What does the BIBLE say?

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The original diet was vegetarian:

“And God said: And behold I have given you EVERY HERB yielding SEED, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the FRUIT of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (food).” Genesis 1:29

The Bible says that in the earliest days of creation, all of God's creation, including animals, were vegetarian. When God blessed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He said to them:

"I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be food for you. And to the BEASTS of the earth and all the BIRDS of the air and ALLL THE CREATURES that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give EVERY GREEN PLANT for food. And it was so." Genesis 1:29-30

Distinction between clean and unclean animals was known about in Noah’s day:

“Of every CLEAN beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are NOT CLEAN by two, the male and his female.  Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female.” Genesis 7:2,3

After the Flood God allowed consumption of “clean” meats. However the blood was not to be eaten:

“Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.   Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” Genesis 9:3-5

It is understood that only clean meats were to be used as food, as there were more of them in the ark.  (Genesis 8:20:  “Noah took of every clean beast and every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings.”  If unclean meats were to be eaten and sacrificed, there would not be a pair of them left to propagate or to enable the command in verse 17: “Bring forth with thee every living thing that they may breed abundantly in the earth.”)

Dietary laws are laws for health, not “ceremonial” or “ritualistic” laws, although they are mentioned in Leviticus.  They are not therefore included when the Lord “nailed the handwriting of ordinances which was against us” to His cross (read Colossians 2:14-17).

“Whatever divides a hoof, thus making SPLIT HOOVES AND CHEWS THE CUD, among the animals, that you may eat. …These you may eat , whatever is in the water:  all that have FINS AND SCALES, those in the water, in the seas and in the rivers, you may eat….  These moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are not to be eaten:  the eagle, vulture, buzzard, kite, falcon, raven, ostrich, owl, seagull, hawk, pelican, vulture, stork, heron, hoopoe and the bat.  …These you may eat among all the winged insects:  those which have above their feet JOINTED LEGS with which to jump on the earth..."  Leviticus chapter 11

Unclean animals are mainly predators or scavengers, and are more likely to carry diseases.

Mark’s statement that Jesus declared all foods “clean,” does not mean that He abolished the distinction between clean and unclean meats.  Unclean meats were not even regarded as "food"!  And the discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes had nothing to do with the KIND of food but with the MANNER in which the disciples ate.  The Pharisees had man-made rules about washing of hands (beyond hygienic levels).  The issue was whether or not ritualistic washing of hands before meals was necessary:

“And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with IMPURE HANDS, that is, unwashed.  (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the TRADITIONS of the elders; and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves;  and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)  And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him:  “Why do your disciples not walk according to the TRADITION of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”  And He said to them:  “ …there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him;  but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man . . . Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him;  because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach, and is eliminated? . . . from within, out of the heart of man, proceeds the evil thoughts…all these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:1-23

Jesus said that what defiles a person is not the food eaten with ritually unwashed hands, but the wicked things from the heart, because the food “does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated”.  Thus Jesus declared that all foods eaten with ritually unwashed hands are spiritually “clean” (Mark 7:19).  The Greek word for food (bromata) here used, is the general term for food, referring to all types of food for human consumption, not just flesh foods.

Peter’s vision of the animals, recorded in Acts 10, did not teach that unclean animals had become fit for food:

“Peter… beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him: ‘Arise Peter, kill and eat!’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy or unclean.’  And again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed; no longer consider unholy.’  And this happened three times. . Now Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be.”  Acts 10:11-17

If Jesus had previously authorised unclean animals for food, what was Peter doing refusing them at this late stage?  Obviously Jesus had never done this.  And the vision could not have been simply an instruction about clean VS unclean meats, for Peter was “greatly perplexed about the meaning of the vision”.  He knew there was a deeper meaning to the vision.  Peter quickly came to understand that the vision taught that GENTILES were not unclean, and that he could associate with them without becoming contaminated:

“You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with, or go to one of another nation.  But God has shown me that I should not call ANY MAN common or unclean”  Acts 10:28

In his letters to the Romans and Corinthians Paul addressed the implications for Christians of the widespread practice in the Gentile world of offering flesh foods to idols.  The issue among the early Christians was not about eating meat as such, (there was never an issue about vegetarianism in the Scriptures), but about whether the eating of meat offered to idols was an act of worship:

“Now concerning the eating of things SACRIFICED TO IDOLS, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one…however not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food AS IF IT WERE SACRIFICED TO AN IDOL;   and their conscience being weak is defiled.  But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, or the better if we do eat.  But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?  For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.  And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat [food] again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8

“But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. . .all things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.  . . whatever is sold in the shambles, that eat, ASKING NO QUESTION FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE. . . if any of them that believe not bid you to a feast . . whatever is set before you eat, asking no question for conscience sake. . . but if any man say to you THIS IS OFFERED IN SACRIFICE UNTO IDOLS, eat it not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake.” 1 Cor. 10:20-28

Those strong in their faith did not believe that eating meat offered to idols was an act of worship, and thus they would eat all (edible) things which had been offered to idols.  Those who did not have such strong faith used only vegetables, which were not offered to idols.  Paul urged:

“Accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.  One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.” Rom. 14:2

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.  All things are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offence.  It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” Romans 14:20, 21

This was not a campaign for or against vegetarianism, for vegetarianism was not an issue at this time in history.  It must be assumed that Paul was speaking of all clean meats being “clean” since we have no other Scriptural evidence to indicate that unclean animals had been authorised for food.  The latter would NOT have even been considered as edible, whether offered to idols or not.

In discussion of end time events, God still calls swine and mice, among other things, “DETESTABLE”:

“ … who eat SWINE'S FLESH, DETESTABLE THINGS, and mice, shall COME TO AN END altogether, declares the Lord”   Isaiah 66:17

Does the Bible recommend that we be vegetarians?  It doesn’t have anything specific to say on that subject.  But it is clear that the first diet given to man was vegetarian, that meat was allowed after the flood until present times, and that in the New Earth the diet will be vegetarian.  Apparently, God’s ideal diet for us is a vegetarian diet.  And just looking at human physiology it is evident that the body He created for us to use functions best on plant-based materials rather than animal-based materials.  So, why not start now!

Let’s think on the things of God and not be distracted by the things God has warned us about.

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose GOD IS THEIR BELLY, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19



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