eating of the forbidden fruit, seemed incapable of obedience on this issue. One Jewish writer comments, "Only after man had proven unfit for the high moral standard given at the beginning, was meat made a part of the humans' diet."

      It is important to note that before the Flood, when humans were vegetarian, lifespans were measured in terms of centuries.  Adam, for example, lived to be 930 years old.  Seth (Adam's son) lived to 912.  Enoch (Seth's son) to at least 905.  Kenan (Enoch's son) lived to 910, all the way up to Methuselah, who lived for 969 years. After the Flood, when flesh-eating was permitted, human lifespans were reduced to decades.  Abraham, for example, lived to be only 175.  Genesis 1:29-31 was a blessing; Genesis 9:2-4, a curse.

      According to the Torah (Genesis 6:9), Noah is honored as a "tzaddik," or a righteous man. Commentators say this is because he provided charity ("tzedakah") for so many animals on the ark. The high level of awareness and concern given to the care and feeding of the animals aboard the ark reflects the traditional Jewish value of not causing harm to animals, or tsa'ar ba'alei chayim. This moral principle--officially set down as law in the Bible and elaborated upon in the Talmud (Shabbat 128b), the medieval commentaries and the Responsa literature--permeates the many legends that grew up around the leading figures in the Torah and in Jewish history.

      Kindness to animals was so valued by the Jewish tradition; it was also considered an important measure of a person's piety, compassion and righteousness. From this value emerged the stories about how shepherds such as Moses and David were elevated to national leadership because of their compassion for their lambs. There are also many "maysehs," or moralistic folktales in Judaism about sages who rescued or fed stray cows and hungry chickens, watered thirsty horses and freed caged birds.

      A Jewish legend says Moses was found to be righteous by God through his shepherding. While Moses was tending his sheep of Jethro in the Midian wilderness, a young kid ran away from the flock. Moses ran after it until he found the kid drinking by a pool of water. Moses approached the kid and said, "I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty; now, you must be tired." So Moses placed the animal on his shoulders and carried him back to the flock. God said, "Because thou has shown mercy in leading the flock, thou will surely tend My flock, Israel."

      In his essay, "The Dietary Prohibitions of the Hebrews," Jean Soler finds in the Bible at lest two times when an attempt was made to try the Israelites out on a vegetarian diet.  During the period of exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews lived entirely on manna.  They had large flocks which they brought with them, but never touched.

      The Israelites were told that manna "is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat." (Exodus 16:5)  For forty years in the desert, the Israelites lived on manna (Nehemiah 9:15,21).  The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon (16:20) calls manna the food of the angels. Manna is described as a vegetable food, like "coriander seed" (Numbers 11:7), tasting like wafers and honey (Exodus 16:31).

      On two separate occasions, however, the men rebelled against Moses because they wanted meat.  The meat-hungry Hebrews lamented, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots."  God ended this first "experiment in vegetarianism" through the miracle of the quails.

      A second "experiment in vegetarianism" is suggested in the Book of Numbers, when the Hebrews lament once again, "O that we had meat to eat."  (Numbers 11:4)  God repeated the miracle of the quails, but this time with a vengeance:  "And while the flesh was between their teeth, before it was even chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and He struck them down with a great plague." (Numbers 11:33)

      The site where the deaths took place was named "The Graves of Lust."  (Numbers 11:34; Deuteronomy 12:20)  The quail meat was called "basar ta'avah," or "meat of lust."  The Talmud (Chulin 84a) comments that:  "The Torah teaches a lesson in moral conduct, that mean shall not eat meat unless he has a special craving for it, and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly."  Here, according to Soler, as in the story of the Flood, "meat is given a negative connotation.  It is a concession God makes to man's imperfection."
      In his excellent A Guide to the Misled, Rabbi Shmuel Golding explains the orthodox Jewish position concerning animal sacrifices:  "When G-d gave our ancestors permission to make sacrifices to Him, it was a concession, just as when He allowed us to have a king (I Samuel 8), but He gave us a whole set of rules and regulations concerning sacrifice that, when followed, would be superior to and distinct from the sacrificial system of the heathens."

      Some biblical passages denounce animal sacrifice (Isaiah 1:11,15; Amos 5:21-25).  Other passages state that animal sacrifices, not necessarily incurring God's wrath, are unnecessary (I Kings 15:22; Jeremiah 7:21-22; Hosea 6:6; Hosea 8:13; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 50:1-14; Psalm 40:6; Proverbs 21:3; Ecclesiastes 5:1).

      Sometimes meat-eating Christians foolishly cite Isaiah 1:11, where God says, "I am full of the burnt offerings..."  These Christians claim the word "full" implies God accepted the sacrifices.  However, in Isaiah 43:23-24, God says:  "You have not honored Me with your sacrifices... rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities."  This suggests, as Moses Maimonides taught and Rabbi Shmuel Golding confirms above, that "the sacrifices were a concession to barbarism."

      The Talmud (Baba Mezia 85a) contains the story of Rabbi Judah. A calf was being taken to be slaughtered. It broke loose, and hid its head under the rabbi's skirt. It cried out in terror. The rabbi said, "Go, for you were created for this purpose." In heaven, the response was, 
      "This man has no pity, let suffering come upon him." The rabbi then began to suffer from disease for the next thirteen years. One day his maidservant was going to sweep away some young weasels. The rabbi said to let them be, quoting Psalm 145:9, "and His tender care rests upon all His creatures." The rabbi's health was then restored.

      In the Talmud (Eruvin 100b), Rabbi Yochanon teaches, "Even if we had not been given the Torah, we still would have learned modesty from the cat, honesty from the ant, chastity from the dove, and good manners from the rooster. Thus, the animals should be honored."

      According to the Talmud (Shabbat 77b), the entire creation is to be respected: "Thou thinkest that flies, fleas, mosquitos are superfluous, but they have their purpose in creation as a means of a final outcome...Of all that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, he did not create a single thing without purpose."

      The Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18b) also forbids association with hunters. Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (1713-93) was once asked by a man if he could hunt on his large estate. The rabbi replied:

      "In the Torah the sport of hunting is imputed only to fierce characters like Nimrod and Esau, never to any of the patriarchs and their descendants...I cannot comprehend how a Jew could even dream of killing animals merely for the pleasure of hunting...When the act of killing is prompted by that of sport, it is downright cruelty."

      The Talmud (Gittin 62a) further teaches that one should not own a domestic or wild animal or even a bird if he cannot properly care for it. Although there is no general rule forbidding animal cruelty, so many commandments call for humane treatment, the Talmudic rabbis explicitly declared compassion for animals to be biblical law (Shabbat 128b).

      According to the Talmud (Shabbat 151b), "He who has mercy on his fellow creatures obtains mercy for himself." The first century Jewish historian Josephus described mercy as the underlying principle of all Jewish laws. These laws, he says, do not ignore the animals: "Ill treatment of a brute beast is with us a capital crime."

      The Tanchuma, homilies from the 5th century AD, teach:

      "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 Lord's 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."

      During the Middle Ages Yehudah Ha-Chassid taught, "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..."

      The medieval work Sefer Chasidim, or The Book of the Pious, says, "Be kind and compassionate to all creatures that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in this world. Never beat nor inflict pain on any animal, beast, bird or insect. Do not throw stones at a dog or a cat, nor should ye kill flies or wasps."

      According to Shulhan Aruch, the Orthodox Code of Jewish Law, no special blessings are given for meat dishes. "It is not fitting to bless God over something which He created and which man has slain." It is also forbidden to celebrate the acquisition of a leather garment. 

      Similarly, it is a custom never to wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur. "One does not ask for forgiveness of sins while wearing articles made from the skins of slaughtered animals." Shulhan Aruch teaches: "It is forbidden, according to the Torah, to hurt any living creature. It is, on the contrary, one's duty to save any living creature, be he ownerless, or if he belongs to a non-Jew."

      Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught, "The boy, who in crude joy, finds delight in the convulsions of an injured beetle or the anxiety of a suffering animal will also be dumb towards human pain." British historian William Lecky noted, "Tenderness towards animals is one of the most beautiful features of the Old Testament."

      There is considerable evidence within the Bible suggesting God's plan is to restore His Kingdom on earth and return mankind to vegetarianism.  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of prestate Israel, wrote:  "It is inconceivable that the Creator who had planned a world of harmony and a perfect way for man to live should, many thousands of years later, find that this plan was wrong."

      Rabbi Kook believed the concession to eat meat (Genesis 9:3) was never intended to be a permanent condition.  In his essay, "A Vision of Peace and Vegetarianism," he asked:  "...how can it be that such a noble and enlightened moral position (Genesis 1:29) should pass away after it once has been brought into existence?"

      Rabbi Kook cited the messianic prophecies (Isaiah 11:6-9), in which the world is again restored to a vegetarian paradise.  The Bible thus begins and ends in a Kingdom where slaughter is unknown, and identifies the one anointed by God to bring about this Kingdom as "Mashiach," or the Messiah.  Humanity's very beginning in Paradise and destiny in the age of the Messiah are vividly depicted as vegetarian.  "In that future state," taught Rabbi Kook, "people's lives will no longer be supported at the expense of the animals."  Isaiah (65:25) repeats his prophecy again.  This is God's plan.

      Rabbi Kook taught that because humans had an insatiable desire to kill animals and eat their flesh, they could not yet be returned to a moral standard which calls for vegetarianism.  Kook regarded Deuteronomy 12:15,20 ("Thou mayest slaughter and eat...after all the desire of thy soul,") as poetically misleading.  He translated this Torah verse as:  "because you lust after eating meat...then you may slaughter and eat."

      In his book Judaism and Vegetarianism, Dr. Richard H. Schwartz notes that God's blessings to man throughout the Bible are almost entirely vegetarian:  products of the soil, seeds, sun and rain.  (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Isaiah 30:20,23; Nehemiah 9:25)

      Rabbi Zalman Schachter makes no apologies for past injustices inflicted upon animals in the name of religion. Much of the Bible was spoken to primitive tribes, wandering through the desert. "Our forefathers were a pastoral people," he writes. "Raising animals for food was their way of life. Not only did they eat meat, they drank water and wine from leather flasks, they lived in tents and wore clothes made from skins and sewed together with bones and sinews. They read from a Torah written on parchment, used a ram’s horn as a shofar, and said their morning prayers with leather tefellin." 

      He adds, "Are we ashamed to recall that Abraham had two wives because in today’s Western world he would be called a bigamist? Vegetarianism is a response to today’s world...Meat-eating, like polygamy, fit into an earlier stage of human history."

      In Kashruth and Civil Kosher Law Enforcement, Sol Friedman explains the meaning behind ritual slaughter:  "In Judaism, the act of animal slaying is not viewed as a step in the business of meat-preparation.  It is a deed charged with religious import.  It is felt that the flame of animal life partakes of the sacred, and may be extinguished only by the sanction of religion, and only at the hands of one of its sensitive and reverential servants."

      The inconsistency in Judaism’s sanctioning the slaughter of animals while worshiping a God who has mercy on all His creatures is dealt with in Rabbi Jacob Cohen’s The Royal Table, an outline of the Jewish dietary laws. His book begins: "In the perfect world originally designed by God, man was meant to be a vegetarian." The same page also quotes from Sifre: "Insomuch as all animals possess a certain degree of intelligence and consciousness, it is a waste of this divine gift, and an irreparable damage to destroy them."

      During the 1970s, Rabbi Everett Gendler and his wife studied Talmudic attitudes towards animals, and came to "the conclusion that vegetarianism was the logical next step after kashrut—the proper extension of the laws against cruelty to animals." After becoming a vegetarian, a rabbinical student in the Midwest said, "Now I feel I have achieved the ultimate state of kashrut."
      In their book, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, Dennis Prager and Rabbi Telushkin explain: "Keeping kosher is Judaism’s compromise with its ideal vegetarianism. Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food."

      Along with the concession to eat meat, many laws and restrictions were given. Rabbi Kook taught that the reprimand implied by these regulations is an elaborate apparatus designed to keep alive a sense of reverence for life, with the aim of eventually leading people away from their meat-eating habit. This idea is echoed by Jewish Bible commentator Solomon Efraim Lunchitz, author of K’lee Yakar:

      "What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self-discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire. Perhaps because of the bother and annoyance of the whole procedure, he will be restrained from such a strong and uncontrollable desire for meat."

      A similar statement was made by a modern rabbi, Pinchas Peli:

      "Accordingly, the laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew’s first preference should be a vegetarian meal. If however, one cannot control a craving for meat, it should be kosher meat which would serve as a reminder that the animal being eaten is a creature of God, that the death of such a creature cannot be taken lightly, that hunting for sport is forbidden, that we cannot treat any living thing callously, and that we are responsible for what happens to other beings (human or animal) even if we did not personally come into contact with them."

      In the face of cultural assimilation, Rabbi Robert Gordis does not believe the dietary laws will be maintained by Jews today in their present form. He suggests that vegetarianism, a logical conclusion of Jewish teaching, would effectively protect the kosher tradition: "Vegetarianism offers an ideal mode for preserving the religious and ethical values which kashrut was designed to concretize in human life."

      In his 1987 book, Food For the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, writer Steven Rosen makes a well-reasoned case for Jewish vegetarianism, concluding:

      "...even if one considers the process of koshering to be legitimate, it is an obvious burden placed upon the Jewish people, perhaps in the hope that they will give up flesh-foods altogether. If eating meat is such a detailed, long, and drawn-out process, why not give it up entirely?"

      Stanley Rubens of the Jewish Vegetarian Society says: "I believe man’s downfall is paralleled by his cruelty to animals. In creating slaughterhouses for them, he has created slaughterhouses for himself...What is the future for mankind? When the Day of Judgment comes, we will be given that same justice that we gave the less fortunate fellow creatures who have been in our power." According to Rubens, "it is essential for an orthodox Jew to be vegetarian."

      The late Rabbi Isaac ha-Levi Herzog once predicted that "Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...Man’s carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching."
      “In the killing of animals, there is cruelty.”
      --Rabbi Joseph Albo, Sefer Ha-Ikarim, Vol. III, Ch. 15 

      “To make animals suffer is forbidden by the Torah.”
      ---Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel 

      “The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently [back] to vegetarianism.” 
      ---Rabbi Shlomo Raskin 

      "Aside from the cruelty, rage and fury in killing animals, and the fact that it teaches human beings the negative trait of shedding blood for naught; eating the flesh even of select animals will yet give rise to a mean and insensitive soul.” 
      ---Rabbi Joseph Albo, c. 1380-1444 

      “A higher form of being kosher is vegetarianism.”
      ---Rabbi Daniel Jezer 

      “What may have once made sense, now can no longer be justified...Let us realize today, in the vast majority of cases, 'kosher meat' is an oxymoron.” 
      ---Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb 

      “If you do not eat meat, you are certainly kosher… And I believe that is what we should tell our fellow rabbis.”
      ---Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel 

      “The Nazis explicitly structured their industrial destruction of the Jews on the model of animal slaughter. This is not to compare the suffering of animals and humans, but shows that the way we treat animals is similar to the way the Nazis treated us.” 
      ---Rabbi Hillel Norry 

      “It is not necessary for any human benefit to consume the flesh of animals. In fact it is harmful to human health, destructive of the environment, and wasteful of valuable resources that could be better used to feed the hungry and provide for the needy. All of these are Torah values.”
      ----Rabbi Hillel Norry 

      “Even the Torah itself recognizes that eating meat is not an ideal thing for the human being. It's not the ideal diet for the human race.”
      ---Rabbi Simchah Roth 

      “There is simply no spiritual defense in either the Western or Eastern religious traditions for eating meat.”
      ---Rabbi Marc Gellman, The First Hamburger 

      “I relate vegetarianism to Judaism in several ways…the torture of animals and the suffering that they go through, to be raised on these large factory farms and then eaten is really forbidden by Judaism.” 
      ---Adam Stein, rabbinical student
       Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights similarly says:

      "Merely by ceasing to eat meat
       Merely by practicing restraint
       We have the power to end a painful industry

      "We do not have to bear arms to end this evil
       We do not have to contribute money
       We do not have to sit in jail or go to
       meetings or demonstrations or
       engage in acts of civil disobedience

      "Most often, the act of repairing the world,
       of healing mortal wounds,
       is left to heroes and tzaddikim (holy people)
       Saints and people of unusual discipline

      "But here is an action every mortal can
       perform--surely it is not too difficult!"

      In the July/August 1997 issue of Humane Religion, in an article entitled "Jews, Christians and Hunting", the late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland, writes:

      "Aside from the identity of the promised Messiah, Christian interpretations of the Hebrew scriptures rely heavily on Jewish sources. The biblical heroes of Judaism are the heroes of Christendom; the enemies of the Chosen People are seen as the enemies of God by Christians as well as Jews. And the historical background, as well as the significance of specific scriptures expounded by Jewish scholars, is accepted by their Christian counterparts.

      "But there is a glaring exception to this reliance on Jewish sources and commentaries. When it comes to the matter of hunting, there is a wide divergence between Jewish and Christian tradition.

      "The traditional Jewish abhorrence of hunting begins with commentaries on the man called Nimrod...The rabbis castigated him for this activity, and linked it to the general degeneracy of his character...(Jewish) commentators who castigate Nimrod have little use for that other biblical hunter, Esau, who ate the animals that he killed...But this ongoing, pervasive condemnation of hunting within Jewish tradition had no parallel among Christians. In fact, Christianity had increasingly supported the cruelty which vented itself in hunting...And because the churches and their clerics coveted...support...they blessed this slaughter of the innocent.

      "The Christian voices that were raised in protest against the wanton murder of animal beings were ignored. Even the repugnance towards hunting and hunters that was encoded in Catholic Canon Law, was ignored. "Esau was a hunter because he was a sinner; and in the Holy scriptures we do not find a single holy man being a hunter." (from the Corpus Juris Canonici. Rome, 1582.)

      Keith Akers notes that "Compassion for animals is firmly rooted in Judaism," and concludes in his chapter on the Jewish tradition in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983): "Judaism does not unequivocally condemn meat eating as a sin. But a strong case can be made that Judaism does revere vegetarianism as an ethical ideal. All Jews are enjoined to have respect and compassion for animals...Jews would have absolutely no problem in becoming vegetarians, while still remaining loyal to their religion."

      Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the coming of God's kingdom (Matthew 6:9-10), the kingdom of peace, in which the entire world is restored to a vegetarian paradise (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9).  Recalling Psalm 37:11, he blessed the meek, saying they would inherit the earth.  (Matthew 5:5)  The kingdom of God belongs to the gentle and kind (Matthew 5:7-9)  Christians are to "Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful."  (Luke 6:36)  Those who take up the sword must perish by the sword.  (Matthew 26:52)  

      Jesus repeatedly spoke of God's tender care for the nonhuman creation (Matthew 6:26-30, 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7, 24-28).   Jesus taught that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice."  (Matthew 9:10-13, 12:6-7; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32)  The epistle to the Hebrews 10:5-10 suggests that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets (which Paul, and not Jesus, regarded as "so much garbage"), but only the institution of animal sacrifice, as does Jesus' cleansing the Temple of those who were buying and selling animals for sacrifice and his overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple.  (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:14-17)  

      Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17), he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals.  
      When teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years.  He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath.  "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham...be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked.  (Luke 13:10-16)
      On another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath.  "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"  (Luke 14:1-5)

      Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep.  He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock.  

      "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.  What do you think?  Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

      "And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

      "I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."  (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)

      "The compassionate, sensitive heart for animals is inseparable from the proclamation of the Christian gospel," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey in Love the Animals.  "We have lived so long with the gospel stories of Jesus that we frequently fail to see how his life and ministry identified with animals at almost every point.

      "His birth, if tradition is to be believed, takes place in the home of sheep and oxen.  His ministry begins, according to St. Mark, in the wilderness 'with the wild beasts' (1:13). His triumphal entry into Jerusalem involves riding on a 'humble' ass (Matthew 21).  According to Jesus, it is lawful to 'do good' on the Sabbath, which includes the rescuing of an animal fallen into a pit (Matthew 12).  Even the sparrows, literally sold for a few pennies in his day, are not 'forgotten before God.'  God's providence extends to the entire created order, and the glory of Solomon and all his works cannot be compared to that of the lilies of the field (Luke 12:27).

      "God so cares for His creation that even 'foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'  (Luke 9:58)  It is 'the merciful' who are 'blessed' in God's sight and what we do to 'the least' of all we do to him.  (Matthew 5:7, 25:45-46)  Jesus literally overturns the already questionable practice of animal sacrifice.  Those who sell pigeons have their tables overturned and are put out of the Temple (Mark 11:15-16).  It is the scribe who sees the spiritual bankruptcy of animal sacrifice and the supremacy of sacrificial love that Jesus commends as being 'not far from the Kingdom of God.'  (Mark 12:32-34)

      "It is a loving heart which is required by God, and not the needless bloodletting of God's creatures," concludes Reverend Linzey.  "We can see the same prophetic and radical challenge to tradition in Jesus' remarks about the 'good shepherd' who, unlike many in his day, 'lays down his life for the sheep.'  (John 10:11)"

      In Christianity and the Rights of Animals, Reverend Linzey finds two justifications for a Christian case for vegetarianism: 

      "The first is that killing is a morally significant matter.  While justifiable in principle, it can only be practically justified where there is real need for human nourishment.  Christian vegetarians do not have to claim that it is always and absolutely wrong to kill in order to eat.  It could well be that there were, and are, some situations n which meat-eating was and is essential in order to survive.  Geographical considerations alone make it difficult to envisiage life in Palestine at the time of Christ without some primitive fishing industry.  But the crucial point is that where we are free to do otherwise the killing of Spirit-filled individuals requires moral justification.  It may be justifiable, but only when human nourishment clearly requires it, and even then it remains an inevitable consequence of sin.

      "The second point," Linzey explains, "is that misappropriation occurs when humans do not recognize that the life of an animal belongs to God, not to them.  Here it seems to me that Christian vegetarianism is well-founded.  For while it may have been possible in the past to rear animals with personal care and consideration for their well-being and to dispatch them with the humble and scrupulous recognition that their life should only be taken in times of necessity, such conditions are abnormal today."

      Jesus insisted upon the moral standards given by God in the beginning (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), and this did not go  unnoticed by early church fathers such as St. Basil and St. Jerome.

      St. Basil (AD 320-79) taught, "The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts...In the earthly paradise, there was no wine, no one sacrificed animals, and no one ate meat. Wine was only invented after the Deluge...

      "With simple living, well being increases in the household, animals are in safety, there is no shedding of blood, nor putting animals to death. The knife of the cook is needless, for the table is spread only with the fruits that nature gives, and with them they are content."
      St. Jerome (AD 340-420) wrote to a monk in Milan who had abandoned vegetarianism:

      "As to the argument that in God’s second blessing (Genesis 9:3) permission was given to eat flesh—a permission not given in the first blessing (Genesis 1:29)—let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Saviour, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:1-12), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood, but after the Flood, just as quails were given to the people when they murmured in the desert, so have sinews and the offensiveness been given to our teeth.

      "The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, teaches us that God had purposed that in the fullness of time he would restore all things, and would draw to their beginning, even to Christ Jesus, all things that are in heaven or that are on earth. Whence also, the Saviour Himself in the Apocalypse of John says, ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’ From the beginning of human nature, we neither fed upon flesh nor did we put away our wives, nor were our foreskins taken away from us for a sign. We kept on this course until we arrived at the Flood.

      "But after the Flood, together with the giving of the Law, which no man could fulfill, the eating of flesh was brought in, and the putting away of wives was conceded to hardness of heart...But now that Christ has come in the end of time, and has turned back Omega to Alpha...neither is it permitted to us to put away our wives, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh."

      St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate, or Latin version of the Bible, still in use today. He felt a vegetarian diet was best for those devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He once wrote that he was not a follower of Pythagoras or Empodocles "who do not eat any living creature," but concluded, "And so I too say to you: if you wish to be perfect, it is good not to drink wine and eat flesh." 

      From history, too, we learn that the earliest Christians were vegetarians as well as pacifists.  For example, Clemens Prudentius, the first Christian hymn writer, in one of his hymns exhorts his fellow Christians not to pollute their hands and hearts by the slaughter of innocent cows and sheep, and points to the variety of nourishing and pleasant foods obtainable without blood-shedding.  

      A stumbling block for some Christians is the apostle Paul's having referred to his vegetarian brethren as "weak."   Paul taught that it is best to abstain from meat or from food offered to idols so as not to offend the "weaker" brethren.  Paul repeatedly attacked idolatry.  (Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:19-21)  He recognized the immorality of accepting food offered to idols and pagan gods:  "that which they sacrifice they are offering to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons."  (I Corinthians 10:20)  Yet Paul then proceeded to give his followers permission to eat food offered to pagan idols!  "You may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience:  for the earth is the Lord's and everything in it."  (I Corinthians 10:14-33)  

      Paul told his followers they need only abstain from such foods if it offends their "weaker" brethren.  "For if someone sees you...sitting at the table in an idol temple, will not his conscience weak as it is, encourage him to eat food offered to idols?...If my eating causes my brother to stumble, I shall eat no meat forever, so that my brother will not be made to fall into sin."  (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

      Not only does this contradict the Apostles' decree concerning gentile converts to Christianity (Acts 15), it contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself.  In Revelations 2:14-16,20, the resurrected Jesus specifically instructs John to write to two churches that they not eat food offered to idols.

      Since Paul refers to Christians who abstain not just from meat, but from food offered to pagan idols as "weak," would his definition of "weak" not have included the resurrected Jesus (Revelations 2:14-16,20)  as well?  Paul's use of the word "weak" has been debated.  According to Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing, Paul used the word "weak" with a positive connotation.  According to Paul, "God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the strong." (I Corinthians 1:27)  

      Describing his tribulations for the cause of Christ, being caught up in the heavenly spheres, and a revelation from Jesus, Paul wrote:

      "If I must boast, I shall boast of matters that show my weakness...I will boast, but not about myself--unless it be about my weakness...the Lord...he told me, 'my strength comes to perfection where there is weakness.'  Therefore," Paul concluded, "I am happy to boast in my weaknesses...I delight, then, in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong."  (II Corinthians 11:30, 12:1-10)

      Paul wrote further that Jesus "was crucified out of weakness, yet he lives through divine power, and we, too, are weak in him, but we shall live with him for your benefit through the power of God...We are happy to be weak when you are strong."  (II Corinthians 13:4,9)

      Taken in this context, the word "weak" suggests complete dependence upon God.

      Admittedly, even if Paul did use the word "weak" with a positive connotation, it would not necessarily mean that it's wrong to eat meat (Genesis 9:3), but just that it's better to be a vegetarian (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9)  

      The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, an informal mystical Christian order, believing in reincarnation and abstaining from meat and wine, wrote in 1903: 

      "But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no o

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