Was Jesus a Vegan? The Veganism of Early Christians

In the beginning, God created vegans.

“I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29)

Several times in the first chapters of the Bible, God instructed man on his diet. Each time, the Bible reads that God only permitted man to eat vegetation and bread, which is made from a plant-based source. Without a doubt, before the fall of man, God created human beings to be vegan. Even after the fall, leading up to the great flood and for the animals on Noah's Ark, God instructed a purely vegan lifestyle.

Was Jesus a Vegetarian?

Those of us that went to Sunday school remember childhood horror when we learned the story of Cane and Able and the animal sacrificies of early biblical characters. We also learned that Jesus' death and resurrection put and end to these barbaric sacrifices. In early Christian texts, Jesus speaks to us about this practice in his own words:

I have come to abolish the sacrifices and if you do not refrain from sacrificing, then the anger will not leave you alone ~ Jesus - Epiphanius (ca. 400)

So, Jesus says that one reason he came to this world was to end animal sacrifices and he warns those who continue the practice. This must mean that Jesus thought that the wonton killing of animals was inappropriate at best.

An array of Biblical scholars have laid the argument that Jesus was a member of the Nazarene Essenes, a Jewish sect of the time that had a strict vegetarian regime and rejected animal sacrifices.

We know that "James the Just", Jesus' brother was surely vegetarian. Biblical scholar Dr. Robert Eisenman wrote in his highly acclaimed book James, the Brother of Jesus. Dr. Robert Eisenman concluded: “Who and whatever James was, so was Jesus.” When Dr. Eisenman was asked if it can be assumed that Jesus was a vegetarian as well, he replied: “Almost certainly.”

Did Jesus eat meat?

In one of Jesus' many miracles it was claimed that he fed hungry people fish. But some scholars contend that the Greek word for "fish weed" (a dried seaweed) has been mistranslated in this story as "fish".

This video presents some common Hebrew misinterpretations regarding biblical vegetarianism and theories against the narrative that Jesus consumed animal products. If you believe that animals should not be slaughtered then you may want to look into these further.

Were early Christians vegans?

Many early church fathers were vegetarian, including St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Francis of Assisi. But what about the earliest Christians? It is important to understand the romantization of the biblical texts through Paul the Apostle if you want to understand why most modern Christians reject vegetarianism.

I will try and summerize the vegetarian Christian drama in a paragraph:

Paul was Jesus' biggest fan after his resurrection, but Paul never met Jesus. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he had the most clout saying what was in and what was out of the Bible. Jesus' brother James and the original 12 apostles were part of the original church and were all strict vegetarians, these guys actually hung out Jesus. Paul was at odds with James because James was supposed to lead the church after Jesus' death, but Paul had to do the hard work in Rome so he had to compromise. 

Paul contradicts himself numerous times on the issue of animal consumption. In one text Paul endorses the consumption of animal products by saying you can eat meat only if purchased commercially, but not if it came from a sacrifice. He later comes around though after receiving a command from Jesus.

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 ~ Paul the Apostle

It is interesting that Jesus felt that a diet free of meat made one more pure. In another reading Paul questions vegetarianism but contends, "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."

Conclusion

Really you need to sympathise with the Nazarenes if you want to be on the Christian Vegan bandwagon. Understanding the history behind it all could resonate with currently practicing Christians. Personally, while I am no longer religious, I have always been a skeptical of Paul's importance in the New Testament so the narrative resonates with me. Hopefully this article gave you some ammunition you need. Look into some of the arguments further and leave some comments if you want me to change or add anything.

Sources:

Was Jesus Vegan?