Chapter 1 – Overture

Chapter 1 – Overture



It was a perfect summer evening in Seattle. There was a full moon. That was the pretext for inviting friends over for dinner. We ate on the back deck, under the grape arbor. We looked at the moon, low in the southeast, a few clouds slowly passing in front of it. “That is really a big moon!” we kept saying. As host I raised my glass and gave the toast: “People talk about the good old days. Well, I’m here to tell you that we are living the good old days right now.” There was applause. We ate more. We talked. More friends arrived. As I reflect back on it now, I have to say everything about it had a dreamlike quality.

I like to eat. I was a bachelor back then. So I learned how to cook. It is empowering for a bachelor to know how to cook for himself. That day I cooked up my favorite recipes. A lot of the food I served was food I grew in my gardens, front and back. At the time I was growing mustard, collard, kale, cabbage, onions, leeks, garlic, chives, mint, evening primrose, nasturtium, borage, asparagus, parsley, stinging nettle, bok choy, fava beans, peas, pole beans, new potatoes, and fennel. I was also growing fruit: raspberry, fig, prune plum, mulberry, apple, kiwi, peach, pear, and many grape varieties. I get a lot of pleasure from my garden. I find it amazing that most people grow nothing edible in their yards, that most people think of food only as something that comes from a grocery store. My guests must have liked my food because they ate a lot of it.

Since 1981 I have been a vegan vegetarian, which means I eat no meat, no milk, and no eggs. I eat what I call a “green diet” of raw and cooked greens, sprouted and cooked grains, sprouted bread, fruit, nuts, wild growing greens such as dandelion flowers, and flax. Flax is very important if you eat a green diet. It is one of the few plants rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Health was my first reason to adopt this strange diet and “eat green.” My father had heart trouble beginning in his 40s. I had been a distance runner in high school, a swimmer in college, and a duffer-and-hacker tennis player all along, but at age 29 I began feeling angina pains in my left shoulder. I had blood pressure of 130/90. I was worried. My mind opened to other dietary possibilities. I cut down on animal fat. I learned how to cook plant-based food and found it tasty and satisfying.

That night on the back deck we ate green.

This is a good place to interject that when it gets to be summer here in Seattle, it’s a summer you can enjoy. A Mediterranean temperature inversion sets in. For four months it’s like the Riviera, with temperatures getting up into the 70s, edging into the 80s sometimes, and with very little rain—too little to suit me and my garden. It is far different from the bottom lands of the Mississippi River delta where I grew up, near Promised Land, Mississippi County, Arkansas, a crossroads on US Route 61. Promised Land had a general store, a gas station, a cotton gin, and several fundamentalist churches. People back there are friendly, but the physical environment is not: You bake in summer and freeze in winter. The insects will eat you alive if you don’t keep moving. And to understand the place you have to remember that only 140 years ago the county was a quarter slave, and the other three-quarters thought that was the way god meant things to be.

Highway 61 was the music road—from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis to Chicago. My dad played big band and Dixieland music up and down Highway 61 during the Depression. He was drummer, singer, and song writer. I always have a melody going through my head, and I thank Dad for that. Maybe the South is so rich in musical creativity because it is so rich in songbirds. They sing a concerto each morning. Some sing all through the night. The mockingbird is phenomenal; it sings a dozen other species’ songs, one right after another.

I moved west in the 1970s, first to British Columbia and then to Washington. I love the mild, rainy winters and the temperate summers, so temperate that homes are not air conditioned. I enjoy sleeping with my windows open, breathing the delicious air.

It’s time to get back to my tale of what happened that summer night: A tall, slim woman arrived. Deborah was her name. “Are you hungry?” I asked. She nodded vigorously. I gave her a bowl of my lentil soup. She slurped as we talked. I assumed she was a friend of a friend.

She looked like the woman on the cover of this book, except her face wasn’t abstract and distorted. The different expressions you see in the face on the cover are a collage of different expressions Deborah displayed at various times as we talked. Well, we talked and talked—just the two of us.

We talked about all the things that were getting worse: The sea level rising three feet by the end of the century. The population rising a billion per decade. Crime on the rise. Road rage. Weapons getting more computerized and deadly. Wars going on somewhere all the time. Monopolization in business and the media. A third of all people going hungry and living without safe drinking water and good sewers. A third of all people infected with TB. An economic system that enriches the few, works the middle class overtime, and leaves the rest impoverished, with women and children suffering most.

“And the amazing thing about all of this is that most people consider this to be normal!” she exclaimed. “Why, the rich think it’s the best it’s ever been!”

We also talked about the positive signs: The Cold War over and the growing likelihood that we might not blow ourselves up after all. Slavery—although alive under other names—illegal everywhere. Racism—although common in private—now repudiated officially. Women recovering their rights after 6,000 years of suppression. Child labor banned in most countries. The spread of electoral democracy. The number of enlightened and peace loving people greater than ever before. It was a heavy discussion.

“Can I have more? she asked.

“How about some stir fry with spicy peanut sauce?”

“Good.” Vegans enjoy food more, partly because they can eat more. When meat eaters finish eating, they seem to lose all interest in food, even to be disgusted by food. Vegans can always eat a little more. I came back with a plate for each of us.

We talked with our mouths full. I not only tolerate, I encourage people to talk with their mouths full—especially when it’s my food. Deborah was wearing baggy, men’s corduroy pants with pleats, and a vest over a plaid work shirt. She wasn’t wearing any makeup. She was tall, skinny, and flat-chested.

I became absorbed in our conversation and pretty much oblivious of others. As we talked I sat back in my chair and took it all in. I let her talk. She apparently felt she had found a kindred spirit, because she expressed her feelings freely. “Who,” I wondered to myself, “is this outspoken and self-confident woman?”

At times she showed disappointment, like a mother who is unhappy that her children have grown up to be criminals. At other times she was defiantly confident. She made me think of the Australian pediatrician, Helen Caldicott, the founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Helen believes that the only thing preventing us from civilizing the world is our lack of faith in our ability to do so.
“We have been deceived,” Deborah said. “We take the credit card offers and get sucked into debt, and then we have to work non-stop. We have no time for politics.”

“And no time to pay attention to what the big corporations are doing,” I added.

“And not enough time for the people we love.”

“Then why are you optimistic?” I asked. “Are you are optimistic?”

“In the long term, yes, I am optimistic, because there are more people than ever working for peace.”

“Maybe we should be out organizing all the time—instead of having a party,” I suggested.

“No, we have to know happiness to spread happiness. We have to rely on good people in other time zones to carry out our calling while we rest.”

Calling! I liked her use of the word.

“If I hear you right, I think you’re saying things are getting better and worse at the same time.”


“Well, how is it going to turn out?”

She took a deep breath. “They have all the money, but we have all the good ideas. Of course we are going to win. Calculate the odds: Love and peace are just more attractive than violence. Even a villain had a mother who loved him.”

“But why is it taking so long?” I asked.

She took a deep breath. “Because violence is hard to stop once it gets started. Father beats son. Son beats up other kids in the neighborhood. They all grow up to beat their sons and wives. We breed dictators who have a crazy need to beat up the world. Plus, we are addicted to growth. There’s a fortune to be made building weapons. We need a war every few years to test the weapons and use up the old inventory. Then we have to restock the inventory with new and better weapons. Sons need to prove to the dads who beat them that they are ‘tough,’ so off they go to war.”

“Almost demonic,” I said.

“It is demonic. We are descended from a long line of victims. We store the violence down in our reptilian cortex. There it lies quietly within us until something sets off the demon within.”

“Everyone has an anger management problem to some extent,” I added. “How do you undo something like that?”

“Moral education. People are much more likely to behave ethically if they study ethics.”

“How do you teach ethics?” I asked.

“You are a lawyer, right?” I nodded. “You are obligated to do pro bono work, right?” I nodded. “Okay, I’ll give you an assignment, Mr. Lawyer. Start with one very basic ethical point and build on it. Start a movement to teach people not to hit each other.”

“Tell me more.”

“Go into schools and talk to kids, teachers, parents. Your main theme is ‘NO HITTING.’ Put it on the Internet. Put it on bumper stickers and buttons. “Nobody hits anybody” is the basic principle. Adults don’t hit adults. Adults don’t hit kids. Kids don’t hit kids. Recruit other attorneys to do the same thing.”

“What do you do if someone is actually hitting someone?” I asked.

“Teach the kids and teach everyone: If you feel like hitting someone, shut up and leave the room. Leave the house. If someone is getting angry or hitting you, back away. If they are dangerous, leave the room or leave the house. Call 9-1-1. Don’t put up with it.”


“Teach kids that when someone is hitting someone, and if you are bigger than he is, or if you have him outnumbered, then hold him. Don’t hit him; just hold him. Tell him ‘No hitting.’ Hold him and tell him to calm down. If kids are fighting, grab them both and stop the fight.”

“Keep going.”

“Teach kids that law applies to them. Teach kids to speak up for the other kids who are being beaten and demand that it stop. Teach them to be little lawyers for each other. Teach them to appeal to higher authority until the violence stops. Teach them to file suit. Teach them that the rule against “ratting” is the devil talking. If someone is beating on someone, you have to stop him, and you must report him. Adults are asleep on this point. We enforce laws against adults hitting adults and laws against adults hitting kids, but we accept it as a given that kids will beat up other kids.” There was a little anger in her voice.

“Once I wanted to be a law professor in college. Instead, I could be a law professor in grade school.”

“You might do more good that way.” We both laughed.

“The right not to be assaulted is the most important law,” I said. “Kids assault kids on a regular basis. If adults did to adults the things kids do to kids, they would go to jail.”

“We are all damaged goods,” she said.

“Sort of like original sin?”

“That’s a good analogy.”

“I’m a part-time theologian,” I said. “There’s a longstanding debate in Christianity: Does the sin of Adam adheres to us as an inevitable taint or did Adam merely introduced a highly contagious sickness which pretty much everyone catches, but which is not necessarily impossible to cure. Tell me, do you believe in original sin?”

“Yes, I think that would be a correct metaphor for our defects as a species.”

“Are we a defective species? What is our original sin?”

“It’s not so much an original sin as an original defect. We have these huge brains, but they’re mostly blank computing space badly programmed. We’re not inherently evil. We’re just inherently gullible. We are conformists. We are willing to be led astray, especially when there is money in it for us. We fall for the big lies.”

“Lies such as?”

“Violence is one. Growth is the other. We say, ‘Growth is good,’ but that’s a lie. Capitalism likes growth. Growth means more consumers, which means more sales, and more workers, which keeps the cost of labor down.”

“How are we ever going to stop growing?” I asked.

“It’s going to be hard. We think growth is okay if it’s slow growth, but it’s still growth.” The problem is that time extends infinitely into the future. It takes longer to reach the result, but it’s the same result: no stability.”
“I’ve read the party platforms from start to finish, Democan and Republicrat. When it comes to population explosion, there’s not a word in either one. But both of them say ‘grow the economy’ in every other paragraph.”

“We set up corporations. Their job is to increase profits constantly. There is never enough. They hire platoons of lawyers and accountants and marketing experts. They go on auto-pilot, doing things we wouldn’t do as individuals.”

“But laws limit what corporations do,” I said.

“Come on, get serious, James. Laws just nip around the margins. Democracy is a weak force. Political parties have to keep the economy cranked up or they’ll get voted out. So it’s grow, grow, grow. It’s one of the problems with the way the world is set up. We need another force, a moral force, to give democracy more backbone.”

“Religion maybe?”

“Religion could do it, but religions only deal with the next world.”

“Are you saying religions should deal with this world?”

“Now you are getting my point,” she said with enthusiasm. “To change the subject slightly, have you heard there is an Eleventh Commandment?”

“You mean, after the Ten Commandments, there is an Eleventh Commandment?”

“Yes, well it’s a rumor I heard. I may have started it myself.” She smiled.

“Now wait. I went half way through seminary, but I never heard of any Eleventh Commandment. What is the Eleventh Commandment?”

The Eleventh Commandment is: “Do unto other species as you would have them do unto your own.”

“Hey, I like that. It’s an environmental commandment: Don’t wipe out other species.’”

“That’s part of it. We kill off species faster than we can name them. We take away the places where animals can live—so we can cut down trees and grow more beef.”

“We’re natural born killers,” I said.

“Like in the Oliver Stone movie.”

“Yea, I hear Woody Harrelson is a vegetarian.”

“And we don’t just kill them; we torture them first. We torture them their entire lives. And people don’t even think about it.”

“What do you think I could do about it?”

“People generally respect lawyers. You could teach people that animals are conscious beings which should be treated with a certain level of dignity. This is relevant to your profession. We can’t be vicious to animals without damaging our legal structure.”

“With the grade school kids, I could illustrate the point with one of my science fiction stories.”

“Excuse me?” I was beginning to lose her.

“Okay, here’s the plot: Extraterrestrials come to earth. They check us out. They see how bad we treat other species here on earth. They abduct people to try to figure out what is wrong with us. They decide we are morally defective, and they just leave. They are afraid if they get to know us we will have a bad influence on them.”

“Sounds like a plausible plot to me.”

“Or maybe they leave because they are afraid we might get around to eating them.”
“Equally plausible.”

“May I give you my legal opinion?” I asked.

“Of course.”

“The punishment does not fit the crime. Actually there is no crime. It’s not like these are evil animals that have committed crimes against us and we have tried them and put them in prison for it. They are totally innocent.”

She interrupted, “We treat them as if they have committed the worst crimes imaginable.”

“Another human defect?” I asked.

“No, it’s the same defect. Bad programming. We are programmed for violence. We are programmed for growth. When it comes to the animals, it’s both our defects working together. Mistreating animals is profitable.

We stuff them into small cages to cut down on the rent. We spread out over the face of the planet to grow feed for them and graze cattle. It’s not original sin so much as original ignorance. Whenever there is a buck to be made, we are blind to moral considerations.”

“And most people don’t even see it as an issue.”

“That’s the defect: That we don’t even think about it.”

“We go to church and pray for forgiveness for all our sins except the ones that really matter. Are we hopelessly flawed?

“That’s what the Christian religion says. But I don’t believe it. I just think humans are just morally asleep. We need to wake them up. Our goal should be the moral perfection of our species.”

“That’s a tall order. Why such optimism?”

“Because I choose to be optimistic. We have to civilize the world before we destroy it. It’s one or the other.”

“It’s like “White Hat to the rescue.” I hummed the tune to her. (do-do-la-so-do-mi.) “He’s running to untie Pearl Pure Heart from the tracks before the train gets there and runs her over.”

She laughed. “You really are a cornball! Where are you from anyway?”

“I fell to earth in the northeast corner of Arkansas, a few miles from the Mississippi River and a few miles from the Bootheel of Missouri.”

“You don’t have much of a Southern accent.”

“It comes back after two beers.”

I got another laugh out of her. Then we were silent. I sat there feeling a little overwhelmed. I don’t very often meet someone who is so unashamed to speak her mind. But I didn’t look down on her for being bold. Life is short. We should come to the point and say what’s on our minds while we can.

One of my younger guests needed some help. I roused myself from my trance. “Will you please excuse me?”

“Of course.”

I returned in five minutes, but she was gone. I looked around, but she was nowhere to be found. “Tom, where is the woman I was talking with?”

What woman?” he asked.

“Deborah. She is wearing pants and a vest. She’s about 45, brown hair with a little gray in it, intelligent looking, tall, quite attractive.”

“I haven’t been paying much attention,” Tom said. “There’ve been a lot of people here, but I think I would have noticed.”

The party wound down. A few friends hung around and helped me clean up. That night I dreamed about Deborah. In my dream she took on mythic proportions. She sat with her legs crossed, meditating, wearing a karate ghi with a black belt. She was even wiser, even more profoundly disappointed with what has become of her world, even more defiant and confident that she would win in the end.
In my dream I asked myself why enlightened messengers from god have to be male? I dreamed of the female prophets of the past who were not given the same standing as the male prophets—because there was a long period when only men wrote history. I dreamed of a new environmental prophet, this time a woman with a message of how to bring peace. I often dream theological dreams.

I asked myself: “If a prophet or an angel came for dinner, what would I serve her? What if Jesus showed up? Would I serve him the flesh of an animal that had been tortured? As in the Cain and Abel story, would god or the goddess be pleased with my offering?”

I slowly awoke. The entire thing had been a dream—the dinner with friends, Deborah’s visit, our complex conversation, and the dream within the dream. Her face came from the watercolor Patti had sold me years before, the one on the cover of this book.

It was almost sunrise. The window was wide open. The full moon was low in the west, shining into my bedroom. The twilight was full of bird songs. There was rustling in the back yard. I snuck out of bed and peeked over the window ledge. There was a big mother raccoon with her two kits, checking out the garden. “Nothing yet, Mrs. Raccoon,” I whispered. “The grapes are not ripe.” I returned to bed and sat with a comforter around myself. I crossed my legs and meditated.

I thought about my calling as a teenager. It happened on a warm summer night at church camp. I was walking back to my cabin from evening chapel.

I was born Catholic but my parents raised me in a protestant sect where we studied the Bible rigorously. The fact that my parents changed religions several times opened my mind to the idea that truth was not as black and white as the pastor said. I took my religion seriously, but I also took my science seriously. The teachings of my church conflicted with my academic studies.

I was alone that night. As I walked across the ball field I stopped and looked up at the stars. “How Great Thou Art” was one of the songs we sang, and I pondered the lyrics. It was at a time when I was trying to decide what to believe and what profession to take up. I remember the moment very clearly. I uttered a prayer in my thoughts: “How can I know which way to go?”

In a split second an answer came back to me in my mind: “Search for truth and follow it wherever it leads you. And don’t fear the truth you will find. Truth is the one thing not to fear.” I became physically dizzy and sat down in the dewy grass. Later I learned the term “peak experience.” That was a peak experience.

Sitting in bed, I thought back on my teenage calling, “This is a truth I should follow.” I resolved then and there: “I will treat this as a special moment. I will focus on what’s really important. Everyone dies, but before I die, I will come to the point and say what’s on my mind: How can we expect to stop the violence among humans and the violence against the environment if we don’t stop the violence against the animals?” I turned on the light and started writing this book.




Proto-Judaism Worshipped a Female Deity

What is theology and how does theology relate to food?

Generally theology includes the search for answers to such difficult questions as: What will happen to us when we die? Will there will be rewards and punishments? Does god exist? What is the nature of god? How should we worship god?

I am not particularly interested in any of the above aspects of theology. They are completely speculative. There is no way for us to know answers to such questions, except to wait until we die. We should study such questions only as part of the history of theology and philosophy. We should not judge people based on whether they agree with us regarding the answers to such unknowable questions.

However, there is another aspect of theology I do find interesting. It is one which is given little coverage in sermons or seminaries. It’s the one attribute of god that we can know something about while we are still alive, before we die. It is the “how we should behave” attribute of god, the ethics attribute.

If we focus on this ethics aspect of theology, we can make the world a more ethical and lawful place. And, if god is paying attention to what we do down here, SHE will be pleased. God turned the world over to us. It’s our duty to civilize it.

I am not sure what god is. Although I fervently hope god exists, I am not certain god exists. However, I choose to presume that god exists and to commit myself to living as if god exists. I am confident that whatever god is, god would want us to do unto others as we would have them do to us, to do unsolicited good deeds for those in need, to strive for the moral improvement of our species, and not to focus only preparing for the next life.

Do we believe we can civilize the world? Why don’t we make a more focused effort to do so? Why do religions generally neglect the “how we should behave” attribute of god?

Whatever god is, god is inseparable from the concept of ethics and justice. We should make a concerted study of how to make “justice roll down like waters.” (Amos 5:24.) In doing so we will learn all we can know of god with any certainty during this incarnation. And maybe in doing so we will civilize the world.

The other preliminary question is how theology or the study of a god of ethics relates to food. There are many ethical issues that involve food: whether the food we eat strengthens or weakens us and increases or decreases our ability to complete our calling, whether the way we get food protects or degrades our physical environment, and whether the way we get food wipes out species and involves the mistreatment of sensitive beings.


In Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. (and in the Middle East before around 5500 B.C.E.), there was no generalized warfare. We know this because cities before this time had no walls. Jericho was the only exception. Where there is no war, there is no need for walls. In Old Europe there were towns of up to 10,000 people. There were paved streets, small two-story temples, five-room homes with plaster floors and walls. There were beautiful frescos on the walls, vases, sculpture, and jewelry. The Old Europeans had a written language—which we have not deciphered—which survives on pottery and walls. Homes were all roughly the same size, indicating there was a fundamental equality of wealth and income.

The people of Old Europe and the Old Middle East thought of god as a woman, a very hard concept for us to grasp today. Women did not dominate men as men have since dominated women. Society was not matriarchal in the sense that it has been patriarchal since men took over in Europe around 4300 B.C.E., and in the Middle East around 5500 B.C.E. Society was matristic, that is mother-centered. Most of the rulers were queens, but there were some kings too. Most religious leaders were priestesses, but there were some priests. (See the section of this book entitled The Delphic Oracle, p. 67.) Women owned the land because women had pioneered agriculture while men were out foraging. Inheritance was from mother to daughter. When a man and woman married, the man joined the household of the woman’s mother. There were similar patterns in the Middle East, India, and China. (See the chapter of this book entitled Loss of Eden, p. 39.)

All this was swept away in Old Europe beginning around 4300 B.C.E. by patriarchal Aryan invaders from the Caucasus, whose ideology was conquest and horse, cattle, and sheep herding. They had mastered horseback riding, and they had perfected powerful lightweight, composite bows and deadly composite, flint swords. This happened in the Late Stone Age, even before the Bronze Age. The invaders spoke a Vedic language from which the Indo-European languages are descended­. The Aryans were invincible, and the goddess culture was quickly overwhelmed. It was a sad time. I suspect the goddess people prayed as they were being slaughtered that someone in the distant future would try to pick up where they had left off.

Anthropologists exhume the town dumps or middens of Old Europe and find the bones of food animals in strata older than the time of the Aryan invasions. Meat was eaten in Old Europe, and thus it might be said that the goddess is not an appropriate unifying theme for a vegan foodways book such as this. However, archaeological evidence, which I will detail in later chapters, indicates that in Old Europe there was less animal husbandry, that much more land was cultivated before the invasions of the patriarchs than after, and that meat was a smaller part of the diet.

Further, there are indications from mythology and from statements by the earliest historians that at least some of the goddess worshiping tribes of Old Europe did not eat meat or that there were devout classes in certain tribes which did not eat meat. I refer to myths and histories found in the sayings of Pythagoras, the writings of Plato, the Talmud, the Old Testament, and the writings of the Judeo-Christians—all of which state clearly that there existed a prehistoric, Edenic Golden Age in which at least some tribes did not use animals for sacrifices or for food. I propose that these myths and legends refer to the time before 4300 B.C.E. in Europe and before 5500 B.C.E. in the Middle East. (See Loss of Eden, page 54.)

The priestesses of the goddess cultures were herbal healers, and those who heal with herbs eat more herbs and vegetables and eat a greater variety of herbs and vegetables and therefore would have eaten less animal-based food or maybe none. The vegetarian Pythagoras admitted that he learned much of his knowledge at the feet of Themistoclea, a priestess of the Oracle of Pythia, renamed Delphi by the patriarchs, one of the last surviving remnants of the goddess religion. Pythagoras was strongly vegetarian, and so we would presume that so too would have been Themistoclea, and so too would have been the religion of the Oracle. I propose that the religion of the Oracle and the tribe that Pythagoras was born into represented one of the last surviving vegetarian tribes from pre-Indo-European times. (See the section of this book entitled Greek and Persian Legend and the Link Back to the Golden Era, p. 67.)

Many of the stories I refer to are myth, but that does not mean they are not true. Myth is a story about the past that states an ethical or moral truth which applies to the present, a statement about the past regarding what the present should be. Myth is often also an allegorical or vaguely remembered account of actual, historical incidents. Bachofen wrote convincingly of the “historicity of myth.” Classical Greek writers admitted that their gods and mythology in many cases grew out of dimly remembered facts about early kings and heroes.

The Hebrew myth of the Garden of Eden and the Greek myth of the Golden Age are possible example of this. Eden is said to have been a time when humans in small numbers lived in a peaceful, garden setting, where plant food was so abundant that they did not have to cultivate or hunt. As presented in the Hebrew Bible, the diet of Adam and Eve in Eden was vegetarian (Genesis 1:30, 9:3) as it was in Plato’s Golden Age (The Republic, Book 2). Did a glimmer of the Golden Age or Eden survive down through the Hebrews and the Pythagoreans to the Essenes and the Judeo-Christians, and from them into modern times? That is my hypothesis.

In using the goddess as my unifying theme, I admit that I am to some extent creating my own myth. It is worthwhile to use myth as a tool for appealing to people today about how we should live, as long as we explain the true story behind the myth.

However, it would be a mistake for me to build my case just on what happened in the past, or for me to say that the reason why we should try to make a new Golden Age is because there was a Golden Age in the past, of for me to say that we can make a new Golden Age today only if one existed in the past.
We can find peace—even if it is for the first time—if enough of us work for it.

I stress the Eden and Golden Age myths because they prove that from ancient times, prophets have been reminding us that at least some of us ate a green diet and that we should return to that ideal state.

The Aryan invaders sometimes killed everyone except for the virgin girls—our ancestors on the female side. These they forcibly took as concubines. But all was not lost. The daughters remembered the knowledge from earlier times. They taught it to their children, including their sons, who helped keep it alive. And that’s why a man has standing to write a book such as mine.

Over the centuries we are rediscovering these themes. They are reemerging because enough of the fragments survived to enable us to piece together a picture of that era. These themes are inherently more sensible and life-enhancing than the conquest and domination themes introduced by the patriarchs —our ancestors on the male side.

By the time we get to the era of written history, we find prophets—Pythagoras, the Buddha, Socrates and Plato, the writer of Daniel, John the Baptist, Simon Peter, Matthew, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus himself, and all his original disciples, and many modern day prophets such as Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy—who taught some or all of the themes of the matristic civilization: peace, high ethical standards, the primacy of law, nonviolence, opposition to slavery, respect for women, respect for children, and herbal knowledge. These prophets and their followers rejected meat eating and cruelty to animals.

Because Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are the leading Western religions, I will focus on them and show that various Hebrew prophets and Jesus and his immediate predecessors and his disciples rejected meat eating and cruelty to animals. I will show that Jesus’ Judeo-Christian church was vegetarian for over 300 years—until it was wiped out by the gentile church. I will show that they ate that way because they believed Jesus had taught them to eat that way in order to realize the messianic era.

Skipping to the present, we see two tendencies contending. On the one hand there is an explosion in the numbers of humans, 6.6 billion as of 2007, 9.0 billion by 2050, and growing at around 90 million per year) and factory farm animals (15 billion or 40 billion and rising). One-third of the world’s population lives in poverty, hunger, disease, and misery. There is overwhelming pollution of the physical environment. We develop computerized weapons of fearsome killing capacity. There is continuous war in one part of the world or another. I worry that I may turn on the radio tomorrow and learn that a suitcase nuclear bomb has gone off in New York or Tel Aviv. The outcome hangs by a thread.

And we have constructed an amoral economic system that mindlessly profits from and reinforces these tendencies. Orthodox capitalist theory is that gross sales and profits must rise continuously and that our numbers should rise too because this spurs sales and holds down the cost of labor. It will be extremely difficult to reign in the excesses of capitalism.

In 1886, a court reporter for the U.S. Supreme Court, a former railroad president, in preparing the official report of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (118 U.S. 394), wrote, as the summary of the case, that corporations were persons and had the rights persons have under the 14th Amendment. In fact, the chief justice had expressed that opinion orally only, and the actual case said no such thing. Nevertheless, subsequent courts accepted that side comment as law. Corporations were declared to have rights. Before Santa Clara County, corporations had had only privileges, privileges which could be taken away if a corporation acted contrary to whatever standards a majority of a state’s legislature might set. Corporations had to apply individually for charters. Corporations could be discriminated against.

Today’s corporations are only required to obey the law and are free to try to lobby against laws that limit their freedom to maximize profits. When corporations abuse their power, it is hard to cut them down to size. You have to prove they are violating some law and sue them. Before Santa Clara, the legislature could cancel their corporate charter or threaten to do so. Ironically, even today “unions, churches, unincorporated businesses, partnerships, and even governments, all … have only privileges.” (See Wikipedia, “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad” and “Corporation.”)

Corporations have become non-human, super-beings. They have acquired eternal life. They can do things individual shareholders would feel guilty about doing. The corporation has an obligation to maximize profits and even maximize the rate at which profits grow. By law, corporate greed knows no limits. Shareholders are not liable for the wrongs of the corporation unless they take part personally in the wrongdoing. Shareholders can avoid legal liability and therefore moral liability. They not only are shielded legally by a “corporate veil,” they hide morally behind it. They crush ordinary men who stand in the way of profit maximization. In my law school class on corporations, there was no mention of any of this.

There is at the same time, an increasing consciousness of natural law (law in its ideal sense, as it should be, not as it is), a desire to live in harmony with the physical environment, a quest to put an end to war, and a sensitivity to animal life. These two conflicting themes coexist and contend with each other in a dualistic competition. The challenge facing us in this era is to reach enlightenment before we destroy ourselves.
I contend that those who treat animals compassionately are more likely to treat their fellow humans compassionately. I propose that treating animals compassionately is one aspect of a package of human values that can draw us towards peace and enlightenment. The goddess beckons us to come to our senses, and this is another reason why I have chosen her as the unifying symbol of my book.


If you were to host for dinner a visiting goddess or Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, or the Buddha, what would you serve him—or her? Would you serve her a filet of a rare animal species that was on the verge of extinction? Or pate de foie gras, made from a goose force fed corn with a funnel down her neck to the point where she was in constant immobilizing pain? Or veal parmesan, made from a calf taken bawling a few hours old from its mother, denied a childhood, reared in a veal crate, and fed an unnatural diet that made it wretchedly ill? Or the cutlet of some other animal that left its crowded cage only once? Would the visiting goddess approve of what was on your menu? Would she decline to eat such foods? Would she leave the table? Would she stand up and say, “The cries of innocent animals come up to me, and I will not pretend I am not offended by your financing their suffering.” Would you lose points with Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates for your cruel diet? I’m just joking. Or am I?


Because the era of the goddess was relatively vegetarian, I use the goddess symbol to make my ethical case against abusing animals and using them for food.
It is a matter of ethical concern that we kill animals for food and a matter of ethical concern how we kill them. But it is a much greater ethical concern how we treat them during their short lives. (See the section of this book entitled The Ethics of Diet, p. 287.)

There are some 15 billion (some authorities say 40 billion) farm animals waiting to be slaughtered. Most of them live part or all their lives in hellish factory farms. Chickens have instinctual needs to stretch their wings, move around, and scratch the dirt, but they are raised claustrophobically four birds to a cage the size of a microwave oven. Their cages are stacked up ten high, and urine and feces rain down on them constantly. These are animals with an acute sense of smell, so it is all the more abusive that they are forced to live in stench. They are debeaked, which would be like cutting off part of your nose, mouth, and chin, but many are still able to peck each other to death with their blunted beaks.

Pigs have instinctual needs to roam free, but many live their adult lives in “bacon bins” so small they cannot turn around, cages stacked to the ceiling, inside closed buildings, and they too live in the stench of the feces and urine that rains down on them. To drink they are given the urine- and feces-laden liquid they excrete. When they are moved from cage to cage or to slaughter they are driven with baseball bats. They fight back. Ten percent of them die of heart attacks in the slaughtering process.

Beef cattle are finished in feed lots devoid of grass, standing and lying instead in muddy or dusty feces. Young bulls are castrated without anesthetic. Cattle need to eat grass and hay for proper digestion, but they are fed an unnatural diet made up mostly of corn, soy, and meat to fatten them, and this diet sickens them.
Dairy cows must deliver calves yearly to continue to produce milk. The calves are all taken away within a few days so they will not keep the cows away from the milking machines. Both mother and calf wail for days. Most dairy calves go into “veal crates” so small that the calves cannot even turn around or lick themselves, where they are fed nothing but surplus milk and butter—subsidized by our taxes. They are fed none of the iron-rich grass they need. This is done to make their flesh whitish and tender, but it makes them severely anemic. They suffer from constant diarrhea and numerous other diseases so serious that 20 percent of them die before their typical slaughter age of 100 days. Can you imagine what you would have to do to calves to kill 20 percent of them in their first 100 days?

Our food animals lack our intellect and our ability to speak, but they have all of our ability to perceive pain, claustrophobia, and stench. The same is true of animals tortured in laboratories where cosmetics and medicines are tested. They all know they are suffering.

Yes, our ancient ancestors killed animals and ate meat, but those were animals which had lived a free and natural life and ate natural food. Our ancestors killed animals quickly. They killed only what they needed to kill to survive. What exists today is the systematic industrial torture of feeling beings on a massive scale. It is a sin.

Pet owners would be outraged if their dogs and cats were mistreated in such ways but think nothing of the way our food animals are mistreated. Most say correctly that our species has been hunting animals for millions of years, but they ignore the fact that we did not confine and torture them by the billions until recently. (See the section of this book entitled The Ethics of Diet, p. 287.)

It is amazing that most people know so little about these ghoulish evils. Most do not realize the torture their food dollars finance. They do not see the connection between what they eat and the mistreatment of the animals that we convert into food. Some know but block it out. Some consider it necessary and inevitable because we are descended from a long line of meat eaters. Most believe the lie that it is necessary to eat animal products to be healthy. Some consider it of no importance or relevance, saying, “They are just animals.” Tough men laugh at you for having pity for the animals. We humans are occasionally creative and enlightened, but mostly we are just insensitive.

I was beaten by football thugs in junior high. I didn’t like being beaten. I don’t like it when people beat up other people. And I don’t like it when people beat up animals who have done us no harm whatsoever. I eat a green diet primarily because I see no way of eating animal products without spending my money to hire thugs to beat up animals.


Although I have called my book “What To Serve A Goddess,” I could have called it “How To Serve A Goddess.” What to serve her is a part of how to serve her. Right eating is an important part of right living.

In this book I talk a lot about religion. My religion is the religion of ethics and law: Behaving ethically is more important than believing any specific set of doctrines regarding unknowable things. I revere and follow Jesus as an ethical, not a religious teacher. My calling is to search for truth honestly and to follow it wherever it leads me.

Likewise, I use the goddess as an ethical and not a religious symbol. It is hard to find ethical symbols that do not derive from religious traditions. For historical reasons, our language is structured so that it is difficult to talk about ethics without using religious terminology. The study of ethics was, until modern times, largely though not exclusively the province of religion. Only over the last few hundred years has ethics become a discipline independent of religion. Ethics was for a long time taught mostly in seminaries. Now it is taught by philosophers, physicians, environmentalists, attorneys, teachers, and by every profession, guild, and trade. In order to study the ethics of thousands of years ago, it is impossible not to use religious terminology, because that was the context in which ethics was discussed back then. This book has a theological component because our ethical concepts are rooted in theological concepts.

Some may think it blasphemy that I refer to god as a goddess. Today’s blasphemy is yesterdays truth: In ancient times everyone except the invading patriarchs thought of god as a woman. Those patriarchs with their male sun, storm, and thunder god invaded the Near East around 5500 B.C.E., Europe around 4300 B.C.E., Persia around 2000 B.C.E., and India around 1750 B.C.E. and turned the world upside down.

Goddess figurines unearthed in Old Europe from before 4300 B.C.E. are sometimes dismissed as mere fertility idols. This attitude is part of the disdain that patriarchal historians have always had for ancient matristic cultures. The invading and warlike patriarchs worshiped a male god and made it their goal to stamp out the religion of the goddess. “You shall not permit a sorceress to live,” said the early Hebrew patriarchs in what probably was a reference to the priestesses, herbalists, healers, and midwives of the older, competing goddess religion. (Exodus 22:18; cf. Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10.)

It is hard to piece together information from so far in the past, and it is important not to over idealize. Nevertheless, there is much evidence that the goddess religions generally stressed family harmony, high ethical standards, the rule of law, peace, male-female equality, healing, respect for life, opposition to slavery, respect for animals and the physical environment, and a vegetarian or relatively vegetarian diet. (See the section of this book entitled Old Europe, Before 4300 B.C.E., a Paradigm of Partnership, p. 40.)

The patriarchal conquerors could not completely exterminate the religion and ethics of the goddess. Goddess ideals went underground and survived semi-dormant under the patriarchal surface. Over the centuries they have gradually increased in strength, and recently they have emerged into the light of consciousness. After 6,000 years, slavery is illegal again—although de facto slavery still exists in many places. Women can again vote and marry whom they choose. They again have the same right to divorce as men. They again can own property in their own names and control it and leave it to whomever they wish when they die. Most of the formerly patriarchal religions now allow women to serve as priests and ministers, something that would have been unthinkable even a hundred years ago. Women are finally regaining the status they enjoyed in Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. If you take a really long view of history, this is one of its most significant developments.

Patriarchal religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism are hybrids, the patriarchal invader religions crossbred with the goddess religions which preceded them. These religions all worship a male god, although Hinduism worships male and female gods. Nevertheless, theologians generally agree that god transcends gender. According to Mahavira, the definitive prophet of Jainism, god resists classification:

All sounds recoil thence, where speculation has no room, nor does the mind penetrate there. The liberated is not long or small or round or triangular—he is not black—or white—he is without body, without contact (of matter), he is not feminine or masculine or neuter; he perceives, he knows, but there is no analogy (whereby to know the nature of the liberated soul); its essence is without form; there is no condition of the unconditioned. (Pratapaditya Pal, The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India, p. 13.)

Some have problems thinking of god as goddess. If you prefer, every time I write “goddess,” you can read “god,” “highest prophet,” “true messiah,” “holy spirit,” “shekinah,” “wise one,” “the ongoing consciousness of the good,” “the tendency towards peace,” “the transcendent embodiment of the highest ethical standards.” These are all similar concepts.

Some are offended that I don’t capitalize “god.” I regard god as a concept or force more than as a person. I presume SHE cares more about what I do with my life than how I spell HER name. I agree with the Jewish position that god is inseparable from ethics. It is because god and the good are such overlapping concepts that I write the word “god” uncapitalized. I also do it to make you think.

Modern-day Hindu prophetess, Amachi, has an interesting theory about Jesus. She believes his female side was paramount and that he came as a man only because in the radically patriarchal age in which he lived, leaders would only have taken him seriously as a male. His message about how to bring peace to the world contained ethical elements from the previous matristic age.


Rabbinic Judaism had/has a trinity of sorts: There is god the father, god the mother spirit, and god’s sons and daughters. We are all made in the image of god the father and god the mother spirit. God functions in the world through our participation. We are god’s sons and daughters and therefore in some sense part of god. In the Jewish mystical tradition known as kabbalah, the shekinah is the creative and female side of god. The Judeo-Christians believed Jesus was an adopted son of god, as were all messiah-kings, a special son that we, as fellow sons and daughters of god, should emulate.

The Odes of Solomon are the oldest known Christian hymns, written in the First Century. They were written in and survive in Syriac, a language similar to the Aramaic and Hebrew that Jesus spoke. In the Odes the word “spirit” is feminine, and there are numerous references in the Odes to the spirit as “she.” The earliest Christians sang hymns in which the holy spirit was female. (James Hamilton Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: The Syriac Texts, 11:2 at p. 52, 19:2 at p. 82, 35:1 at p. 126.)

The first Christians were the Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem. They were descended from the respected Essene sect. The Essenes, the Judeo-Christians, and the Pharisees were all Jewish sects. They all spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, and in those languages “spirit” was ruach or rucha, a feminine word. For them the holy spirit was female. For them the trinity could not have been three males. Every time Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit, he and his listeners were thinking “she.” (

Paul’s version of Christianity took root at Antioch and from there spread throughout the Greek- and Latin-speaking Roman Empire. (Acts 11:26.) The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, a neuter word. In Latin the word “spirit” is spiritus, a masculine word. So it was, through a linguistic accident, that gentile Christianity, very uninformed about Judaism, developed its male holy spirit and its all-male trinity.

The idea that the holy spirit is a woman is present in ancient Judeo-Christian gospels, which survive in quotations made by orthodox theologians. For example, the hateful heresy fighter Origen, makes the following comment about the Gospel According to the Hebrews:
If any one should lend credence to the Gospel According to the Hebrews, where the Savior Himself says, “My mother, the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs [or lock of hair] and carried me off to the great mount Tabor,” he will have to face the difficulty of explaining how the Holy Spirit can be the mother of Christ when it was itself brought into existence through the Word. (Commentary on John, 2:6, See Origen’s Homily on Jeremiah 15:4 and Jerome’s Commentary on Micha 7:5-7; see A.F.J. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, p. 7, 52 ff.)

Origen was referring to John 1:3, which says that all things were made through the word. Jesus was the word, and therefore even the Holy Spirit was made through the Word. Therefore, according to John, the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son.
Origen presumed that John was more authoritative than the Judeo-Christian Gospel According to the Hebrews. Origen was a poor scholar. He apparently did not even know that “Spirit” is the feminine word ruach or rucha in Hebrew and Aramaic.

The earliest version of the Nicene Creed says that “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.” The Roman Church changed it to say that “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This controversy was one of the reasons for the schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In the Orthodox version the Father is superior to both Holy Spirit and Son. In the Catholic version Father and Son together are superior to the Holy Spirit.

So among Judaism, Judeo-Christianity, and gentile Christianity there is confusion over the relationship between father, son, and holy spirit. As Judaism teaches, were god the father and god the mothering spirit together the parents of Jesus as they are the parents of all of us? Did a male holy spirit “overshadow” Mary and father Jesus? (Luke 1:35.) Did the holy spirit proceed from the son? and was Jesus as the word the “parent” of the holy spirit? (John 1:3.) Did the holy spirit proceed from the father or from the father and son, as the two versions of the Nicene Creed say? (See the section of this book entitled Christological Inflation, p. 79.)

Early gentile Christians, recent converts from religions which had worshiped and prayed to a mother goddess, longed to worship god again as a mother. They came to revere Mary as a surrogate for the mother goddess they had lost. So when the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. decreed it proper to revere Mary as theotokos or god-bearer, there was dancing in the streets.

The early, patriarchal gentile Christians did a historical sex change operation on the holy spirit and made her male. Christianity, with its all-male trinity has not been as sensitive to the real needs of humans, the environment, women, and girls as it would have been had it held to the father-mother-son-daughter trinity of Judaism and Judeo-Christianity.


Part of right living is right eating.

The average person eats around six pounds of food per day, around 2,190 pounds of food per year, around 164,000 pounds of food in a 75-year life. (1995 lecture by Buck Levin, nutritionist, naturopath, and instructor at Bastyr University.) The average American eats 235 pounds of meat each year. (Dianne Hales, “We’ll Make Your Tastebuds Tingle,” Parade, November 12, 2000.) This brings new meaning to the old adage “you are what you eat.”
Well, what else would we be but what we eat? It is true that to a small extent we are composed of the oxygen we breathe, since it might join with food to build cells, but except for that, we are what we eat. Dr. Udo Erasmus gives us a choice: Our bodies can be built of nutrient-rich foods or junk foods. If our bodies are built of nutrient-rich foods, they will constitute a medium in which certain cancer-causing microbes and actual cancer cells will either lie dormant or die. (Udo Erasmus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, p. 364.)

Nevertheless, most see no connection between what we eat and the condition of our bodies. Some of us eat as if our digestive system were incinerators which completely purify what we eat. It does not happen that way. Digestion takes place at body temperature. Food is not completely deconstructed into elements and compounds. Some fats and proteins percolate right through the lining of the stomach, flow right through the blood stream, and join cells, completely undigested. If we eat junk, we are junk.

Cattle, pigs, and chickens are fed a steady diet of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, ground-up meat, and the fecal matter of several species. Fish in the sea eat the outflow of farms and factories. The mercury from coal burning utilities settles in the oceans, where it is consumed by fish. The contamination concentrates in their fatty tissues, bones, and glands. Fish farmed fish are fed insecticide and antibiotics to kill the sea lice and the diseases which infect them.
Because the seas are the ultimate waste dump for industry, the FDA warns people not to eat too much fish. Methyl mercury and PCBs are the main contaminants.

If junk is what cattle, pigs, chickens, and fish eat, junk is what they are. If we eat cattle, pigs, chickens, eggs, and fish, junk is what we are. You wouldn’t bring home pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, manure, and heavy metals in a small jar and feed a few grams each day to your family. So why would you bring home meat or milk or eggs containing all these pollutants and feed these to your family?

The bodies of factory animals are often cancer ridden. Some of the same viruses that cause cancer in animals also cause cancer in humans. You would not know this from watching the breast cancer awareness ads on TV: You hear a lot about “early detection” but not a word about prevention. That’s right; cancer can be prevented. The cancer rate among vegans is very low. (See the Cancer section of this book, p. 273.)

Hippocrates, the Pythagorean physician, taught: “Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food.” This means we should only eat food that strengthens us and should eat no food that does not strengthen us.

Under an ancient version of the Hippocratic Oath, healers swore to “apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick.” The modern version exhorts doctors to “prevent disease whenever (they) can, for prevention is preferable to cure.” However, most physicians today do not have time to practice preventive medicine or give dietary advice. Instead doctors prescribe drugs and perform operations to try to overcome the effect of their patients’ bad diets.

We are what we eat, as well, on an emotional level. We like to eat what makes us feel good about ourselves. Once we learn how badly factory animals are treated, we will no longer feel good about eating them. We may not want to know, but we ought to know—because the money we spend on animal foods finances the system that mistreats the animals we eat.

So why do we eat as badly as we do? Because we have not been conscious of these issues. Because we have been asleep.


Our numbers have grown exponentially. Ash from the eruption of the Toba volcano some 74,000 years ago wiped out most humans. Our numbers were as low as a few thousand or even a few hundred. (See the section of this book entitled Population Explosion and a Plant Based Diet, p. 231.) Rapid reproduction became a necessity. Those families and clans which survived were those which bore the most children. This may be the time when we developed our urge to have large families. By the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago, the human population of the world had risen to some 10 million. By the time of Jesus, there were some 200 million of us. We reached 6.0 billion in 1999 and 6.6 billion in 2007. We are headed for 9.0 billion by 2050. Add to this the effect of 15 billion (some say 40 billion) domesticated animals worldwide, most of whom would not otherwise exist, and most of them living in factory buildings and feedlots.
These animals defecate and urinate in vast quantities. The waste flows untreated into streams and then into rivers and coastal estuaries. The pollution flows because we choose to eat chicken, pork, beef, eggs, and dairy products. By buying their animal-based foods, we hire the farmers to grow the animals and pollute the waters.

Most of these animals are fed sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics, creating a breeding ground for diseases that are becoming resistant to the drugs we can no longer rely on to heal us.

Grazing animals rip out grass by the roots and girdle saplings and so help destroy forests and contribute to desertification. There was knee-high grass in vast areas of the American West that are now tumbleweed deserts. Wells in dry areas in third world countries are surrounded for miles by land stripped of all vegetation by herds of animals coming to drink. Deserts can be reclaimed, but only if animal herding is banned. If deserts are turned back into grassland and forest, more CO2 will be taken from the atmosphere, and greenhouse warming will be reduced. Diet affects land use, which affects climate.

There is a direct link between what we eat and how species live, die, and become extinct. Loggers are cutting down rain forests far away, but it is our dietary choices here that cause the cutting. When we eat a hamburger here, we are hiring some logger to cut trees so some rancher can graze cattle to make your next Big Mac.

Ninety percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn grown in the United States is fed to animals. Corn, soy, and other feed crops are heavily subsidized, which lowers feed costs for producers of meat, milk, and eggs. Growing these crops causes unsustainable losses in topsoil. A cow has to be fed 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat and the other 15 pounds–which could have been fed directly to humans or used to produce biodiesel and ethanol–is lost in this inefficient exchange. (See the section of this book entitled The Environment and a Plant-Based Diet.)

Farmers in poor countries finish animals in feed lots, while people starve just outside the fence. Much of the meat is exported to make payments on their country’s massive international debt. Small farmers cannot afford to grow basic commodities because subsidized U.S. commodities are cheaper.

If we had taken responsibility for our numbers back when there were only a billion of us, maybe we could keep eating a diet high in animal-based foods and still maintain a healthy environment and adequately feed the poor. However, it’s too late now. We made our choice when we kept breeding to the point where we took over the entire planet. We have foreclosed the meat-eating option. Drastic changes are necessary, and the longer we wait to implement the changes, the more drastic the changes will have to be.

The argument is made that we need to eat animal products to get certain nutrients. However, thanks to modern science this is no longer so. We now know what nutrients we must be careful to eat if we don’t eat animal products. It is now possible to feel perfectly safe eating a green diet and feeding a green diet to our children. (See the section entitled A Plant-Based Diet —Health Considerations, p. 237.
I posit that the goddess calls us to make this radical change, because it is the only solution now left us.


Back during the and Contra Wars of the 1980s I traveled in Central America. One January I found myself in high altitude and chilly Antigua, Guatemala, where I caught cold. I decided to head for a hot beach. I journeyed down to the costal village of Puerto Champerico, a village on the Pacific. I swam and body surfed in the big breakers. I hung out in the town square and worked on my Spanish with the local high school kids. I learned how to pronounce dinosaurio and Retalhuleu, the tongue twister name of the province I was in. I enjoyed being the only tourist in town.

I met Enrique, and he taught me how to sing the scale in a way I had never heard before. (See Enrique’s Scale in the music section of this book, p. 418.) He was a house painter, but he could earn only four dollars a day, and he only got a few days of work each week. Enrique and his family were always hungry. I could find no decent vegan food in the local cafes. So we worked out a trade: I bought big sacks full of rice, beans, vegetables, potatoes, and eggs in the marketplace. I bought eggs because they needed essential fatty acids, and flax was unavailable. I took the sacks to his house, where his family and I cooked them up. I got the vegan food I wanted, and his family got a lot of food.

Enrique was faced with several dilemmas: He needed money to feed himself so he would have energy to work. But he also needed to feed his family. He had parasites, probably from drinking contaminated water. His illness drained his energy, but he didn’t have the money to buy the Flagyl that would kill the parasites. All night long they were harassed by zancudos, tiny little mosquitoes that really sting. The family stayed up all night fanning the baby to keep the zancudos from biting. Enrique didn’t even have enough money to buy mosquito nets for himself or his family.

Enrique was/is not unusual. To one degree or another some two billion people around the world face the same dilemmas. They lack good drinking water, are malnourished or starving, are diseased, and lack good shelter. Some of the most needy are mothers and children, particularly those with no husbands. “Lady Madonna, children at your breast. Wonder how you manage to make ends meet.” Today’s single-parent goddesses suffer. The title of this book challenges you to do something for them. See the sadness in the face of the goddess on the cover of this book? She is weary and battered.


We take what we eat personally. We like various foods and dislike others. We offer to share our food with others, and feel offended when others refuse to eat it. Conversely, we sometimes go ahead and eat food we do not like so as to avoid offending others.

I have written much of this book in the first person singular because what I have to say about food is in large part based on my experience. It would have been dishonest for me to leave myself out. How I decided to make my culinary transition to a green diet may help you make yours. How I decided that my diet was important to the physical and moral environment of the world may be relevant to your decision about what to eat. How I taught myself to grow and cook my own food may inspire you to do the same.

I love food. I eat all the time. When I work, I eat. I take leftovers to my office in plastic containers and raid the refrigerator every few hours. I hide pumpkin and sunflower seeds in my desk drawer and munch on them as I work. I eat flax seed by the spoonful and chomp on them.

I like to eat what makes me feel good, and that means a light, low-fat diet. I remember how sluggish I used to feel after eating roast beef. It made me want to—go—to—sleep. Z-Z-Z-Z. I would lie on the sofa feeling sluggish from the thick oil I had injected into my arteries. At the same time my heart would be racing because the adrenaline that had been in that terror-stricken cow was now in me.

In this book I will not hesitate to tell you the negative side of the great American diet. However, I will also employ what I believe to be a better way to win you over: I will talk about the uplifting possibilities which will flow from eating a plant-based diet, including a trim figure, better health, and a longer life span. I will introduce you to recipes that will thrill your palate and satisfy your cravings. Most of the flavors we enjoy are found in the spices and vegetables we add to our foods, not in the meat, milk, or eggs.

Eating a plant-based diet will make you feel light and healthy. You will be able to eat a greater volume of plant-based food, eat more frequently, and quit counting calories. You will thoroughly enjoy the taste and texture of plant-based food. You will leave the table feeling full but not sluggish. You will be able to stabilize your weight at a leaner level.

My omnivorous friends sometimes tell me that if they do not eat meat, they feel somehow unsatisfied, that they have not had a real dinner. I have a theory about this: As a fat-addicted species, we crave the salty, fatty, chewy, crunchiness of animal-based foods because the are essential fats we need are found in animal-based foods. I will tell you how to get them from plant-based sources and how to prepare plant-based food that is as crunchy, chewy, and as salty as necessary to be satisfying. (See the Healthy Cooking Techniques section, p. 349, and the Goddess Recipes section, of this book p. 365.) You will find it no great sacrifice to give up animal-based foods. Along with them will go your big belly, your high blood pressure, your diabetes, your infirmity in your old age, and your early demise. You will feel like running and playing with your grandchildren instead of sitting and watching them.


Because the era of the goddess before 4300 B.C.E. was peaceful, I use the goddess as a symbol of peace. The vegetarian leaders and groups I referred to above, from Pythagoras to Jesus to Gandhi, had theories about how to put an end to the cycle of violence and warfare. Their theory was that we should do unsolicited good deeds for those who are in need, that we should absorb the violence instead of return it when doing so will stop the cycle of violence. There is a package of ethical beliefs, which just might bring peace. Treating animals with compassion was and is part of that package. (See the section of this book entitled The Ethics of Diet, p. 287.)


The blindfolded person holding the scale is an ancient symbol of law. She is a woman. In many languages “law” is a feminine word, perhaps a word from the language of the ancient matristic, lawful cultures, a word that survived the invasions of the lawless patriarchs. And bear in mind that when I refer to “law” I am talking about natural law, law in the ideal sense, not law as it is, sometimes a tool manipulated by the rich and powerful to get more rich and more powerful.
Law is an interlocking structure of values which support each other. Visualize a four-sided pyramid, a very strong structure composed of six members. If one member of the pyramid is missing, it will collapse easily. Following this analogy, a legal system where murder or assault or theft were allowed would be an unstable system. It is hard to imagine a legal system that permitted such wrongs, but try to posit its existence, and then think about how allowing such evils would undermine other aspects of law.

The same can be said for treatment of women. Women lost their rights with the coming of the patriarchs, the right to vote, own property, marry the man of their choice, and divorce an unkind husband. Laws that allowed the subjugation of women created a blind spot in men’s legal thinking. They had to come up with some justification for the subjugation. The justification generally made little sense: Women were obviously inferior because of some mythological original sin or because they were smaller or because they did not have souls. A legal system that does not grant rights to women will lack stability. Society is weaker where only half its members function fully. The lack of this important structural member will tend to make the entire structure subject to collapse.

The same can be said for the treatment of children. Children were treated well before the invasions of the patriarchs, but poorly thereafter. The Aryan Romans, for example, valued sons, and tolerated having one girl, but often would abandon subsequent girl babies to the streets, where they would be eaten by dogs or pigs. The lucky few would be adopted by Jews or Christians. Parents or custodians of children were free to put them to work in sweat shops and had no obligation to educate them. A legal system that does not protect and educate its children raises children who will not achieve their full potential and may become criminals. Rights for children is thus a structural member without which a legal system will lack stability and tend toward general injustice.

Likewise, a legal system which allows slavery will be unstable. Slavery became legal from the time of the patriarchal invasions and continued to be legal until the 1800s. I contend that allowing slavery stunted the development of law and delayed the evolution of democratic and lawful societies. It created moral blind spots. Why was it illegal to beat or kill a free man but legal to beat or kill a slave? Why was illegal to rape free women but perfectly legal for a slave owner to rape his women slaves as often as he liked? Owners made up crude rationalizations to justify such things. And if a slave could be abused, then why couldn’t a troublesome free man or woman be abused? Again, a legal system that allows slavery is one that lacks stability and tends toward general injustice.
We could say the same thing regarding prisoners’ rights. The beatings and rapes to which prisoners are subjected—while wardens look the other way—is a scandal. We must keep an eye on prison keepers, as Jesus advised, for they can easily get caught up in brutality. (Matthew 25:30.) Most prisoners are eventually released. They will more likely be worse people when they come out than they when they went in. Thus a system of laws which allows prisoners to be brutalized tends towards instability.

We could say the same thing regarding respect for the physical environment. If we use the world around us strictly to maximize profits and without regard to any other values, the quality of our lives is reduced.

I hope you see my point about law in the ideal sense being an interlocking structure of values which support each other. I have talked about a system of laws which might allow the abuse of women, children, slaves, prisoners, or the natural environment. Now take my argument just one step further and think about a society in which it is legal systematically to abuse 15 billion (some say 40 billion) factory farm animals on a daily basis.

Most of us know about the abuse to a greater or lesser extent but suppress our feelings about what is going on. We suppress our feelings in much the same way that people suppressed their feelings about the abuse of women, children, slaves, prisoners, and the physical environment. “Oh, these things happen, and we have to be realistic,” they say. “It’s always been that way.” “We don’t want to change too quickly lest we damage the economy.’

Those who profit from the system elect the governments which sanction the abuse. The profiteers market their animal products and convince the public to eat far more animal products of far lower quality and of higher fat content than they ate in times past. In producing these animal products, the profiteers cut down forests and pollute rivers and oceans. They inflict chronic illnesses on us and cause us to spend vast amounts on a medical system which is silent about how to prevent these illnesses. Our life spans are shorter, and we suffer more from chronic diseases in our old age. Society is weakened physically. We are drained of resources which could be spent in better ways.

I contend that a society that allows the abuse of animals has a serious blind spot, and behind or within this blind spot other great wrongs and untruths are allowed and encouraged to exist.


I aim to prove that treating animals with compassion—which necessarily includes moving to a green diet—is an indispensable part of a package of behaviors which can better our earthly reality. Treating animals with compassion will stimulate change on other levels and teach us to treat humans and the environment with sensitivity. I consider it a keystone behavior. It’s absence is so conspicuous that once people learn it, they will rise to a higher level of awareness. Change will be stimulated on other levels.

I believe it is possible to have a truly healthy and long-lived population, to put an end to hunger, to make good drinking water available to everyone, to bring down health care costs, to reign in population explosion, to achieve an environmental balance, to stop the great die off of species, and to bring about peace between humans and between nations. I believe we are much more likely to realize these goals if we treat animals with compassion and much less likely to realize them if we don’t. Our abuse of the animals is such a conspicuous societal sin that we have to eliminate it if we are to become aware of and eliminate our other sins.

Will it be easy to convince enough people to treat animals with compassion to make a significant difference? No. Will it take a long time? Yes. Should we then not try? We should still try. Women lost their rights with the coming of the patriarchs, and that is when slavery and child abuse began. It has taken some 6,000 years to right these wrongs. Should all those people through all those centuries who struggled to undo these wrongs simply have given up? The sooner you join in this effort, the sooner progress will be made.

This movement has powerful foes, because there are vast profits made in the exploitation of animals and the spoliation of the environment. However, the odds are not as bad as you might think. Now we can spread these ideas through the Internet, at virtually no cost. The Internet is the great equalizer.
They have all the money, but we have all the good ideas.

There are already millions us around the world who refuse to eat animal-based foods. There are millions more who are sensitive to these issues and would go part or all the way with us if they just knew how to cook plant-based food in an appetizing way and if they could be assured they could get all the nutrients they need from plant-based food.


We humans are morally defective as a species: We desire conformity very strongly. We generally believe we are safe if we are in the majority. We presume the status quo is correct and defend it stubbornly. We ridicule anyone who questions the status quo as a kook. We have big brains, but we use them to construct complex rationalizations to justify things as they are. We are easily manipulated when there is a lot of money to be made. Making a lot of money is nearly everyone’s dream. Keeping the economy stimulated is a must if the current political party is to stay in power. We are all too quick to dismiss difficult issues by saying, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” We are all too quick to say, “I don’t have time.” When we are faced with an important task which will be difficult or take a long time to accomplish, we don’t even try. And we are morally blind when it comes to the animals we abuse and eat. All these defects are grounded in one overarching defect: We are not aware. We are not conscious. We are sleep walking through life.

So wake up!


There is more. Buy my book.



Chapter 3 – Dedication

This book is dedicated to the wife
whose husband has always been a good date,
and who is probably going to break his date with her
by dying too soon.
To the husband, who is going to break her heart,
by breaking his heart.
He’s a traditional male, helpless in the kitchen and too stodgy to learn to cook for himself. So his diet is in your hands, and thus you are put in an unfair double bind: If you feed him what he wants and he dies early, it will be your fault. If you feed him healthy food that bores him, it will also be your fault.
He loves roast beef, sausage, hamburgers, fried chicken, shrimp casserole, pork chops, barbecued ribs, hot dogs, scrambled eggs, butter, milk, ice cream, French fried potatoes, and other fried foods—all of which contain oils which are solid at body temperature, in his veins and arteries. You have followed the middle-of-the-road advice in popular magazines and have cut his fat intake down to 30 percent of calories, but it hasn’t been enough. His health is headed downhill. And you are worried.
You love your man. But he’s not the man he was when you first met him. He no longer jogs around the car ahead of you to open your door. He’s overweight. His blood pressure is in the red zone. His cholesterol count is out of sight. His doctor is talking about heart bypass surgery, which will cost you or your insurance company $50,000.
His problems are caused by his eating too much cholesterol and saturated fat and not enough green things. But fat is what he loves to eat. You love him and want to make him happy, so you feed him what makes him happy. He knows better, but your food is rich and tasty, and he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by suggesting he does not want to eat it. It’s a deadly feedback loop.
Unfortunately, you are feeding him slow poison. His life will be several years shorter and of much lower quality unless he quits eating cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans-fatty acids. You eat the same way he does, so you are doing the same thing to yourself—like a Hindu wife of ancient India committing suttee, joining her husband on his funeral pyre.
So don’t just worry about it; do something about it. There is a recipe section at the end of this book. Skip to it right now and cook up some delightful, delicious, and delectable plant-based food, food so rich and tasty that he won’t even miss the animal fat.

She loves you, man. She loves you even though you have turned into a fat, beer-swigging, football-on-TV-addicted, couch potato who doesn’t take her on long, romantic walks anymore. Admit it: You are not the man you were when you first met her and got her into this marriage, and it’s because of what you eat.
You need to eat better, but you can’t count on your wife to change your diet for you. You are both in an unhealthy catch-22. You have to get involved in the kitchen yourself, cooking low-fat, plant-based food that will protect your heart and arteries.
You have to do it yourself. We men used to go out and defend the tribe. We used to go out gathering and hunting for food. We evolved to take charge in difficult situations. When things are broken we fix them. We love challenges. It’s part of our being men. Well, men, this is one of those difficult situations: We are dying! Take charge!
Go gathering and hunting in the grocery store, the garden, and the kitchen. Bag a bag of green things of all kinds and learn the recipes in this book. If you can figure out how to replace a commode or configure your computer, you can certainly figure out how to whip up a stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce over steamed rice.
You are going to enjoy learning how to cook in a way that will add years to your?life, make you a stronger and leaner person, make you a better lover, bring you great culinary enjoyment, and make you a better friend to the environment. Getting hungry? Skip to the recipe section right now and give it a try. The recipes are so easy to cook that any bachelor or married guy, any teenage or college lad, even any grade school boy can learn them.
This book is also dedicated to you omnivorous moms and dads of the world who now have grown-up children who eat a plant-based diet (that’s no meat, no milk, and no eggs). Your vegan kids are headed over for dinner tonight. Let’s listen in on an anxious conversation you might be having right now:
Mabel: I don’t know what to feed them. There’s nothing I know how to cook that they will eat.
George: How did we ever raise up such finicky kids!
Mabel: Where did we go wrong?
George: They turn up their noses at your southern fried chicken, your shrimp casserole, your baked ham, your New England pot roast, your wonderful omelets. They just don’t appreciate good food.
Mabel: You’re just saying that to make me feel better. I wish I knew how to cook their way. I ought to practice on you. Maybe I could lower your high-blood. You know, they’re probably right. We should cut down on fat.
George: Huh! Cutting down’s not good enough for them. They want us to quit eating animal fat entirely—meat, milk, eggs, fish—the works! They’re extremists.
Well, George and Mabel, this is your lucky day. With this book in hand, you can have a tasty, plant-based meal ready in an hour. The recipes in the back of the book are so easy that even George will be able to cook them. And there’s a bonus: Your ordinarily carnivorous friends will clean their plates and ask for more.
This book is also dedicated to those who eat a plant-based diet.
You should be ashamed of yourselves. Look at the anxiety you have inflicted on your parents and friends! You are driving over to their house for dinner, and they are worried sick about what to feed you. They are terrified of you making a scene, giving them another one of your boring vegetarian lectures.
Are you going to just show up and sit there and turn up your noses at their food like you did the last time? Do something different.
Plan A: Cook up a big pan of green, plant-based food, and carry it with you. That way you can be sure you will have some plant-based food to eat. That way you will be able to introduce your parents and friends to plant-based food and a green diet.
Plan B: Bag up your broccoli and collards, your cabbage and basil, your brown rice and tofu, your nuts and garlic, your onions and tofu, your egg replacer and flax seed, your rice cooker and your electric wok. Arrive early and cook your plant-based food right in their kitchen. Be the galloping, plant-based gourmet. Let them smell the goods smells of your food cooking. Get them to help you. Leave behind a supply of key ingredients. Educate them through example; don’t lecture them. Cooking together is an opportunity for nonthreatening communication. Give them a copy of this book. It is designed to help your mom and dad convert each other from a high-blood-pressure, fattening diet to a healthy, low-fat, high-taste, zero-cholesterol, plant-based diet. They will eat the food in this book, not because it is cholesterol-free, but because it is exceptionally tasty and satisfying.
This book is also dedicated to all those lonely men out there looking for a goddess to wed.
Someone has said, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” It’s also a way to a woman’s heart. Men, if you are courting a woman don’t ask her out for dinner, ask her over to cook with you.
We spend a large part of our lives cooking and eating, and men and women cooking together can get to know each other in a nonthreatening way. Women want men who are strong enough to protect them, but they also want men who are sensitive, and a man who cooks is sensitive. Compatibility in the kitchen indicates there might be compatibility in other rooms.
Cooking together sets up opportunities for intimate conversation. A dinner prepared with a friend is always more enjoyable than one prepared and eaten alone.
Women are generally trying to control their weight. Because eating a plant-based diet is good for the waistline, women generally will be open to your plant-based cooking.
This book is dedicated to all the goddesses out there.
Women, don’t presume that we men are not interested in cooking. Most of us men don’t cook simply because our dads didn’t cook, and because our mothers, just like many of you, presumed we wouldn’t be interested.
We men love to eat, and you will find that most of us can become quite handy in the kitchen. Don’t disparage us for our culinary clumsiness. Hand us the veggies and a knife and put us to work. Never say, “Just get out of the kitchen.” Teach us.



Chapter 4 – Diet: The Relevance of the Past to the Present

When it comes to eating the contemporary, animal-based, high-fat diet, many people tell me: “That was the way our human and prehuman ancestors ate.” “That was the way people of our tradition or religion ate.” “Our religion explicitly endorses using animals for food.” “The Jews always sacrificed animal and ate them.” “Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes.” “The Buddha allowed the eating of meat if the animal was not killed specifically for the one who ate it.” “It is part of our fundamental human nature to eat meat.”
To varying extents, and depending on the religion or tradition you come from, these assumptions are false, as I will demonstrate below. But even if these assumptions were true, they must be tempered by the fact that we humans have made profound changes to the physical environment. The human population has grown from a few hundred or a few thousand around 74,000 years ago to ten million around 12,000 years ago (estimates vary) to 6.6 billion in 2007. There will be 9.0 billion of us by the year 2050.
Times have changed in other ways: Until the early 1900s and even up until after the end of World War II, animal-based foods were a smaller part of the typical diet. Before refrigeration, it was not easy to eat milk or meat on a daily basis. Before it became the custom to fatten animals on grain, they were typically only around three percent fat. Hunted animals are very low in fat. Grain-fattened animals are now typically 40 percent fat. Before the rise of the factory farm industry, right after World War II, food animals ate organic grass in open pastures, drank pure water, were largely free of disease. They were sometimes killed in more humane ways. Today’s factory farm animals are fed unhealthy feed, are cancer-ridden, are marbled with fat, endure months of ghoulish captivity, and are killed in terrifying and painful ways.
Moreover, there is a strong tradition that for thousands of years, various groups and individuals have opposed using animals for food. The indigenous Dravidian or Shramana people of India claim they ate a vegetarian diet from time immemorial. There were those in the early literate period of our history who actively opposed the eating of meat. Plato opposed it for health, environmental, and ethical reasons. Others opposed it for ethical or religious reasons, including Pythagoras, the Buddha, and the Hebrew authors who wrote the earliest strata of Genesis and the Talmud. The Brahman Hindus, the Essenes, and the Judeo-Christians, all of which are discussed below, also opposed eating meat.
Foodways is the study of the “cultural, social and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food.” It includes a historical dimension and is a tool for penetrating back into the past. Dietary patterns change slowly. Invasions bring new food customs. A study of what our ancestors ate can reveal some things not written down, identify connections not otherwise apparent, and sometimes can penetrate much further into the past than written history. Historians learn what people ate through a study of the writings of the oldest cultures. Archaeologists look at buried kitchens, pottery, grind marks on teeth and knives, and garbage dumps—known as middens or bone piles.
Religion has often been an oppressive force, and in reaction, some want to avoid the subject entirely. This is a serious intellectual error, for to do so leaves gaping holes in both historical and ethical analysis. I have not hesitated to introduce religious discussion where it is relevant to my inquiry into the history and ethics of diet.
I ask the reader to regard my use of theological analysis as a tool for historical and ethical analysis and not as an attempt to prove the truth of any particular theology.
I should clarify the difference between religion and ethics: The term “religion” derives from the root “to bind.” Religion is what one is bound or required to believe and to perform as ritual in order to be pleasing to god and to those who consider themselves to be god’s authorized representatives on earth. By this standard, I am not religious at all.
Ethics, on the other hand, is how one ought to behave. Religion makes requirements; ethics makes suggestions. Religion is generally inflexible and resistant to change. Ethics is more flexible and continually evolving. Ethics is right behavior as judged by any reasonable standard. Ultimately it derives from aesthetics: What is beautiful is what is right. One can be a deeply ethical person and even a deeply spiritual person without being a religious person, and this is the way I think of myself. I revere, study, and follow various religious leaders of history because of what they said about how we should behave, not because of any religious beliefs they taught.
Until the 19th Century almost everyone was religious, and almost all fields of study were intertwined with religion. There was little discussion of ethics outside the context of religion. Most although not all philosophy was religious. For these reasons almost all history has been religious history and almost all ethical analysis has been religious ethical analysis.
Three hundred years is the blink of an eye in history. Only 300 years ago, we were burning witches in Massachusetts, and one could be jailed in Virginia for being a heretic. Even today, it can sometimes be disadvantageous to one’s career not to appear religious. For example, it would be difficult for a Moslem, Hindu, or Jew to be elected to the United States presidency, and impossible for an admitted atheist.
A meteor struck the earth around 65 million years ago, wiping out most dinosaurs, and making possible the rise of mammals. Our direct post-reptilian, early mammalian ancestor was a shrew-like animal that ate vegetable matter and insects. Primates arose around 40 million years ago, monkeys around 36 million years ago, apes around 25 million years ago, gibbons around 10 million years ago, orangutans around 8 million years ago, gorillas around 7 million years ago, and chimpanzees around 6 million years ago.
Sometime around 6 million years ago, Lucy made her appearance, formally known as Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy is apparently the earliest upright walking hominid from which we humans are descended. Lucy did not use tools or fire. Australopithecus africanus followed around 3 million years ago.
Homo habilis appeared around 2.5 million years ago. Homo habilis is the first species which is agreed to be “man.” Homo habilis people stood upright and had bigger brains than their predecessors. They were called “habilis” because they were “handy.” They were the first of our line to make tools out of stone and bone, including chipped stones for cutting.
Homo habilis families were gatherers who ate fruit, seeds, and insects. Some archaeologists suggest—because they were only three to four feet tall—that they did not hunt large animals but ate insects and scavenged the carcasses killed by other animals, driving away the other animals, and using chipped stones as tools to cut off meat. When they hunted, it was probably for smaller animals. They fished. Analysis of skull remains indicates their brains had a Broca’s area, which indicates they probably had some language abilities. They stood upright, but their arms were long, their legs short, and their toes long and curled, meaning they still spent at least some of their time in the trees. (Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 34-38; Marvin Harris, Our Kind, p. 22 f., 44 ff.)
Homo habilis families did not know how to make fire, so they huddled together at nights in the cold and dark. Without fire, they were subject to being attacked by predators. Being cold evokes feelings of boredom and misery. Being cold makes it difficult to laugh and be happy. Homo habilis families endured millions of years of cold nights and winters. They had no light at night other than the moon, and they went to sleep when the sun went down.
Australopithecus afarensis, our ancestor, nicknamed Lucy, was the first ape to stand up, around 6 million years ago. The mystery is why she stood up. Lucy did not stand up so she could walk between the groves of trees on a drying savannah—the “savanna theory” or the “mosaic theory”—because Africa was still covered by almost continuous forests when Lucy appeared. She was walking long before Africa dried up. Nor did Lucy stand up so she could have hands free to use tools, because Lucy did not use tools. Lucy stood up long before her descendant, Homo habilis, later started using tools.
According to the Aquatic Ape Theory, AAT, Lucy moved from the trees to a life that was partly aquatic. The Rift Valley and other areas of Eastern Africa where Lucy lived were inundated at times. Food, both plants and fish, was abundant in such an environment. Standing does have an advantage for a primate spending a significant part of her time wading in deep water.
Why did we become relatively hairless? Relative hairlessness has no advantages on the savannah, where the sun burns exposed skin, but it is advantageous in water, and most mammals which have returned to the water, including some which have largely left the water for the land, are relatively hairless—the whale, dolphin, walrus, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant, pig, and the tapir. Fir covered seals and otters are exceptions to the rule.
Why do we shed tears copiously, unlike all our primate relatives? Weeping is useful in eliminating salt water from the eyes. Why do we urinate more than all other land mammals? Why do we sweat copiously, unlike all our ape relatives? All these are traits which are disadvantageous out on the savannah but advantageous in water.
Why do we have a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, unlike all our primate relatives? All mammals which returned to the water or which spend or spent a lot of time in the water have a thick layer of fat. It insulates them against the relatively cold water and helps them float. Human babies have even more fat that adults, and it helped Lucy’s babies float.
Why are babies born with the instinct to hold their breath under water? Perhaps because Lucy’s children were born under water. Why are we humans the only primates with the ability to control our breathing and hold our breath when we wish? For all other primates, breathing is as automatic as the beating of the heart. Lucy was able to hold her breath so she could dive underwater. This ability consciously to control breathing allowed Lucy’s descendants to evolve speech. We are the only primate with a descended larynx, which is a disadvantage in that we sometimes choke while eating or drinking and cannot easily breathe and drink at the same time. However, a descended larynx made possible the evolution of speech. Note that the larynx is not descended at birth and that infants are more capable than adults of breathing and drinking at the same time and less capable of speech. According to AAT Lucy evolved such traits because they were advantageous to an aquatic ape. Humans retain the adaptations which Lucy evolved.
Why are we relatively hairless compared with all the other hominids? Because a coat of hair would not have been advantageous in water. Why does the light hair coat we do have orient itself in the direction in which water would flow over a swimming body? Because we had an aquatic past.
Why do we, alone among all the hominids, have nostrils that point downwards? This orientation would be advantageous for diving into water. Why do humans, alone among all species have a philtrum, the dimple in the center of the upper lip? In a significant percentage of humans, the two ridges on either side of the philtrum fit neatly into the nostrils when the lips are pursed. This seals the nostrils closed, something that would have been advantageous to an aquatic mammal. We can presume that all of Lucy’s kin could seal their nostrils closed as they swam or dived. As we ceased to spend much time in the water, this ability no longer exerted selective evolutionary pressure, so most of us lost this trait.
The traditional theory that we stood up and walked in order to move between groves of trees on a savanna that was drying up no longer makes sense. Why would early humans have lived on a harsh savanna when there were such better alternatives? Although AAT remains to be proved, it makes much more sense than the savannah theory.
Lakes, rivers, and river deltas were rich in fish and a very easy habitat for Lucy to earn her daily fare. This would tend to negate the naive theory that our distant ancestors were once strict vegetarians. On the other hand, the semi-aquatic proboscis monkey of Borneo is a fruit and leaf eating vegetarian. (
Bear in mind also, that if AAT is true, and even if Lucy were a big fish eater, it does not follow that she stopped eating fruit, nuts, and greens. Lucy continued to live part of her life on land and probably in and under the trees, and water is rich in plants as well as fish. (Elaine Morgan, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis; Dennis Montgomery, Aquatic Man and African Eve: A Search for the Origins and Evolution of Humankind in Africa,
I have brought up the Aquatic Ape Theory for two reasons: First, I introduce it in order to give a fuller picture of how our diet evolved. Second, I bring it up to illustrate just how stubborn and conventional academics can be at times. While AAT has not been proven conclusively, it answers more questions and makes much more sense than the orthodox “savanna” or “mosaic” theories.
Homo ergaster in Africa—probably an ancestor of modern man—along with Ergaster’s descendant Homo erectus in Asia—probably not an ancestor of man—learned how to manage fire around 1.5 million years ago, one of the most significant developments in human history. Early Homo probably only safeguarded and transported naturally occurring fire at first, and probably only later, around 400,000 years ago, learned how to make fire. These prehuman families had light and warmth. At night they sat around campfires in the open or in a cave or other shelter. They were able to leave a fire burning and, for the first time, sleep at night in complete security, for all their predators feared fire. We became fearless of other animals. Having control of fire, we developed the art of cooking. Homo ergaster people were of almost our stature and brain size.
Homo sapiens emerged around 300,000 years ago, and the Homo sapiens we know as Neanderthal man emerged around 75,000 years ago. Neanderthal people had bigger brains than we have today and were taller and heavier. They were the first humans to bury their dead, and so we presume they had ideas about life after death and thus were religious. (John Pfeiffer, The Emergence of Society, p. 54.)
A super volcano on Sumatra exploded around 74,000 years ago, creating a caldera known today as Lake Toba, pumping 100,000 times as much ash and dust into the atmosphere as the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980, and lowering world temperatures around 5 degrees Centigrade. Earth entered one of its coldest and driest Ice Ages. There was a great die off of the human population, reducing our numbers to perhaps a few thousand or even a few hundred. Research into the evolution of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along only from mother to child, and which mutates at a steady rate, along with research into evolution of the “Y” chromosome, which is passed along predominantly from father to child, indicates that all of us are descended from a handful of women around 74,000 years ago. (A small part of the “Y” chromosome does conjugate.) World population of humans could have been quite large before this cataclysm, however, our species started over again from nearly zero at that point.
The generally accepted theory is that Homo sapiens came out of Africa around 75,000 years ago, migrated from Africa, and replaced all human species which had previous left Africa. Cro-Magnon people arrived in Europe around 45,000 years ago. They either displaced the Neanderthal people, or the Neanderthals simply died out. There was no interbreeding between the two subspecies. (Nicholas Wade, “Neanderthal DNA Sheds New Light on Human Origins,” New York Times, July 11, 1997, p. 1.) However, this is disputed. Dressed in today’s clothes, either Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon would be able to blend in on today’s streets. These almost-modern humans invented the bow and arrow around 30,000 years ago. Cave paintings in what is now Spain and France date from around 15,000 years ago.
When early humans hunted, they occasional had feasts that included meat, but for the most part they prospered on a diet of seeds, fruit, nuts, roots, herbs, and insects. I am talking about what humans in tropical and temperate areas ate, not what dwellers in the Arctic ate. We can study them by digging through their dumps, referred to by anthropologists as bone piles or middens, by looking at their teeth, which show the wear marks that come from eating gritty, raw vegetables, and by looking at modern day gather-hunter societies such as the !Kung San Bushmen of southern Africa.
Generally we read of pre-agricultural humans being hunter-gatherers. It is more appropriate to call them gatherer-hunters. One scholar estimates that 75 to 80 percent of their diet was plant-based, which is true of the !Kung today. Those who gathered and hunted lived long lives—once they had survived childhood diseases. They were healthier and worked fewer hours to obtain food and shelter than we do now. Today’s Bushmen work only a few hours each day, and even in times of drought have plenty to eat.
Thomas Hobbes said Stone Age humans lived lives that were “short, nasty and brutish.” He could not have been more wrong. Sahlins refers to this era as the “original affluent society.” Perhaps vague memories of the gatherer-hunter era were the source of legends about the Garden of Eden, Genesis, and the Golden Age of Pythagoras and Plato. (Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, p. 1; Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horsemen, p. 25 ff.; Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 15 ff.; Mark Nathan Cohen, Health and the Rise of Civilization, cited by Jim Mason, An Unnatural Order, p. 58 ff.)
Most think of growing grains when they think of the first agriculture. However, Henry Bailey Stevens (The Recovery of Culture, 1949) believed we farmed trees long before we farmed anything else. He points out that for the last 60 million years, primates, which includes anthropoids (humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans) and prosimians (such as lemurs), lived most of their time in the trees, eating fruit and nuts. As we descended to the ground, we would have been unlikely to forget this source of food. Perhaps this is why the tree or grove or ba’al was worshiped or was the symbol or place of worship. (Sir James Frances, The Golden Bough.)
While we were in the trees, hard seeds were just things to toss aside and let drop to the ground. But once we descended to the ground, we learned that seeds could be planted and grow into new trees. Edible seeds could be stored for later consumption. Hand axes go back a half million years, and we may have been farming trees for that long. No plowing was necessary, just planting seeds, and maybe a little weeding and mulching. There are wild strawberries, raspberries, and breadfruit, but they are small and tasteless. We saved and crossed cultivars, producing nuts and fruits which were bigger and tastier. Some species became dependent on us for propagation: Banana and pineapple no longer seed themselves naturally.
The image of Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens surviving by spearing large animals is so common because most anthropologists have been from northern Europe. However, most of primate, anthropoid, and human evolution took place in Africa. Modern humans moved out of Africa and into the Middle East and southern Asia, hugging southern coastlines, around 74,000 years ago. They could have survived in such tropical and temperate regions on fruits, nuts, and root crops. They stayed closed to the sea and would have eaten fish, not mastodons. Our Cro-Magnon ancestors didn’t even enter Europe until around 45,000 years ago; humans who had been in Europe and Asia before the Toba eruption died out. Humans didn’t necessarily have to go out and spear large animals for dinner until one branch of our family which happened to be in Europe got trapped there during the last Ice Age.
What did we farm? All the fruits we eat today. We farmed nut trees, including acorns, pecans, walnuts, and chestnuts. Europeans and North American Indians used acorns and chestnuts as flour to make bread. American Indians—from California, through the Great Basin, and into Texas—harvested vast amounts of piñon tree nuts, commonly known as pine nuts. Unfortunately, cattle ranchers believed the piñon interfered with grazing and cut down and burned as many as they could, which was an environmental disaster for the arid West. The piñon can produce several hundred times as much food and profit per acre as dry land cattle ranching. (Henry Bailey Stevens, Charles Francis Saunders, Useful Wild Plants Of The United States And Canada,1920.
Written history begins with Summer and Egypt. However, history in a broader sense is much older. I will give you a brief orientation:
The epochs—Pleistocene and Holocene—are geological. The Ice Ages should be called Ice Epochs. The ages—Stone, Copper, Bronze, Iron—are anthropological.
The last Ice Age Epoch began around 2.5 million years ago. It is called the Pleistocene. At about the same time the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age (an anthropological term) was beginning, and Homo Habilis began breaking flint to make crude hand-held cutting stones. The bow and arrow and stone axes appeared around 30,000 years ago, which made it possible for humans to hunt large animals.
Things were at their coldest around 70,000 years ago, probably because of the Toba eruption, warmed up somewhat starting around 60,000 years ago but got cold again around 25,000 years ago. The last Ice Age epoch began to end rapidly around 14,500 years ago, and by 13,500 years ago, temperatures were as warm as today. There was one more cold spell, but by 11,500 years ago or 9500 B.C.E. temperatures were much like those of today. It took several thousand years for glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise.
The end of the last Ice Age Epoch marks the end of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age and the beginning of the Neolithic or New Stone Age. The Pleistocene or Ice Age Epoch was ending and the Holocene Epoch was beginning—our time. Modern humans developed more advanced, polished stone tools and expanded their experiments in growing plants and domesticating animals. There was a pluvial period at the end of the last Ice Age, an extremely rainy time when glaciers melted and sea levels rose around 400 feet to current levels, dramatically reducing the area of coastal plains. This forced ancient humans to leave old coastal lowlands and retreat to higher coastal areas where most of us live today. The Sahara, Arabia, and other deserts in the temperate zone were lush and heavily populated, but dried out after 5000 B.C.E. (
Horses were broken for riding around 5500 B.C.E., and the wheel was invented around 3300 B.C.E., making wagons and chariots possible. The plow was invented around the same time. The Bronze Age began around 3000 B.C.E. in the Caucasus and eastern Europe with the making of copper and then copper-arsenic and copper-tin tools and weapons. The Iron Age began in eastern Europe and the Near East around 1000 B.C.E. The dividing line between the ages is not fixed, because tools and metals were developed at different times in different places.
The gatherer-hunter Natufians lived in what today is Lebanon and Israel. They gathered a wide variety of fruits, nuts, herbs, and roots. They hunted wild gazelle, but they did not herd animals and at first they did not cultivate the plants they gathered. Around 12,500 years ago, they began to harvest wild grain. Over the next 2,000 years they gradually learned to weed out competing plants. They learned to save some of the grain and spread it in favorable locations in the Spring.
Before cultivation, the grain had a loose head, and seeds fell out easily, which made survival of that species more likely. However, as the Natufians took over the process of harvesting, saving, and planting seed grain, it was the grain that had the firmest head that was the easiest for them to harvest and save and replant. This trait was thus reinforced, and so grain with the rigid head came to predominate. Such grains became dependent on humans for their propagation and survival. With the crossing of various strains, there were complex genetic changes—from 14 to 28 to 42 chromosomes­—and the result was the wheat we know today. The Natufians came to depend on the wheat, and the wheat came to depend on the Natufians.
By 10,000 years ago, Natufians had established one of the world’s very oldest cities, Jericho, and in its ruins is found grain with a firm head. During this time they continued to hunt gazelle, but they did not herd animals or keep them in barnyards. We know this because there are no bones of domesticated animals in their bone piles. All the bones found are those of wild animals such as gazelle. Gazelle are best left in a semi-wild state, because male gazelles resist domestication and will gore humans. The Natufians were plant agriculturalists but not animal agriculturalists. In other areas, however, cattle were domesticated and milked as early as 11,000 years ago.
By not herding animals, the Natufians and other pre-herding cultures interfered far less with the natural ecology than the herding cultures which would soon spread throughout the world.
More food could be grown in agricultural settlements, and so more children survived and grew up and wandered off to establish new agricultural settlements. The countryside began to fill up. The next stage in population explosion was under way. Game animals were exterminated in many farming areas. Hunters had to travel further from cultivated areas to do their hunting. In many areas hunting ceased altogether. (Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 55-58; “Livestock and Poultry Farming,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., p. 1279 ff.)
Jericho was atypical in that it had 12-foot high walls around it as early as 10,000 years ago. Apparently it had been attacked by someone. However, “… there is no evidence of any other fortified sites in the Near East, at this time or thereafter, until around 5500 B.C.E. Nor would there be other clear signs of organized violence much before this date.” (Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 60.)
The rise of animal husbandry was a natural outgrowth of plant husbandry, because the grain the Natufians tended attracted sheep, goats, and pigs. The bones of wild animals such as gazelle are found in the lowest strata, with the bones of domesticated animals in upper and more recent strata. Humans and animals competed for the grain. Sometimes the humans got there first and harvested most of it. The stubble that was left was still enough to attract grazing animals. Gradually, people learned to build fences and to protect, feed, milk, shear, and eat domesticated animals. Pigs served a sanitary and disease control function by eating every piece of feces they could find. Dogs, domesticated around 12,000 years ago, provided protection for humans and other animals and assisted in hunting and herding. (Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 29; Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 63.)
Some archaeologists suggest that humans were animal agriculturalists before they were plant agriculturalists, that they herded animals or at least followed, managed, milked, and harvested animals before they settled down and cultivated fields. Perhaps the humans followed the animals to the wild stands of grain and in a way were led to get involved in plant agriculture by the animals.
Turning briefly to Central America, we find a different sequence of events: There the effects of the change in the climate after the end of the last Ice Age, along with over-hunting by humans combined to exterminate the large animals that had survived in the Eastern Hemisphere. There were no horses, cattle, or pigs in the Western Hemisphere. Mountain sheep and goats were far from civilization centers and were not domesticated in pre-Columbian times. Thus, there were no large, stubble-eating species that crops would attract. There were deer and antelope, and in North America there were bison, but they were impossible to domesticate. So in Central America people cultivated food crops for thousands of years before they built cities, all the while staying on the move to hunt small animals and forage for edible plants. In the Old World, plant and animal agriculture arose concurrently with the rise of cities, whereas in the New World, there was no animal agriculture, and plant agriculture long preceded the rise of cities.
Eventually, Central Americans domesticated and ate turkeys and dogs, but these animals do not thrive on stubble as do cattle, sheep, and goats. Some Central American tribes descended into cannibalism on a massive scale, slaughtering thousands of captured foreigners daily. Anthropologists speculate this resulted from the lack of large animals and the resulting scarcity of meat. (Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 36-41.) Perhaps they craved essential fatty acids and were unaware of flax, hemp, chia, or kukui as alternative sources. One wonders why fish would not have sufficed.
North American Indians cultivated a wide range of plant crops, including corn, squash, and beans, referred to as the “three sisters.” They dried large quantities of berries for winter consumption. They collected and stored nuts in the same way. They too were gatherer-hunters, not hunter-gatherers. Later they were farmer-hunters, but never herders. When invading pioneers passed through their territory, Indians were infuriated that white men would be so crude as to allow their cattle and oxen to trample Indian crops.
In South America the Inca and their ancestors domesticated the llama, vicuña, and the alpaca, relatives of the camel, and used them for their wool and as food. With the domestication of these animals, the Inca replaced human sacrifice with animal sacrifice. However, llamas and their kin could not be milked, and they were too small to carry big loads. They were of no use as plow animals or for warfare. Until the coming of the Spanish, no indigenous pastoral (herder) culture developed in the Americas that was comparable to the cattle culture of the Eastern Hemisphere. The Inca and their ancestors also domesticated and ate guinea pigs,—the cuy, plural cuyes—keeping them in their homes as scavengers. The Incas were excellent plant agriculturalists, growing quinoa, amaranth, squash, peppers, corn, sweet potatoes, and many varieties of potatoes. The wheel was known to pre-Columbian Indians in South America but used only in toys. (Marvin Harris, Our Kind, p. 488 ff.; Cannibals and Kings, p. 187 ff.; Jim Mason, A Unnatural Order, p. 159; John E. Pfeiffer, The Emergence of Society, p. 382 ff.)



Chapter 5 – Loss of Eden – This Era of Continuous Warfare

In Old Europe there were towns of up to 10,000 people. There were paved streets, small, two-story temples, and five-room homes with plaster floors and walls. There were beautiful frescos on the walls, vases and sculpture, shops where jewelry was produced and sold. Some homes were somewhat larger than others, but the larger homes were not set apart from the others. Towns had no palaces. This all would indicate there was no wealthy, dominant class. These cities had no perimeter walls. Where there is no war, there is no reason to build walls. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. x, 326, 396.)
According to Gimbutas:
The absence of weapons of war and hill forts over two millennia, from c. 6500-4500 B.C.E. argues for an absence of territorial aggression. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 331.)
Graves in Old Europe contain male and female remains. They were buried with beads, arm rings, stone tools, scrapers, arrowheads, grinding stones, jewelry, and flint tools for woodworking. There were graves of prominent women as well as prominent men. All this contrasts with graves found after the Aryan invasions, in which prominent males had big graves and women were buried only as consorts of males, perhaps killed or required to commit suicide to accompany the males into the afterlife. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 331-341.)
Some societies in Old Europe had a written language, which appears on their pottery and in the frescos on their walls. It has not been translated, and it is unlikely it ever will be. The Aryan conquerors were illiterate and so would have created no Old European version of the Rosetta Stone.
At the time in which this script was in use, east-central Europeans enjoyed metallurgic industry, a high degree of architectural sophistication, extensive trade relations, a remarkable sophistication and specialization in the craftsmanship of goods, and an increasingly elaborate and articulated system of religious thought and practice. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 309.)
Gimbutas summarizes what ancient writers remembered about Old Europe, some 4,000 years after its destruction:
… [T]he sources from Herodotus in the 5th century B.C.E. to Strabo in the 1st century C.E. speak of 1) matrilineal structure, inheritance in the female line, successor of the throne in the female line (queenship passed from mother to daughter); 2) endogamy [marrying within the tribe], matrilocal marriage and group marriage combined with common ownership; 3) metronymy (naming through the mother, father not recognized); 4) importance of the queen’s brother, no husband (only a consort); 5) the general high status of women, particularly in Minoan and Etruscan societies. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 349. Comments in parenthesis are those of Gimbutas. Those in square brackets are mine.)
In matrilocal marriage the new son-in-law became part of the household of the mother-in-law. Probably women had developed farming while men were out gathering and hunting, and so property was owned and inherited by women and their daughters.
Infanticide, cult prostitution, and child sacrifice were practiced by some of the goddess-worshiping cultures in the First Millennium, B.C.E., however, by this late date, these societies had endured more than 3,000 years of patriarchal domination. One should not presume that such behaviors were part of the goddess religions before the patriarchs took them over. The Aryan invaders had themselves practiced human and child sacrifice and sex slavery and had probably introduced these vices. (Rian Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, p. 49.)
Old Testament writers of the Sixth Century, B.C.E., condemned the sacrificing of children to Molech. The Hebrews had specifically rejected child sacrifice. (Genesis 22; Leviticus 18:21.) Molech was presumably a male god, since the word is a variant of the word melek, that is, king. The Hebrews also condemned the male and female temple prostitution practiced by the tribes that worshiped Ba’al, a male god, and his consort Asherah. (1 Kings 15:13, 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4-7; Judges 3:7; “Biblical Literature,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 1979 ed., p. 908.) The chief god was the father-god El, while Ba’al and Asherah were the chief, active male and female gods. (John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 108, 220.) There were goddesses such as these in whose name such reprehensible things were done. However, these again were religions where the goddess had long been subordinated by the patriarchs.
According to Gimbutas:
The earliest civilizations of the world—in China, Tibet, Egypt, the Near East, and Europe—were, in all probability, matristic “Goddess civilizations.” Since agriculture was developed by women, the Neolithic period created optimum conditions for the survival of matrilineal, endogamous systems inherited from Paleolithic times. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 324.)
The people of Old Europe were not matriarchal in the sense that current society has been patriarchal for the last 6,000 years. Instead they were matristic, meaning “mother-centered.” Anthropologist Riane Eisler (Chalice and the Blade) and Marija Gimbutas (The Civilization of the Goddess and The Language of the Goddess) say the paradigm of Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. was one of partnership as opposed to domination. Men and women were more or less equal. Cities were ruled usually by queens but sometimes by kings.
European Catholics make a feast of herbs, flowers, and grain on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the celebration of her ascent into heaven. This feast is a continuation of the primary feast day of the earth mother. The color black was good because it symbolized the productivity of the soil. The color white was bad, because it symbolized bones and death. In certain European cultures, goddess themes survived—for example, in Lithuania, which was not Christianized until the 1400s–, and so we know that the earth mother stood for law and justice:
The Earth is also Justice, social conscience, as represented by the Greek Themis, Russian Matushka Zemlja and Lithuanian Zemyna. The wide distribution of this idea points to its roots in prehistory. For centuries, Slavic peasants settled legal disputes relating to landed property by calling on the Earth as a witness… . The Earth Mother listens to appeals, settles problems, and punishes all who deceive her or are disrespectful to her. She does not tolerate thieves, liars, or vain and proud people. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 159.)
Contrast this with the Indo-Europeans who glorified the stealing of cattle and land as a religious obligation.
In Old Europe one of the names of the deity was Diana or Dinah. The Don, the Danube, the Dnieper, and the Dniester were named after her, as was London. (Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman; Elizabeth Gould Davis, The First Sex, 54.)
The people of Old Europe spoke non-Indo-European languages. The Aryans had not yet left the Caucasus to impose their Indo-European language on the rest of the world. Iran derives its name from the Aryans. Celtic is an Indo-European language. The non-Indo-European Etruscan language survived into Roman times. The non-Indo-European Basque language survives to our day in Spain and France. Some matristic customs survive among the Basques such as partaking of the sacred bread. The goddess had been patron of the grain harvest. This custom exists in competition with the Christian eucharist. However, most matristic aspects of Basque society disappeared when Napoleon imposed his legal code in the Basque region. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 110, 147.)
The people of Old Europe were farmers, gathers, hunters, and fisher folk, but they did not keep horses, or large herds of cattle. They made flour out of abundant, high-protein acorns and chestnuts. Excavations of their settlements uncovered remains of fishing equipment, and the bones of deer, aurochs, sheep, goats, cattle, and other animals. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 26-27; Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 90.)
According to the archaeological evidence, then, the goddess people of Old Europe were not vegetarians. Nevertheless, according to Riane Eisler meat constituted a relatively small part of their diet, an occasional addition to a diet that was primarily grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruit, in contrast with the diet of the Aryan invaders whose diet was meat-centered. The cultivation of land dropped off markedly after the Aryan invasions and pasturage increased. (The Chalice and the Blade—Our History, Our Future, p. 68.)
Among the matristic tribes, there may have been some which were vegetarian. Pythagoras (569-470 B.C.E.) as quoted by Ovid (43 B.C.E.-17 C.E.), Metamorphoses, XV, line 96 ff.) referred to the people of the Golden Age and said they ate a diet free of flesh food. Perhaps some of the goddess-worshiping tribes were the vegetarians referred to by Pythagoras and Plato. (Great Dialogues of Plato, p. 165 ff. See the section of this book entitled Socrates and Plato, p. 72.)
The favorite meal in Pythagoras’ day was the acorn-stuffed cabbage roll, one that probably went back to goddess times. (Lucretius, V, 692, 1414; Horace, Satires, I, 3, 100; Virgil, Georgics, I, 148; all cited in Rynn Berry’s, Famous Vegetarians and their Favorite Recipes, p. 7.)
The sea level rose some 400 feet following the end of the last ice age. Coast dwellers had to move inland to new coastlines, and they may have driven herders further inland as they advanced, creating hatreds. Perhaps the shepherds remembered this insult and later incorporated it into their mythology, which was filled with contempt for farmer folk and which was perhaps relied on later to justify attacks on them.
Due to the expansion of crop agriculture, herders had to lead grazing animals out ever farther. Gradually, many of these shepherds became independent of settled communities. They became different people with values oriented towards herding, not plant agriculture.
After the end of the last Ice Age, shepherds moved north and east, out onto the steppes with its endless sea of grass. The herding of cattle, sheep, goats, and later horses and camels became their major source of food and fiber. However, even the herders engaged in some planting and plant gathering. We would refer to them as semi-pastoral. Even the Eskimo eat the tiny plants that grow in the Arctic in Summer. Hunters in high latitudes often eat the vegetable contents of the stomachs of the grazing animals they kill.
With the help of dogs, shepherds on foot can herd sheep, goats, and even cattle. Horses are different; humans on foot cannot keep up with them. To herd horses, one must ride horses. Some time around 5500 B.C.E., it occurred to some tribesman out on the steppes, somewhere near where Kiev is today, to mount and break a horse for riding. The horse turned out to be an all-purpose animal, good for eating, milking, leather, as a pack animal, for riding, and later as a draft animal for pulling carts and plows. And it was the perfect vehicle for making war. Mounted warriors, each with a string of five mares, could milk and bleed them and live exclusively on this food while on the war path, covering 100 miles per day.
Which came first? The cart or the horse? Some anthropologists say we first used the horse to draw carts; others say that in a leap of faith, someone trained a colt to tolerate a rider. The latter is probably correct. Studies of the teeth of horses found in what is now the Ukraine show that by 4200 B.C.E. horses wore bits and therefore must have been ridden. (David Anthony, Dimitri Y. Telegin, and Dorcas Brown, “The Origin of Horseback Riding,” Scientific American, December, 1991, 365:6, p. 94-100; David W. Anthony and Dorcas R. Brown, “The Origins of Horseback Riding,” Antiquity, 1991, ?Vol. 65, p. 246 ff.) The use of the horse to pull carts could not have come first, because the wheel was not invented until around 3500 to 3300 B.C.E. On the other hand, from around 5000 B.C.E., reindeer had been used in the Arctic to drag sleds. Perhaps horses were used to drag sleds before there were wheels. Further south, animals were first used for traction starting around 3500 B.C.E. The plow was invented around that time, and stronger but slower oxen (neutered bulls) were used instead of horses to pull plows and wagons. Unless wheels are attached to plows, horses can be used for plowing only where soils are light. The North American pioneers invaded the American West in wagons pulled by oxen which were low on speed but high on strength and endurance. (Robert L. O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, 72; “Wheel,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Micropaedia, Vol. X, p. 643, “Draft Animals,” Vol. 5, Macropaedia, p. 970 ff.; Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 353 ff.)
Humans attached axe head to handle around 30,000 years ago, and invented the bow and arrow around the same time. At first bows were made solely of wood; the best were made of yew: It’s heartwood has strength and resists breaking; it’s external sapwood has flexibility and resists splitting. Out on the steppes there was no yew, and bows, made of inferior woods, had to be long and heavy. They were too big to use from horseback. So it was almost certainly out on the steppes that the composite bow was developed. “[T]he wood strip bears the principal shearing stress in the bent limb; the horn bears the compression, and the sinew layer the tension.” It was an enormously powerful weapon and light enough to be used from horseback. (Robert O’Connell, Ride of the Second Horseman, p. 79.; “Ax,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, Vol. 1, p. 688; “Archery,” Ibid., Vol. 1, Macropaedia, p. 1082 ff.)
The steppe pastoralists, long before the bronze age, developed “[d]aggers… of flint and bone, some as long as 56 cm, which were truly formidable weapons. Flint or quartzite blades were set into shafts of bone on two sides.” (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 354.)
With the development of carts, the tribes of the steppes spread out over the entire length of Asia, all the way to China. With the domestication of the camel around 3000 B.C.E., even the deserts of central Asia were inhabited or at least contested by one tribe or another. When droughts were severe, sheep and goats would die first, then cattle, and then horses. Pastoral tribes on horseback would be forced to move, to greener pastures.
An obvious problem arose as soon as the migrants reached the greener pastures: They were already occupied by some other tribe. Only a limited number of animals can graze on semiarid lands. Conflict was inevitable. One tribe would win and confiscate as many of the loser’s animals as possible. The defeated tribe would retreat with its few remaining animals, searching for other pastures to the south or west—into the Fertile Crescent and southeastern Europe.
Thus, it was around 5500 B.C.E. that Semitic, patriarchal shepherds on horseback invaded the Old Near East, forcing the walling of cities and initiating an era of generalized warfare. A similar Indo-European, Aryan patriarchal invasion reached southeastern Europe around 4300 B.C.E. What I will say below about Old Europe—which means Europe before the invasions of the Aryan patriarchs—will apply generally to the Old Near East, except that the transition occurred around a thousand years earlier in the Old Near East than in Old Europe.
By 5000 to 4000 B.C.E., North Africa, southern Europe, the Near East, and much of Asia were becoming much drier. The Sahara Forest and the Sahara Savanna, with their lakes and rivers, became the Sahara Desert, a process that was possibly hastened by animal herding.
One summer evening around 4300 B.C.E., in a town in Old Europe, in what is now Romania, men and women were sitting at a sidewalk cafe enjoying dinner and conversation. The sky was clear, but there was an odd, low rumble, like thunder in the distance. It grew louder and louder, like a stampede of wild aurochs. Into town suddenly rode hundreds of cowboys on horseback. They were Kurgans from southern Russia, all men, dressed in leather and skins. Some were armed with bows and arrows, some with flint sabers. There was fear in every heart. There was no communicating with these men. Their language was completely different.
The Kurgans entered the jewelry workshop, the temple, the market, and the sidewalk cafe, and slew all the men, all the women, all the old people, and all the boys. Those who tried to flee were pursued on horseback and killed with arrows or saber blows to the back of the head. The Kurgans spared only the virgin girls: They were smaller and more manageable than the others, and they could be made into breeding slaves. The Kurgans became the grandfathers of Europe; the surviving virgins its grandmothers.
My reconstruction of how it might have happened cannot be too far off. Gimbutas excavated one site in western Germany which contained 34 skeletons of murdered men, women and children. There were wounds in their skulls, typically in the back and in the top, as if they had been running away. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 365.)
According to Eisler,
… [T]here now comes into play a new living war machine, the armed man on a horse—which in its time must have had the impact a tank or an airplane has among primitives in ours. And in the wake of the Kurgan devastation, we find their typical warrior-chieftain graves, with their human sacrifices of women and children, their animal sacrifices and their caches of weapons surrounding the dead chiefs. (The Chalice and the Blade, p. 49.)
The scene was repeated all across Old Europe by endless waves of invading tribes, through what is now Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, up the Danube, down the Elbe and the Rhine, across the English Channel and as far west as Ireland. This was the first time that the people of Old Europe had seen anyone ride on horseback. The Kurgans were good at herding and slaughtering animals; this and their constant raids on other tribes of the steppes had prepared them to be effective invaders. The old civilizations of Europe and Asia were defenseless against them. The remnants that survived did so only by adopting the violent ways of the invaders. The peaceful values of Old Europe came to an end. There followed 6,000 years of Aryan kings constantly fighting among each other, with the farming and working people exterminated or enslaved.
Compare the two groups: On the one hand were the settled, village and city-dwelling, relatively vegetarian, goddess worshiping, and literate agriculturalists. They spoke non-Indo-European languages. On the other hand were the highly mobile, largely carnivorous, illiterate, mounted herders who spoke Vedic or some similar, early Indo-European language. They took what they wanted. They despised gentleness. For them might was right. To them conquest was noble. Fighting was recreation. These two societies had almost nothing in common. No compromise was possible.
There were Semitic patriarchs who conquered the Old Near East the way the Kurgans conquered Old Europe. One such patriarchal tribe was the pre-Hebrews:
And Moses was angry with the officers. Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? [They had already killed all the adult males.] Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves… . Now the booty… was:… thirty-two thousand persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him. (Numbers 31:13-18, 32-35.)
I would rather not believe that Moses, Egyptian scholar, probable follower of the monothiest Akhenaton, Hebrew law giver, and Judaism’s greatest prophet, would have ordered such ethnic cleansing, rape, and child abuse. I will point out below that Moses tried to reinstitute vegetarianism among the Israelites. Perhaps some earlier Semitic ancestor of the Hebrews had done such things years before, and perhaps later patriarchal editors attributed them to Moses. Bear in mind that the book of Numbers was compiled and edited long after the events reported in it. (The Clementine Homilies, Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:47, p. 247.) This story of ethnic cleansing may have been wishful thinking on the part of later editors of the legends, ultranationalists who wanted rulers of their own day to exterminate or expel all non-Israelites from Palestine.
Although it may not be correct to attribute this incident to Moses, its presence in the Old Testament shows two things: that such behavior was a common practice in the Near East, and that there is at least some validity to my theory, discussed below, that the Hebrews represent a mixture of patriarchal and goddess cultures. Read the book of I Samuel, and you will see that King David practiced ethnic cleansing of the modern Bosnian type. What did “Moses” do with the 32,000 girls captured? His men took them as slave wives and had children with them.
There were relatively few Kurgan invaders, and they needed slaves to work for them, so sometimes they merely enslaved and did not kill the Old Europeans. According to Eisler, “[j]udging from the archaeological evidence, the beginning of slavery seems to be closely linked to these armed invasions.” (Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade—Our History, Our Future, p. 49.)
Some indigenous tribes were able to escape and survive in remote areas, but gradually the new rulers subjugated all the original Old Europeans, except for the Basques and Etruscans, who alone of all the original pre-Indo-European tribes were able to retain their language and culture. The Etruscans later were absorbed by the Romans, among the most vicious of the Aryans. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 389.) Gradually the Kurgans learned that sedentary life was a lot more comfortable than ceaseless migratory herding and pillaging. Most settled down, intermarried with their slaves, formed mixed societies, built fortifications, and enjoyed the fruits of Old Europe. They formed a fairly homogenous culture that later evolved into what we loosely refer to as Celtic, and it stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to the British Isles.
The Kurgans came in three major waves, first around 4300 B.C.E., then around 3500 B.C.E., and finally around 2900 B.C.E. The third wave was the most devastating, extending into the Adriatic and Greece, into western and northern Europe, and into Finland and Sweden. It represents the “… final Indo-Europeanization of Europe.” There were later waves, not of Kurgans coming out of the Caucasus, but of Kurgans already in Europe making further advances to the south, west, and north. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 384 ff., 390.)
Agricultural practices changed. “There was a considerable increase in husbandry over tillage.”… “Pastoralism and seminomadism increased and tillage decreased.” (Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 365, 400.) What had been a predominately plant-based diet became predominantly meat-based.
The world of Old Europe was turned upside down. Where there had been culture, education, literacy, medicine, equality, and the rule of law, there was now rule by the most skilled rider, archer, and swordsman. Artistic traditions were disrupted. Women, who had been the owners of property, themselves became property, slaves forced to rear the next generation of warriors. Priestess-midwives were systematically exterminated. (Exodus 22:18.) Legends were changed to celebrate the sun god and the bull storm god. The languages and cultures of Old Europe were destroyed. With them perished a history we need to know but probably never will.
Herbal medicine had been well developed in Old Europe. (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. 134.) One of the symbols of the female goddess was the healing serpent coiled around a cross, today known as the caduceus. Moses once employed it as a healing symbol (Numbers 21:8, 2 Kings 18:4)—another piece of evidence which would support the theory that the Hebrew tribes were a blend of Goddess and patriarchal cultures, in which the dominant patriarchs selectively adopted ideas from the mother religion. The caduceus was later the symbol of Hippocrates, the Pythagorean, and it remains the symbol of physicians to this day.
According to Eisler and Gimbutas, the prevailing paradigm changed from one of partnership between men and women to one of domination by men over women and the strong over the weak. Such rule by force is the antithesis of law. In a society of laws a woman might rule despite her lesser stature, because law and not strength is the ultimate authority. The modern symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman holding the scales of justice. The word “law” is of feminine form in many languages—Latin, Italian, French, and Hebrew, although not in German, Hungarian, or Russian.
Our Indo-European grandfathers left no written history. Their legacy is slavery, child abuse, the sujugation of women, warfare, horseback riding, horse and cattle herding, the composite bow, and the composite flint-bone dagger. We can identify the areas of Europe and Asia they conquered simply by drawing a map of those huge areas where language is derived from Indo-European root languages. This area extends from India in the east to Ireland in the west.
Linguists offer various theories of masculine, feminine, and neuter noun forms as well as different verb forms. I propose there are different genders and conjugations because different languages merged, from patriarchal and matristic civilizations, with nouns and verbs from each language retaining their original declensions and conjugations.
Subsequent Aryan history has been one long, bloody succession of patriarchal wars, with aggressive and suspicious Aryan tribes or nations attacking each other: the Celts, the Dorians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Sythians, the Romans, the Huns, the Goths, the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Norse, the Rus, the Normans, the Danes, the French, the Spanish, the Angles, the Saxons, the British, the Russians, the Germans, the Unitedstatesians, and so on. All these are successors of the Aryans. Recent wars are echoes of the wars of the original Aryan invasions of over 6,000 years ago. The cycle of violence has thus far been impossible to stop.
Aryan history is covered well enough in the history books, and so I will skip to 1492, when Spanish conquistadors, descendants of the Aryan Visigoths invaded the New World and made genocidal war on its inhabitants. Columbus enslaved the Arawak tribe of Haiti and impressed native girls to be prostitutes for his sailors. In a few decades every last native of Haiti was dead. The Spanish were followed in the Americas and on other continents by the Aryan English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Russians, and Italians. I am amazed that we continue to celebrate Columbus Day in the United States and that the Catholic Church has not changed the name of its Knights of Columbus fraternal organization.
However, times are changing. The most significant theme in modern history is the gradual demise of the dominator culture of the patriarchal invaders and the resurgence of a partnership culture where the rule of law prevails, where slavery is illegal, where women have equal rights with men, and were children have the right not to be abused.
We are gradually recovering the balance of Old Europe, however, this positive change takes place alongside population explosion, environmental devastation, a form of capitalism that seems to know no limits, reckless experimentation with new life forms, and the development of the technology of warfare to frightening proportions.
It remains to be seen which tendency will win out: Will Old Europe’s matristic tendency and the rule of law prevail over the patriarchal tendency towards rule by force? Will we will civilize the world before we destroy it?
Who were our Kurgan, Indo-European speaking, Aryan ancestors, and what motivated them to be so destructive? They were one of the most successful of the mounted, cattle- and horse-herding tribes of the steppes of south central Asia. Probably they moved west and south because droughts dried up their grazing lands. Probably their own overgrazing of the steppes contributed to the droughts and a permanent and generalized desertification of their lands.
If there is such a thing as a heretical religion, theirs was heretical. In one of their myths, the hero Trito, is assisted by the bull and storm god in his theft of the serpent’s cattle. Recall that the serpent was the healing symbol of the goddess peoples. The Kurgans believed that they had a religious obligation to reenact this myth, and so they went forth in all directions to steal all the cattle they could, along with the land to pasture them and the slaves to do the hard labor. The warriors stole the cattle. The priests had exclusive rights to sacrifice them, bless the ritual, and take their percentage. The Sanskrit word for battle, gavisti, means “desire for cattle.” (Bruce Lincoln, Priests, Warriors, and Cattle, p. 101, 131; Norman O. Brown, Hermes the Thief, the Evolution of a Myth, p. 5.)
The adversary in Kurgan myth, just as in the Hebrew Bible, was the serpent, one of the symbols of the woman-centered religion of the peaceful farmer folk of Old Europe and the Near East. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 342.) I speculate that the Kurgans had some deep-seated hatred for the people of the south. Perhaps the ancestors of the Kurgans had come from the south hundreds or thousands of years before. Perhaps their ancestors had been shepherds in the south, and had been forced to pasture their herds further and further away from cities and farming areas until they were forced out entirely. Perhaps this happened as sea levels rose after the end of the last Ice Age epoch. Perhaps the farmers of the south had considered them inferior. Perhaps the Kurgans remembered some such grievance at a deep level.
Henry Bailey Stevens suggested that animal were first domesticated in the south. First, dogs and cats were domesticated to protect the food supply from rodents and other animals. Later, he suggests, southerners kept a few grazing animals, doing so only on a small scale that was integrated with plant agriculture. The northerners had been hunting animals out on the steppes. Sometimes hunting was not good, and the northerners would have died out had they not learned herding from the southerners. For southerners animal husbandry remained small scale; for northerners it became the dominant life style. (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 90.)
The way Kurgans buried their dead confirms their warrior orientation:
Their graves were almost exclusively for male burials, a distinct contrast to the even ratio of male-female burials in contemporary Old European cemeteries. In contrast to the simple pit graves of Old Europe, the Kurgan tombs were cairn- or earth-covered and were reserved for the warrior elite with their favorite war gear, the spear, bow and arrow, and flint dagger or long knife.
From graves that include both warrior and woman, Gimbutas concludes that the Kurgans practiced “suttee or sacrifice of the female consort or wife.” (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 361.) Gimbutas was the first to call this tribe “Kurgan.” She took the word from the Turkish and Russian word “kurgan,” which means “barrow,” which is a mound grave. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 352.)
Kurgans built their settlements on hill tops and then surrounded them with wooden palisades. They practiced animal, human, and child sacrifice. (Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess, p. 364, 373, 375.)
After 2000 B.C.E., powerful Aryan tribes of semi-nomadic cattle herder-farmers, descendants of the Kurgans, invaded first Persia and later India. The Aryans established the religion of Ahura Mazda, which later became the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. Later they established the Brahman religion of India. These two religions are similar in many ways.
There was little recorded Indian history before Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th Century B.C.E. Alexander asked to meet the gymnosophoi, naked “sky-clad” philosophers, but they demanded he remove his armor first. They spoke fearlessly to him of the pointlessness of his conquests. Perhaps it was no coincidence that at this time Alexander’s men refused to fight and insisted on returning to Greece. Alexander died shortly thereafter.
There were two broad groups of Indians, first, the dark-skinned, indigenous Shramana or Dravidians, and second, the lighter skinned Aryan, Indo-European speaking Brahmans, who had invaded India and subjugated the Shramana. Out of the Shramana tradition developed the Jain religion and later Buddhism.
The Jains’ central teaching was and remains ahimsa, non-injury to all living creatures. They divided everything into life and nonlife and regarded all forms of life as equal. The devout are so strict that they wear scarves over their faces when there are insects in the air to avoid inhaling them. They sometimes use a broom to sweep the path ahead of them lest they step on them. They strain water before drinking it to avoid drinking tiny insects, and they do not eat after dark lest they accidentally eat the insects their lamps attract. They refuse to eat root vegetables because insects live in the ground around the roots. So as not to kill animal life, they avoid professions such as agriculture, and they instead have become prosperous merchants and professionals. Hindus expelled the Buddhists but allowed the Jains to stay and even intermarry with them. Even today, wealthy Jains maintain “retirement homes” for aged cattle and other animals.
The Jains claim that from time immemorial their Shramana predecessors had been vegetarians. Mahavira, the founder of the modern Jain religion in the Sixth Century, B.C.E., is said to have been the 24th incarnation of their Tirthankara. The 23rd Tirthankara was Parshwa, who lived in the Ninth Century B.C.E. and was probably a historical person and not mere legend. Perhaps most of the other Tirthankara were legendary, however, the legend at least emphasizes the Jain conviction that the Shramana custom not to harm any animal life or eat meat was ancient. (“Jainism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, 10:8; Rynn Berry, Famous Vegetarians and their Favorite Recipes, p. 21-27.)
The goddess tradition has always been strong in India:
In the Indian religious tradition from the very beginning the divine reality is conceived of as both Man and Woman… . The divine essence is both Father and Mother, namely, the two Universal Parents who vitalise each other and become the progenitors of all living beings and the universe. (Vasudera S. Agrawala, The Glorification of the Great Goddess, p. i.)
There is archeological evidence that the indigenous people of India hunted and domesticated animals. There are animal bones in their town dumps, so presumably they ate animals. However, it appears that in Kashmir, cattle were not domesticated. (“History of the Indian Subcontinent,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Macropaedia, 9, p. 338.) Perhaps some of the indigenous people of Kashmir and other parts of India were vegetarian.
The Aryan Brahman invaders initially sacrificed and ate meat on a grand scale, and this appears in the Rg Veda, their oldest holy book. Like the Hebrew Levites and the Celtic Druids, the Brahmans held a monopoly on the sacrificing of animals. Probably they donated or sold meat to the peasants. The Brahman caste of priests was supreme over the other three classes and was served by them—the Kshatria caste of warriors, the Vaisya caste of tradesmen, and the Sudra caste of farmers and laborers. Below the Sudras were the untouchables, who were not even regarded as a caste. The first three castes were of Aryan descent, while the Sudras and the untouchables were made up of the conquered, indigenous populations.
Population growth was rapid following the Aryan invasions. Forests were cut down, and arable land was usurped for cattle ranching. Indigenous peasants were left with ever smaller farms. They could not afford to kill and eat their few cattle, which were much too valuable for pulling plows and producing milk, butter, and manure. The peasants rejected eating cattle.
In response to the Buddhists and the Jains, the Brahmans renounced the eating of all meats in the 6th Century B.C.E. The other castes renounced beef eating, but continued to eat the meat of other animals. (Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 214.)
Indian peasants were confined in a rigid caste system that offered them no escape. Once poor people married and had children, they were trapped in a life of constant labor and poverty and could only offer the same to their descendants. One option that Brahmanism did allow was the path of asceticism and celibacy. This became a way out of poverty and at the same time a way of slowing the Indian population explosion.
Gautama Buddha (557-477 B.C.E.) was a contemporary of Mahavira. They were from the same part of India and they both spoke the Magdhi language. Perhaps they met at some point. The Buddha followed the Jain path for many years. However, after fasting to the point where he was skin and bones, he decided the Jain path was too rigorous, and he created a “middle way,” which was still vegetarian and still a path of meditation, renunciation, and asceticism, but which dispensed with ultra-strict Jain rules, for example, those which called for severe fasting and rigorously avoiding harming insects.
Most historians say that Buddhism and Jainism grew out of Brahmanism, however, my theory is that Buddhism grew out of Jainism, while Jainism grew out of the indigenous Shramana tradition. This is true despite the fact that both Buddha and Mahavira were of the Hindu Kshatria or warrior caste, the caste immediately below Brahman, and thus were of Aryan descent. They were intellectual but not biological descendants of the original Dravidian Shramana.
Buddhism grew rapidly after King Asoka in 256 B.C.E. made it the state religion. Buddhism championed equality and opposed the class system. It taught nonviolence and pacifism, reincarnation, respect for women, renunciation of materialism, separation of church and state, and an optional celibacy. Asoka sent missionaries west as far as Greece, Egypt, and Israel and as far east as Southeast Asia and China.
If the Buddha wrote, his writings did not survive, and his followers split into two broad division, the Theravada who followed the tradition of the Shramana and refused to eat meat, and the Mahayana, who held that one could eat meat if someone else killed the animal and if the one eating the meat believed that the meat came from an animal that was not killed specially to provide him a meal.
Buddhist scholars of the Theravada tradition contend that Gautama Buddha followed Shramana tradition and held to a strict vegetarianism. They point out that he spoke and perhaps wrote in the Magdhi language, whereas the oldest Mahayana writings in which the Gautama allegedly authorized the eating of meat—if someone else had killed the animal, and if it was not killed specifically to provide him a meal—were written in the Pali language of the early Mahayana sect. (Roshi Philip Kapleau, To Cherish All Life: A Buddhist Case for Becoming Vegetarian, p. 29 ff.)
Buddhists are not vegetarians for health reasons but for ethical reasons, for reasons of taboo, and because of their belief in reincarnation.
The Brahmans, faced with the growing popularity of Buddhism and Jainism, adopted some of their principles. The resulting synthesis was what we know today as Hinduism. Brahmanic literature extols the sacrificing of animals and the eating of meat, because the predecessors of today’s Brahmans were serious beef eaters, while today’s Brahman sect of Hinduism is strictly lacto-vegetarian.
While the caste system of Brahmanism survived in Hinduism, including its ruthless oppression of women, Hinduism did become more environmentally sound. In Hindu culture the cow and ox (a neutered bull) are revered and worshiped as humanity’s best friend, plowing, and clearing weeds and stubble. They provide dung which is useful as fertilizer and fuel. Cows are a source of milk and butter. When they die a natural death, their bodies are taken away to rendering plants and turned into leather and other goods. There are tens of millions of gaunt cattle roaming the streets and fields of India. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, 107 ff.; Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, 211 ff.; and Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, 30-39.)
While observant Brahman Hindus are strictly lacto-vegetarian, Hindus of lower castes eat mostly vegetables but will eat any kind of flesh they can afford except for beef. They reject beef because there is a strong Hindu taboo against eating the meat of their friend the cow. However, respect for cattle is not complete; some Hindus will starve cattle to death once they are old and useless, and some will sell their cattle to Moslems or Christians, who in turn will sell them to the slaughter house.
Mohandas Gandhi was a strict lacto-vegetarian. He taught ahimsa and influenced millions of Indians to give up the eating of all meats. Later in life he said he deeply regretted that he had not eschewed the consumption of milk. Gandhi encouraged cultivation of flax, saying that wherever it grew, people were healthier and more prosperous. Flax not only contains essential fatty acids, it is also good for making clothing, paint, and lubricating oils.

Chapter 6 – Judaism and the History of Food

Chapter 6 – Judaism and the History of Food


The stories of Genesis are symbolic and allegorical. For one who is not afraid to interpret them in a non-literal way, there is much history to be found there. Scholars such as J.J. Bachofen and A.M. Hocart believed in the “historicity of myth.” (J.J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion, and Mother Right; p. 75.) Greek historians such as Herodotus and Strabo acknowledged the ancient Greek stories to be mere legends and distilled history out of them. Those who insist that Genesis or any other book of the Bible be taken completely literally are, ironically, the only ones who are unable to identify the real historical facts they contain. Judaism regards the creation story as part of “esoteric lore.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, “Creation,” 1997 CD edition.) Judaism never accepted the Christian theory of Adam’s fall as constituting an original sin which affects all humanity. This theology first appears in the Christian 2 Esdras 3:10. Genesis belonged to the Jews first, and their interpretation of it should prevail over the Christian interpretation. The first chapters of Genesis and Ezekiel formed the core of the highly symbolic kabbalah. (“Cabala,”

There was peace in Eden as there was peace in Old Europe before 4300 B.C.E. and in the Old Near East before 5500 B.C.E. All that changed when Semitic patriarchs stormed into the Old Near East and Aryan Kurgans invaded Old Europe. Genesis tells of the loss of peace and the descent into constant warfare. One aspect of the peace was that animals were treated peaceably. There is a legend referred to in the Talmud and the Bible that from the time of Adam to the Deluge, Adam’s descendants did not eat meat. According to Sanhedrin 59b: “Adam was not permitted meat for purposes of eating.”

According to Genesis: And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:29 f.)

And to Adam he said, “…[T]horns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17 ff.)

Note that even the animals eat only plant-based foods.

The reason why early humans were forbidden meat to eat, according to 13th Century Jewish scholar Nachmanides, was

… because living creatures possess a moving soul and a certain spiritual superiority which in this respect make them similar to those who possess intellect (people) and they have the power of affecting their welfare and their food and they flee from pain and death. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 2; quoting from Rabbi Alfred Cohen, “Vegetarianism from a Jewish Perspective,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol. I, No. II, (Fall, 1981), p. 45; see

The Jewish literature on vegetarianism is enormous, fascinating, and a door to many other aspects of Judaism and ancient history in general. Schwartz’ book and web site are a good place to start.

The life spans of the legendary patriarchs who lived before the Deluge were very long, Methuselah living to be 969 (Genesis 5:21), and the reason for this, according to Jewish scholar Nachmanides, was their vegetarianism. (I.B. Levinson, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume 12, p. 405; cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 3.)

“Adam” may derive from the Hebrew word adamah, a feminine noun which means “earth.” I hypothesize that there had been a matristic version of this legend, before the patriarchal invasions, in which the hero of the story was Adamah, a woman. I hypothesize that the patriarchal editors put Adamah through a historical “sex change operation.” According to Theodore Reik, the predecessors of the Hebrews worshiped a female goddess. (Pagan Rites in Judaism, p. 100.)

Another role reversal involved the vilification of the serpent. The serpent had been the symbol of the goddess religion and a symbol of healing. Moses employed the Caduceus, a serpent coiled around a cross, as a healing symbol (Numbers 21:8, 2 Kings 18:4), and this harkened back to the matristic era. The Pythagorean and vegetarian physician Hippocrates—supposed author of the Hippocratic Oath—used it as a symbol of healing, and it is still the symbol of physicians today. Nevertheless, the patriarchal redactors of Genesis 3 presented the seducer of Adam and Eve as a serpent.

Scholars are generally mystified as to the meaning of the Genesis legend of the ‘sons of God” and the Nephilim:

[T]he sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…?. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6: 1-9.)

I find my own theory the most convincing: The “sons of God” in this story represent the patriarchal Semitic invaders of the Old Middle East. The Semitic patriarchs conquered the old pre-Hebrew matristic, partnership culture, in many cases killing off all the men, women, and boys, sparing only the virgin girls, and taking them as wives or concubines, referred to in this story as “the daughters of men.” The Nephilim were their offspring. (See Ronald S. Hendel, “When the Sons of God Cavorted With the Daughters of Men,” ed. Hershel Shanks, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader from the Biblical Archaeology Review, p. 167 ff.; Cf. Numbers 13:28, 33; Deuteronomy 9:2; Joshua 15:13.) The term “Nephilim” itself is a reference to some kind of angel, however, their behavior was not at all angelic, and the application of the term to them was probably made at a later date in the development of the myth. This is perhaps a story of a holocaust, as revised and recorded in a garbled form by later patriarchal editors. It was not a holocaust of water but of invasion, murder, rape, child abuse, and enslavement.

The patriarchs, referred to in Genesis 6 as the “sons of God,” conquered the pre-Hebrew partnership cultures, but they were outnumbered by those they conquered, and they may have brought few women with them. So they married or took as concubines enormous harems of those pre-Hebrew virgin girls who survived the holocaust. (Compare Numbers 13:28, 33, quoted on page 44.) The girls became the mothers of the second generation, the Nephilim. I suggest that the virgins knew their goddess traditions well and were able to pass them on to their children. The patriarchal culture allowed only the boys to become priests, unlike the partnership culture which preceded it, in which it appears that both boys and girls could aspire to the priesthood.

In the long history of the pre-Hebrews this is the narrow middle of the hour glass. I speculate that much of the sand of tradition never flowed through and was lost forever. But enough of the tradition did flow through to make it possible for us to reassemble the pieces. I suggest that the warlike, masculinist religion of the invaders was blended with the matristic, partnership religion to produce an initially warlike, pre-Hebrew religion which killed off entire tribes and introduced animal sacrifice.

On the mother side of the pre-Hebrew religion, god may have been female or may have had a feminine side, the ruach, or spirit of god. Judaism today considers god to be both male and female. This combined maleness and femaleness of god can be seen in the Jewish mystical tradition known as kabbalah, in which the feminine side of god is called the shekinah. (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 112.)

The original root of the pre-Hebrew religion was very strong on the mother side, and as time passed the partnership paradigm was reasserted, with the invader religion surviving as a thin veneer: While men continued to control the leadership of the Hebrew religion, the core of the religion reverted to many aspects of the pre-invasion-holocaust partnership paradigm.

By the time of Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, after 500 B.C.E., feminine themes—justice, ending the violence to fellow humans, and ending the killing and sacrificing of animals—worked their way into the consciousness of such prophetic leaders. In most other ancient patriarchal religions such as Brahmanism and Zoroastrianism, the feminine root was expunged much more completely. Druidism, the religion of the European Celts, was likewise a merger of the masculine dominator and feminine partnership religions; among the Celts, some feminine themes survived, and women could own property and divorce.

My hypothesis is that the old teachings from the matristic, partnership era survived by being grafted into legends from the father side. The religion of mostly priestesses and some priests was replaced by a religion of priests only. The gender of god was changed from female to male, from a goddess of ethics, law, and medicine into a god of war, conquest, and ethnic cleansing. Stories were revised by the invader religion; matriarchs became patriarchs.

I suggest, however, that the goddess side of the pre-Hebrew religion survived and gradually reasserted itself in Judaism, which by the time of the Prophets had become a progressive, philosophical religion that stressed high ethical standards. Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism allow women to become rabbis, and Orthodox Judaism is now ordaining a few women as rabbis. Women have never been barred from studying the tradition. Both the feminine side of god and the ancient teachings from the mother side are stronger in Judaism than in the other major patriarchal religions—Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism.

In the Cain and Abel story as we have it (Genesis 4), Cain sacrificed grain and vegetables, and his sacrifice was not pleasing to god. Able sacrificed animals, and his sacrifice was pleasing to god. According to my theory, Cain and Abel were reversed by meat eating patriarchs who rewrote the story. I suggest that in the original pre-patriarchal story, Able offered a vegetable sacrifice that was pleasing to god, while Cain offered an animal sacrifice, which was not pleasing. I suggest the story was changed to make meat the preferred sacrifice in order to validate the customs of the conquering patriarchs.

That this reversal has taken place in Genesis 4 is quite plausible because Adam’s progeny—in the original matristic vegetarian version of pre-Hebrew history—did not eat meat from Genesis 1 thorough Genesis 9. Abel was one of Adam’s pre-Hebrew progeny, and it is unlikely he would have offered an animal sacrifice if he did not eat meat. It was generally food items that were sacrificed, vegetables, grain, meat, and wine—although incense was sacrificed too. In sacrifices in the Bible, only a few animals were burned entirely, leaving nothing to eat—referred to as “burnt offerings” or “whole burnt offerings.” Of the majority of sacrifices, only a part was burned. The remainder was distributed to the priests and those who brought the animal to be sacrificed. The priests kept all the leather. My point is that sacrifices were primarily made of things that were eaten, and if animals were not being sacrificed, they probably were not being eaten; conversely, if animals were not being eaten, they were probably not being sacrificed, and the meat sacrifice of Cain would have been displeasing to god.

However, there is another interpretation of this strange story, and it comes from Henry Bailey Stevens. Eden was a place where the tree was central. God had a special relationship with the trees, as would be appropriate in a time when trees where worshiped. Cain offered as fertilizer to the trees a mulch of only plant matter. They grew well enough. However, Abel poured the blood, bones, and manure of animals around the trees, giving them a large dose of nitrogen and minerals. They grew better and produced more fruit. In this way the god of the trees preferred Abel’s sacrifice. (The Recovery of Culture, pp. 64-67. This is on my list of must-read books.)


Can we prove there were vegetarian societies in prehistoric times? I know of no archeologist who has reported finding village dumps from 5000 B.C.E. in which there are no animal bones. Would a village dump containing no bones completely biodegrade and be harder to find? I would think that broken pottery and cutting tools would still survive.

Did a vegetarian Eden ever exist? Were there tribes that gathered but did not hunt? The tentative proof is threefold: First, there is historical documentation of the existence of Pythagorean vegetarian societies in southern Italy in the Sixth Century B.C.E. and in Palestine and Egypt by the time of Jesus. Second, Pythagoras, Plato, and other Greeks claimed there was a Golden Era in the distant past when the best societies did not kill animals for food. Third, Genesis and the Talmud claim that humans from Adam to Noah ate a vegetarian diet. Greek and Hebrew myth generally grows around a seed of historical fact. Fourth, there have been and are many religions which practice a part-time vegetarianism or a vegetarianism of the priesthood, which would mean that some within these religions and societies admired vegetarianism and pursued it to different degrees.

On the other hand, mythological statements about what happened in the past are sometimes best interpreted not as statements of how things actually were in the past, but how things should be in the present. Perhaps Pythagoras, Plato, and the writers of Genesis and the Talmud said there had been a vegetarian Golden Era in order to say that their own ages should be vegetarian.

The Near East and Old Europe, before around 5500 B.C.E. and 4300 B.C.E. respectively were largely free of warfare. Women were the equal of men or even their superiors. Things took a big change thereafter, with the invasions of Aryan and other patriarchal invaders and the massive increase in animal herding which they introduced. These invasions mark the beginning of generalized war, genocide, slavery, the abuse of women and children, environmental destruction, the domestication and abuse of animals on a mass scale, and a great increase in the consumption of meat.

For most of our species’ duration, animal-based foods made up a smaller part of the human diet than they do today. The earliest humans ate mostly vegetation, supplemented with insects. They lacked the weapons to kill large animals. The bow and arrow appeared only around 30,000 years ago. For most of human history we did not herd animals, and when we hunted, it provided an occasional, not a daily, source of food. Fish was probably commonly eaten in coastal and riparian societies, although the Phoenicians refused to eat fish. Meat of land animals probably did not become a regular source of food for most humans until agriculture developed starting around 10,000 years ago, and even then meat was probably not consumed on a daily basis as it is today. Even in the 20th Century, even up until the end of World War II, the typical diet in the United States contained much less animal products than it does today.


An inquiry into the flood story is relevant to our topic because it is a dividing line in legends regarding food history. Before the Flood, the descendants of Adam were vegetarians; thereafter they were allowed to eat meat.

There are legends of a Deluge in ancient traditions around the world. The Hebrews told of Noah. The Greeks told of Deucalion—mentioned by Apollodorus, Apollonius Rhodius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ovid, Hesiod, and others. (

The flood stories may have come from vague memories of an especially destructive local flood or tsunami. For example, the mega-volcano island of Santorini near Crete blew up around 1450 B.C.E., and this created huge tsunamis. Ash may have fallen on Egypt, creating plagues that helped Moses get the Israelites out of Egypt. Ash probably covered wide areas, disrupting agriculture, and causing population decline. The partnership Minoan civilization declined after this time and was overrun by the patriarchal Mycenaeans.

However, there could be other sources for the flood myths: For example, as the last Ice Age was ending around 10,000 years ago, there was a pluvial age in which there were lengthy periods of extremely heavy rain. Glaciers were melting, sometimes very quickly, with entire ice sheets slipping off land masses, raising sea levels perhaps several meters in a matter of days. The sea level rose around 400 feet shortly after the end of the last Ice Age. Ice dams broke, flooding low areas and quickly filling lakes.

A combination of generally rising sea levels combined with rapidly calving glaciers, combined with large storms, low atmospheric pressure, high tides, and high winds, could have produced disastrous floods. Continental shelves were submerged. Perhaps the legend of the Deluge derives from this rapid rise in sea level.

Before the end of the last Ice Age, most lived along sea coasts, just as most do today. Speculative historians look for the mythical Atlantis out in the Atlantic or on some other continent, however, they should be looking on the submerged continental shelves of the world—under 400 feet of water—along the old coastlines. As the oceans rose, those who lived along the coastlines journeyed inland to what became the new coastlines. In moving inland they may have displaced upland herders, perhaps forcibly. Perhaps these evicted herders, resentful of the coastal people who drove them north and east, became the Aryan Kurgans and the Semitic patriarchs which later took revenge and invaded Europe, the Near East, and India.

While the oceans, including the Mediterranean, were rising, the Black Sea was not. It was a fresh water lake, walled off from the Mediterranean by a solid Bosporus barrier. However, around 5500 B.C.E., the barrier gave way, and the level of the Black Sea rose quickly, flooding out those who lived on its old banks. The fast and devastating flooding of the Black Sea could have given rise to the legend of the Deluge.

Albert Einstein endorsed the theory that the end of the last Ice Age a Deluge of worldwide proportions could have been caused by the shifting of the lithosphere, that is the earth’s relatively thin crust, in relation to the more elastic mantle it floats on. Einstein and Dr. Charles H. Hapgood considered this to be the only plausible explanation for the abrupt end of the last Ice Age in North American around 12,000 years ago, at the same time as the abrupt cooling of the climate of eastern Siberia.

According to their theory, the location of the north pole moved at that time from the central area of Hudson Bay to its present location at our North Pole. Such a shift, occurring in stages over a period of months, years, or decades would have caused huge waves. (Charles H. Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age, p. 177.)

Orthodox geologists do not find a large pole shift or a lithosphere shift occurring around 12,000 years ago. However, such a theory is not outlandish: Scientists acknowledge that shifts have occurred at earlier times, perhaps as a result of the destabilizing effect of the enormous weight of Ice Age ice. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Rock Magnetism,” 1979 ed., 15:946; Jon Erickson, Ice Ages: Past and Future, p. 97 f.) German Scholar Martin Claussen of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and others, say that around 9,000 years ago the earth’s tilt on its axis shifted from 24.14 degrees to 23.45 degrees, where it is today, and that this contributed to the drying up of the Sahara and other climate changes. (Claussen, M. ; Kubatzki, C. ; Brovkin, V. ; Ganopolski, A. ; Hoelzmann, P. ; Pachur, H.J., 1999, “Simulation of an Abrupt Change in Saharan Vegetation in the Mid-Holocene,” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 26 , No. 14 , p. 2037, 1999GL900494; J.E., Kutzbach and P.J. Guetter, “The Influence of Changing Orbital Parameters and Surface Boundary Conditions on Climate Simulations for the Past 18,000 Years,” Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 43, 1726-1759, 1986.)

These authors do not say whether the 24.14 to 23.45 degree shift resulted from the lithosphere shifting or from the entire earth from the core out to the surface shifting. It would appear that Einstein and Hapgood were right at least at least in some way about the poles shifting but wrong about the mechanism. The serious flaw in their theory can be seen by looking at the string of volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Island chain. They represent new and old volcanoes which are situated over a hot spot in the mantle, which punches through the lithosphere. The island chain runs from east to west because the crust moves slowly from west to east over the hot spot as the Pacific shrinks in size. The same pattern appears in the case of Yellowstone. Assuming that the poles do shift, which seems to be true, the only mechanism which could accomplish this would be the entire earth shifting on its axis—or at least the lithosphere and mantle together sifting over the molten outer core of the earth. But what enormous force could accomplish such shifts? The weight of polar ice is extremely great, but it is still tiny compared with the weight of the entire earth. Dr. Walter O. Peterson points to the one force great enough to shift the entire earth on its axis: solar electromagnetism. Even a small pole shift of 24.14 to 23.45 degrees, by whatever mechanism, would have caused enormous waves, which could have given rise to flood legends.

Plato believed there had been a worldwide cataclysm. He relied on the reports of his ancestor Solon. After Solon wrote a new constitution for Athens that radically redistributed land ownership, he departed for Egypt where priests allegedly showed him ancient historical records telling of a cataclysmic destruction of most of humanity. Solon told of flood and fire that destroyed not only the mythical Atlantis but also wiped out all life in Greece and the rest of the world except for a few shepherds who lived in the highest mountains. (Plato, Timaeus, Critas, Cletophon, Menexenus, Epistles, Loeb Classical Library, p. 29 ff.; Plato, Laws, Book III, Loeb Classical Library, p. 177 ff.) The Zoroastrians of Persia believed that history began in the year 9660 B.C.E. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident: The Origin and Development of the Essene-Christian Faith, p. 96.)

According to my hypothesis, the Biblical story of the Flood in Genesis 7-9 could represent a confusion or conflation of two legendary but historical holocausts. It may combine the legend of Plato’s flood of water, which was some kind of indiscriminate killer of much of humanity around 9600 B.C.E. with a second holocaust, which was not accomplished by water but by patriarchal invaders on horseback, and which wiped out most of the pre-Hebrew matristic tribes. The story of the Nephilim in Genesis 6 could also refer to the patriarchal invasions. Note that if this is the case, the stories are out of order: The Noah story should have come first, as a legend which dates from the end of the last Ice Age, followed by the Nephilim story, which is a legend about the invasions of the patriarchal Aryan and Semitic tribes, which came in several waves starting around 5500 B.C.E. The Genesis legends are not necessarily set forth in correct order because redactors did not necessarily understand what the legends symbolized.

The Genesis flood story says that the population of the world was destroyed almost completely. (Genesis 7:23.) According to Plato’s story of Deucalion, only a few shepherds in the hills survived. Like the historical holocaust carried out by the patriarchal invaders, the Genesis legend tells how the patriarchal sons of God and the Nephilim took the daughters of men. (Genesis 6:2-4.) It was immediately after the coming of the Nephilim that “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth….” (Genesis 6:5.; Compare Numbers 31:7-9, 13-18, 32-35.) Because of the mention of the wickedness of man, I would presume that the taking of the daughters of men was part of a forcible conquest. Consider also the possibility that the flood is a recollection of the annihilation of almost all humans by the ash of the Toba eruption some 74,000 years ago. Toba set off large tsunamis, which swallowed up coastal cities. Most humans lived close to the oceans, and so almost everyone was killed by water. The few survivors were killed by the ash and then by the following decades of cold weather.


After the legendary Deluge, the eating of meat was allowed to Noah and his descendants:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:1.)

Perhaps this change took place in the context of a world that had become less civilized or perhaps colder because the pre-Hebrew tribe was living further north or at higher altitudes. Or perhaps it occurred in the context of a partnership religious tradition that was primarily or relatively vegetarian that had been conquered by patriarchal herdsmen and then blended into a new Hebrew religion that allowed meat eating.

I hypothesize that before the patriarchal invasions, the pre-Hebrew tribe followed a lacto-vegetarian or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, in either case, one that excluded sacrificing animals and eating meat. After the conquest by the patriarchs, this rule was revised to include meat eating. Certain quick and relatively painless methods of slaughter were required as a part of a compromise with the vegetarians. Perhaps the early vegetarian kosher had always included rules for how to kill animals and eat meat when that was the only thing to eat, or for those who insisted on eating meat. It is easy to imagine the occasional application of the rule evolving into the regular bad habit. This hypothesis would explain better than any other why in orthodox Jewish homes, there are separate pots, pans, plates, utensils, sinks, and even separate ovens for products containing meat versus products containing no animal products except for milk and/or eggs. The only problem with this theory is that fish is considered “pareve” or neutral, and may be eaten either with milk or meat dishes, although some Jews will not eat fish with other kinds of meat. Maybe the pre-Hebrew vegetarians were fish-vegetarians.

According to Jewish scholar Joseph Albo (died 1444), the reason for the vegetarianism of humanity from Adam to Noah was this:

In the killing of animals there is cruelty, rage, and the accustoming of oneself to the bad habit of shedding innocent blood…. (Joseph Albo, tr. Isaac Husik, Sefer ha-Ikkarim, Volume III, Chapter 15; quoted by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 2.)

Killing animals on a regular basis was bad for the innocent animals, but it was also bad for the moral structure of the killer.

But what about Deuteronomy 12:20? It says: “When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat flesh,’ because you crave flesh, you may eat as much flesh as you desire?” This appears to be a carte blanche advocacy of meat eating, however, the Talmudic commentators say otherwise. They put this Biblical passage into the context of the times and explain it as follows in Hullin 84a:

Our Rabbis taught: [It is written,] when the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy borders, as He hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, “I will eat flesh.” The Torah here teaches a rule of conduct, that a person shall not eat meat unless he has a special appetite for it… and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly.

Maybe the rabbis took this position because they recalled that meat eating in ancient times had not been allowed at all. The granting of the right to eat meat was a limited right. According to the Talmud, meat is not considered a necessity for life. The meat that Israelites were permitted to eat is called “meat of lust.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume II, p. 1152, cited in Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 8; Numbers 11:18-34.)
According to Schwartz,

… Rabbi Elijah Judah, author of Animal Life in Jewish Tradition, (1984), concedes that “[s]cripture does not command the Israelite to eat meat, but rather permits this diet as a concession to lust.” (Schochet, Animal Life in Jewish Tradition, 1984, p. 300, quoted in Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 8.)

Dr. William Harris says we are a genetically fat-addicted species. Eating fat in lean times was such a lifesaver that the early humans who had a strong taste for it were most likely to survive to become our ancestors. They passed along their genes and their addiction to us. (William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 24.) “Lust,” also translated “craving,” is the term frequently used in the Bible and Talmud for the desire for meat. (Numbers 11:4,21; 33:16; Deuteronomy 12:15,20,21; Psalms 78:18, 30; 81:12, 106:14.) “Lust” might be a synonym for addiction or for a craving for the essential fatty acids.

Although the Israelite cult developed a strong tradition of sacrificing animals, Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235) suggested that the sacrifices were never mandatory, only voluntary. He ascertained this from the words of Jeremiah:

[I]n the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” But they did not obey… From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; yet they did not listen to me…. (Jeremiah 7:21-26.)

Jeremiah implies that one of the major messages of the prophets was that animal sacrifice should cease. The emphasis should be on ethical living. He says that the Hebrew people got off the track in their emphasis on a meat-sacrificing cult and their de-emphasis of ethical living. I suggest this happened when the animal herding, pastoral patriarchs conquered the pre-Hebrew people of the south. They rewrote early versions of pre-Biblical literature to require animal sacrifice. (See The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, p. 628, cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 88.)
Judaism’s greatest scholar, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.) wrote:

“…[T]he prophets thus distinctly declared that the object of the sacrifices is not very essential, and that God does not require them. For it is distinctly stated in Scripture, and handed down by tradition, that the first commandments communicated to us did not include any law at all about burnt-offering and sacrifice.”

Of Maimonides it was said, “From Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses.” (Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, p. xxv, 325, 326.)

The Temple sacrifices, the slaughter and eating of the Passover lamb, and the smearing of the lamb’s blood on the door post all ended in 70 C.E. with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. Along with the Judeo-Christians, many Pharisees fled Jerusalem before its destruction. Johanan ben Zacchai petitioned the Roman authorities to be allowed to set up an academy at Jamnia in Palestine. He and his fellow rabbis established the Rabbinic Judaism we known today. They chose not to reinstitute animal sacrifices, however, they did not put an end to the slaughtering of animals for food. Why should they? They believed only the messiah would do that, and for them the messiah had not yet come. Prayer and repentance were substituted for animal sacrifice as the way of obtaining forgiveness of sin or atonement. Similarly, John the Baptist and Jesus offered prayer, and a “baptism of repentance” for forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4; Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2; Didache 9:5.)


My theory is that within the bosom of the Hebrew tradition there continued to survive a glimmer of the ancient consciousness that dated back to the partnership paradigm. Although the Hebrew tradition had come to be led by men, it has always been more liberal towards women than most other traditions. Its consciousness of ethics as the second law after monotheism gradually overcame the dominator paradigm. (Deuteronomy 6:4 ff., 11:13 ff.; Numbers 15:37 ff.; Leviticus 19:14-18, Mark 12:31.) Along with the growing emphasis on ethics, opposition to cruelty survived and grew ever stronger in Jewish tradition.

The first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel, Abraham Isaac Kook, who died in 1935, was a vegetarian for religious reason. He believed that the option to kill and eat animals was temporary and

… that the permission to eat meat “after all the desire of your soul” was a concealed reproach and a qualified command. He states that a day will come when people will detest the eating of the flesh of animals because of a moral loathing, and then it shall be said that “because your soul does not long to eat meat, you will not eat meat.” (Joe Green, Chalutzim of the Messiah—The Religious Vegetarian Concept as Expounded by Rabbi Kook, p. 2, and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, and “Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments,” in Abraham Isaac Kook, both cited in Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, pp. 3, 9; “Abraham Isaac Kook,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 edition, Micropaedia, Volume 5, p. 887.)

According to Kook, as explained by Schwartz,

People are not always ready to live up to God’s highest ideals. By the time of Noah, humanity had degenerated greatly…. [B]ecause people had sunk to an extremely low level of spirituality, it was necessary that they be given an elevated image of themselves as compared to animals, and that they concentrate their efforts into first improving relationships between people. [God] feels that were people denied the right to eat meat, they might eat the flesh of human beings due to their inability to control their lust for flesh. He regards the permission to slaughter animals for food as a “transitional tax” or temporary dispensation until a “brighter era” is reached when people would return to vegetarian diets. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 3-4.)

The same logic appears in the Clementina. It was probably Judeo-Christians who wrote the original versions of the Clementina, of which we have modified versions in the form of the Recognitions of Clement and the Clementine Homilies. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:35 ff, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88.)

As a relevant aside and in all fairness, I should point out that one author says that the son of Rabbi Kook told him that his father was not a vegetarian. (Alfred S. Cohen, “Vegetarianism from a Jewish Perspective,” Judaism & Animal Rights, ed. Roberta Kalechofsky, p. 193, n. 11.)

Human sacrifice—particularly child sacrifice—was a serious problem in some ancient societies. Some of the ancient worshipers of both male and female gods did practice human and child sacrifice. (Deuteronomy 12:31; Ezekiel 16:20, 20:26, 23:30; Isaiah 57:5; Leviticus 18:21; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6, 23:10; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5; Ezekiel 16:20; 20:26.) While Hannibal menaced northern Italy, terror-stricken Romans reverted to the human sacrifice they had long before replaced with animal sacrifice. (Donald Keegan, On the Origins of War, p. 232.)

Hebrews struggled with the problem of child sacrifice, as can be seen in the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac and his sacrificing of a ram in his place. (Genesis 22:13.) I theorize that the pre-Hebrew patriarchs practiced human sacrifice and that Genesis 22 represents the point when it stopped.
The fact that there were goddess-worshiping religions in Old Testament times that sacrificed children, however, is no proof that goddess-worshiping religions as they existed before the patriarchs invaded had sacrificed children. It is my theory that these sinful practices were introduced by the patriarchal invaders, and that the patriarchs gradually learned from the women they had conquered to renounce them.

When we get to early historical times, we find that surviving, subordinated matristic religions coexisted with patriarchal religions. There were temples dedicated to the various goddesses. By classical Greek times, pagan religions showed a high degree of tolerance for each other. However, the matristic religions had probably been modified by the patriarchal religions. For example, the Pythic-Delphic Oracle before around 1400 B.C.E. was a small cult of only a few priestesses atop a hill, which was considered the navel of the world. By the time of the Doric invasions of around 1050 B.C.E., the priestesses had been reduced to captive status. Those who came to consult had to speak to male priests of the cult of Apollo, who in turn communicated with the oracular priestesses. (See the section of this book entitled Delphic Oracle, page 67.)

Early Christian preachers vilified the pagan religions; pagan spokesmen such as Porphyry countered the attack. Christians refused to declare allegiance to the state and its representative pantheon—which was done by making a token sacrifice of incense to the gods and obtaining a certificate. Suspecting the Christians of disloyalty, the Roman state persecuted Christians, although only on rare occasions. Religious pagans, for the most part, tried to tolerate the Christians. Christians, on the other hand considered theirs the only valid religion and all others as perverse. Christianity became first a tolerated religion and then the official state religion. Then all other religions except Judaism were banned, and Theodosius and other emperors confiscated pagan temples, lands, and other property and gave them to the orthodox church. By the 500s the last of the Greek temples and academies were shut down.

David Bakan, scholar of psychiatry and Judaica, suggests that the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17 ff.) is a reference to child sacrifice and child cannibalism as the original sin. Knowledge is a euphemism in the Bible for sexual intercourse (Genesis 3:7, 4:1, 4:17, 4:25, 19:8, 24:16), and the fruit or outcome of sex is the child. There were many ancient societies in which people sacrificed and ate their children. (David Bakan, And They Took Themselves Wives: The Emergence of Patriarchy in Western Civilization, p. 16.)

In response to Mr. Bakan, I would suggest that the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge could just as well be a symbol for the killing and eating of animals. The casting of Adam and Eve out of Eden into a life of toil in the fields might be a symbol for the transition from life as gatherer-hunter to settled agricultural life.


Although humans were allowed to eat meat under Noah’s new ethical guidelines, they were prohibited in Genesis 9:4 from eating blood: “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (See also Leviticus 17:10, 12, 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16-25, 15:23.) The blood symbolizes life. Thus, the rule not to eat blood is a reminder not to eat animals at all. According to Moses Cassuto:

Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood. This prohibition implied respect for the principle of life (“for the blood is the life”) and an allusion to the fact that in reality all meat should have been prohibited. This partial prohibition was designed to call to mind the previously total one. (Leibowitz, Studies in Bereshit, p. 77, cited by Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 5.)

I hypothesize that Noah’s new Kosher rule was this: God does not want humans to kill and eat animals, but if humans insist on doing so, they must treat animals well while they live and must kill animals in a relatively painless way. And they must adhere to rules regarding meat eating that will act as a memory device that will help humans remember that there was a time when they did not eat meat at all and that someday they will renounce it. The memory device is the prohibition against consuming the blood of animals and the many other rules of kosher slaughter. As one slaughters a cow and drains out the blood, he or she will always ask why there is such a restriction. Judaism is replete with such memory devices. Judaism at its core is memory and consciousness, including a consciousness of ethics. Bear in mind that in Judaism the concept of god is inseparable from ethics.
Immediately after god granted Noah and his descendants the right to eat meat (Genesis 9:3) there came a warning (Genesis 9:5) of the consequences: “For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning…?.” Noah was the last of the especially long-lived patriarchs. The shortening of the life span of humans was part of this legend (Genesis 6:3-5), and the connection between wickedness, eating meat, and dying younger is obvious.

In the section of this book entitled Paul, James, and the Jerusalem Council, p. 123, I go into greater detail about the Rule of Noah.


Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. They wandered in the wilderness of Sinai and ate manna, a plant-based food. (Exodus 16:15, Numbers 11:7.) Rabbinic scholar Isaac Arama (1420-1494) regarded this as an attempt to reinstitute a plant-based diet. (Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 6; See Recognitions of Clement, 1:35 ff, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88.) The attempt failed. The Israelites may have been vegetarians before they moved to Egypt, but in Egypt they had grown accustomed to meat. They clamored for it in the desert. Perhaps there were non-Israelites who had joined in the Exodus, and meat eating was their custom. God sent quail, and

[w]hile the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.

The place where this happened was called “The Graves of Lust.” (Numbers 11:18-34.) The moral of the story is clear: Eating meat is not a good thing.
The five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, contain detailed instructions on how the Hebrews were to conduct their animal sacrifices. A vegetarian interpretation of these is that they were not part of the original tradition about Moses but were added at a later date, after the First Temple had been built in Jerusalem by Solomon and animal sacrifices had been instituted. The Judeo-Christians regarded these passages as not having been authentic. Jesus suggested there were parts of the Hebrew Bible which were falsified. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 18, Book I, pp. 44 ff.; Matthew 22:29; see the section of this book entitled Simon Peter, the Clementina, p. 102; compare Deuteronomy 12:15-28; Psalms 78:17-31.)


The book of Daniel (1:8-17), written in the Second Century B.C.E. about events that occurred around 600 B.C.E., when the Hebrews were being held in captivity, tells how a Babylonian king brought Israelite youth into the royal court for education. The story is worth retelling here:

… Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s rich food [meat], or with the wine which he drank; therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs; and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear lest my lord the king, who appointed your food and your drink, should see that you were in poorer condition than the youths who are of you own age. So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel…; “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s rich food be observed by you, and according to what you see deal with your servants.” So he hearkened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s rich food. So the steward took away their rich food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (My comments are in square brackets.)

King Nebuchadnezzar fell into mental illness for a period of seven “times,” during which he “ate grass like an ox,” after which his reason returned. (Daniel 3:28 ff.) The Lives of the Prophets adds more detail. The period of mental illness lasted for seven months, during which Nebuchadnezzar “neither ate bread nor meat nor drank wine, since Daniel had enjoined him to appease the Lord with soaked pulse and herbs.” So Nebuchadnezzar recovered his mental health by eating sprouted lentils and greens. (David Satran, “Biblical Prophets and Christian Legend: The Lives of the Prophets Reconsidered,” Messiah and Christos: Studies in the Jewish Origins of Christianity, p. 199 ff.; C.C. Torrey, The Lives of the Prophets.)

The book of Daniel was very popular among the Jewish Essenes and was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls; it may have been written or edited by the Qumran Essenes, who were vegetarian. As discussed below, vegetarians such as John the Baptist and Jesus, and the vegetarian Judeo-Christians probably came out of the Essene tradition or were influenced by it.


The Talmud forbids hunting except when necessary and stipulates that animals be fed and treated well. It establishes a cult of the ritual slaughterer—the shochet—whose role is to sacrifice animals as painlessly as possible. The proper method is so complex that according to the Talmud:
Only a scholar of Torah may eat meat, but one who is ignorant of Torah is forbidden to eat meat. (Pesachim 49b, quoted by Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 9.)

Nevertheless, there developed in Judaism an enormous system of animal sacrifice, accompanied by the mass marketing of the resulting meat. Josephus reports that a minimum of ten and up to twenty people would share each sacrificed lamb. He estimated that 256,000 animals would have been slaughtered during Passover week.

Josephus estimated that when the armies of Vespasian and Titus surrounded Jerusalem in 68 C.E. and sealed it off, there were 2,700,200 people trapped inside—of which approximately 1,100,000 died during the next two years as a result of starvation and war. Some were regular residents, but probably most were there to visit the Temple as part of yearly religious observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. All of these would have been observant Jews who would have felt obligated to participate in the sacrificial system, and hence the estimate of 256,000 animals slaughtered in a few days makes mathematical sense, although the number of those trapped in Jerusalem seems incredibly high. Nevertheless, there would have been rivers of blood and intestinal contents flowing down from the Jerusalem Temple. (Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3, p. 587 f.)

Robert Eisenman, in his monumental James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggests, without citing authorities, that the Essenes and John the Baptist adopted vegetarianism only in reaction to the fact that the sacrificial system in Jerusalem had been compromised, that is, that priests not descended from the family of Aaron were presiding over the sacrifices, and that gentiles were being allowed to offer sacrifices. (He could have added that many believed the calendar?being used was incorrect so that sacrifices were being offered on the wrong days.) Eisenman suggests that their reason for not eating meat was a technical problem with cult procedures and not some fundamental moral objection to the practice.

Eisenman points out that the eating of meat had been permitted to Noah only after an approved sacrificial system had been established. (Genesis 8:20; 9:3.) Before Noah emerged from the ark, there had been no approved sacrificial system, and it was for this reason, says Eisenman, that god’s people had originally been vegetarians. Eisenman derives some support for this theory from the story of Judas Maccabee. When the Seleucid Greeks appointed a high priest not of the proper line,

Judas, called Maccabaeus… with about nine others, withdrew into the wilderness and lived like wild animals in the hills with his companions, eating nothing but wild plants to avoid contracting defilement. (2 Maccabees 5:27.)

The reason why Daniel and the young scholars in the king’s school in Babylon ate no meat and only vegetables is not entirely clear. Daniel believed that eating meat would defile him. (Daniel 1:8,16.) He might have objected to meat of any kind or just to the fact that there was no Hebrew temple or kosher slaughterhouse in Babylon where kosher meat could be obtained.

Eisenman suggests that it was only because there was no authorized sacrificial system during the wandering of the Israelites in Sinai that the Israelites during this period had been vegetarians. (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 265 ff., 275 ff., 293.)

Eisenman’s thoughtful, speculative, 1,100-page tome is a must-read book for anyone interested in the origins of Judeo-Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, but I do not agree with him on this point. Why at various times and particularly in legendary times was sacrifice not authorized? Was there no eating of meat before Noah and in Sinai simply because there was no proper sacrificial cult? Or was there no sacrificial cult because there was no meat eating? He would prefer the first alterative; I would prefer the second. Eisenman never explores the possibility that there might be something unethical about the way food animals are treated, despite that fact that the Bible shows sensitivity to the rights of animals. (See Deuteronomy 25:4.) For example, in the messianic time all sacrifices except the thank-offering will cease. (Pesachim 79a; Lev. R. ix., xxvii.) See the sections of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian, Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 178, and Jesus and the Right Treatment of Animals, p. 188, where I respond to Eisenman’s theory in greater detail.)


Why did animal sacrifice and eating flesh have its opponents in Judaism? Was the objection grounded in some technical objection such as the wrong priestly family conducting the sacrifices or the wrong calendar being followed and thus the sacrifices being made on the wrong day? Or was there an ethical objection to sacrificing and meat eating in general?

Judaism has never been a completely unified tradition, and a counter-strain continued to survive within it which rejected animal sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah (7:11, 65:25) foresaw an ideal time when the sacrifices would end, when even carnivorous animals would become herbivorous (as they had been in Genesis 1:29): “The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” It is also possible that the bear and lion are allegorical references to certain nations or sects which were in conflict with each other.

The prophet Hosea said: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6.)

Jesus the Jew refers to this theme (Matthew 9:13) when he says: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” He refers to it again (Matthew 12:1-8) when he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple [sacrifices?] is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” I posit that the guiltless are the animals who were sacrificed on the Temple mountain by the tens of thousands. It is clear here that Jesus opposed the use of animals for religious sacrificial purposes. (See also Amos 5:21 ff., Proverbs 21:3, and the sections of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 179, and Jesus Stopped the Sacrifices in the Temple, p. 180.)

The vegetarian theme is part of the ethics and justice theme that runs through Jewish messianic literature. One refrains from savagery towards animals as part of refraining from savagery in general. There is a connection between the way we treat animals and the way we treat fellow humans.

Jewish theory about the messianic era is well developed. It is to be a time of peace, justice, and the observance of high ethical standards. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold,… he will bring forth justice to the nations…?. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42: 1-4; see Isaiah 7:11, 65.25.) The messiah was to be a leader who would introduce justice and ethics, including right treatment of the animals. There was no suggestion the messiah would be a deity.

In Judaism there are two acceptable theories as to how the messiah will come: According to the first, an individual messiah will come—at a time when all appears hopeless and the moral level of society is at its lowest—and will initiate the messianic era. According to the second theory, the messianic era will come gradually through the efforts of people of messianic purpose, and the messiah will appear at the end and fulfill the ceremonial role of announcing that the work has been accomplished. Therefore,

… modern Jewish religious ethical vegetarians are pioneers of the messianic era; they are leading lives that make the coming of the messiah or the coming of the messianic era more likely. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 12, referring to Joe Green, Chalutzim of the Messiah, p. 1.)

This second theory of how the messianic era will come is a powerful stimulus for people of good will to work to improve the moral level of society. It states that there is something people can do to help realize the better era.

In Judaism, the messianic era will be Edenic: There will be a return to the plant-based diet of the garden. The anti-animal diet and anti-sacrifice references in Genesis, Numbers, Isaiah, Hosea, Proverbs, and Amos quoted above all look back to an ideal time in the past or look forward to an ideal messianic era in the future.

Many Jewish scholars believe that animal sacrifices will not be reinstated in messianic times, even with the reestablishment of the Temple. [Animal sacrifices ceased in Judaism with the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E.] They believe that at that time human conduct will have advanced to such high standards that there will no longer be a need for animal sacrifices to atone for sins. Only non-animal sacrifices (grains, for example) to express gratitude to God would remain. (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 89. My comments are in square brackets.)
It is time for Jews who want to follow the oldest Jewish traditions and heed the call of the Jewish prophets to return to a plant-based diet. In ancient Hebrew tradition, eating meat was allowed when it was absolutely necessary. It is no longer necessary. It is not consistent with the Jewish project to bring the better era. Furthermore, conditions have changed: Animals are raised in conditions of filth, cruelty, and terror unlike those of ancient times. Additionally, we have learned in recent decades that eating animal-based foods is not conducive to good health or to a sound environment.


Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island. He is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. He has posted scores of articles on the Worldwide Web, which deal with Judaism and vegetarianism. It is called The Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights. ( In July, 2000, he and other rabbis issued an extensive proposed Resolution on Judaism, the Environment, and Dietary Health to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which asked that the Rabbis affirm the importance of vegetarian and health conscious diets as a Jewish value.



Chapter 7 – Greek Legend & Link to Golden Era

Chapter 7 – Greek Legend & Link to Golden Era


Delphi lies to the north and west of the Corinthian Isthmus of Greece. The Oracle of Delphi, originally the Oracle of Pythia, is at least as old as the Mycenaean era, 14th Century B.C.E., and probably older. There are similar legends about the oracles of Dodona (Homer, Odyssey 14:326-7, Iliad 16:127; Herodotus 2:54-58) and Cumaea.

Ancient kings consulted the earliest Pythic Oracle; so too did ordinary people. An “inquirer” would speak directly to a priestess who would deliver her answer face to face. A priestess had to be over 50 years old, and could be married or widowed. There were one to three priestesses. There is mention of at least one male priest of the earliest Oracle. The theatre-like temple was located on the lower slopes of Mt. Parnassus. A stone in the temple was regarded as the omphalos, the navel of the world. Some kind of gas, probably methane, may have emerged from underground to intoxicate the priestess and stimulate her visions.
The priestess was called the Pythia, which is a term for serpent or python. The python had mantic powers, the ability to tell the future and protect the Earth. Recall that the caduceus, the coiled serpent on a cross, was a symbol of healing, which Moses erected in order to heal the Israelites. (Numbers 21:8, 2 Kings 18:4.)

Aeschylus said the goddess of the Oracle was the primeval goddess. Ancient authors say the name of the original deity of the oracle was Gaea, the earth-goddess and that Gaea was protected by the she-dragon Pythia. Poseidon shared the oracle with Gaea and assisted in its protection. Gaea was the goddess of the Pelasgians, the indigenous people of Greece, Crete, and the Levant, who spoke pre-Indo-European languages. Homer said that Poseidon was the god of the Pelasgians. (Iliad 16:127.) The Cretan Minoans were Pelasgians as probably were the Philistines of Palestine-Israel and the Etruscans of Italy.

According to legend, Apollo slew Pythia, the she-dragon. In oldest Greek myth, the Pythia which Apollo slew was female, but later Greek writers switched her gender, calling her Python instead, perhaps to magnify Apollo’s conquest—a historical “sex change operation.” The town of Delphi was known as Pythos before it was known as Delphi. Around 1050 B.C.E. the savage Dorians—another Indo-European speaking, Aryan tribe—invaded Greece and overwhelmed the Mycenaeans. The Mycenaeans were descended from patriarchal invaders and had adopted various matristic, Minoan, and Egyptian customs. From around 850 B.C.E., the oracle came to be referred to as the oracle of Apollo.

The male priests of Apollo reduced the priestesses to subject status. They did not evict the priestesses from Delphi because the oracle continued to speak only through them, never through the new priests. So the priests of Apollo changed the ancient procedures. A consultant seeking to question the oracle was no longer allowed to meet directly with a priestess. Instead he met with a priest of Apollo to submit his question and make his donation, usually sizeable. The priest in turn submitted the question to a priestess. She prepared her answer and gave it in writing to the priest, who then delivered it in written form to the consultant. Legend says that Poseidon was forced to yield his part in the oracle to Apollo. The oracle of Delphi was shut down by the Christian Roman emperor Arcadius in 398 C.E. Pan was silenced. (T. Dempsey, The Delphic Oracle: Its Early History, Influence and Fall, p. 3 ff., 21-30, 36, 53-55, 183 ff.; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., “Delphi,” III, p. 452; Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, p. 202 f.; Howatson & Chilvers, The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, “Dorians,” “Apollo,” “Mycenae.”)

From such surviving data about the Oracle, we can theorize that following a peaceful era in which the goddess was worshiped at Pythia, cruel patriarchal invaders killed off or enslaved much of the early goddess-worshiping population and almost all of the priestesses of the old matristic religion, allowing only a few priestesses to carry on in subordinate position and only because they were useful to the patriarchs. (Cf. Exodus 22:18; Numbers 31:13-18, 32-35.) The oracles may have been among the last surviving remnants of the matristic civilizations of Old Europe.


Until the 1800s, when the word “vegetarian” was coined, vegetarians were referred to as “Pythagoreans.” Pythagoras was born in Samos, Greece. He was the son of a Greek mother and a Phoenician father. Herodotus said the Phoenicians had come from India. His parents may have named him after the goddess Pythia. “Pythagoras” might mean “assembly of Pythia.” He extended the concept of ethics and justice to include animals and
… commanded [people] to consider these [animals] as their familiars and friends; so as neither to injure, nor slay, nor eat any one of them. (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 90.)

Pythagoras and his followers believed in metempsychosis, today referred to as reincarnation, including the belief that humans sometimes are reincarnated as animals and animals as humans.

Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Apollonius of Tyana, Ovid, Plotinus, Porphyry, the Jewish Essenes of Palestine, the Jewish Therapeutae of Egypt, John the Baptist, Jesus, James the brother of Jesus, Simon Peter, Matthew, the original Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem, the Ebionites, the Nazaraeans, Copernicus, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Gottfreid Leibniz can be considered Pythagoreans or strongly influenced by Pythagoreanism.

These individuals and groups held to most or all of the following Pythagorean beliefs and customs: an emphasis on high ethical standards; an opposition to returning violence for violence; dressing in white robes and in some cases an opposition to the wearing of wool along with a preference for wearing linen; opposition to slavery; an optional communalism coupled with the belief that wealth inevitably interfered with spiritual development; knowledge of herbs, medicine, and healing; an optional celibacy; elevation of the status of women; an emphasis on sexual purity; abstinence from wine; opposition to animal sacrifice; and a vegetarian diet. Eating a vegetarian diet was one part of a “Pythagorean package” of beliefs and values which all these individuals and groups shared.

Pythagoras received a scholarship at age 31, in around 538 B.C.E., and went to study in Egypt. There he learned the Egyptian language and hieroglyphics. He had access to Egyptian temples and partook of the religious mysteries. In pursuit of spiritual insight as part of these mysteries, he consumed mind-altering drugs of some kind. It is assumed that he became a priest of Isis. These priests ate no meat because of their belief in reincarnation, and they even refused to wear wool. (Peter Gorman, Pythagoras: A Life, p. 59.) It is possible that Brahman, Jain, and Buddhist ideas about reincarnation and vegetarianism arose not in India, but traveled there from Egypt and Greece?

After Pythagoras had been in Egypt for 13 years, the Persians conquered the country around 525 B.C.E. They took Pythagoras, along with others, into captivity in Babylon. There he studied Eastern thought for 12 years, and it may have been there that he learned the Golden Ratio and the Pythagorean Theorem. He may have had contact with Jews who had been exiled in large number to Babylon around 586 B.C.E. Vegetarianism was a strong tradition among some Jews by this time, and Pythagoras’ contact with them may have reinforced his vegetarianism and theirs. (See the sections of this book entitled Judaism and the History of Food, p. 51, and Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 178.)

Likewise, both Pythagoras and the Jews may have had contact in Persia with Buddhist missionaries; Persia at that time controlled Babylon and part of India, and there were close connections between Persia and India. Pythic-Delphic, Buddhist, and Hebrew traditions may have reinforced each other. This may explain why the teachings of the Buddhists, the Hebrew prophets, the Pythagoreans, and the Judeo-Christians overlap so much. Certain Buddhist values even survive in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, such as the asceticism of the monks and Christianity’s early five-day and two-day-per-week vegetarianism. (See the section of this book entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 158.)

Around 510 B.C.E., Pythagoras returned to Greece. He set up a communal society at Croton in southern Italy, which was then a frontier province of Greece and an area from which the Greeks customarily kidnapped and enslaved powerless, perhaps indigenous people. Pythagoras abolished slavery in Croton and set up abolitionist towns throughout southern Italy. He also abolished the sacrificing and eating of animals. The Pythagoreans aroused the enmity of neighboring dictators. Unfortunately, the Pythagoreans were strict pacifists and had developed no defensive skills. The dictators easily destroyed Pythagorean towns and killed or enslaved thousands of Pythagoras’ followers. Pythagoras himself fled Italy and returned to Greece.

Although his followers adulated him, Pythagoras refused to allow them to exalt him. He denied that he knew everything. He would not even allow himself to be called a sage; he coined the term “philosopher,” or lover of wisdom, and used that term to refer to himself. Pythagoras and his followers wore their hair long, and they wore white robes, as later did the Hebrew Essenes and Therapeutae—vegetarian Hebrew sects active in the First Century C.E. (See the sections of this book entitled The Therapeutae, p. 88, and Stephen, Hellenist, Foe of the Sacrificial System, p. 98.)

Women were admitted to Pythagorean schools on an equal footing with men. Theano, wife of Pythagoras was a noted teacher. She wrote a treatise on the Golden Ratio and carried on Pythagoras’ teaching after he died. Pythagoras’ daughter Myia wrote on the rearing of children.

Throughout this section, note the similarities between the teachings of Pythagoreans and those of the Essenes and Jesus and his brother James. Pythagoras’ followers were divided into two classes, the first class being the acusmatici and politici, those who lived in the world at large, and the second being the mathematici, higher level followers who lived as celibates in communes. Likewise, the Jewish Essenes later had two classes, a larger group that lived in the world at large and married and a core group that lived communally and were celibate. (Cf. Acts 2:44, 4:34; 1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Timothy 4:3.)

Pythagoras opposed taking oaths, saying “… that their language should be such as to render them worthy of belief even without oaths.” (Cf. Matthew 5:34, James 5:12.) Pythagoras counseled his followers to avoid responding to violence with violence. (Cf. Matthew 5:39, James 1:19.) His biographer Iamblichus said of him, “And he said, that it is much more holy to be injured than to kill a man.” Pythagoras advised his followers to “… have an unstudied contempt of and hostility to glory, wealth, and the like… .” (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 36, 83, 90; cf. Matthew 19:24; James 2:6, 5:1 ff.)

Pythagoras was a noted physician, having studied medicine in Egypt and Babylon. He employed various techniques including music therapy. (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 87-88). Recall that the Pythagorean Essenes were noted physicians (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ed. Whiston, p. 477) and that Jesus, the Pythagorean Essene, was famous first as a healer. Pythagoras opposed the eating of animal food and the drinking of wine. (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 36, 58, 90, 98, 99, and 116; Vaclavik, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, p. 38.) He advised his followers not “… to sacrifice animals to the Gods, nor by any means to injure animals, but to preserve most solicitously justice towards them.” However, there is some confusion on this point, for Pythagoras allegedly ordered the acusmatici and the politici, those Pythagoreans who lived in the outside world and did not live communally “… to sacrifice animals, such as a cock, or a lamb, or some other animal recently born, but not frequently.” (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 58, 80.)

Pythagoras opposed the wearing of wool; there is no consensus as to why. Perhaps he saw it was intertwined with the slaughter and eating of mutton. Maybe he was aware of the environmental impacts of grazing, that sheep and goats destroy oases and eat small tree seedlings and girdle and kill saplings and even large trees, thus hindering the recovery of wooded areas after humans have cut down the trees. On the other hand Ovid (43 B.C.E.-17 C.E.) said that Pythagoras lauded sheep for giving milk and wool. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, book 15, line 115, Loeb Classical Library, p. 373.) The Pythagoreans may have been lacto-vegetarians or even lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Bear in mind that Ovid and Iamblichus wrote centuries after Pythagoras’ death, and they may have gotten some of their facts wrong.

Instead of wool, Pythagoras wore linen, which is produced from flax or hemp. (Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras, p. 80.) If Pythagoras and his community wore linen, then they too would have eaten flax and/or hemp. Without eating flax, hemp, or chia, a diet free of meat is not sustainable or healthy, given that they are the best vegetable sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Another source is greens, however, a very large quantity must be eaten.
Pythagoras’ disciples referred to him as “the man,” saying, for example, “the man said such and such.” (Vaclavik, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, p. 36; See Ovid, Metamorphoses, book 15, line 60, Loeb Library, p. 368 ff.) Recall that Jesus referred to himself as “the son of man.” Although there are numerous references to “the son of man” in the Old Testament (e.g., Daniel 7:13), it is possible that Jesus adopted this terminology because he considered himself a disciple of Pythagoras and was referring to himself as a son of Pythagoras. It is not impossible that the author of Daniel also considered himself a Pythagorean and derived the term “son of man” from the Pythagoreans, since the book of Daniel—although it describes events that allegedly happened around 600 B.C.E.—was written or last rewritten and edited around 168 B.C.E. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “Daniel,” p. 205 f.)

Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.E.-17 C.E.) said of Pythagoras: “He was the first to decry the placing of animal food upon our tables.” Ovid quotes Pythagoras as saying:

O mortals, do not pollute your bodies with a food so impious! You have the fruits of the earth, you have apples, bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling to ripeness on the vines; you have also delicious herbs and vegetables which can be mellowed and softened by the help of fire. Nor are you without milk or honey, fragrant with the bloom of thyme. The earth, prodigal of her wealth, supplies you her kindly sustenance and offers you food without bloodshed and slaughter… .

But that pristine age, which we have named the golden age, was blessed with the fruit of the trees and the herbs which the ground sends forth, nor did men defile their lips with blood. Then birds plied their wings in safety through the heaven, and the hare loitered all unafraid in the tilled fields, nor did its own guilelessness hang the fish upon the hook. All things were free from treacherous snares, fearing no guile and full of peace. But after someone, an ill exemplar, who envied the food of lions, and thrust down flesh as food into his greedy stomach, he opened the way for crime. It may be that, in the first place, with the killing of wild beasts the steel was warmed and stained with blood. This would have been justified, and we admit that creatures which menace our own lives may be killed without impiety. But, while they might be killed, they should never have been eaten. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, book 15, line 95 ff., Loeb Classical Library, p. 370 ff.)

Pythagoras had great influence on those who came after him. He is important to my study because he constitutes evidence that there were vegetarian societies in pre-historic times. My argument goes like this: Pythagoras did not get his vegetarian values from thin air. He admitted that he learned much of what he knew, which would have included his vegetarian values, at the feet of Themistoclea, a priestess of the Oracle of Pythia-Delphi. (See Mary Ellen Waithe, “Early Pythagoreans: Themistoclea, Theano, Arignote, Myia, and Damo,” A History of Women Philosophers; And we can presume that Themistoclea was not a solitary vegetarian but that all the priestesses of the Oracle shared the same values. The Oracle was apparently part of a religious tradition that extended back past written history, back through that Dark Age that began with the Aryan invasions around 4300 B.C.E. and was reintensified with the coming of the Dorians. The Oracle appears to have been a surviving remnant of the pre-Aryan, goddess culture, which I would argue was at least in part vegetarian.

It is possible that Pythagoras got not only his vegetarian ideas but also his mathematical and scientific ideas from the priestesses of the Oracle, who in turn had preserved them for thousands of years.

Pythagoras may be the missing link between Old Europe and the classical and modern worlds.


Early Dionysian rituals included omophagia, the eating of animal, human, and even infant flesh. However, the religion of Dionysus was reformed by Orpheus, and for flesh was substituted a eucharist of bread and wine. Old line adherents of the cult of Dionysus murdered Orpheus. Followers of Dionysus came to reject the eating of meat. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 74-76; “Asceticism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., 2, p. 136.)

Relatively little is know of the religion of Orpheus and the Orphic mystery. Its followers believed that man’s wicked tendency should be suppressed and his heavenly nature cultivated, and this could be done by “… living an Orphic life, which included abstention from meat, wine, and sexual intercourse.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed., Micropaedia, VII, p. 594; Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 74.) The Latin Church Father Jerome, a vegetarian who extolled vegetarianism but regarded it as optional for Christians, said, “Orpheus in his song utterly denounces the eating of flesh.” (Jerome, “Against Jovianus,” Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, II:14, p. 398.)


Plato studied under Socrates and transcribed his dialogs, or perhaps he reworked them or even created them out of whole cloth. In Book 2 of The Republic Plato wrote of Socrates’ discussion of the development of a city, in light of its economy, specialization by occupation, and considerations of justice, health, and conflict. There Plato advocated specialization of occupations as being good for the economy and also discussed the problem of developing a full-time, specialized army that would be skilled enough at war to defend the city but also principled enough to abide by the law. Plato spoke sympathetically of vegetarianism.
According to Plato in The Republic, Socrates envisioned a city in which the diet was loaves of wheat and barley, olives, cheese, onions, greens, figs, chick-peas, beans, toasted myrtle berries, acorns, and wine. It is clear from the context that he intentionally omitted meat.

So they will spend their days in health and peace, living to old age as you might expect and leaving another such life to their children.

Plato’s Socrates was asked how things would be different if the diet of the city included meat. He described how such a city would develop:

A city of that sort might show us possibly how justice and injustice grow up in states. However, the real city seems to me what we have described, a healthy sort; but if you wish us to examine one in a high fever, there is nothing to hinder… . [T]hat healthy city is not enough now; it must be swollen and filled with people and things which are not in cities from necessity—hunters of all sorts… . And besides we shall want swineherds; there were none in our first city, because they were not wanted, but they will be wanted in this one, and lots of all kinds of other pasturing animals will be wanted if anyone is to eat them… . And shan’t we need physicians much more than before in such a manner of life?… Take the land also; what was enough to feed them then will not be enough now, it will be too small… . Then we must take a slice of our neighbors’ land, if we are to have enough for grazing and plowing, and they also must take a slice of ours, if they, too, pass the bounds of the necessary, and give themselves to the boundless getting of wealth… . The next thing is, we shall go to war… . [W]e have discovered the origin of war now, from that whence cities get most of their troubles… . (Great Dialogues of Plato, p. 165 ff.)


The Indo-Europeans invaded Persia sometime around 2000 B.C.E., several centuries before they invaded India. Persian prophet Zarathustra, known in the West as Zoroaster, lived probably around 1400 to 1300 B.C.E., although scholars radically disagree as to his dates. Until Moslems conquered the Persian Empire in the 600s C.E., Zoroastrianism was a strong influence on all the other major world religions. Zoroastrianism survives as an organized religion today primarily in India. Zoroastrian priests were called magi (singular magus) A “magus” is a seer or wizard or wise one. According to Christian legend magi attended the birth of Jesus. (Matthew 2:1, where the Greek word magoi is used.)
In the Zoroastrian myth the first man and woman were charged by god as follows:

You are the seed of man, you are the parents of the world, you have been given by me the best perfect devotion; think good thoughts, speak good words, do good deeds, and do not worship the demons.

The first man and woman were misled by the evil Ahriman to conclude that the world derived from evil. This was their original and worst sin. They began to offer sacrifices [animal?] which were not pleasing to god. They started drinking milk. (John R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology, The Greater or Iranian edition of the Bundahishn, 14:11, p. 62.)

The Zoroastrians believed the history of the world began in 9660 B.C.E. and would last some 12,000 years. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 96.) At some point a second savior will come, born of a virgin. “The original paradisal state will draw yet nearer. Men will no longer need to eat meat, they will become vegetarians and drink only water.” A third savior will come, born in the same way. “All disease, death and persecution will be overcome, vegetation will flourish perpetually and mankind will eat only spiritual food. The world is now to be perfectly and finally renovated.” The world will end around 2340 C.E., and then all will be judged. Those who have committed evil will be punished to a level that is exactly proportional to the wrongs they have done. Then their punishment will end, and all humanity will be reunited. (John R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology, p. 69.)



Chapter 8 – The Vegetarian Theme in Christian Tradition


Most Christians assume that Jesus ate fish and Passover lamb and therefore could not have been a vegetarian. Most feel that their religion does not place any limits on what animals they may kill and eat. Most believe that the Christianity of today is the same as  the religion of Jesus’ original followers. Most assume that Jesus was a fundamentalist. I challenge all these assumptions.


My thesis is this: There was a Judeo-Christian “church” before Jesus, an Essene group from which Jesus got his values. That church lasted until the early 400s, when they were scattered by the newly Christian Roman emperors. They disappear from history, save one mention by a Moslem historian in the 800s.  I refer to this group loosely as “Judeo-Christian,” although they did not call themselves “Christian,” at least not initially.  They probably called their church a synagogue.

There were groups like the Essenes in other parts of the world, such as the Greek Pythagoreans and the Indian Buddhists. By the time of Jesus, they had all travelled each others lands. For example, there were Buddhist missionaries in Roman cities in Jesus’ day. Each of these groups sought to revive the values of the matristic religion which had prevailed thousands years earlier, when peace, law, and justice had prevailed, prior to the time of the patriarchal invasions. They all had a dim memory of that ideal past and each wanted to get back to it, each in its own way.
My thesis is that Jesus was one of a long line of those prophets, one of the greatest. His aim was the moral perfection of humanity. Sadly, his legacy was derailed. His memory and teachings were hijacked by the Romans and their religious allies, the new gentile Christians, particularly the Latin Christians, and transmogrified into a New Testament and a Creed that get his story all wrong, omit many of his most significant ideas, and introduce ideas he would have disagreed with, first and foremost, his deification. As I like to say, Jesus did not want to be worshipped; he wanted to be followed.
Recall that I explained in the chapter of this book entitled Loss of Eden, p.39, that starting around 4300 B.C.E. Europe was invaded by the patriarchal Aryans, rough riders who spread the Indo-European languages. There had been similar Semitic invasions of the Middle East starting around 5500 B.C.E. Later, Aryans invaded Persia and India, and starting in 1492 they invaded the New World. Similar groups invaded China and Africa.
These early invaders rode on horseback, the first in history to do so. They had highly advanced weaponry for the time—powerful composite bows and bone-flint composite swords. These invaders conquered older cultures, killing most of the men, women, and boys and turning the surviving girls into slave wives. Hints of this sad period survive in Hebrew legend. (Cf. Genesis 6:4-5; Numbers 31:13-18, 32-35.)
What was the world like in the Old Middle East and Old Europe before 5500 or 4300 B.C.E.? There was no war, and we know that to be true because cities were not walled. There was probably no slavery. There was literacy; the old lettering survives on pottery, but there is no way to translate it. There was a basic equality between the sexes; most rulers and priests were women, but there were some kings and some male priests. Women leaders did not subordinate men as men later subordinated women.
Starting around 5500 B.C.E. in the Middle East and around 4300 B.C.E. in Europe, the world was turned upside down. The patriarchal invaders took the “daughters of men” as their slave wives (Genesis 6:2; Numbers 31:13-18, 32-35) and created hybrid societies and religions, generally referred to in the Indo-European speaking areas as Celtic or Vedic. It is my theory that the pre-Hebrews were just such a hybrid society, except that they spoke a Semitic language. These hybrid societies worshiped the storm and fire god of the conquerors. However, through the female line they retained memories of the goddess and of the time of peace, law, and justice.
The Hebrew Bible, a collection of sometimes legendary documents which often conflict with each other, contains both detailed instructions for animal sacrifice and at the same time exhortation to end the sacrifices and not eat meat. (Hosea 2:14,18, 4:1-3, 6:6, 8:11-13). As a part of their general return to the principles of the older matristic religion, the Hebrews were the first culture known to ban human and child sacrifice. Opposition to human sacrifice and child sacrifice are two of what I refer to as “keystone principles.” The absence of human and child sacrifice under the Old Europeans, their introduction by the patriarchs, and their abolition in historic times are all watershed events. (“Moloch,”; Genesis 22:12.)
Legend has it that from Adam to Noah humankind sacrificed no animals and ate no meat, which I believe indicates that there were societies which were vegetarian or which had a vegetarian religious or class priesthood. (Genesis 1:30, 9:3.) Moses tried to return Israel to the vegetarianism of the matristic Eden but failed. (Exodus 16:15; Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 6; Recognitions of Clement, 1:35 ff, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 8:87-88; Numbers 11:7, 18-34.)
Moses predicted that a prophet would come after him who would complete his work. (Deuteronomy 4:12, 36.) Jesus’ followers believed Jesus was that prophet (Acts 3:22) and that Jesus’ aim was to complete Moses’ work of returning the world to its Edenic peaceful state, as it was before the patriarchal invasions. Part of Moses’ work was to eliminate animal sacrifice from the Jewish religion. Jesus shared this goal and actually shut down the sacrificial system in the Jerusalem Temple for some short period of time. (John 2:14-16.) Jesus and his immediate circle of apostles were vegetarian, and so too was his Judeo-Christian church for 400 years until it was persecuted out of existence. That’s my theory.
Christians generally consider Jesus to have been great because he made the cosmic sacrifice—trading his life for our sins. However, the churches acknowledge he was great for a second reason—although, they rarely mention it—and that is because of the content of his ethical teachings. The points I make here will be developed more fully below.
Jesus referred to himself as a prophet. (Mark 6:4.) A prophet was not someone who predicted the future but one who spoke moral truths. As stated above, Jesus and his followers considered him to be the prophet Moses had predicted would later complete his work. (Deuteronomy 4:12, 36; Matthew 10:41, 13:57, 14:5, 21:11; Luke 7:39, 13:33; John 5:46, 6:14, 7:40; Acts 3:22, 7:37; cf. The Recognitions of Clement, 4:35-36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143.) Perhaps Jesus regarded himself as a prophet of the school of Hosea, for he quoted Hosea, who like Jesus opposed the sacrificing of animals. (Matthew 12:7; Hosea 6:6).
Jesus referred to himself 82 times as “son of man.” (Matthew 8:20, 9:16, 16:33, 19:28; Acts 7:56.) Outside the gospels, the term is used only a few times. (Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:6, 10:29; Revelation 1:13, 4:14.) The term “son of man” in the Hebrew Bible simply served as a term for “man” and was never used to describe god. The son of man in Daniel (7:13-14) had special powers, but again he was not a divinity but a human who guarded mankind. The term “prophet” and the phrase “son of man,” were quickly abandoned by Church Fathers as terms to describe Jesus. Perhaps “prophet” was too far down the hierarchy. Perhaps “son of man” was felt to be contradictory to “son of god.”
At his baptism Jesus was declared to be “son of god,” although only in the sense that each messiah-king of Israel was declared to be god’s adopted son at his coronation. “Messiah” literally means “one anointed with oil,” and kings were anointed. (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; Mark 1:11; Acts 10:38, 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5.) Thus “son of god” originally was just another way of saying “messiah-king.”
Others referred to Jesus as messiah-king or asked him if he were messiah-king. Jesus fled at one point from people who wanted to make him messiah-king. (John 6:15.) Jesus was apparently a direct descendant of David, and heir to the Davidian throne, should he only claim it. He was not sure initially whether he would accept his calling, for he asked his followers for their opinion. Later he privately admitted to them that he was messiah-king, but ordered them not to tell others. It was clear when he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey in messiah-king style, that he had committed himself.  (Matthew 16:16, 16:20, 26:63-64; Mark 9:41, 12:35; Luke 9:20; John 1:41, 4:25).
Apparently Jesus believed that the messiah-king would take power and free Israel from Roman tyranny when Israel was morally worthy and sufficiently righteous. (Matthew 3:2.) So Jesus called for repentance. He said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” by which he perhaps meant that if enough people repented, god would assist the repentant in establishing an earthly messianic kingdom. (Matthew 4:17.) Apparently too few repented. Jesus’ effort failed, at least in the short term.
Jesus took at least one military action. He took over the temple, drove out all those who bought and sold animals, and also drove out all the animals. Thus, he abolished animal sacrifices in the Temple for some period—as the messiah was to do: “In the time of the Messiah the sacrifices will cease (except that of thanksgiving).” (Pesik 9:79, “Antinomianism,”; see the section of this book entitled Jesus Stopped the Animal Sacrifices in the Temple, p. 179.) And he was crucified as messiah-king of the Jews. The sign on the cross said “King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:2, 25.)
Jesus was great because he took action. He got involved in anti-Roman politics. There were messianic claimants who raised armies such as Judas of Galilee (c. 6 C.E., Acts 5:37) and Jesus Bar Kokhba in the well-organized revolt of 132-135 C.E., but there were other messianic claimants who like Jesus raised no army, such as Theudas (c. 44-48 C.E., Acts 5:36; Josephus, Antiquities, 20:97) and “the Egyptian” (Acts 21:38; Josephus, Antiquities, 20:167.) War would be necessary, but god would do most of the fighting (Luke 22:38), as god had done for Gideon. (Judges 7:8.) Led by King Jesus and assisted by god, an independent Israel would drive out the brutal Roman dictatorship. But Israel would not have gone out to conquer other nations. Jesus’ apostles would only have judged Israel. (Matthew 19:28.) His kingdom would have served as an example to other nations of how to establish law, justice, and peace. It would have relied on moral force. Israel glorified its teachers, not its warriors. The religion of the messiah was ethical monotheism. God was inseparable from ethics and ethics was inseparable from the concept of god. (Isaiah 1:12-17; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Psalms 50:7-23; Deuteronomy 10:12-3; James 1:27, 2:8; Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 25:34-40.)
Jesus’ successors continued his messianic, prophetic tradition—because his message had been so convincing. They continued in his tradition also  because they perceived him alive after his crucifixion and felt the presence of the holy spirit— two experiences which might have been the same. They established a commune and worshiped in the Temple, setting up a vegetarian counter-cult alongside the traditional cult which sacrificed animals. (See the section of this book entitled Stephen, Hellenist, Foe of the Sacrificial System, p. 98.)
Jesus’ “church” believed that non-Jews could become disciples of Jesus either by converting to Judaism and becoming full Jewish Christians (although they never used the term “Christian”) or by simply adopting the seven laws which apply to all humans, the Noachide laws. (Acts 15:20.)
Jesus and those around him were vegetarian, and his followers were encouraged to “bear what they were able” regarding eating meat, which I believe meant they were to observe a vegetarian fast at lest two days per week (Didache 8:1-2), always to avoid eating the flesh of animals killed in connection with pagan sacrifices and sold in the public market, and always to avoid cruelty to animals. The rule against “eating things strangled” was a term of art or code name that stood for the rule against eating the meat of animals tortured or painfully killed. (Acts 15:20.) It is probable that vegetarianism was not an immediate or absolute requirement but a goal to be striven for. (See the sections of this book entitled James, Brother of Jesus, p. 108, and The Burden Theme, “Bear What Thou Art Able”, p. 158.)
The Judeo-Christian movement was persecuted out of existence by the 400s, although Muslim sources make mention of it as late as the 800s. Their books were banned. They were forbidden to be copied, which meant that after a few hundred years they rotted out of existence.  Probably some were burnt in the bonfires that thug monks set alight in the streets.
Jesus did not succeed in establishing his kingdom of ethical monotheism in his lifetime, but that does not mean he was a failure or that his followers will not yet someday succeed in his name. He pointed the way. He was a major player in the process that I am trying to describe in this book, the process of trying to return the world to a state of peace, justice, high ethical and environmental standards; to put an end to slavery; to find a balance between the sexes; to end child abuse; and achieve a sensitivity to the suffering of the animals.
Paul, John, and their disciples—who aimed their teachings at gentiles—completely dropped all references to Jesus as prophet and son of man. They preferred “son of god,” and not in the sense of adopted son of god but as pre-existent logos, and only-begotten son of god. They referred to Jesus as “Lord Jesus Christ,” and they used the term “christ” to mean “messiah-god” instead of “messiah-king.”
Ultimately, through a process of “christological inflation,” a term I have coined, Paul, John, and their successors made Jesus into god coequal with the father. Matthew and Luke taught Jesus was begotten of god at the time of his conception. (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35.) The author of Mark taught that Jesus became god’s son at his transfiguration or enthronement. (Mark 9:7.) Paul taught that Jesus was designated son of god and begotten at his resurrection. (Romans 1:4; Acts 13:33.) John taught Jesus was begotten of god from the beginning of time. (John 1:2.) The original Ebionites teaching was that Jesus was the natural born son of Joseph and Mary, that Jesus had been “begotten” at his baptism, meaning he had been adopted, like all Israel’s kings at their coronation, as god’s honorary and preeminent son. (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; Mark 1:11; Acts 10:38, 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5.)
Because the denomination known as “orthodox” or “catholic” or the “great church” was so well organized, because it so fiercely attacked all other Christian and pagan sects, and ultimately because it made an alliance with the Roman government, it ended up as the official religion and used that position to suppress or destroy all other pagan religions and all other sects of Christianity. In its many councils it perfected the theory that Jesus was the cosmic sacrifice in the Greek mystery religion sense that wiped away the sins of those who believed in him. Those who expressed doubts were excommunicated and told they would go to hell. Later, doubters were killed.
With the help of the Christian emperors, the orthodox drove the non-orthodox underground, including the Judeo-Christians, direct descendants of Jesus’ relatives and the original Jerusalem church. The possession of Christian books written in Hebrew was outlawed. Most traces of the Judeo-Christians vanish sometime around 400—although they are mentioned by Moslem scholars as late as the 800s. Their writings were burned or molded away, forbidden by law to be copied. Some Judeo-Christians returned to Judaism. Some merged into gentile Christianity. Some merged into and became a significant part of Islam in the 600s; in fact Islam may be best understood as the prophet Mohammed’s refinement of Nazarene (not Ebionite) Judeo-Christianity. See Ebionites vs. Nazarenes, p. 93.
Gentiles were familiar with gods who had divine sons and gods who died for the sins of the world, so Paul and John and their disciples got favorable feedback when they preached their christologically inflationary theology. To put it in a crass way, it sold well on the preaching circuit. Paul raised a lot of money. He bragged about his generosity, particularly in favor of the Judeo-Christians of Judea who were suffering because of drought and the confiscations and enslavements carried out by Roman tax farmers (Galatians 2:10) and because of persecutions by the same coalition which killed Jesus.
James, Jesus full brother, first “bishop” of the Judeo-Christian “church,” was assassinated in 62 C.E. The Judeo-Christians fled Jerusalem and lost their influence over gentile Christianity. The Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and the “Desposyni,” the kinsmen of Jesus, leaders of the Jerusalem church, went on the run from the Roman army. There was a vacuum of authority. James and the Jerusalem apostles stopped sending out teachers to rein in gentile Christians. Paul, John, and their successors were free to reinvent Jesus. The mutant gentile arm of Christianity grew quickly, and the original Jewish arm withered.
How could so much Christological inflation have occurred so quickly? See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134, for my theory as to how it happened.
Christological inflation may seem a little far afield from my topic, which is the diet of Jesus and his early followers. However, bear in mind that the process of elevating Jesus to status as deity coequal with god the father included a simultaneous deemphasis of Jesus as a teacher of ethical principles about making peace, which principles included making peace with the animals. Gentile Christians found it more convenient to worship a god who demanded certain beliefs but who put few restrictions on behavior, less convenient to follow a prophet who demanded that they make great changes in their behavior, including their dietary behavior.
Because the oldest gospels were burned or prohibited from being copied and thus rotted away and because the gospels we have today are so heavily edited by so many hands, one who is called to follow Jesus must do wide ranging historical research to identify the fragments of Jesus’ teaching which remain.
The Christianity of today focuses too much on the New Testament and too little on the many other sources of information about Jesus, too much on Jesus’ cosmic sacrifice and too little on Jesus’ ethical teachings, too much on getting forgiveness for sins and too little on stopping the sinning—including the sins we commit against innocent animals and the physical environment.
As you read this section, you will see that I am an admirer and follower of Jesus—not as the cosmic sacrifice but as our greatest teacher of peace, law, and justice. I am an admirer and follower not of the Jesus you read about in our mangled New Testament, but of the Ebionite Jesus of Judeo-Christian history.
Sufficient scraps of the oldest writings survived the anathemas of the heresy fighting Church Fathers and the book burning of the Roman censors to make it clear that Jesus was himself a vegetarian as were his Judeo-Christian followers.
A wise man built his house on a foundation of stone and it withstood rain, flood, and wind; a foolish man built his on sand and it collapsed when the storm came. (Matthew 7:24 ff.) A fully informed faith, aware of all issues, is strong. An uninformed faith may collapse when faced with unexpected questions.
Fundamentalists who believe every word of the Bible is literally true have sand as their foundation. They say the Bible is “fully verbally inspired,” and that if it is not, then it is all a lie. This itself is a lie. The Bible contains many truths, but is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies simply because it was written and rewritten by humans. Fundamentalists say we should approach the Bible with faith and just believe what it says, but they fail to say which contradictory version we should believe. See for a partial list of contradictions. I will point out more below.
The New Testament is even more flawed than the Old: It was not written by Hebrew speaking Judeo-Christians who had known Jesus but by Greek speaking gentile Christians who got their information third hand. It was heavily edited around 150 C.E. when the church of Rome cobbled together our New Testament in response to the New Testament that Marcion had brought to Rome. (See the section of this book entitled Marcion—Follower of Paul, Catalyst of the Canon, p. 131.) The books of the Judeo-Christians which would have given us a much more accurate picture of Jesus and his teachings were burned and suppressed and exist only in the few quotations which orthodox writers made of them.
Fundamentalists will have problems with my hypothesis that Jesus ate no meat, because the gospels clearly say Jesus ate fish, fed fish to others, and called apostles who were fishermen. (Matthew 7:10, 4:19, 14:17, 15:36, 17:27; Mark 1:17; Luke 24:42, John 6:9, 21:9. See the section of this book entitled What About the Fish Stories?  p. 191, for an explanation of how the fish passages arose.)
Jesus was not a fundamentalist. He exhorted his followers to be “prudent money changers”… “because there are genuine and spurious words” in the Old Testament and “…every man who wishes to be saved must become, as the Teacher said, a judge of the books written to try us.” (The Clementine Homilies, 2:51, 3:50, 18:20, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 238, 247, 329.) Jesus himself was a critical theologian, challenging the Judaism of his day. (Matthew 5:21-48, 22:29; Mark 12:24.) Those who are committed to Jesus should take the same critical approach to the New Testament as Jesus did to the Hebrew Bible and become deep historians. One searching for truth must search everywhere, with an open mind, and without fear. There is no reason to fear truth. Truth will strengthen, not undermine, an informed faith.
Only god is perfect. To say the Bible is fully verbally inspired is to say it is perfect, which is to say it is god. That is idolatry. Some would say fundamentalism is thus a form of idolatry. Some would say that to regard Paul’s writings as inspired is double idolatry, for not only was Paul not inspired, he was a perverter of Jesus’ teachings.
Fundamentalists believe they have a source of all knowledge and that they know everything, when their dependence on one book assures that the opposite is true. Because of their certainty that they know all, they close their minds to new insights. In their idolization of the New Testament, they fail to consider other sources of truth.
Fundamentalists, because they believe the New Testament literally, make two errors. They worship Jesus when they shouldn’t, and because they fail to study other sources which would tell them what Jesus really taught, they fail to follow him. As I say often, Jesus did not want us to worship him; he wanted us to follow him.
Fundamentalists also believe in the devil as a person almost as powerful as god. This keeps them from identifying the real devil: ignorance, the hard-to-interrupt cycle of violence, and artificial corporate entities which through legal manipulation have been released from ethical considerations and are dedicated only to profit maximization—the mindless quest for the false god Dollar. Fundamentalists misperceive what good is and misperceive what evil is.
Thus, for many reasons, fundamentalism is not just a harmless error; it is a dangerous form of thinking.
Theology is not particularly complicated; there is no reason why critical theology cannot be taught in churches. All seminary trained priests and ministers are at least partially aware of the issues I raise here, but they continue to feed their flock inspirational pablum. They do so in part out of habit and laziness, but also because they do not know how to untangle the New Testament mess. They do not know  what they would be left with if they started untangling it. Trained theologians know something is not right about the New Testament, but they do not know what the alternative is.
Below I will utilize the critical approach to introduce you to the various Jewish and Judeo-Christian vegetarian groups—Essenes, Nasoreans, Nazoreans, Ebionites, who claimed they got their ethical values including their vegetarianism from Jesus, James, Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and other followers of Jesus.
The Fathers believed Paul’s theories about the inherent sinfulness of humans and the power of the devil and thus saw a need for humans to punish themselves to overcome their evil nature and beat back the devil. Asceticism was their way to do that. The Church Fathers acknowledged that many of the founders had been vegetarian, but they categorized or dismissed vegetarianism as asceticism. (See Colossians 2:23.) For them, vegetarianism had no value except as a form of asceticism, a way to punish the body.
I will discuss the surviving sources of information regarding these vegetarians. The sources are extensive, and some are right in the New Testament. The revisionist editors did a haphazard job of purging vegetarian references as they edited the gospels. And some of what we know comes from quotations which ultra-orthodox heresy fighting Church Fathers made of now lost Judeo-Christian writings.
I will have much to say about Paul, who was not a vegetarian and who was contemptuous of vegetarians. He referred to them as being weak in faith because they would not eat meat. (1 Corinthians 8: 4-13.) He was contemptuous of the Jerusalem founders of Christianity, referring to them as “superlative apostles” and the “circumcision party.” (2 Corinthians 11:5,13, 12:11; Galatians 2:12. See Paul, James, and the Jerusalem Council, p. 122.)
Although Paul declared that vegetarianism was of no importance, early gentile Christians were nevertheless vegetarian or partially vegetarian. Catholic Christians for the first 800 years kept either a Monday through Friday or a Wednesday and Friday fast that was strictly vegetarian, and this can be traced back to the Didache and Didascalia, early Christian revisions of originally Essene and Judeo-Christian teaching manuals. Observant Orthodox Christians keep this fast even to the present. I will argue that such a strong tradition could only have come from Jesus and the Essene synagogue in which he grew up.
While I take a critical approach to theology, I try not to be destructive. I will do more than just show that parts of the New Testament are not literally true. I will give you the tools that will help you separate the true from the untrue and fill in the gaps that remain. I will introduce you to Jesus the prophet like unto Moses, vegetarian prophet in the tradition of Hosea, son of man, adopted but fully human son of god, and opponent of the Roman slaveocracy. If you are a Christian, you will come to know a far more compelling figure than the Jesus of the cosmic sacrifice. Your Christian faith will be grounded on a firmer foundation. If you are not a Christian, you will at least become an admirer of Jesus as a profoundly important teacher of a method of making the world a place of peace and justice.
Why do I take a critical approach? Shouldn’t I just focus on the evidence for Jesus’ vegetarianism and leave everything else about Christianity untouched—which is what groups like the Christian Vegetarian Association do? ( Why risk upsetting the faith of unlearned Christians? Because, simply put, the CVA approach is not convincing. It  appears to focus arbitrarily on the verses that favor vegetarian theory and ignore those that disfavor it.
For me to demonstrate the high probability that Jesus was a vegetarian, I must teach you the critical method and teach you the method in full. Using this tool, you will be able to read our highly edited New Testament and understand how to tell the oldest layers from those added later. A little bit of the critical method might just be enough for you to conclude that nothing in the New Testament is true. But if I take you all the way through the process, you will come out on the other side possessing tools sufficient to understand what Jesus stood for.
There is one final reason why I take a critical approach: I think if Jesus is looking over the balcony rail and observing what goes on down here on earth, he is probably tired of Christians inflating him into something he was not and completely missing what he actually was. Clarifying who he really was is a service I think he would appreciate. Something similar could be said of poor, confused Saul of Tarsus. He would probably appreciate someone undoing all the damage he did.
Most theologians take little notice of dietary matters as they construct their theories. I believe they overlook a powerful analytical tool. A focus on diet can lead to insights they otherwise might miss. I will return to this point frequently in this chapter, so I will say no more about it here.
I had studied theology for decades and been a strict vegan for ten years when I first encountered Dr. Charles P. Vaclavik’s book, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, at an EarthSave meeting. But it had never occurred to me until that point that Jesus had been a vegetarian. The evidence was there, right in the New Testament and in the writings of the Church Fathers, but I had never noticed it. None of my seminary professors, none of the theology texts I had read, even mentioned it. It’s a pretty amazing omission. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Vaclavik at vegan conventions, and I highly recommend his book as the best big-picture overview of the vegetarianism of Jesus.
The Didascalia and Didache are Christian adaptations of Essene or Judeo-Christian manuals used to school new converts, and these contain important references to Essene, Judeo-Christian, and early gentile vegetarianism. (
The Church Fathers make scores of references to the vegetarianism of the first Christians, including such Church Fathers as Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Epiphanius. The Ebionite Judeo-Christian Pseudo-Clementine writings escaped the fires of the Roman censor—probably because they center on Peter and thus helped support the primacy of the Roman church. They contain highly advanced theological discussions which I believe accurately reflect the thinking of Jesus and his early Ebionite followers. (,
Using the Crosswalk research tool, it is easy to do searches through the Old and New Testaments on a word or phrase basis. You can compare 17 different translations. You can have access to basic Greek and Hebrew lexicons by doing a search using the New American Standard Bible translation with Strong’s Numbers. ( See also the Online Parallel Bible at
Throckmorton’s Gospel Parallels is highly useful for comparing the three synoptic gospels. A version is available on line at
You can read the Greek Septuagint version or translation of the Hebrew Bible by going to, and you can compare the Hebrew Bible by going to and selecting New American Standard Bible with Strong’s Numbers. Comparing the Septuagint readings with the Hebrew Bible readings is important because the New Testament writers quote from the Septuagint—never from the Hebrew Bible. Because the Septuagint sometimes mistranslates the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament often misquotes the Hebrew Bible, sometimes creating nonsequiturs.
There is free internet access to the Jewish Encyclopedia, a hundred year old but still useful. ( You can buy the Encyclopedia Judaica for only $129 on CD-ROM. (
Glen Davis maintains a list of New Testament verses quoted or referred to by Church Fathers. We know the dates the Fathers wrote, so their use of New Testament verses can tell us when certain books were first being circulated. (
You may find the 1954 Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge useful. (
There is a wealth of information to be found on an official Catholic website which features the Catholic Encyclopedia. (
The Journal of Higher Criticism follows the critical theology of Walter Bauer and the Tubingen School. (
Jewish writers such as Josephus and Philo provide information about the vegetarian Essenes and James, brother of Jesus. (
Unfortunately, the writings of Epiphanius are not available online. Check out The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., Book I and II, through inter-library loan or buy it through Amazon for around $120.
I recommend all the writings of Hyam Maccoby, including The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity; Revolution in Judea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance; and Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages.
I highly recommend the writings of the late Dr. Shlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Pines translated numerous Moslem documents pertaining to the Judeo-Christians and other sects. In his Studies in the History of Religion see the section of the book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources.
Finally, I would like to add that I treat many sections of this chapter as free-standing articles. I have repeated arguments and sources which appear elsewhere. I do this because certain arguments and sources are relevant to numerous issues, and for the convenience of the reader. If I say the same things in different ways, it is more likely the reader will figure out what I am driving at.

In our day of mass publication, the Internet, and constitutional rights of freedom of speech and press, it is impossible to censor anything in advance—except perhaps defense secrets. After-the-fact censorship sometimes occurs in that if one libels, slanders, or violates the privacy of another in print or orally, he can be sued. However, there is no almighty censor who reads books, magazines, and newspapers before they are distributed.
It comes as a big surprise to most people that things were very different in Roman times. Every book had to be approved by the censor before being copied and sold. There were no printing presses. One made a book by hand copying it, a slow and expensive process. Few books were published. With the censor on your side, you really could kill an idea.
Roman emperor Theodosius I was an imposing figure in church-state history. In 380 C.E., without consulting with the bishops, he passed a law stating that the Nicene Creed was binding on all. He made religious tolerance illegal. He shut down the pagan temples, ending their animal sacrifices. He and his co-ruler Gratian were the first emperors not to take the title pontifex maximus, chief priest of all pagan religions. The emperor was no longer guardian of the Roman cults. Pope Damasus, who served from 366-384 C.E., was the first Roman bishop to assume that title.
The emperors Theodosius and Valentinian authorized the Roman censor either to require the editing of books which contained material considered heretical by orthodox Christian leaders, to forbid certain parts from being copied, to forbid books from being copied at all, or to order books destroyed. At a time when books were rare and written on paper, not copying them would mean that within a century or two they could rot away. The writings of the vegetarian Pythagorean Porphyry were ordered burned, probably all Judeo-Christian writings in Hebrew, and probably also all Gnostic writings. Someone buried gnostic documents, including the Gospel of Thomas, at Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt sometime in the 300s or 400s, probably to avoid their being burned by the censor.
There are surviving Christian and Jewish manuscripts in which entire lines and paragraphs have been blacked out with ink. There are also manuscripts in which there are blank spaces, meaning that they were copied from manuscripts in which those sections had been blacked out. See Robert Eisler, The Messiah and John the Baptist, p. 594 ff., for photos of censored manuscripts. Eisler’s book is a must-read book for those interested in the origins of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. It is long out-of-print, so request it through interlibrary loan.
The censor banned the Judeo-Christian writings as well, and this may explain why only fragments remain, usually in quotations made by the heresy fighters. (See for surviving fragments of the Gospel of the Hebrews and fragments of other works.)
We know of certain Judeo-Christian books by name which ceased to exist: The Gospel of the Ebionites (, The Ascents of James, The Preachings of Peter, and The Travels of Peter (Periodoi Petrou). The last two are probably imbedded in the Clementina, and some sections are quoted by Church Fathers and heresy-fighters such as Epiphanius. Islamic sources state clearly that there was an Aramaic or Hebrew gospel. I hypothesize that it was named “Matthew.” The Judeo-Christians refused to share the original Matthew with the Pauline Christians. (See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134.) So the Pauline Christians recited what they could remember of the original gospel from Sunday sermons and wrote it down in Greek, and the first edition of it was what scholars refer to as Proto-Mark. The compilers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke copied from Proto-Mark. The compilers of Matthew and Luke copied also from the Q document. It is likely that books that would tell us the most about Jesus were destroyed, probably in the time of Emperor Theodosius.
Eusebius refers to and quotes extensively from the church histories written by Hegesippus and Papius, each of which contained at least five books, neither of which survives. Eusebius (died c. 341) read their histories in the library at Caesarea. He says Hegesippus was “of Hebrew stock.” Hegesippus, as quoted by Eusebius, tells us most of what we know about James, including the fact that James was a vegetarian. Eusebius says that Papius believed that Jesus would return and set up a thousand year reign, and Catholic theologians say Papias’ history was destroyed for that reason. The Pauline Christians were trying to be accepted as Romans, and they knew the Romans would not approve of a religion that prophesied that a Hebrew messiah-king would return and rule. Eusebius worked closely with Constantine to found the Catholic Church and publish the first hundred complete Bibles. One has to wonder why he would not have seen to it that these early histories survive—unless they contained other information that he did not want preserved. (Eusebius, Church History, 2:23, 3:39, 4:22; Catholic Encyclopedia, “St. Papias,” Perhaps they still exist, hidden away in some secret Vatican library. It is hard to believe the Church would not have retained even one copy.
The emperor’s censor even required the editing of the Talmud to remove any language which was perceived to be offensive to Christianity. This is probably why code names are so often substituted for actual names in the Talmud and other Jewish writings and why there is so little information in them about Jesus and Christianity. The writings of Josephus were edited to be more favorable to the Catholic view of Jesus.
I will now review one-by-one the various early vegetarian groups, starting with the Essenes.
Essenes and Pharisees were both descended from the pre-Maccabean Hasidim. (“Essenes,” Pharisees emphasized the virtues of marriage and having a big family and were vegetarians presumably only when they fasted on Mondays and Thursdays or when they took the Nazarite vow. (Luke 18:22; See the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 7:23, which quotes the Didache, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 465 ff.)
Essenes were strict vegetarians, and older Essenes were generally celibate. I take the position that Jesus was of Essene background, while others say he was a Pharisee. The two positions are not irreconcilable because Essenes and Pharisees respected each other and shared most beliefs and customs.
Josephus, Philo, Eusebius, and Plinius say the Essenes were vegetarians. The Essenes shared vegetarianism and many other customs with the Pythagoreans.
The Essenes were active starting in the century before Jesus’ birth. Several important First Century individuals and movements either were descended from the Essenes or were influenced by them: John the Baptist, Matthew, Peter, James the brother of Jesus, all of Jesus’ apostles, the Judeo-Christian Ebionites, and Jesus himself—were all said by various sources to have refused flesh food altogether.
The Essenes probably did not refer to themselves as Essenes. Others gave them that name. Jews referred to the Essenes as kehala kaddisha and said they survived the fall of Jerusalem. (“Christianity in its Relation to Judaism,” They were called “Nasaraean” in Palestine and “Therapeutae” in Egypt, although the term “Nasaraeans” may refer to Essenes who married as opposed to those who were celibate. According to Epiphanius, an Essene related group, which existed before Jesus and before it accepted Jesus as messiah, was known as “Nasaraean.” The same group, after it had accepted Jesus as messiah came to be known as “Nazoraean.” (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., Book I, 19:5:4-6, p. 47, Book II, 29:6:1; see Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 2:17, p.50 ff.) Christians were referred to as “Nazarenes” before they were referred to as “Christians.” (Matthew 2:23; Acts 11:26, 24:5.)
The Essenes—spelled “Essens” by translator William Whiston—opposed the system of sacrificing animals in the Jerusalem Temple. Josephus says of them:
The doctrine of the Essens is this: … when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple, they do not offer sacrifices, because they have more pure lustrations of their own; on which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple, but offer their sacrifices themselves [or, commentators suggest, offer themselves as sacrifices]…?. (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, tr. Wm. Whiston, Book XVIII, 1:5, p. 377.)
The Essens … live the same kind of life as do those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans…?. Herod had these Essens in such honour, and thought higher of them than their mortal nature required. (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, tr. Wm. Whiston, Book XV, 10:4, p. 333 f.)
[They] seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other [Hebrew] sects have. These Essens reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue. They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons’ children, while they are pliable, and fit for learning; and esteem them to be of their kindred, and [adopting them as orphans] form them according to their own manners. They do not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage… but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man. [Perhaps Josephus was a bigot. On the other hand, women who followed, for example, the religion of Dionysus in his day were known for their infidelity. Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident,
p. 75.] These men are despisers of riches…?. [I]t is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order,—insomuch, that among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but every one’s possessions are intermingled with every other’s possessions…?. [Acts 2:44.] They think… it… is a good thing… to be clothed in white garments…?. [S]wearing is avoided by them…?. They also take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients, and… inquire after such roots and medicinal stones as may cure their distempers…?. They are long-lived also; insomuch that many of them live above a hundred years by means of the simplicity of their diet…?. Although they were tortured… that they might be forced… to eat what was forbidden them, yet could they not be made to…?. [T]here is another order of Essens, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life…?. (The Wars of the Jews, tr. Wm. Whiston, Book II, 8:2-13, p. 476, ff. My comments are in brackets.)
The Jewish writer, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C.E.-c. 50 C.E.), said of the Essenes:
There is a portion of those people called Essenes, in number something more than four thousand in my opinion, who derive their name from their piety, though not according to any accurate form of the Grecian dialect, because they are above all men devoted to the service of God, not sacrificing living animals, but studying rather to preserve their own minds in a state of holiness and purity. (Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, Every Good Man is Free, XI (75), p. 689.)
Of the Essenes, Plinius the Elder allegedly said in his Natural History:
… [T]hey ate only fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts, legumes, germinated seeds and grains, and tender, small, ‘baby’ greens, taken fresh from the gardens and orchards right before their meals…?. (Quoted from Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, The Essene Way: Biogenic Living, p. 95.)
As you will see below, there is considerable evidence that Jesus came from an Essene family and was himself an Essene vegetarian.
The Therapeutae were Pythagorean Jewish Essenes living in Egypt. Eusebius, an orthodox Christian historian, mentioned them in his Church History, which he wrote around 325 C.E. Eusebius was a confidant of Constantine, the first pro-Christian emperor, and worked with him to synthesize and stabilize orthodox Christianity. Eusebius refers to the Therapeutae as “our ascetics,” thus making it appear that by his day at least some Therapeutae had accepted Jesus as messiah. Relying on and quoting from the Jewish historian Philo, who was a contemporary of Jesus, Eusebius says of them:
[Philo] says that they are called Therapeutae and their womenfolk Therapeutrides, and goes on to explain this title. It was conferred either because like doctors they rid the souls of those who come to them from moral sickness and so cure and heal them, or in view of their pure and sincere service and worship of God…?. He lays special emphasis on their renunciation of property, saying that when they embark on the philosophic life they hand over their possessions to their relations, then, having renounced all worldly interests, they go outside the walls and make their homes on lonely farms and plantations well aware that association with men of different ideas is unprofitable and harmful. That, apparently, was the practice of the Christians of that time…?. Similarly, in the canonical Acts of the Apostles it is stated that all the disciples of the apostles sold their possessions and belongings and shared them out among the others in accordance with individual needs…?. “The community is… very strong in Egypt… and especially in the Alexandrian area…?. It is situated above Lake Mareotis…?.” [They] absolutely refuse to touch wine or any flesh food, drinking nothing but water and seasoning their bread with salt and hyssop. (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 2:17, 50 ff., referring to (Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (73), p. 705.)
Note, that even the orthodox Eusebius admits the close similarities between the Therapeutae and the first Christians.
According to Philo, the Therapeutae opposed slavery:
… [T]hey do not use the ministrations of slaves, looking upon the possession of servants or slaves to be a thing absolutely and wholly contrary to nature, for nature created all men free.” (Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (71) p. 704.)
Essenes rejected animal sacrifices and therefore would have taken a critical approach toward verses in the Old Testament which allowed it. Likewise, the Judeo-Christian Ebionite authors of the Clementina, apparent successors of the Essenes and Therapeutae, took the approach that the text of the Hebrew Bible had been tampered with. (The Clementine Homilies, 2:51-52, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 238.)
Many beliefs and customs of the Therapeutae and the Essenes were derived from or are similar to those of the Buddhists: There were orders of males and females, and the two lived separately. Worldly goods were renounced. There were morning and evening prayers. They had no slaves. There were novices and full members. And they were all vegetarians. Around 240 B.C.E., King Asoka of India sent Buddhist missionaries to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Corinth, and other Mediterranean cities. (Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten, The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity, p. 67, 180 ff.)
A major difference between Buddhists (along with many Christian orders) on the one hand and Essenes (like the Pythagoreans before them) on the other hand was that Buddhists and many Christian monks were mendicants, begging for their keep, while Essenes and Pythagoreans and some Christian orders formed cooperatives and were self-supporting.
This is a good point to introduce Epiphanius of Salamis (315-403 C.E.), ultra-orthodox Cypriot bishop and author of the Panarion, which means pharmacopeia or medicine cabinet, an intolerant refutation of all known heresies. Epiphanius lived and traveled in the Levant for the last 42 years of his life, and so his Panarion, if read critically, merits attention. Epiphanius was sloppy. He knew no Hebrew. He failed to understand the subtle differences between the various Judeo-Christian groups—Essenes, Therapeutae, Nasaraeans, Nazoraeans, and Ebionites. Epiphanius treats them all as separate groups just because the different names existed. Fortunately, he mechanically quoted from documents he found heretical. He claims to have interviewed Judeo-Christians, although some scholars claim he got all his information from reading the Clementina and earlier heresy fighters.
In the Panarion Epiphanius says the Nasaraeans were a pre-Christian Jewish sect which existed beyond the Jordan. I propose they were that group of Essenes which married, referred to above. Epiphanius says they rejected the authenticity of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, referred to by Christians as the Pentateuch, believing that the text had been compiled or rewritten after Moses’ day and had been tampered with. They believed that the passages dealing with animal sacrifice and others were added by later editors. Regarding the Nasaraeans, Epiphanius says:
They were Jews by nationality…?. They practiced Judaism in all respects… but they did not introduce fate or astrology. They too recognized the fathers in the Pentateuch from Adam to Moses…?. But they would not accept the Pentateuch itself. They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received legislation—not this legislation, however, but some other. And so, though they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claimed that these books [the Torah] are fictions, and that none of these customs [meat eating and sacrifices] were instituted by the fathers. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 18, Book I, pp. 44 ff; my comments are in square brackets.)
Note that the Ebionite writers of the Clementina took the same critical approach regarding the Pentateuch, which would imply that the Ebionites were intellectual descendants of the Nasaraeans which Epiphanius wrote about. (The Clementine Homilies, 2:51-52.)
According to Epiphanius, the Nasaraeans were one of the seven Jewish sects which were in Jerusalem up to the conquest of the city in 70 C.E. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 19:5:6, p. 47.)
It is probable that the Essenes and the Nasaraeans were the same sect and that Jesus came from the Essene/Nasaraean tradition and was himself an Essene/Nasaraean.
After writing about the Essenes, Epiphanius writes about the Ossaeans, without specifying how they differed from the Essenes and Nasaraeans:
This, then, is the Ossene sect, which livest the Jewish life in Sabbath observance, circumcision, and the keeping of the whole Law. Though it is different from the other six of these seven [Jewish] sects, it causes schism only by forbidding the books <of Moses> like the Nasaraeans. <One text> [Matthew 12:5] will be enough to expose its foreignness to God, since the Lord plainly says, “The priests in the temple profane the Sabbath.” But what can this profanation of the Sabbath be except that no one did work on the Sabbath, but the priests broke it in the temple by offering sacrifice, and profaned it for the sake of the continual sacrifice of animals? (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 19:5:1-2, p. 47. Sections in square brackets are my interpretations. Sections in angles are Frank Williams’ interpolations of text that has been lost.
Something is missing in Epiphanius’ argument about the Ossaeans or the edition of his work that has come down to us, and that probably was a statement that the Ossaeans, like the Nasaraeans, opposed the Temple sacrifices and this was the aspect of the “books of Moses” that they disputed. This is a reasonable conclusion to draw since the rest of the quotation made of Matthew 12:5 includes the most explicit statement of Jesus in the New Testament against the sacrificial system:
I tell you, something greater than the temple is there. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:6-7.)
I will go into a detailed analysis of this verse below and show that the “guiltless” is a reference to the animals being sacrificed and that Jesus and all the Judeo-Christian sects, except perhaps for the Pharisees and priests who joined the Way, opposed the temple sacrifices. (See the section of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 176.)
Epiphanius says the Ossaeans were guilty of “… forbidding the books <of Moses> like the Nasaraeans.” This refers to their critical view that many Torah passages had been changed or added. (Compare The Clementine Homilies, 2:51-52, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 238.) The “Nasaraeans,” “Essenes,” “Ossaeans,” and “Ebionites” may have been different names for the same or overlapping group at different times or in different places.
Jesus was perhaps referred to as a Nasoraean or Nazoraean during his life. (Matthew 2:23.) His followers were referred to as Nazoraeans long before they were referred to as Christians, and they were first referred to as Christians outside of Jerusalem, in Antioch. (Acts 11:26, 24:5.) Perhaps the same group is referred to as Nasoraean before Jesus’ death and Nazoraean after it. Epiphanius has much to say about the Nazoraeans:
After these come Nazoraeans, who originated at the same time or even before, or in conjunction with them or after them [probably referring to the Nasaraeans and Essenes]…?. For this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus’ own name, but “Nazoraeans.” However, at that time all Christians were called Nazoraeans in the same way. They also came to be called “Jessaeans” for a short while, before the disciples began to be called Christians at Antioch [Acts 24:5]. But they were called Jessaeans because of Jesse, I suppose, since David was descended from Jesse…?. But because of the change in the royal throne, the rank of king passed, in Christ, from the physical house of David and Israel to the church…?. James, called the brother and apostle of the Lord, was made the first bishop…?. [H]e was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once a year, as scripture says the Law commanded the high priests…?. He was allowed to wear the priestly mitre…?. [I]n Philo’s [c. 20 B.C.E.-c. 50 C.E.]… book entitled “Jessaeans,” you may discover that, in his account of their way of life and hymns, and his description of their monasteries in the vicinity of the Marean marsh, Philo described none other than Christians. For he was edified by his visit to the area—the place is called Mareotis—and his entertainment at their monasteries in the region…?. I mean the Nazoraeans, whom I am presenting here. They were Jewish, were attached to the Law, and had circumcision…?. [E]veryone called the Christians Nazoraeans…?. [Acts 24:5]… In those days everyone called Christians this because of the city of Nazareth [an error, in my opinion]…?. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew…?. They are different from Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Christ; but since they are still fettered by the Law—circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest—they are not in accord with Christians. As to Christ, I cannot say whether they… regard him as a mere man—or whether… they affirm his birth of Mary by the Holy Spirit…?. Today this sect of the Nazoraeans is found… near Pella… [f]or that was its place of origin, since all the disciples had settled in Pella after they left Jerusalem…?. Not only do Jewish people have a hatred of them; they… three times a day when they recite their prayers in the synagogues… curse and anathematize them…?. They have the Gospel according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 29, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 112-119; see Glen Allen Koch, A Critical Investigation of Epiphanius’ Knowledge of the Ebionites, 1976, p. 198 f. The comments in square brackets are mine.)
One scholar says the Nazoraeans believed in the full divinity of Jesus. (Bellarmino Bagatti, tr. Eugene Hoade, The Church from the Circumcision: History and Archaeology of the Judaeo-Christians, p. 30 ff.).  This is unlikely.
Epiphanius does not say the Nazoraeans were vegetarians, however, he classes them with the other Jewish sects, and he equates the Nazoraeans with the Jessaeans and mentions that Philo wrote that they had a center at Mareotis. According to Eusebius, Philo had been referring to the Essenes and the Therapeutae, and they “… absolutely refuse to touch wine or any flesh food.” (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 2:17, p. 53.)
I know of no book by Philo entitled “The Jessaeans” or “The Essenes,” however, Philo does describe the Essenes in Every Good Man is Free” and Hypothetica.” And Eusebius quotes extensively from Philo’s description of the Therapeutae in his Church History. Epiphanius is saying that the Judeo-Christians were referred to as Nazoraeans and then Jessaeans, and it would be reasonable to conclude that “Jessaean” is another word for “Essene.” (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 2:17, p. 50 ff.,, referring to Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (73), p. 705.)
Further, Epiphanius, in his discussion of the Ebionites, whom he clearly states were vegetarians, makes this side comment about the Nazoraeans:
… Ebion… has… the viewpoint of the Ossaeans, Nazoraeans and Nasaraeans…?. For Ebion was contemporary with the Nazoraeans and, <since he was> their ally, was derived from them.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:2:1, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120. Sections in angles are Frank Williams’ interpolations of text that has been lost.)
Epiphanius thus implies that the Nazoraeans and Jessaeans of his day were vegetarians.
Church Fathers Ignatius (died c. 107), Justin Martyr (died c. 165) Ireneus (died c. 202), Tertullian (died c. 220), Hippolytus (died c. 236), Origen (died c. 253) Eusebius, (died c. 341), Epiphanius (died c. 403), and Jerome (died c. 420) used numerous names for the various Judeo-Christian sects, including Essenes, Ossaeans, Jessaeans, Therapeutae, Nasaraeans, Nasoreans, Nazarenes, and Ebionites. The names of these groups and groups to which these names applied changed over time, and the Church Fathers may have had inaccurate or incomplete ideas regarding their names and beliefs. Some of these names may overlap. Except for Epiphanius, the Fathers primarily refer to Ebionites and Nazarenes, although they do not use them consistently.
Ignatius condemned the Ebionites as those who think “… the Lord to be a mere man, and not the only-begotten God, and Wisdom, and the Word of God and… to consist merely of a soul and a body.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, p. 83, Ireneus said the Ebionites considered Paul not to have been an apostle. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3:15, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, p. 439,
Hippolytus said Nazarenes considered the Torah binding only on Jews while Ebionites considered it binding on all. (“Nazarenes,”, quoting from Comm. In Jes. 1:12.) Origen referred to the “twofold sect of the Ebionites,” both of which were Torah observant, the first of which considered Jesus’ birth to have been ordinary and the second of which affirmed the virgin birth; my theory is that the first came to be called “Ebionite,” while the second came to be called “Nazarene.” (Contra Celsum, 5:61 Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 570.) Eusebius also referred to two Ebionite sects and says that both rejected Paul and considered him an apostate from the Law. (The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 27:3-6.) Jerome suggested that the Nazarenes accepted Paul and believed in the virgin birth of Jesus. (“Letter 112 to Augustine,” and “On Isaiah 9:1-4,” both quoted by Ray A. Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity, p. 53, 64.)
Epiphanius lived in the Levant and apparently interviewed Ebionites. He said they derived their name from their heretical leader Ebion, which is incorrect. He said that the same sect was known as Nazoraean before the fall of Jerusalem and as Ebionite thereafter. That they observed the Torah and made visits to the ritual bath when they became unclean. That they did not eat meat. That they rejected the virgin birth story and believed Jesus to have been born of Joseph and Mary by natural intercourse. That they believed certain gnostic heresies (an accusation frequently made, even by modern scholars, but for which I find no evidence). That they believed Jesus was a prophet who was called son of god only because he lived a virtuous life. That Jesus declared that he came to abolish the sacrifices. That Jesus did not eat the Passover lamb (Matthew 26:18) and taught his followers not to eat meat. That they rejected certain parts of the Hebrew Bible. That they believed that Paul converted to Judaism to marry a high priest’s daughter and, when rebuffed, turned against Judaism. That they were “scum.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:1:1, 30:2:1, 30:3:1, 30:16:5, 30:16:9, 30:18:4-7, 30:22:1, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, Section II, p. 119-151.)
… Ebion, the Ebionites’ founder… has the Samaritans’ [gnostics’] repulsiveness, the Jews’ name, the viewpoint of the Ossaeans, Nazoraeans and Nasaraeans… and the badness of the [gnostic] Carpocratians. Ebion was contemporary with the Nazoraeans and, <since he was> their ally, was derived from them.… [H]e said that Christ was generated by sexual intercourse and the seed of a man, Joseph…?. [T]his sect repudiates celibacy…?. They got their start after the fall of Jerusalem…?. They too accept the Gospel according to Matthew… in the Hebrew language… [which says regarding John the Baptist]… “… his meat… was wild honey [Mark 1:6], whose taste was the taste of manna, as a cake in oil”… to… substitute “a cake in honey” for “locusts”!… But they use… Clement’s so-called Peregrinations of Peter… and lied about Peter… saying that he was baptized daily for purification as they are. And they say he abstained from living flesh and dressed meat as they do, and any other meat-dish—since both Ebion himself, and Ebionites, abstain from these entirely. [Regarding Jesus] they say… that he came and instructed us <to abolish the sacrifices>. As their so-called Gospel says, “I came to abolish the sacrifices, and if ye cease not from sacrifice, wrath will not cease from you.” They say… that Christ is prophet of truth and Christ; <but> that he is Son of God by promotion…?. Nor do they accept Moses’ Pentateuch in its entirety…?.When you say to them, of eating meat… [and why Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ate meat and sacrificed animals] he will answer, “Christ has revealed this to me…?.”… But how can their stupidity about eating meat not be exposed out of hand? In the first place, the Lord ate the Jewish Passover… the flesh of a sheep…?.Christ actually said, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.” But they misled themselves by writing in meat and making a false entry, and saying, “Have I desired with desire to eat this Passover with you?” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138.) Sections in square brackets are my interpretations. Sections in angles are Frank Williams’ interpolations of text that has been lost.)
Regarding the Nazarenes, Epiphanius said they accepted the New Testament, implying that they accepted Paul’s writings. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 29:7:2, 29:7:6, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, Section II, p. 117-118.)
Although the terms are not used consistently by the Fathers, I choose to use the term Ebionite to refer to the group which was vegetarian and more observant of the Law. I assume the Ebionites were the authors of the core of the Clementina. (See the section of this book entitled Simon Peter, the Clementina, p. 102.) So my view of them is as follows: They were vegetarians, and they believed Jesus had been a vegetarian. They regarded Jesus as messiah and the prophet whom Moses predicted would come after him and complete his work. They regarded him as fully human and not a deity. They rejected the virgin birth story. They believed the Hebrew Bible had been tampered with. They regarded Paul as an apostate and heretic. They kept the Sabbath and lived a Torah-observant life. My hypothesis is that the Ebionites were descended from Essenes and Therapeutae who accepted the messiahship of Jesus, and they most closely reflect the beliefs of the earliest Judeo-Christians. They got their name not from a man named Ebion, as the heresy fighters accused, but from the “Poor” (Ebionim in Hebrew) of Jerusalem. (Acts 2:42-47, 6:1, 7:11; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10; see the two sections of this book entitled Four Wings of the Jerusalem Church, Two of them Vegetarian, p. 145, and Stephen, Hellenist, Foe of the Sacrificial System, p. 98.)
My conclusions regarding the less observant of the Judeo-Christians, which I choose to refer to as Nazarenes, is as follows: They were probably not vegetarian except when they fasted but did keep kosher. They were half way orthodox in their christology. They believed in the virgin birth. They held to a relatively high christology, but did not believe Jesus was god in the Catholic sense. They believed that Jesus had been created by god the father, whereas Catholics came to regard Jesus as “only begotten” (John 1:14,18, 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9, 5:1; Revelation 1:5) and “uncreated,” that is, eternally pre-existent with the father. Some Nazarenes may have followed Paul, as do today’s naive “Jews for Jesus,” and some may have rejected him. They differed from orthodox Christians outwardly in that they kept the Sabbath and lived a Torah-observant life. My hypothesis is that this group descended from non-vegetarian Pharisees and priests in Jerusalem who accepted the messiahship of Jesus, that they branched off from the Ebionites, and that some of them may have gradually come to accept some of Paul’s teachings. Many of them converted to Islam. Moslem teachings regarding Jesus appear to derive from the Nazarenes, in fact Islam can possibly be explained as the prophet Mohammed’s refinement of Nazarene Christianity. (See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134; Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 3:27:3-6; Jerome, Letter 112, Jerome to Augustine, 4:13;; Ray A. Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity; “Nazarene,” “Ebionites,” and “Gospel of the Ebionites,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1957 ed.;”) “Ebionites,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. III, p. 768.)
When I refer to “Ebionites,” I mean those Judeo-Christians who remained vegetarians, rejected Paul, and compiled the Clementina. When I refer to “Nazarenes,” I mean those Judeo-Christians who were perhaps not originally vegetarian and who gradually adopted some Catholic and Pauline doctrines and later merged into Islam in great numbers.
Why was Jesus referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth?”
After returning from Egypt, Joseph “…came and lived in a city called Nazareth. (Nazareth in Greek, n-ts-r-th in late-Talmud Hebrew.) This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” (Matthew 2:23, Nazoraios in Greek.) The word Nazoraios is translated sometimes as “of Nazareth” and sometimes as “Nazarene,” depending on the passage and which New Testament version is consulted. (Matthew 2:23, 26:71; Luke 18:37; John 18:5, 18:7, 19:19, Acts 2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22;8, 24:5, 26:9.)
However, the editor of Matthew made a serious blunder: There is no Old Testament prophecy that the messiah would be called a Nazarene or come from Nazareth! Nazareth is not even mentioned in Hebrew Bible or in the early Talmud, and some scholars suggest the town did not even exist in Jesus’ day.
The Jerusalem Christians were referred to as “the Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 22:4,14, 22) and as Nazarenes (Nazoraios, Acts 24:5). Even Paul is referred to as a Nazarene. (Acts 24:5.)
Jesus was also called Nazarenos in Greek, which like Nazoraios is translated sometimes as “Nazarene” and sometimes as “of Nazareth.” (Mark 1:24, 10:47, 14:67, 16:6; Luke 4:34, 24:19.) It is reasonable to ask if Jesus was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Nazarene” and whether he was called “Nazarene” for some reason other than that he was from Nazareth.
Further complicating the picture is the fact that Jesus was consecrated a Nazarite at his birth (sometimes spelled “Nazirite,” n-z-r in Hebrew, not n-ts-r). One who took the Nazarite vow was to drink no wine, leave his hair uncut, not touch dead bodies and in other ways avoid ceremonial uncleanliness, and be committed to god. Jesus was said to have been dedicated as a Nazarite—although the term “Nazarite” is not used—before he was born: “… he shall drink no wine nor strong drink…” (Luke 1:15.) Men who felt they were drinking too much often took the Nazarite vow, an ancient version of Alcoholics Anonymous. (“Nazarite,”
A Nazarite was not required to be a vegetarian, however, many were, including Jesus and James his brother. According to Eusebius: “[James] was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.” This is probably a reference to the public baths which the Romans built in Jerusalem, probably not a reference to the ritual bath or mikvah, which James certainly would have used.” (Church History, 2:23:5.) So perhaps Jesus was originally called “Nazarite,” not “of Nazareth.”
Complicating the picture even more is the hypothesis that Jesus was the netser or branch (n-ts-r in Hebrew.) Netser is a term found in Isaiah 11:1, which says
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch [netser] shall grow out of his roots.
Jesse was the father of David. Netser is a shoot or branch. The Talmud uses the same n-ts-r root when it refers to Christians as Notsri. The Isaiah prophesy then would mean not that the messiah would come from Nazareth but that he would be a descendant of David. (Cf. the word tsemach, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12, Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15, likewise translated as “branch.”)
Jesus was of the Davidian dynasty, so there would have been Davidians before him. Recall that Epiphanius said there were “Nasaraeans” even before Jesus and the Nazoreans, and the group he describes sounds like the Essenes or Ebionites. Maybe Epiphanius should have said there was a Netzer movement before Jesus. This is more evidence that Jesus was not “of Nazareth” but part of the branch of David, that is, a descendant of David and of the Davidian dynasty. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 18-19, p. 42-48, 29:6:1, p. 116.)
The of-Nazareth-Nazarite-Netzer confusion is like the many other mistakes that gentile New Testament editors and writers made. They had never known Jesus or the original apostles. They were unlearned in Hebrew. They had never seen the original Judeo-Christian Hebrew gospel. They relied on oral transmissions of lengthy memorized Sunday sermons crudely translated into Greek, which they transcribed and made into the four gospels we know. Editors revised them in Rome around 150 C.E., responding to the New Testament which Marcion had collected and brought to Rome. (See the section of this book entitled Marcion—Follower of Paul, Catalyst of the Canon, p. 131.)
Because the teachings and behaviors of John the Baptist are so similar to those of the Essenes, it is probable that John the Baptist was an Essene or was influenced by them. The Slavonic (Old Russian) edition of Josephus’ The Jewish Wars contains an account of a prophet that almost certainly is John the Baptist, although John is not mentioned by name:
At that time a man was going about Judea remarkably dressed; he wore animal hair on those parts of his body not covered by his own. His face was like a savage’s. He called on the Jews to claim their freedom, crying: “God sent me to show you the way of the Law, so that you can shake off any human yoke: no man shall rule you, but only the Most High who sent me.” The man was brought before Archelaus and an assemblage of lawyers, who asked who he was and where he had been. He replied: “I am a man called by the Spirit of God, and I live on stems, roots, and fruit…?.” Wine and other strong drink he would not allow to be brought anywhere near him, and animal food he absolutely refused—fruit was all that he needed. The whole object of his life was to show evil in its true colours. (Josephus: The Jewish War, tr. G.A. Williamson, p. 397-398.)
Archelaus ruled from 4 B.C.E. to 6 C.E. In this account John, assuming this is John, would have been an adult at the time when he and Jesus were said to have been born according to Luke. (1:36, 60.) Irenaeus (died c. 220) contends that John and Jesus were born at least 20 years earlier than the often unreliable Luke says, and that Jesus was crucified in his fifties. (Cf. Charles P. Vaclavik, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, p. 73 ff.; Irenaeus Against Heresies, 2:22:6, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, p. 392, In John (8:57) Jesus’ critics question his authority by remarking “You are not yet fifty years old,” which would imply he was certainly older than thirty.
The Slavonic edition was a translation of an early version of Josephus’ work from the original Hebrew or Aramaic into an old, south Russian dialect. The original Hebrew or Aramaic version has been lost. Josephus’ writings were distributed widely. Translations that had been exported outside the borders of the Roman empire were not exposed to censorship by the “Great Church” or the Roman censor, so the Slavonic edition contains information which was edited out of Western versions. (See Robert Eisler’s The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, p. 133, ff., for a fascinating account of the censorship process as it was applied to the writings of Josephus.) This story from the Slavonic edition of Josephus is consistent with Luke 1:15, in which it was said of John, “… he shall drink no wine nor strong drink.” However, it is not fully consistent with Matthew 3:4 which says, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Regarding John’s diet, Upton Clary Ewing, quoting in part from Dr. Edgar Goodspeed, says:
The gospels say John’s food was locusts and wild honey…?. Some have interpreted this to mean the bean of the honey locust or the carob tree.
It appears, however, that the gospel report is in error due probably to a mistake in copying. A quotation from the Aramaic gospel of Matthew, (probably the first gospel written) and preserved by Epiphanius, describes the food of John the Baptist as “wild honey and cakes made with oil and honey.” [Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:13:4, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, Section II, p. 130.]
These cakes were probably made with wheat or barley meal, a staple food of the Essenes. Here, again, if John lived in the desert, where else would he have obtained food of this kind but from the kitchens at Qumran?
[Quoting from Goodspeed:] “The Greek word for oil cake is ‘enkris;’ the Greek word for ‘locust is ‘akris.’”
Thus it becomes quite clear how a mistake, intentional or otherwise, could have been made in copying of the original Greek manuscript. (Upton Clary Ewing, The Prophet of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 82-83, quoting in part from Dr. Edgar Goodspeed, History of Early Christian Literature.)
The Essenes were known for making bread in an unorthodox manner. They believed in eating food raw as much as possible. They sprouted grain and mashed it into cakes, which they baked in the sun. Perhaps this is how the Israelites made manna in the desert. (Edmond Szekely, The Essene Gospel of Peace, pp. 40-41.) Perhaps this odd looking bread inspired someone to refer to it as locusts. Or perhaps the reference was made as an intentional slander.
What would have been John’s attitude to the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem Temple? One can infer that he would have opposed it. It is often said that the role of animal sacrifices was the forgiveness of sins. However, Hyam Maccoby’s explains that sins were forgiven through repentance and that the sacrifice was only for final reconciliation, that is atonement. (The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, p.31-32; “Atonement,” John “appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4.)
Following the destruction of the Temple, Christians followed John’s tradition. (Acts 18.25.) In post-Temple Judaism, sins were forgiven through prayer, which would include repentance, instead of the sacrifices and instead of baptism. Note that some early Christians were hemerobaptists, meaning that they were baptized frequently, even daily, for forgiveness or to be ritually clean. (See The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, 30:15:3, Book I, Section II, p. 131.)
Stephen, one of the first Jerusalem Christians, made enemies who plotted his downfall. We read in Acts 6:11-7:60:
Then they secretly instigated men, who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses [perhaps that the Torah had been tampered with] and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses, who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place [the Jerusalem Temple] and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs [perhaps regarding animal sacrifices] which Moses delivered to us.”… And Stephen said: Our fathers… in their hearts [remembered] Egypt, saying to Aaron, “Make for us gods to go before us…?. And they made a calf in those days [Exodus 32], and offered a sacrifice to the idol…?. But God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: “Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices, forty years in the wilderness, o house of Israel?… I will remove you beyond Babylon”… [I]t was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands…?. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?… Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him…?. (The words in brackets are my comments.)
Bear in mind that what we are reading is someone’s incomplete or redacted notes of what Stephen said, perhaps a bad translation from a Hebrew Acts of the Apostles. There are large gaps that we have to try to fill in. Stephen is saying that the sacrificial system of Israel was in some way illegitimate. He points out that god condemned the sacrificing of animals to the golden calf (Acts 7:41), and he puts the sacrificial system of Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple in the same class.
Stephen asks (Acts 7:42) “Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness…?” quoting Amos 5:25. (See Jeremiah 7:21 ff.) The surprising answer to this question was “No.” The legend is clear that during the forty years after the Israelites left Egypt there was no animal sacrifice, except for the sacrifices made to the golden calf, which were condemned. (Numbers 11:4-33, 15:1, 25:2; Exodus 32:6.) A better translation of this sentence would be: “You didn’t offer slain beasts as sacrifices during your forty years of wandering in Sinai, did you? Of course not. Then why are you offering them now?” Stephen is making reference to that ideal time in the desert when Moses tried to return the Israelites to the plant-based diet of Eden. He is saying that the sacrificing of animals in his day was being done in imitation of the idolatrous sacrifices of neighboring nations, just as was done in the case of the golden calf.
Stephen refers to the previous destruction of the Jerusalem Temple at the hands of the Babylonians and the exile of the Jews to Babylonia. (Acts 7:43.) He thus renews Jesus’ threat that the Temple could be destroyed again if changes were not made. The change would be a reorientation of the religion: Instead of one centered on appeasing an angry god who demands bloody sacrifices, it would be one centered on living by high ethical standards. (Matthew 9:13, 12:7.) Stephen is saying what Jesus had said: Unless the sacrificing of animals was stopped, the Temple would be destroyed and the Jews would be exiled from Jerusalem.
Finally, Stephen suggests that the Temple priesthood had killed other prophets who had delivered this same message, which would have included Jesus (Acts 7:52) and the Teacher of Righteousness, who had lived and been slain around 100 years before Jesus. (Michael O. Wise, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ.) All of this would indicate that Stephen believed Jesus too had opposed the sacrifices and was killed for it. Jesus had referred to himself as a prophet, and others had referred to him that way too. (Matthew 13:57, 14:5, 21:11, 21:46; Luke 24:19.)
Who would have wanted Stephen dead? The Romans would have wanted anyone dead who claimed that Jesus was or had been messiah, which translates into Latin as “king.” However, there is no mention of Roman involvement, which most scholars presume was necessary for any execution to take place. The stoning of Stephen reads like a lynching.
The Herodian puppet dynasty, selected and propped up by the Romans, would also have wanted Stephen dead. Likewise, so too would the Sadducees and upper level priests, for they received a share of the meat and leather as their salary for their work as animal buyers, inspectors, keepers, slaughterers, and resellers. The livelihood of the Temple Sadducees and priests was grounded on the sacrificial system, and Stephen like Jesus wanted to shut down the sacrificial system. Stephen was allegedly delivered to the “council,” the Sanhedrin, for a hearing or trial, and he was questioned by the high priest. (Acts 6:12, 7:1.) The carnivorous Saul, later known as Paul, participated in the killing of the vegetarian Stephen. (Acts 8:1, 20:22.)
How extensive was the sacrificial system? Worshipers bought cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals, along with oil, wine, and grain as Temple sacrifices. From ten to twenty people would share one sacrificed animal in the case of a Passover lamb. (The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Wars of the Jews, 6:9:3, p. 588.) A few animals were burnt whole, but even of these the priests received the skin, of great value as leather. Of most sacrifices, only part was burnt; part was given to the people who brought or purchased the animal; and the rest became the property of the priests. Although rabbis had careers and did not accept salaries from synagogues, Paul, justified the payment of salaries to ministers, asking rhetorically: “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?” (1 Corinthians 9:13.) The Levites—the only one of the twelve Hebrew tribes that had not been assigned land—served as priests and received a tenth of all income, the “tithe.” This would include every tenth animal. (Leviticus 27:32.) Likewise cereal offerings and all the leather became the property of the priests in their entirety. (Leviticus 7:9; “Sacrifices,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 4, p. 155.)
There were thousands of animals slaughtered at the Temple each year, and one can presume that these constituted a lucrative source of meat for the kosher market. The priests had a monopoly on the kosher sacrificing of animals. Any observant Jew who wanted to eat the kosher meat of large animals could only obtain it from the Levite slaughterers.
W. Robertson Smith pointed out in his important book Religion of the Semites that in Old Israel all slaughter of large animals was sacrifice: “People could never eat beef or mutton except as a religious act.” (William Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, 1927, as quoted by Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, 176.)
Stephen was a Hellenist, a Judeo-Christian who probably had grown up outside Judea, perhaps in Egypt, who probably spoke Greek as his first language and probably spoke Aramaic or Hebrew less well. Stephen was appointed as one of seven Hellenist deacons who were responsible to distribute charity to the Hellenist poor in Jerusalem. Most theologians look at Stephen’s speech and classify such Hellenists with those who rejected all Hebrew tradition, including circumcision and food laws. (E.g., Brown & Meier, Antioch & Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, p. 6.) To the contrary, as will become clear below, it was the renegade Paul who opposed Jewish tradition, not the Hellenists.
Note that Stephen spoke favorably of circumcision, which would indicate he was not opposed generally to Hebrew tradition. (Acts 7:8,51.) Nor did Stephen or the Hellenists say anything against kosher food restrictions; it would have made no sense for them to favor circumcision but oppose kosher. Stephen was against killing animals for sacrifices and presumably opposed to using them for food. Stephen probably preached a vegetarian version of kosher and an end the lucrative sacrificial system. Like Jesus, he probably was killed for doing so.
According to Philo, as quoted by Eusebius, there were two major Essene centers, one by the Dead Sea and the other in Egypt near Alexandria. The Essenes in Egypt were known as the Therapeutae. I suggest that the Hellenists of Acts (6:1, 9:29) were Greek-speaking, vegetarian Therapeutae who had accepted Jesus as the messiah. Eusebius said the Therapeutae were Judeo-Christians and that they ate no flesh food and drank no wine. (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 2:17, p. 50 ff.,, referring to Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (73), p. 705.) The Hellenists of Acts would fit that description well.
Stephen and the Hellenists, and by implication the Therapeutae, were very loyal to the part of the law which they believed derived from Moses, including Moses’ attempt in the desert of Sinai to return the Hebrews to a vegetarian form of kosher. According to Stephen’s speech, the Hellenists, and presumably the Therapeutae, were opposed to the Temple sacrifices. They were thus not anti-Torah but strongly in favor of Torah rules such as circumcision and keeping the Sabbath strictly. That theologians can conclude that Stephen and the Hellenists opposed Jewish tradition generally shows they are not paying attention to what they are reading.
Later, Paul debated with the Hellenists in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29), and they allegedly sought to kill him, although it is not clear whether these were Hellenist Judeo-Christians or Hellenist Jews who had not accepted Jesus as the messiah. Bear in mind that at this point the new Christian movement was still just one of many pre-rabbinic Jewish sects. If the Hellenists, whether Jewish or Judeo-Christian, had been opposed to all Hebrew tradition, why would they have had any quarrel with Paul, who was himself very much opposed to Hebrew tradition? Paul taught that circumcision was of no significance (1 Corinthians 7:19) and that it was acceptable to eat meat offered to idols, as long as those who would be offended by the eating of such meat did not learn it was being eaten. (1 Corinthians 8.) It makes much more sense to presume that the Hellenists were Essene Therapeutae who strongly favored observance of the Jewish law—except for animal sacrifice—and that they disliked Paul because he opposed strict observance.
What change in customs did Stephen advocate? That the Temple sacrifices be terminated and probably that Jews and the new Judeo-Christians adopt a diet free of meat.
Before leaving Stephen, I should mention that there are scholars who object to the suggestion that the Sanhedrin would have taken part in a lynching of the kind described in Acts. The Sanhedrin had a long tradition of procedural fairness, and a majority of its members were Pharisees, who protected the Judeo-Christians at other times. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:65 ff., Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 94; Luke 13:31; Acts 5:35 ff.) It would have been unlike the Sanhedrin to charge Stephen with one crime—saying “that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14)—and then stone him for another reason, that he accused them of killing other prophets and failing to keep the law. (Acts 7:52-53.) There is also the suggestion that the story of the lynching of Stephen may be a doublet of the two stories of the lynching of James. Paul tried to kill James. Perhaps Acts is covering this up by changing “James” to “Stephen.” (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 521.)
After Stephen was stoned, we read:
Saul was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul laid waste the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:1-3.)
Stephen’s Judeo-Christians, opposed to the Jerusalem sacrifices, had become an economic threat to the priests, Sadducees, and Herodians who profited from the system and who did not want it changed. Further, these followers of Jesus were messianists, apparently willing to foment a war with the Romans. So they were killed or driven out. Paul says:
I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11.)
Note that Paul says he persecuted and killed Nazarenes in Jerusalem before he persecuted them in foreign cities. He is describing the liquidation of the Nazarene commune of Jerusalem. If Paul voted for their death, and he took part in the lynching of Stephen, did he also participate in the attempted assassination of James? This would be too terrible a thing for the writer of Acts to admit, so maybe this is why we have a story of Stephen’s assassination and not James’.
Why were James and some of the apostles not driven out of Jerusalem? Perhaps because they did not press publicly for an end to the sacrifices.
The liquidation of the Jerusalem commune sounds like the destruction of the Pythagorean vegetarian communes centered around Croton in southern Italy around 510 B.C.E. Vegetarian communists have generally been poor at defending themselves again the capitalist “cattleists.” Recall that the word “capital” derives from the word “cattle.”
Clement of Alexandria (150-215) believed the eating of meat to be of no significance and probably ate meat himself, and so he was an objective witness when he reported the following: “[H]appiness is found in the practice of virtue. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, and nuts, and vegetables, without flesh.” (The Instructor, 2:1, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II, p. 241;
The orthodox Eusebius of Caesarea, author of the History of the Church, and partner with Constantine in the consolidation of the Roman Catholic Church, provides this information regarding the “disciples of Jesus”:
From the men as they stand, surely any sensible person would be inclined to consider them worthy of all confidence; they were admittedly poor men without eloquence, they fell in love with holy and philosophic instruction, they embraced and persevered in a strenuous and a laborious life, with fasting and abstinence from wine and meat … . (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, 3:5,
Peter and his brother Andrew were the first of Jesus’ apostles:
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them,” Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17.)
This is a dynamic way to begin the gospel story, but it is likely that this and all the other the fish stories in the New Testament were added for astrological reasons. (See the section of this book entitled What About the Fish Stories? More Tampering with the Texts, p. 191.)
Relevant to the vegetarian theme is the story of Peter’s dream in which both kosher and non-kosher animals are let down from heaven in a great sheet. The voice tells Peter to kill and eat these, but he refuses. He is admonished, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” (Acts 10:15.) Peter immediately is called to go so see Cornelius, a Roman centurion in Caesarea. Cornelius is “a devout man who feared God,” meaning that he attended synagogue as a ger toshav, a semi-convert to Judaism. This would be an unlikely status for a Roman lieutenant, especially one posted in Caesarea. That cohort was notorious for baiting and brutalizing Jews.
Peter accepts Cornelius as a convert and then reports back to the other apostles, who initially resist but later agree that gentiles should be accepted. The point of the aphorism “what God has cleansed, you must not call common” is clearly that gentiles should not be excluded. Later the other side of the aphorism comes to be accepted too, that all foods are clean and keeping kosher is irrelevant, certainly something that the apostles would not have agreed with. (Cf. Matthew 7:19; Mark 7:1 ff.; Romans 14:14; see the sections of this book entitled Did Jesus Keep Kosher or Declare all foods Clean? p. 197, and What About Allegations that Jesus was a Belly-Slave?  p. 197.)
More information about Peter is found in the Pseudo-Clementine literature, also known as the Clementina, which includes the Recognitions of Clement, the Clementine Homilies, the Epistle of Peter to James, and the Epistle of Clement to James. ( The Clementina contains or is a reworking of more ancient Ebionite sources. It purports to be written mostly by Clement, but there are short letters by Peter and James the brother of Jesus. Clement travels with Peter, reports on Peter’s debates with Simon Magus, and finds his long lost family. (Cf. Acts 8:9 ff.)
Epiphanius in his Panarion (30:15:3), quotes from the Periodoi Petrou, in English the Journeys of Peter. The Periodoi Petrou was an Ebionite or Judeo-Christian book which we can presume was censored by the Roman censor working under the early Christian emperors and which no longer exists as such. Parts of the Periodoi Petrou are presumably incorporated into the Clementina. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:27-72, 3:75, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 121-134.) Hiding the Periodoi Petrou within the Clementina along with other Judeo-Christian writings evidently made their survival possible. As part of his condemnation of the Ebionites, Epiphanius says:
Therefore in the Periodoi the whole has been changed to suit themselves. They have spoken falsely about Peter in many ways: that he baptized himself daily for purposes of purification even as they also do; and that he abstained from that which had life in it and from meats, even as they do; and from all other food prepared from flesh…?. (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, 30:15:3, Book I, Section II, p. 131; The Recognitions of Clement, 1:27-72, 3:75, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 121-134.)
It does not occur to Epiphanius that perhaps the Periodoi Petrou was right, that Peter was a vegetarian, and Epiphanius’ carnivorous orthodoxy had lost touch with the true Jesus tradition.
The Clementina purports to have been written by Clement, the third bishop of the Roman church, who was allegedly appointed by Peter. Scholars assume that the Clementina is pseudepigraphal and was assembled into its present form in the late Second Century or early Third Century. The core material appears to be much older. Rufinus, friend of Jerome, who died around 410 C.E., translated the Recognitions from Greek to Latin. He admits that he edited and cut out and discarded sections he did not understand or with which he disagreed. While the Homilies survives in Greek and Latin, the Recognitions survives only in Rufinus’ Latin translation. (Rufinus, Presbyter of Aquileia; His Preface to Clement’s Book of Recognitions, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 75,
While it is clear that material has been added by later editors, those additions usually occur in separate paragraphs, while the core, older material apparently has been left mostly untouched. The result is that the core material was hidden and preserved. The author’s quotations of Peter appear to reflect genuine ancient traditions. We are very fortunate the Clementina survived because it fills in many gaps in the mostly blacked out history of the first three centuries of Christianity.
The Clementina should have been burned by the censors because it contains material that is clearly inconsistent with the orthodox Christianity which developed among Gentile Christians. My theory is that the Clementina survived because it centered on Peter, supported the primacy of Peter among the apostles, affirmed Peter’s connection with the Roman church, and therefore buttressed the primacy of the Roman church and the Papacy. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, and too a lesser extent John, do the same. (Matthew 4:18, 14:28, 16:16-18, 17:1 and parallels; John 13:23.) The Clementina may also have survived because the Roman church was not founded by Paul but by someone working directly under James and the church in Jerusalem. (See Acts 18:2.) I suggest that the Roman church was originally Judeo-Christian, and the entire church or a group of Judeo-Christians within it, would have had some sympathy for the Judeo-Christian Clementina. It was probably minority Judeo-Christian scribes of the Roman church, maybe in the Second or Third Century, maybe around 150 when the Roman church was putting the canon together in response to the canon of Marcion, who edited the Clementina into is present form, starting with Ebionite books as the core and then surrounding and embedding them within more orthodox materials.  The Roman church probably had a Judeo-Christian group within it up until the time of Pope Victor (c. 189-199). Theodotus the cobbler and his successor Theodotus the banker claimed that the apostles taught that Jesus was a human, adopted by god as his son at his baptism. Victor excommunicated Theodotus the cobbler. (Eusebius, Church History 5:28; Epiphanius, Panarion, 54; Hippolytus, Philosophumena 7:35, 10:23; “Monarchians,” Catholic Encyclopedia,
The Clementina refers to “the enemy.” A scribe made a marginal note that “the enemy” was Paul. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:70-71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 95 f.; Epistle of Peter to James, 2, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 215.) I will discuss this below in the section dealing with Paul, p. 116.
In the Clementina Peter gives a compressed version of the history of the Hebrews:
In the twelfth generation [after Adam], when God had blessed men, and they had begun to multiply, they received a commandment that they should not taste blood, for on account of this also the deluge had been sent…?. In the fourteenth generation one of the cursed progeny first erected an altar to demons, for the purpose of magical arts, and offered there bloody sacrifices. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:30, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 85.)
… [F]rom their unhallowed intercourse spurious men sprang…?. God, knowing that they were barbarized to brutality, and that the world was not sufficient to satisfy them…, that they might not through want of food turn, contrary to nature, to the eating of animals, and yet seem to be blameless, as having ventured upon this through necessity, the almighty God rained manna upon them, suited to their various tastes; and they enjoyed all that they would. But they, on account of their bastard nature, not being pleased with purity of food, longed only after the taste of blood. Wherefore they first tasted flesh. (The Clementine Homilies, 8:15, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 273.)…
Meantime they came to Mount Sinai…?. [W]hen Moses had gone up to the mount, and was staying there forty days, the people, although… manna [had been] given to them from heaven for bread… which kind of food was turned into whatever taste any one desired,… when Moses stayed in the mount, made and worshipped a golden calf’s head… [and] were unable to cleanse and wash out… the defilements of old habit. On this account, leaving the short road which leads from Egypt to Judaea, Moses conducted them by an immense circuit of the desert, if haply he might be able… to shake off the evils of old habit by the change of a new education. When… Moses… perceived that the voice 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; by Him, namely, concerning whom he said himself, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise unto you, whom ye shall hear even as myself [Deuteronomy 18:15]…?.” [W]hen the fitting time should come… they should learn by means of the Prophet that God desires mercy and not sacrifice [Hosea 6:6, Matthew 12:7, 9:13]…?. And in order to impress this upon them, even before the coming of the true Prophet, who was to reject at once the sacrifices and the place [the Jerusalem Temple], it was often plundered by enemies and burnt with fire, and the people carried into captivity among foreign nations… that… they might be taught that a people who offer sacrifices are driven away and delivered up into the hands of the enemy, but they who do mercy and righteousness are without sacrifices freed from captivity…?. [L]est… they might suppose that on the cessation of sacrifice there was no remission of sins for them, He instituted baptism by water amongst them, in which they might be absolved… being purified not by the blood of beasts, but by the purification of the Wisdom of God. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:35-39, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88. My comments are in square brackets.)
Peter’s argument was that Jesus was the true prophet whom Moses had predicted would come someday to finish his work (Deuteronomy 18:15 ff.), end the animal sacrifices, replace it with baptism as a new method of reconciliation or atonement with god, and lead the Israelites back to their original vegetarian diet. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:55, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII,
p. 92.) The earliest Christians claimed Jesus was that prophet:
Then one of them, named Cleopas [brother of Joseph], answered him … “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word …. (Luke 24 18-19.)
Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” (Acts 3:22.)
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.” (Acts 7:37.)
Scores of times the gospels say that such and such was done to fill this or that prophesy. (E.g., Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, etc.) However, Jesus being the prophet foretold by Moses is the main prophesy from the Hebrew Bible that applies to Jesus; all the others are trivial. Christianity quickly forgot this prophesy because Paul’s and John’s converts regarded Jesus as much more than prophet.
Animal sacrifice is mentioned and commanded in many parts of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, referred to by Christians as the Pentateuch. However, the Judeo-Christians believed that animal sacrifice was not part of the original teachings of Moses and had been added by later editors. Clement asks Simon Peter:
Wherefore tell me what are the falsehoods added to the Scriptures…?. Then Peter answered:… Learn then, how the Scriptures misrepresent Him in many respects, that you may know when you happen upon them…?. [Many examples are given and then this one:] If [the Scripture says that] He is fond of fat, and sacrifices, and offerings, and drink-offerings…?. (The Clementine Homilies, 2:41, 44, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 237.)
The Jewish sacrifices ended with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E. The fact that the Clementina criticizes the sacrificial system without any mention that it had been ended may indicate that its core material was been written before 70 C.E.
As part of a discussion regarding falsehoods having been added to the scriptures, Simon Magus asks Peter: “How, then, is the truth to be ascertained…?” Peter responds: “Whatever sayings of the Scriptures are in harmony with the creation that was made by Him are true, but whatever are contrary to it are false.” (The Clementine Homilies, 3:42, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII,
p. 246.) Peter seems to be saying that the only authentic sections of Old Testament scripture are those which conform to some higher standard inherent in the logic of creation, in effect an environmental and ethical standard. He explains how the law delivered by Moses was changed:
The law of God was given by Moses, without writing, to seventy wise men, to be handed down…?. But after that Moses was taken up, it was written by some one, but not by Moses…?. And… about 500 years [later] it is found lying in the temple which was built [2 Kings 22:8], and after about 500 years more [Nehemiah 8] it is carried away, … [the temple] being burnt in the time of Nebuchadnezzar it is destroyed; and… being written after Moses, and often lost…?. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:47, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 247.)
In the Clementina, Simon Peter says that Jesus taught his followers that they were falsehoods in the Hebrew Bible and that they should question the authenticity of each passage:
As to the mixture of truth with falsehood, I remember that on one occasion He [Jesus], finding fault with the Sadducees said, “Wherefore ye do err, not knowing the true things of the Scriptures, and on this account you are ignorant of the power of God” [a reference to Matthew 22:29]. But if He cast up to them that they knew not the true things of the Scriptures, it is manifest that there are false things in them. And also, inasmuch as He said, ‘Be ye prudent money-changers,’ it is because there are genuine and spurious words. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:50, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 247.)
Peter is saying that Jesus taught his followers to search out false passages in the Hebrew Bible just like counterfeit money. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah had said the Hebrew Bible had been tampered with: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?’ But behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.” (Jeremiah 8:8.)
Likewise, Jesus flatly contradicted certain Old Testament laws, such as those which allowed the swearing of oaths and divorce for any reason. He opposed both. (Matthew 5:31-37, James 5:12, Deuteronomy 24:1 ff., Leviticus 19:12.)
In the same section, Peter applies the logic of a higher standard to the introduction of animal sacrifice:
He 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. For neither are sacrifices accomplished without the slaughter of animals…?. But how is it possible for Him to abide in darkness, and smoke, and storm… who created a pure heaven, and created the sun to give light to all. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:45, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 247.)
This last quotation is a reference to the stark difference between the life-oriented mother goddess of the pre-Hebrews on the matristic side  and the coming of the war, storm, and volcano god worshiped by the patriarchal invaders. (See Exodus 19:16 ff., Jeremiah 7:21-26.)
Peter, debating with Simon Magus, says:
But that He is not pleased with sacrifices, is shown by this, that those who lusted after flesh were slain as soon as they tasted it, and were consigned to a tomb, so that it was called the grave of lusts [a reference to Numbers 11:34]. He 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. For neither are sacrifices accomplished without the slaughter of animals…?. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:45, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 247.)
The Gnostics pointed out that the god of the Hebrew Bible did things which were not becoming of a just god. The response of the semi-gnostic Marcion was to completely rejected the Hebrew Bible. The Gnostics on the other hand took it literally and added the theory that there was a good god above the evil Jehovah god of the Bible. Ebionites sidestepped this issue in the Clementina simply by saying that the Hebrew Bible had been tampered with and should not be taken at face value. The critical Tubingen School and F.C. Bauer were inspired by the Clementina.
Peter is presented as having eaten a vegetarian, Pythagorean diet. According to the Clementina, Clement offered to become Peter’s personal assistant:
Peter laughed and said: “And do you not think, Clement, that very necessity must make you my servant? For who else can spread my sheets, and arrange my beautiful coverlets? Who will be at hand to keep my rings, and prepare my robes, which I must be constantly changing? Who shall superintend my cooks, and provide various and choice meats to be prepared by most recondite and various art…? But perhaps, although you live with me, you do not know my manner of life. 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…?. For we—that is, I and my brother Andrew—have grown up from our childhood, not only orphans, but also extremely poor, and through necessity have become used to labour, whence now also we easily bear the fatigues of our journeyings. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158; Clementine Homilies, 12:6, Vol. 8, p. 293.)
Fishing would have been an unlikely occupation for an adopted Essene orphan Peter. So stories in the New Testament and in the Clementina that the apostles had been fishermen, may be later additions. (See Matthew 4:18; The Recognitions of Clement, 1:63, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 94. See the section of this book entitled What About the Fish Stories? p. 191.) Peter is presented in the Clementina as having been an orphan. The Essenes adopted orphans and brought them up as their own children (The Wars of the Jews, tr. Wm. Whiston, Book II, 8:2-13, p. 476, ff.), as later did the early Christians. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158.)
In the Clementina, Peter spoke well of the vegetarians of India:
There are likewise… in the Indian countries, immense multitudes of Brahmans, who also themselves, from the tradition of their ancestors, and peaceful customs and laws, neither commit murder nor adultery, nor worship idols, nor have the practice of eating animal food, are never drunk, never do anything maliciously, but always fear God. (The Recognitions of Clement, 9:20, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 187; also 9:27, p. 189.)
King Asoka sent Buddhist missionaries around 240 B.C.E. to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Corinth, and other Mediterranean cities. (Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten, The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity, p. 67, 180 ff.)
Thus, according to the Judeo-Christian Clementina, Peter was a vegetarian, and he was a vegetarian because Jesus had been a vegetarian. Peter regarded Jesus as the true prophet predicted by Moses and messiah but said not a word about him being a god or part of a godhead or trinity. Peter believed Jesus wanted to end the sacrificial system and by implication the eating of meat.
Peter is treated as a transitional figure in Acts, bridging the gap between Stephen in chapter 7 and Paul in Chapter 13. It is Peter who first turns to the gentiles, and Paul only follows in Peter’s path. The author of Acts implies that Peter was a predecessor and partner of Paul, thus giving legitimacy to Paul’s anti-Jewish mission.
The author of 2 Peter gives Paul faint praise:
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
(2 Peter 3:15-16.)
Everywhere else in the New Testament, the term “scriptures” refers only to the Hebrew Bible, never to the New Testament itself. (Mark 12:10; Acts 1:16; James 2:28; 1 Peter 2:6.) Only around 150 C.E. did the Roman church assemble the New Testament as we know it, doing so in response to Marcion who had introduced his New Testament, and thus create new “scriptures.” The fact that this passage counts the writings of Paul as on a par with “the other scriptures,” would indicate that 2 Peter was written very late and for the purpose of making it appear that Peter and Paul were allies. Even Catholic theologians question whether 2 Peter was written by Peter. (“Epistles of St. Peter,” Catholic Encyclopedia, Likewise, it is unlikely that 1 Peter was written by Peter. It reads like the Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, written around 150 C.E. in Rome, advising wives to obey their husbands, slaves to obey their masters, and all to obey rulers.
Simon Peter is last mentioned in Acts 12:17 and 15:14, and the New Testament gives no hint as to where he went or what happened to him. It is not known where and how either Peter or Paul died, but the legend is that they were both crucified in Rome, which would add to Rome’s claim to be the seat of the church. Likewise, the Clementina, because it gives prominence to Peter, would have strengthened Rome’s claim, and this is perhaps why such otherwise heretical books were not burned.
Christianity started off as just one of many Jewish sects. Members of “the Way” worshiped in the Temple, led by Peter, John, and James (Jacob in Hebrew). (Acts 2:46, 3:1.) Except for certain conflicts such as those involving Stephen, which were probably engineered by the high priest, Herodians, and Sadducees, James’ Nazarene-Ebionites were accepted by the majority of Jews, including the Pharisees. The pervasive anti-Jewish and anti-Pharisee invective running through most New Testament books is completely absent in the Clementina, as it is absent in the books of James and Revelation—other Judeo-Christian books—which would indicate that the core of the Clementina goes back to the earliest days of Christianity.
At one point in the Clementina James reaches out to orthodox Jews and engaged them in a reasoned dialog over whether Jesus had been the messiah and the prophet whom Moses had predicted would complete his mission. The conflicting positions are reported. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:43, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 89; see Deuteronomy 18:15.)
After one such dialog, the majority of the priests and others at the Temple are on the verge of accepting James’ proposition. At the last minute Saul of Tarsus makes an impassioned case to the contrary. He paints James as a blasphemer and leads an attack on him. Someone, probably Saul, throws James down from a high place on the Temple steps. James is presumed dead, and is carried home. He survives, but he has broken one or both of his legs. Later it is remarked that he walks with a limp. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:50-71, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 90-96.) Many years later, around 62 C.E., James is assassinated, beaten over the head with a fuller’s clothes washing club, as reported by Eusebius and Josephus. (The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, 20:9:1, p. 423; Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 2, Chapter 23, p. 58.) Some scholars believe there is conflation between the story of the assassination of Stephen and the stories of the attempted assassination of James and the later actual assassination of James. (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 521.)
Jesus and James were both said to have been born Nazarites, and the first-born was often dedicated as a Nazarite, so either Jesus or James could have been first-born. (Luke 1:15; (Epiphanius, Panarion, 29:3:9-29:4:4, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 112-119.)
The original Christian “church” was the Ebionite synagogue in Jerusalem. After Jesus’ death, his brother James became its first president or “bishop.” (Acts 1:14, 12:17, 15:5, 15:13, 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19, 2:9; “James,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, Vol. 2, p. 793.) James and the leadership of the Jerusalem church were vegetarian. Pharisees soon joined the Judeo-Christian “church” (Acts 15:5), and they might have been meat eaters. Priests jointed too (Acts 6:7), and it is probable they would have been meat eaters, because the priests sacrificed animals in the Temple and received meat as part of their salary.
Epiphanius wrote:
James, called the brother and apostle of the Lord, was made the first bishop immediately. Actually he was Joseph’s son, but was said to be in the position of the Lord’s brother because they were reared together. For James was Joseph’s son by Joseph’s <first> wife, not Mary…?. [H]e was of Davidic descent because he was Joseph’s son, <and> that he was born a Nazarite—for he was Joseph’s firstborn, and hence consecrated. But I find further that he also functioned as a priest in the ancient priesthood. For this reason he was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once a year, as scripture says the Law commanded the high priests…?. He was allowed to wear the priestly mitre…. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 29:3:9-29:4:4, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 112-119. Sections in angles are Frank Williams’ interpolations of text that has been lost.)
Epiphanius’ theory that James was the son of Joseph by a prior wife, later echoed by Jerome, is a ruse he uses to defend the late-appearing doctrine that Mary had been a lifelong virgin and never had any children other than Jesus. However, his report that James was allowed to serve as high priest of an alternative vegetarian cult in the Temple is a detail which would appear authentic.
The 2nd Century Judeo-Christian historian Hegesippus, whose books were lost or perhaps destroyed by the Roman censor, was quoted by the early 4th Century historian Eusebius, who wrote before the book burning began, as saying of James:
Control of the Church passed to the apostles, together with the Lord’s brother James… called the Righteous… holy from his birth; he drank no wine or intoxicating liquor and ate no animal food; no razor came near his head; he did not smear himself with oil…?. [H]is garments were not of wool but of linen. He used to enter the [Jerusalem Temple] Sanctuary alone, and was often found on his knees… so that his knees grew hard like a camel’s…?. [T]he Scribes and Pharisees made James stand on the Sanctuary parapet and shouted to him:… “[W]hat is meant by “the door of Jesus.”… He replied… “He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power…?.”… So they went up and threw down the Righteous one… and began to stone him…?. Immediately after this Vespasian began to besiege them…?. So remarkable a person must James have been… that… the… Jews felt that this was why his martyrdom was immediately followed by the siege of Jerusalem…?. (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 2, Chapter 23, p. 58.)
Note that Hegesippus and Eusebius say James was “… holy from his birth… and ate no animal food.” The implication is that he was a vegetarian from birth, which would imply that he grew up in a vegetarian Nasoraean or Essene family. The Temple priests of the Jerusalem Temple wore wool or linen, but the high priest wore only linen on the Day of Atonement when he entered the Holy of Holies. (Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 311.)
Eusebius was wrong in saying that the scribes and Pharisees goaded James and then stoned him. Maybe he misquoted Hegesippus. Josephus says it was the high priest Ananus who assassinated James, and it was the Pharisees who complained to Roman authority and had Ananus removed. (The Complete Works of Josephus, 20:9:1, tr. William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, p. 423.) Recall that the Pharisees, including the famous Gamaliel, several times protected Jesus and his followers. (Luke 13:31; Acts 5:35 ff.; The Recognitions of Clement, 1:65 ff., Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 94.)
Eusebius was wrong on another point: James was assassinated around 62 C.E., well before the first revolt in 66 C.E. and the siege of Jerusalem which began in 68 C.E. However, perhaps they meant to say that the events leading up to the siege began immediately after James’ death. Josephus makes it clear that after James’ was killed, there was a breakdown in authority. (The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, 20:9:1, p. 423.) The wealthy, pro-Roman, Jewish leadership was trying to restrain independence-minded messianists and protect their own lucrative positions. No doubt they believed Jews would lose a war for independence.
A succession of anti-Jewish laws passed by Nero (54-68 C.E.), including a law requiring erection of his statute in the Jerusalem Temple, along with insults committed by Pilate, touched off rebellion. Although Nero was assassinated by his own guards before the statue was actually erected, it was too late to turn the tide of growing rebellion in Jerusalem. Zealots took Masada. There was a pogrom of some 20,000 Jews at Caesarea—where Cornelius and his cohort had been stationed earlier. (Acts 10:5.). Back in Jerusalem there was constant murder and counter-murder. A messiah-king was selected but soon murdered. The Jewish leadership, Herodians and Sadducees, those who had cooperated with the Romans and been kept in power by them, finally decided to switch sides, from pro-Roman to anti-Roman, but it was too late for that, and the more radical majority swept them aside. Rebellion was underway.
James, the brother of Jesus, in his abstinence from wine and animal food, his wearing of linen instead of wool, his not shaving his beard or cutting his hair, his pacifism, and his opposition to oath taking (cf. James 5:12), was like the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, John the Baptist, and his brother Jesus.
Stephen and James—and Jesus as we will soon see—, in attacking the sacrificial system, made a direct threat to the income derived from that system. Probably, these three prophets were stricken down by the hand of First Century slaughter house greed.
The church as we know it has misunderstood much of what these prophets stood for because it was descended from the gentile, meat-eating side of Christianity that Paul and John had constructed. We pretty much ignore evidence that Jesus and his early followers were vegetarians just as we ignore the evidence they were non-drinkers. We like to eat meat and drink alcohol, so we just ignore evidence that Jesus would not have approved of such things.
One who proposes that John the Baptist, James, Stephen, Matthew, Peter, Andrew, and Jesus were vegetarians must deal with the fact that Paul—who wrote most of the New Testament and whose disciples wrote most of the rest—was not. The explanation is simple: Paul was not a vegetarian and had little sympathy for vegetarianism. He was out to convert gentiles who were not vegetarians. The vegetarianism of Jesus was an inconvenience, so Paul jettisoned it.
The vegetarian Ebionites, descendants of the original Jewish Christians, regarded Paul as a heretic, an apostate from the Law, and referred to him as “the enemy.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:26:2, Origen, Against Celsus, 5:65; Eusebius, Church History, 3:27:4, Clement, Recognitions, 1:70,73.)
Paul taught that vegetarians were “weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-13.) He began a process that gradually eliminated vegetarianism from Catholic Christianity, although it survives in a limited form in Orthodox Christianity. Paul pioneered a version of Christianity that undermined Jesus’ work in general.
Paul was a thoroughly Hellenized Jew who grew up in Tarsus, a Roman colony in what is now southern Turkey. He was subject to gnostic and mystery religion influences, and such groups were not necessarily vegetarian.
It is said that Paul was a “tentmaker,” however, a better translation of the word in question would be “leather worker.” Tents were made of leather or felt. Church Fathers referred to Paul as a leather worker. (Acts 18:1-3; “Tentmaker,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962.) This is not the kind of trade a vegetarian would take up. It is said that Pythagoras wore shoes of bast, the fiber of the hemp plant, and I would assume such shoes were an available alternative to leather shoes in the First Century.
Paul was single around 56-57 C.E., and there is no indication he ever married, although he asserted the right to marry because Peter and Jesus’ brothers were married. (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 9:4-6.) Paul had a nephew living in Jerusalem who warned Paul of a plot to kill him. (Acts 23:16.)
Paul suffered from some “bodily ailment,” for which he was scorned and despised. (Galatians 4:13-15.) He had a “thorn” “in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass” him. Sometimes he was beside himself. (2 Corinthians 5:13, 12:7.) His “bodily presence” was “weak,” “and his speech” was “of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10:10.) Paul illness may have been epilepsy. (“Saul of Tarsus,”
Paul was a profoundly unhappy, even tortured man, consumed by feelings of guilt:
… I do not understand my own actions.… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.… I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15-24.)
Paul bore the “marks of Jesus” on his body. Maybe he exhibited the stigmata. (Galatians 6:17.) Maybe this is a reference to scars received from beatings. (2 Corinthians 11:24-25.) Paul said, “… I pommel my body and subdue it…?.” (1 Corinthians 9:27.) The term “pommel” in Greek is hupopiazo, which means “beat black and blue.” He flagellated himself.
The author of Acts has Paul say he was from Tarsus, however, Paul in his epistles, although he has many opportunities to do so, never mentions where he was from. (Acts 9:11,30, 11:25, 21:39, 22:3; Philippians 3:5.) In Jerusalem in Paul’s day it would not have been a good thing to be from Tarsus. If he were pretending to be an observant Jew, the fact that he was from a pagan city would be best left unmentioned. But in the 150s C.E., when Acts was probably given its final editing in Rome, the reverse would have been true. Greeks and Romans converting in droves would have related better to someone more like them. This may be why Paul omitted this detail in his epistles, while the final editor of Acts included it.
Paul claimed to be a Pharisee. (Philippians 3:5.) According to Acts, Paul studied under Gamaliel the Elder, grandson of Hillel, one of the greatest of all Pharisees (Acts 22:3, 26:5), although Paul does not make this claim in his epistles. Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin not to persecute the Judeo-Christians (Acts 5:35 ff.), so how is it that Paul persecuted, even killed Judeo-Christians? I conclude it is unlikely that Paul studied under Gamaliel or really was a Pharisee. My theory is that after Paul became a follower of Jesus and a believer in the resurrection—which was one of the main tenets of the Pharisees—he retroactively classified himself as having been a Pharisee before his conversion.
If Paul studied in some Pharisee school in Jerusalem, he apparently had little success, for he took work as a policeman for the high priest. (Acts 9:2, 26:12.) Maybe Paul just needed a paying job. The high priest was not a Pharisee, but a Sadducee. Pharisees had to work with Sadducees, because both were members of the Sanhedrin or “council,” and in Jesus’ day Pharisees actually outnumbered Sadducees there. Pharisees were anti-Roman, although they were discrete about it, while Sadducees were pro-Roman quislings and supporters of the pro-Roman Herodian dynasty. The other option for Pharisees was to go live in the desert with he Essenes.
Paul was himself a Herodian. He admits as much when he said, “Greet my kinsman Herodion.” (Romans 16:11.) He also greets the family of Aristobulus (Romans 16:10); there were Herodians named Aristobulus, including one of the sons of Herod the Great. Further, the author of Acts says that in around 48 C.E. in Paul’s home base church at Antioch, there was a prophet or teacher named “Manaen, who was a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch,” a reference to Herod Agrippa II. (Acts 13:1.)  Paul had a craving to be a good Roman and to Romanize his church.
Possibly Paul had studied in a Pharisee synagogue school in Tarsus as a child—presumably most or all synagogues outside Palestine were Pharisee—and maybe that was why he felt he could call himself a Pharisee. On the other hand, he was part of an extensive Herodian clan—some of whom lived in the Tarsus area. Paul, at least before he became a follower of Jesus, would have been a supporter of the Herodian dynasty, the Sadducees, and the upper level priests who were all interested in keeping the peace with Rome. Paul was a pseudo-Pharisee. The writer of Revelation condemned those who claimed to be Jews but were not, and it is my theory that he was referring to Paul. (Revelation 2:9; see the section of this book entitled John the Apostle, Author of Revelation, Foe of Paul, p. 149.)
The Herodians came from Idumea, which lies to the south of Israel. The Idumeans were given the choice by their Maccabean Jewish conquerors of converting to Judaism or leaving their territory, and so it is said they were forcibly converted, although this point is debated. Many Jews considered them not to be genuinely Jewish. Jews were forbidden to have a foreigner rule over them, and Herod (probably Agrippa I) was concerned about not being Jewish. He was reassured by an assembly that he was in fact Jewish. (M. Sota 7; Robert Eisenman, “Paul as Herodian,”
According to the writer of Acts, Paul moved to Jerusalem as a young man. However, the Ebionites said he did not go there until he was grown. They said he was the son of Greek parents, that he converted to Judaism so he could propose marriage to the daughter of a high priest, but that his suit was rejected. (Epiphanius, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., p. 132, 30:16.8-9.)
The writer of Acts says Paul was a “young man” at the time he guarded the coats of those who killed Stephen. (Acts 7:58.) But he began his police work immediately thereafter or had already begun it. (Acts 8:1,3.) This would imply he was not so young after all. The writer of Acts also says that Paul cast his vote against those he was arresting. (Acts 26:10.) It is not clear what kind of vote he could have had and in what court. It is unlikely that he would have been a member of the Sanhedrin. If he voted at all, he most likely voted in the high priest’s private police court.
Eisenman suggests the possibility that Paul had been born a Jew and that he did not convert, but that his parents or one of his Herodian ancestors had converted. Clearly the Idumean Herodians had converted, and one Herodian, Herod the Great himself, did marry a daughter of a high priest, specifically one of the daughters of the Maccabean priest-kings. The Herodians and all their allies were Roman quislings. Perhaps this is why Paul worked so hard to build a type of Christianity that was friendly to Rome and even anti-Jewish.
Paul claimed to be of the seed of Abraham, an Israelite, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee, and of the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5; Acts 23:6, 26:5.) Diaspora Jews generally were said to be of the tribe of Benjamin. Perhaps Paul claimed to be of the tribe of Benjamin because his namesake King Saul was of that tribe. (1 Samuel 9:1; Acts 13:21; Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 298.) Perhaps Saul adopted the name Paul in honor of Sergius Paulus, one of his first converts. (Acts 13:7, 9.)
Paul identified strongly with gentiles and occasionally slipped and referred to himself as a gentile. (Galatians 3:14.)
The writer of Acts says Paul claimed to be a Roman citizen by birth. As such, Roman authorities could not have scourged him without trial. (Acts 22:28.) However, Paul also claims “Five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25; Acts 16:22.) If Paul had been a citizen from birth, why did he not use his citizenship to avoid previous beatings as he toured the eastern Roman Empire? I question whether Paul could have been a citizen of Rome by birth and also a citizen of Tarsus. (Acts 21:39.) And it does seem odd for a Roman citizen to become a follower of the Jesus the arch anti-Roman.
It was probably shortly after the assassination of Stephen that James the brother of Jesus addressed an audience at the Temple and seemed to be on the verge of convincing his listeners that Jesus was the messiah. However, “the enemy” interrupted and personally led an attack on James, throwing him headlong from the top of the Temple steps. “A marginal note in one of the [Clementina] manuscripts states that this enemy was Saul.” James survived, but one or both of his legs were broken. He walked with a limp thereafter. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:70-71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 95 f.; Epistle of Peter to James, 2, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 215; Acts 9:1, 22:6 ff., 26:12 ff.) Paul’s attack on James is not mentioned in the New Testament.
The killing of Stephen and the attack on James were apparently part of a systematic expulsion of the Nazarene-Ebionite commune from Jerusalem. (Acts 2:44, 4:32, 8:1.) Apparently Paul had been designated to lead this work. “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” Saul was “… breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women…?.” (Acts 8:3, 9:1, 22:3, 26:11.)
Perhaps the Nazarene-Ebionites had become so numerous that they were becoming a threat to the high priests, Sadducees, Herodians, and Romans. It could have been Ebionite communism that threatened them (Acts 2:44) or their boycott of the sacrificial system—which was highly profitable to the establishment. It could have been their vegetarianism and their proselytizing of others to become vegetarians. It could have been their belief that Jesus had been the messiah-king and that he would be resurrected or reincarnated and expel the Romans from Palestine.
Paul either volunteered or was drafted to travel to other cities and even foreign countries, including Syrian Damascus, to track down those Jews who believed Jesus had been the messiah-king. He says, “I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.” (Acts 26:11-12.) According to the Ebionite Clementina, it was none other than Simon Peter that Paul was pursuing. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:70-71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 95 f.)
What right did the high priest have to pursue alleged Jewish heretics outside of Jerusalem? Some scholars argue that because Judaism was a Roman chartered religion or ethnic group, its leaders in Jerusalem had authority throughout the Roman empire to regulate Jewish affairs. Because the Nazarene-Ebionite Judeo-Christians—initially the only Christians—were considered a Jewish sect by the Jewish hierarchy and the Roman Empire, this would have given the Jerusalem high priest jurisdiction over the new Judeo-Christians. Whether the high priest’s power extended to Damascus is debatable. Damascus may have been outside of Roman territory around 37 C.E. when these events probably took place, as discussed a few paragraphs below. (Acts 9:1.)
According to the writer of Acts, It was on the road to Damascus that Saul met Jesus in a vision in which he was blinded. (Acts 9:3). In that brief encounter Jesus told Paul to go to Damascus, where he would be given further instruction. Ananias, who was a “disciple” and a “devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews,” was sent to Saul. (Acts 9:10, 22:12, 26:12 ff.) The Acts story of Paul’s conversion is brief and garbled. Paul does not tell the story of his conversion in his epistles.
Paul began preaching in Damascus immediately after his conversion and quickly acquired his own disciples. (Acts 9:25.) I find it amazing that most theologians fail to find this amazing. Paul had to escape in a basket let down by a rope from a window in the walls. Was he fleeing from “the Jews” or from “the governor under King Aretas”? (Acts 9:23; 2 Corinthians 11:32.) Paul was an associate of Ananias the Jew, who was well spoken of by all the Jews, so why would the Jews of Damascus have pursued him? Was it a sect of Jews other than Ananias’ presumably Pharisee sect which was pursuing him? Was it the Jerusalem Herodians and Sadducees, that is, Paul’s former employers, who were after him?
Probably around this time, King Aretas of Petra had broken free of Herod Antipas and Roman domination and had taken control of Damascus. Presumably Aretas would not have allowed Roman quislings to carry out a manhunt in his city. Was it Aretas himself who was pursuing Paul—because Aretas saw Paul, incorrectly, as still acting as a pro-Roman agent? (“Aretas,” Easton Bible Dictionary,
The writer of Acts said Paul spoke Hebrew (Acts 21:40, 22:2.), but most likely this means he spoke Aramaic, which was then the common language both of Palestine and Asia Minor, including Tarsus. Whenever Paul quotes from the Hebrew Bible, he quotes or paraphrases from the Septuagint Greek translation, even when there is a significant difference in the meaning. (E.g., 1 Corinthians 15:55 and Hosea 13:14; Romans 11:26 and Isaiah 59:20; A Pharisee would have studied the Bible in Hebrew, not in translation and would never have based his arguments on a Greek translation. Paul probably knew little if any Hebrew, which would mean that he was not much of a Pharisee, and is unlikely to have studied under Gamaliel, who taught only advanced students and in Hebrew.
If Paul had been a Pharisee, why would he have gone to work for the Sadducean Herodian high priest as one of his policemen? Pharisees were actually sympathetic with the early followers of Jesus and even protected them. (Luke 13:31; Acts 5:35 ff.; The Recognitions of Clement, 1:65 ff., Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 94.) After the high priest Ananus assassinated James, it was the Pharisees who complained to Roman authority and had Ananus removed. (The Complete Works of Josephus, 20:9:1, tr. William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, p. 423,
The hateful things Jesus is quoted as saying about the Pharisees in the New Testament were probably added much later when Paul’s missionaries were in competition with Pharisee missionaries for converts, or perhaps Jesus condemned the Sadducees and Herodians, instead, and maybe later, after Sadducees and Herodians no longer existed, editors redirected Jesus’ statements to apply to Pharisees. This is clear, for example, in Mark 3:6, where it is said that the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians to destroy Jesus. Pharisees and Herodians were avowed enemies and would never have made common cause. But Sadducees and Herodians would have. The original text, which probably said “Sadducees and Herodians” was probably tampered with.
I suggest elsewhere that this final editing and the introduction of the anti-Jew and anti-Pharisee invective, occurred around 150 C.E. in Rome, in response to Marcion who brought his collection of New Testament books there. Our New Testament was compiled and edited to counter Marcion’s. (See the section of this book entitled Marcion—Follower of Paul, Catalyst of the Canon, p. 131.)
Jesus and his Davidian relatives believed that a messiah, “king” in Hebrew, descended from David, would evict the Romans and form the next dynasty. Paul’s Herodians thus would have been rivals of the Davidians. Before Paul’s conversion to the Jesus movement, he worked for the Sadducees and the high priest to arrest the early Davidian followers of Jesus.
On the road to Damascus, Jesus gives a completely religious and non-Davidian commission to Paul. According to the writer of Acts, Jesus makes this garbled statement:
I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:15 ff.)
Paul was converted to a non-political version of Christianity that would allow him to continue to be loyal to Rome. Paul was a different type of Christian than Jesus and his Davidian followers. One example of the difference is that Paul—or later editors of his letters—allowed his Christians to keep slaves, something Jesus would not have done. Ephesians 6:5 ff., Titus 2:9, Philemon 15; see the section of this book entitled Slavery—Another Cover-up p. 133.)
In a real sense, Paul was not a good Jew or a good Pharisee or a good Christian. He did not come from the same Essene or Pharisee sect Jesus came from. Paul claimed to be a follower of Jesus, but he completely reinterpreted who Jesus had been.
New Testament reports of Paul’s relationship with the Jerusalem apostles are contradictory. On the one hand, the writer of Acts says that immediately after his conversion Paul went to Jerusalem where he “… went in and out among all them at Jerusalem…?.” (Acts 9:26-29.) On the other hand, referring to the same time period, Paul himself says,
… [N]or did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:17-19.)
This is one of many examples of the contradictions between Acts and the writings of Paul and should serve as a warning to read Acts and Paul’s epistles critically. Between the two, one would generally presume Paul’s epistles to be more accurate, except where Paul had a reason to shade the truth. Why would the stories be different? In the 50s and 60s, Paul in his epistles had to show his independence and direct revelation to stand up against the teachers who had come from James and who were stealing his converts. The situation was much different when Acts was being edited into its final form in Rome around 150 C.E. The writer of Acts needed to give Pauline Christianity legitimacy, and so he would have wanted to smooth over all differences and show that Paul’s authority really did derive from the Jerusalem leaders.
Thus, a lot of stories in Acts may be less than accurate. The writer of Acts even contradicts himself: Did those traveling with Paul on the road to Damascus hear the voice but see no one? Or did they see the light but not hear the voice? (Acts 9:7 vs. 22:9.) The writer of Acts has Paul say he studied under Gamaliel, but Paul never makes this claim in his epistles. (Acts 22:3) There is an eight year time gap between Acts 12:1-23 (Herod Agrippa I died in 44 C.E.) and Acts 13:1 (Herod Agrippa II, became tetrarch of Trachonites in 52 C.E. and king of Galilee in 55 C.E.). I am amazed that traditional theologians are not amazed by this. Was there something in the Judeo-Christian Acts that Luke left out?
Paul headed west across Asia Minor, preaching his own version of the gospel to gentiles who had gnostic and mystery religion tendencies, converting them in large numbers. (See Eileen Pagels, The Gnostic Paul.) Paul claimed he was the apostle to the gentiles while Peter was the apostle to the Jews. (Romans 1:5; Galatians 2:7.) While he often approached Pharisee Jews in their synagogues, he was generally unsuccessful in winning them over. (Galatians 2:8; Acts 19:9.)
Paul claimed to have received his own version of Jesus’ teaching independent of the Jerusalem leadership:
Paul an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father…?. [T]he gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.… But when he who had set me apart before I was born (Jeremiah 1:5), and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia…?. (Galatians 1:1-17, written around 55 C.E.)
Paul had personal revelations. He was “… caught up to the third heaven… and… heard things that cannot be told.…” (1 Corinthians 12:2-9.)
Paul claimed to be an authoritative, inspired second founder or prophet of Christianity. He equated himself with the prophet Jeremiah, who also had been set apart before he was born. (Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15.) Paul openly demeaned the Jerusalem leadership, referring to them as “superlative apostles” and the “circumcision party.” (2 Corinthians 11:5,13, 12:11, Galatians 2:12, both written around 55 C.E.)
Why was Paul so influential? Because he was a dramatic although often illogical writer. Because he wrote a lot. Because he had disciples who copied and circulated his writings. Because he wrote very early in Christian history. Because his readers knew little about Judaism, had not met the founders, and so were unable to see how un-Jewish and un-Nazarene was his logic. All four of the gospels in our New Testament were given their final editing by gentiles who were in agreement with Pauline theology. As a result, it is hard now to get a picture of what pre-Pauline Christianity was like if you only look at the New Testament as we know it.
Anyone who is seriously committed to following Jesus must first know who Jesus was. To know that he must study all sources of information about Jesus and factor in the extreme twist Paul put on Jesus’ original message. It is possible for one to be a Christian and not a Pauline Christian, although such Christians are exceedingly rare these days.  They might be referred to as “Ebionite Christians.”
Paul’s theology was a synthesis of three religions: He drew on Judaism for its grounding in history and in part for its ethical values. (Paul supported slavery; Pharisees, Essenes, and Jesus opposed it.) He drew on the mystery religions for his theology of the remission of sins through the dying and rising god and the sacrament of eating the body and blood of god. He drew on gnosticism for it’s philosophy regarding original sin, the contending forces of evil and good in the world, salvation by grace and not by ethical actions, and for his incipient anti-Semitism. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.) Christianity—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—remains even today a semi-Jewish, incipiently anti-Semitic, semi-gnostic, semi-mystery religion.
First, let’s look at the mystery religions: They were originally agricultural. The community prayed for fertility at planting time and celebrated abundance at harvest time. They were local religions, with each city state having its own god or goddess. All townspeople were members. As city states were absorbed into nations, they opened themselves up to outsiders, with some mystery religions becoming international. Membership became optional, and one could join as many mystery religions as one could afford.
The same themes ran through all the mystery religions: The god was slain by an enemy or died, which symbolized Winter. Blood was shed, which symbolized fertilization. The god rose, which symbolized new growth in Spring.
A Mystery-Religion was a Sacramental Drama which appealed primarily to the emotions and aimed at producing psychic and mystic effects by which the neophyte might experience the exaltation of a new life.” S. Angus, The Mystery-Religions: A Study in the Religious Background of Early Christianity.)
Initiates learned secret rites and secret knowledge, through which they achieved union with their god, were in their god, and were born again—aspects in which the mystery religions overlapped with gnosticism.
Typical was the religion of Attis of Phrygia, which was close to Paul’s home town of Tarsus. Paul evangelized there. (Acts 18:23.) Attis was worshiped as Adonis or Tammuz in Syrian Antioch, which was Paul’s missionary headquarters. (Acts 14:26.) Tammuz was the actual name of the god, while Adonis meant “lord” and was his title.
Cybel, the Great Mother, was miraculously impregnated and gave birth to Attis. There were different stories as to how Attis died. In a festival on the Spring equinox, his effigy was tied to a tree or cross. His priests flayed themselves and shed blood. His effigy was placed in a tomb. There was fasting and the eating of a sacramental meal. Night fell. The tomb was opened, and Attis rose. “The resurrection of the god was hailed by his disciples as a promise that they too would issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave.” A bull was slain over a grate, and his blood flowed through it down into a pit or tauroboleum where the initiate was baptized in blood, his sins were washed away, and he was born again. Men who wanted to be priests had to emasculate themselves. (James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, Chapter 34,
Persian Mithraism was an offshoot of Zoroastrianism. Paul’s home town of Tarsus was a western center of Mithraism from the time of Pompey. Only men could join Mithraic churches, and the cult was strongest among soldiers. Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25 in a cave attended by shepherds. Mithra sacrificed himself, was buried in a tomb, and was resurrected after three days. Cult members partook of a eucharist where bread and wine symbolized his body and blood. There were seven ranks in Mithraism, and “father” was the highest. The Mithraic day of worship was Sunday. (Matthew 23:9; Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, pp. 182 ff.; “Mystery Religions,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979; Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, “Greek Mysteries and Eastern Religions,” p. 235 ff.; Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, “Mystery Religions,” p. 790 f.; Marvin W. Meyer, ed., The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts; Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra.)
Paul’s Christianity was similar to other mystery religions such as those of Isis and Osiris, Eleusius, Dionysus or Bacchus, and Orpheus. However, there here were significant differences too: The mysteries generally had little ethical theory, theology, literature, or history. They were generally crude and gruesome compared to the story of Jesus. Thus, most Christian scholars insist that Paul could not have copied from them.
To the contrary, Paul’s story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of his blood would have resonated with Paul’s pagan audience. They would have seen it as a new and improved version of the mysteries. It was more sophisticated, and it was backed by the ancient Hebrew Bible. Greeks valued things ancient. Followers of the mystery religions loved to join new mystery religions and would have been drawn to Paul’s Christian mystery religion.
Next, let’s look at gnosticism. Until the 1900s scholars regarded gnosticism as having arisen as a heresy within Christianity. It has become clear that the seeds of gnosticism predate Christianity. Gnosticism is “of Chaldean origin, as suggested by Kessler … and definitively shown by Anz. … Gnosticism was Jewish in character long before it became Christian.” (“Gnosticism,” “Cabala,”
Pythagoras in the 6th Century B.C. considered god as something that could be known through reason, and thus would not be called gnostic. The same could be said for Judaism generally. Plato agreed with Pythagoras but suggested that understanding god by reason was difficult and that one needed a guide. Posidonius took the position that knowing god was “… something transcending conceptual thought and eluding intellectual grasp.” Philo of Alexandria—who greatly influenced Paul and the Church Fathers—agreed. Through this process Greek religion and gentile Christianity opened themselves to gnostic ideas coming from the East through such religions as Mithraism. (S. Angus, The Mystery-Religions: A Study in the Religious Background of Early Christianity, p. 56.)
Gnostic religions or sects had complex theologies and stressed ethics. They generally included some or all of the following beliefs and teachings: God cannot be understood through ordinary reason but only through transcendental knowledge. This world is under the sway of evil. A good god or gods and an evil god or gods are in cosmic struggle with each other. Good and evil are roughly equal in power, though good will win in the end, when the earth will be destroyed.
Gnostic religions said humans were under the sway of the evil god or gods and that Adam’s original sin tainted all humanity. Judaism never accepted original sin theology, which first appears in the Christian 2 Esdras 3:10. Judaism regards the creation story as part of “esoteric lore.” (Encyclopedia Judaica, “Creation,” 1997 CD edition.) Gnostics would say that as god and the devil fight their cosmic battle, humans fight a battle between the spirit and the flesh, a fight humans can win only if they achieve transcendent knowledge. There is nothing humans can do to win the battle; they must rely on grace.
There is a divine spark within us which can be activated by knowledge or “gnosis.” The Christ came as emissary of the good god to deliver this knowledge. Those chosen are fortunate; those not chosen are without hope. The next step is Augustine’s predestination theology.
Gnostics taught that god must be good. But no good god could have created our rotten world of ours or done all the wicked acts attributed to him in the Hebrew Bible. So the good god must have created a lesser god or gods, a demiurge, who in turn created this world and has governed it so badly. Jehovah was such a demiurge. Jesus was son of the good god, not the son of Jehovah.
Jehovah’s Jews were either his unwitting dupes or his evil coconspirators. The Torah was given by the evil god or by inferior angels, and thus the Torah is bad, imperfect, or temporary.
Thus, it is probable that gnosticism grew first as a parasitic cancer on Judaism: Gnostics accepted the Hebrew Bible as essentially true, but they focused on those passages in which god criticizes Jews for their backsliding and says he rejects them. Gnostics turned the Jewish heroes of the story into villains. Adam, Abraham, and Moses were demoted to irrelevance; non-Jews such as Cain, Seth, Enoch, Ishmael, and Melchizedek were elevated. Perhaps gnosticism got its start among the Samaritans, who knew the Hebrew Bible well and who resented the Jews for refusing to accept the validity of their religion.
For absolute Gnostics, law of any kind was evil, including the Torah. Rules of behavior were rejected. Those who achieved mystical knowledge of god would spontaneously do good as they defined it. There was little that humans could do to better this evil world; humans should shift the focus to preparation for the next world. Gnosticism was anti-utopian and bred apathy. Jesus would have agreed with none of the Gnostic theories listed above. Paul agreed with most.
Gnostic ideas flourished among the Greeks, particularly in dualistic mystery religions such as Mithraism. Ancient Greeks had lost their sovereignty to the Romans, and the rebellious Jews were on the verge of converting the entire Greco-Roman world to their exclusivistic, utopian religion. So Greeks tended to resent Jews.
This brings us to Paul. Paul would be classified as a moderate or partial Gnostic or semi-Gnostic or a Gnostic who later backtracked in part. Paul did not follow the more extreme gnostic theory that there was a good, superior god and an inferior Jehovah. However, while Pharisees regarded the Torah as permanent and delivered by god himself, Paul demeaned the Torah as temporary and given by angels (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2; cf. Acts 7:53; Deuteronomy 4:12, 36) or by the “elemental spirits of the universe.” (Galatians 4:3,9; Colossians 2:8,20.)
Paul taught that one achieved a special relationship with god by having gnosis or knowledge of god, and not by right behavior. (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 2:16.) “… [A]mong the mature we do impart… a secret and hidden wisdom of God…?.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7.) Paul held that a Christian was free to do anything: “All things are lawful for me.” (1 Corinthians 6:12.) Apparently Paul was later shocked by how libertine his gnostic converts had become, and so he had to backtrack and condemn their immoral behavior. (Galatians 5:19.) In doing so Paul began a process of Christian lawmaking that resulted in a body of canon law just as extensive as the Talmud, although not as internally consistent.
Paul regarded the Torah as setting such high standards that no one could follow it, and thus that the Torah made everyone a sinner. (Galatians 3:10.) To the contrary, the Hebrew Bible taught was that it was feasible to follow the Law:
For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14.)
The Law recognized that humans would fail, but it taught that sin could be forgiven through repentance. (Isaiah 1:27.) John the Baptist and Jesus emphasized repentance and taught that if enough people repented, the earthly and just kingdom of god would be realized. (Mark 3:2, Matthew 4:17.) But Paul mentioned repentance only twice and obliquely. (Romans 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:10.) Paul taught that one must rely on grace for a salvation that was apparently once-for-all. (Romans 5:15 ff., 7:14 ff.) It was probably one of Paul’s disciples who wrote that no repentance would be allowed after an especially serious sin. (Hebrews 6:4.)
Paul believed the world was evil. He was dualistic, believing the world was under the control of the devil, referred to as the “god of this world.” (Ephesians 5:11 ff.; 2 Corinthians 4:4.)
Paul taught that one who possessed knowledge (gnosis) was free to eat any food, including the meat of animals offered to idols, whereas one who lacked knowledge had a weak conscience and would be offended by seeing gnostic Christians eat such food. (1 Corinthians 8.) Paul directly defied James, who had forbidden eating the meat of animals sacrificed in pagan temples. (Acts 15:20.)
From the mystery religions, Paul derived the theory that Jesus made a cosmic trade—his life and blood to wash away the inherent sin which afflicted all humans because of Adam’s sin. (Romans 5:12-20, 1 Corinthians 15:22.) There is absolutely nothing in the Old Testament or Talmud which supports or even mentions the theory of original sin. (“Original Sin,” The Hebrew maxim, one Jesus would have followed, was:
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20.)
Paul’s gnostic and dualistic theory was that good and evil were approximately equal in power and were in an even battle with each other. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Ephesians 6:11-13.) This theory finds no grounding in Judaism—or the teachings of Jesus and the Judeo-Christians—but came instead from gnosticism and Zoroastrianism. While there is a Satan in the Old Testament, he is god’s agent who is authorized to test humans, as in Job. (See “Dualism,” “Satan,”
Paul believed that one was saved by having a salvific experience which tapped into the power of the cosmic trade—Jesus’ suffering for our sins. (Romans 10:9-13.) Good deeds would follow, but they were the result of salvation, not its cause. (Romans 3:28, 11:6.) Contrast this with Jesus’ explicit statement that the one who would have a part in the world to come would be the one who behaved ethically and who did good to those in need. (Matthew 25:31-46.) Likewise, James held that a mechanical emphasis on salvation by faith alone—apart from ethical behavior—was misplaced, and he openly criticized the faith-only position. (James 2:14.) The theory of the cosmic trade was apparently an attempt to make some sense of the death of Jesus and apparently not part of original Judeo-Christian teaching. It is completely missing in the epistle James wrote.
To buffer the most gnostic of Paul’s statements, the Roman church wrote or reworked other books which were written in Paul’s name—1 & 2 Timothy and Titus—known as the Pastoral Epistles. This is probably when Acts was edited and put into the form we have it, written to make it look like Paul had been on good terms with the Jerusalem church and that his work grew out of and was authorized by that church. In the end Paul and his disciples did not Christianize the Romans so much as the Romans  Romanized the original Judeo-Christian gospel. (“Gnosticism, Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962; “Gnosticism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979; “Gnosticism,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1958; Everett Ferguson, “Gnosticism, Hermetic Literature, Chaldaean Oracles,” Backgrounds of Early Christianity; Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, “Gnosticism.” See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources. p. 134.)
I should clarify at this point that the fact that modern Christianity incorporates gnostic and mystery religion tendencies does not thereby condemn it, provided Christians understand these tendencies, interpret them symbolically, and put them in proper perspective. It is true, as the mystery religions taught, that we can all benefit from profound transformation. And it is true, as the gnostics taught, that we are engaged in a titanic struggle against evil, although it is not some remote devil we struggle with but the unrestrained profit motive which blinds individuals and corporations to ethical considerations.
Jesus was a utopian prophet who taught a method for achieving the moral perfection of humanity now on earth—not later in heaven. (Matthew 3:2-3, 4:16-17.) That the world can be returned to its original Edenic status in which peace and justice will prevail. (Matthew 6:9-15.) That there is one god and no devil-god who has control of this world. (Mark 12:29 ff.) That one suffers only for his own wrong doing and not for the sins of Adam. (Ezekiel 18:20.) That humans are not inherently evil and not tainted by inherited sin. (Matthew 18:1-6, 19:13-15.) That resurrection-reincarnation will happen on some level—the two perhaps being one and the same. (John 1:21, 25; Matthew 14:2, 16:14; Antiquities of the Jews, tr. Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, 18:1:3, pp. 376-377.) That humans have free will. (Ibid.) That the Jewish law is good and that it is not hard for people to follow it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Matthew 11:28-30.) That the righteous among the gentiles “will have a part in the world to come.” (“Laws—Noachian,” That all gentiles should follow the seven laws of Noah, including the seventh law, which forbids cruelty to animals. (Acts 15:20.) That rulers should be just. That Israel and other countries should have been liberated from Roman oppression. That no man should lord it over another, meaning that slavery is wrong. (Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (71) p. 704; The Clementine Homilies, 8:19, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 274.)
Jesus taught a method for stopping the cycle of violence that plagues our reality. He taught, as part of his method, that we should do unsolicited good deeds. That we should not return evil for evil if not doing so will stop the cycle of violence. That we should even respond to evil with good if doing so will stop the cycle of violence. (Matthew 5:38 ff.) This theory is better explained in the Medieval Gospel of Barnabas:
Fire is not extinguished with fire, but rather with water; even so I say unto you that
ye shall not overcome evil with evil, but rather with good. (Gospel of Barnabas 18,
Jesus was apparently not an absolute pacifist. He employed violence to stop the animal sacrifices in the Temple. He did not necessarily teach that we should “turn the other cheek” if that would mean our deaths, although some went to such pacifist extremes. He taught that the kingdom of god would be established on earth when humans become morally worthy (Matthew 4:17), but apparently he acknowledged that a degree of violence would be needed in taking political power. (Luke 22:38.) He taught that animals were “innocent” and should be shown “mercy.” Jesus’ approach was ethical and behavioral. (See the sections of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 176, and Jesus and the Right Treatment of Animals, p. 186; see Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21 ff., Proverbs 21:3, Matthew 9:13, 12:7.)
To the Judeo-Christians, Jesus was the prophet Moses had predicted would come and complete his work. Moses had attempted to make Israel a lawful and ethical people, and that included reintroducing to the Israelites the vegetarianism of Eden, which had prevailed from the time of Adam to Noah. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:35-39, 55, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88, 92; Deuteronomy 18:15 ff.; Acts 7:42; Amos 5:25; Jeremiah 7:21 ff.; see the sections of this book entitled Judaism and the History of Food, p. 51, and Moses. p. 62.) The Judeo-Christians said they were vegetarians because Jesus taught them to be vegetarians. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138.)
Jesus probably taught what his brother James taught, the Royal Law or the Law of Liberty, that one who did charity and showed mercy would receive mercy from god but that one who did not do charity and did not show mercy would be judged strictly. (James 2: 8-13; Matthew 6:12, 7:2, 25:31-46.)
The emphasis of Paul and John was much different: They taught that the moral perfection of humanity was impossible. That we are tainted by inherited sin. (Romans 5:12-18, 7:14-8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:22.) That there is a devil-god which is almost as powerful as the father-god. That the world is under the control of the devil-god whose control will end only when the messiah-god returns and puts an end to evil through a final war. (John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 2:2, 6:11-16; 1 John 3:8-10, 4:3, 5:19.) That humans do not have free will and that all is predestined. (Romans 8:28-30.) That there is no such thing as reincarnation or a second chance. That we die and wake up in heaven or hell. (Hebrews 9:27.)
Paul and John taught that inherently sinful humans can only get forgiveness and go to heaven when they die if they believe unquestioningly a set of doctrines about just exactly who Jesus was or is. (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Romans 10:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, 1 John 4:2-3.) That Christians can own slaves and that Christian slaves should be obedient to their masters. (Colossians 3:2, 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18.) That Rome was good and that the Jews were wrong to rebel against Rome. That Jews carried the greater responsibility in the decision to execute Jesus than did the Romans. That the blood of Jesus was on Jewish hands. (Matthew 27:5, John 19:7,12.) That we must endure the injustices of this world, give up on trying to reform this world, and prepare for the world to come. That animals are completely unimportant and that we can eat any animal at all and treat them as we please. (1 Corinthians 10:23 ff.)
The view of Paul and John was not ethical or behavioral but cosmological and mystical.
In reshaping the story, Paul, John, and their followers dropped two of Jesus’ most prominent themes—that Jews should stop sacrificing animals at the Jerusalem Temple and that they and we should return to the vegetarian diet of the time of Eden. They added the cosmic sacrifice theme, and they pushed Jesus’ ethical teachings, including his teachings about how we should treat animals, into the background.
Paul came into conflict with the Jerusalem church because he and his gnostic and mystery religion converts were not interested in accepting circumcision, keeping kosher or eating a vegetarian diet, or accepting restrictions on eating meat slaughtered as part of pagan sacrifices. Around 49 to 53 C.E. Paul—according to Acts—went up to Jerusalem and, in what is known as the Jerusalem Council, struck a compromise with James the brother of Jesus and the other leaders of the Jerusalem church regarding these issues. According to the author of Acts, James ruled:
… [M]y judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood…?. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25; cf. Genesis 9:3-4; Leviticus 3:17; Deuteronomy 12:16.)
Paul’s version of the ruling of James is much different from the version in Acts:
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain.… [W]hen they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised… James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:1 ff.)
Paul heard what he wanted to hear, that he was the exclusive apostle to the gentiles, that he was free to redefine what Christianity should mean for gentiles. However, James did not give Paul an exclusive franchise over gentiles. Presumably James’ missionaries could still go forth and give gentiles the option of becoming fully Jewish. Nor did James rule that converts should not be circumcised, only that circumcision was not required. (Acts 15:1,20 ff.)
Paul took James’ ruling to mean that gentiles not only did not need to become Jewish but also should not become Jewish. Most Christian scholars still follow this interpretation. Again the scholars are just not paying attention. What James in fact was saying was that gentile followers of Jesus were not required to become full converts to Judaism, but that at minimum they had to accept the seven laws of Noah and become semi-converts. Further, implied in becoming semi-converts was the probability that they or their offspring might eventually become full converts. The semi-convert was one who associated himself with a synagogue on a formal basis and with rabbinic approval, without being circumcised and without becoming fully Jewish. (See Acts 10:2, 22; 13:16.) He was referred to as god fearer or ger toshav, literally “domiciled alien.” The semi-convert kept at least the seven Noachide laws.
Note the “no greater burden” theme, which I believe refers to holding to a vegetarian diet as much as one was able. (See the section of this book entitled The Burden Theme, “Bear What Thou Art Able,”  p. 158, and the section entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157; see The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378;; Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25; Revelation 2:19-25; The Recognitions of Clement, 4:36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143.)
The Acts 15 account of the Jerusalem Conference was allegedly written by Luke, physician and traveling companion and ally of Paul, although it was probably revised as late as 150 C.E. by the Roman church, then formulating a canon in response to Marcion’s canon. (See the section of this book entitled Marcion—Follower of Paul, Catalyst of the Canon, p. 131.)
James was saying that gentile converts to Ebionite Christianity would not be required to convert to Judaism per se, but that they should observer certain rules, which probably are the seven laws of Noah: They should abstain from unchastity, remain sexually pure, which included not entering into incestuous marriages, as was the practice of the despised Herodian monarchy. They would not be allowed to eat the meat of animals sacrificed to idols or the meat of animals “strangled,” which is probably a reference to the Talmudic prohibition against raising, working, and killing animals in a cruel way. The rule against eating things “strangled” might have been another way of stating the prohibition against eating blood, because an animal strangled or cut or torn apart and eaten piece by piece would not be properly drained and would certainly contain blood. (Sanhedrin 56; Judaism 101, “Treatment of Animals,”
The ancient “kosher kill” had to be quick and painless. The shochet relaxed the animal, got him to lie down, knelt beside the animal, reached around its neck, and then made a quick and continuous slice to  the throat back and forth along the same line with a perfectly sharp knife.
James said gentile converts should refrain from “blood.” Generally “blood” is taken to refer to consuming the blood of a food animal or eating meat that has not been drained. However, it more likely is a prohibition against murder and assault. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17, 7:26, 17:10 ff.; Deuteronomy 12:15-24, 15:23; 1 Samuel 14:21 ff., Ezekiel 33:25; Judith 11:12; Clementine Homilies 7:4; Jewish Encyclopedia, “Blood,” “Noachian Laws,”
Compare the more complete list of the laws of Noah as found in the Clementina:
Wherefore observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher, unless he bring from Jerusalem the testimonial of James the Lord’s brother.… For there is one true Prophet, whose words we twelve apostles preach…?. He has commanded us to go forth to preach, and to invite you to the supper of the heavenly King, which the Father hath prepared for the marriage of His Son, and that we should give you wedding garments, that is the grace of baptism…?. But the ways in which this garment may be spotted are these: If any one withdraw from God the Father and Creator of all, receiving another teacher besides Christ, who alone is the faithful and true Prophet… these are the things which even fatally pollute the garment of baptism. But the things which pollute it in action are these: murders adulteries, hatreds, avarice, evil ambition. And the things which pollute at once the soul and the body are these: to partake of the table of demons, that is, to taste things sacrificed, or blood, or a carcass which is strangled, and if there be aught else which has been offered to demons. (The Recognitions of Clement, 4:35-36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143.)
Note that in Acts James is made to quote from the Septuagint and not the Hebrew version of Amos 9:11-12. The meaning is quite different: Whereas the Septuagint and Acts say “… that the rest of men may seek the Lord and all the Gentiles who are called by my name…”, the Hebrew says “…that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name.” James would not have rendered his decision in Greek nor have misquoted the Hebrew, an indication that this account was rewritten by the followers of Paul. (
Written records regarding the early Christian period are meager. No doubt, a wealth of documentation was lost in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the conquest of the city in 70 C.E., its complete destruction in 135 C.E., and the book burning initiated by emperor Theodosius in the late 300s. On some points Acts is all we have, and we are lucky we have it. Without it, we would be even more lost when it comes to reconstructing the history of those times. However, because it is error-prone we must read it critically.
The Noachian or Noachide laws, apply to all humanity, because according to the Genesis legend, all humanity is descended from Noah. The laws of Noah did not require circumcision and presumably did not require a vegetarian diet. The laws of Noah can be inferred from Genesis 9, and they require of all people, including non-Jews, that they:
1) not commit idolatry;
2) not commit blasphemy;
3) establish courts of justice;
4) not commit bloodshed;
5) not commit incest and adultery;
6) not commit robbery; and
7) not eat flesh cut from a living animal.
The seventh law was allegedly added after the flood when humans were given license to eat meat. The phrase is a “term of art” which stands for the prohibition against eating the flesh of animals raised, worked, and killed in a cruel way. I presume the Acts prohibition against things strangled is another version of the seventh law. An animal sacrificed in a pagan temple might be killed in an inhumane way. The Koran (5:3) prohibits eating the flesh of a strangled animal.
The writer of Acts does not mention all the Noachide laws, probably because he was a gentile who had never heard of them. But the writer of Acts is probably drawing his information from an older Judeo-Christian document or his recollection of it, and it should be clear that it is the Noachide laws that the older document was referring to.
The Noachide laws do provide gentiles with a “plan of salvation” and a place in the world to come. (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Noachian Laws,”
However, Paul did not like the compromise which Acts says was worked out at the Jerusalem Conference. Around 56 C.E., Paul openly defied James and the Jerusalem apostles and wrote:
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience…?. If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. (But if some one says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then out of consideration for the man who informed you, and for conscience sake—I mean his conscience, not yours—do not eat it.) For why should my liberty be determined by another man’s scruples?… Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks… just as I try to please all men in everything I do…?.
(1 Corinthians 10:23 ff.)
Paul shows himself to be a religious chameleon, saying:
… as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”…?. However, not all possess this knowledge [gnosis]. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table [eating meat] in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food [meat] offered to idols? And so by your knowledge [gnosis] this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall. (1 Corinthians 8: 4-13. I have added the words in brackets.)
In Jerusalem the priests had a monopoly on the sale of meat, certainly including cattle, sheep, and goats, and theoretically including fowl, but probably not including fish. Jewish government, although under Roman supervision, was a theocracy, and animals had to be slaughtered according to the laws of kosher by the priestly caste. Likewise, I would presume that in Corinth the pagan Temples had a similar monopoly on the slaughter of large animals and the sale of their meat. Except for small animals such as fish and maybe fowl, I would presume that idol meat was the only meat available.
Paul was willing to tolerate and even conform to the vegetarians of his day, but he regarded vegetarianism as of no consequence and vegetarians as weak in faith. He says in Romans 14:1 ff., written around 57 C.E.:
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him…?. I known… that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died…?. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.
Paul’s approach was that his converts could sneak over to the pagan temple, there to eat or buy meat secretly, hoping that a vegetarian Christian or one obeying James’ rule against eating meat offered to idols would not see them. However, if a vegetarian spotted them, according to Paul’s ruling, they would have to quit eating idol meat. The approach was impractical. Paul was teaching his followers deception and hypocrisy, an early version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Around 61 C.E., when Paul was in jail in Rome and had broken completely with James, Paul wrote: “…let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Colossians 2:16.) Paul was in radical rebellion against the ruling of James at the Jerusalem conference and any part of Jewish or Judeo-Christian food laws. Some scholars say Colossians was written pseudepigraphally by Paul’s disciples after he died, but these ideas evidently did go back to Paul himself.
Jesus referred to the animals as “guiltless.” (Matthew 6:26, 10:29. See the section of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 176.) He would have said: “Make peace with the animals.” Making peace with the animals and not eating them or torturing them was probably one of the teachings Jesus felt most strongly about.
But Paul, claiming to have had his own private revelation (1 Corinthians 9:1, 11:23, 15:8; 2 Corinthians 11:5; Galatians 1:12,15), claiming, in effect, to be a prophet or a successor messiah, one whose revelation was superior even to that of Jesus, cleverly undermined the vegetarianism of the original Christians. He changed the gospel and single-handedly redirected Christianity along a different trajectory. Paul made such statements in the context of his conflict with the leadership of the Jerusalem church who ate no meat and drank no wine. Note that this was clearly not a debate just regarding not eating meat offered to idols or blood. Paul’s debate was with Judeo-Christians who advocated vegetarianism. (Romans 14.)
According to Paul, the “circumcision party” hounded him constantly and worked to convince his converts to adopt strict Hebrew practices. (Acts 15:1.) Of Peter, Paul says:
… when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. (Galatians 2:11-12.)
Perhaps the men from James came to inform Peter that James had seen Paul’s writings and now realized that Paul was teaching that idol meat could be eaten and circumcision had no value for anyone, even Jews. Paul apparently was teaching that gentiles should never be circumcised (1 Corinthians 7:18), meaning they should never convert fully to Judaism. (Romans 2:25, Galatians 5:2-6.) Instead they should convert to Judaism “light,” the new Pauline version of Christianity. This may represent the moment when Paul and Peter broke. Maybe Peter not only quit eating with the gentile Christians of Antioch but also with Paul. Perhaps Paul was called back to Jerusalem to give an explanation. (Acts 21:21.) Note that the subject is eating, but the men from James are referred to as the “circumcision party.” Thus, circumcision was not the only issue; diet was an issue too, and the term “circumcision party” probably also meant “vegetarian party.” Perhaps the term “circumcision party” was more of an epithet than an accurate description.
Paul said that people of the “circumcision party” had come from “James” and had influenced Peter not to eat with the gentile Christians. Perhaps the “men from James” did not oppose conversion of the Gentiles but did oppose eating with them unless they became at least semi-converts—which would be consistent with Acts 15. (The Recognitions of Clement, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, 1:19, p. 82; 2:72, p. 116-117; 7:29, p. 163, 7:6, p. 158.)
Circumcision was painful in the days before anesthetics and perceived to be a dangerous operation for an adult male in Bible times, and it is reasonable that a gentile would prefer to become a semi-convert to Judaism instead of a full proselyte. He would presumably circumcise his male children as they were born and make them fully Jewish. I would assume that this is what James was saying about circumcision: Male converts to James’ Ebionite movement need not be circumcised, but it would probably have been understood that their sons would. Again, bear in mind that the first Christians were Jews and that Christianity for several decades was merely one of many Jewish sects.
Jewish custom presumably prohibited a Jew from eating in a non-kosher home. Would a semi-convert god fearer have adopted kosher practices? Would there have been tension over a Jew eating in the home of a god fearer who kept a kosher kitchen? I would assume not.  Likewise, there would never be a problem with a gentile eating Jewish kosher food in a Jewish home.
We know from other sources that James and Simon Peter ate no flesh food. (See the sections of this book entitled Simon Peter, the Clementina, p. 102, and James, Brother of Jesus, p. 108.) The Ebionites, apparently the descendants of James’ Jerusalem church, were vegetarian, as appears from the Clementina. However, according to Acts, James ruled that full conversion to Judaism and circumcision were not to be required of gentile converts, and presumably neither would vegetarianism. The account in Acts 15 then means that James handed down a ruling that was contrary to his personal principles, to the Jewish teaching that the messiah and the messianic era would be vegetarian, and to what later Ebionites believed as evidenced in the Clementina. (See the section of this book entitled Ancient Judaism Challenges Modern Judaism, p. 65.)
Perhaps the Jerusalem Church was made up of several tendencies, one being the vegetarian Essene Christians, which included the top leadership, and another being Pharisee Christians and priest Christians who may have been meat-eaters. Perhaps James did not have complete control over the Jerusalem church. I would presume he had control over the Essene wing and probably the Hellenist wing. (See the section of this book entitled Four Wings of the Jerusalem Church, Two of them Vegetarian, p. 145.) Maybe James was not in control of the Pharisee or priestly wings. Perhaps the Pharisee Christians were more strict than James in requiring full conversion to Judaism and it was they who sent out representatives who were teaching gentile converts that they had to keep all the Hebrew laws, including circumcision. Maybe these Pharisee Christians were less strict regarding vegetarianism but very strict regarding circumcision. Maybe Pharisees and priests were vegetarians only on Mondays and Thursdays. (Luke 18:12; see the section of this chapter entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157.) Eventually Jewish Christianity split into two wings, the Ebionites who were vegetarian, and the Nazoreans, who were not vegetarian, except on fast days. Their dietary differences may have been one or the reasons for their split. Also, some Nazoreans adopted gnostic theories, such as the theory that Jesus only seemed to die on the cross; Ebionites did not. (See the section of this chapter entitled Ebionites vs. Nazarenes, p. 93.)
According to the ruling alleged made by James (Acts 15:19 ff.), gentile converts would not have to be circumcised, but they would not be allowed to eat meat from the pagan temple butcher shop or the meat of an animal that had been strangled, that is, killed in an inhumane way. Would these gentile semi-convert Christians also have had to clean their homes and kitchens to meet kosher requirements? Was James creating a new class of kosher in his ruling, for example, could gentile Christians eat pork but only if the pig were killed in a relatively painless way? If the gentile Christians did not have access to kosher meat, would they thereby have been required to become vegetarians by default? Presumably they would be able to eat fish, which could be slaughtered by any fisherman and did not have to be slaughtered by a shochet. This would correlate with the custom of the gnostic heretic Marcion, who was a vegetarian except that he ate fish on religious holidays. (Tertullian Against Marcion, 1:14, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, p. 281.)
Perhaps there was a Jerusalem sect of Judeo-Christians who believed that it was not sufficient for a gentile Christian to be a god fearer and that outright circumcision and full conversion was required. Josephus mentions that there were gentiles who were forcibly circumcised in Jerusalem in 66 C.E. at the beginning of the uprising of the Jews against the Romans. (The Life of Josephus, tr. Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, 23, p. 6; Robert Eisenman, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, p. 317.) The Maccabean Jews had conquered the Idumeans and allowed them to keep their land provided they convert and become circumcised, so it is said they were forcibly converted. Under pressure from the “circumcision party,” Paul’s disciple Timothy, the uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, was circumcised. (Acts 16:3.)
Many Roman pagans admired the monotheism of Judaism. Around 10 percent of the population of the Roman Empire was Jewish, 20 percent in the Levant, and presumably many of these had become Jewish by conversion. Unlike today’s Judaism, which discourages conversion, the Judaism of the First Century aggressively pursued converts. (Matthew 23:15.) While becoming a god fearer would have been a good first step, ultimately circumcision was necessary for one to become fully Jewish. This would have been a difficult step for grown men to take but not for their new born sons.
As a relevant aside I would add that because around one out of every seven baby boys has some serious defect of the foreskin, and because any non-circumcision policy would require regular reexamination as boys mature and could require surgery later in life, I believe it is not an unreasonable policy to circumcise all boys—using anesthetic, of course. (
Paul and others operating out of Antioch, made the rounds preaching their new theory that gentile Christianity was the true Judaism and that semi-convert god fearers and others could become “Jewish” by becoming Christian, skipping circumcision and conversion to Judaism altogether. Some Greeks would have liked this, because Greeks generally considered circumcision to be an abhorrent mutilation.
The Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15 occurred around 49 – 53 C.E. 1 Thessalonians is probably Paul’s first epistle, written shortly before the Jerusalem Conference, and in it Paul shows no tension with the Jerusalem leadership. The theology of 1 Thessalonians is much simpler and more primitive than in the rest of Paul’s epistles, and the christology is lower. Galatians was written around 52-54 C.E., after the Jerusalem Conference, and I presume that to be so because Paul describes what appears to be the Jerusalem Conference in Galatians 2:1-10. In Galatians Paul shows he has rebelled against Jerusalem.
Paul says that a person who undergoes circumcision would be bound to keep every detail of Jewish law and that conversion to Christianity would offer such a person no advantages. (Galatians 5:2-5.) Where he got such a strange theory I don’t know. Paul loses all control and says, “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12.) A more literal translation would say that they should “completely amputate their penises.” What had happened was that “… certain men came from James… false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom.” (Galatians 2:4,12.) Paul was losing out to missionaries from James who offered his churches the option of full conversion to Judaism or semi-conversion according to Noachide law. Paul referred to them as “dogs.” (Philippians 3:2.)
Paul apparently believed that circumcision was meaningless for Jews who accepted Jesus, and because he held that all Jews should accept Jesus, his position would have been that Jews therefore should no longer circumcise males and ultimately that Judaism should cease to exist. Was Paul saying his own circumcision had been meaningless? His clear statement is that those who were not circumcised should not be circumcised. Would that include Jewish infants who were not yet circumcised? (Acts 21:21; Romans 2:25-29; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20; Galatians 6:11-15; Philippians 3:2-6; Colossians 2:11; Titus 1:10.)
According to the Clementina, Peter wrote to James:
[G]ive the books of my preachings to our brethren, with the like mystery of initiation, that they may indoctrinate those who wish to take part in teaching; for if it be not so done, our word of truth will be rent into many opinions. And this I know, not as being a prophet, but as already seeing the beginning of this very evil. For some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy [a term which clearly refers to Paul. See The Recognitions of Clement, 1:70-71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 95 f., p. 215]. And these things some have attempted while I am still alive, to transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the law…?. But these men, professing, I know not how, to know my mind, undertake to explain my words, which they have heard of me, more intelligently than I who spoke them, telling their catechumens that this is my meaning, which indeed I never thought of. But if, while I am still alive, they dare thus to misrepresent me how much more will those who shall come after me dare to do so! (Epistle of Peter to James, 2, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 215. Comments in brackets are my own.)
Maybe it was true that Paul was teaching that Jews should cease circumcising their sons, for as late as 58 C.E., Paul returned to Jerusalem, and the circumcision party accused him, saying “…that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.” (Acts 21:21.) Paul then took a vow and participated in a purification ritual to prove that he still kept Jewish custom. One can presume that out in the mission field Paul ate non-kosher meat including meat offered to pagan gods. (1 Corinthians 10:23 ff.) Thus, his taking this vow was a hypocritical act. Paul was regarded by many as a traitor to Judaism and Judeo-Christianity. Certain “Jews” wanted him dead (Acts 22:22), perhaps also including Jews who had accepted Jesus as messiah.
If James had forbidden the eating of all meat, this would have been an easy solution to the problem of Judeo-Christians and semi-convert, gentile Christians eating together: A meat-free diet would have been kosher by default. Perhaps this is what James did. It is what Peter did: According to the Ebionite Clementina, Simon Peter would not initially allow Clement, an uncircumcised gentile, to pray, live, or eat with him and his party:
But this also we observe, not to have a common table with Gentiles, unless when they believe, and on the reception of the truth are baptized, and consecrated by a certain threefold invocation of the blessed name; and then we eat with them.” (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:19, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 82; 2:72,
p. 116-117; 7:29, p. 163.
Note, however, that this is not a case of Peter eating just anything in a gentile home. It is a case of a gentile, semi-convert, god fearer eating what Peter ate in Peter’s home or around Peter’s campfire, which we know was a vegetarian diet as prepared by Peter and his vegetarian group. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Vol. 8, p. 158.)
There is one additional possible source of information regarding James’ ruling at the Jerusalem Conference, and that is the Didache, one of the oldest Christian documents, a revision of a previously Jewish document, which states:
For if thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou are able that do. And concerning food, bear what thou art able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on thy guard; for it is the service of dead gods. (The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378.
The Didache, in the version which has come down to us, possibly evolved from a ruling from James. Not eating meat sacrificed to idols is the minimum one should do, but what would be the “whole yoke of the Lord” if not to refrain from eating meat entirely? Again note the “no greater burden” theme. (The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378,; Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25; Revelation 2:19-25; The Recognitions of Clement, 4:36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143; see the section of this book entitle Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157, and The Burden Theme, “Bear What Thou Art Able,” p. 160. The rule not to eat things “strangled” referred to the rule against eating the meat of animals tortured or painfully killed.
Perhaps the Didache indicates that Paul and the author of Acts, a follower of the Pauline line, did not tell the correct version of James’ ruling regarding dietary restrictions. Perhaps James really said what the Didache seems to say, that his followers should avoid meat altogether, but if they could not, that they should at least avoid meat from pagan temples and from animals raised, worked, and killed inhumanely.
Obviously, this is a very complex issue, and given the effectiveness of the Roman censor at destroying Judeo-Christian books, there is not enough data available to resolve it with any certainty, although it is certainly possible to go much further than conventional theologians go.
In Jesus’ day Pharisees were divided into two houses or schools, the more conservative house of Shammai (died around 30 C.E.) and the more liberal house of Hillel (died c. 10 C.E.). Beth (house of) Shammai was dominant up until the fall of Jerusalem and the Council of Jamnia around 80 C.E., when Beth Hillel formed what is today’s rabbinic Judaism. Both houses believed that the laws of Noah were binding on gentiles, but they differed in this regard: Beth Hillel believed that gentiles who lived by the laws of Noah would have a part in the world to come, but Beth Shammai believed that even gentiles who followed the laws of Noah would not. (Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee: A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus, 1985, p. 75.)
Falk suggests that on the few occasions in the New Testament where Pharisees are presented in a favorable light (Mark 12:28 ff.; Acts 5:34) the reference is to the more liberal, minority Hillelites, including Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel. All other references to Pharisees are to the dominant Shammaites. (Falk, p. 80.) The other possibility is that in the original Hebrew gospel it was the Sadducees and Herodians who were in tension with Jesus, and it was later gentile editors, who changed the reference to the Pharisees and that the editors did this because gentile Christians and Pharisees were in competition for converts at the time the gospels were edited.
On one occasion Shammaites attacked Hillelites and murdered several of them. (Falk, p. 57.) Many Hillilites withdrew into the desert and became Essenes. Eighty or eighty pairs of Hillilites were sent out to convert gentiles to follow the laws of Noah. Falk suggests that Jesus was a Hillelite and could have been part of this mission. (Falk, p. 115, 139, 140.)
This sheds light on the controversy discussed in Acts 15. “Some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” came to Antioch and said gentile Christians had to keep the whole law. (Acts 15:5.) The controversy was presented to James who made the Hillelite ruling that it would be sufficient if gentile Christians kept the laws of Noah. (Acts 15:20.)
Jews had been in rebellion against the Romans since Pompey conquered Palestine in 63 B.C.E. They revolted in 66-70 C.E. Egyptian Jews revolted again in 115-117 C.E. under Lucwas (Leucas Andreas) and actually took control of Alexandria, Cyprus, and Cyrene in Libya for a year. They revolted a final time in 132-135 C.E. under messianic claimant Bar Kokhba—said to have been spurred in part by a Roman law prohibiting circumcision. Bar Kokhba’s rebellion was well-planned and initially expelled the Romans from Palestine. The Romans won in the end and this time razed all of Jerusalem, not just the Temple. Several hundred thousand Jews were killed or enslaved.
Jewish resistance against the Roman slaveocracy had failed. It had become clear that Jews, which made up 10 percent of the Roman Empire and 20 percent in the Levant, had lost their effort to convert the Roman Empire to their religion. Jews were hated for the trouble they had caused. Gentile Christians wanted to distance themselves from Jews so they could continue Paul’s effort to take the Empire for his pro-Roman version of Christian Judaism.
At this crucial time, Marcion appeared. A devoted follower of Paul, this wealthy shipping magnate, had left behind his native Sinope, in Pontus, in what is now northern Turkey. He was the son of a bishop, and his father may have excommunicated him for trifling with young women. He arrived in Rome around 140 C.E., at a time when Rome’s bishop had died. Marcion made a large donation to the church and perhaps expected to be appointed bishop. Marcion brought with him the first New Testament, made up of a shortened version of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles—all edited where necessary to agree with Marcion’s theology.
Marcion completely denied the authority of the Hebrew Bible and eliminated from his New Testament any positive reference to Judaism. Marcion considered the Jehovah god of the Hebrews to be an inferior god; Jesus was the son of a higher, good god. Jesus was chrestos, good, not christos, messiah. In 144 C.E. the Roman church excommunicated Marcion and refunded his donation. He proceeded to build his own extensive church, which was later absorbed into Manichaeism, which was later driven underground by the Roman church with the help of the Christian emperors. The Albigenses were descended from surviving Manichaeans.
Marcion was a vegetarian except that he was said to regard sea food as “the more sacred diet,” by which some presume that fish was the only meat he ate on feast days or perhaps the only meat he ate at any time. (Tertullian Against Marcion, 1:14, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, p. 281.)
More relevant to my topic is the fact that Marcion arrived in Rome with a Christian Bible. The Roman church had only a Hebrew Bible, and because of Marcion it realized that it needed a Christian Bible. Marcion popularized the writings of Paul at a time when the Roman church perhaps either did not know of them or did not regard them as authoritative.
The Roman church was probably founded by Judeo-Christians under direct supervision of James, brother of Jesus. Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome around 50 C.E., and this included members of the Ebionite church there. (Acts 18:2.) Presumably some returned later. During Marcion’s years the Roman church was trying to consolidate its position as the ruling gentile church and rewriting its history to show it was the rightful successor to the Jerusalem apostles. Acts and Eusebius’ History of the Church should both be read as attempts to prove this case.
This is probably when the New Testament books were assembled, rewritten, and edited into their current form, and when stories that would strengthen the Roman church’s claim to supremacy were added. (E.g. Matthew 16:18-19.) This is probably also the time when the gentile church, wanting to prove itself not Jewish so it could be accepted by Romans, introduced hateful anti-Pharisee and anti-Jewish libels into the New Testament, along with passages that exculpated the Romans from the killing of Jesus. (Matthew 23:26; Luke 11:37-54.)
This is probably when the Pastoral epistles—1 & 2 Timothy and Titus—were written in Paul’s name to undo the quasi-gnosticism that runs through Paul’s writings, to refute the teachings of Marcion and other gnostics, to authorize the monarchial bishop system, to preclude women from positions of leadership, to allow ministers to be salaried, to allow Christians to drink wine, to allow Christians to own slaves, to make it clear that the wealthy were welcome to join, to denounce circumcision, and to make it clear that Christians were to obey their Roman rulers and not rebel like the troublesome Jews. (1 Timothy 2:11-15, 3:1-7, 5:17-19, 23, 6:1-2, 17, 20; Titus 1:5, 7, 10, 14, 2:9, 3:1, 9.) The Petrine Epistles appear to serve the same purpose and may have been written at the same time. (1 Peter 2:13,18; 3:1; 2 Peter 3:16.) The Pastoral Epistles condemn the vegetarians who enjoin “…abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving…” as teaching “…doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1-5; cf. Colossians 2:16.) Hippolytus (died c. 236), relying on a different version of 1 Timothy, quotes Paul as condemning those who teach abstinence from “meats.” (Hippolytus, the Refutation of All Heresies, 8:13, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, p. 124.)
It is only after Marcion that Church Fathers such as Irenaeus around 180 C.E. refer to the four gospels and to Paul’s writings by name and as accepted books. (“Marcion,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1958; Charles B. Waite, History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred, 1881, p. 239 ff.) I should also mention that the Muratorian Canon, the first known list of the canon as such, was issued as a response to the work of another threatening heretic, Montanus.
By far the most conspicuous aspect of the New Testament is that it ignores the Roman occupation of Palestine. Liken it to a story written in 1943 in France which makes no mention of the Nazi occupation, as Hyam Maccoby suggests in his Revolution in Judea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance. Things had not been so bad for the Jews during the years of Herod the Great, 40-4 B.C.E. Herod mostly kept the Romans out. A shrewd trader, he made fortunes trading spices, and frequently paid all the taxes Judea owed Rome on his own.
However, from around 6 C.E., Judea was ruled by Roman procurators, who were little more than gangster tax collectors. Procurators made a census of all property. They had to deliver a tax quota to Rome, but they were free to tax as much extra as they wanted and could and keep the excess for themselves. Their underlings on down the line had quotas and overtaxed as well, down to the tax collectors in the field, the “publicans.” These thugs could call in Roman soldiers to brutalize anyone who did not pay up. Tax farmers extorted so much that men committed suicide or were sold into slavery. Jews hated the introduction of Greco-roman games into Jerusalem, invasions of the Temple, and other insults. Sometimes, they rebelled and were slaughtered. However, there is only one hint of this in the entire New Testament: “There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” (Luke 13:1.)
The explanation for this whitewash is that the New Testament was put into its present form outside of Judea, away from the founders who knew the real story, by gentile Christians who were third-generation members of the church Paul had built. Paul had been a Roman citizen. Paul wanted a church that was pro-Roman. In the Pauline New Testament Pilate is made to wash his hands of responsibility for Jesus’ death. (Matthew 27:24, Luke 23:4-24.) Responsibility was shifted to the Jewish people generally. “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:25.) Paul, or disciples of his who rewrote his books, began the christ-killer libel. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.) There was fierce competition between Paul’s Christians and Pharisee missionaries, and this explains the anti-Jewish and anti-Pharisee invective that runs throughout much of the New Testament.
Hebrews had been slaves to the Egyptians, and each time they celebrated the Passover, they remembered this. Under the law of Moses, Jews could and did enslave both Jews and gentiles, however, in each case, there were stringent restrictions, and slaves had significant rights. Hebrew ownership of Hebrew slaves ended with the fall of Judea to the Babylonians around 586 B.C.E. It was said that Judah was carried away into captivity because the rich, after releasing their Hebrew slaves, re-enslaved them. (Jeremiah 34:8 ff.) One of the reasons why Herod the Great was hated was for his reintroducing the enslavement of Hebrews by Hebrews. (“Anti-Slavery Movement and the Jews,”
Hebrew ownership of gentile slaves continued to Jesus’ time, but such slaves could not be sold into foreign lands, did not work on the Sabbath, and had basic rights such as clean bedding and the right to eat the same food as their masters. They were invited to convert to the Hebrew religion and were invited to the Seder. (Exodus 12:44, 20:10, 21:1-21; Leviticus 25:29 ff., Deuteronomy 23:16 ff.; Job 31:13-14; “Slaves and Slavery,”
The Essene Therapeutae of Egypt opposed slavery. Philo says of them:
… [T]hey do not use the ministrations of slaves, looking upon the possession of servants or slaves to be a thing absolutely and wholly contrary to nature, for nature created all men free.” (Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (71) p. 704.)
Likewise, Pharisees opposed slavery. Josephus says of them: “[T]hey do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit…?.” Antiquities of the Jews, tr. Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, 18:1:3, pp. 376-377; see The Wars of the Jews, tr. Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, 2:13:6, p. 483.) Only the Sadducees, holding mechanically to the Law of Moses, and aligning themselves with the Romans, who appointed them to their positions as high priests, favored slavery.
The Ebionites, writers of the Clementina and intellectual descendants of the Essene Jerusalem Christians, opposed slavery. The Ebionite Simon Peter of the Clementina claimed that slavery had been forbidden from the time of Noah. The ethic was “… that you lord it over no man; that you trouble no one, unless any one of his own accord subject himself to you…?.” (The Clementine Homilies, 8:19, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volt 8, p. 274; Philo Judaeus, C.D. Yonge, tr., The Works of Philo, On the Contemplative Life, IX (71) p. 704.)
It would be impossible for one to own a slave and follow the Golden Rule. (Matthew 7:12.)
Pythagoreans, Essenes, and Pharisees all opposed slavery. Jesus was either a Pythagorean Essene or a Pharisee—the two were very similar. So although there is no surviving canonical passage where Jesus specifically stated that he opposed slavery, it is hard to imagine that he did not. It is likely that his statements against slavery were edited out by gentiles who rewrote the gospels to make them more attractive to slave-holding Greeks and Romans.
Paul was a different type of Christian than Jesus and his Davidian followers. Paul and his disciples allowed their Christians to keep slaves. (Ephesians 6:5 ff., 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:2,9, Philemon 15.) To the Pythagoreans, Essenes, Pharisees, Jesus, the Jerusalem Christians, Peter, and the Ebionites, this would have been unthinkable.
Slaveholding Christians such as those of the antebellum South quoted Paul’s words. Had Paul not interfered with the development of Judaism and Jesus’ Ebionite movement, it is possible that slavery might have been outlawed much earlier than it was.
The late Dr. Shlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem translated numerous Moslem documents pertaining to the Judeo-Christians. Among these are the writings of Abd Al-Jabbar, Mutazilite (believing in free will) philosopher who died around 1024-5, and who wrote “The Establishment of Proofs for the Prophethood of Our Master Mohammed.” Therein, he condemned Orthodox, Nestorian, and Jacobite (monophysite) Christians, three varieties of Pauline Christianity, for deviating from the Torah and the true teachings of Jesus.
Throughout, Al-Jabbar makes arguments against Pauline Christianity that are not Moslem but are Jewish or Judeo-Christian in orientation, for example, he faults Paul for not following the Torah, although Moslems too reject the authority of the Torah. This would indicate that he was reworking Judeo-Christian materials. I quote from Dr. Pines, who is quoting from Al-Jabbar, who in turn is summarizing what he learned from or about the Judeo-Christians. Words in parenthesis are those of Dr. Pines, and those in brackets are my own.
After him [the death of Jesus], his disciples were with the Jews and the Children of Israel in the latter’s synagogues and observed the prayers and the feasts of (the Jews) in the same place as the latter. (However) there was a disagreement between them and the Jews with regard to Christ.
The Romans (al-Rum) reigned over them. The [presumably Pauline] Christians (used to) complain to the Romans about the Jews…?. And the Romans said to the [presumably Pauline] Christians: “Between us and the Jews there is a pact which (obliges us) not to change their religious laws. But if you would abandon their laws and separate yourselves from them, praying as we do (while facing) the East [towards the sun, while Nasoraeans knelt towards Jerusalem, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams, tr., 19:3:6, p. 46; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:26], eating (the things) we eat [Romans 14:1 ff.; 1 Corinthians 8: 4-13], and regarding as permissible that which we consider as such, we should help you and make you powerful…?.
The [presumably Pauline] Christians answered: “We will do this.” (And the Romans) said: “Go, fetch your companions [presumably the Judeo-Christians], and bring your Book.” (The [presumably Pauline] Christians) went to their companions, informed them of (what had taken place) between them and the Romans and said to them: “Bring the Gospel, and stand up so that we should go to them.” But these ([presumably Judeo-Christian] companions) said to them: “You have done ill. We are not permitted (to let) the Romans pollute the Gospel. In giving a favorable answer to the Romans, you have accordingly departed from the religion. We are (therefore) no longer permitted to associate with you…” and they prevented their (taking possession of) the Gospel or gaining access to it. In consequence a violent quarrel (broke out) between (the two groups). [The presumably Pauline Christians]… went back to the Romans and said to them: “Help us against these [presumably Judeo-Christian] companions of ours before (helping us) against the Jews, and take away from them on our behalf our book.” Thereupon (the [presumably Judeo-Christian] companions of whom they had spoken) fled the country. And the Romans wrote concerning them to their governors in the districts of Mosul…?. Accordingly, a search was made for them; some were caught and burned, others were killed.
(As for) those [presumably Pauline Christians] who had given a favorable answer to the Romans they came together and took counsel as to how to replace the Gospel…?. (Thus) the opinion that a Gospel should be composed was established among them.… “Everyone among us is going to call to mind that which he remembers of the words of the Gospel and of (the things) about which the [presumably Judeo-] Christians talked among themselves (when speaking) of Christ.”
It is easy to understand why Judeo-Christians wanted to keep their books out of Pauline Christian hands. Consider the changes gentile Christians editors made to the two versions of the Didache, which was originally a Jewish and Judeo-Christian book. (See the section of this book entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157.)

Dr. Pines summarizes what Al-Jabbar and his sources had to say of Paul:
Paul… at first helped the Jews against the Christians. However,… he changes sides, helps the Christians and tells them to separate themselves from the Jews and to associated with peoples hostile to the Jews.…
Paul… says to the Jews that he spent fourteen days with God in heaven [2 Corinthians 12:2], who gave him many injunctions and told him “many shameful things about you [Jews], which I will not tell you.”… [T]he Jews were amazed at these stupid tales and took him to the companion of Caesar…?. [Acts 21:28; 25:2,12.] The king… sent him instead to Constantinople [which Al-Jabbar or his source confuses with Rome]. There he associated with the Romans and tried to stir them up against the Jews.…
[Paul] denied validity to the laws of Moses…?.
Paul spoke to the Romans of the asceticism, the grace and the miracles of Jesus and people listened to him. However, if one considers that he denied the religious teachings of Christ and adopted those of the Romans, one must come to the conclusion that the [presumably Pauline] Christians became Romanized, whereas the Romans were not converted to Christianity. It was in consequence of Paul’s anti-Jewish propaganda that the Romans [later?], led by Titus, marched against the Jews…?.
[Backtracking,] Nero, found out what kind of a person Paul was… and asked him about circumcision. Paul expressed his disapproval of this rite… but had to admit that Jesus and the apostles were circumcised. And he was found to be circumcised himself. Thus, the king discovered that Paul encouraged the Romans to practice a religion opposed to the religion of Christ. The king ordered him to be crucified.
Gentile Christians did turn Judeo-Christians over to the Romans: Eusebius says that Hegesippus said that Simon, descendant of Clopas, brother of Joseph (Luke 24:18), leader of the Judeo-Christians following the assassination of James, was “informed against by the heretical sects” and was tortured to death by the Romans in 107 C.E. at 120 years of age. Eusebius says Hegesippus was of “Hebrew stock” but appears to regard him as orthodox, although it is Hegesippus who tells us that James was a vegetarian and preserves most of what we know about him. Who could these “heretical sects” have been who betrayed Clopas to the Romans if not the Pauline Christians? (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, 2:23, 3:32, 3:39, 4:22.)
Dr. Pines notes that Al-Jabbar says of Constantine that he was a leper, that he turned against the Roman religions because they considered a leper unqualified to be king, whereas the Christian religion did not so discriminate. (Shlomo Pines, “The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity According to a New Source,” Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Vol. 11, No. 13, 1968, reprinted in Shlomo Pines, Studies in the History of Religion, ed. Guy Stroumsa, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, ISBN 965-223-830-9,; see S.M. Stern, History and Culture in the Medieval Muslim World, which reprints the following two journal articles: “Quotations From Apocryphal Gospels in Abd al-Jabbar,” Journal of Theological Studies, N.S., 18, Oxford, 1967, and “Abd al-Jabbar’s Account of How Christ’s Religion was Falsified by the Adoption of Roman Customs,” Journal of Theological Studies, N.S., 19, Oxford, 1968.)
My hypothesis is this: The break between the gentile Christianity of Paul and the original Ebionite Judeo-Christianity occurred early and was complete. The two groups were in competition for converts. Gentile Christians hated circumcision. They hated Judeo-Christian vegetarian dietary restrictions and loved meat; the best place to buy cheap meat was in the pagan temples. Gentile Christians did not have copies of the Ebionite gospel because Judeo-Christians refused to share it with them. Pauline Christians had to recreate their own gospel based on what they could remember of oral translations of Hebrew or Aramaic originals, perhaps lengthy, memorized Sunday sermons presented in translation. Being unlearned in Hebrew, they quoted from the Septuagint and not from the Hebrew Bible. For all these reasons the four canonical gospels and Acts are chronologically disorganized and contradictory.
It is often said that Islam is an Arab version of Judaism. It would be more correct to say that it is Nazarene (not Ebionite) Christianity as reinterpreted by the prophet Mohammed. Moslems and the later Nazarenes agree on most points: That Jesus was born by virgin birth. Mary was very special. Jesus was a prophet and not a god. Paul was a heretic. Some Moslems believe and some Nazarenes believed that Jesus survived crucifixion and departed to the East. Because Moslems have such high regard for Jesus and Mary, Moslem friends often tell me, “I am both a Muslim and a Christian.”
The later Nazarenes did not eat pork, nor do Moslems, and neither group was or is vegetarian. However, it is said that there are vegetarian Shiite and Sufi groups. (If you have any information about  vegetarian Muslim sects, e-mail me.) Although the Koran specifically allows the eating of meat, it forbids cruelty to animals and requires that slaughter be as painless as possible.
The Koran is very clear on this point, requiring that animals live and die without suffering. If all meat eaters followed original Koranic halal practices or original Talumdic kosher practices of slaughter, a trillion cries of terror and pain among domesticated animals could be avoided. We would be healthier; the world would be improved ethically, and we would be one step closer to achieving a peaceful world.
We have no indication that Mohammed was a vegetarian, but it is clear that he strongly opposed cruelty to animals. However, the important question is not what Mohammed said in the Koran but what he would say today. I doubt the prophet would look with favor on the modern factory farm system. (See; see the section of this book entitled Ebionites vs. Nazarenes, p. 93.)
The oldest known copy of the Medieval Gospel of Barnabas is written in Italian. It contains anachronisms that indicate it was composed or revised or translated in the 1600s. There was a Spanish version of it but it disappeared. Barnabas draws on and is a synthesis of all four gospels. One hypothesis is that the book was compiled and kept alive and brought from Palestine to Europe by Carmelite monks who were fleeing Palestine under pressure from Moslem conquerors. The Carmelite Order is the only Catholic order which is older than Christianity, tracing its identity back to Ezekiel and the Rechabites. Barnabas is popular today among Moslems, although it is unlikely that Moslems had access to it before it appeared in Europe. In Barnabas Jesus is the true prophet like Elijah who predicts the coming of a messiah, who turns out to be Mohammed, who is mentioned by name. In Barnabas Judas carries Jesus’ cross and dies in Jesus’ place, and Jesus soon ascends into Heaven, which is what most Moslems believe about Jesus. However a minority of Muslims believe Jesus survived the cross and lived a long life in Kashmir.
Barnabas has gotten little attention from Christian scholars, and most dismiss it as a 17th Century Moslem fraud. However, it contains versions of accounts in the canonical gospels which are much fuller and more comprehensible. Some sections may go back to the later non-vegetarian Nazarenes and perhaps to the original Hebrew gospel. Barnabas merits consideration if for no other reason than that it is much better written than the four canonical gospels. (R. Blackhirst, “Barnabas and the Gospels: Was There an Early Gospel of Barnabas?” Journal of Higher Criticism, R. Blackhirst, “Herbs and Wild Fruit: Judas Maccabee and Reflections of Rechabitism in the Medieval Gospel of Barnabas,”; Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, (Appendix 3) p. 295-299,;
There are several factors which cloud our view of who Jesus was and what he said: He was apparently not himself a writer, although he probably was the author Matthew 25:34-48 and the Lord’s Prayer of Didache 9:5. There were Judeo-Christian writings, but they were kept secret and apparently later destroyed. Peter in the Clementina spoke of having written secret writings. (Epistle of Peter to James, 1, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 215.) Abd Al-Jabbar said that the Judeo-Christians hid their writings from the Pauline Christians. (See the previous section.) His sayings went through a stage where they were transmitted orally by gentile Christians, and thus they evolved. This is why, for example, there are three versions of the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2; Didache 9:5.)
Jesus spoke in allegories and parables and gave the keys to understanding them only to his closest students. (Matthew 13:10 ff., Mark 4:11-12, John 16:12, 25.) Origen and Clement of Alexandria said there were exoteric and esoteric teachings, “secret traditions of the true knowledge.” (Origen, Origen Against Celsus, 1:7, Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 399; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:12, 5:9, Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 312, p. 457.) Perhaps these esoteric teachings included the Hebrew gospel which the Judeo-Christians would not share with the Pauline Christians. Perhaps there are others, books we will never know.
It is possible that Jesus and his followers were students of the mystical and secret kabbalah. The Essenes, probably the sect into which Jesus was born, studied a “twofold philosophy of” … “the contemplation of God’s being and the origin of the universe.” (Philo, Quod Omnis Probus Liber, xii.; (“Gnosticism,” “Cabala,” The bottom three sefirot of the kabbalistic tree in descending order are Yod, Yesod, and Malkuth, which in reverse order are “the kingdom, the power, and the glory” of the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-15. Although these words are missing from the oldest versions of Matthew, they are to be found in Didache 9:5, which is probably older than Matthew.)
Jesus’ followers believed in an early end of the era and the early beginning of his messianic era; and perhaps for that reason saw little point in taking down his words. He said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30.) On the other hand, perhaps he was referring not to his return but to the coming conquest of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
Around 66 C.E. when zealots took over Jerusalem, one of the first things they did was to burn the archives to destroy mortgages and notes, so their debts could not be collected. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ed. Whiston, II, 17:6, 491.) Probably their fires also burned other records which would have told us more about Jesus. Herod earlier had burned books of genealogy because he could not claim Jewish descent and likewise wanted Jews in general also to be unable to document theirs. (Eusebius, Church History, 1:7.)
Paul was the writer who wrote the most, and he wrote very early. He had almost nothing to say of the life or teachings of Jesus. Instead he turned Jesus into a silent icon and expounded his own teachings, not those of Jesus. Paul never met Jesus except in visions such as his conversion on the road to Damascus and his later extended vision. (Acts 9:3, 22:6, 26:12; 2 Corinthians 12:2 ff.)
As I have pointed out elsewhere, the break between the gentile Christianity of Paul and John and the original Ebionite Judeo-Christianity occurred early and was complete. Paul’s Christians did not have copies of the Ebionite gospel and had to recreate their own gospel based on pieces of the gospel they could remember. (See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134.)
Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the original Judeo-Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella. In a state of disorganization, they lost their position of authority over the rest of the church. At various times they were on the run from the Romans, for they were headed by a Davidian dynasty that could have claimed political power. Although they returned at some point and, according to Eusebius, had bishops in Jerusalem, they were finally expelled along with all other Jews with the destruction of the entire city in 135 C.E. From 70 C.E. on, the gentile church went its own way and freely redefined who Jesus had been.
The writer of Luke said “many” others had written gospels. (Luke 1:1.) The four gospels in the New Testament were probably stitched together from lengthy memorized sermons, which had been delivered at gentile Christian meetings on Sundays and written down at some point. It was easy to confuse the commentary with the words supposedly being recited. Our four gospels highlight issues being debated at the time of their composition, for example, the heated arguments Christians were having with Pharisees. They were probably put into final form around 150 C.E. in Rome in response to the challenge presented by the books Marcion brought to Rome. (See the section of this book entitled Marcion—Follower of Paul, Catalyst of the Canon, p. 131.)
Mark is the oldest of the four extant orthodox gospels, but there was an earlier version of Mark, referred to as Proto-Mark. It is from Proto-Mark that the Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, copied. This is why in a few cases the readings in Matthew and Luke are sometimes older than the readings in Mark. (Compare Mark 6:3 with Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; and John 6:42. Also compare Mark 7:19 with Matthew 15:10-20 and Luke 11:41.)
Eusebius told what Papias had reported he learned from the presbyter John about how Mark, who allegedly had been Peter’s interpreter, composed his gospel: Mark did not translate from a Hebrew or Aramaic original of Matthew but “wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s sayings and doings.” (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 3:39, p. 103 f.) This would support what Abd Al-Jabbar reported. (See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134.)
The apostle Matthew allegedly wrote the first gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic. Eusebius wrote that Papias had said, “Matthew collected the oracles (logia) in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted as best he could.” (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 3:16:39, p. 104.) However, Symmachus the Ebionite (who flourished c. 200 and was famous for having translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek), wrote “pamphlets… in which he inveighs against the Gospel according to Matthew.” (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, 6:16:17, p. 194; “Symmachus,” He was probably attacking the Pauline version of Matthew that we read today, which is an entirely different book from Matthew’s Hebrew original. Today’s Matthew is not a translation from the Hebrew Matthew but a composition pieced together by Greeks who had never seen the Hebrew original but who relied solely on Proto-Mark and other oral traditions such as Q (the sections of Matthew and Luke which are very similar to each other and do not appear in Mark.)
Gentile Christians were aware that their religion had started off as a sect of Judaism, but they had become ashamed of its Jewish roots. The Jews were trouble makers; they had revolted against the Roman slaveocracy in 68 C.E., 112 C.E., and 132 C.E., and Rome fought long and costly wars to subdue them. All the books of the New Testament, except for James, Jude, and Revelation, are gentile books. In many cases the gentile redactors knew so little about Judaism and Jewish Christianity that they forgot to edit out texts which conflicted with their revisionist aims. (E.g., Acts 7:42; Matthew 12:6-7.)
The gospels are bitterly anti-Jewish. They followed the theory set forth by Paul and the writer of Hebrews that gentile Christianity had supplanted Judaism and become the true Judaism.
And Jewish, Judeo-Christian, and heretical gentile Christian books were destroyed by the Roman censor after Christianity became the state religion. (See the section of this book entitled Censorship, p. 85.)
However, we should not give up hope of clearing the cloudy glass that obscures the historical Jesus. Combing through existing gospels, epistles, and writings of the Church Fathers turns up a wealth of evidence, and that is because the editors and censors did not understand the significance of certain information, such as the speech by Stephen, or Jesus’ statement regarding his preference for mercy and not sacrifice, and failed to do a complete job of rewriting and purging such texts.
New sources of information about Jesus and early Christianity are uncovered from time to time, such as the Nag Hamadi and Qumran writings. It is possible that books confiscated by the Roman censors may yet be found in ancient monasteries. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely claims to have read a Judeo-Christian gospel in the Secret Vatican archives, although the Vatican denies the existence of any secret library. ( There may be information to be found among the Nestorians, the Assyrian Christians of Iran. They lived outside Roman jurisdiction and so their writings were not subject to the censorship that wiped out so much of the Judeo-Christian writings in the West. The climate of parts of Egypt, the Arabian desert, Iraq, Iran, and the area around the Dead Sea is so dry that old books such as the Dead Sea Scrolls may survive there, still undiscovered.
Likewise, information may be found in the Slavic countries. Robert Eisler cites evidence that some of the oldest Judeo-Christians fled north to escape Roman persecution. A Jewish form of Christianity flourished there until the beginning of the Second Millennium, when the Slavic Old Russian church switched sides, dropped its Judeo-Christian sympathies, and accepted the orthodoxy of Constantinople. The newly orthodox Russian church persecuted the non-orthodox, who fled west, where they perhaps joined or formed the nucleus of the unitarian movement. Or they may have converted back to Judaism, swelling the ranks of Ashkenazic Judaism. The writings of Josephus were heavily censored in the West, while the Old Slavonic version was not. It appears to be a translation from a more complete and uncensored Aramaic original and appears to contain much historical information not contained in Western editions. (See Robert Eisler’s The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, which I highly recommend for those interested in the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.)
The historical Jesus remains in large part obscured. It is impossible to know with absolute certainty Jesus’ position on eating animal food. However, there are some related issues of we can be certain: Jesus’ associates and disciples were vegetarian—John the Baptist, James his brother, Peter, Andrew, and Matthew, in fact all his disciples, as Eusebius affirms. (Proof of the Gosple, 3:5.) The Ebionite movement itself was vegetarian. Jesus opposed the sacrificing of animals and led a revolt that temporarily stopped the sacrifices. It was commonly believed that the messiah-king was to reinaugurate the vegetarian era and stop the sacrifices; a vegetarian messiah-king was expected. And gentile Christianity kept to a two day per week vegan fast for the first 800 years, as Orthodox Christians do to this day.
Given such evidence, a theory that Jesus ate a conventional meat diet would be hard to construct.
The first Christian “church” was the “church” in Jerusalem, although it was not called a church. It was a group of synagogues whose members were Jews who believed Jesus had been messiah-king and also the prophet Moses had predicted would come and complete his work. Jesus had referred to himself as a prophet. (Luke 4:24, 13:33-34; Matthew 10:39-42.) Gentile editors forgot to purge such references in the New Testament. (Matthew 14:5, 21:11, 21:46; Luke 24:19; John 1:21-28, 4:19, 44, 6:14, 7:40, 7:52, 9:17; Acts 3:22-23, 7:37; see Recognitions of Clement, 1:45, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 89).
Members of the Jerusalem church referred to themselves as Nazaraeans instead of Christians. They continued to worship in the Temple. (Acts 2:46, 11:26, 24:5.) The church’s president or bishop was the vegetarian James. Its members were all Jews, full converts to Judaism, or semi-convert god-fearers. (Acts 6:5, 15:5-20; “History of Judaism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979, Vol. 10, p. 315.) They were communists, in a non-Marxist sense, pooling all their assets. (Acts 4:32.) There is no reference to their having had any priesthood. They followed Hebrew law and custom. They believed Jesus was son of Joseph and Mary by normal intercourse. The Judeo-Christians were relative pacifists—preferring always a peaceable approach except where their life was in danger or the life of their nation. They would have been willing to fight if Jesus had returned to set up his earthly kingdom. They were teetotalers, and their communion included water instead of wine, or a mixture of water and wine, as was common in the early history of gentile Christianity. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, 5:1:3, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, p. 527;
Jesus had taught a solution to the most fundamental problem—how to bring justice, peace, and observance of high ethical standards to the world and how to stop the cycle of violence. (Matthew 5:38-48; see the section of this chapter entitled Understanding What Jesus Stood For, p. 202.)
Jesus and John the Baptist before him opposed animal sacrifice. They taught “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark 1:4; Matthew 28:19; see Recognitions of Clement, 1:35-39, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 87-88.) After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E., a reorganized rabbinic Judaism declared that prayer substituted for animal sacrifices. It had long been an option. (I Kings 8:46-50.)
Early Christians struggled to assign some meaning to the suffering and death of their prophet and messiah-king. It was probably the gentile Christians of Antioch who proposed the theory that Jesus had made a cosmic trade—his blood to wash away the original sin of an inherently sinful species. This trade was a common theology among the Greek mystery religions, but one totally inconsistent with Judaism. Moses had offered to die for the Israelites, but god refused his tender. (Exodus 32:30 ff.) The writings of Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:22-26) accepted the cosmic trade concept. Too, Judaism and Jesus knew nothing of the original sin theory.
Whereas baptism and prayer were effectual only to forgive past sins, the cosmic sacrifice forgave all sins and gave everlasting life to all. However, to obtain access to this complete forgiveness, one had to believe the correct doctrine. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, all would now live forever—the believers in heaven, the unbelievers in hell. The majority who do not believe would be better off if the cosmic-messiah-redeemer had never come.
Belief in salvation by faith led to the development of a fixation on believing the correct faith or doctrine, along with the fear that if one believes the wrong faith or doctrine, one will burn in hell forever. This fixation has bedeviled Christianity. The focus in Judaism, on the other hand, has always been more on right behavior than on right doctrine. If one tries to live a law abiding and ethical life and sincerely repents of the sins he commits, he is acceptable in god’s eyes. In Judaism even an atheist can have a place in the world to come—if he lives an ethical life. This is presumably what Jesus and the Jerusalem Church of James believed. The orthodox scribes in Rome in the 150s, when editing the New Testament as we know it, forgot to edit out certain crucial passages that were inconsistent with their Pauline theory of salvation. Jesus and James taught that the one who did acts of mercy for the hungry, the wrongly imprisoned, the widowed, the orphaned, and single mothers—those who lived an ethical life—w­ould have a place in the world to come. (Matthew 25:35-46; James 2.)
As gentile Christianity developed in Antioch and Ephesus and quickly became the Christian majority, it diverged from its Hebrew origins—for example, allowing wealthy slave owners and members of the Roman army to become Christians. The anti-Roman sentiments of the original Judeo-Christians were suppressed; the Romans were exonerated for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews as a group were blamed for it instead (Matthew 27:24-25), an error which shows how far from the facts the final editors of the gospels had gone. If Jews participated in killing Jesus, it was probably the same small Herodian, Sadducean, and priestly sects which later killed Stephen and James, not the Jews as a whole or the Pharisees, from whom today’s Judaism is descended.
When the four gentile gospels in our Bible were written and finally edited, a series of bloody Roman wars against the Jews (66-72 C.E, 115-117 C.E., and 132-135 C.E.) were raging or had just ended, and Jews were despised by many for making trouble and costing the lives of so many young Roman soldiers. Gentile Christians set out in their gospels to trace their origins to Judaism but at the same time to disassociate themselves from Judaism. The first Vatican in Jerusalem had been destroyed or scattered, and so the Gentile Church was free to go its own way and completely redefine Christianity.
Gentile Christians, freed after the destruction of Jerusalem from supervision by the church of James, adopted ideas from Mithraism, eventually declaring Jesus to be an actual god who had been born miraculously on December 25, the birthday of Mithra. They introduced the drinking of wine in the communion. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident: The Origin and Development of the Essene-Christian Faith, p. 182 f.) They also allowed the eating of meat at least on certain days. (See the section of this book entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 184.)
Eusebius says the Jerusalem Christians heeded Jesus’ prophesy regarding the destruction of the city (Matthew 23:37, 24:2, 16, 34) and wisely fled at some time before the Roman armies of Vespasian and Titus surrounded the city. (The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Wars of the Jews, Book 6, 9:3, p. 587; see Matthew 5:9, Luke 14: 31-32; Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 3, 5:3, p. 68.)
If Eusebius was right, the Jerusalem church escaped to Pella, which lay to the east of the Sea of Galilee, and after the Jewish War returned to Jerusalem. With James dead, the surviving apostles and disciples and the “heirs,” the Desposyni, Jesus’ family, met and selected Simon, son of Clopas, who probably had been Joseph’s brother, to succeed to the leadership. Simon died at 120 years of age while being tortured by the Romans under Trajan around the year 107 C.E. We can assume Simon was also a vegetarian. (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 3, 32, p. 95.)
However, scholars such as Hyam Maccoby (Revolution in Judea) suggest that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem remained there, fought the Romans and mostly were killed off. His reasoning is that if the Jerusalem church had survived as a group, even though it had relocated, it would have retained its position over Christendom as the first Vatican it was, just as the rabbis of Jerusalem retained their leadership of world Judaism despite their relocation to Jamnia in 70 C.E. The problem with this theory is that mainline Judaism was a licensed and recognized religion or ethnic group. Judeo-Christianity, on the other hand, was an upstart offshoot of Judaism. Its adherents believed that their messiah-king would return and overthrow Roman rule, and so they were the subject of Roman persecution during this period and on the run from time to time. This is why the Jerusalem church lost control over gentile Christianity. (See the section entitled Later Followers of Jesus Refused to Fight the Romans, p. 184.)
Jesus had brothers named James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, and unnamed sisters. (Mark 6:3.) There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that they were anything but his full brothers and sisters by Joseph and Mary. Except for the virgin birth stories awkwardly stitched onto the beginning of Matthew and Luke, there is no other shred of evidence in the New Testament that Jesus was anything other than the legitimate and natural-born son of Joseph and Mary, who were married before Jesus was conceived.
Our Gospel of Mark says that Jesus had been a carpenter: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3.) However, Origen (writing around 245-250) insists that “… in none of the Gospels current in the Churches is Jesus Himself ever described as being a carpenter.” (Origen Against Celsus, 6:36, Anti-Nicene Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Vol. IV, p. 589, The original version probably asked, “Is this not the son of the carpenter Joseph and Mary…?” In parallel passages Jesus is referred to as “Joseph’s son” or as the “carpenter’s son.” (Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; John 6:42.) Proto-Mark probably said Jesus was “Joseph’s son” or the “carpenter’s son.” The writers of Matthew and Luke copied from Proto-Mark. The editor in Rome in the 150s changed the text of Proto-Mark as he prepared the final Mark but forgot to change it in Matthew and Luke.
Here the motive of the editor who did the revision was to de-emphasize Joseph as the physical father of Jesus and the account that Jesus had brothers and sisters in order to support Jesus’ status as having been the son of god. The change was probably made in the time of Marcion around 150 or when Constantine asked Eusebius to prepare a hundred copies of the Bible around 325, after Origen’s day. The first Judeo-Christians never regarded Jesus as having been sired by a deity or being a deity. To them he was the adopted son of god in the same sense that each king of Israel had been adopted as god’s son and thus his authorized representative. (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:7; Mark 1:11; Acts 10:38, 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5.) Jesus probably believed, once he accepted his messiahship, that he was god’s authorized representative and adopted son. Jesus may have learned carpentry, but probably his first profession was that of physician, as it appears that he first came to fame as a healer. (John M. Allegro, Physician, Heal Thyself.) Perhaps he was a follower of Pythagoras and the Pythagorean physician Hippocrates.
The story of the virgin birth was taken from mystery religion sagas and grafted onto the Jesus story apparently to make it more appealing to gentiles and to explain to them how Jesus was “son of god.” For Jesus to be son of god, Mary would have had to abstain from sex with Joseph at least until after Jesus was born. And so she did in the virgin birth stories added to the beginning of Matthew and Luke. However, elsewhere Jesus is simply the “son of Joseph” or “son of the carpenter,” with no mention of a virgin birth. (Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; John 6:42.) In Matthew 1:25 Joseph did not “know” Mary until after Jesus was born, implying that he did have sex with her after Jesus was born. The Catholic teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin and never dirtied herself with sex is post-Biblical.
Paul apparently knew nothing of the virgin birth, for he did not mention it, although the theory would have supported his cosmic messiah theology. John too knew nothing of it, although it would have supported his preexistent logos theology.
In order to protect the virgin birth story, Eusebius, Constantine’s assistant in the consolidation of the Roman Catholic Church, rationalized away the plain statements in the gospels that Joseph was the physical father of Jesus by suggesting that Joseph had fathered Jesus’ brothers and sisters through a prior marriage. (Eusebius, Church History, 1:7.) The Protoevangelium of James had said the same.
Jesus and James were both said to have been born Nazarites, and the first-born was often dedicated as a Nazarite, so either Jesus or James could have been first-born. (Matthew 1:25; Luke 1:15; Epiphanius, Panarion, 29:3:9-29:4:4, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 112-119.)
There were tensions between Jesus and his friends and family. They went out to seize him, allegedly believing he was “beside himself.” (Mark 3:21, 3:31; John 7:3-10.) On the other hand, the family was disappointed in him for not proclaiming himself more aggressively. (John 7:3.)
Eusebius said there were 15 known Judeo-Christian bishops of Jerusalem, with their line ending in 135 C.E., at the time Bar Kokhba was defeated, and when all Jews, including Judeo-Christians, were banished from Jerusalem. At that point Markus appears as the first gentile bishop of a completely gentile Jerusalem church. The Judeo-Christian church apparently survived for several hundred years more, for in the time of Constantine, there was again a Nazaraean church in Jerusalem. (Eusebius: The History of the Church, tr. Williamson, 3:11, 3:32, 4:6, 5:12, pp. 79, 95, 108, 157; Bellarmino Bagatti, The Church from the Circumcision, p. 9 ff.) Epiphanius says that by the time of the Council of Caesarea in 196 C.E., “the bishops of the circumcision had disappeared,” meaning the Gentile bishops had excluded them from their communion. (Patrologia Graeca 42:355-56, as cited by Bagatti, The Church from the Circumcision, p. 10.) Eusebius said that about this time Theodotus the carpenter, a Judeo Christian, was expelled from the Roman church. (Church History 5:28.)
The kinsman of Jesus, the Desposyni, or heirs, continued to rule as a caliphate over all the Judeo-Christian synagogue churches. According to Jesuit scholar and novelist Malachi Martin, they were last heard from in 318, when they appeared before Pope Sylvester in Rome to demand that the bishoprics of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Alexandria be returned to them, cities where apparently there were many Ebionite Christians. Sylvester firmly declined. Roman soldiers then drove the Desposyni off their farms and out of their churches and hunted them down and tortured and killed them. (Malachi Martin, S.J., The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, p. 40 ff.) Martin cites no authorities for anything in this fascinating book. There is not one single footnote. I find no verification for this assertion elsewhere. Martin is now dead. If you know where Martin got such information, please send me an e-mail.
Dan Brown’s suggests that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, that they had a daughter, that a long secret line of Merovingian rulers was descended from her, and that direct descendants of Jesus and Mary survive to this day. Some theorize that Jesus was married because celibacy would have been uncommon for any Jewish man and especially for a rabbi. While this was true of most Jews, it was not true of the Essenes, among whom celibacy was allowed and valued. James, brother of Jesus, was celibate for life, and so it is not unreasonable that Jesus could have been celibate too. The gentile Christians were completely out of touch with Ebionite Christians who would have known the details of Jesus’ life.
Brown is correct in saying that Jesus was first regarded as a prophet, that the Catholic Church “stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power.” He is correct in saying that the Catholic Church burned books which contradicted Nicene orthodoxy. However, he gets a lot of the details wrong.
Brown says that until Constantine called the Council of Nicea, Christians considered Jesus a mere prophet. No, the christological inflation began with Paul and was almost complete by the time of John, author of the Gospel of John. What happened at Nicea was that theories that Jesus was only slightly less than fully divine were denounced.
Brown blames Constantine for the book burning, but it was under Theodosius, half a century later that it began. Brown says Constantine shifted the Christian day of worship from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday. Constantine did make Sunday an official holiday, however, Christians in the West had long before abandoned the Sabbath, while Christians in the East observed both days.
Brown has much to say about how Jesus and Mary Magdalene formed a family and had a daughter, about how Mary and their daughter fled to France where they were sheltered by Jewish families and later intermarried with royalty, and how the Roman church has constantly pursued them and their secret books. Brown goes a galloping off on this unlikely and unprovable story.
But Brown completely misses another, equally amazing, but true story about the real family of Jesus, the Desposyni, descended from Joseph and Mary and from Jesus’ full brothers, sisters, and uncles. A much more plausible fantasy novel would tell a story of Judeo-Christians descended from Jesus’ known relatives who went into hiding and who might survive today, perhaps in possession of the original gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Brown has much to say about Leonardo, but not one word about an aspect of Leonardo that was very important to him, his vegetarianism. One researcher says that only two of 50 biographies of Leonardo even mention his vegetarianism. Nor does Brown, when he mentions the Albigensian Cathari, alleged guardians of the grail tradition, say anything about their vegetarianism.
I have no special information regarding the Priory of Zion, the Merovingians, the Knights Templar, or the Masons. Brown’s information regarding these groups may be as slipshod as his information about the other items outlined above. The Da Vinci Code is just another novel with a tiresome chase scene.
According to my hypothesis, the original wing of the Jerusalem “church” under James were the Hebrew Essene of the same vegetarian orientation as Jesus. They were observant Jews who believed that animal sacrifice was not a requirement in Judaism and moreover that an end to the sacrificial system was the immediate goal of the messiah and his followers. Another goal was to return the world to the vegetarian diet of Adam. Another was to break the cycle of violence and return the world to the state of relative peace that prevailed before the invasions of the patriarchs. Another was to end political repression: They wanted to break free of the Romans and establish a Davidian kingship, although they believed that kingship would come only when the Jewish people were morally worthy.
I presume that Essene converts to Christianity, although extremely observant in their own way, took a critical approach to the Old Testament, because their heirs, the Ebionites, actually rejected as later additions those sections of the Torah—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—which required animal sacrifice:
But that He is not pleased with sacrifices is shown by this, that those who lusted after flesh were slain as soon as they tasted it, and were consigned to a tomb, so that it was called the grave of lusts [Numbers 11:34]. He 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. For neither are sacrifices accomplished without the slaughter of animals, nor can the first-fruits be presented. But how is it possible for Him to abide in darkness, and smoke, and storm (for this also is written), who created a pure heaven and created the sun to give light to all…?. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:50, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 247,
The Ebionites stressed being “good money-changers,” meaning that one should examine writings critically and disregard what is spurious. (The Clementine Homilies, 2:41, 44, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 237; Ibid., 3:42, p. 246; Ibid., 3:47, p. 247.) We can presume that the Judeo-Christian Essenes and the Nazoraeans before them took the same attitude.
There was a second group of Jerusalem Christian, the Hellenists. (Acts 6:1, 9:29.) Stephen was a Hellenist. These were Judeo-Christians who probably had grown up outside Judea, who spoke Greek as their first language, and who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic only as second languages. It is likely that some or all of these Hellenists were from Lake Mareotis in the Nile delta near Alexandria, where there was a large colony of Greek-speaking Essenes. My hypothesis is that Stephen and the Hellenists were Therapeutae, a Greek speaking branch of the Essene movement, which was vegetarian. Paul participated in the killing of Stephen, and Hellenists tried to kill Paul. (Acts 8:1, 9:29. See the sections of this book entitled The Therapeutae, p. 88, and Stephen, Hellenist, Foe of the Sacrificial System, p. 98.)
The third group would have been those Pharisees who became Christians. (Acts 15:5.) Pharisees Christians might have been vegetarian only on fast days. (Luke 18:12; see the section of this chapter entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157.) They stressed strict observance of Torah—the first five books of the Bible—and Talmudic tradition, including requirements that animals be sacrificed and meat eaten on the Sabbath—although Jewish scholars say meat eating was and is optional. For Pharisees not to follow these customs would have violated their conscience. The church was growing, and non-vegetarians such as Pharisees joined. Pharisees were more numerous than Essenes. It is not clear how many Pharisees and other Jews in the Diaspora accepted Jesus as Messiah.
The observant Pharisee would have believed that at minimum he should be allowed to eat meat on the Sabbath because it was a day of festival. One was to be happy on the Sabbath, and Talmudists had a hard time imagining how a person could be happy without eating meat. Their interpretation of the Talmud required that they eat at least a tiny morsel of meat of a definite minimal size on the Sabbath.
A fourth wing would have been the priests who joined the Ebionite movement. (Acts 6:7.) The apostle John was probably a priest. (John 18:15.) Some priests were Pharisees; some were Sadducees. Because priests had a stake in the animal sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple, we would presume they would not have been entirely sympathetic to the vegetarianism of the founders, but that they would have kept the two days per week vegetarian fast. (See Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157.)
I suggest that James and the other leaders of the mother church either chose not to make vegetarianism a strict requirement for all its members or that they lacked complete control over the new Judeo-Christian “church.” Converts of Essene, Pharisee, Hellenist, and even gentile background were being born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, an experience which inspired confidence and was viewed as validating even gentile and meat-eating converts as authentic. The leadership of the mother church was probably unable to exclude or reform these meat eaters, especially after the dispersion of the Jerusalem church and the disruption of its leadership in 70 C.E. Remember too that the Jerusalem “church” was still a sect of Judaism and that its members were still worshiping in the Temple. (Acts 2:42-46.) There could have been various sects of messianic Judaism.
I suggest that the leadership came up with a rule that exhorted all followers of Jesus to abstain completely from meat. I suggest that the rule could not be rigidly enforced, however. The rule which the Jerusalem leadership did try to enforce rigidly was that, at minimum followers of Jesus should not eat meat offered to idols and animals strangled, that is worked or killed in a non-humane way. The Didache might reflect this rule:
And concerning food, bear what thou art able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on thy guard; for it is the service of dead gods. (The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378;
The same theme, “bear what you are able,” appears elsewhere. (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25; Revelation 2:19-25; The Recognitions of Clement, 4:36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8,
p. 142-143.)
I suggest that the Jerusalem leadership encouraged or required all to be vegetarian at least two days each week on Jewish fast days as a reminder of Jesus’ vegetarianism and the eventual goal of the messiah, which was a completely vegetarian diet. Jews had a long standing tradition of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays (Luke 18:12), and such a two day per week fast, with no food at all until 3 p.m. and no meat the entire day, would have been acceptable to Pharisee and priest Christians. Information on what Jews did and did not eat in the period leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and in the two centuries thereafter is hard to find. The Talmud makes no mention of Jews fasting two days each week, and Jewish reference books simply cite Luke 18:12 when discussing pre-rabbinic fasting. (See Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157.)
James led the Jerusalem Church only from around 30 C.E. to 62 C.E., and after that date the Judeo-Christian church was disorganized and on the run from the Romans. The surviving uncles, brothers, and nephews of Jesus were pursued off and on. After Jerusalem’s destruction, Pharisee Christians probably outnumbered Essene Christians, and soon gentile Christians outnumbered them both. It gradually became easy to ignore the earliest Jewish Christians and their vegetarianism.
The vegetarian James, the brother of Jesus, was assassinated in 62 C.E., Eusebius says that at some time before Jerusalem was besieged in 68 C.E., the Jerusalem church en masse fled Jerusalem. Some scholars question Eusebius’ account and say the Judeo-Christians would have stayed and died with their fellow Jews. (Hyam Maccoby, Revolution in Judea.) However, Jesus had not returned, and the Judeo-Christians would have been unlikely to fight for any other messiah, just as they refused to fight for Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 C.E. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., as Jesus had predicted. (Matthew 24:15; Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, 3:5, tr. G.A. Williamson, p. 68.) The conquest of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and the burning of the Temple undercut the authority of the Judeo-Christian leadership. Jerusalem had been the church’s first Vatican, and from the death of James in 62 C.E. there was a leadership vacuum.
The Judeo-Christians had problems on both flanks. The rapidly-growing gentile Christian church soon outgrew it and began to go its own way. The gentile church rejected Judeo-Christian teachings and customs: the idea that Jesus was the natural born son of Joseph and Mary; the teaching that gentiles ought to obey at least the laws of Noah, including the 7th Commandment against cruelty to animals.
The Jewish leadership, on the other hand, at various times and in various regions sometimes tolerated and sometimes shunned Judeo-Christians. Under Roman law, they held legal jurisdiction over any Christians who still held themselves out to be Jews. Paul had been a zealous persecutor of Judeo-Christians before his conversion, taking orders from the high priest. (Acts 9:1 ff.)
The chief priest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin court had ruled over Judaism throughout the Roman Empire, collecting a tax of one shekel per year per Jew. After the conquest, the Romans still collected the tax but kept it; the Sanhedrin was dissolved; and there were no more high priests. Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Pharisaic Rabbis obtained permission from Vespasian to set up an academy at Jamnia (Jabneh), not far from Jerusalem. Judaism was reformulated as the rabbinic Judaism we know today. The Rabbis had to make a decision about the Christians. Judaism had experienced a monumental disaster, and without its Temple, it had to define itself clearly.
The rabbis, always open to the possibility that a messiah would appear, had tolerated the Judeo-Christians for a time. (Acts 5:34.) However, the gentile Christians were making exaggerated claims about Jesus, adopting from mystery religions such as Mithraism the theory that Jesus was god incarnate. To the rabbis this was idolatry—treating something or someone as god who was not god. Gentile Christians claimed that Jesus had been born of a virgin, as other religions claimed of their saviors—Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and the mystery religions such as the cult of Dionysus. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, pp. 154, 182 ff., 470.) The idea of the spirit of god having physical intercourse with a human woman was unthinkable to Jews.
Gentile Christians claimed that Christianity had supplanted Judaism and that they had been the true Jews. These were claims the Rabbis rejected, and although Judeo-Christians rejected them too, the rabbis apparently chose to condemn the Judeo-Christians along with the gentile Christians. Around 100 C.E., Rabbi Gamaliel II added a prayer to the liturgy, the Birkat-ha-Minim. It cursed the minim or heretics. It is not clear who is being referred to by the word minim, Judeo-Christians, Pauline Christians, or Christians generally. Jews would have had no jurisdiction over gentile Christians because they made no claim to being Jewish. So minim probably refers to the Judeo-Christians. The Judeo-Christians held to no un-Jewish notions about Jesus, but were presumably shunned because of what the gentile Christians believed about Jesus. Nevertheless, Judeo-Christians could not say this prayer, so it effectively excluded them from the synagogues.
Judaism had long been a missionary religion, and it had made enormous numbers of converts and semi-converts among the gentiles. Now gentile Christians were in direct competition with rabbinic Jews and with Judeo-Christians for those converts. Non-Christian Pharisee missionaries and gentile Christian missionaries were bitter rivals in the period after 70 C.E. Presumably Ebionite Jamesian missionaries would have been out of the picture. It was during this period that the gentile gospels were first being collected and written down, although they would be further edited later, and this is probably one reason why they contain such hateful condemnation of the Pharisees and the Jews generally. Compare the book of James, written much earlier by James the brother of Jesus, which contains no such anti-Jewish slurs. Another reason for the anti-Judaism of the gospels is that gentile Christians wanted to disassociate themselves from Jews who had risen up against Rome so frequently.
All religions had to receive a Roman license to practice freely, own property, and receive inheritances. Judaism was such a legally recognized religion or nationality, and it remained so after 70 C.E. It continued to be the only nationality or religion which was exempt from the requirement that its members sacrifice to the pagan gods. Judaism was recognized to be ancient, and Greeks and Romans had a degree of respect for ancient things. When the gentile and Jewish Christians were excommunicated by the Jewish leadership, they lost the protected status the Jews enjoyed. Christians became subject to Roman prosecution for “atheism,” their rejection of all the gods except their own. (James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism, p. 62, 77 ff., 85 ff.)
The rebellion of 66-70 C.E. had arisen spontaneously. It briefly had a messianic claimant, but he was killed early on. It’s leaders fought among themselves as much as they fought the Romans. Around 115 C.E. under Hadrian, there was a major revolt in Alexandria, Cyprus, and Lybia led by Lucwas (Leucas Andreas). In 132-135 C.E. under Trajan, there was a much better organized Jewish revolution led by Simon Bar Kokhba, who was declared by the noted Rabbi Akiba, to be the messiah. The Judeo-Christians refused to fight, as they had in 66-70 C.E. “Bar Kokhba, leader of the Jewish insurrection, ordered the Christians alone to be sentenced to terrible punishments if they did not deny Jesus Christ and blaspheme Him.” (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, 4:8, tr. G.A. Williamson, p. 111.) I assume that Judeo-Christian were deeply disappointed that the fellow Jews they so admired could treat them so badly.
With the second conquest of Jerusalem in 135 C.E., the city was leveled, rebuilt as a Roman city, and renamed Aelia Capitolina. A gentile Christian church was set up with a gentile bishop, Markus. Emperor Hadrian exiled all Jews from this new city, including the Judeo-Christians. (Bellarmino Bagatti, The Church from the Circumcision, p. 6-9; James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, a Study in the Origins of Anti-Semitism, pp. 92 ff.) The Judeo-Christians were marginalized and ignored by the orthodox church. Later would come the confiscation of their books and their synagogue-church properties under the Great Church as reorganized and supported by emperors Constantine and Theodosius.
Gentile Christians quickly came to outnumber Judeo-Christians. Whereas, in the early years of Christianity, James had sent out supervisors (Galatians 2:12; Acts 15:2) and all Christendom had referred its questions to the mother church in Jerusalem, gentile Christians now had nowhere to turn. The gentile church went in a dozen different directions doctrinally. The Roman church had not yet assumed the place the Jerusalem church had held and would not do so for centuries. Judeo-Christians had at first regarded gentile Christians as heretics. The tables were turned and gentile Christians came to regard Judeo-Christian as heretics who foolishly kept to the Jewish law and refused to eat flesh food. Some Judeo-Christians returned to Judaism. Some joined the gentile Christian movement and lost their Jewish identities after a few generations. In the 600s C.E., many converted to Islam, possibly those who had come from the Pharisee and priest wings of the movement.
In Canon 2 of the Council of Gangra in 340 C.E., the bishops, by this time gentiles only, condemned those who taught vegetarianism. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident: The Origin and Development of the Essene-Christian Faith, p. 635;;
It is easy to write off the book of Revelation as the incomprehensible ravings of a man who was extremely angry about something, although it is not clear what. However, a few things about it are clear. There are numerous references in Revelation to events occurring soon, including Jesus’ return. (1:1, 2:16, 3:9-11, 11:14, 22:6, 7, 12, 20.) The number 666 or 616 is used probably to refer to Nero (13:18), who was assassinated in 69 C.E. Others say this is a reference to Paul. These factors call for an early date to the book, before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Revelation is written in the worst Greek of any New Testament book, and it includes definite pro-James, pro-Peter, anti-Paul statements. These factors make it probable that it was written by a Jewish Christian and not a gentile Christian. It is highly unlikely that it was written by the same John who wrote the gospel of John because the gospel is written in excellent Greek and presents a very different theology.
Bearing this in mind, let’s review selected passages, noting the phrases in italics:
[To the Ephesians, where Paul had evangelized, 2:2-4:] [Y]ou cannot bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and found them to be false…?. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first…?.
[To the church at Smyrna, 2:9:] I know… the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
[To the church at Pergamum, 2:14-15:] [Y]ou have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality…?.
[To Thyatira, 2:20-25:] [Y]ou tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols…?. But to the rest of you in Thyatira who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden; only hold fast what you have, until I come”…
[To Philadelphia, 3:9:] Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not… bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.
Recall that James had ruled that gentile Christian converts were not to eat meat from sacrifices in the pagan temples. (Acts 15:20, 21:25.) Paul went about teaching that there was no problem eating meat offered to idols. (1 Corinthians 8; Compare Genesis 9:3-4; Leviticus 3:17; Deuteronomy 12:16;The Recognitions of Clement, 4:36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143.) Paul scoffed at James’ ruling that gentile Christians should not eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul had said,
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience…?. (1 Corinthians 10:23 ff., 8:4-13; Romans 14:1 ff.)
The John who wrote Revelation condemns Paul’s position. He refers to those who taught it was acceptable to eat idol meat as not Jews in actuality but instead a “synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9.) Recall that Judeo-Christians denied Paul was really Jewish. The writer of Revelation is almost certainly damning Paul. (Revelation 2:2,14,20.)
Note the “no greater burden” theme, which I believe means that Christians should try to be vegetarians or be vegetarian at least two days a week, but in any case not eat animals killed inhumanely or as part of pagan sacrifices. (See the sections of this book entitle The Burden Theme, “Bear What Thou Art Able,” p. 158, and Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157. The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378; Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25; Revelation 2:19-25; The Recognitions of Clement, 4:36, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 142-143.)
The story of Balaam is a reference to Numbers 25:2, the point where some Israelites ate meat, perhaps for the first time after their 40 years of vegetarian wandering in the wilderness of Sinai.
I suggest that an editor substituted “Jezebel” as a code word for “Paul,” Just as the term “enemy” was substituted for “Paul” in the Clementina. (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:70-71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 95 f.; Epistle of Peter to James, 2, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 215.) Jezebel was queen of Israel under Ahab, a worshiper of Baal. She slew all the prophets of Jehovah she could find and put out a death warrant for Elijah. (1 Kings 18-19.) Likewise, before his conversion, Paul took part in the assassination of Stephen and the attempted assassination of James. He arrested Judeo-Christians on behalf of the Temple priests. (Acts 8:3.)
The author of Revelation taught that Jesus would return to reign a thousand years and that Jesus’ followers who had died would be reincarnated. (Revelation 20:4.) This would constitute a statement that it is possible to achieve justice here on earth and that our work here on earth is not solely to prepare for the next life. (Romans 5:12-18, 7:14-8:2, 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 2:2, 6:11-16; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 3:8-10, 4:3, 5:19.) Paul and his disciples opposed the concept of reincarnation. (Hebrews 9:26-28.) A possible return of the messiah-king would constitute a threat to Rome.
There are numerous references in Revelation to white hair, white robes, white garments, a white stone, a white horse, a white cloud, a white throne. (1:14, 2:17, 3:4, 3:5, 3:18, 4:4, 6:2, 6:11, 7:9, 7:13, 7:14, 14:14, 19:11, 19:14, 20:11.) Recall that the Essenes wore white robes and that this white theme appears frequently in connection with Jesus. (Matthew 17:2, 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12, Acts 1:10; The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Wars of the Jews, 2.8.3, 2.8.7, p. 476 f.) Recall that the Essenes were vegetarian. All such factors would indicate that the John who wrote Revelation had Essene and vegetarian sympathies and was very bitter about what the renegade Paul was doing to his church.
The Gospel of John is different from any other book in the New Testament. In it Jesus speaks with the perfection and polish of someone who wrote ornate speeches in advance of delivering them. The book reads like a theological poem. The Greek is perfect koine or conversational Greek. Parts of it exhibit the simplest Greek of the New Testament. John was the first book of the Bible we studied in first year Greek back in college. Intermixed with the theological poetry is a narrative which contains details which are sometimes more believable than those found in the Synoptics.
Scholars agree that John was written around the year 100 C.E. in Ephesus. Few, however, seem to be aware that the book was written specifically to refute the gnostic Cerinthus. Cerinthus claimed that the supreme and good god created Jehovah, who was an inferior god or demiurge. Jehovah in turn created the world and did the evil things mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus was not the son of Jehovah but was son of the supreme, good god. (“Cerinthus,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1958, p. 258; “Cerinthus,” Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Father Irenaeus (120-202) said of the author of the Gospel of John:
John, the disciple of the Lord… seeks… by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men… and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by his Word; and not, as they allege, that the Creator was one, but the Father of the Lord another…?. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3: 11, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 426.)
Jerome (342-420) says regarding the author of the Gospel of John:
When he was in Asia, at the time when the seeds of heresy were springing up (I refer to Cerinthus, Ebion, and the rest who say that Christ has not come in the flesh),… he was urged by almost all the bishops of Asia… to write more profoundly concerning the divinity of the Savior, and to break through all obstacles so as to attain to the very Word of God… with a boldness as successful as it appears audacious. [H]e replied that he would do so if a general fast were proclaimed… and when the fast was over… being filled with revelation, he burst into the heaven-sent Preface; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jerome, Prefaces, The Commentaries, “Matthew,” Schaff and Wace, eds., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI, p. 495,
Note that the Gospel of John comes to a logical conclusion at the end of chapter 20 and that chapter 21 appears to have been added later. Chapter 21 contains a lengthy fish story in which Jesus has cooked fish and tells his followers where to catch more fish. The number of fish caught is 153. This number has Pythagorean, mathematical significance. (See the section of this book entitled What About The Fish Stories? More Tampering with the Texts, p. 191.) John the Elder wrote the book to affirm the full divinity of Jesus and refute gnosticism and docetism (the theory that Jesus only “seemed” to die). Maybe whoever added chapter 21 wrote it also to refute vegetarianism.
Gnosticism (from gnosis, knowledge) existed before Christianity. Aspects of it were present in Judaism, Pythagoreanism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism. To some extent Jesus himself was gnostic, speaking in cryptic parables which he explained only to his closest followers. Orthodox Christianity had high regard for gnosis for mature Christians, as a reading of Clement of Alexandria will show.
Gnosticism grew like blackberry vines among so-called heretics. Gnostics believed in a series of levels of gods, referred to as aeons. Gnostics said there was a primary, uncreated god above all, who created a demiurge, who then created lesser gods. There were two to 30 to 365 different levels of gods. The uncreated god was always good, while lesser, created gods were often evil. Some gnostic Christians considered the god of the Jews to be an evil demiurge, a lower level, created god, and Jesus to be a lower level but good god. Jesus was the logos of the uncreated, good god. He was sent to overcome the demiurge. The gnostics had a valid point: Jehovah had ordered and allowed some really brutal things.
Gnostics tended to interpret certain fundamental Christian doctrines symbolically. Jesus’ death and resurrection did not really happen; they were symbolic of the death of our former selves and our rebirth as enlightened ones. The gnostic systems of Carpocrates, Basilides, Saturninus, Marcion, Valentinian, Theodotus, Noetus, Sabellius, and Manes varied greatly. Orthodox Christian theologians were frustrated by their inability to put their finger on the endlessly mutating varieties of gnostic theology. Gnostics continued to receive new inspiration and continued to elaborate new theories. Gnostics refused to submit to the structure which orthodox bishops were imposing. Christianity from the beginning broke into dozens of disunited sects, and orthodox theologians vigorously opposed heresy, particularly gnostic heresy. When Christianity became the official Roman religion, the state expropriated the property and books of Manichaeans and other gnostics, exiled some, and murdered others.
At the same time the orthodox church struggled against gnostic heretics, it struggled to stabilize its own position as to who Jesus had been. The orthodox Christians varied as much in their christological views as did the gnostics, and so the two struggles were part of the same theological war. To what extent was Jesus god or human? Were his divine and human natures separate or united? Resolution of these debates came with such councils as those of Nicea and Constantinople and their exceedingly complex and abstract doctrines. The resolution of the christological debate produced two results: the orthodox Christian church as we know it and the end of the gnostic Christians and the Judeo-Christians.
In our tolerant day, we would class the gnostics as just another New Age movement. In their personal behavior, the gnostics generally lived pious lives and were highly ethical, making great provision for the poor. Some were communists, although not in the Marxist sense. Some rejected sexuality to varying extents. Some gnostic groups were vegetarian, having learned this diet from the Judeo-Christians. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, pp. 532-561.) Gnostics copied much from the Ebionites, to the point where orthodox Fathers confused the two groups and incorrectly accused the Ebionites of being gnostic. Regarding the gnostic Christians who followed Saturninus and Basilides the heresy-hunter Irenaeus said:
Many of those, too, who belong to his school, abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, p. 349, 26:2, p. 349.)
Regarding the gnostic Christian Encratites, Irenaeus said:
Springing from Saturninus and Marcion, those who are called Encratites (self-controlled)… have also introduced abstinence from animal food, thus proving themselves ungrateful to God, who formed all things. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, p. 353, 28:1.)
Tatian, who assembled the Diatessaron, a four-column, running comparison of the gospels, which was destroyed in the West (probably because it contained none of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke) and which exists only in Persian translation, was a leading Encratite. Hippolytus (died c. 236 C.E.) described the teachings of the Brahmins and said that Tatian derived his theories from the Indian gymnosophists. (Hippolytus, Refutation of Heresies, 1:21 and 8; Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten, The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity, p. 63, 67, 179, 235.)
Regarding the gnostic Christian Empedocles, heresy fighter Hippolytus said:
[H]e affirms that marriage and procreation are from Satan. The majority, however, of those who belong to this (heretic’s school) abstain from animal food likewise, and by this affectation of asceticism (make many their dupes). (Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, p. 110, Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, 7: 16.)
In his denunciation of Empedocles, Hippolytus said that Marcion had derived his gnosticism from Empedocles and added:
[O]n account of such an arrangement on the part of destructive Discord of this divided world, Empedocles admonishes his disciples to abstain from all sorts of animal food. For he asserts that the bodies of animals are such as feed on the habitations of punished souls. And he teaches those who are hearers of such doctrines (as his), to refrain from intercourse with women. (Ibid., p. 111, 7:16.)
Orthodox Christians declared Gnostic Christians to be heretics, and vegetarianism to be one of their heresies. Gnostics went underground and reappeared later as the Bogomiles, Manichaean Cathari, and Albigenses.
Mani (216-277 C.E.) grew up in what is now Iraq, under the influence of Zoroastrianism and Mithraism. He was at first a member of the vegetarian Elkasite sect, which was akin to the vegetarian Essenes. He left the Elkasites and founded his own religion, Manichaeism. He wrote his own scriptures and traveled extensively, spreading his teachings. Among the Manichaeans there were two classes of adherents, the elect who were strict vegetarians, nondrinkers, and celibates, and the hearers, who were not held strictly to such standards. The hearers’ goal was to support the elect and aspire to join the elect or to be reincarnated as the elect. Their moral standards were high. Manichaeism spread as far east as China and throughout the Roman Empire. It attracted a large following, threatening the position of the young Orthodox Church. St. Augustine was a Manichaean for nine years before he became a Christian.
The Manichaeans taught that “… the object of… religion was to release the particles of light which Satan had stolen from the world of Light and imprisoned in man’s brain, and that Jesus, Buddha, the Prophets, and Manes had been sent to help in this task.” (“Manes and Manichaeism,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1958 ed., p. 848 f.) Mani taught that this evil world could not have been created by a good god but must have been made by some opposing force. The orthodox church was threatened by such dualistic views.
Marcion’s church merged into Manichaeism. The newly Christianized Roman Empire and the orthodox church persecuted the Manichaeans brutally, expropriating their property and killing them, and they had mostly disappeared in the West by the 400s. In the Near East they were largely absorbed into Islam. However, Manichaeism survived in China until the 1300s. In part so as to win over Manichaeans, Christianity adopted from Manichaeism such doctrines as original sin, “… human depravity, prevenient grace, absolute predestination, purgatory, lay indulgences, an unmarried priesthood, and holy monachist orders…?.” (Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 560 f., 605 f.)
The Bogomiles were a neo-Manichaean sect which prevailed in the Balkans from the 900s into the 1400s. They opposed the priesthood and the centralization of the Greek Orthodox Church and many of its basic doctrines, including baptism, the eucharist, and church buildings. Like the Manichaeans, they were dualists, vegetarians, and nondrinkers.
The Cathari (in Greek “the pure”) were another neo-Manichaean, dualistic sect that flourished in France and Italy in the 1100s and 1200s. They were also known as Albigenses after the town of Albi in southern France, which was one of their major centers. They set up their own church organization with bishops and a liturgy. They believed that the world was evil, that “[m]an was an alien and a sojourner in an evil world; his aim must be to free his spirit, which was in its nature good, and restore it to communion with God.”
There were two classes of Cathari, the perfect and ordinary believers. The perfect practiced a strict vegetarianism, refusing “… meat, milk, eggs, and other animal produce…?.” (“Albigenses,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1966 ed., pp. 30 f.; see Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 547 ff.; One source says the “perfect” may have eaten fish. (
The “perfect” were greatly admired by Catholic laity because they lived upright lives, in contrast with many dissolute Catholic priests. The Cathari movement attracted many converts. The Church and the state were threatened. A crusade was declared in 1208, and by 1244 the Cathari’s last stronghold in the Pyrenees was taken and they were killed or scattered. A permanent Dominican Inquisition was established to completely eliminate them, which was largely accomplished by the 1300s, however, a few survived in the Rhineland. (“Bogomiles,” Vol. II, p. 117, “Albigenses,” Vol. I, p. 201, “Cathari,” Vol. II, p. 639, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1979 ed.; “Albigenses,” p. 30 f, “ “Bogomiles,” p. 182, Cathari,” p. 247, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1958 ed.; Colin Spencer, The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism, p. 136 ff.)
Epiphanius says the Elkasites were a Judeo-Christian sect which grew out of the Ossaeans. They were founded, according to Epiphanius, by a man named Elxai, and are classed by some as gnostic. Elkasites were practicing Jews who accepted Jesus as the messiah. They regarded the Holy Spirit as female or feminine. Regarding the Elkasites sect, Epiphanius says:
And mark the fraud’s insanity! He bans burnt offerings and sacrifices, as something foreign to God and never offered to him on the authority of the fathers and Law, and yet he says we must pray towards Jerusalem, precisely where the altar and sacrifices were—though <he> rejects the Jewish custom of eating meat and the rest, and the altar, and fire as being foreign to God! (Epiphanius, Panarion, 19:1:4, 19:3:5-7, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 44-46. Sections in angles are Frank Williams’ interpolations of text that has been lost.)

St. Jerome (c. 337-420) traveled east of the Jordan, learned Aramaic and Hebrew from Jewish hermits, and came to know the Essenes and the Nazoraeans of Antioch. Later he served as personal secretary to Pope Damasus, and he translated the New Testament into its definitive Latin version, the Vulgate. Jerome was a thoroughly orthodox Latin Church Father. He extolled vegetarianism and appears to have been a vegetarian himself, although he did not insist that all Christians be vegetarians. He said, “We do not deny that fish and other kinds of flesh, if we choose, may be taken as food; but as we prefer virginity to marriage, so do we esteem fasting and spirituality above meats and full-bloodedness.” (Against Jovianus, II, 17, Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, p. 401;
Jerome tells of the diets of the vegetarians of his day. He lauded the Coenobites, monks who ate only bread, pulse, greens, and salt, and said the Essenes ate in a similar way. (Letter XXII, 35, Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, p. 38.) He states:
The superstitious Jews reject certain animals and products as articles of food, while among the Indians the Brahmans and among the Egyptians the Gymnosophists subsist altogether on porridge, rice, and apples.” (Letter CVII, 8, Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, p. 193;
Jovianus opposed asceticism and favored meat eating. Jerome disagreed and wrote of his debates with Jovianus:
He should know that just as divorce according to the Saviour’s word was not permitted from the beginning, but on concession of Moses to the human race, so too the eating of flesh was unknown until the deluge. But after the deluge, like the quails given in the desert to the murmuring people, the poison of flesh-meat was offered to our teeth…?. At the beginning of the human race we neither ate flesh, nor gave bills of divorce, nor suffered circumcision for a sign. [A]fter the deluge, together with the giving of the law which no one could fulfill, flesh was given for food, and divorce was allowed to hard-hearted men, and the knife of circumcision was applied, as though the hand of God had fashioned us with something superfluous. But once Christ has come in the end of time,… we are no longer allowed divorce, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh, for the Apostle says, “It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine [Romans 14:21].” For wine as well as flesh was consecrated after the deluge. (Against Jovianus, I, 18, Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, p. 360.)
Jerome continues:
Diogenes maintains that tyrants do not bring about revolutions in cities, and foment wars civil or foreign for the sake of a simple diet of vegetables and fruits, but for costly meats and the delicacies of the table. And, strange to say, Epicurus the defender of pleasure, in all his books speaks of nothing but vegetables and fruits…?. Persons who feed on flesh want also gratifications not found in flesh, but they who adopt a simple diet do not look for flesh…?. The invalid only regains his health by diminishing and carefully selecting his food, i.e., in medical phrase, by adopting a “slender diet.” The same food that recovers health, can preserve it, for no one can imagine vegetables to be the cause of disease…?. Dicaearchus in his book of Antiquities, describing Greece, relates that under Saturn, that is in the Golden Age, no one ate flesh, but every one lived on field produce and fruits…?. Xenophon… asserts that they supported life on barley, cress, salt, and black bread. Both the aforesaid Xenophon, Theophrastus, and almost all the Greek writers testify to the frugal diet of the Spartans…?. Eubulus… relates that among the Persians there are three kinds of Magi, the first of whom, those of greatest learning and eloquence, take no food except meal and vegetables…?. Euripides relates that the prophets of Jupiter in Crete abstained not only from flesh, but also from cooked food…?. Orpheus in his song utterly denounces the eating of flesh…?. But [after the Deluge] when God saw that the heart of man from his youth was set on wickedness continually,… He… gave them liberty to eat flesh; so that while understanding that all things were lawful for them, they might not greatly desire that which was allowed, lest they should turn a commandment into a cause of transgression. (Against Jovianus, II, 11-15, Schaff & Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VI, p. 396-399.)
The historian Diodorus Siculus equates the age of Greek patriarch Chronos with the time of Saturn: Chronos
… went into many parts of the world and persuaded all, wherever he went, to justice and integrity of heart; and therefore, it is brought down as a certain truth to posterity that in the time of Saturn (Chronos) men were plain and honest, free from all sorts of wicked designs and practices; yea that they were then happy and blessed. (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 100, quoting from Diodorus Siculus.)
Jerome’s apparent vegetarianism is laudable. He recognizes it as a healthier diet, however, he does not appear to base his vegetarianism in respect for animals. He supports fasting, by which he means vegetarian fasting, but he rejects the rationale of Pythagoras and his doctrine of the transmigration of souls. On the other hand, according to Szekely, it was Jerome who delivered the Essene Gospel of Peace to the “secret” Vatican Library, and thus one would presume that Jerome understood the moral implications of a vegetarian diet. (Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, The Discovery of the Essene Gospel of Peace, p. 15 ff.)
Chrysostom (c. 347-407 C.E.) served as orthodox bishop of Constantinople from 398-403 C.E. and before that as preacher in Antioch—which had been Paul’s home church. He spoke favorably of Christian vegetarian ascetics:
No streams of blood are among them, no dainty cookery, no heaviness of head. Nor are there horrible smells of flesh-meats among them, disagreeable fumes from the kitchen…?. With their repast of fruits and vegetables, even angels from Heaven, as they behold it, are delighted and pleased. (Quoted by Upton Clary Ewing, Prophet of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 148.)
Unfortunately, Chrysostom was also a rabid anti-Semite. Up until his day, Jews and Christians of Antioch were friends. Christians frequented synagogues to celebrate important days of the Jewish calendar. They called on Jewish physicians. They often took their disputes to Jewish courts. Chrysostom changed all that. He declared it the duty of Christians to shun and hate Jews and declared it a sin even to treat them with respect. (“Adversus Judeos,” i.; ed. Migne, i. 848; “Chrysostom,”
Fasting was practiced by the ancient Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, Arabs, Indians, and others. (“Abstinence,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.) Fasting was endorsed by John the Baptist and Jesus. (Matthew 3:4, 6:16, Mark 1:6, 2:20, 9:29.) It was practiced by the early Christian church. (Acts 13:2 and 14:23, 2 Corinthians 11:27.) There is the suggestion that Jesus’ disciples, unlike the disciples of John, did not fast, but that they would fast after Jesus’ death. (Mark 2:18 ff.) However, Jesus did fast for forty days in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13.)
A fast can be a complete abstinence from all food and water or from all food or from only certain foods. For reasons stated below, it is fairly clear that the early Christian fast was a vegan fast, in which no meat, milk, eggs, or wine was consumed, but only vegetables. Although the Judeo-Christians became an ever-shrinking minority within churches around the Roman empire, the vegan fast of the Judeo-Christians was continued to varying extents by gentile Christians.
One of earliest surviving Christian documents is the Didache. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, pp. 434 ff.) The Didache appears in two versions. The shorter is known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. (Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 377-382.) I have added the words in square brackets as my best interpretation of what was intended by the writer. I quote from the shorter version:
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week [Mondays and Thursdays, Jewish fast days]. But do ye fast on the fourth day [Wednesday], and [in addition] the Preparation [Friday]…?. (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. 8:1-2, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 379.)
The longer version is imbedded in the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. It is worthwhile to compare it:
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week [Mondays and Thursdays, Jewish fast days]. But do you either fast the entire five days [leading up to the Sabbath, Monday through Friday], or on the fourth day of the week [Wednesday], and [in addition] on the day of the Preparation [Friday], because on the fourth day [Wednesday] the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation [the sixth day, Friday], because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath [the seventh day, Saturday], and the Lord’s day [the first day, Sunday] festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is only one Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 7:23, which quotes the Didache, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 465 ff.
Note that the longer version includes the option of fasting Monday through Friday and in addition on the one Sabbath of the year which occurs during Holy Week. Both versions probably derived from an earlier original. I suggest that at some point the choice was this: 1) fast Monday through Friday and one Saturday per year, plus during additional fasting periods such as Lent; or 2) fast Wednesday and Friday and one Saturday per year, plus during additional fasting periods.
Note the reference to hypocrites fasting on the second and fifth days, Mondays and Thursdays; Jews fasted on those days. The Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:12 claimed to be righteous because he tithed and fasted twice each week. (“Fasting and Fast Days,” Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 6, p. 1193, 1971 ed.). This reference, combined with the predominantly Jewish character of the Didache, would indicate that it was originally a Jewish document which was rewritten by Judeo-Christians and again by a sect which regarded Jews as
It is clear from the Didache that fasting was common among early Christians, but the Didache does not itself specify what food was not to be eaten as part of the fast. It is clear from other sources that when one fasted, he completely abstained from all food for part of the day and from animal-based food the rest of the day. Although the custom was gradually abandoned in the Catholic West,
in the Greek and other [Eastern] Churches the practice of abstinence (xhrojagia, [xerophagia], ‘dry food’) is far more rigid. It extends to all Wednesdays and Fridays of the year, all days of the Major [Lent] Fast including Sundays, and several other periods, bringing up the number of days of abstinence to about 150; and not only meat, but fish, eggs, milk, cheese, oil, and wine are also forbidden. (“Abstinence,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 8; see also “Fasts and Fasting,” p. 495.)
For early gentile Christians the days of Lent, approximately 40 days leading up to Easter, were days of fasting:
During the early centuries the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, taken towards evening, was allowed, and flesh-meat and fish, and in most places also eggs and lacticinia [milk-based foods], were absolutely forbidden. From the 9th cent. onwards the practice began to be considerably relaxed…?. Fish was allowed throughout the Middle Ages, and from the 15th cent. abstinence from lacticinia came to be more and more generally dispensed. (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Lent,” p. 797, citing H. Thurston, S.J., Lent and Holy Week (1904) and J. Dowden, The Church Year and Calendar (1910), pp. 79-85.)
In recent centuries Catholics abstained on Fridays from all meats except fish. Even this restriction was abrogated by the Vatican II council in the 1960s. Orthodox churches continue the vegan fast to varying extents.
A wealth of information regarding diet in Jesus’ day can be found on the Internet in Jerome H. Neyrey’s article entitled Reader’s Guide to Meals, Food and Table Fellowship in the New Testament:
Meat and poultry were expensive and rarely eaten by peasants. Most people ate it only on feast days or holidays, though temple priests ate it in abundance. Livestock kept solely to provide meat was unknown in Roman Palestine and was later prohibited by the Talmudic sages. Fish was a typical Sabbath dish.
There is more to be learned from the Didache, quoting again from the shorter version:
For if thou art able to bear all the yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou art able that do. And concerning food, bear what thou art able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on thy guard; for it is the service of dead gods. … But do ye fast on the fourth day [Wednesday], and [in addition] the Preparation [Friday]…?. (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. 6:1-3, 8:1-2 (Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 379.)
The author appears to be saying that one should abstain from meat altogether, but if he could not, he should avoid it as much as possible, and at minimum, one should not eat meat sacrificed to idols. This inference is reasonable because it is only a few sentences later that the advice is given to fast two days per week, and we know from other sources that the fast was from animal-based foods. My theory is that everyone was called on at least to be a part-time vegetarian.
Early vegetarian requirements were gradually eliminated. In the longer and later version of the Didache, this advice to “bear what thou art able” is completely replaced with instruction to “Go your way, and eat the fat [meat?], and drink the sweet [wine?], and be not sorrowful.” (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, 7:20, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 465 ff.) Once again we have a clear example of editors tampering with the texts. (My comments are in square brackets.)
Note the “no greater burden” theme of Acts, which I propose is a corollary of the “bear what thou art able” theme, which appear to refer to abstaining from meat:
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25. Cf. Revelation 2:24.)
The minimum burden being imposed is to avoid blood (assault and murder), eating things strangled (tortured and painfully executed animals), and unchastity. Perhaps “bear what thou art able” was originally part of James’ ruling. If it were, it would imply that he was challenging gentile Christians not to eat meat at all but if they were unable to do this, they were to eat as little meat as possible and only meat obtained without pain to the animal and thus at all times at least obey the Noachide rules.
In the last few years of his life, Pliny the Younger (53-113 C.E.) served under Roman emperor Trajan (who ruled from 98 to 117 C.E.) as governor of Bithynia in what is now northwest Turkey. In one of his letters he questioned whether he should carry out the Roman policy of executing Christians for simply being Christians. Christianity and Judaism had divorced each other, so Christianity was no longer the legally recognized religion or nationality that Judaism was. Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, an act of disloyalty. Sacrificing was a perfunctory matter, which simply involved going to a temple and throwing a pinch of incense and perhaps some wine into the fire and obtaining a certificate of having sacrificed. Jews also refused to sacrifice, however, Jews and only Jews had the right to refuse, because Roman law exempted them from this requirement. The emperor ruled with the gods’ authority. One of his titles was pontifex maximus, and to refuse to recognize the Roman gods was to refuse allegiance to the Roman state. Pliny says of the Christians:
They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not do to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. (Letters of Pliny the Younger, Book 10, Letter 96, quoting from the Loeb edition; See also Eusebius, Church History, 3:33.)
“Food of an ordinary and innocent kind,” cibum promiscuum tamen et innoxium, could very well be vegetarian food. Innoxius and its cognates are variously translated as “that does harm to none, not guilty, blameless, innocent,” “free from noxious animals,” “unharmed, unhurt, uninjured,” “harmlessly, without harm,” “blamelessly, innocently.” (Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary.) This might refer to vegetarian food. However, I should add that the term “innocent” could refer to the blood libel that Christians killed and ate infants as part of the eucharist. (Tertullian, The Apology, 2, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3, p. 18.)
The Wednesday and Friday vegetarian fast of ancient Christianity survives to the present in orthodox Christian sects, particularly Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches. To a lesser extent, Greek Orthodox Christians also keep the vegetarian fast. Observant members of these churches are strictly vegetarian not only on Wednesdays and Fridays but also during Lent and many other periods during the year. Observant orthodox Christians eat absolutely no meat, milk, or eggs half the year. (D.J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, xxxii.)
Seattle has a thriving Ethiopia and Eritrea Town south of Seattle University. I enjoy visiting its numerous restaurants, which every day of the week offer strictly vegetarian food cooked in pots and pans in which only vegetables are cooked. Ethiopians and Eritreans generally eat meat when it is not a fast day. They refuse ever to eat pork. Ethiopian Christians claim they are descended from African Jews (known as Beth Israel or Falashas) who at some point converted to Christianity. (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, p. 70.) When Christians eat with Muslims in Ethiopia, they eat only vegetarian food, apparently because of different customs regarding slaughtering of animals.
Most Christians in the west are completely unaware that Christians of old ever kept a vegetarian fast, despite the undeniable fact that it was a significant part of ancient Christianity. There is no mention of it at all in the online Catholic Encyclopedia. ( It is incredible that Western Christianity could so completely abandon and forget this ancient custom. On the other hand, it illustrates an important point: There is a tendency to ignore and de-emphasize vegetarian traditions. People who want to eat meat pass over obvious historical facts that do not complement their gustatory preferences.
This a book about the history and theology of food. Jesus allegedly ate lamb at the Last Supper, and so I will go into great detail about the Last Supper.
The Last Supper is presented in the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as part of a Passover seder. (Matthew 26:20-29, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:14-19.) Jesus allegedly said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you…,” which normally included roasted lamb. (Luke 22:15.)
However, Epiphanius says that the Judeo-Christians said that Jesus taught them not to eat the flesh of animals and warned the Jewish leaders that they had to stop sacrificing animals in the Jerusalem Temple to avoid its destruction. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138.) The Ebionite version of the gospel reads like this:
“[T]he disciples say, ‘Where do you wish that we should prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ And he then replies, ‘I have no desire whatsoever to eat this Passover meat with you.’” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138.)
Another translator interprets this as a question in which Jesus asks ironically, “Have I desired with desire to eat this flesh of the Passover with you?” (“Gospel of the Ebionites,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, Vol. 2, p. 5-6.)
It is relevant to bear in mind that the Talmud advises against eating meat unless there is an overwhelming desire for it; the phrase is “to desire with desire” which means “lust for.” Jesus had no desire for the lamb and therefore did not eat it. (See the section entitled Mining The Legends Of Genesis, p. 51.) People who eat meat generally love it and crave it and have a hard time understanding that vegetarians really have no desire for it at all.
Note that the Last Supper in John is clearly not a Passover seder, for it occurs a full night before Passover begins. (John 13:1, 18:28.)
Generally the term “eat the Passover” is considered to be a direct reference to eating the Passover lamb. How could Jesus be a vegetarian and eat the Passover lamb? First, although pesah in Hebrew refers to the “passing over” of the angel, and is generally taken to refer to the lamb sacrificed, the exact derivation of pesah is problematic. It is not certain that pesah originally referred to lamb meat. (“Passover,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 1997 CD-Rom Edition.)
Next, note that in the descriptions given of the institution of the Lord’s Supper or eucharist, there is no mention of the apostles buying a slaughtered lamb from the temple priests, or the group eating lamb. Only bread and wine are mentioned. Jesus does not say, “Take, eat, this lamb is my body. Take, drink, the blood in this lamb is my blood.” In the New Testament the bread is or represents the body of Jesus, but if lamb had been on the menu, lamb could have represented his flesh. (Luke 22:19.) In rewriting the story of the Last Supper, gentile editors, under the influence of the carnivorous Paul, added the bread-body and wine-blood symbolism but forgot to integrate lamb. Perhaps there was no lamb on the table at all.
Probably Jesus was an Essene or came from some similar vegetarian sect, whose Passover meal did not include lamb. Pharisees and priests joined the movement later, and they would probably not have been vegetarians. (Acts 6:7, 15:5.) Paul converted thousands of non-vegetarian gentiles. Paul was not a vegetarian and had no sympathy for vegetarians, accusing them of being weak. (1 Corinthians 8: 7; Romans 14:2.) The gospels were edited and put in final form by non-vegetarian gentiles who were disciples of Paul. It is easy to understand how the vegetarianism of Jesus and the meatlessness of the Last Supper would have been de-emphasized and then dropped from the story altogether.
This is a good place to give due credit to Hyam Maccoby—who died in 2004—and his insightful and usually accurate Paul and Hellenism. This book is unfortunately out of print, so you will have to request it through inter-library loan. Maccoby has the best big-picture outline of the Last Supper to be found, better than the more orthodox work of Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. However, Maccoby, like Jeremias, misses the vegetarian theme entirely. He says nothing about the writings that say that Jesus specifically rejected eating the Passover lamb. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138.) He regards Jesus as having been a good Pharisee. Essenes and Pharisees were similar sects, both having been descended from the pre-Maccabean Hasidim. Essenes were vegetarians while Pharisees were not vegetarians except perhaps when they fasted two days each week (Luke 18:12), and some Essenes chose celibacy, while Pharisees believed strongly in having a family. Both sects adopted orphans. (“Essenes,”
For centuries before Jesus’ day, Jews had been saying prayers over their meals, whether at Passover or other feasts or on the Sabbath. In these meals a blessing known as the kiddush (sanctification) was said. The first blessing was always said over the wine, and the kiddush included the blessing for the wine and for the day. Depending on whether the kiddush was said at Sabbath or Passover or Yom Kippur, the prayers would differ, but the first prayer would always be said over the wine—except in the rare case where wine was lacking, in which case it would be said over the bread. Other blessings would follow, including the blessing over the bread. (See “Kiddush” and “Lord’s Supper” in the Jewish Encyclopedia (
A Sabbath kiddush would begin with a quotation of Genesis 2:1-3:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
Next would follow the blessing over the wine:
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-gafen.
Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Wine would be drunk.
Next would follow the prayer for the Sabbath, the washing of hands, and the prayer for the washing of hands. Then the loaves would be broken and pieces passed to all.
And then would follow the blessing over the bread:
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground.
Jesus may have said these very words with his followers. (See the Jewish Virtual Library at
However, according to the New Testament as we have it, Jesus also said at the Last Supper: “This is my body” and This is my blood” and “Eat it” and “Drink it.” Would Jesus the committed Jew (Matthew 5:17) have said such things? If Jesus had been a vegetarian, not only would he not have eaten the lamb—as discussed in the previous section—he would not have used such images. Nor would he have done so if he had been committed to stopping the sacrificial cult in the temple.

A Comparison of The Various Eucharistic Accounts
I will quote the various accounts relating to the eucharist so you will not have to flip around from book to book in the New Testament and the Church Fathers to compare them. Note that eucharistic passages in Matthew and Mark are almost identical, with significant differences in italics. Note that there is a short and long version of Luke, based on different ancient manuscripts; the extra section of the longer version is in brackets. The Didache is included because it contains what I believe to be the oldest version of the Eucharist.
Didache 9:1-5:
But as touching the eucharistic thanksgiving give ye thanks thus. First, as regards the cup: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the holy vine of Thy son David, which Thou madest known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory for ever and ever. Then as regarding the broken bread: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou didst make known unto us through Thy Son Jesus; Thine is the glory for ever and ever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Thy church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. But let no one eat or drink of this eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord hath said: Give not that which is holy to the dogs.
Didache 14:1-3:
And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. And let no man, having his dispute with his fellow, join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled…. (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 14:1-3, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 379-378.)
1 Corinthians 5:7:
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4:
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (Note that this time Paul mentions the cup first.)

1 Corinthians 11:23-30:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. [See Exodus 24:8; Jeremiah 31:31.] Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Mark 14:17-30:
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”… [A]nd they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening he came with the twelve.… And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-29:
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”… [A]nd they prepared the Passover.… Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Luke 22:7-20:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”… [A]nd they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body [which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”] (The extra wording of the long version of Luke is in brackets. The long version is found in most manuscripts, but the short version is found in several important manuscripts, including Codex D Beza, Marcion, and Tatian.)
John 6:33–59:
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.… They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them… “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”
John 13:1-5, 18:1, 19:14,31
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…, Jesus… rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.…
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.…
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover…?.
Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?
Customarily it is contended that Jesus ate lamb because the Last Supper was a Passover seder, and lamb is normally part of the Passover seder. In the previous section I pointed out that the Judeo-Christians did not believe Jesus ate lamb at his Passovers. The Essenes before them observed Passover without lamb, and Jesus either was probably an Essene or of similar persuasion.
Further, it is not even clear that the Last Supper was a Passover. The gospels themselves disagree on this very important point. The Synoptics state explicitly that Jesus ate the Passover on his last night. In John there is a Last Supper, but John states explicitly that it occurs one night before the Passover and therefore cannot have been a seder. Also, in John, Jesus is taken down from the cross as Passover is beginning, not as it is ending, a point I will cover below. (John 13:1-5, 18:1, 19:14,31.) There is nothing special about John’s Last Supper—no blessing at all. However, in John, Jesus says very early in his ministry, three years before the Last Supper, that his followers were to eat his flesh and drink his bood, and he loses many disciples as a result. (John 6:33–59.) Further, in 1 Corinthians, Paul presents the Last Supper as part of a meal, without identifying it as a Passover meal.
To fully understand this section, the following background information may prove helpful: In the Jewish calendar the day begins at sunset. Months in Judaism can have 29 or 30 days, because the lunar month is around 29.5 days. Thus, a 12-month year would have fewer than 365 days, and leap months are added four out of every 13 years. Judaism thus has a lunar-solar calendar, meaning that there is an attempt to keep the lunar year in sync with the solar year by adding leap-months in some years. Compare Islam which follows a strictly lunar calendar, with no attempt to add leap-months, so a given month such as Ramadan falls earlier each year.
Each Jewish month begins on the new moon. The new year begins in the Spring on the 1st day of Nisan, which is always a new moon. Passover begins as the 14th day of Nisan is ending and the 15th is beginning at sunset, which is always a full moon. The 15th of Nisan always falls after the spring equinox. Christians observed the Jewish Passover for centuries until, under Constantine’s iron fist, the Great Church adopted the pagan date for Easter as the date on which Christians would celebrate Easter as the Christian Passover. Yes, there was an Easter long before the time of Jesus; the pagan Easter was a celebration of Ishtar and estrus. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, and for church purposes March 21 is always considered to be vernal equinox, although the equinox can fall on March 21 or 22. However, if the full moon actually falls on March 21, Easter will be deferred to the Sunday following the next full moon. (“Passover,” The Jewish Encyclopedia,;;
The slaying of the lambs occurs during the day which leads to the beginning of Passover at sunset. In the Synoptics the sun sets and Thursday becomes Friday. It is what we would call Thursday night. Passover begins, and Jesus eats the Passover meal. He goes to the Mount of Olives and is arrested. He is interrogated by the high priest Passover night, at a time when observant Jews would normally be at home celebrating the Passover with their families.
The next morning, on the day of Passover itself, Jesus is tried by Pilate and crucified. The Passover is ending as Jesus is placed in the tomb just before sunset. The Passover in the Synoptics begins Thursday evening (remember that days began at sunset), and Jesus is crucified on the following Friday morning and buried just before sunset as the Friday Passover is ending and the Sabbath is beginning. The Passover can fall on any day of the week, and in the Synoptics this Passover falls on Thursday evening and Friday, the day before the Sabbath.
However, in John, all these events occur 24 hours earlier. Jesus goes to the garden and is arrested after a supper which is clearly not a Passover seder. (John 13:1, 18:1.) He is tried by Pilate and crucified on the day before Passover. As Jesus is being buried, the Passover is beginning. The Passover can fall on any day of the week, but in John’s account Passover falls that year on Friday evening and Saturday, the Sabbath, “a high day.” (John 19:31, 42.) Jesus dies on Friday afternoon and is buried just as the Passover Sabbath is beginning, not as the Passover is ending and Sabbath is beginning as in the Synoptics. In both the Synoptics and in John Jesus dies on Friday, but in the Synoptics Friday is Passover and the day before the Sabbath, whereas in John, Saturday is both Passover and the Sabbath.
The Passover lambs were slaughtered between noon and sundown on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, which would have been Thursday in the Synoptics and Friday in John. (“Passover,” The Jewish Encyclopedia, Jesus is crucified at either the third hour or the sixth hour, 9 a.m. or noon, and dies at the ninth hour or 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:25.) The Synoptics place emphasis on Jesus instituting the eucharist as a new Passover seder, while John places emphasis on Jesus himself being the new Passover, the “Lamb of God,” for in John Jesus dies as the Passover lambs are dying. In John, John the Baptist is quoted as saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, 36; see 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelation 5:12, 7:14, 12;1, 13:8.)
This is not the only outright contradiction between the Synoptics and John. For example, the Synoptics place Jesus’ cleansing of the temple just before his capture, whereas John places it three years earlier. (John 2:13 ff.) I point out these basic contractions to make it clear that the gospels as we know them are not historical treatises, but theological sermons. They were written down and edited many years after the events happened by gentiles who had an imperfect understanding of Judaism, who did not have access to the original Judeo-Christian gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic, who were in competition with Jews to make or retain converts, and who in part wanted to disassociate themselves from Judaism because the Jews had revolted against Rome.
The Synoptic editors show confusion regarding the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They present the first day of that feast as being the day before Passover when the lambs were slain. (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7.) But clearly it began the morning after the first night of Passover. (Ezekiel 45:21; Leviticus 23:5 ff.; Numbers 28:16 ff.; Joshua 5:10 ff.; Ezra 6:19, 22.)
The gospels also disagree in their use of the term “Day of Preparation,” which in the Synoptics means preparation for the Sabbath, but which in John means preparation for both the Sabbath and Passover, perhaps because in John the Passover and Sabbath occur on the same day that year. (Matthew 27:62, 28:1; Mark 15:42, 16:1; Luke 23:54, 56; John 19:14, 31, 42.)
In Mark and Luke Jesus is crucified on the Passover, which begins Thursday evening and continues through the following Friday. The day of crucifixion is said to be the “Day of Preparation” for the coming Sabbath. (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54) One has to wonder why Mark and Luke do not refer to the day of crucifixion as the Passover instead of the day of Preparation for the Sabbath. In any case Mark and Luke make it clear that after Joseph of Aramathea’s visit to Pilate to get Jesus’ body, nothing happens between the burial and resurrection except the Sabbath, which is observed. (Luke 23:56.) There is only a 36 hour period that passes between Jesus death and his resurrection.
Matthew adds a scene that Mark and Luke omit, a meeting with Pilate the “next day” to set up security and prevent the body from being stolen: “Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate.” (Matthew 27:62.) Matthew can’t be referring to a day of Preparation for the Passover, because that has passed, so he has to be referring to the day of Preparation for the sabbath. Thus, the “next day” “after the day of Preparation has to be the sabbath. So why didn’t Matthew simply say the meeting occurred on the sabbath? Matthew may be pushing the day of Jesus’ crucifixion back one day to Wednesday evening and Thursday. Really he is just tampering with the text for dramatic effect.
The fact that the gospel writers cannot agree among themselves whether the crucifixion occurs the day before the Passover or actually on the Passover or on Thursday or Friday, makes it legitimate to examine the eucharistic words critically and even question whether Jesus ever said, in the context of a Passover meal, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” and “Eat it” and “Drink it.”
The Components of the Last Supper
Maccoby breaks the words of the Last Supper into three component parts: apocalyptic words, eucharistic words, and words of institution. In the apocalyptic words Jesus says that he will not eat such a meal with them again until the kingdom has come. In the eucharistic words Jesus says the bread and wine are or represent his body and blood. In the words of institution Jesus says we are to eat and drink the bread and wine. The accounts vary widely in the inclusion of these components and in their order.
Apocalyptic words refer to future religious events, good or bad. There are various versions of the apocalyptic words:
As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Thy church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom. (Didache. 9:1-5.)
I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. (Mark 14:25.)
I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:29.)
I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (Luke 22:18.)
Matthew, Mark, and Luke include apocalyptic words, but John and Paul omit them entirely, as I will discuss below.
The term “eucharist” literally means “thanksgiving,” but in Christian theology the term refers to the bread and wine being or representing the body and blood of Jesus. There are various versions of the eucharistic words:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. Note that in this case Paul mentions the wine first.)
This is my body which is for you.… This cup is the new covenant in my blood. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.)
This is my body.… This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. (Mark 14:22.)
This is my body.… This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28.)
This is my body. (Luke 22:19, short version.)
This is my body which is given for you.… This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20, long version.)
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:35, 48-51.)
Although the Didache makes reference to a “eucharistic thanksgiving,” it contains no eucharistic words in the theological sense: Thanks is given, but there is no statement that bread and wine are body and blood. The obvious conclusion is that the eucharist of the Didache pre-dated the addition of the bread-wine-body-blood theme. John and the short version of Luke make no mention of the wine-blood symbolism, sticking with the body-bread symbolism only.
Words of institution instruct believers to eat the bread and wine in a ceremony. The accounts contain various versions of the words of institution:
But as touching the eucharistic thanksgiving give ye thanks thus: First, as regards the cup:… Then as regarding the broken bread:… But let no one eat or drink of this eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord…?. (Didache 9:1-5.)
And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. (Didache 14:1-3.)
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.)
Do this in remembrance of me…?. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.)
Take. (Mark 14:22.)
Take, eat… Drink of it, all of you. (Matthew 26:26.)
Take this, and divide it among yourselves. (Luke 22:17, short version.)
Take this, and divide it among yourselves…?. Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:17-20, long version.)
John includes no words of institution. The words of institution in Paul and Luke are the most highly developed, for they include the admonition to take the eucharist in memory of Jesus.
The Order of the Components—Paul’s Source
Note the order of the components: wine-bread in the kiddush, wine-bread in the Didache, Passover-wine-bread in the short version of Luke, Passover-wine-bread-wine in the long version of Luke, and bread-wine in Matthew, Mark, and Paul. If the Last Supper had been a Passover or a Sabbath or any other festival, then wine would appear first. The only time in Jewish custom when wine was not taken first was when there was no wine, and then it would not be bread-wine but just bread. Why would the wine-bread order in the kiddush, and the Didache, have been changed in Paul, Matthew, and Mark to bread-wine and in the short version of Luke to Passover-wine-bread and Passover-wine-bread-wine in the long version of Luke, essentially a doubling of the bread-wine pattern?
Maccoby says it is because bread-wine was the order in the communion meal of the mystery religions. The mystery religions began as harvest festivals, in which grain and bread had natural priority. Paul was under the sway of the mystery religions, which included a communion in which there was bread and a liquid, which represented body and blood. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around 56 C.E., long before the gentile gospels were written, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke followed his lead. In John the order is flesh and blood. (John 6:53,56.)
Note further that the long version of Luke follows Paul in referring to a “cup after supper.” Luke includes two cups, one apocalyptic and one eucharistic, while Paul includes only one eucharistic cup. There was a final cup following Sabbath or festival meals, but it was not a kiddush cup. (Maccoby, Paul and Hellenism, p. 105.)
Maccoby’s theory is that the apocalyptic words—containing no body-blood symbolism— formed the original version of the Last Supper, as in the case of the Didache, which contains only apocalyptic words and no eucharistic words. Likewise, the short version of Luke, contains apocalyptic words and almost no eucharistic words, only “This is my body.”
Maccoby’s theory is that Paul drew the eucharistic words from the mystery religions he had known in Tarsus, which was the center of the worship of Perseus, a successor god to Mithras, who had been born of a virgin. (David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, 1989, p. 40 ff.; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 71, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 234.) Maccoby believes the editors of the Synoptics later awkwardly grafted Paul’s eucharistic words onto the original Last Supper, which contained only apocalyptic words. In the case of the long version of Luke, apocalyptic words were said over or in reference to Passover and wine, and then eucharistic words were said over bread and wine. According to Maccoby, there is a doubling of the bread-wine in Luke so as to retain the original apocalyptic words and add the eucharistic words which Paul introduced.
Likewise, Maccoby suggests that it was Paul who introduced the words of institution, directing that Christians eat the Lord’s Supper regularly. Maccoby says that before Paul the eucharist was not a sacrament, but only a memorial meal, as it was in the Didache. Paul turned it into a new sacrament which gave forgiveness of sins. He  thus made the Christian Church into a religion apart from Judaism.
Jesus acknowledged that he was a prophet (Matthew 10:41, 13:57, 14:5, 21:11; Luke 7:39, 13:33; Acts 3:22-23, 7:27) and son of man (Matthew 8:20, 9:16, 16:33, 19:28; Acts 7:56.) He was initially uncertain whether he was messiah-king but eventually accepted this role. (Matthew 16:16, 16:20, 26:63-64; Mark 9:41, 12:35; Luke 9:20; John 1:41, 4:25). It is in Paul, John, and in the eucharistic passages in the Synoptics that Jesus is presented as god or having godlike qualities. It is Paul or his disciples who make him pre-existent lord (Colossians 1:15-16) and John who makes him the logos who was god from the very creation. (John 1:1-14.)
In Judaism nothing is god but god. Jews have a problem with the trinity because it elevates Jesus to status as god. Jesus would have had the same problem, because he only regarded himself as prophet, messiah, and son of man, neither of which is divine. Likewise, a eucharistic ceremony in which a piece of bread or a drink of wine become the body and blood of Jesus makes the bread and wine into a piece of divinity, and again is idolatry. (Maccoby, Paul and Hellenism, pp. 124-126.)
Idolatry is to be avoided because it focuses attention on something which should not be the focus of attention, and it also distracts attention from the thing which should be the focus of attention.
No Eucharist in Acts
The bread-body-wine-blood analogy is conspicuously absent from Acts, where you would most expect to find it:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayer … . And all who believed were together and had all things in common … . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts … . (Acts 2:42-46; see 20:7.)
Instead, Jesus’ followers continue to meet together in private homes and “break bread” in what was a meal, not just a small wafer of bread and sip of wine. They worship in the Temple, something they would not have been allowed to do had they instituted a new sacrament. The bread-body-wine-blood eucharist never became part of Judeo-Christian custom. It is most likely that the memorial meal of the Judeo-Christians was free of such allusions and resembled the meal described in the Didache.
Blood, Human Sacrifice
Note that in none of the Jewish prayers quoted above is the bread or wine said to represent the body or blood of a person or an animal. At Passover, the flesh of the lamb represented the body of that animal, and the blood had been drained and was not drunk. The bread and wine eaten in the kiddush did not represent flesh or blood. One thing Jews never consumed was the blood of any animal. (Leviticus 7:26-27.) A religions ceremony in which the eating and drinking of bread and wine were said to be analogous to human flesh and blood would have been repugnant to a First Century Jew and thus to Jesus. Jews had renounced human sacrifice some 1,500 years before in the time of Abraham and Isaac. (Genesis 22.)
Body and Blood? Flesh and Blood?
Paul refers to the “body and blood” of Christ, however, according to Maccoby, a Jew speaking Hebrew would refer not to “body and blood” but to “flesh and blood.” “Flesh and blood” is a common and natural Hebrew phrase, whereas “body and blood” is not. In Hebrew one would never eat “body,” but would eat “flesh.”
The Dying and Rising God, Eating the God, the Lord’s Supper
In the mystery religions the god was murdered and was raised, as in the case of Attis, Osiris, and Dionysus. Frequently there was a sacramental meal in which the flesh and blood of the risen god were eaten or drunk, or in which bread and a liquid, symbolic of the flesh and blood were eaten and drunk. The early Christian heresy fighters were concerned about the similarity between the mystery religions and the Christian sacraments. Their explanation was that the devil had created these similarities in advance of the rise of Christianity. Justin Martyr (110 – 165 C.E.) said:
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them… delivered unto us… that Jesus took bread, and… said “This do ye in remembrance of me, this is my body… and… having taken the cup… said “This is my blood…?. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn. (The First Apology of Justin, 65-66, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 185; see The First Apology of Justin, Vol. 1, 54, p. 181.)
Justin follows the order which Paul and the writer of Luke follow in 1 Corinthians and in Luke: Body is mentioned before blood. However, Paul’s “Lord’s Supper” term is conspicuously absent, and it completely disappears from history. “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) and “communion” are used instead. No other New Testament writer or Church Father uses the term “Lord’s Supper.” Maccoby suggests it was abandoned because the term “Lord’s Supper” was probably the term used by the mystery religions to refer to their sacramental meal. (Paul and Hellenism, p. 117; Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, p. 92.)
Tertullian (c. 145 – c. 220 C.E.) said:
By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the passages which make for heresies? By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God…?. Mithra… celebrates also the oblation of bread and introduces an image of a resurrection…?. (On Prescription Against Heretics, 50, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 263 f.)
Maccoby points out that it was customary in the mystery religions to speak of eating the god:
In the Eleusinian mysteries, the initiated became deified (entheoi) by partaking in a meal which represented the body of Dionysus. In the mysteries of Attis, a meal of bread and liquid, representing the body of the god, enabled the initiate to participate in his passion and resurrection…?. In Latin poetry, it is a commonplace to speak of eating Ceres (meaning bread) or drinking Bacchus (wine), and this is not just a poetical trope, but the poetical residue of sacraments in which these foodstuffs were regarded as divine. (Paul and Hellenism, p. 125.)

Paul, Recipient of Redefining Revelation—Author of the Body-Blood Eucharist
Paul openly states his source of information regarding the Last Supper: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…?.” (1 Corinthians 11:23.) Paul is not saying he was present at the Last Supper or that he received his tradition from those who were there. He is saying that he received a special revelation directly from god or Jesus. He also says:
Paul an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father…?. [T]he gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.… But when he who had set me apart before I was born [Jeremiah 1:5], and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me [literally “in me” in Greek], in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. (Galatians 1:1-17.)
When Paul says god revealed his son “in me,” it becomes clear that he viewed himself as a second-generation Christian prophet, even an incarnation of Jesus, a source of authority independent of and superior to Jesus’ original apostles or even Jesus himself. Paul lashed out at the “superlative apostles” of Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 7:19, 11:5, 12:11; 2 Corinthians 11:5,13, 12:11; Philippians 3:2.) Jews do not drink blood, nor do they eat human flesh, which are by definition unclean, but by the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around 56 C.E. he was teaching the very un-Jewish analogy of bread and wine with flesh and blood. Did this teaching go back to the Judeo-Christians, to James, to Jesus? It is probable that Paul pioneered this teaching.
Even orthodox Catholic authorities admit that the Nazaraeans had no eucharist per se in which bread and wine symbolized or were transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus. (See Willy Rudolf’s analysis of the Didache in The Eucharist of the Early Christians, p. 1-23.)
If Jesus did not say “this is my body” and “this is my blood,” what did he say? If these words were not part of the earliest agapé and eucharist, what words did the earliest Judeo-Christians say? The Didache, quoted above, may give us the answer. It may reflect traditions older than those of Paul. In it there is a eucharist which makes no reference to blood or flesh. Note the reference in the Didache to Jesus only as servant. Note the fact that in the Didache the wine is taken first, as in the Kiddush.
The conclusion seems inescapable: That Jesus never made the cannibalistic bread-wine-body-blood analogy, that the entire concept of him being a replacement sacrifice for the animals in the temple was developed later by gentile Christians such as Paul, John the Elder who wrote the book of John, and the author of Hebrews, all of whom were under the sway of the mystery religions. Paul wrote his epistles long before the Synoptics and John were written, so it is probable that the writers who edited and compiled the final version of the gospels as we know them learned the bread-body-wine-blood analogy from Paul or his disciples and added it to their apocalyptic Last Supper.
A More Powerful and Ancient Eucharist
Should Christians conclude that their religion is meaningless if the bread and wine are not the body and blood of Jesus, if Jesus did not make the cosmic sacrifice, and if Jesus is not god? To the contrary, a religion which accurately remembers Jesus would be more powerful because it would be true to Jesus’ purpose. It would have a solid foundation. The current eucharist could be retained but its evolution and symbolism explained. The eucharist of the Didache could be utilized as an occasional alternative. Such a Christianity would call on Jesus’ followers to complete Jesus’ actual mission, which was not to serve as a sacrificial lamb, but to urge humanity to complete the messianic project of stopping the cycle of violence, including the violence against the animals. That’s more of a challenge than believing a creed, performing a ceremony, and getting a pass to enter heaven at death.
A Speculation
Because there are so many signs that the story of the Last Supper has been tampered with, “we have a right to ask one question still.” Was there a Last Supper at all?
Recall that Jesus or some militant group working alongside him took control of the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus did not just overthrow a few money changers’ tables. He expelled all the animal dealers, those who carried out the sacrifices, and all the animals from the Temple mount. Presumably the Temple police or the Romans intervened to restore the status quo and arrest the rebels. Mark relates that “… Barabbas was then in custody with the rebels who had committed murder in the rising.” (Mark 11:15) Did Jesus retreat and avoid arrest, or was he arrested along with Barabbas and the rebels? Note also, as Hyam Maccoby points out, that “Jesus Barabbas” (literally, “son of the father,” could have been another name for Jesus of Nazareth. (Revolution in Judaea, 164, 190.)
Maybe Jesus went straight from the insurrection at the Temple to a Jewish or Roman jail. Jesus obviously ate many devotional meals. Maybe one of those meals was moved to the end of his life as a literary and theological device designed to state that Jesus not only died as a sacrifice to replace the animal sacrifices, but that he also explained the symbolism though a sacramental meal a few hours before his death.
Breaking of Bread and Agapé, as a Religious But Not Sacramental Meal or Meals
Jesus’ early disciples in Jerusalem took their meals together on a daily basis. “Breaking of bread” is mentioned frequently in the New Testament.” (Luke 24:30; Acts 2:42,46, 20:7,11; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:23, 11:33.) Perhaps Jesus taught his apostles the Lord’s Prayer in the context of one of these fellowship meals. (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2-4.) It is possible that this “breaking of bread” later came to be known as the agapé or love feast, which is referred to only once by name in the New Testament, without enough context to determine what the writer means by the term. (Jude 12; cf. 2 Peter 2:13.)
The earliest Christians kept Jewish customs and worshiped in the temple. (Acts 2:42-46.) Even gentile Christians kept the Sabbath and in many areas probably did so until the time of Constantine and Theodosius. Gradually they began to worship on Sunday as well as on Saturday. Probably as the Sabbath was ending at sunset on Saturday and Sunday was beginning, they would observed the Lord’s Day in remembrance of the resurrection, which, unlike the bread-wine-body-blood eucharist, was part of the original core of Judeo-Christian beliefs. (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10, Didache 14:1, Barnabas 15:9, Ignatius to the Magnesians 9:1.)
Sunday came to be the day when the eucharist, as a sacramental meal separate and apart from the agapé was observed. (Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, 67, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 185.) Probably the eucharist and the agapé separated even before Paul’s bread-wine-body-blood themes were added to the eucharist, and I say this because it appears in the Didache that the eucharist was a separate sacramental event from the agapé, even though the Didache omits the bread-wine-body-blood themes. (See Richard Peterson, “From Sabbath to Sunday, Passover to Easter and Dedication to Christmas—Some Historical Background,” Family Restoration Magazine, Number 17, April, 2003,
I suggest that as Christianity spread into the gentile world, and as gentile Christianity distanced itself more and more from Jewish Christianity, the bread-wine-body-blood themes of Paul were grafted into the more simple eucharist of the type found in the Didache.
Further, it appears that in Paul’s day the eucharist, with its bread-wine-body-blood theme, was occurring immediately after the agapé fellowship meal. In 1 Corinthians 11:23 it is clear that the eucharist is part of a meal because there is reference to the cup being taken “after supper.” However, there was misbehavior, and so Paul suggested that those who wanted to eat and drink a lot should do so at home. (1 Corinthians 11:34.)
It appears that the “breaking of bread” may have included feeding hungry believers. Distribution was made according to need. (Acts 2:45.) Elsewhere it is said that “… widows were neglected in the daily distribution” and so deacons were appointed to take care of them. (Acts 6:1.)
It is a challenge to determine whether the breaking of bread was an event separate from the charitable feeding and whether the term “agapé” originally referred to the breaking of bread or to the charitable feeding or to both. Jews and early Christians—Jewish and gentile—were strongly committed to caring for the needy, especially widows and orphans. (Dr. Marvin Wilson, “Jewish Roots and Compassionate Community: Orphans in Biblical Society,” Family Restoration Magazine, Number 7, July, 2002,
As churches grew in size, the intimate agapé meals of the early days, often held in homes, grew into major feeding occasions. At some point the agapé and eucharist were separated, with the eucharist becoming a sacramental meal where a token amount of bread and wine were eaten, and with the agapé becoming a separate, charitable and/or fellowship meal. Ignatius (died c. 107) referred to them as two separate events, which were to be carried out only with supervision of the bishop. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 8:2, Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Volume II, p. 308, We learn from Justin Martyr, writing around 150 C.E., that the eucharist was a sacrament allowed only to the baptized. Justin implies that small amounts of bread and wine were taken and that they were taken “not as common bread and common drink.” He makes no mention of the “agapé.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 65-67, Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I; cf. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 2:1, Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, p. 237 ff.; Tertullian, Apology 39, Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, p. 46 f.) This separation of the Eucharist from the agapé probably occurred at different times in different locations.
The Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem pooled their assets, as was the pattern with the Essenes. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44-45.) Likewise, they shared their food and ate together as a group. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts….” (Acts 2:46.)
Taking meals together and feeding the poor was central to early Christianity. (Acts 2:42-47, 6:1, 20:11; 1 Corinthians 11:20-34; Jude 1:12.) It is mentioned that Paul took a meal as part of a Sunday worship service: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them…?.” (Acts 20:7.) Pliny mentioned that Christians met before light on a certain day of the week and afterward ate “food of an ordinary and innocent kind.” (Letters of Pliny the Younger, Book 10, Letter 96, quoting from the Loeb edition;
However, Paul was unhappy either with the entire concept of meals taken as part of worship services or with excesses which occurred. There was perhaps a lack of sharing of food by some along with gluttony or drunkenness by others. Paul suggested that his followers should take their meals at home. (Acts 11:20-22.) The communal meal in Paul’s day was both Eucharist and agapé combined. The two gradually became separated.
As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the churches set up a vast system of soup kitchens, orphanages, and homes for widows (and perhaps unwed mothers?). Pagans were amazed at the scope of Christian charity. (Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, 178; William Edward Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, 1869, vol. ii, p. 84, cited by Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 425.)
In 363 or 364 C.E. the Council of Laodicea, in Canon 28, prohibited the use of the churches as soup kitchens: “It is not permitted to hold love feasts, as they are called, in the Lord’s Houses, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches [to recline and eat] in the house of God.” However, the agapé was not abolished and continued to be observed in places other than in the church itself, for Canon 27 decreed: “Neither they of the priesthood, nor clergymen, nor laymen, who are invited to a love feast, may take away their portions, for this is to cast reproach on the ecclesiastical order.” ( Church records are spotty. The reason for moving the agapé out of the church was not made clear. Apparently the agapé was relegated to private homes or to a separate building. Apparently the poor were using the agapé like a modern food bank, carrying away food for home consumption. Forbidding even laymen from carrying food home would have greatly reduced its effectiveness as a means to take food to those poor who were working or too sick to attend.
I speculate that if Jesus, James, Peter and the other founders of Judeo-Christianity were vegetarians, their agapé would have been vegetarian too. Once such a tradition was in place, it might have survived the transition as the church became almost entirely gentile. Gentile Christians continued the agapé, and I suggest that they may very well have continued it as a vegetarian meal held in the church and later in a separate hall.
This is all the more likely because the Orthodox church has continued the Wednesday and Friday vegan fast of the Didache right up to the present, although Catholics abandoned it centuries ago. It would seem likely that if Christians ate only vegan food when they were fasting for religious reasons that they would observe the same eating restrictions in the agapé meal itself. (See the section of this book entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache, p. 157;
I speculate that the Council of Laodicea moved the agapé soup kitchens out of the churches for several reasons: First, a newly rich and privileged church leadership had forgotten Jesus’ teachings regarding feeding the hungry. Second, that leadership, with its newly acquired pagan temples converted into churches wanted them to be solemn and proper. Third, the leadership might have been attacking Christian vegetarianism itself. Getting vegetarianism out of the churches would have been the first step in getting rid of the vegetarian fast and eventually getting rid of vegetarianism entirely. The attack worked in the West, for Catholics have totally forgotten the vegetarian fast. The Orthodox have not: Go to a Coptic Church and you will find literature that reads like something you would find at an EarthSave meeting.
I like the concept of the agapé as a sacramental meal. I view ordinary eating as a sacramental act. Food gives us strength to do god’s work. We should eat food that strengthens us, food which was gotten without inflicting cruelty on god’s other creatures.
The messiah in Hebrew tradition was to be a vegetarian and lead the world back to a vegetarian Eden. For Jesus not to have been a vegetarian would have undermined his claim to be the messiah. (See the section of this book entitled Ancient Judaism Challenges Modern Judaism, p. 65.)
After the destruction of the First Temple around 586 B.C.E., many Israelites where taken from Palestine in captivity to Babylon. There the writer of “Third-Isaiah” (Isaiah 56-66)—probably a student of the school or tradition of Isaiah, which survived him for several generations—questioned whether the Temple should be rebuilt and whether the sacrificial system should be reinstituted. Justice was said to be more important to god than either animal or vegetable sacrifices. The writer gave his vision of the world the messiah would create:
I will rejoice in Jerusalem…?. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days,
… for the child shall die a hundred years old [perhaps because he would eat a good diet]…?. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox… they shall not hurt or destroy [slay animals for sacrifices] in all my holy mountain [a reference to Mount Zion, the site of the Temple]…?. Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?… But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a cereal offering like him who offers swine’s blood…?. (Isaiah 65:19-66:3; comments in square brackets are mine.)
“Third-Isaiah” appears to be saying explicitly that the sacrificial system should not be reinstituted. Such teachings exemplify the resurgence within Judaism of the philosophy of a matristic pre-Hebrew religion that had not sacrificed animals and had been vegetarian.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says (5:1): “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”
The Talmud says that in the messianic time all sacrifices except the thank-offering will cease. (Pes. 79a; Lev. R. ix., xxvii.)
Jesus explicitly endorsed the anti-animal-sacrifice theme of the prophets. Hosea had said, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6; see Amos 5:21 ff. and Proverbs 21:3; Sibylline Oracles 2:96, Jesus refers to this theme (Matthew 9:13) when he says: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” He refers to it again in Matthew 12: 1-7:
[H]is disciples were hungry and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read… in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
Matthew clearly intends for “the guiltless” to refer to Jesus’ apostles, and to say that the apostles were guiltless for foraging for food on the Sabbath, for the same term, “guiltless,” is used (Matthew 12:5) to refer to the priests who, according to the Judaism of the day, were said to be “guiltless” of violating the Sabbath by doing the work of sacrificing animals, and who in doing so did not profane the Sabbath.
However, it appears that the gentile redactor of our canonical Matthew purposely changed the context of the original Judeo-Christian gospel or the Proto-Mark he worked from in order to change the reference and original intent of the term “guiltless.” I suggest that originally there were two episodes which were later fused together by the redactor, an episode about the disciples plucking grain and another in which Jesus said the sacrificed animals were “guiltless.” I suggest that Jesus’ original defense of the animals and his opposition to the sacrifices was edited out by non-vegetarian Pauline redactors. I suggest that these two episodes were stitched together into the one we have and any reference to the animals being guiltless was expunged.
If only Matthew 12 is read, the redactor’s cover-up of Jesus’ original meaning appears successful. However, bear in mind that Jesus was quoting from Hosea 6:6 so it would make sense to read Hosea:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…?. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. [Hosea 2:14 ff. According to legend, the time in the wilderness was a vegetarian time for the Israelites. See Exodus 16:15, Numbers 11:7.]… And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever… in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. [Hosea 2:18 ff.]… For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. [priestly garments, Hosea 3:4]… [F]or the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness…; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air; and even the fish of the sea are taken away. [Hosea 4:1-3] [W]ith you is my contention, O priest…?. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. [Hosea 4:4-6]… For I desire steadfast love [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. [Hosea 6:6]… Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sinning. Were I to write for him my laws by ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing. They love sacrifice; they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but the Lord has no delight in them. [Hosea 8:11-13]… When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and burning incense to idols. [Hosea 11:1-2. This is a suggestion that the Israelites adopted the sacrificing of animals from the other tribes of Palestine.] O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God…?. Take with you words and return unto the Lord. Say unto him, Take away all iniquity and turn towards kindness; so will we render the fruit of our lips. [Hosea 14:2, translated by Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus, 492, as “the bullocks of our lips.” Comments in brackets and bold italics are mine.]
Hosea condemned the priests outright for sacrificing and rejected them as his priests. (Hosea 4:4-6). Jesus was quoting from Hosea and therefore endorsing the greater message of Hosea. Therefore, in Matthew, Jesus was condemning the sacrifices as did Hosea.
The issue in Hosea does not concern priests who sacrifice animals on the Sabbath and are excused for working on the Sabbath but priests who sacrifice animals and are rejected as god’s priests for doing so. (Hosea 4:4-6.) There is no discussion in Hosea of priests being guiltless for performing sacrifices. Hosea refers to making a “covenant” with the animals. The only other parties in Hosea who were connected with the sacrifices and thus available to be referred to as “guiltless” were the animals who were sacrificed.
My theory is that Jesus actually quoted extensively from Hosea and originally said that the priests did profane the Temple with their sacrifices and were rejected as god’s priests for doing so. Christianity expanded into the Greek-speaking gentile world, and an oral gospel was recited in church, a poor translation of the original Hebrew gospel, which Judeo-Christians withheld from Pauline Christians. Even Pauline Christians had heard that Jesus had said “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” so the non-vegetarian redactors felt they could not just delete the statement. In Matthew 9:13 the redactors apparently stripped away everything but the simple statement, which is surrounded by ideas which do not relate at all to sacrifice or mercy. In Matthew 12, instead of deleting the reference, the redactors explained away its significance. They wrapped the story of the apostles’ violation of the Sabbath by harvesting grain around the quotation from Hosea. The only problem is that they forgot that people could go back and read Hosea and there would find the actual context of the statement.
What we are probably reading in our canonical Matthew is a commentary made in a sermon by a Pauline preacher who is explaining why it is acceptable to eat meat despite Jesus’ well-known quotation from Hosea and his well-known reference to the animals as “guiltless.” I suggest that this Pauline commentary was heard so often that it came to be thought of as part of Jesus’ teaching and was added to the Greek version of the gospel as such.
Further, the fact that Jesus referred to the animals as guiltless and referred to making a “covenant” with the animals (Hosea 2:18), combined with the fact that he tried to stop the sacrifices and the fact that he apparently was a vegetarian, may indicate that he was an ethical vegetarian, not just a “technical” vegetarian such as the Maccabees, who objected because proper sacrificial procedures or calendar were not being observed. (See the section of this book entitled Jesus and the Right Treatment of Animals, p. 188.)
And there is one more passage where Jesus condemned the temple sacrifices, which is worth quoting in full:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34.)
The scribe asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment. In response Jesus first recited the Shema, the Jewish statement of strict monotheism. (Deuteronomy 6:4.) Note that the Shema is eliminated from the parallel versions found in Matthew 22:34 ff. and Luke 10:25 ff., perhaps because it conflicts with the Johanine and Pauline theory that Jesus is god.
The scribe follows by stating that Jesus is right in saying that god is one and that loving god and loving one’s neighbor is more important that sacrifices. (Mark 12:33.) However, Jesus is not quoted as having previously disparaged the sacrifices. It would appear that the redactor eliminated Jesus’ condemnation of the sacrifices but forgot to eliminate the scribe’s reference to Jesus’ condemnation of the sacrifices.
Most scribes can be presumed to have been Pharisees. Note that the scribe and Jesus have a warm exchange, with the scribe observing that Jesus had answered well and with Jesus complementing the scribe on being close to the kingdom of god. However, when Matthew and Luke copy from Mark or from  Proto-Mark, they leave out these warm remarks and add that the scribe was trying to trick Jesus.
So here we see three instances of tampering with the text. First, Matthew and Luke omit Jesus’ recitation of the Shema. Second, Mark (in part) and Matthew and Luke omit Jesus’ condemnation of the sacrifices. And third, Matthew, and Luke change the scribe’s admiration for Jesus into an attempt to trick him.
Finally, this section validates my thesis that studying the history of food, foodways, is an important tool for studying theology and history in general. It is a different lens through which to do analysis.
We all know the story of Jesus “cleansing” the Temple. Jesus overturns a few tables, and preachers always refer to this as merely a statement against the commercialization of religion. However, it is obvious even from a simple reading of the New Testament that there was much more involved. Look first at the Synoptic version of the story:
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow any one to carry anything [including sacrificial animals] through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers. And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching [that the sacrificial cult had to end]. (Mark 11:15-19; compare Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48, my comments in square brackets.)
It is important to compare the account of this incident in John:
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” (John 2:13-20.)
I find it amazing that almost everyone overlooks the scope of this “cleansing.” So I will list, point by point, what Jesus did in the Temple. My comments are in square brackets:
Jesus reprimanded the money changers and those who sold pigeons. [Mark 11:17; John 2: 16.]
“He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” [Mark 11:15.]
“He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” [John 2:15.]
He “began to drive out those who sold and those who bought [presumably animals and money] in the temple.” [Mark 11:15; Matthew 21:12; cf. Zechariah 14:21.]
“He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business… and… drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple…?.” … And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away….” John 2:14-16.]
Moreover, “he would not allow any one to carry anything [presumably animals and money] through the temple,” establishing a blockade against bringing in animals to be sacrificed. [Mark 11:16.]
He engaged in a teaching session and debate either with the vendors or with the chief priests and scribes. [Mark 11:15-19.]
With all animals driven from the temple there could be no sacrifices. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus and his followers took over the Temple and shut down the sacrificial system for a few hours or a few days. This was a violent attack by one who had entered the city on a donkey, part of the kingly, messianic coronation custom.
There is an important piece of evidence to be found in the story of the release of Jesus Barabbas. (Matthew 27:15 ff.; Mark 15:6 ff.; Luke 23:13 ff.) In Matthew, Barabbas is referred to only as “… a man of some notoriety.” In Luke he “… had been put in prison for a rising that had taken place in the city, and for murder.” However, in Mark “… Barabbas was then in custody with the rebels who had committed murder in the rising.” In Greek the definite article is used twice, which would indicate there had been a previous reference to the rebels and the uprising. However, there is no story in Mark of a previous rebellion or uprising, unless this is a reference to the cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11:15) or to some other uprising which the redactor chose to cut out of the story.
There were two others crucified with Jesus, and they, like Barabbas, who was allegedly granted amnesty in Jesus’ place (Mark 15:15), were referred to as “robbers” (Mark 15:27), a customary term for rebels at that time. This could indicate that, at that Passover time, when many Jews were in the city, a Zealot revolt had broken out and had been suppressed.
My hypothesis is that Jesus himself led or inspired or was drawn into an uprising. Jesus’ aim was to put an end to the sacrificial system and establish a new, bloodless system of worship. Jesus Barabbas could have been one of those who joined in, with or without Jesus’ authorization.
Consider also the competing theory of Hyam Maccoby (Revolution in Judaea, 164, 190) that Jesus Barabbas (literally, “son of the father,” was another name for Jesus the Nazarene and that the juxtaposition of the two was an artificial literary device to heighten the blame on the Jews for requesting the release of a murderer and the execution of Jesus and accepting his blood on their heads.
To introduce competing theories, I should mention the story in which Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, (c. 10-80 C.E.) issued a protest some time after Jesus’ death that the vendors were overcharging—by a factor of 25—for a pair of pigeons, which was the poor person’s sacrifice. One could argue that Jesus was merely protesting the gouging on the price of pigeons and not the fact itself that animals were being sold and sacrificed. (Craig A. Evans, “Opposition to the Temple: Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” James H. Charlesworth, ed., Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 238 f.) However, Jesus drove out all the vendors and all their animals, including the pigeons, which would be contrary to this limited interpretation. Moreover, if it had been Jesus’ position that there should be no sacrifices, then he would have intended there to be no sales of animals. Thus, any price paid would have been robbery, and the offense against the poor would have been even greater.
There are two stories here. The first is that Jesus shut down the entire sacrificial system for some unstated period of time. The second is that every theologian I have read starts and ends with the “overturning the money changers’ tables” part of the story and interprets this as a case of Jesus making a statement against the commercialization of religion. It shows the theologians at times fail to pay attention. Again, this section shows the importance of applying foodways analysis in doing theological and historical analysis.
In John Jesus made his comment regarding destruction of the Temple and rebuilding it in three days: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19.) In Mark he said: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2.) His adversaries later accused him of threatening to destroy the Temple. (Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58.) He never explicitly stated that he would destroy the Temple or that others should destroy it; he only predicted that it would be destroyed.
However, the Second Temple had been built by Herod, son of an Idumean father, whose ancestors had been forcibly converted to Judaism, and a Nabatean Arab mother. If Herod had not been through a proper conversion ceremony, the fact that his mother was not Jewish meant that he was not a Jew. Thus, one of the prerogatives of the messiah would have been to tear down the existing temple and build another. (Hyam Maccoby, The Myth-Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, p. 75.)
The general interpretation of Jesus’ boast that he would rebuild the Temple in three days is that he was referring to the “rebuilding” or resurrection of his body in three days. It is easy to understand how gentile Christians, many years later, writing and editing the four gospels we have, would have reinterpreted his statement in this way. Such an interpretation would serve the purpose of preachers trying to convince people of the truth of the resurrection.
However, it is more likely that Jesus was predicting the destruction of the Temple and its rapid replacement with the original Israelite place of worship, the Tabernacle or moveable Tent of Meeting, in which the Israelites worshiped while wandering in Sinai. They could journey from place to place, unload its component pieces from wagons, and erect it within a few days. Recall that the legendary forty years of wandering in Sinai was an ideal time when there was no animal sacrifice and the Israelites ate manna instead of meat. (Exodus 16:15, Numbers 11:7; see the section of this book entitled Meat Eating Allowed Only After the Deluge, p. 58.) Thus, Jesus’ prediction or threat was that unless the sacrifices were ended, the Temple would be destroyed and replaced with a moveable and vegetarian Tabernacle.
During Jesus’ trial, witnesses claimed that he threatened to destroy the Temple. (Matthew 26:61.) According to the Ebionites, Jesus said, “I came to destroy the sacrifices, and if ye cease not from sacrificing, the wrath of God will not cease from you.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:16:2, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 132.) Did the prophecy that there would be no end to the wrath of god equal a threat that the Temple would be destroyed? Apparently it did, and it proved to be accurate: The Temple priests would not end the sacrifices voluntarily, so the Romans destroyed the Temple and ended it for them.
Gentile money had to be changed into Hebrew shekels because it bore pictures of the emperors. Such pictures were considered to be violative of the Second Commandment against idolatry, which included a rule against making any image of any animal, including the human animal. (Exodus 20:4.) But why would changing money be such a bad thing? It would not, unless Jesus saw it as a part of the system of selling sacrificial animals.
Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., a small, wealthy elite of Sadducees and priests, had a big financial interest in the meat and leather produced by the sacrificial system. They inspected the animals brought to be sacrificed, executed them, butchered their carcasses, cleaned up the blood, sold the excess meat and leather in the kosher market, and took their share of the meat plus all the leather and all the cereal offerings to eat or resell. They would have been very threatened by Jesus’ efforts to put them out of business, and it is easy to understand why they would have been happy to have the Romans do away with him.
The Hasmondean-Maccabean family led the revolt against the Syrian Greeks (168-164 B.C.E.) and won Israel its last long-term independence until 1948. The Romans moved in with Pompey’s conquest in 63 B.C.E. They appointed pro-Roman Herod the Great to be king. Herod was an Idumean half-Jew who married a Maccabean princess and proceeded to kill his Maccabean in-laws and his Maccabean wife. The Herodians, Sadducees, and the top level priests who benefited from the status quo, favored cooperation with the Romans, if only to avoid a Roman attack. In turn, the Romans kept the Herodians in power and appointed the kings and high priests.
Their rivals were the Davidians, those who favored the restoration of the descendants of David to the throne and wanted the Romans out. Jesus was a descendant of David, perhaps the primary heir of David in his day. The ruling Herodians would have been glad to see such a rival eliminated.
Jesus went up on a mountain and was secretly coronated using Israelite coronation terms. (Luke 9:28-35.) He appointed his own Sanhedrin court of 72 and sent them throughout the countryside to prepare the people for the coming of the earthly kingdom of god. (Luke 10:1.)
When a man was anointed king or messiah, his head was anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed with very expensive spikenard oil, valued at 300 denarii, the denarius being a day’s wages for a laborer. However, in the New Testament it is Jesus’ feet that were anointed, and the anointing was said to have been done to prepare Jesus for his burial. The original tradition probably involved anointing on his head, and this is probably another case of tampering with the text. (Matthew 20:2, 26:7 f. and Mark 14:3 f., John 12: 3-5.)
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the way kings took power, and this said to have been done to fulfill the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9:
… Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.”  (Matthew 21:1ff., which quotes from the Septuagint version of Zechariah 9:9.)
The gentile redactor of Matthew was so ignorant of Hebrew that he did not understand that Hebrew poetry comes in doublets, referred to as Hebrew parallelism, where almost everything is repeated. He was not aware that the ass and the foal of an ass were one and the same animal. He presents Jesus as somehow riding astraddle two donkeys.
Again and again, Jesus is presented as telling his followers he was doing what he was doing to fulfill prophesy. (Matthew 3:15, 5:17.) Was he intentionally building his case for being messiah king? Nathaniel declared him to be the “king of Israel.” (John 1:49.) The crowds chanted, “Hosanna to the son of David.” (Matthew 21:9.) He forcibly took over the Temple and temporarily eliminated animal sacrifice from the cult. (John 2:15.) His followers were to rule and judge the twelve tribes. (Matthew 19:28.) Thus, I conclude that Jesus and his dynastic family wanted to take political power.
I should add, however, that Jesus’ emphasis appears not to have been on taking power through force  alone. Apparently it was to be moral force. Apparently he believed that for the messiah to come, for him to be validated as messiah, and for his Ebionite Judaism to become the predominant sect of Judaism and an example to other religions, it would first be necessary that Jews become morally worthy. Thus he preached repentance and high ethical standards, instead of empty conformity to ritual and the sacrificial cult. (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6.) He was to be a messiah of peace; he must have known of Zechariah 9:9-11, which states that the messiah would “… cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations …?.”
The Roman leadership had good reason to do Jesus in. He had declared himself to be messiah, which translates into Greek and Latin as “king.” Jesus is presented in various New Testament passages as a pure pacifist, however, supporters of his Davidians messiahship included those who were ready to go to war to overthrow Roman power in Israel. Simon, one of the apostles, was known as a Zealot, and the brothers James and John were called Sons of Thunder. (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13; Mark 3:17.)
Jesus was a very popular holy man and healer who was cheered by large crowds as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey—part of the custom by which ancient kings of Israel claimed their thrones. (Matthew 21:10.) One must then ask who was in the crowd that later shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion? How could the masses cheer him one day and call for his death the next? (Matthew 27:22.) The complete lack of any explanation made in the New Testament illustrates my point that the stories we have about Jesus are a puzzle with many of the pieces removed by later editors. However, if one assumes that Jesus was part of a revolutionary movement that aimed to end the sacrificial system, it is easy to infer that there were two different crowds, the first being Davidian supporters and the second being Herodian and Sadducean opponents, including priests who feared and hated Jesus because he had tried to shut down their butcher shop economy and might precipitate a war with the Romans. It was probably only this small minority which opposed Jesus. Today’s rabbinic Judaism is descended from the Pharisees, and there is no evidence they had any quarrel with Jesus. (Consider Acts 5:34.)
Eusebius, orthodox church historian, said that when Jerusalem rose against the Romans in 66 C.E., the Nazoraeans refused to join the rebellion and left the city, settling in Pella, a town across the Jordan in Perea. (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 2, Chapter 23, p. 58.)
Scholars such as S.G.F. Brandon doubt the truth of Eusebius’ claim, contending instead that most of the Judeo-Christians would have remained in Jerusalem, taking up arms against the Romans and perishing with the rest. Brandon says this is why Jerusalem lost its status as Mother Church. He says that Judeo-Christians did not accept pacifism until after the fall of Jerusalem. (S.G.F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity, p. 208-217.)
Brandon points out correctly that the rabbis who set up their new academy at Jamnia succeeded to the position of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. (Brandon, p. 216, n. 4.) He reasons that if the Jews had been able to move the leadership center of their community and retain authority, the Jerusalem Judeo-Christians should have been able to do the same, and the fact that Jerusalem Judeo-Christians lost their authority means that they vanished in the fall of Jerusalem.
I respectfully disagree with Brandon. Judaism was an ancient, respected, and legally recognized religion, and the Pharisees of Jamnia had used their connections to obtain explicit authorization from the Romans to reorganize.  Christianity, on the other hand, was an upstart religion, a breakaway sect of Judaism, one with no Roman recognition, and one which believed that a messiah-king would soon return and perhaps lead another rebellion. Further, Eusebius says Hegesippus lists the bishops who succeeded James, 15 bishops and/or presbyters, all of them descendants of Jesus’ family. He says the Judeo-Christians returned to Jerusalem at some point following 70 C.E. (Eusebius, Church History, III: 22, 32, 35, V:12.)
The Judeo-Christians refused to participate in the well-organized uprising of Bar Kokhba in 132 C.E., for which they received the contempt of the Jewish rebels and were persecuted. (Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, 3.5, 4:5, 4:8, tr. G.A. Williamson, p. 68, 107, 111; Why did they refuse to fight for Bar Kokhba? Because Bar Kokhba declared himself to be messiah, and he was not the reincarnation of Jesus or Jesus returned from heaven or even a follower of Jesus. If the Judeo-Christians refused to fight for Bar Kokhba, it is reasonable that they would have refused to fight in 66 C.E. when there was a messianic claimant for only a short period until he was killed by an opposing faction. That claimant was also not Jesus or a follower of Jesus, so the Judeo-Christians would not have fought for him.
In the revolt of 66 C.E., the zealots overthrew the Sadducees and Herodians, and brutality and murder escalated. Josephus described their methods. (The Complete Works of Josephus, 20:9:1, tr. William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, p. 423; Judeo-Christians would have been unlikely to fight along side such people. They would have been waiting for Jesus to return, take charge as messiah, and give them guidance in this very confused situation.
Backtracking, Jesus decided after much equivocation to accept status as messiah-king. (Matthew 16:16, 16:20, 26:63-64; Mark 9:41, 12:35; Luke 9:20; John 1:41, 4:25). But his methods were different. Jesus wanted to become messiah-king by bringing Israel to a higher moral plane as a first step, including ending the sacrifices. When the revolt came, the sacrifices had not ended. Jesus had not returned. The Jerusalem Christians remembered that Jesus had prophesied that the city would be destroyed if the sacrifices did not end. It appeared to them that destruction was imminent. (John 2:13-20.) So they left.
Assuming the descendants of Jesus did flee Jerusalem and did survive the war, why did they lose their status as leaders of world Christianity? My hypothesis is that because they were of the same Davidian line as Jesus and were heirs apparent to the throne, they would have been a threat to Roman rule. They would have been on the run from the Romans from time to time and thus disorganized. Eusebius says the “heirs,” the Desposyni, Jesus’ family, met and selected Simon, son of Clopas, who probably had been Joseph’s brother, to succeed to the leadership. Simon died at 120 years of age while being tortured by the Romans under Trajan around the year 107 C.E. Eusebius slipped and recounted that Simon was betrayed by certain “heretical sects.” Abd Al-Jabbar tells the same story. Who else would have been more likely to betray Simon than Pauline Christians in league with the Romans? (See the section of this book entitled Information from Moslem-Nazarene Sources, p. 134; and Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, tr. G.A. Williamson, Book 3, 32, p. 95.)
Those who preceded Jesus in his tradition—Pythagoreans, the Essenes, the Therapeutae, and John the Baptist—were vegetarian. Pythagoras and the Jews were both taken in captivity to Babylon around the same time, and they could have learned from each other. Essenes and Therapeutae later might have known that Pythagoras was among their intellectual ancestors.
Those who surrounded Jesus while he was alive and who continued his tradition—the Nazoraeans and the Jerusalem church, his brother James, probably his cousin Simon, Simon Peter, Matthew, all the “disciples of Jesus,” and the Ebionite Judeo-Christians for four hundred years—were vegetarian. Various eastern orthodox sects were, and still are, vegetarian up to half the year.
The case for Jesus being a vegetarian is strengthened by the fact that there are many teachings in addition to vegetarianism that these groups—Pythagoreans, Essenes, Therapeutae, the original Nazarenes, and the Ebionites—had in common. Within each group there were those who chose to live in communes and share assets and income. The Pythagoreans denounced the moral blindness induced by wealth, and so did the Essenes. Jesus warned against the worship of the false god Dollar, known as “Mammon.” (Matthew 6:19 f., 24.)
All of these groups favored an optional celibacy.  All of these groups were noted for their physicians and healers. Regarding oath-taking, Hebrew tradition required only that when an oath was taken it be honored. (Leviticus 10:12, Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 23:23.) However, like the Pythagoreans and Essenes, Jesus took the position that one should not make oaths at all. (Matthew 5:33-37.) His brother agreed. (James 5:12.)
All of these groups were pacifists or relative pacifists. Jesus’ teaching about not returning evil for evil (Matthew 7:12) is consistent with his project to return the world to its original state of peace: His theory apparently was that one should not return verbal or physical insult when doing so would stop the cycle of violence. As Pythagoras opposed taking revenge, Jesus said one should turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39.) However, Jesus did use violence temporarily to end animal sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple and did authorize carrying weapons, and perhaps would have used force to take over rule of Israel. (Luke 22:38.) Some Essenes were involved in the war against Rome. Even a pacifist will take up arms when that is his only option. All pacifism is relative.
In the New Testament gospels, men and angels wearing white robes appear several times. When Jesus is transfigured, his garments become white. (Matthew 17:2.) When the women come to the empty tomb, they encounter either “a young man… dressed in white robes” (Mark 16:5), an angel wearing “raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:3), or “two angels in white.” (John 20:12.) As Jesus disappears into heaven, the apostles find two men wearing white robes standing by them. (Acts 1:10.) Why is the symbol of white robes so strong? The Essenes wore white linen robes. (The Complete Works of Josephus, tr. William Whiston, Wars of the Jews, 2.8.3, 2.8.7, p. 476 f.) Probably white is strongly emphasized because Jesus had Essene friends and was himself an Essene.
Pythagoras was known as “the Man.” Although the term “Son of Man” appears in the Old Testament books of Ezekiel and Daniel, Jesus’ repeated references to himself as the “Son of Man” may be his acknowledgment of Pythagoras as his intellectual ancestor.
There is mention of women serving as presidents of synagogues in Jesus’ day. (Bernadette J. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background Issues, cited in Anthony J. Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community, p. 17.) Jesus treated women as worthy disciples and teachers. (Luke 8:2 f., 10:38 ff.) According to our orthodox New Testament, women in the early church did not occupy chief leadership roles but did serve as deaconesses and prophets. (Acts 1:14, 2:17, 18:26, 21:9; Romans 16:1.) Among the gnostic Christians, women often held leadership positions. In the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (17:18-18:15;, Peter, Andrew, and Levi acknowledge that Mary had been closer to Jesus than they had been and that he had revealed teachings to her that he had not revealed to them. (See Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan, pp. 67-68.) It was Paul and his followers who required women to be submissive and silent in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:12.)
The Buddha accepted women on an equal footing with men. So too did the Jains. Among the sky-clad (naked) ascetics of the Digambara Jains there were sky-clad women ascetics. Pythagoras admitted women to his academy and to positions of responsibility on an equal footing with men, although later Pythagoreans did not afford women quite the same high status as did Pythagoras. Pythagoras’ wife and daughter were noted scholars and writers.
The gentile Christian church in the West, for its first 800 years fasted from meat and all other animal-based foods two days each week and during Lent and other periods. Certain eastern Christian sects such as the Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches still do this. Devout Greek Orthodox Christians do so as well.
Given the fact that there was such a strong vegetarian tradition among Jesus’ predecessors, contemporaries, and heirs, a meat-eating Jesus would be hard to explain. (See the section of this book entitled Early Christian Fasting and the Didache. p. 157.)
Robert Eisenman suggested that Judas Maccabeus, the Essenes, and John the Baptist refused to eat meat not because they saw anything morally wrong with it, but because they believed the proper personnel were not conducting the sacrificial system. I assume he would apply the same logic to the vegetarianism of Jesus and James. Were the Essenes, John the Baptist, Jesus, and James ethical vegetarians? Or were they  vegetarians like Judas Maccabeus, for technical reasons only?
The Hasmondean Maccabees became not only kings but also high priests. According to Eisenman’s approach, the proper high priestly family of Aaron was not presiding over the Temple sacrifices, and without valid sacrifices being offered, the eating of meat should not have been allowed. Eisenman makes the same argument about Noah and about the Israelites during their wandering in Sinai: They were vegetarians because no sacrificial system had been set up. (Genesis 8:20, 9:3; 2 Maccabees 5:27; Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 265 ff., 275 ff., 293.)
In evaluating whether Jesus would have been a vegetarian for such technical reasons only and not because he opposed cruelty to animals, review what the prophets Jesus quoted from had said:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9.)
A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10.)
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. (Psalms 145:9.)
And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. (Hosea 2:18.)
Consider what Jesus himself said:
And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7.)
Regarding this last quotation, see the section of this book entitled Jesus Quoted the Vegetarian Hosea, Opposed the Sacrifices, p. 176, where I demonstrate that the “guiltless” were the sacrificed animals. To say the animals were guiltless is to make an ethical argument against their sacrifice, not just a technical argument.
Simon Peter, debating with Simon Magus, said that god did not wish animals to be slain, which would indicate he was an ethical vegetarian:
But that He is not pleased with sacrifices, is shown by this, that those who lusted after flesh were slain as soon as they tasted it, and were consigned to a tomb, so that it was called the grave of lusts [a reference to Numbers 11:34]. He 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. For neither are sacrifices accomplished without the slaughter of animals…?. But how is it possible for Him to abide in darkness, and smoke, and storm… who created a pure heaven, and created the sun to give light to all. (The Clementine Homilies, 3:45, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 247.)
According to the Clementina, Peter said, “I live on bread alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot-herbs…?.” (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158; Clementine Homilies, 12:6, Vol. 8, p. 293.) Peter spoke well of the vegetarian Brahmans of India. (The Recognitions of Clement, 9:20, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 187; also 9:27, p. 189.)
The seven Laws of Noah included the prohibition against eating flesh cut from a live animal, a term of art which refers to the rule against raising, working, and killing animals in a cruel way. (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Noahian Laws,”
Recall that part of James’ ruling at the Jerusalem Council was that gentile converts “abstain from… what is strangled…?.” (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29, 21:25.) This again is almost certainly a term of art which refers to the same rule against raising, working, and killing animals in a cruel way. Judaism has long prohibited cruelty to animals even when it allowed their killing as a concession to man’s inability to quit eating meat. (Genesis 9:3-4; Leviticus 3:17; Deuteronomy 12:16. See the section of this book entitled Paul, James, and the Jerusalem Council, p. 122; Sanhedrin 56; Judaism 101, “Treatment of Animals,”
Judeo-Christians were flatly opposed to killing animals for food: The messiah they expected was to be vegetarian and return the world to a vegetarian Eden. They believed the killing of animals for food to be unethical. Jesus considered the animals to be innocent or guiltless. I conclude that Jesus and his Judeo-Christian successors were ethical vegetarians, not temporary or “technical” vegetarians.
Edmond Szekely (died 1979) published the Essene Gospel of Peace in 1937. Szekely spoke ten modern languages and was a master of classical Latin, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. He was an admirer of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), Benedict (c.480-c.550), and Jerome (c. 342-420), all of whom had been inspired by the Essenes and followed certain Essene traditions.
Szekely claimed that he obtained access to the books of a “secret” Vatican Library, miles of old documents not open to the public. (Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, The Discovery of the Essene Gospel of Peace.) There he said he found and translated from Aramaic, what he said were genuine Essene writings dating from the period after the death of Jesus. He said these Essene documents came to the Vatican library through St. Jerome and through the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. According to Szekely, these Essene writings have also survived in Old Slavonic in the Royal Archives of the Hapsburgs, having been taken there by Nestorian Christian priests of central Asia, who were fleeing west from the armies of Genghis Khan (whose dates are 1162-1227).
In the Essene Gospel of Peace Jesus is presented as a healer who often is surrounded by the sick. He teaches followers to fast completely on Saturdays (which customarily is not a Jewish fast day but a feast day), generally to eat only twice each day (an ancient Jewish custom), and to chew food slowly and prayerfully. Jesus opposes eating meat and drinking wine. He prescribes raw foods, with an emphasis on young sprouts, and opposes eating cooked foods. He includes instructions in how to sprout grain and make it into bread by baking it in the sun. Jesus stresses meditation among the trees, deep breathing, basking in the sun, and bathing daily. Except for the stress on a vegetarian diet, the most unusual features, and the only ones which the orthodox might find unusual, are a stress on an Earthly Mother to complement the Heavenly Father and the use of the term “Son of Man” as a reference not to Jesus but to all humans. In the Essene Gospel of Peace, Jesus says:
[A]ll must be born again of sun and of truth, for your body basks in the sunlight of the Earthly Mother, and your spirit basks in the sunlight of the truth of the Heavenly Father.… For truly, no one can reach the Heavenly Father unless through the Earthly Mother. (p. 18.)… For the spirit of the Son of Man was created from the spirit of the Heavenly Father, and his body from the body of the Earthly Mother. (p. 19.)…
And many unclean and sick followed Jesus’ words…?. They put off their shoes and their clothing, they fasted, and they gave up their bodies to the angels of air, of water, and of sunshine. (p. 24.)…
It was said to them of old time, ‘Honor thy Heavenly Father and thy Earthly Mother, and do their commandments…?.’ And next afterward was given this commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill…?.’… For I tell you, from one Mother proceeds all that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his brother…?. [H]e who kills, kills himself, and whoso eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats of the body of death…?. (p. 36.) You do not… transgress the law if you kill the wild beast to save your brother’s life…?. But he who kills the beast… for its flesh, or for its hide, or yet for its tusks, evil is the deed which he does, for he is turned into a wild beast himself. (p. 38.)
God commanded your forefathers: Thou shalt not kill.’ But their heart was hardened and they killed. Then Moses desired that at least they should not kill men, and he suffered them to kill beasts…?. But I do say to you: Kill neither men, nor beasts, nor yet the food which goes into your mouth. (p. 39.)…
[P]repare not your foods with the fire of death, which kills your foods, your bodies and your souls also… . Moisten your wheat, that the angel of water may enter it…?. And the blessing of the three angels will soon make the germ of life to sprout in your wheat. Then crush your grain, and make thin wafers, as did your forefathers when they departed out of Egypt…?. Put them… beneath the sun… and leave them there until the sun be set [a different but quite plausible interpretation of the manna of Exodus 16]…?. (p. 40.)… So eat… the fruits of the trees, the grain and grasses of the field, the milk of beasts and the honey of bees…?. (p. 41.)
[I]f you mix together all sorts of food in your body, then the peace of your body will cease…?. Eat only when the sun is highest in the heavens, and again when it is set. (p. 42.)… And chew well your food with your teeth… [a]nd eat slowly, as it were a prayer you make to the Lord.… On the seventh day [Fasting on the Sabbath would seem a very un-Jewish behavior] eat not any earthly food, but live only on the words of God…?. (pp. 43-44.)… And take no delight in any drink, nor in any smoke from Satan…?.(p. 45.)
The idea that the Holy Spirit is a woman has been suppressed in the authorized New Testament, however, the notion is present in ancient Judeo-Christian gospels, which were destroyed and survive only in quotations made by orthodox theologians. For example, Origen, quotes from the Gospel of the Hebrews, although in a disparaging way:
If any one should lend credence to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Savior Himself says, “My mother, the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great mount Tabor,” he will have to face the difficulty of explaining how the Holy Spirit can be the mother of Christ when it was itself brought into existence through the Word. (Commentary on John, 2:6,; see Origen’s Homily on Jeremiah 15:4 and Jerome’s Commentary on Micha 7:5-7; see A.F.J. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, p. 7, 52 ff.)
Origen was wrong. Although spirit is masculine in Latin, spiritus, and neuter in Greek, pneuma, it is feminine in Hebrew and Aramaic, ruach or rucha. Every time Jesus talked about the holy spirit, he and his listeners were thinking “she.” An enormous amount got lost in translation. The original trinity was the father, the mothering spirit, and the sons and daughters of god. (See Jewish Encyclopedia article on “Trinity,”
Further, in the oldest known Christian hymns, the Odes of Solomon, written in Syriac in the First Century, the word “spirit” is feminine, and there are numerous references to the spirit as “she.” (James Hamilton Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: The Syriac Texts, 11:2 at p. 52, 19:2 at p. 82, 35:1 at p. 126.)
I have a friend who knew Edmund Szekely and had his complete confidence. My friend says that Edmund’s students have gone to the Vatican Library and asked to see the Essene Gospel of Peace. They have been told that there is no such gospel. ( My friend says the Vatican librarians would not allow Szekely to copy the Essene Gospel and that he utilized his photographic memory to bring his translations out. In response to that, I must say that if he had brought out the original Aramaic instead of just his translation of it—even just a few sentences—, the case for the genuineness of the Essene Gospel would be stronger. My friend says that Szekely had his own reasons for writing for the layman and not adding numerous references and footnotes to his books. I suggest that Szekely’s Gospel be read as his best estimation of what Ebionite Pythagorean Jewish Christians believed and how they worshiped and lived. I suggest that Szekely cast it as a pseudepigrapha or an apocrypha, as a comment on the accepted books of the Bible, many or most of which are written in the name of heroes of years before. As such, his Essene Gospel is worth reading.
I would theorize that it is possible that Szekely disguised the location of the manuscript so as to protect the identity of the librarian who made it available to him and to protect the book itself from censors.
Does the Essene Gospel of Peace contain the actual words of Jesus? Is it an apocryphal composition created in the first centuries of our era by Judeo-Christian Essenes and Ebionites which accurately reflects their beliefs but does not contain the actual words of Jesus? Or is it a composition created out of whole cloth by Szekely based on writings about the Essenes by Josephus, Philo, and Pliny?
Szekely was a modern day prophet. He traveled the world, established a neo-Essene center in Mexico, knew the intellects of his day, and lived a fulfilling life, the kind others only dream of. He authored several dozen books, all of them worthy of reading, particularly his biographies. (International Biogenic Society, Box 849, Nelson, BC, Canada V1L-6A5.) I look forward to the rediscovery of the Essene Gospel in the original language. Until that happens, the Essene Gospel merits both consideration and an degree of skepticism.
Radical German theologian Holger Kersten (Jesus Lived in India) reports on legends from India, which say Jesus went to India after surviving his crucifixion and lived to an old age in Srinagar, Kashmir, where he says a tomb of Issa the Jew survives to this day. Hugh J. Schonfield (The Essene Odyssey, p. 98 ff.), explored theories that the Issa of Kashmir was the Jesus of Nazareth and concluded there was no connection between the two, although he does not cover all the issues Kersten raises.
Russian Nicolas Notovitch, apparently a vegetarian, claimed that in 1887 he visited the monastery of Hemis in Leh, which is in the eastern part Kashmir that once was part of Tibet. He said he had heard that the Buddhist monks had manuscripts which told of the Jewish prophet Issa—as in Iesus or Jesus. Notovitch alleged that monks read to his translator from the Buddhist manuscripts in the Pali or Tibetan language, and that his translator translated in turn to Notovitch, who took notes, apparently in Russian or French. The story in the manuscripts purports to be based on reports brought back from the Levant by merchants shortly after Jesus’ death. The book makes for good reading.
In the Buddhist gospel of Notovitch the prophet Issa stated to the people of Kashmir, “Not only must you desist from offering human sacrifices, but you must immolate [burn] no animal to which life has been given, for all things have been created for the benefit of man.” (Notovitch, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, p. 37.)
However, Tibetan Buddhists carefully list all known books on Buddhism and a book about Issa is unknown to them. Further, Tibetan Buddhists obtained their Tibetan translations out of Sanskrit, not Pali. A Professor Archibald Douglas investigated the story and found that Notovitch had never visited the monastery or interviewed the monks. Notovitch was exposed, and he confessed. It appears that being a vegetarian does not prevent one from being a fraud. (John Davidson, The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of His Original Teachings, p. 136 ff.) Notovitch’s book continues to sell with no disclaimer included.
Various New Testament passages would imply that Jesus was not a vegetarian. Jesus made analogies using fish (Matthew 7:10), told his followers where to catch fish (Matthew 17:27), fed fish to his audience (Matthew 14:17, 15:36; John 6:9), performed a miracle with a fish (Matthew 17:27), selected apostles who were fishermen, told those apostles he would make them “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:19), and cooked and ate fish after his resurrection (Luke 24:42, John 21:9).
One might argue that Jesus and the Essenes were fish vegetarians. Paul mentioned that fish flesh was different from other meat. (1 Corinthians 15:39.) Marcion was a vegetarian except that he was said to regard sea food as “the more sacred diet,” by which some presume that fish was the only meat he ate on fast days or perhaps the only meat he ate at any time. (Tertullian Against Marcion, 1:14, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, p. 281.)
However, my theory is that the many New Testament references to fish were not part of the original tradition but were added later—for astrological and mystical reasons or to make a statement that meat eating was acceptable.
Examine the last two chapters of the gospel of John. It is clear that the 20th chapter constitutes a logical ending for the book and that the 21st chapter—the one containing the story of Jesus after his resurrection telling the apostles where to fish and cooking fish—appears to be a coda that was added later. There was a numerological reason for adding the 21st chapter, as discussed a few paragraphs below.
Consider the stories of the feeding of the 5,000 men (not counting women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:17, Mark 6:38) and the story of the feeding of 4,000 men with seven loaves and a few fish. (Matthew 15:34, Mark 8:6.) Fish was not originally on Matthew’s menu: Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (c. 130 to 202), relying on versions of the gospels older than the ones later canonized by the Roman church, and from which we read today, twice states that the multitude was fed with bread only. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, 2:22:3, 2:24:4, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Volume I, p. 391, 395.
Further, these fish stories are similar in structure to the story of Elisha feeding 100 men with twenty loaves, and in that story there is no mention of any fish. (II Kings 4:42.) Just as many stories in the New Testament are modeled after Old Testament stories (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 26:54, 26:56, 27:9, 27:35), it is possible that the New Testament stories about Jesus feeding the multitude derive from the Elisha story.
Examine the stories themselves. In one story Jesus holds and blesses the loaves and the fish but gives only the loaves to his disciples. (Matthew 14:13-21, 15:32-39; see Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-21; Luke 9:12-17.) John too refers to the feeding of the 5,000, and he too mentions five loaves and two fishes. However, a few verses later, Jesus rebukes some who have followed, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:1-14, 26.) It appears that the editor who added the fish to the menu at the beginning of these stories forgot to add it in subsequent references, a sign the text was tampered with, and in an amateurish way.
Peter and Andrew were said to be fishers. Jesus called them to be “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18 ff.; Mark 1:17.) Jesus implied that a fish would be a good gift. (Matthew 7:10.) Jesus gave fishing tips to Peter. (Luke 5:1 ff.) I suggest that these fish stories too were later additions. In the Clementina Peter states that his diet included only bread, olives, and pot herbs. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158; Clementine Homilies, 12:6, Vol. 8, p. 293.)
Most readers of the New Testament are naively trusting when it comes to the validity of the text, however, there are clear signs of tampering, and generally the tampering occurs when a certain doctrine needs to be stressed or when a certain heretical doctrine needs an authoritative rebuke. In a time when there were few books, the Roman church, supported by the state censor, could change them all and thus change the flow of ideas.
In John 21 the resurrected Jesus is barbecuing fish on the lake shore, waiting for his apostles. He tells his followers where to catch more fish. The number of fish caught is 153. When two circles overlap such that the circumference of each touches the center of the other, the ratio of the height to the width of the part of the two circles which overlap is 153:265, which Archimedes referred to as the “measure of the fish,” and which probably goes back to Pythagoras. “It is… the nearest whole number approximation of the square root of three and the controlling ratio of the equilateral triangle.” Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? p. 40; David Fideler, Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism, p. 108.) The overlapping circumferences of the two circles, plus a continuation of the fins, produces the fish symbol which represents Christianity. The fish is fatter and shorter than the skinnier and longer fish usually portrayed on the back of “Christian cars.”
In relation to fish generally, it is important to bear in mind the significance of astrology to almost all philosophies and sects in Jesus’ day. It was by way of astrological analysis that the Zoroastrian priests from Persia—the Magi or Wise Men—were said to have located the child Jesus. Johannes Kepler calculated that in May, October, and December of 7 B.C.E. there were conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Pisces. (Hugh Schonfield, The Pentecost Revolution, p. 46.) Pisces was a popular Jewish symbol, one with messianic overtones. Jupiter and Saturn were symbols of highest rulership. This approach to the magi story—although the entire story may be apocryphal—squares with the aspect of the story in which the magicians did not go directly to Bethlehem but went first to Jerusalem to inquire as to where the new born Jewish king might be found. It does not square with the part of the story in which the star stood like a beacon over the house where Jesus was staying with his parents (Matthew 2: 1-9), which was probably a separate addition, made by an editor who did not understand the astrological significance of the story.
Just as we today we sing songs about entering the astrological Age of Aquarius—the water carrier and thus the symbol of peace—, people in Jesus’ day were celebrating their entry into the new Age of Pisces, the age of the fish.
The astrological ages each last roughly 2,150 years and are based on the earth’s wobble—like a spinning top—which causes the North Pole to point to different areas of the sky, making a full circle in roughly 25,800 years. The zodiacal eras proceed in the opposite order of the months of the zodiac that appear in the newspaper.
Before the era of Pisces the fish, was the era of Aries the ram, c. 1930 B.C.E. to c. 221 C.E. Various religions during that period chose the ram as symbol or object of sacrifice. Jesus was called the “lamb of god.” (John 1:29, 36, Acts 8:32, Revelation 5:6, 8, 12). The Aryans were invading Iran and India and the Hyksos were invading Egypt shortly after 2000 B.C.E. The Hyksos were the “shepherd kings.” They introduced horses and chariots to Egypt, and this is the point when the Egyptians developed an organized military system. (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 101, citing James Harvey Breasted, A History of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 193, 319.) There may be a linguistic connection between the terms Aries (“ram” in Latin) and Aryan (“noble” in Sanskrit).
Before the era of Aries was the era of Taurus the bull, c. 4080 to 1930 B.C.E. (Peter Lemesurier, The Nostradamus Encyclopedia, p. 62.) This was the time when cattle herding, horseback riding Aryan and Semitic patriarchs were invading the Near East and Old Europe. Around 3000 B.C.E., the bull was being worshiped by the highly influential cults of Isis and Osiris. The bull was believed to bring the inundation of the Nile. Images of the bull are common in temples built in this period. Osiris, worshiped as a bull, was killed and resurrected, and his worshipers drank blood and later a liquid symbolic of blood. However, beginning around 2000 B.C.E., as the era of Aries was dawning, Osiris began to be represented as a ram. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 10 f.) Religions changed with changes in the zodiac.
The era of Pisces in Latin was the Age of Ichthus in Greek, both words meaning “fish.” The sign of Pisces was understood by astrologists to refer to the Jews. Christians, originally a Jewish sect, adopted the symbol of the fish and made the Greek letters into an acrostic that summarized Christian teaching: “Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior.” The letters correspond to the following words:
I    i    ihsous    Iesous    Jesus
Ch    c    cristos    Christos    Christ
Th    q    qesu    theou    of God
U    u    uios    huios    the son
S    s    soter     soter    savior

The orthodox would argue that the true doctrine regarding Jesus begat the adoption of the acrostic. The critic would argue that astrology begot the acrostic, which in turn begat the doctrine.
The fish was a symbol of divinity among the Phoenicians, and so they refused to eat fish, just as Hebrews refused to eat pork. Jews had long utilized fish symbolism. Joshua, Moses apprentice, was the “son of Nun,” which means “son of fish.” “Joshua” in Hebrew is “Jesus” or “Iesous” in Greek. (Gedaiahu G. Stroumsa, “The Early Christian Fish Symbol Reconsidered,” Messiah and Christos: Studies in the Jewish Origins of Christianity, p. 199 ff.)
In what sense did the Judeo-Christians, the original Christians, consider Jesus to be the son of god? This question is relevant to our inquiry because it tests two arguments: whether the Judeo-Christians had a consistent theory about Jesus as an ethical teacher and opponent of animal sacrifice and meat eating, and whether the stories of Jesus eating fish were added as part of revisionist efforts to deify him.
The Judeo-Christians regarded Jesus as the prophet predicted by Moses and messiah but not as the son of god in the divine sense. Epiphanius interviewed them and said of them:
… [T]hey say that this is why Jesus was begotten of the seed of a man and chosen, and thus named Son of God by election, after the Christ who had come to him from on high in the form of a dove…?. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:16:3, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, Section II, p. 132.)
Judeo-Christians believed god adopted Jesus as his son at the time of his baptism, as discussed below.
The Clementina, also referred to as the Pseudo-Clementine Literature, because it is attributed to Clement of Rome, appears to be a revision of early Judeo-Christian documents. In the story, Clement a convert to Judeo-Christianity, spends time following Simon Peter and recording his speeches. In the Clementina, Jesus is referred to repeatedly as messiah and true prophet. (Recognitions of Clement, 1:45, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, p. 89). Even the writer of Luke and Acts says the early Judeo-Christians—including the apostles—referred to Jesus as a prophet. (Luke 24:19, Acts 3:22.)
Israelites generally were called the sons of god. (Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:6, 32:18.) When kings were inaugurated in ancient Israel, they were anointed, meaning that sacred oil was poured on their heads. Moshiah in Hebrew—just as christos in Greek—means “one anointed.” All the kings of Israel and Judah were thus messiahs. As a part of the coronation ceremony it was declared, as in Psalms 2:7, “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” and as in 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” Each Hebrew king was the adopted son of God; however, there was never any suggestion that the king was supernaturally conceived, as was the belief regarding certain divinely begotten Egyptian, Greek, and Roman kings, the gods of the mystery religions, Zoroaster, and even the Gautama Buddha. (John Hick, The Myth of God Incarnate, “Jesus and the World Religions,” p. 174.)
The Judeo-Christians taught that at the time of Jesus’ baptism a voice from heaven said, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” and “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.” (Mark 1:11; Acts 10:38, 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5; cf. John 1:14,18, 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9, 5:1; Revelation 1:5.) The Judeo-Christians had no virgin birth story; for them Jesus was the natural born child of Joseph and Mary. (Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; John 6:42; see The Family of Jesus, the Judeo-Christian Caliphate, p. 142.)
There is evidence that the original versions of the Gospels were tampered with on this point: The gospels in the version we today have say, regarding Jesus after his baptism: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22.) But early Pauline Christian father Justin Martyr (who died around 165) quotes from an early version of Matthew which includes the additional words, “This day have I begotten thee.” These words would indicate that Jesus was not a son of god until he was adopted at his baptism. (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 88, 103, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 244, 251,
Editors and censors excised the offending sentence, “This day have I begotten thee.” They probably did this at the same time as they tacked the virgin birth story onto the beginning of Matthew and Luke. They did not do a complete job, for they forgot to excise the same phrase in Hebrews and Acts: “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.” (Hebrews 1:5, 5:5; Acts 13:33.) St. Augustine discusses this issue, in great detail. (Reply to Faustus the Manichean, XXIII, 2,
As gentile Christians expanded into the Roman world, they modeled their concept of Jesus as son of god after the pagan concept of the king as son of god, for example, Alexander, and the trinitarian teachings of Mithraism regarding the father, mother, and son gods.
Tertullian (died c. 220) referred to Christians as “little fish.” (Tertullian, On Baptism, 1:3.) Gentile Christians came to observe Jesus’ birthday on December 25, which had been the birthday of Mithra (“Feast and Festival,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., 1979, Macropaedia, 7:202.) Followers of Mithraism had a communion of bread and wine and observed Sunday as their holy day. They had stories involving a virgin birth and visitations of shepherds.  (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 182 ff.)
This long discussion about astrology, theories about the son of god, and tampering with the text is relevant to my main point for three reasons: First, there was good reason for those who compiled and revised the gospels in Greek to expand the fish symbolism in order to strengthen their doctrine of Jesus as a deity, and thus there is no good reason to have any confidence in the authenticity of the New Testament fish stories.
Second, the fact that the text has been tampered with allows the possibility that the Judeo-Christian gospels originally contained even more material which referred to Jesus as opponent of cruelty to animals and vegetarian in diet.
Third, the elevation of Jesus to cosmic sacrifice and god co-equal with the father crowded out the original story of Jesus as son of man, prophet like unto Moses, messiah-king, and vegetarian teacher of peace and mercy, including mercy to animals.
The Great Church deified Jesus, something he definitely would not have wanted. At the same time it forgot the most important aspect of Jesus, his ethical teachings. And this is how the Church came to worship a hollow caricature of Jesus.

The original Judeo-Christians believed Jesus was messiah and true prophet but not deity. They had no virgin birth legend. They believed Jesus was the natural-born son of Joseph and Mary, born after they were properly married, and that they together were parents to five sons and at least two daughters. (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 4:22; John 6:42; Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.22.5, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 120 ff., 138; see the sections of this book entitled Ebionites vs. Nazarenes, p. 93, and The Family of Jesus, the Judeo-Christian Caliphate, p. 142.)
Paul makes no mention of the virgin birth, and he surely would have mentioned it if he had known of it, because his goal was to prove the cosmic significance of Jesus. (Colossians 1:15 ff., Ephesians 3:11.) Mark, the oldest of the four surviving orthodox gospels, and John, the latest, make no mention of the virgin birth. Passages in Matthew (1:23) and Luke (1:27) which tell the virgin birth story appear only at the beginning of those books. The first two chapters of Matthew and Luke are followed by the story of John the Baptist, while Mark, the oldest gospel, begins with the story of the Baptist. The virgin birth story appears to have been tacked onto the beginning of Matthew and Luke.
If the virgin birth was not part of the original story, where did it come from? The gentiles, which the Pauline church had set out to convert, were under the influence of Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and other mystery religions, and adherents to these religions could not conceive of a savior figure who was not a god or born of a god. Birth stories in which the deity impregnated the woman were thus a necessary element if the gospel were to be attractive to gentiles. (Martin A. Larson, The Religion of the Occident, p. 87, 462 ff., 470.) Once the church had come to regard Jesus as an actual god or the son of a woman impregnated by god, there would have been theological motivation for redactors to eliminate the fatherhood of Joseph from Mark 6:3, leaving the word “carpenter” in the text but changing the reference from Joseph to Jesus. Compare Matthew 13:55, Luke 4:22, and John 6:42, where Jesus is the “carpenter’s son” or “Joseph’s son.”
The Judeo-Christian Ebionites were a pre-rabbinic sect of Judaism, just as were the Pharisees, immediate ancestors of the rabbinic Judaism of today. They spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, and in those languages “spirit” was ruach or rucha, a feminine word. The mystical kabbalah referred to the ruach as shekinah. Soon Pauline Christianity took root at Antioch, a city founded by Greeks, and from there spread throughout the Greek speaking world. The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, a neuter word. Christianity moved west to Rome, where in Latin the word “spirit” is spiritus, a masculine word. Thus, it was easy for the Pauline church to put the holy spirit through a theological sex-change operation and transform her from female to male.
Gentile Christianity evolved a godhead in which the father, son, and holy spirit were all male. With the spirit now male, it was possible to develop the teaching that Mary was “with child of the Holy Spirit,” and “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” and “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35.) Only a male holy spirit could have impregnated Mary. Such a teaching could only have developed outside Palestine among people who were ignorant of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judaism in general. In the Hebrew and Aramaic, which Jesus and his first followers spoke, the idea of a female holy spirit impregnating Mary would have been linguistically impossible.
As I point out elsewhere, both Judeo-Christianity and Judaism had a trinity in which there was 1) god the father, 2) god the mothering spirit, and 3) the sons and daughters of god. We are all made in the image of god and are god’s sons and daughters and are part of the trinity. All the kings of Israel were messiahs and were considered adopted sons of god, as I discuss elsewhere. Jesus is the exemplary child of god which Christians are to imitate.
Early gentile Christians longed to worship god as a mother. So they began to elevate Mary to special status and adopted the teaching that she was a lifelong virgin. In 431 at the Council of Ephesus it was decreed proper to revere Mary as theotokos or god-bearer. There was dancing in the streets.
Jesus is also quoted as saying:
For John came neither eating [meat?] nor drinking [wine?], and they say, “He has a demon;” the Son of Man came eating [meat?] and drinking [wine?], and they say, “Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. (Matthew 11:18. My comments are in square brackets.)
It is not clear from this cryptic passage whether Matthew was merely reporting the slanders of his enemies or agreeing with them. The Ebionite Judeo-Christians flatly contradicted the “blasphemy” that Jesus had been “…a gluttonous man and a belly-slave….” (The Recognitions of Clement, 1:40, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 88, Further, Luke said that Jesus would be a Nazarite, and Nazarites do not drink wine. (Luke 1:15.)
According to Mark, the Pharisees criticize Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat “with hands defiled, that is, unwashed.” (Mark 7:1 ff.) After a discussion of other matters, Jesus returns to the subject of defilement and says:
…[T]here is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on? (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and they defile a man. (Mark 7:14-23; emphasis added.)
Compare the same story as related by Matthew. Again the Pharisees criticize Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands first. Jesus counter-attacks by saying that the Pharisees wheedle out of their duty to support their parents financially in their old age and thus fail to “honor” them, thus breaking a much more serious law. Notice the subtle differences with Mark’s version:
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man. (Emphasis added. Matthew 15:10-20; compare Luke 11:41.)
Was Jesus saying that any food could be eaten—as Mark reports—or that any food otherwise kosher could be eaten without washing hands first—as Matthew reports? Jesus’ emphasis in Matthew was on his opposition to the evil people say and do, not a carte blanche authorization for people to eat just anything, including meat or non-kosher food. The reference to food entering the stomach was originally a reference to food which was unclean because it was eaten with unwashed hands, not unclean because it was meat or non-kosher meat.
The editor of Mark leaves the hand washing question behind for ten verses, and a new subject is begun when Jesus calls the people to him again. The editor then adds the parenthetical statement, “Thus he declared all foods clean” to suit his own objectives: Perhaps the editor was a part of Paul’s anti-vegetarian wing of the church and wanted to show that vegetarianism and keeping kosher were no longer important. (Acts 10:14, Romans 14:14.)
In Matthew the issue is whether eating food that is otherwise kosher but eaten with unwashed hands could make a person unclean, and the answer is no, whereas in Mark the issue is whether eating non-kosher food, including unclean meats, could make a person unclean, and the answer is no. The declaration that all foods are clean appears only in Mark and is not repeated in Matthew or Luke, which would indicate that the redactor who turned Proto-Mark into Mark, a person unsympathetic with the vegetarianism of the Judeo-Christians, tampered with the text, adding this sentence to Mark but forgetting to add it to Matthew and Luke.
In doing critical analysis about this and other issues, take into account several factors:
1) The four gospels we have to day were put into writing by followers of the anti-vegetarians Paul and John or their disciples, compiled from memorized sermons based on what gentile preachers could remember of a Judeo-Christian gospel, which they had heard but had no copy of.
2) Most or all the books in our canonical New Testament passed through a Pauline, anti-vegetarian filter. See 1 Corinthians 8 where Paul claims there was no problem with eating idol meat, and Romans 14:14 where he says all foods are clean. Compare these to James’ ruling at the Jerusalem Council where gentile Christians were told not to eat meat offered to idols or animals “strangled,” using a term of art that means treated, worked, or killed inhumanely (Acts 15:20) and the guideline in the Didache that believers were to be on their guard against eating idol meat. (The Teachings of the Apostles, 6:2-3, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 378; See Acts 10:14 where Peter receives a vision in which he is told to eat meat that is not kosher, and compare this with Judeo-Christian sources which say Peter ate only vegetables. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158; Clementine Homilies, 12:6, Vol. 8, p. 293.)
3) Editors of New Testament books revised and altered them shamelessly, but in some cases editors either forgot to excise certain passages inconsistent with other excisions or could not excise them because they were too well known for editors to alter or delete them.
4) The four canonical gospels and Acts were written at a time when gentiles were competing with Pharisees and Judeo-Christians for converts, and this would explain why the gospel writers would quote Jesus as saying such hateful things about Jews and Pharisees. Compare James, probably written by Jesus’ brother and thus probably written before 62 C.E., when James was murdered, which contains no such anti-Jewish or anti-Pharisee language.
5) Mark is the older of the gentile gospels, and normally Matthew and Luke copy from Mark. This is a case where Matthew and Luke copied from a Proto-Mark that was older than the version of Mark we now have. Later Proto-Mark was edited into the Mark we know, which includes the language about Jesus declaring all foods clean. (See
“In the reign of [Emperor] Theodosius there were so many heretics among the clergy and monks in Egypt that the Patriarch Timothy made eating meat compulsory on Sundays, to flush out the vegetarian Gnostics!” (S.N.C. Lieu, Manichaeism, Manchester University Press, 1985, p. 146; Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, Penguin Books, 1986, p. 602, both cited by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? 246.)
Modern writers who reinterpret Jesus suffer from a common tendency to presume that their heroes share their beliefs. They tend to focus only on those aspects of the highly contradictory tradition about Jesus which fit their preconceptions. I fear I am doing the same, and I constantly ask myself if I am finding in my research only the results I want to find. It is for this reason that I read with greatest eagerness writings which disagree with my thesis.
So I carefully consider alternative interpretations: Maybe Jesus was not an Essene, was not a vegetarian, and enjoyed eating meat without thinking of the ethical implications involved. Maybe despite this, the Essenes for some reason—it is hard to imagine what it would be —admired him and joined his cause in large numbers, quickly developing a sizeable sect of their own within the early Judeo-Christian movement. Once Jesus was dead, they were free to redefine Jesus according to their own vegetarian preconceptions of what the messiah should be. Maybe these Judeo-Christian vegetarians kidnapped the memory of Jesus and refashioned him into a vegetarian. The main problem with this hypothesis is that it would not explain why the vegetarian Essenes admired Jesus and joined his movement in the first place.
Orthodox theologians propose a different alternative hypothesis. They say that the apostles immediately adopted Paul’s teachings and practices (!) and then “re-Judaized,” meaning they backslid and readopted Jewish practices dietary habits, including vegetarianism, along with a low christology. This theory is improbable to the point of absurdity.
Such alternative hypotheses would assume that theology evolves from the complex to the simple, when it always runs the other way, from the simple to the complex, with Jesus starting out as true prophet and messiah and then growing in stature to physical son of god and then full deity. The alternative hypotheses would assume that religions do not drop teachings which are inconvenient such as dietary restrictions.
Not sacrificing and eating animals was at the core of the original pre-Hebrew religion. The messianic era was to be a time when animals would not be sacrificed or treated cruelly or eaten. There was an ancient vegetarian tendency within Judaism that had resurfaced and was strong in Jesus’ day. Jesus was the intellectual kin of vegetarian groups that preceded him. His apostles avoided flesh food as did the members of his “church” for some 400 years. So I find these alternate hypotheses to be improbable.
What is much more likely is that the memory of Jesus the vegetarian Essene was kidnapped by Paul, who had never met Jesus except on the road to Damascus and in his other visions. Paul and others set up churches in Antioch and other Greek cities, finding success among gentiles who were followers of Mithraism and other mystery religions. This was the early point where a mutant version of Christianity sprang to life, a new branch only remotely related to the original tree. This would explain why we have so little information about Jesus: because the gospels and most of the epistles were written by Paul or his followers, people who had never spent any time with Jesus or with those who had known him. Some Jews and some semi-converts to Judaism were converted to Christianity in Antioch and other gentile cities, and so Jewish values flowed into early gentile Christianity, but these people had not known Jesus or his followers either. The vegetarianism of Jesus and his original followers was demoted in importance by these meat-eating converts, although they continued to fast from meat two days each week and during other holy days. The original Jewish church was marginalized and gradually eliminated. So too were Jesus’ teachings about setting up a Jewish kingdom with him as its head, about evicting the Roman slaveocracy from Palestine, about bringing peace to the world, and about treating animals with dignity.
As I mention elsewhere, the four gospels we have are highly fragmented and disconnected—because they were pieced together from lengthy memorized Sunday sermons which were later written down and then heavily edited. The Jesus that remains in our canonical gospels is a stick man drawn in black and white. Just as in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, it is not clear in the gospels why Jesus does what he does. However, if we presume that he was a Davidian messiah-king and communist who shut down the sacrifices for some period of time and thus threatened the meat and leather business of the Sadducees and priests, the picture of Jesus comes into focus takes on depth and color. Some argue that my hypothesis that Jesus was a vegetarian messiah cannot be proved. I admit I cannot prove it with 100 percent certainty. However, it is the only hypothesis that is internally consistent. All the other hypotheses—including the New Testament as we have it today—make no sense whatsoever and can be proved at a zero percent level of certainty. Further, even if I cannot prove with certainty that Jesus was a vegetarian, I can still prove that many people around him were vegetarian, that he aimed to put an end to the killing of animals as part of Jewish religious ritual, and even that he temporarily stopped the sacrificing of animals in the Temple.
Finally, I can prove that there existed a messianic movement before and after Jesus that called its followers, and still calls us, to avoid cruelty to the animal kingdom. The Seventh Law of Noah was very important to Jesus’ group. Jesus was not a historical aberration. He was part of a movement which stretches from Genesis to Revelation, from Old Europe before the Aryan invasions to Pythagoras, to the Hebrew prophets, to the Buddha, to the Judeo-Christians, to the anti-slavery movement, to Tolstoy, to Gandhi, and to those today who try to rouse us awake from our moral slumber and treat both humans and animals ethically.
In Roman times most cultures had no welfare agencies for the aged, the disabled, the poor, single mothers and their children, or orphans. Roman parents wanted mostly male sons and no more than one daughter, and they routinely “exposed” infant daughters. They left them by the roadside, there to be eaten by dogs, pigs, or vultures. The lucky few were adopted by Jews, Judeo-Christians, or gentile Christians. (The Wars of the Jews, tr. Wm. Whiston, Book II, 8:2-13, p. 476, ff.) Peter and Andrew were said to have been adopted. (The Recognitions of Clement, 7:6, Roberts and Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 158.)
In Roman society women had few rights. Due to rampant infanticide of girl babies, there were 130 or 140 men to every 100 women. Girls were typically married off at 12, even before puberty, and put to work in polygamous households. A woman’s property was controlled either by her husband or, when he died, her sons. As I say elsewhere, the Romans were one of the most vicious of Aryan tribes, and worthy of no admiration.
Among Christians women had essentially the same rights as among Jews. Women were not forced to marry. Women converted to Christianity in large numbers. These sects adopted exposed babies, which were mostly girls. Not surprisingly, among Christians there was a 60-40 ratio of women to men. Some of these women married pagan men, and usually they converted them or at least raised Christian children. (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 65, 73-94, 95-128.)
Unmarried Christian women formed an order of widows, which I presume also included unwed mothers and their children. The women of this order cared for each other, for orphans, and for other needy people. (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 3:11, 5:3-16; Romans 16:1-2.) These women were present when male clergy met with women. For sake of modesty, they assisted with baptisms at a time when adult baptism by immersion, in the nude, was the norm. Widows were told to take orders from the deaconesses. (“Deaconess,” and “Widows,” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1966 ed., p. 377, p. 1457.)
In 165 C.E. and 251 C.E. there were plagues—probably smallpox and then measles—which killed up to a third of the population of the Roman Empire each time. Those who could do so left affected cities, including the physicians and pagan priests. However, the Christians stayed, and they cared for their own sick plus as many sick pagans as they could. Food, water, and shelter can save most of those who would otherwise die in such plagues. Among pagans probably only two-thirds survived, while among Christians and those they cared for perhaps 90 percent survived. These events all contributed to the rapid increase in the number of Christians within the empire.
Churches were used as soup kitchens. Pagan Romans were amazed at the enormous scale of Christian charity. (William Edward Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, 1869, vol. ii, p. 84, cited by Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 425.) Christians were simply following Jesus’ teaching regarding caring for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. (Matthew 7:12, 25:31-46.)
Originally Christianity had been grounded in the ethical and theological teachings of Judaism; all the original Christian leaders had been Jews. Jerusalem had been the first Vatican. Disagreements were submitted to the mother church, and her rulings kept the church unified. (Acts 15.) However, following the assassination of James in 62 C.E., the first Christians fled Jerusalem. There was no church which had authority over the Christian movement as a whole. The Roman bishop had not yet gained authority over other sees. With its rudder lost, early Christianity fragmented quickly into dozens of bickering sects.
The division came because of theological quibbles over just who Jesus had been and the nature of Jesus’ relationship with god. Had James survived and had his successors not been on the run from the Romans, such questions could have been resolved by those who had known Jesus. The division weakened the church to the point where most Christians in the Levant converted to Islam in the Seventh Century.
The sect which evolved into what today is considered orthodox Christianity, had good organizational skills. It wrote and rewrote documents which supported its views, but it only won out over the many other sects after Constantine (who ruled from 307 to 337 C.E.) made Christianity at first one of many legal religions and then the official state religion. The sect he chose was the orthodox sect from which almost all Christian denominations today are descended.
Constantine himself was a member of the cult of Sol Invictus, the indomitable sun. He converted to Christianity only on his death bed, baptized by an Arian, not an orthodox Christian. He was not an admirer of Jesus but of Christian monotheism and the father god of the Christians.
Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople and gave the luxurious Lateran Palace to the bishop of Rome. Emperor Theodosius (378-395 C.E.) shut down pagan temples and non-orthodox Christian churches. Presumably this was when Buddhist missionaries were sent packing back to India. Theodosius transferred assets—buildings, furnishings, cash, and jewelry—from pagan temples and non-orthodox churches to the orthodox church. It became legal for people to leave their property at death to the orthodox church. Paganism and non-orthodox Christianity, including Judeo-Christianity, were banned, meaning their churches had to go underground and could not own property or receive inheritances. The only other legal religion within the Roman Empire was Judaism, and it was held in check through rigid restrictions.
Thus was the Church unified. However, the unity came at a terrible price: Overnight the Church went from poor and persecuted to wealthy and powerful. It began to lose its original values. Aggressive people sought positions of leadership in the church. Church offices, including the papacy itself, were bought and sold. The love of money, according to the early Christians, was one of the roots of evil
(1 Timothy 6:10), and it undermined the movement Jesus had founded. Books were censored, rewritten, or burned. Values changed to the point where the Council of Laodicea in 363 C.E. decreed that churches could no longer serve as public feeding facilities. The agapé was kicked out of the church building. This represented a huge change in the culture and mission of the Church. At a time when it was at its richest, it turned its back on the poorest.
Thus, step-by-step, much of Jesus’ early teachings were lost or suppressed, including his teachings about the importance of right eating and the right treatment of animals as part of his method for making this a peaceful world.
Thanks to modern research tools and methods, more is known now about Jesus now than at any time since the First Century. In the light of this growing body of knowledge, what should those who consider themselves part of the tradition of Jesus do as his followers?
Instead of focusing on finding the right doctrine about unknowable things, churches should focus on rediscovering the enlightening ethical core of Jesus’ teachings. Instead of preparing for the next world, they should focus on changing this world. They should work out very carefully what they should be doing to stop the cycle of violence and bring about Jesus’ messianic peace. (Matthew 25:35-46; James 2.)
Churches are powerful organizations well situated to accomplish great things. They should maintain their customs, liturgy, and doctrines in order to retain their consciousness of their origins. As books should never be burned, the story of how we got where we are should never be erased. It is possible to recite the old liturgy and prayers and treat them as true on an allegorical level while applying new knowledge about the ethical teachings of Jesus on the level of action.  Those who become enlightened about the ethical core of Jesus’ teachings should not form new churches or switch denominations. They should encourage their churches to become more aware of the core ethical teachings of Jesus and to live them out, as the Catholic Church chose to do at the Vatican II Council in the 1960s. For the sake of continuity, one should stick with the religion of his parents.
Christian theory about the messiah is similar to Jewish theory. (See the section of this book entitled Ancient Judaism Challenges Modern Judaism, p. 65.) Both allow for two approaches to the messiah: According to the first, an individual messiah will come or Jesus will return—at a time when all appears hopeless and the moral level of society is at its lowest—and initiate or reinitiate the messianic era. According to the second theory, the messianic era will come gradually through the efforts of people of messianic purpose, and the messiah will appear or reappear at the end and announce that the work has been accomplished. Jesus believed that he or his messianic movement would take power when people were morally worthy. He said much about our becoming morally worthy and little about doctrine. Therefore, we who follow him should dedicate ourselves to the process of making ours a morally worthy species.
Moses taught that one should love his neighbor as himself. (Leviticus 19:18.) Rabbi Hillel (c. 50 B.C.E. to c. 10 C.E.) said “What is hateful to yourself do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. All the rest is commentary. Now go forth and learn.” (Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, p. 64; Leviticus 19:18; Shabbat 31a.) Jesus taught the Golden Rule—”… whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, 25:31-46.) This grows out of the Mosaic rule to “… love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18, James 2:8.) While Hillel’s rule says we should not take negative actions towards others, Jesus’ rule, like the rule of Moses, says we should do unsolicited good deeds for others and thus goes further. Those actions include more than just supplying food and clothing; they include working to promote justice, to build an economy that is oriented towards helping the needs of people, and returning our physical environment to the pristine condition of the legendary Eden. Carrying forward the teaching of Moses regarding loving your neighbor and doing unsolicited good deeds is Jesus’ first great contribution in the field of ethics.
Jesus suggested that one should turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:38-48.) Most Christians do not understand how to fit this most central of Christian principles into the violent facts of our world. Should we allow a criminal to kill us or our family or tyrants to subjugate us? Apparently part of the theory was not written down or was lost. I theorize that what Jesus was saying was that we should not return the violence or the insult if our not doing so would stop or ratchet down the cycle of violence. We should absorb instead of return. If your wife slaps your face, it is best not to slap her back. As the Gospel of Barnabas said, you do not put out a fire by adding more fire. Just as Pythagoras taught that we may kill animals which attack us (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 15, line 95 ff., Loeb Classical Library, p. 370 ff.) Jesus would have made clear that if one is attempting to kill or injure us, we may and should defend ourselves. Why didn’t the New Testament make all this clear? Again because it was compiled out of the memorized sermons constructed by gentile Christians who had never known Jesus or those who knew him, who had  been cut off from the original group and had no access to the original writings. They wrote down the snippets they could remember, often not understanding their significance.
Jesus sought to stop the cycle of violence. He spoke of methods to be employed, and he probably also spoke of the scope of the effort. For it to work at all, it would have to work on all levels. We cannot expect to stop violence between nations if we do not also put a stop to violence between individuals or violence against wives or children or violence against animals. We should work to stop violence not just on a political level, but also on a personal and family level. We must also put a stop to school yard violence, rape, incest, the neglect of orphans, the abuse of prisoners, and the terrorization and painful execution of animals. That’s because all of these set in motion events that tend to perpetuate and increase levels of violence and to lead to social imbalance, crime, and war. Jesus’ teachings about how to stop the cycle of violence are his second great contribution in the field of ethics.
Most Christians consider Jesus to have been great because he made the cosmic sacrifice—his life for our sins. Most acknowledge but put less emphasis on a second basis for his greatness, his ethical teachings.
The eucharist celebrates the cosmic sacrifice. Christians eat the body and blood of Jesus instead of burning them. Jesus is referred to as the “lamb of god. “ (John 1:29, 36, Acts 8:32, Revelation 5:6,8,12.) However, In the oldest version of the blessing for the communion, there is no blood mentioned:
Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread; We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom…?. (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 9:1-5, Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, p. 379-378;
James knew Jesus personally, and in his book he made no mention of Jesus’ blood being shed for our sins, no mention of his blood replacing the blood of the animals sacrificed in the temple, no mention of a eucharist in which we eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood. Jesus made a great sacrifice. I acknowledge that. However, it is not at all clear that he shed his blood to wash away sins. The theory of the cosmic sacrifice is christological, that is, part of the speculation about who Jesus had been.
Instead, I propose that the Law of Liberty of James was probably closer to Jesus original teaching. James said:
If you really fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. [For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.] So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2: 8-13.)
Jesus had taken the same approach, saying that those who would have a place in the world to come would be those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, oppose abuse of prisoners, and clothe the naked. (Matthew 7:2, 25: 31-46.)
It is my theory that the words above in brackets (James 2:10-11) were added later by Paul’s disciples, perhaps in Rome around 150 C.E., when the first New Testament was assembled in response to the New Testament Marcion had put together. I suggest they were added to make James appear to agree with Paul. These words follow closely Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3:10 ff., where Paul paraphrases from the Septuagint instead of quoting from the Hebrew original of Deuteronomy 27:26. ( The theory that a violation of one law would automatically make one guilty of violating all other laws of the Torah, laws one had not violated, is very un-Jewish.
I suggest the following hypothesis: Early followers of Jesus anguished over why he had died and whether there was any meaning to his death. This is a natural inquiry when a good man is killed. The founders recalled Jesus’ demand that the animal sacrifices be stopped, and his threat that if they were not, the Temple would be destroyed. “I came to destroy the sacrifices, and if ye cease not from sacrificing, the wrath of God will not cease from you.” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30:16:2, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, tr. Frank Williams, Book I, p. 132; Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58.) The priests would not stop the animal sacrifices. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans; the sacrifices were forever ended.
Early followers saw that Jesus was willing to give his life to stop the killing of animals as part of religious service. It was easy to reword this to say that Jesus offered his life in place of the animals’ lives. Jesus allowed his blood to be shed. The animals had shed their blood. The animals’ blood had served to atone for sins. Therefore, Jesus blood served to atone for sins in the same way. This appears to be the leap of logic that led to the cosmic sacrifice theory. The leap was probably made by gentile Christians outside of Jerusalem, perhaps in Antioch.
There was only one Jesus, and Jesus’ blood was only shed once. After 70 C.E. there were no more animals being sacrificed. So Jesus’ sacrifice had to have been a once-for-all-time sacrifice. It was a superior and more potent sacrifice for the same reason. This is the logic set forth in the book of Hebrews, which may have been written by Paul’s traveling companion Barnabas or perhaps Apollos of Alexandria, but certainly by someone who would have agreed with Paul completely.
All this requires another big leap of logic—that humans are a tainted, inherently evil species, one that needs some kind of general forgiveness. There is nothing in the Hebrew Bible, Talmudic thinking, or in Jesus’ teachings which would imply this. Jews regard the story of Adam’s fall as part of esoteric lore. (Encyclopedia Judaica, “Creation,” 1997 CD edition.) It requires another leap—that God is angry and needs to be mollified. This is Paul’s theory. (Romans 3:25; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 7:27, 9:12,26,28, 10:10,12; Matthew 20:28.) And another leap—that the blood of an animal and then of Jesus will mollify god’s anger. And another—that Jesus as one part of the godhead would come to earth and sacrifice his life to mollify the other part of the godhead.
Paul brought the cosmic sacrifice into the centerpiece of his theology and set in motion the development of what became orthodox Christian theology. It runs counter to what the prophets and Jesus himself said, that god just does not want any more sacrifices, not even the sacrifice of the prophet and messiah-king Jesus, his adopted son here below. God rejects the entire sacrificial approach. Instead, god just wants us to show mercy, which means to behave ethically and act justly.
And Jesus extends the concept of showing mercy to include the animals: He clearly refers to the animals as being guiltless and asks that we show mercy to the guiltless:
I tell you, something greater than the temple is there. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12: 6-7.)
He was quoting from the vegetarian Hosea:
… For I desire steadfast love [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6.)
Hosea wanted us to stop killing animals generally. Jesus temporarily stopped the sacrifices in the temple. This led immediately to his being arrested and killed. It is more logical to conclude that Jesus shed his blood to change the way we treat animals than as a cosmic sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus did make a huge sacrifice. Was it to make a bold statement, an appeal across time? But an appeal across time to do what? The result Jesus accomplished was that Jews and Judeo-Christians would no longer be able to say that their religion advocates, endorses, encourages, or requires the killing of animals as a part of religious ritual or for food. The result was that vegetarianism became the recommended path for Judaism and Judeo-Christianity. This theory makes far more sense than the cosmic sacrifice theory.
I have several concrete suggestions to make to the churches:
First, they should challenge their members to be serious historians and theologians. One who is called to serve Jesus and follow his example must know who Jesus was and what he stood for. The New Testament we read was twisted and mangled to serve Roman purposes. Jesus said we should be “‘prudent money-changers,’ meaning that there are ‘genuine and spurious words’ in the Scriptures.” (The Clementine Homilies, 3:50, Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, p. 247.)
Second, the churches should reinstitute the agapé, the vegetarian love feast, and do more to feed the hungry and help the poor. The agapé was effectively banned in 363 or 364 C.E. when the
Council of Laodicea prohibited the use of the churches as soup kitchens. (Canon 27,,; Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, 178; William Edward Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to
Charlemagne, 1869, vol. ii, p. 84, cited by Roberts & Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII,
p. 425.) Because governments have the greatest access to money, the churches should pressure governments to help the hungry and the poor.
Third, churches should reestablish the ancient order of widows and orphans. Federal and state governments lavish money on the wealthy but neglect single mothers and their fatherless children. Democrats and Republicans cut spending on the backs of the poor and require single mothers to leave their infants with baby sitters or in daycare centers and go to work for minimum wage. This is not only an immoral policy, it is also uneconomic, because children of poverty grow up to earn little, pay little in taxes, become involved in crime, and produce the next generation of fatherless children.
Through a new order of widows and orphans, churches should step into the breach and create centers where single mothers could share their child care duties so they could earn a living and get an education. The churches should also work to find husbands and fathers for these women and children, as they did in ancient times. The church should teach that it is a mitzvah or blessed act for a man to marry a single mother and be a father to her children. (See 1 Timothy 5:1-16, which, bear in mind, was written well into the Second Century, and which therefore reflects a degree of reaction against abuses of the system.)
Fourth, the church should restore the Wednesday and Friday vegetarian fast of ancient Christianity (and of today’s Greek, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches) and encourage Christians to “bear what they are able” and try to be as vegetarian as they can. According to Christian teaching, to be a Christian is to be Christ-like. Jesus was a vegetarian, so that means Christians should imitate him.
Fifth, the church could continue with the customary language of the eucharist but include the eucharistic language of the Didache as an occasional alternative or addition in order to teach the historical development of the eucharist.
Sixth, the church should adopt various Jewish holidays and practices as a way of delving more deeply into its Jewish roots. It might revive the custom of the first Christians of circumcising their boys and treat it as an optional sacrament. Around one out of every seven boys has a defect of the foreskin which will require continuing observation and often surgery. General circumcision is just good policy. Administered with local anesthetic it is painless.
Seventh, seminarians should take up the study of rabbinical teachings. It is impossible to understand Jesus without studying the Talmud. Christianity claims to be the true Judaism, and it should learn as much about Judaism as possible. This is not to say that Christians should convert to Judaism. Judaism does not ask members of other religions to convert, only to establish lawful societies and strive for the highest ethics.
Eighth, christology—the study of who Jesus was in relationship to god—should be demoted to a pursuit of historical interest only. The trinity should be regarded as just one of many theories about who Jesus was. Why should the faithful fight over a completely speculative issue, when in just a few years, when they die, they can ask Saint Peter? The church should not require that Christians believe that Jesus was a god, coequal with the father. The Judeo-Christian belief that he was son of man, true prophet who aimed to complete the work of Moses, adopted son of god, and messiah-king should be a sufficient confession to make.
Ninth, as I set explain more fully in the chapter of this book entitled Population Explosion and a Plant-Based Diet, p. 231, love making should be considered sacramental, as a way of showing love, being loved, and accepting that you are loved. It is even a way of knowing god.
Tenth, I would suggest that eating itself should be regarded as sacramental. Every meal should be an agapé. In eating we strengthen our bodies or weaken them. We increase or decrease our abililty to complete our calling. Through our food choices, we either show mercy to other species or we assault them. We either show respect to the physical environment, or we pollute it. Our food choices are of major ethical significance.
It is only fair to say something of my own religious and ethical evolution. My mother was Catholic and my father was Lutheran. My grandparents on my mother’s side were Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Lebanese immigrants. I was baptized Catholic as a baby. My Protestant Dad led us to the Lutheran Church and then into the Church of Christ, an ultra-fundamentalist Southern denomination which teaches that every word of the Bible is “fully verbally inspired” and that the New Testament is a comprehensive manual of doctrine and practice. No musical instruments are allowed in worship because the New Testament only says to “sing.” The Church of Christ considers itself to be the only true faith. It’s goal is to reproduce the original Christianity. It succeeds in reproducing the original Pauline Christianity of around 100 C.E., which was a far cry from the religion of the original Jerusalem followers of Jesus.
When I was a first grader, my father accepted a call to preach in the Arkansas farming village of Aubrey, not too far from Memphis. Baptism had to be by immersion. Dad took converts down to the lake and dunked them. In summer he used an oar to kill water moccasins; in winter he used it to break ice. In the Church of Christ, you get to know the Bible extremely well. I memorized the names of all the Books of the Old Testament and New Testament, the twelve apostles, and the twelve tribes of Israel. Even today I can recite them all, Old and New, apostles and tribes, in one breath. Church of Christ people are very talented musically. Their hymnals are written in do-re-mi shaped notes, which makes reading and transposing music really easy. Church of Christ people are very scholarly in their own literalist way. Studying the basics with them helped me put the pieces together later.
In the Overture to this book I told the story of the peak experience I had at church camp as a teenager. I perceived a calling that night to follow truth where ever it led me and not to fear the truth I might discover. I presumed that the study of religion would help me discover what was most important. I turned down engineering scholarships to attend Harding College, a Church of Christ school, where the a cappella chapel singing sounded like angelic hosts. I majored in Bible; as a back-up plan I took a minor in business and economics, including a typing course. I joke even today that, with four and a half college degrees, the most useful course I ever took was typing.
I continued my theological studies at Abilene Christian University, a respected, conservative seminary in Texas, where my advisor was Everett Ferguson, noted scholar of earliest Christianity. I had ambitions to teach comparative religions and history of religions on the college level, so after my first year, I applied to Princeton Theological Seminary to complete my divinity degree. I was accepted and awarded a scholarship.
While on sabbatical, living then in Canada and waiting to transfer, I spent months reading the critical theologians. My conservative training had not prepared me for my discovery that the New Testament was highly self-contradictory and had been heavily edited and tampered with. (See the section of this book entitled A Critical Approach Builds a Better Foundation, p. 51.) I concluded that the Bible was not inspired and that it was unreliable as a source of religious or ethical truth. I also concluded that the study of religion in general was not a path that could lead to an understanding of what was wrong with the world and how to put it right.
I experienced a deep crisis of faith. I recall the moment in April, 1971, as I sat at my desk, looking out at Cultus Lake in British Columbia. I let go of my belief that I had a source of truth in the Bible and replaced it with the realization that I would have to broaden my studies and look elsewhere. I remember the implications double and quadruple and ripple outward exponentially through my mind. It was a fearful experience because I was giving up the assumptions I had relied on, the certainty I had known. But it was also exciting in that I felt myself being freed from the fear that had always nagged me, that maybe I did not believe the correct doctrine and therefore was not “saved by faith.”
I never concluded that there was no god or that Jesus was not somehow special. What I concluded was that the Bible was unreliable and thus that there was no way to know anything with certainty regarding the Christian faith and matters of theology, and therefore that a just god would not condemn me for believing unorthodox theories or not believing at all.
I decided I was on my own, truly free to follow my quest for truth wherever it led me. It was another of those dizzying peak experiences.
I called Dr. Ferguson and he offered to counsel me, though I did not tell him the extent of my crisis. For some reason I never called him back, probably because I was confused and saddened over the loss of my calling. I had wanted to become a university professor and teach comparative religions and the history of religions. I wrote Princeton and told them I would not be joining them in the fall. I felt it would be dishonest of me to attend seminary as a doubter. It didn’t occur to me that many or most educated seminarians would share my doubts.
I was lost, confused, and depressed. I went back to college and majored in psychology in an attempt to understand myself as a non-religious person. I needed to reorient myself in a world which I had decided was secular. I chose law as a new path that might lead to answers as well as empower me to “do unto others” and do unsolicited good deeds for those who need them the most. That part of Jesus’ teaching I was still sure of and was still committed to follow. In that sense I never renounced my original calling. I felt that law might enable me to recover a different version of it.
I went to law school at the University of Washington. Several courses I found fascinating: constitutional law, history of law, and comparative law. But I must say that I found the majority of my classes frustrating and unsatisfying. The professors did not generally explain the material but mostly just asked questions. They called it the Socratic method. I had to sit there and listen to law students who did not yet know what they were talking about. Some professors humiliated us with harassing questioning. I had hoped law would be as stimulating as seminary, but I found it mostly to be an intellectual wasteland.
Their so-called Socratic method was very un-Socratic. I knew about Socrates. Yes, he used the question and answer method, but I assume he did not use it exclusively. I assume he used it with advanced students who already understood where he was going with his line of questioning. Law schools idolize Socrates. They are not multi-disciplinary in their educational methods.
I was fascinated with environmental law, my new calling. But pro-environment cases were hard to get for a newly hatched attorney. So, to make a living I became a real estate lawyer, later a mortgage broker. However, the study of ethical, environmental, economic, psychological, and theological issues has remained my real calling. My hope is to create a unified theory describing what is wrong with our reality and how to make it work better. Most seem to accept that the way things are is the way things should be. I regard our reality as irrational, morally chaotic, even mad in some ways. I speculate sometimes that I am living in Purgatory. I refuse to believe that this world represents the best humans can do.
Reading Freud (for example, Moses and Monotheism) and David Bakan (Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition) led me to the kabbalah (Gershom Sholem, Kabbalah), from which Freud borrowed all his major ideas. If Freud had been a more thorough student of the Talmud, he would not have made some of the mistakes he made. That led me to Judaism.
I attended classes with rabbis. I went to synagogue on Friday nights. I learned prayers in Hebrew. I dated Jewish girls. I speculated about converting, and I might have taken that step if I had married Jewish.
Judaism puts primary emphasis on ethics and law, not on doctrinal correctness. A Jew can be a heretic, even an atheist, if he is morally upright. Judaism does not denigrate the worth of other religions or deny their validity. It holds that the righteous in all faiths will have “a place in the world to come.” It has a policy of not seeking converts—although in Jesus’ time it actively sought them.
Of all religions I found Judaism to be the most tolerant and ecumenical. I also found it to be the most rational and the least superstitious. Many legal concepts embedded in the Talmud have been incorporated into modern law. I found Judiasm to be consistent and accurate in many areas: law ethics, psychology, philosophy, and theology.
Having said so many good things about Judaism, I must include some criticism. The old Jewish wisdom was that Israel should not be reestablished as a state until the messiah returns, because, I presume, a messiah’s genius would be needed to accomplish such a project peacefully. Retaking its ancient land has involved Israel in conflict with Palestinians who have lived there for centuries. Israel had the United Nations on its side, but Palestinians nevertheless were offended by what to them looked like another European Crusade. The Palestinian claim is not as old as the Jewish claim, but it is still a claim and has some merit.
At times the two sides have been close to a two-state solution where each would acknowledge the rights of the other. However, radical Moslem groups such as Hamas and Hezbolah deny Israel’s right to exist. No compromise would seem possible. Israel does not deny the right of Palestine to exist, but a determined rump group of Israelis would. I refer to settler fundamentalists who would expel the Palestinians. Like Christian fundamentalists, Jewish fundamentalists idolize the Hebrew Bible. They  regard every word of it as being straight from god and absolutely true. They take literally the prophecy of Moses that the territory of Israel “… shall be from the wilderness and Lebanon and from the … Euphrates to the Western sea.” (Deuteronomy 11:24, Joshua 1:4, Exodus 23:11.) Israeli extremists are contemptuous of Palestinians as nobodies. The refer to Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land.” But they overlook that the Bible is contradictory on this point, for before god made the promise to Moses, he made the same promise to Abraham and his descendants, which included Ishmael, father of the Arabs and Moslems. (Genesis 15:18; 21:13.) God assigned to Israel land now possessed by Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. (Numbers 34.) Would the settlers have Israel declare war and take the east bank of the Jordan from Jordan?
The tiny settler parties have disproportionate power in the Israeli Knesset. That is because Israel has a constitutional problem: Under its proportional representation system, a party need only get 1.5 percent of the votes nationwide to win seats in the Knesset. So there are many parties in the Knesset, and generally none wins an outright majority. Larger parties need small fringe parties to form a government, and so the settler parties become the tail that wags the dog. In return for their support of the government, the government expands the settlements and takes Palestinian land.
Radical Palestinians have attacked Israel with suicide bombings, kidnappings, and rockets. Israel has replied with land confiscations, destruction of orchards, construction of walls which cut Palestinians off from their own land, and collective punishment, such as bulldozing homes of the families of Palestinian terrorists. The two sides are engaged in a primitive blood feud. Does the feud prove the absurdity of the Jewish or Moslem religion or the absurdity of fundamentalist fringe groups in all religions?
Palestinians would have achieved their own state long ago had they employed instead the methods of Jesus or Martin Luther King. Non-violent protest can be more effective than violent protest because it arouses less opposition, disarms the other side, and anticipates the peace sought. Taking up arms makes no sense for poorly armed Palestinian groups who stand no chance against Israeli might. In many ways Palestinians have been poorly led and have played their cards badly.
Groups such as Bat Shalom and Peace Now, composed of both Israelis and Palestinians, have worked out peace plans. Unfortunately, extremists on both sides oppose peace and have disproportionate influence over those more moderate. Extremists on both sides believe they have something to gain by keeping the war going. They are jointly responsible for preventing peace from arriving. There will be no peace until each side acknowledges the right of the other to have a place to live in Israel-Palestine, each with adequate water and other resources.
Israel is too lawful a country to kill or expel all non-Jews, and it would be foolish for it to do so, for having non-Jews living next door to Jews shields Israel from the nuclear weapons that Israel’s Arab and Moslem neighbors will certainly acquire someday. Jews and non-Jews are condemned to live together.
A simple peace treaty between the two sides would not be enough. Only an alliance would keep the peace. The two sides should agree to promote each other’s interests: Israel should agree to promote Palestine’s economic interests in the West, and Palestine should agree to promote Israel’s economic interests in the Arab and Moslem East. Each would market the other’s goods and services. Each would prosper. Instead of a two-state solution, there might be a three-state solution, with Gaza a separate country from the West Bank.
Moslems and Christians should loudly denounce the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion for the fraud that it is—an 1890s Russian reworking of an anti-Napoleonic tract from the 1860s. This hateful booklet is a best seller throughout the Moslem and Arab world, were probably most believe it was truly written by Jewish elders.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are brother religions. They derive from the same patriarch Abraham. However, they behave like a dysfunctional family. It is important that each “re-adopt” the others and accept their legitimacy. When any two of these brothers quarrel, the third should claim the right to step in and mediate. The Jews and Moslems are quarreling: It is then the duty of Christians to intervene. The teachings of Jesus are clear on this point: His followers should be peace makers. Helping Jews and Moslems to stop fighting is consistent with Jesus’ theories about “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I discovered Gustavo Gutierrez’ book, A Theology of Liberation. I learned that the Vatican II council had remade Catholicism, converting it into an ethical movement that follows Jesus instead of just worshipping him, moving it closer to Judaism. Gutierrez reawakened my interest in Jesus, not as a god but as a prophet and ethical teacher. I was making a long circle away from and back to Jesus.
Before 1979 I had understood the importance of radical reform in our relationship to the physical environment, but I had never realized how our treatment of animals is inseparably intertwined with the environment. I met Paul that year. He was back from Afghanistan where he had served in the Peace Corps. He and his friends rolled out as the Russians rolled in. Paul opened my eyes to just how badly animals are treated in factory farms. I immediately quit meat—I had already cut down for health reasons. Soon I came to realize that milk and egg production are intertwined with meat production, just as cruel, and just as bad for the environment. By 1981 I was a committed vegan.
I spent ten years as a completely unaffiliated vegan before I happened to attend an EarthSave potluck where “my eyes bugged out” at the book table when I saw the title of Charles Vaclavik’s book, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ. In all my years of studying theology, it had never once occurred to me until that moment that Jesus might have been a vegetarian. It was never even mentioned, not one single time, in all those lectures I attended and all those theology books I had read that Jesus, his disciples, those who preceded him, and those who followed him rejected the eating of flesh food. It is a glaring omission and a testimonial to how people avoid truths they find inconvenient.
I began writing this book in 1994, first  as a manual for an EarthSave Toastmasters group I lead, later as a way of testing whether Dr. Vaclavik’s thesis was true. Around the same time I started falling in love with Emelyn. She is Catholic, and we were married in the Catholic Church. We negotiated a contract, and part of our contract was that we would respect and try to merge our religions. I agreed to attend mass with her on Sundays. She agreed to respect our house as the one place in the world where no animals would be cooked, because this is an important part of my “religion.” And, as a further concession in her favor, I agreed to take her out frequently to carnivorous restaurants.
Early in our marriage Emelyn quit milk products. After a few years she announced she would no longer eat beef and chicken. She became a “pesca-ovo-vegetarian.” She occasionally eats fish and eggs.
An important aside: At my urging Emelyn has eaten flax oil regularly. I believe this diminished her natural craving for meat and helped her to make her transition.
Emelyn and I and her parents attend mass together. While in church I meditate about my own issues. I ponder how I can deal with my anger management problem and become more patient. (Try humor therapy: Laugh when you feel angry.) It is a family ritual: church and then a seaweed gathering picnic on the beach afterward.
We often attend a Dominican church. It was the Dominicans who presided over the Inquisition against the gentle, morally upright, and vegetarian Albigensians, and handed over those who refused to recant to the knights to be roasted alive! I ponder these and other outrageous things the Catholic Church has done throughout its history. I mostly forgive the Church  because it has renounced its sins along with its Pauline anti-semitism. I calculate how each aspect of Catholic belief and practice can be reinterpreted symbolically in ways consistent with Jesus’ original teachings. I ponder how the vision of Jesus might be accomplished and the world might become a place of peace and justice.
Some ask me why I continue with the Catholic Church given its many flaws? The Roman church was probably founded by Nazarenes working under James the brother of Jesus. It was probably originally Ebionite, and even after it became Pauline it allowed Ebionites to be members until they were excommunicated around 189. So I reclaim the right to be an Ebionite within the Roman church. I may be a minority of one, but I have as much right to be there as anyone else. Further, I think I should stick with the church I was raised in and try to reform and enlighten it, rather than quit it and join another, at least until I am excommunicated. And my hero Pythagoras did advise us to pay respect to the gods of the land. There is no Ebionite church, and I have no other place to meditate and revere the good.
Emelyn used to encourage me to wear my old, wide leather Clarke shoes to mass so I would look nice, but I decline. I insisted on wearing my REI sandals instead. “I will not go before the Lord wearing leather,” I jest. Pythagoras wore “shoes of bast,” but they have gone out of style. I recently stumbled on some conventional looking non-leather dress shoes. Hint: Shop at Big 5 Sporting Goods and Payless Shoes. (See
Had I not married Emelyn, I would not have returned to the Catholic Church. I would have remained independent of organized religion. But I feel comfortable as a Catholic because it was my first church, because it is not a Bible worshiping, fundamentalist denomination, because it allows and encourages critical theological thinking—provided such thinking is supportive and not destructive of faith—, and because after Vatican II it places highest emphasis on ethics and right behavior.
I hope Catholics will agree with me that I have not rejected Jesus but rediscovered him. For the Church to accept the right treatment of animals as an integral part of its teaching might lead to the belated accomplishment of Jesus’ messianic mission.
It is my theory that Jesus was a vegetarian prophet who taught a method for achieving peace and justice and that there was a tradition before and after him that embodied those same values. If I ever lose faith in Jesus as prophet, I will still have faith in and be committed to those values and to that tradition. I count myself as a follower of Jesus because he shared those values. I choose not to worship but to follow Jesus, not to idolize but to emulate him, which is what I think he would want.
If a project to civilize the world is to succeed it is imperative that all factors be considered. When the suffering of animals is left out, the project is incomplete. Insensitivity to animals is a blind spot. Within the shadows behind that blind spot lurk other blind spots which poison and defeat the civilizing project. The same thing is true of other moral blind spots: For most of the last 6,000 years, since the conquest of the Aryan Invaders, most people believed slavery was acceptable. Most believed women should not have status independent of men, were not worthy to own property, and were simply inferior. In holding to such twisted beliefs one will inevitably think in twisted ways about other things. Such blind spots darken other areas around and behind them. We got closer to a lawful and ethical world when we declared slavery and the disenfranchisement of women to be wrong.
But we continue to have a blind spot regarding the animals. I watched (February 22, 2005) a PBS special about torture; I was amazing that there was not one word said about how humans torture animals and how our insensitivity to the animals enables us to torture humans.
The systematic terrorization of our food animals is the great ignored issue. Lawmakers and religious leaders alike say little or nothing about it. The only intellectually honest positions to take are first, to oppose the killing of all animals for food or second, to devise a method of rearing and killing then that is painless to them and harmless to the environment. We do neither. For us to tolerate and defend the torture of animals in factory farms we must make ourselves insensitive and think in twisted and irrational ways. We can civilize the world and create an ethical-legal-economic-environmental-religious unified theory only when we factor in the suffering of animals.
In teaching a method of stopping the cycle of violence, would Jesus have said, “Now, come watch me show you how to teach your children to be peaceful as we confine animals in small, claustrophobic, filthy, stinky, cages and feed them foods that are unnatural for them and make them sick, and make them eat and drink and lie down in their own excrement, and kill them in frightening and painful ways”?
Violence against animals is on the same continuum with violence against humans. Would a person of the ethical awareness of Jesus have said that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would apply only to humans but not to other species? Would he not have taught that we should do unto other species as we would have them do to our own? In effect, would Jesus not have taught an Eleventh Commandment? And was it not suppressed from the New Testament as we have it? (Matthew 12:6-7.)
To be Christlike is to take moral responsibility for the world. Christians will not meet this challenge with doctrinal quibbles over christology but with actions designed to bring peace and justice. A study of Jesus in relation to these issues shows that Jesus assembled a coherent approach for bringing peace to a world that is morally chaotic and that humane treatment of animals was part of that approach.
Because his immediate followers and their writings were rubbed out, it is difficult to be absolutely sure who Jesus was. However, we know enough about him to know that he was unique in history. He rang a bell that continues to reverberate. He taught high ethical standards. He wanted to end the cycle of violence and injustice. He taught specific methods of stopping the cycle: by returning good for evil when doing so can stop the cycle and by doing unsolicited good deeds. He wanted legal reform as well, for he opposed the brutal slaveocracy of the Romans. He taught that the poor, women, children, and prisoners should be protected. (Matthew 25:31-46.) And he had a vision of a messianic era of peace that included peace towards animals. He took over the Temple and stopped the animal sacrifices and was killed for doing so.
The quest for the historical Jesus is a worthy one. At the end of this quest we do not find a Jesus of doctrinal quibbles or a Jesus who focused on finding an innocuous inner peace.
We find instead a Jesus of action who challenged injustice and illegality and sought an end to poverty, war, slavery, subjugation of women, abuse of children and prisoners, and violence in general. We find a Jesus of compassion, ethics, and right-living, all of which extend not just to other humans but to the animals as well. As I say elsewhere, we do not find a Jesus who wanted to be worshiped but one who wanted to be followed.
It is often said that Jesus was a failed messianic pretender, such as Jesus Bar Kokhba, because he did not succeed in bring peace to the world. Even after 2,000 years, I would suggest that this might be a hasty judgment. We who are part of Jesus’ tradition may yet complete his work. Is there a time limit on how long a true prophet and messiah-king has to achieve results? Christians should not give up but should rechannel their efforts in the ethical direction in which Jesus pointed us.
It is not too late for us to learn what Jesus was challenging us to do and do it.



Chapter 9 – Cowboy Culture Conquers the Entire World


Tribes descended from the patriarchal invaders declared holy Crusades in which they tortured and killed heretics, Jews, Moslems, and supposed witches—some of them surviving priestesses of the old goddess religion, some of them just unfortunate women falsely accused. Viking descendants of the patriarchal invaders conquered Normandy, and then Norman Vikings conquered England. English royalty is descended from Viking thugs. Most of Europe, Asia, and Africa, fell under the sway of constantly warring patriarchs, all the intellectual descendants of those Kurgans of 4300 B.C.E.

The patriarchal Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, Belgians, Dutch, Italians, and Germans joined in colonial conquest. Everywhere these cattle-herders went they left their trail of destruction: They destroyed indigenous cultures and languages. They burned books and erased histories. They enslaved indigenous peoples. They imposed their religion and banned others. They demoted women and children to second-class status. They burned and cut down forests to make more grazing land. Their goats, cows, and sheep overgrazed the land and contributed to desertification.

In 1492 these Kurgans did something as amazing in their time as our flights to the moon. They leapt the Atlantic Ocean. The rulers of Spain and England, descendants of the Aryan, Indo-European speaking Vikings and Visigoths, almost complete destroyed New World cultures. Their greed and pro-growth value system continues the destruction to the present.

There is a long view of history, although we rarely look at it. Since around 74,000 years ago, when Toba erupted and ashed the whole world, and when our population dropped to as little as a few hundred or a few thousand people, we have believed in growth, because then it was grow or die. We may be genetically selected to grow, grow, grow. There is no end in site. Almost all political parties in almost all countries are pro-growth. Growth is the great destroyer. It is death for other species, and eventually it will mean death to our own. Growth is our original sin. It is the unknown sin for which we ask forgiveness, the sin for which the whole burnt offering was offered. The unknown sin is known: It is growth. It is at least one of our inherited and perhaps inherent flaws. Growth does not initially or always look evil. It can be enjoyable to have new vehicles, new homes, new roads, and new buildings. Growth smiles at us like Ronald McDonald, the gaily dressed butcher. Democrats favor growth of a sort that is a little slower and a little more kind to the environment than do Republicans. But they both favor growth. Slow growth or “responsible growth” is worse in a way than rapid growth, because it does not look as ugly. But it is still growth. I like to say: Time continues infinitely into the future, so the rate of growth does not matter. Any rate will ultimately foul our nest. The growth in our numbers should be stopped and even reversed. Our expansion into the animal and plant worlds must also be stopped, even before we stop the growth in our numbers. We should live in more densely developed cities and leave more land to the animal and plant kingdoms.
Another aspect of the growth mentality of the invaders was warfare. It was a Vedic sacrament to make war to seize the cattle of other tribes. As I like to point out elsewhere, cattle were the first money, “a thing generally accepted as payment for goods and services.” Cattle were capital, and it is from the word “cattle” that the word “capital” derives. The first capitalism was “cattleism.” The herders convert pristine lands into pastures and sometimes deserts.

In one part of the world or another there has been continuous warfare starting around 4300 B.C.E in Europe and 5500 B.C.E. in the Middle-East. There has been continuous criminal violence, man against man, man against woman, man against child. There has been another war going on, a war against the animal kingdom. We imprison, breed, herd, torture, and kill animals, which gives us hands-on training in how to conquer, enslave, exploit, torture, and kill our fellow humans.

Whether it is humans or animals we are killing, we have to suppress feelings of compassion in order to do so. Military leaders have motivated their troops to brutality by telling them their victims were mere animals, and this tactic has worked because troops have accepted the premise that animal pain and death are of no significance. If we were a world of vegetarians who did not kill animals for food, is it not more likely that soldiers would refuse to comply with orders to torture, rape, and kill humans?

Isaac Bashevits Singer, says: If a man has the heart to cut the throat of a chicken or a calf, there’s no reason he should not be willing to cut the throat of a man. (“When Keeping Kosher isn’t Kosher Enough,” New York Times, September 14, 1977, p. 64.)

Vegetarian Thomas Tryon warned Quakers that they should eliminate all violence from their lives, including violence against animals, and become vegetarians, or their experiment would fail.
He warned the Quaker settlers that, if they brought up their children to kill animals for food, they might become so accustomed to handling weapons that they would finally be reluctant to renounce their use against their fellow man. (Peter Brock, Pioneers of the Peaceable Kingdom, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., p. 64, quoted by Charles P. Vaclavik, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ, p. 2.)
Certain Quakers went on to participate in the Indian wars, the American revolution against the British, the Civil War, and other American wars, including the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was a Quaker whose mother spoke to him using the Quaker “thee.” It seems Tryon was correct.


Descendants of the Aryan invaders ran out of indigenous people to conquer, and so they turned to conquering each other. Think of the incessant wars of Europe and Asia, a case of the patriarchal bad boys playing deadly war games. I don’t need to tell the entire story; it’s covered well enough elsewhere, although it is generally not made clear how it fits into the broader historical framework.
I would like to mention one example you might not categorize as just another patriarchal war. Think of Los Angeles and the California Indians.

California was the home of Indians who lived a peaceful, easy life of gathering, hunting, fishing, and a minor amount of agriculture. The staple of their diet was nutritious acorns and juniper piñon or pine nuts, which grew in abundance. When the fish spawned, they ate fish in abundance. There was little need for them to cultivate. They were not vegetarian, however, they did not herd animals, and they ate a diet that contained a substantial vegetarian component. They lived the easy life in a land that was much like the legendary Eden.

Came the Aryan Spaniards and conquered the Indians, forcing them into indentured servitude. Came the gold seeking Aryan Unitedstatesians and conquered the Spaniards. At them same time they almost completely exterminated the Indians, shooting them like rabbits with high powered, long distance rifles. Finally, came the Aryan Los Angelinos who conquered previous Aryan Unitedstatesians to take their water.

After World War I, Los Angeles grew in population and area, and water was lavished on lawns, swimming pools, industry, and animal husbandry. More water was needed, and so Los Angeles looked to the Owens Valley, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, and stole the water there, turning it into a dust bowl. With more water, more people came to Los Angeles. So more water was needed. So when the Colorado was dammed, Los Angeles obtained a large percentage of the flow. With more water, more people came, and so more water was needed. So Los Angeles stole the water of Mono Lake, even further north, a beautiful lake, where millions of birds flying north to south would rest as they were migrating, some from the Arctic to South America. It became a dusty basin. With more water, more people came, and Los Angeles needed more water. So Los Angeles obtained part of the flow of the Feather River. With more water, more people came, and Los Angeles needed more water. So Los Angeles started looking at the Clamath River and the Columbia River and even water from Alaska. Technocrats of the Technocracy type drew frightening maps of continent-wide irrigation systems and advocated that the world be ruled by engineers.

There is another story here too: More water is used in California and in the United States generally for agriculture than for human consumption and industry. Further, most water used in agriculture is used to raise animals and grow the grains fed to them.

Los Angelinos realized they were ruining their paradise and did not want to ruin it even more, so they stopped the increase in water to stop population growth. It was not because of some moral realization that growth was bad or that it was inappropriate to build a big city in the middle of a desert that they quit their expansionist, dominator ways. They quit for selfish reasons. I am still glad they quit. It’s my theory that it is better to do the right thing for the wrong reason than to do the wrong thing.

The dominator mentality still prevails, the belief that endless growth and endless conquest of nature is good for the economy. The economy! All else takes second place to the economy. “It’s the economy, stupid,” was Bill Clinton’s campaign motto. Some say this is a Christian nation. Ha! Our god is Profits and Growth. We Aryan descendants believe in Mammon, the False God Dollar. Idolatry is the worship of something as god that is not god. Our mindless pursuit of profits and growth and subordinating all other goals to it is nothing less than idolatry.


I recommend several books for the scholar interested in delving more deeply into the history of diet: Colin Spencer, The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism; Mark Mathew Braunstein, Radical Vegetarianism; Rynn Berry, Famous Vegetarians and their Favorite Recipes; Jon Gregerson, Vegetarianism: A History. These writers discuss such vegetarians as Apollonius of Tyana, Plutarch, Porphyry, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Tryon, Alexander Pope, Jeremy Bentham, Leo Tolstoy, Percy Shelly, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Salt, John Harvey Kellog, and Mohandas Gandhi. They also cover such vegetarian sects and religions as the Manichaeans, the Bogomiles, the Cathari, and the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists.



Chapter 10 – The Environment and a Plant-Based Diet

Dolphin Blowing Bubbles - Betsy Reid

Dophin With Bubbles – Betsy Reid

Our impact on the physical environment is enormous. Of course, much of the problem results from burning fossil fuels, contamination of the environment with pesticides and other chemicals, our exploding population and the concomitant usurping of land from wild animals and plants. However, a significant part of our impact on the physical environment is a result of the foods we eat and how we produce them.

In a nutshell, the connections between our diet and the physical environment are as follows, in no specific order: 1) Grazing in some areas has created and enlarged deserts. 2) Deserts produce less biomass than verdant lands, and so they absorb less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even today entire forests are being cut down to graze cattle and grow the corn and soy to feed them. 3) The growing of corn and soy and feeding it to animals consumes vast quantities of energy, impoverishes the soil, and wastes food that could be fed to humans or used to produce fuel. 4) To spur growth of corn and soy the phosphate fertilizer industry has arisen, and its production releases vast quantities of toxins, some of which we put into our water in the form of fluoride, a substance one should avoid. (See 5) Animal husbandry consumes vast quantities of water. 6) Animal husbandry contaminates surface streams and wells. 7) Food animals produce vast quantities of methane that worsen the greenhouse effect. 8) Food animals produce vast quantities of manure which pollute rivers and estuaries and wipe out aquatic animals. 9) Domesticated animals in confinement are fed antibiotics on a massive scale, so pathogens develop resistances to antibiotics. These antibiotics become useless to treat humans infected with those pathogens. 10) Humans contract many diseases from confined animals and from eating animal products.

Google the new United Nations report on the disastrous effect of livestock on the physical environment, entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” (
Half of the earth’s land mass is grazed by livestock. (Alan B. Durning and Holly B. Brough, Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment, Worldwatch Paper #103, Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute, 1991, p 15.) Edward Abbey, speaking to cattlemen at the University of Montana in 1985, said:

Most of the public lands in the West, and especially the Southwest, are what you might call cow burnt. Almost anywhere and everywhere you go in the American West you find hordes of [cows] … . They are a pest and a plague. They pollute our springs and streams and rivers. They infest our canyons, valleys, meadows, and forests. They graze off the native bluestems and grama and bunch grasses, leaving behind jungles of prickly pear. They trample down the native forbs and shrubs and cacti. They spread the exotic cheatgrass, the Russian thistle, and the crested wheat grass. Weeds. Even when the cattle are not physically present, you see the dung and the flies and the mud and the dust and the general destruction. If you don’t see it, you’ll smell it. The whole American West stinks of cattle.

Lands in the Western United States — and elsewhere — are being turned into deserts by the grazing of cattle and sheep. Billions of tax dollars are spent to subsidize ranchers by renting federal land to them at below-market rates. Ranchers have little financial incentive to stop the overgrazing on public lands, and recent token increases in rents only motivate ranchers to overgraze even more. Much of this land was once covered with knee-high grass; along streams there were trees; it was populated by buffalo, elk, and deer. The grass has been replaced with tumbleweed and creosote plants, and stream banks have been destroyed by the hooves of grazing animals. (Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, p. 200 ff.)

Some 728 million acres of western range land was opened to herds of cattle and sheep in the late 1800s. With only 15 inches of rain per year, this fertile land was unable to bear the load. Ranchers put their herds onto land too early in the spring and intentionally overgrazed land to keep out other potential claimants. Fertile topsoil has been mostly lost on 575 million of the 728 million acres. This land should never have been opened to livestock grazing in the first place. (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 94.ff.)

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the United Nations enacted the Convention to Combat Desertification. The economic cost of desertification has been pegged at $43 billion; it affects areas on all continents including such countries as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. It obligates counties that have signed it “to adopt national measures to combat erosion and soil degradation both by working through measures to prevent climate change and eliminating land uses which destroy the environment, including overcultivation and overgrazing.” The United States refuses to sign the treaty. (See Seattle Times, “Anti-Desertification Pact in Force,” Reuters, December 26, 1996, p. A21.)

The Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula were once forest and savanna but turned into a desert at around the time that humans began herding animals. This desert continues into Iraq, northern India and China, and it continues to expand in part as a result of grazing by domesticated animals. The Aryan Invaders of Europe and the Semitic Invaders of the Middle East came west from areas desertified at least in part by their herds.

Henry Bailey Stevens recounts a story which highlights the effect of grazing animals on forests:

“Some years ago,” says Hugh H. Bennett, chief of the United States Soil Conservations Service, “I visited Dr. L.T. Shear at Princeton University, on his return from the excavation of the theater at ancient Corinth. I asked the famous archaeologist how deep he had to dig to reach the theater. ‘Forty feet,’ he said. Then I asked where the covering material came from. ‘Washed down from the adjacent hillsides where most of the vegetation had been removed by goats,’ he replied.” (Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture, p. 93.)

Can the damage be undone? The Israelis have demonstrated that deserts can be rolled back to some extent by planting drought resistant trees on the edges of deserts and by gradually expanding the planting into desert areas as they recover. However, this process requires that lands not be used for grazing by domesticated animals. Nevertheless, every author I have read assumes that pasturing animals “responsibly” will be part of the picture. It is exceedingly difficult to pasture animals responsibly, except perhaps in very small numbers. Virtually a pasturing degrades the land and interferes with native plant and animals.

Visionaries talk of converting much of the West back into a buffalo commons. The West would be able to produce more income for its residents as a place for tourism than as grazing land. Tourists would come from around the world as they come to the wild life parks in Africa. Pinion-juniper trees, cut down by ranchers—probably to starve out the Indians who relied on them for food —, could be replanted, and they would yield a small fortune in pine nuts.

For those who must have meat, it would make far more sense to harvest wild bison than to erect fences and raise cattle and sheep. The only semi-ethical way to eat the meat of large animals is to eat only wild animals, and to kill them in ways that do not terrorize them or cause them pain, by darting them first with anesthetic, and killing them without them ever waking up.
Ninety percent of all soy and 80 percent of all corn grown in the United States is fed to livestock. (Frances Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet, p. 92; Soyfoods Industry and Market: Directory and Databook, both cited in Our Food Our World: The Realities of an Animal-Based Diet, ed. EarthSave, p. 4.) Most of the land we cultivate grows food to be fed to animals. Most of the nutrition in the food fed to these animals is expended by them just to stay warm and move about. In the production of eggs, 74 percent of the protein chickens consume is lost as is 75 percent of the protein that dairy cows consume to make milk. In the production of chicken protein, 77 percent of protein eaten is lost; as is 86 percent of the protein pigs eat to make pork protein; as is 96 percent of the protein cows eat to make beef protein; and as is 97.5 percent of the protein sheep eat to make mutton protein.

Roughly sixteen pounds of grain is fed to a cow to produce one pound of beef, although some say this figure is too high. Billions of malnourished people could be fed with the 15 pounds that are lost in the livestock cycle. (Aaron Altschul, Proteins: Their Chemistry and Politics, p. 264; Folke Dovring, “Soybeans,” Scientific American, February, 1974.)

Because humans cannot digest grass, this inefficiency might make some sense if it were only grass that these animals were eating. However, their grazing days end and they are “finished” (fattened up) on grain. Of course, if we did not feed grain to animals, there would be more grain left over than humans could consume, so the alternative would be to use the excess to feed the starving and grow biomass, which would be used to produce paper, cloth, fuel, and energy. (See the section of this book entitled The Economy and a Plant-Based Diet. p. 227.)

The same acre that can produce 10 kilograms of beef protein per year can produce 15 kilograms of lamb or pork protein, 30 kilograms of milk protein, around 180 kilograms of barley, wheat, rice, corn or potato protein, 200 kilograms of green pea protein, 500 kilograms of cabbage protein, or 800 kilograms of protein in the form of greens. (William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 86-88.)

Feedlots and dairy farms produce mountains of manure, far more than can be turned into fertilizer. A dairy cow produces around 120 pounds of manure and urine per day. These wastes are flushed into “lagoons.” They are often sprayed with high pressure nozzles onto open fields. The stench is so overpowering that neighbors are often forced to move away. These wastes inevitably flow into ditches, streams, rivers, and estuaries. It is illegal to spray manure in winter, when soil is frozen or saturated with rainfall, but farmers do it anyway. Lagoons and other waste handling equipment are often subsidized with state and federal money.

In Snohomish County, Washington, just north of Seattle, where I live and work, a law has been passed which protects the right of dairies, feedlots, and farms in general to produce bad odors. Sellers must give written notice to buyers of land which is within a certain distance of agricultural land, that there may be odors that they will have to endure. Having received such notice, buyers are barred from suing over the stench. Washington state law provides: “[A]gricultural activities conducted on farmland and forest practices, if consistent with good agricultural and forest practices and established prior to surrounding nonagricultural and nonforestry activities, are presumed to be reasonable and shall not be found to constitute a nuisance unless the activity has a substantial adverse effect on the public health and safety.” (Snohomish County Code 32.15; RCW 7.48.305.)

While the number of dairies continues to drop, those that remain enlarge their herds to keep up with rising costs. Dairy cows no longer graze in grassy fields; most spend their entire lives in feedlots where they often stand in manure. Vegetables and fruits irrigated with water polluted by dairies and feedlots often harbor deadly E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Drinking water wells have been contaminated. The Washington Department of Ecology says there is more dairy manure pollution flowing into rivers than industrial and human waste combined. There is little enforcement of pollution control laws. There are too few inspectors, and there is political pressure against shutting down violators. (Rob Taylor, “Dairies Spread Danger: State is Failing to Regulate Pollution by Milk Producers,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 20, 1996, p. B1;

Stockyards, chicken ranches, and slaughterhouses add to the endless supply of manure, urine, and blood that is washed into rivers and estuaries.
I read articles about the coming extinction of salmon in Puget Sound in which clueless reporters express bewilderment as to why the salmon are disappearing. I debate with myself whether there is a conscious cover up between the connection between the manure and the death of the salmon. Or whether reporters presume that dairy products and meat are absolutely essential and therefore have top priority. In either case there is a twisting of values.

Half of all fresh water consumed in this country goes directly or indirectly to raise livestock. Certain aquifers are being permanently depleted; water that accumulated during the last Ice Age is being “mined.” If present practices are continued, Mid-Western aquifers such as the Ogallala will not completely recharge until the next Ice Age. Instead of building expensive new water facilities, we should just quit producing animal-based foods and in the process save the grain and water that are fed to animals. (Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, p. 218 ff.)

To produce a pound of tomatoes requires only 23 gallons of water, but to produce a pound of beef requires 5,214 gallons. (Tom Aldridge and Herb Schlubach, “Water Requirements for Food Production,” Soil and Water, No. 38 (Fall 1978), University of California Cooperative Extension, 13-17; Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Population, Resources, Environment, San Francisco: Freeman, 1972, p. 75-76, both cited in Our Food Our World: The Realities of an Animal-Based Diet, ed. EarthSave, p. 5.) Another authority says this figure is far too high and that only 440 gallons of water are required to produce a pound of beef. (J.L. Beckett and J.W. Oltjen, Journal of Animal Science, 1993, 71:818-826.) In either case, more water is consumed in producing animal-based foods than green foods.

Throughout the world forests are being cut down to provide pasture to animals and grow corn and soy to feed them. This results in the loss of 7 billion tons of topsoil per year. According to John Robbins,

Two hundred years ago, most of America’s croplands had at least 21 inches of topsoil. Today, most of it is down to around six inches of topsoil, and the rate of topsoil loss is accelerating. It takes nature 500 years to build an inch of topsoil. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service reports that over 4 million acres of cropland are being lost to erosion in this country every year. That’s an area the size of Connecticut. (Diet for a New America, p. 357-358.)

Mangrove forests are found in river mouths and estuaries throughout the tropics, from Taiwan to India to Central America, wherever sand beaches do not build up because of ocean currents. I have paddled and swum through shallow mangrove estuaries in Mindanao. Half the world’s mangrove forests have being ripped out and replaced with prawn farms. Such farms pollute surrounding rice growing areas and poison aquifers. They often fail after a few years and are abandoned, leaving ugly muddy waterholes. Mangrove forests are the nursery of aquatic life. When you remove the mangroves, the wild fish have no place to lay their eggs, and this eliminates the wild fish which millions of fisher folk rely on. (The Mangrove Action Project,

In British Columbia, hundreds of salmon farms have been set up. Salmon are fed several pounds of fish meal for every pound of salmon meat produced. Because these animals are confined, they tend to be diseased and so are fed antibiotics. Because they do not eat the same fish that wild salmon eat, their flesh does not turn pink, and so they are fed dye. Farmed fish are often fed corn and soy, and thus they contain lower levels of the essential fatty acids found in wild fish. (See the Fish, EPA and DHA section of this book, p. 260.) Farmed salmon are infested with sea lice, which are controlled through chemicals introduced into their feed. Swarms of sea lice latch onto passing wild salmon and dramatically diminish wild salmon populations. (

I should point out that it is possible to farm fish in a way that is not degrading to the environment. For thousands of years the Chinese have raised four species of carp together, each feeding on different naturally occurring plants and animals. Humans add only vegetation to fish ponds. Filter-feeding clams and mussels can be raised in cages suspended offshore where they suck in and eat plankton. Shell fish could provide an almost infinite food source. Unfortunately, experts advise limits on shell fish consumption because in the process of filtering water, they concentrate PCBs in their tissues.

Although the human population of the world is around 6.6 billion as of 2007, the farm animal population of the world is around 15 billion: 1.3 billion cattle, 2.7 billion pigs, sheep, goats, horses, buffaloes and camels, and 11 billion fowl. (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, Production Yearbook 1989, cited in Our Food Our World: The Realities of an Animal-Based Diet, p. 6.) However, other estimates of the total domesticated animal population are much higher, up to 40 billion. The recent United Nations report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow says 48 billion fowl are slaughtered yearly. ( Perhaps the lower number represents the number of animals alive at any given time while the higher number represents the number living and being slaughtered yearly.

The impact of such large numbers of animals on consumption of grain, water, fuel, and energy and also their production of fecal waste and methane is staggering. Confined animals are a breeding ground for resistance to antibiotics, and so the cost to our health will be great in the long run. (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, Production Yearbook 1989, cited in Our Food Our World: The Realities of an Animal-Based Diet, p. 6.)

Every time you drink milk, eat cheese or ice cream, put butter on your potato, or eat beef, pork, eggs, or chicken, you are doing your small part to further the world’s environmental degradation.

You might respond: I am only eating a few pounds of animal products each week. That’s such a small impact; it doesn’t matter that much. The problem, of course is that there are 6.6 billion people, all of them making a small impact. You can make a small impact in degrading the environment, or you can make a small impact in improving it.


Oil, coal, and gas contain carbon that was buried millions of years ago. Burning them puts greenhouse gasses back into the atmosphere and thus contributes to global warming. Burning of coal is the biggest source of mercury pollution. Mercury goes up the smokestack and ends up in the oceans. It has done more than anything else to make fish a toxic food.

We burn fossil fuels to produce fertilizer and grow food for farm animals. Ninety percent of all soy and 80 percent of all corn grown in the United States is fed to livestock. If everyone in the United States adopted a vegan diet tomorrow, then all this mass of oil seed and biomass could instead be used to feed hungry humans and produce biodiesel and ethanol. If we grew as much biomass and oil seed and did not feed it to animals, the product saved would be available to replace oil and coal. If the right kind of biomass were grown, it would enrich the soil.

If biomass, grain, and oil seed fed to animals were used instead to produce biodiesel and ethanol, and if as much additional biomass, grain, and oil seed were produced as possible, and if solar, wind, wave, and tidal power, and power from the temperature differential of ocean water at different depths were all harnessed, would there be enough energy to replace petroleum, gas, and coal consumption?

Biodiesel burns better than petroleum diesel and produces fewer unwanted emissions such as carbon monoxide, sulphur compounds, and ozone, although it does produce more nitrogen oxides. Tailpipe emissions smell like French fries being cooked. Ethanol made from corn, sugar cane stalks, and other forms of biomass has a high octane rating and burns cleaner and cooler than gasoline. Corn makes a poor biofuel because it takes almost as much fuel to produce it as it yields. Green fuels recycle carbon, burning carbon from plants after those plants have taken in the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere in order to grow. (,;

In the greenhouse gas debate, carbon dioxide is mentioned most. Methane is largely ignored. Carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for a hundred years and is increasing slowly but surely. However, methane is 24 times as potent a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide, and methane levels are increasing faster than carbon dioxide levels. Methane is responsible for half of human-induced global warming. The major human induced source of methane is animal agriculture, with methane coming from animals expelling gas and from the decay of manure. Methane production from animal agriculture continues to rise: Meat consumption has increased from 44 million tons in 1950 to 242 million in 2002.

There are massive quantities of methane dissolved in arctic tundra, with is already being released as more and more tundra thaws. Too there are staggering quantities of congealed methane hydrate ice in the mud at the bottom of oceans around the world. As ocean temperatures rise, this methane may melt and gassify and “burp” upwards into the atmosphere.
The only good news about methane is that it persists for only eight years before being reabsorbed out of the atmosphere. This means that “going vegan” can do more to reduce global warming in the short term than buying a Prius. (Noam Hohr, A New Global Warming Strategy, Earthsave, Al Gore says not a word about the connection between domesticated animals, methane, and global warming in his An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe this is a truth just a little too inconvenient for middle-of-the roader Al.
The environmental outlook is grim. I feel fairly certain that calamitous change will occur. Al Gore suggests there is still hope, but I doubt it. Runaway global warming will occur and we may see devastating effects in our lifetimes, including rapidly rising ocean levels, along with droughts and other forms of climatic instability. When there is instability, the outcome is unpredictable. The world could keep getting hotter, or deep ocean currents could be disrupted, and the world could be plunged into a new Ice Age. In either case billions of humans could be displaced or killed.

Sleepwalking humans will not change their ways until they are forced to change, and by the time they are forced to change, it will be too late for there to be a “soft landing.” I hope that we will wake up before it is too late and mend our ways­—and change our diet.

Both of the political parties which govern us are capitalist. Republicans are a little more short term about their capitalism than are Democrats. But they are both “crony capitalist” in orientation, meaning that they irrationally subsidize and protect money-making industries such as the saturated fat business.
I must admit confusion as to why Republicans do not adopt the global warming issue: Republicans own most of the waterfront property that is going to be flooded as oceans rise.

For all the reasons outlined above, I hope you will agree with me when I say that one cannot be an environmentalist without being a vegan or moving strongly in that direction.


Chapter 11 – The Economy and a Plant-Based Diet

Meat, eggs, and dairy products make for bad macroeconomics and bad microeconomics. They are bad for the world economy, the national economy, and the family budget.
Animal foods are more expensive than plant-based foods. A family can easily cut its food bill by eating a plant-based diet. The cheapest and healthiest diet would include sprouted and/or cooked grains plus sprouted and/or cooked legumes, raw and lightly cooked backyard greens, nuts, fruit, flax seed, and wild greens such as dandelion flowers. When grains, legumes, beans, and sunflower seeds are sprouted, they can double in volume. They come alive nutritionally. There is more food to eat for the same price. Such food does not even have to be cooked. Healthier family members will miss fewer days at work and school.

A strictly vegetarian household will save on utility bills. Without meat grease to dissolve and without germs to scald, the hot water heater can be turned down from the standard 140° F. setting to 120° F. This small adjustment produces significant savings. When you do not cook with meat, milk, and eggs, washing dishes and pots and pans is mostly a matter of rinsing them off. Sprouted grain and sprouted pulses can be eaten without being cooked, again saving energy.
Without meat to store, freezer temperatures need not be so cold. My freezer contains bags of vegetables, juice, Rice Dream “ice cream,” blackberries, grapes, and plums. (Cut out the seeds and freeze plums in plastic bags.) There are frozen bananas in my freezer. (Buy overripe bananas by the box for ten cents a pound; peel, bag, freeze them, and use them to make nondairy smoothies.) Meat should be frozen to 0°F. for maximum protection, but no plant-based food needs to be kept this cold. I set my freezer on 20°F. With no milk or eggs to store in the refrigerator, the temperature setting can be higher. Vegetables just do not rot and grow bacteria as quickly or with the same stench as do animal-based foods.
A strictly vegetarian refrigerator is easier to sanitize: The infectious diseases we humans contract do not typically grow in vegetables, whereas they do grow in animals and in animal-based foods. A vegan kitchen requires less care in cleaning it. Likewise, a vegetarian oven is much easier to clean. Frying meat produces clouds of grease, which coat walls. Roaches can multiply with only the thin film of grease on your walls to eat.
In almost all areas of the country, all household water?—?including so-called gray water from the sink, bathtub, and dishwasher—goes right into the sanitary sewer or septic tank along with the black water from the commode. But it is really only black water that needs to go into the sewer or septic tank. Grey water could be allowed to run out into the back yard to water the yard and garden. However, because most people eat greasy animal-based foods, those few cities that do allow separate gray water systems that empty into the yard typically require charcoal filters to remove the grease. Because so many people forget to back flush their filters and allow them to putrefy, most cities just flatly prohibit separate backyard disposal of gray water. As a result more water goes down the sanitary sewer and is wasted, and the cost of water treatment is increased. More fresh water must be drawn to water lawns and gardens.

Health care costs continue to increase in the United States. We spend far more than any other country on health care per capita, an astounding 14 percent of our gross domestic product, around $1.7 trillion out of a $12 trillion (2004) economy. Yet around 43 million Americans have no health coverage other than going to the county hospital when there is an emergency. Those who eat a plant-based diet are much healthier and require much less medical care. To the extent our population moved to a plant-based diet, the national cost of health care could be greatly reduced. Costs associated with eating our standard animal-based diet are from $24 to $61 billion per year, equal to costs associated with cigarette smoking. (N.D. Barnard, A. Nicholson, J.L. Howard, “The Medical Costs Attributable to Meat Eating,” Preventive Medicine (24 (6), pp. 646-655, Nov. 24, 1995.)
Dr. Dean Ornish wrote in 1990 that we were spending $7 billion a year on heart bypass surgeries and $78 billion on heart disease generally in the United States. To the extent that our population ate a plant-based diet, this cost could be greatly reduced. (Program for Reversing Heart Disease, p. 28.)
What would farmers do with their acreage if they were not using it to graze livestock and raise corn and soy to feed to livestock? They could grow oil seed and biomass crops which could be used to produce ethanol and biodiesel fuels to replace petroleum imports. In western North America, pine nuts could be grown, much more profitably than cattle can be raised.
Farmers could also grow kenaf and industrial hemp. Now, calm down, industrial hemp contains little of the intoxicating chemical THC that is found in marijuana. Hemp can be used to produce tasty and healthy seed cakes, food oils rich in essential fatty acids, high quality lubricating oils, ethanol, plastics, paper, and cloth. It can be used to make paper more cheaply than can be made from trees: Per acre, per year, hemp produces four times the amount of fiber than does wood. Hemp and kenaf are much cheaper to grow than trees. Harvesting them does not disturb watersheds and cause floods. Paper made from hemp is low in sulfur and doesn’t turn yellow, and such paper will last hundreds of years. The United States Constitution was written on hemp paper. On the other hand, paper made from wood pulp is high in sulfur and so is acidic and turns yellow and falls apart in a few years. It is absurd that we cut down trees to make paper.
The case for hemp is relevant to my topic also because it is one of the few sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Hemp is very good for health.
Linen fabric can be produced from hemp or flax, and the fabric can be used for all the uses now made of cotton. Two bales, 1,000 pounds of fiber, can be produced per acre, and production cost is less than that of cotton. Cotton growing consumes roughly half of all pesticides used in this country, permanently polluting aquifers. Hemp requires no pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or weeding. Hemp can be rotated with other crops, which will grow better because hemp enriches the soil and fixes nitrogen while tree farming and cotton growing deplete the soil. Hemp produces a bumper crop every year, while the rule of thumb for rain-grown cotton is one good year, one mediocre year, and one bad year every three years.
Hemp biomass can be used to make alcohol fuel; this would reduce imports of oil and lessen the foreign trade deficit. Back in 1896, Rudolf Diesel used alcohol made from hemp in his engines. Henry Ford at one point planned to use alcohol made from hemp to power his cars.
It was primarily the oil industry that led the war against hemp, but the cotton industry and the forest industry benefited too and cheered from the sidelines. The growing of hemp was effectively banned in 1937 through the imposition of prohibitively high taxes. (Cris Conrad, Hemp Lifeline to the Future: The Unexpected Answer for Our Environmental and Economic Recovery.) Kenaf is another environmentally benign plant that can be grown for biomass, although it does not offer all the many uses of hemp.
Bamboo grows like a weed; in fact it is a weed. It can be compressed into extremely strong boards of any shape and size, which are stronger than steel on a per-pound basis. We should use bamboo instead of trees to build houses.
Flax grows easily in temperate regions. I know because I grow it myself in my yard. Flax seed and flax oil contain the hard-to-get Omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Gandhi encouraged the growing of flax and said that where ever flax was grown, people were healthier and wealthier.
The production of animal-based foods is very wasteful of energy. It takes 78 calories of fuel to produce one calorie of protein from beef; it takes only 2 calories of fuel to produce a calorie of protein from soybeans or other foods that can be fed directly to humans. The equivalent of a gallon of gasoline is consumed in the production of a pound of grain-fed beef. (Our Food Our World: The Realities of an Animal-Based Diet, p. 5.)
If an enlightened U.S. government adopted a policy of educating people to eat little or no animal products, enormous amounts of fuel would not be wasted in the manufacture of agricultural chemicals and the operation of farm equipment. If at the same time such an enlightened government encouraged the growing of biomass on land now used to produce feed grains, enormous amounts of fuel could be produced. The combination of fuel saved and additional fuel produced would dramatically reduce the amount of oil that has to be imported. The U.S. ran a $617 billion dollar trade deficit in 2004, and around $180 billion of that deficit was spent to import petroleum. Much of the trade deficit could be eliminated, through using the same soy and corn fed to animals and turning it into fuel, through growing additional biomass and oil seed crops, through conservation, through conversion to hybrid vehicles, and through development of solar power, wind power, wave power, tidal power, and the power to be derived from the temperature differential between soil and ocean water at different depths. Unfortunately, our crony capitalist system—which arbitrarily favors one industry over another—seems determined to continue to burn oil until its all burned up. Petroleum can be made into myriad products. We can expect our grandchildren to ask us what our generation did with all the petroleum. We will say, “We burned it.” They will look at us with astonishment.
Farm corporations growing grains which are fed to animals—such as corn, soybeans, and sorghum—received $16 billion in federal price supports and subsidies in 1987. Although beef cattle producers receive no direct subsidies, they do receive indirect subsidies in the form of feed grains that are artificially low in cost due to government subsidies and in the form of low rent on grazing land in the West. Milk producers receive around $2 billion each year in price supports. (William Harris, M.D., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism, p. 80.)
U.S. agricultural subsidies help U.S. farmers produce corn and wheat so cheaply that family farms throughout the Third World can no longer compete. Family farmers abandon farming and emigrate to the U.S., legally and illegally. The quickest way to stop illegal immigration from Latin America to the U.S. would be to change our farm subsidy system.
Thus, eating a green diet is good economics. There have been vegetarian political parties in the past, even candidates who ran for president on a vegetarian party ticket. Every percent by which we decrease our consumption of animal-based foods improves our health, our personal finances, and our economy.
The suggestion that we change our economic base away from animal-based foods confronts strong conventions about food choice. It also confronts a very deep-rooted capitalist system, as I say elsewhere. Cattle herding is the original form of capitalism. The very words “cattle” and “capital” derive from the very same root word. The first capitalism was “cattle-ism.”
Producers of milk, meat, eggs, and a host of animal by-products from soap to glue have invested heavily and derive huge profits from these products. Grass is of no immediate value to humans; we can’t eat it or spend it. However, by routing it through animals, it can be converted into meat, milk, and money.
Pure capitalism is the application of the profit system, without regard to the needs of people and the environment, and where all other considerations yield to profits. Fortunately, most capitalists do not believe in pure capitalism. Fortunately, liberal capitalism has been a force for positive change in many ways. Fortunately, there are some legal restraints on capitalism. Unfortunately, there are far too few restraints, especially regarding the production of animal-based foods and the destruction of the wild places.


Chapter 12 – Population Explosion And Eating A Green Diet


Our species has been on the verge of extinction many times. The latest low point came with the explosion of the volcano known as Toba in Sumatra around 74,000 years ago. Ash was dumped on much of the world, and huge amounts of sulphur dioxide were released into the atmosphere. The climate grew cold and dark. The human population was reduced from an unknown level, probably in the millions, to a few hundred or even a few score reproducing women in one area in Africa. I would hypothesize that Toba gave rise to the legend of the Deluge of Noah, followed by the death of most of humanity. (See Quest for the Historical Deluge, page 55.) Before Toba humans had spread to many parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, but all populations were wiped out or later died out except those in Africa. We are all descended from a small group of African Bushmen. Bushmen once lived throughout Africa, but retreated to the Kalahari, a desert no one else wanted, until governments discovered diamonds in the desert.

World population grew to around one million to 20 million around 12,000 years ago, 200 million by the time of Jesus, 1.0 billion around 1804-1840, 2.0 billion by 1927, 3.0 billion by 1960, 4.0 billion by 1974, 5.0 billion by 1987, 6 billion by 1999, and 6.6 billion by 2007. (Estimates vary for the early years.) Our numbers have increased a thousand fold in 12,000 years, from around 6.6 million to 6.6 billion. Our numbers have tripled since 1930. There are approximately 133 million births and 53 million deaths per year world wide, for a net increase of around 80 million people per year. It is considered inevitable that world population will rise to around 10 billion before it levels off around 2050 and perhaps begins to decline. Perhaps as a result of our near extinction at the time of Toba, we have an instinctual urge to reproduce aggressively. Maybe we always had that urge. What changed and set off the population explosion starting around 12,000 years ago was the discovery of plant and animal agriculture, which enabled us to give up nomadic life and settle down. More food meant more people could live in more compact communities. Disease remained a countervailing factor.

According to Jean Jacques Rousseau (died 1778) half of all children in his day died by age eight. As clean drinking water and sewer technologies were developed and as medical technology advanced, infant and child mortality dropped, and the rate of population growth increased even more. Our genes were programmed to urge us to have as many children as possible to overcome high mortality rates, but because mortality rates have dropped, we must learn to control this instinct.

There are estimates that we could feed five times as many people well if we fed them a vegetarian diet. In feeding 16 pounds of grain to a cow to make one pound of meat, fifteen pounds of soy and corn are wasted. If you fed the grain directly to humans, there would be a lot more left over for humans. As discussed elsewhere, feeding the world a vegetarian diet would greatly decrease environmental degradation. Animal herding contributes to desertification. Lands receiving low rainfall are strikingly different when there are no domesticated animals grazing on them. Cattle trample areas near streams and wells, as they travel there to drink, causing erosion and crop destruction. Cattle, sheep, and goats, kill trees. They eat new saplings and thus prevent trees from growing back after fires or after humans have cut them down. Often a poor and hungry country must export the animal protein it produces to service the country’s foreign debt. Animal domestication enriches the few but impoverishes the many.

The United States has ruined the rural economies of the Third World with its massive subsidies to U.S. growers of corn, wheat, soy, and cotton growers. Small farmers in Third World countries cannot compete. Nor, by the way, can the Third World compete in meat, dairy, and egg production, because crop subsidies are indirect subsidies to the growers of the animal products. The rural economy of the Third World is destroyed, so villagers emigrate to the big cities and to the United States. The way to get the Mexicans and Central Americans to quit coming here and to go home is to change our crop subsidy system.
Feed five times as many people on a vegetarian diet? Yikes! says the ZPG member. ZPG is Zero Population Growth, a middle-of-the-road group that believes we should slow and stop the increase in population and eventually level it off at some level higher than our present level. Yikes! Says NPG, Negative Population Growth. These guys are more radical than ZPG. They believe we should stop growth now and reduce the human population dramatically, even down to two or even one billion people or even less. Yikes! they both say. If we could produce enough food to feed five times as many people on a plant-based diet, then switching to a plant-based diet would allow the population to quintuple. This is an unfounded fear. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it is nevertheless a fact that well-fed people are more likely than hungry people to limit the number of children they have. Parents on the edge of starvation will have more children if only to provide more family labor and support them in their old age. Further, there are constraints on population other than food constraints. Space, energy, material resources, pollution, and global warming also act as limits on growth. All should be fed. All should be fed well. Hunger and starvation should not be used as tools for reigning in population growth.
If ample food were available at reasonable prices, people would be freed from their desperate quest for food. They would have more time and energy to perform productive labor or obtain education—including education about family planning. Population stabilization correlates directly with the economic and educational level of women specifically and society generally. In terms of food production—with vegetables fed to people instead of animals—a more vegetarian world would be able to feed people better.
Some of my ZPG friends have said that what I propose—switching to a plant-based diet to feed people better and thus promote smaller families—is too indirect a method of population control. A few have employed the ghoulish logic that they don’t focus first on feeding people better because if people ate better, fewer would die, and thus the population would increase even more. They have said that I should focus on condoms and not cuisine.
I disagree. While contraceptive education cannot be ignored and is a fundamental component in the effort to reign in population growth, dietary change is equally important in the long term. My thesis is that dietary change towards a green diet would civilize society generally and make it more healthy, sustainable, and prosperous, and that contraceptive education would be more teachable and more effective in such a society.
A person concerned about the population explosion should take both lines of attack—contraceptive education and dietary change. They are not mutually exclusive; they complement each other. The connection between population and diet is indirect but definite and multifactoral.
Already half the land surface of the earth is taken up by animal grazing and growing grain to feed to them. Animal husbandry reduces soil fertility, contributes to erosion and desertification, and pollutes water supplies. Those poor who improve their lot have a tendency to adopt the meat eating ways of the middle class. This will only increase our assault on the land and wild animals, reduce soil fertility, and pollute more waters.
People will generally be more prosperous when land is more fertile. Prosperous people are more secure economically. People who are economically secure will feel that most of their children will survive, and so they will be more willing to limit the number of children they will bear. Prosperous people will be more able to afford birth control technologies. Prosperous people will be more educated and more capable of understanding the reproductive process.
For all these reasons, a vegetarian community has much more potential to be prosperous and reign in population growth than one that herds and keeps animals. General prosperity has lowered population growth rates in richer countries; rising prosperity is doing the same even in countries still poor.
But what about the fact that Western countries consume the most animal products but have the lowest rates of population growth, while Africa eats the least animal products and has the highest rates of population growth? Does meat eating reduce European population? Does relative vegetarianism increase Africa’s growth rate? The answer again is that population growth is multifactoral. Western nations control their populations better because they are richer and more secure that their offspring will survive, and in spite of the fact that they eat more fat and are thus more fertile. They have enough money to buy contraceptives, and the education to understand how to use them. Poor nations have problems with population growth because they are financially insecure and less educated. Europeans can husband animals without completely wrecking their environment and economy because in most of Europe there is consistent rainfall, something lacking in much of Africa. The best way to reduce insecurity in poor nations, especially those which are prone to desertification, is to give them food security, and that comes easiest when animal husbandry is reduced or eliminated.
Another important factor is the relatively free access to abortion in richer countries. If women in richer countries gave birth to all the children they abort, the statistical picture would be very different. Fertility rates may actually be lower in the poorest countries, but with relatively few abortions, overall growth rates are higher there.
Vegetarian girls enter puberty several years later than other girls. Vegetarian women enter menopause several years earlier than other women. Women who eat a low-fat diet remain relatively infertile for significant periods of time following childbirth, whereas those who eat a high-fat diet become fertile sooner. Thus, vegetarian women experience lower average fertility over the course of their lives. A small change in fertility can result in a significant percentage change in population growth, which cam result in a big difference in total population over a long period of time. (See the section of this book entitled Eating Animal-Based Foods: Earlier Puberty, Later Menopause, p.250.)
Some worry because the population of some European countries is actually falling. “With so few children coming along, who will finance Social Security?” they ask. The solution is to raise the retirement age, reduce benefits, raise Social Security taxes, raise general taxes, or raise the maximum income level on which Social Security taxes are imposed. Richer nations should encourage their populations to fall because they consume much more in resources and energy than the poor of the southern nations. We should have a United Nations treaty in which the richest countries particularly agree to reduce their populations.
I declined to renew my ZPG membership a few years back. ZPG is too single-minded an organization. It sings a one-note song and focuses too narrowly on contraceptives and abortion rights. It fails to fit population control where it belongs, into a comprehensive economic, environmental, and dietary framework.
There are two population explosions. The first is the explosion in the number of human; the second is the explosion in the number of domesticated food animals, most of these animals spending part or all of their lives in factory farms. There are 15 billion such animals, not counting fish raised in fish farms. (Some say the number is closer to 40 billion.) Of this 15 billion, around four billion are large animals— cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses. Pigs produce 20 pounds of fecal matter and urine per day, beef cattle 80 pounds, dairy cattle 120 pounds. Chickens are smaller and produce less waste per “unit,” but because there are 48 billion chickens slaughtered yearly, chickens too produce a lot of waste. When the waste is stored in “lagoons,” it seeps down into the water table and pollutes wells. When there is a heavy rain, “lagoons” overflow and untreated waste goes into rives and estuaries, killing millions of fish at a time. Human waste must be treated, but factory farm waste can be dumped on the commons. These are 15 billion animals (some say 40 billion animals) that would not be alive if our world ate a green diet. As the Chinese and Indians get richer, they are following our unhealthy pattern, feeding ever more grain to animals and eating more animal-based foods. All factory farming of animals should be banned. This is a position that non-vegetarians environmentalists should support. We should all agree that industrial production of animal products should be banned and that animal products should only be grown on family farms, or in back yards, as in the case of chickens. By the way, Seattle is unusual in that it is legal to raise up to three chickens there in your back yard.
Most people are only vaguely aware of population issues. No president has ever addressed the nation on the subject. Neither major political party, neither “Republicrat” nor “Democan” — tweedle-dum and tweedle-dumber on this issue — has made population control a campaign issue. This is nothing less than an outrage against environmental reality.
When population control is discussed, it is usually treated as something that should happen somewhere else, off in Africa or Asia. To the contrary, each country — and each region of each country — should reign in its own population growth. If a rich country like the United States cannot control its numbers, how can we expect poor countries to do so? We consume far more resources per person than people in poor counties, so small population gains here have a greater environmental impact than large gains in poor countries. The Republican and Democratic parties are both capitalist, and it is the stated or unstated policy of each that world population should continue to rise at a moderate rate. It is part of traditional capitalist theory that a growing population makes rich people richer: It increases the number of consumers, which increases sales. It increases the number of workers, which keeps down the price of labor. This is a half-truth and at the same time an outright lie: It is a half-truth because even if a growing population were good for the economy, it would only be good in the short run. And it is an outright lie because it is not good to hold down the price of labor — because low wages and poverty tend to cause higher population growth along with many other problems.
In the long term there is no moderate or acceptable rate of population increase because time continues infinitely into the future. Moderating the rate of increase does not solve the problem, it only defers it. If we stop population growth at some time in the distant future, we will be stopping it at a higher level than if we stopped it now, and the strain on the physical environment will be ratcheted up to a higher level and stay there for a longer time. It would be easier to stop population growth now than it will be to stop it in the future. If we stop population growth right away, we will be able to do it through education instead of resorting to something like the mandatory one-child method which the Chinese have used, which would impose great stress on legal and constitutional systems.
What does education about contraception have to do with diet and animal rights? They are two sub-themes under the main theme of this book, which is taking responsibility for the overall moral and physical well being of our species and planet and the Eleventh Commandment, Do unto other species as you would have them do unto your own. We should leave room for other species to live instead of occupying every square foot of the planet. Contraception is a means of population control, and so is conversion to a green diet. The title of my book is “What to Serve a Goddess,” but the subtext is “How to Serve a Goddess.”
After the explosion of the Toba volcano some 74,000 years ago, the human population was tiny, and the world was a garden. We are enjoined in the Bible, Talmud, and other holy books to return the world to its Edenic state. An Eden would have a clean environment and a low population and be free of strife. Thus, population control is not just an environmental issue but also a theological and ethical issue. This is not a book just about food; it is a book about how to civilize the world, with eating right being one of several interlocking and vital component of the civilizing process. Because of the high fat diet most of us eat and because of the high hormone levels in animal based foods, children are reaching fertility at ever younger ages and women are more fertile for more years. There is a direct relationship between diet and population increase. Right loving and right eating are two aspects of right living. The urge to reproduce is a powerful instinct within us. If we did not posses this instinct, there are times when we would not have survived as a species. The only way to curb this urge is to bring it into full consciousness. Fertile people who engage in sexual activity without using effective contraceptive measures are not so much misbehaving as acting out a powerful and unconscious biological imperative. In terms of reproduction, we are “on automatic,” and we must get off “automatic” soon. We are descended from a long, unbroken line of people who were interested in sex. Ironically, we are most repressed about this most interesting of subjects.
Many people believe the lie that there is something wrong with a person who has not had sex at an early age. Many people believe the lie that a person is a fool not to have sex every time the opportunity presents itself. They believe we should “do it” first and deal with the consequences later. I talked with Army recruiters when I was 18. They told me how great it was to be in the service because on weekends there was cheap beer and quick sex. They boasted of their lowest-moral-common-denominator value system. This was one of the reasons why I did not do my patriotic duty and join up. The recruiters were wrong: It is good to wait to have sex until you have found a partner who will stick with you and the children you may create. Forty percent of all children in the United States do not live with their fathers. Their parents should have been doing something other than having sex, and that is a practical and not a prudish position to take.
My dear departed, fuddy-duddy dad believed the quaint notion that keeping the young ignorant about sex was an effective way to keep them from having sex. The exact opposite is true: Ignorance is the best way to guarantee kids will get into trouble. Those who have been taught family planning at home or in school have less sexual activity and produce fewer unwed children. Prudish and absolutist prohibitions won’t work; open and frank education does work. Parents should educate their children about sex, but most are uncomfortable doing so, feeling perhaps that any mention of sex is an endorsement of it, and probably feeling that any discussion of sex will lead to a discussion of their own sex lives. Most parents procrastinate, thinking at each stage that their children are too young to learn the facts of life and love. Kids who eat the typical American high-fat diet enter puberty at 12 or nine years old, or even younger. Time slips by, and all too quickly, the kids are having intercourse. That necessary parent-child conversation has not happened.

In our sex-saturated society, where children have incomplete and erroneous information about sex, they should learn the facts of life and love in great detail and learn these facts before puberty. Once puberty starts, the hormones take over, and two instincts are invoked: the instinct to mate and the instinct to distrust and move away from parents as part of the maturation process. After puberty begins, children will be a lot harder to talk with. All questions should be answered and at every age level, but more than that, parents should take the lead and educate. I would propose that on each birthday parents explain to the child where he or she came from, in greater detail each year, starting with how a sperm from daddy and an egg from mommy became the child. Because parents are repressed when it comes to talking with their kids about sex, schools should teach the facts of life and love. Otherwise kids will learn about sex from other kids. I learned some pretty ridiculous things about sex from kids at school.

We should actively encourage no-child and one-child marriages. The only child has the benefit of greater personal and financial resources and is usually sound emotionally.

Love making is the most sublime experience life has to offer, but it is also very serious business: It can produce a new human. Intercourse is said to be “the knowledge of good and evil,” perhaps because the child produced may do good or evil, depending on the strength of the triangular relationship between father, mother, and child. Intercourse is the joining of two bodies, minds, and spirits. It should be considered one of the sacraments. We are wrong if we treat it as sport.


Chapter 14 – The Ethics of Diet

Seattle resident David Coats points out in his book (Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm) that our image of animals living a happy existence in the barnyard is a myth of the past. The barnyard was phased out after World War II, and the factory farming system has replaced it almost entirely. Today the vast majority of dairy cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys spend their entire lives in windowless buildings where animals are crammed together, usually in cages. Cattle spend their final months standing and lying in manure in feed lots. In the industry they are called “CFOs,” which stands for “confinded feeding operations.” I call them factory farms. My compassionate adopted sister Betsy—who did most of the drawings in this book—calls them “animal penitentiaries.”
Hunting season is a time of terror for wild animals. The woods echo with booms, as men stalk them through woods and fields. When animals are wounded by a hunter who has not shot straight, they die a slow and painful death. And according to various sources, there are one or two animals wounded for every animal killed immediately. Nevertheless, an animal shot by an accurate marksman dies quickly after having lived a free and natural life. In comparison, modern methods of housing and killing livestock are barbaric. The area of greatest ethical concern is not how animals are killed but how they are raised—in filthy, unhealthy, malodorous and confining conditions. I do not hunt, except with a camera, and I do not advocate hunting. Nor do I fish. However, I regard hunting and fishing to be less unethical than factory farming.
Wild meat is leaner and fairly free of pesticides, antibiotics, and the diseases of factory farmed animals. If you are determined to eat meat, you should go hunting for it. Or you should raise laying hens in your backyard.
A carnivorous animal kills to survive. If a human hunts to survive, I have little objection to it. In winter in the north, there is little else to eat but hunted meat. Hunting one animal at a time is a far different thing than burning down forests to graze cattle by the millions, housing animals in filth and cruelty, and convincing millions of people through mass marketing to buy and eat animal products in order to make huge profits. An entirely different scale of moral culpability is involved.
Fishers, hunters, and vegetarians should not be adversaries. They could combine efforts in an alliance dedicated to returning overgrazed lands to wild preserves. Several hundred million buffalo, elk, and other animals could roam free in a Western buffalo commons stretching in a corridor through the western great plains from Texas to Alberta. I would not necessarily oppose killing animals in the wild that are injured, sick, or aged or when over population of a species is desertifying an area, or if a species has been imported and is upsetting the ecological balance of an area. If people are determined to eat game animals, then culling of wild animals is the way they should kill them. And they should be killed in a painless way that avoids terrorizing them. Millions of animals could be harvested yearly, producing more meat than Western cattle ranches but with no environmental damage. And let’s not forget about all the edible insects that could be harvested. Dry lands could be replanted in the piñon trees which ranchers cut down, and which would produce a small fortune per acre in pine nuts.
Beef cattle live somewhat normal lives for their first five or six months, grazing on pasture land. However, males are castrated, and the deed is not done by veterinarians. The animals are held in a huge clamp, and the testicles are cut out—without anesthetic. Infection often ensues. Another method is to fasten a thick, tight rubber band around the scrotum to cut off blood circulation. The testicles fall off after a week or so. Castration makes animals somewhat docile, turning a bull into an ox. Some believe the meat tastes better. (See Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, for the full story.)
Beef cattle are usually branded, which means a white-hot iron is held against their rumps for five seconds, cooking the flesh, burning the hair away, and creating scar tissue so the hair cannot grow back. Because cattle are sold repeatedly, they are branded repeatedly, sometimes in the face. Life is improving slightly for branded animals: Ear tagging and freeze branding are replacing hot branding, not for humanitarian reasons but because they are cheaper.
Cattle spend their last four or five months being “finished” on corn and soy beans to fatten them up. Because they will be closely confined in stock yards and during transportation, they are dehorned. This is a very painful procedure in which the horns and surrounding tissues are cut out and then further burned away with caustic chemicals. Dehorning is necessary because these animals are going to become violent as a result of the way they will be treated.
An old federal law requires that cattle, pigs, and sheep transported by train be fed and watered. However, animals transported by truck are not subject to such regulations. As a result most animals are transported by truck and not by train. Despite the crowding, some animals fall and are trampled. They have been bred to have big bodies and small, weak legs. When such “downers” and “spreaders” arrive at their destination, a chain secured to a post is attached to them, the truck drives away, and they are dragged out of the truck. Some downers are still eligible for human consumption, but others are ground up and fed to other animals as protein supplements and pet food.
Many cattle succumb to shipping pneumonia, and to prevent this they are administered chloramphenicol, which remains in meat and is highly toxic to some humans who consume such meat.
Beef cattle pass their last weeks in feed lots where not a blade of grass grows, standing and lying constantly in mud, dust, and their excrement. They eat mostly corn, soy beans, other grains, and protein supplement, which can contain fish meal, chicken feathers, and chicken droppings. Hay is their natural food, and without it cattle develop ulcers. Eating grains without hay causes acidosis, liver abscesses, and inflamed feet. Many cattle die before they are to be slaughtered. To try to keep them alive, corporate farmers feed them antibiotics. To prevent flies from breeding in the mountains of manure which are produced, industrial farmers feed them larvicide, which kills the maggots which flies lay in the manure.
Cows have been bred for docility. They are not as intelligent as the great aurochs from which they are descended, and which survived in Poland until 1627, but they are smart enough to know from the cries of other animals that they are about to die. Some cattle are stunned with a captive bolt pistol shot to the brain. Others are slaughtered by means of the modern “kosher kill,” which is far different from ancient kosher methods.
The kosher rule, according to the Talmud, is that an animal is eligible for sacrifice or consumption only if it is completely healthy, conscious, and not stunned or bludgeoned in advance of slaughter. The shochet, or ritual slaughterer, is to calm the animal and get it to lie down. He then bends down over the animal and reaches around its neck and, with a long, straight blade that is extremely sharp and free of any nicks or serrations, quickly makes one very deep cut that severs the jugular vein. The knife must move back and forth along the single cut line. Motion must not stop until the job is done. The animal loses consciousness quickly and dies with little pain. (“Slaughter, Ritual,” Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1939 ed.)
Modern methods of kosher slaughter make a mockery of the laws of kashrut. Animals are sometimes hoisted up by a chain attached to one rear leg without being stunned in advance, a process that rips muscle and cartilage and pulls the leg out of its socket. If the line is moving slowly, the animal might dangle in this unnatural position for many minutes. The animal bellows in pain and terror. Only then is the throat cut. Or the animal may be locked in place by heavy machinery, its throat cut, and its trachea removed. The animal is dumped out of the machine, and it struggles to get up. The modern kosher kill is really not kosher at all, because a more fundamental rule of kosher is that animals be killed in a relatively painless way. I suspect that the problem with modern kosher slaughter is that animals are being killed by the thousands and with industrial efficiency. Original rules of kosher probably assumed animals would be slaughtered in a field on grass, one at a time. Dr. Temple Grandlin has written extensively on humane methods of slaughter. ( Even the best seem barbaric.
For our eating pleasure 100,000 cattle are slaughtered every day in the United States, 36.5 million per year. The killing is all done out of sight because if the public witnessed the savagery, most would quit eating beef. (John Robbins, Diet For a New America, p. 134-145; Jeremy Rifkin, Beyond Beef, p. 118 ff., 132 ff.)
America’s ten million dairy cows rarely see a growing blade of grass. The modern factory farm method is to house them in feedlots. In some cases dairy cattle are chained in stalls and the milking machines are brought to them. In the most modern operations the stalls themselves, “Unicars,” move the cows on tracks to the milking facility. The cow never leaves her stall.
Left to nature, a calf will nurse its mother twenty times a day for up to a year, and the mother’s udders will not carry much milk. However, modern cows have been bred to have udders so huge they drag on manure soaked concrete. Cows sometimes trample their own udders. Even nursing can injure them. By the time a cow is milked?—?two or three times each day—, her udders are painfully full. Such super-cows frequently develop udder infections, known as mastitis, and milk will contain puss. Cows in more normal conditions can live 20 years or more, but modern cows—fed hormones, grains, and high protein feed, which often includes ground-up meat and fish meal—burn out in three to five years, meaning that production begins to drop. The muscles holding up their bulging udders collapse, and these super-cows are converted into hamburger. C. David Coats, Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, p. 49-59.)
Certain bulls and boars have their penises redirected to exit to the side so they cannot impregnate cows and sows. These “sidewinders” are used only to determine which cow or sow is in estrus. Then the cows and sows are mounted in a “rape rack” and artificially inseminated with specially bred sperm. Sidewinders are becoming outmoded; now hormones are being used to induce fertility in cows and sows on demand.
Dairy cows must bear a calf each year in order to keep their milk flowing. Calves are removed immediately after they are born. If even a day passes, the cow bonds with the calf, becomes frantic at its disappearance, and struggles to be reunited with it. The calf bawls at the loss of it’s mother. Unless the cow is a prize breed that has been artificially inseminated with prize sperm to produce high-production offspring, her calf, male or female, is likely to be taken immediately for veal production.
The old way to produce tender, white veal was to slaughter calves shortly after birth when they weigh around 150 pounds. The modern way is to fatten them for around 100 days to a more profitable weight of 350 pounds.
Beef calves, male and female, are all fattened to full size and are generally not slaughtered young for veal. So, veal calves are almost always dairy calves. Only some of these females calves are needed for milk production, and the rest go to the veal crates. Very few male dairy calves are required to sire the next generation; most conception is through artificial insemination, and so almost all males are made into veal.
Veal crates are typically 22 inches wide. Calves can move only a few inches in any direction. The goal is to prevent them from getting any exercise that would toughen their muscles. Calves cannot even get their heads around to yield to their strong instinct to groom themselves. While calves are small they can squat down but not lie down in the normal way. As they grow, even squatting becomes difficult. Their legs atrophy through lack of exercise, and they have trouble walking to their deaths.
Factory farmers feed veal calves an iron-deficient diet so the meat will stay white instead of turning pink. Their diet is government surplus milk and butter—subsidized with our tax dollars. Veal calves are never given water to drink. Calves are helplessly weak. Water would quench their thirst, and they would drink less milk. They are given no hay, lest they absorb the iron it contains. They develop chronic diarrhea and live constantly in their own excrement. The smell would knock you down. But don’t try to visit a veal factory farm; corporate owners generally will not allow the public to see the barbaric way veal is produced.
Calves are normally very playful animals. A free calf will frolic about like a puppy or kitten. Veal calves, on the other hand, are raised in almost total darkness to minimize activity, and many go blind.
Around 20 percent of veal calves die before the customary age of slaughter, which is about 100 days old. By that point they are afflicted by numerous diseases—anemia, pneumonia, intestinal diseases, septicemia, ulcers, bloat, and diarrhea. Veal calves are regularly dosed with nitrofurazone, a recognized carcinogen.
To treat and prevent pneumonia, veal calves receive chloramphenicol, extremely minute amounts of which can cause aplastic anemia in a small percentage of humans. A plate of veal Parmesan made with meat from an animal recently treated with chloramphenicol will likely contain a dose large enough to sicken or kill a human who is susceptible. And those who are susceptible usually are not aware they are. (Food Animals Concern Trust (Fact Inc.) Newsletter; Wallace, I., et al, The Book of Lists #2, p. 240, cited by Robbins, Diet for a New America, p. 105, 117.)
Even if you are not going to become a strict vegetarian, at least quit eating veal. And because the dairy industry is so closely tied with veal production, quit eating dairy products. (C. David Coats, Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, p. 61-68.)
The story of laying hens is another scandal. Laying hens are a different breed from broilers. They are bred for laying eggs not for meat production and are skinnier. Their newly hatched chicks, never having seen their mother hens, are separated into useful females and useless males. The males are tossed into big plastic bags where they slowly suffocate. (J. Mason, and Peter Singer, Animal Factories, 1980, p. 5.) They are ground up and fed back to other chickens.
The surviving females are debeaked with a red-hot clipper. A chicken’s beak is extremely sensitive, and de-beakeding is as painful for a chicken as it would be if someone whacked off part of your nose, lips, and chin. Chicks are de-beaked because they are going to be driven mad by their coming confinement, and without debeaking they will peck each other to death. Sometimes beaks grow in a deformed way, and birds cannot eat or drink well and fail to gain weight. Four or five laying hens are housed in cages less than two feet tall, wide and deep. The hens are never able to extend their wings. When one moves the others must move. Lighting is manipulated. Chickens are very dependent on a routine of day and night, but they are subjected to almost complete darkness except when workmen need light to do their work.
When they begin laying, the lights might burn 23 hours per day. Manipulation of lighting and claustrophobic confinement drives the birds crazy. They become hysterical at the slightest noise. They scream and peck each other, and “cannibalism” is a serious problem. Although the point has been cut off their beaks, they can sometimes still peck each other to death. Cage floors are slanted so that eggs will roll down for easy collection. The weakest chicken will sometimes become lodged in this low spot in the cage and be trampled constantly. The floors are wire bars, and sometimes the birds’ toes actually grow around the bars and have to be cut off after many months when the hens “burn out” and are harvested.
Cages are stacked several layers high, so chickens below are showered with urine and feces raining down from above. The stench is overpowering. Diseases race through the chicken population, and the birds are fed a continuous diet of antibiotics. A significant number of hens are infected with the virus which causes leucosis and the leucosis tumors it causes, as well as with Marek’s virus and the lymph cancer it causes. ( Minerals are leached from their bones and many cannot stand. They suffer from a host of diseases—blindness, kidney damage, brain damage, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, malformed backbones, and twisted necks. The U.S. Department of Labor lists working with chickens as a very hazardous occupation since humans can contract diseases from them.
Hens in their cages do not look like hens as we would picture them. Most of their feathers are gone as a result of rubbing against the bars, and their skin is raw and red. Chickens normally live up to 20 years, but when egg production drops at 18 to 24 months, they are harvested to make soup or pet food or ground up to be fed back to the other chickens. (C. David Coats, Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, p. 81-96.)
Broilers are bred to produce a lot of meat. They are raised in giant factories like the layers, and often they are caged, with the cages stacked many layers high. Turkeys are usually raised in the same way. So called free-range chickens are not raised outside in fresh air, but in factory buildings. The only difference is free range chicken are not put in cages. That’s not much of an improvement. (See C. David Coats, Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, p. 81-96 and John Robbins, Diet for a New America, page 48 ff., for more sad details.)
In order to fatten ducks and geese as quickly as possible, factory farmers use a long funnel to force-feed grain down their necks, typically one kilogram per day for a mature bird, around one-fourth of the bird’s weight. Sometimes their stomachs burst. Their livers become diseased and swell to twice their natural size, producing as much as possible of the “delicacy” known as foie gras, which sells for $12 per ounce. (“Force Feeding Exposed: PETA Uncover Investigators Take You Behind the Scenes of a Foie Gras Farm,” PETA News, Winter, 1992, p. 5-7.) Protest this obscenity by not buying down pillows, coats, comforters, or sleeping bags, duck or goose meat, and of course foie gras. Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic have banned forced feeding of birds.
A sow is confined tightly in a cage that allows her piglets constant access to her tits so they will grow rapidly. Piglets that are deformed or that are crushed by the sow are fed right back to her, along with the afterbirth. The motto in the pork industry is “feed it back to them.”
Piglets are taken from her three to five weeks after birth, far sooner than their normal eight to twelve week weaning time, and the sow screams and struggles in vain to try to find her young. Piglets are moved to cages, which can be stacked many layers high. Eight piglets are housed in a cage less than four feet square. Urine and feces rain down onto piglets in the lower cages. The smell of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide sears their lungs. Because of pigs’ highly developed sense of smell, the stench must be particularly disgusting to them. In most animals the section of the brain committed to the sense of smell is the largest.
When pigs are housed all together in a building without individual confinement, they engage in “tail biting,” which means they eat off each other’s tails and start consuming each other’s buttocks, resulting in the cannibalistic death of many animals. Their long eye teeth are cut out so they will not be able to do as much damage. Their activity level is reduced by keeping the lights off at all times—except when workers must enter these automated buildings and need to see the grizzly work they are doing. Another remedy for tail biting is “tail docking,” cutting off the tails, a very painful procedure. Pigs are highly intelligent animals, and the conditions in which they live drive them insane.
When the lights go on the animals become frantic, kicking and screaming. Are they angry at their torturers? Or are they crying out to humans for their release?
Pigs grow very large and become hard to handle, and so for better control over them, factory farmers frequently house them in “Bacon Bins” that give the pigs only a few inches of movement in any direction. In some factory farms Bacon Bins are stacked several layers high. The floors are slatted metal, which allows feces and urine to fall through onto animals below. They live constantly in their excrement. Pigs are normally clean animals that would never soil their nests. They wallow in mud because they have no sweat glands and need to cool themselves. Mud also helps kill irritating insects. Hog magazines proudly suggest that pregnant sows can live without any feed whatsoever; they can survive solely on excrement. The cynical motto again is “feed it back to them.”
Pigs have cloven hooves that evolved to stand on soft earth. Metal and concrete floors are bad for their feet. Most are lame by the time they are sent to slaughter. This problem is exacerbated by lack of exercise and the fact that pigs are being bred to have larger bodies and smaller legs and feet.
Pigs are difficult animals to slaughter. They hear the screams of the dying, and they know death awaits them, so they fight for their lives. According to Howard Lyman, former feedlot operator, ten percent of pigs die of heart attacks, fighting furiously, while being driven to their deaths with baseball bats. A large, wounded pig running free in the slaughter house among its axes, knives, and saws can do great damage.
In a C-SPAN interview on January 14, 1995, Actor Alec Baldwin, member of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, reported that he had been targeted by companies that do animal testing. They have labeled him as a radical opponent of all animal testing. In fact, he proposes that all unnecessary animal testing be abolished as a first step, and he cites studies saying that 90 percent of all animal testing could be replaced with computer modeling and individual cell research. Rabbits are commonly used to test chemicals to be used in cosmetics because their eyes do not produce tears which would wash away the chemicals. Their eyelids are propped open and the test chemical is put in their eyes and not washed away to determine the long-term effect of the chemical. By the thousands these animals experience months and years of terrible pain.
What about your ethical obligations to your customers? Burger King and Sizzler paid out big money to patrons who contracted E. coli by eating their meat. Suits over salmonella would be more common if people did not confuse it with the common flu.
What about students who get sick eating animal-based food at school? What if you have guests to your home and you feed them animal-based food that makes them sick? Someday someone is going to be the test case in court. Restaurants are already getting sued. So far I known of no homeowner who has been sued. Does your homeowner’s policy cover food poisoning of your guests? Don’t be the test case.
Chickens, pigs, dairy cows, and veal calves are confined in such conditions to minimize the amount of land and building space required, to control the animals, to allow for automation of the feeding and waste disposal process, to insulate habitat and conserve heat, which helps turn food consumed into meat instead of body heat. All of this allows the factory farm to cut its greatest expenses, the cost of human labor, the cost of leasing or buying land, the cost of feed, and the cost of energy. All other considerations are put aside in favor of profit maximization.
These animals have the same pain receptors we have. They lack our intellectual capacity, but they have much of our emotional capacity. Cow and calf, sow and piglet, hen and chick—they bond with each other, mother and child. They are very upset when they are separated, just as human mother and child would be. Animals dream; their eyes move when they sleep. Young animals frolic and play like children.
These animals have the same fear of death we do. Cattle in an open farmyard will moan in sadness and fear when they witness the death of another animal. In the same way, when these animals arrive at the slaughterhouse entrance, they hear their fellows crying out, and they understand that their deaths are coming. Animals often have to be forced into the killing pens.
In all practical ways relating to their suffering and death, animals are like us: They experience pain. They value their lives. They value the lives of animals they have bonded with. They are capable of understanding that their deaths are coming, and they fear their deaths. They appear to be able to intellectualize about injustice, as in the case of Koko, the gorilla who has learned sign language, and who tells the story of the killing of her family and her abduction as a baby.
Let’s return to the calves in the veal crates and do some back-of-the-napkin math: A dairy cow must bear a calf every year to continue producing milk at high levels. Although dairy cows can live into their twenties, milk production in factory milk barns begins to drop after five years, and dairy cows are converted into hamburger. Assume there are 100 million dairy cows around the world (a hypothetical number) producing 100 million calves each year, 50 million male and 50 million female calves.
Male calves are obviously useless for milk production. They are useless for ordinary beef production because they do not grow to sufficient size. Only very few male dairy calves are saved to grow up to be the dairy bulls that will produce sperm for insemination of dairy cows. Thus, almost 50 million male calves go to the veal crates each year.
With 100 million cows lasting only five years, only 20 million female calves are needed each year to replace cows which are “retired.” The other 30 million female calves also go to the veal crates. This is how 80 million calves each year live their 100-day lives.
Take my math further, the way personal injury lawyers do in court, when they try to help a jury to assign a dollar value to the pain and suffering their clients have experienced: Is one minute of severe pain worth ten cents? they ask. Is one hour worth $6? Is one day worth $144? Is one year worth $52,560? Is ten years of severe pain worth half a million dollars? There are different levels of severity, and the jury has to quantify the severity and make a judgment. One way to do that is to assign a per-day value to it. The money damages system makes sense because the only other alternative is for aggrieved parties to take justice into their own hands.
Apply the same calculus to the pain and suffering of animals. Think about the various levels of pain animals feel. Think of the number of months the pain is experienced. Think of the numbers of animals which experience this pain. Visualize Dante’s Inferno, with millions of sinners screaming in torture, except in your visualization there will be millions of sinless animals. Sit and meditate on it. Ask these animals, “What should I do?” You might receive an answer then and there.
These animals lack verbal skills with which to talk or write about their experiences. They could not testify about it in court. But is their terror and pain any less real than the terror and pain a human would feel in the same situation?
The only difference between their pain and ours is that they are members of the wrong species. Before you accept this as some kind of justification, bear in mind that not too long ago slaves, women, and members of certain races and religions were generally believed to be lower forms of life tha