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CHRISTIANITY AND VEGETARIANISM   

Why does Jesus use meat eating in his parables, such as "and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry" (Luke 15:23), and "Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.' " (Matt. 22:4)?

The parables of the Lord do not necessarily endorse every aspect of the protagonist. For example, the Parable of the Stewart, Luke 16:1-8. The Parables point to spiritual truths using earthly examples. Some early Christians recognized in this passage about the Prodigal Son a reference to Christ's own death. The Greek of this passage literally is "And bring the wheat-fed calf, sacrifice, and eating, we may make merry" Luke 15:23. Here the feast may be Eucharistic. The case of the Parable of the Marriage Feast no doubt also symbolizes something spiritual, assuming the reference to the oxen and calves were originally in the text. Some early Syriac manuscripts of Matthew lack this passage. St. Gregory the Great held the oxen in this passage referred to the Old Testament Patriarchs, while the Calves referred to those of the New Testament, while their sacrifice referred to their martyrdom. It seems likely, whatever is the right interpretation, that animal food was used in the parable not only because it was commonly used by many people at that time for feasting but also that, since animals are living souls, they are an appropriate parable symbol for the living sacrifice of the Lord and the faithful.

A. J. Fecko


Didn't God give more permissive food laws to Peter in Acts 10?

Acts 10 is about Gentiles being accounted equal members in the Church and does not seem to be an account of the Lord abolishing the food laws of Moses. A literal rendering of this passage is: 

An ecstasy came on him, and he is beholding heaven open and a certain utensil descending, as a large sheet, with four edges, being let down on the earth, in which belonged all the four footed animals and reptiles of the earth and the birds of heaven. And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter! Sacrifice and eat!" Yet Peter said, "Far be it from me, Lord, for I never ate anything common and unclean!" And again, a second time, a voice came to him, "What God cleanses, do not you count common!"
Now this occurred thrice, and straightway the utensil was taken up into heaven. Now, as Peter was bewildered in himself as to what the vision which he perceived should be, lo! the men who have been sent by Cornelius, asking the way through to the house of Simon, stand by at the portal....Now Cornelius was hoping for them, calling together his relatives and intimate friends. Now as Peter came to enter, Cornelius, meeting with him, falling at his feet, worships. Yet Peter raises him, saying, "Rise! I myself also am a man." And, conversing with him, he entered, and is finding many come together. Besides, he said to them, "You are versed in the fact how illicit it is for a man who is a Jew to join or come to another tribe, and God shows me not to say that any man is common or unclean."...Now Peter, opening his mouth, said, "Of a truth I am grasping that God is not partial, but in every nation he who is fearing Him and acting righteously is acceptable to Him." Acts 10:10-35. 
It doesn't seem likely that in this passage the Lord is abolishing food distinctions. Jewish Christians continued to follow most of the Mosaic Law long after this. As Christianity spread to the Gentiles, Paul received by revelation that the Mosaic Law did not apply to his converts (at least not his Gentile converts). This is not a case of God being more permissive, but more inclusive. The Gentiles were not commanded to make clean/unclean distinctions (though they were commanded not to eat blood). This clean/unclean distinction goes beyond contact with certain animals. It included such things as menses, semen and certain diseases. It was the nation of Israel that was told to make clean/unclean distinctions. So the difference is now "the nations are to be fellow-heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the good news"  (Eph. 3:6). 

In the past, many church leaders have cited Acts 10 as textual proof that kosher rules were abolished. This seemed necessary because many Christians in the 4th century were still keeping many Mosaic rules, and this seemed a handy text to use. But while (in my opinion) Christians are not under Mosaic Law, Peter's vision wasn't about what foods to eat. 

Another text currently used to suggest that nonkosher flesh is a special part of Christianity is given with the common modern rendering of Mark 7:19 "'since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.)" RSV. From the time of the English Revised Version this has been the way most English bibles have this text. Actually, the Greek doesn't say "Thus he declared all foods clean", but "purging all the foods". The grounds for the ERV rendering is the use of the Greek masculine word for purging or cleansing "kaqari,zwn" of the WH text, whereas most earlier translations followed the Majority text reading of the neuter word "kaqari,zon". The common assumption since the time of ERV is that it refers back to a subject (the Lord Jesus) which appears not in the immediate context. The nearest possibility is kai. le,gei auvtoi/j from verse 18, which is 35 words away. Burgeon wrote, that with this interpretation "the passage would have absolutely no parallel in the simple and transparent sentences of St. Mark."

Assuming "kaqari,zwn" is correct, it might be part of a contracted (elliptical) phrase, a phrase in which the obvious is understood but not expressed. It should be noted as well that the definite article ("the") is in the Greek. In succinct form, the idea contained in these words could be: "--cleansing all the foods [occurs by this means]." Through digestion and elimination, the foods which one eats (whatever foods these may be) are purified from any dirt or other impurities which may have attended them. Also, the masculine "kaqari,zwn" may refer to the masculine to.n avfedrw/na: "and goes out into the sewer, (which) purifies all the foods." Both of these possibilities makes more sense, in my opinion, than the ERV rendering. However, none of this is to deny that for the Christian "all things are pure". Ritual purity is not a part of the Gospel of Christ. Still, flesh is not the food originally made for man to eat. Many Christians seem to make a simplistic equation in their minds between Christian Liberty and eating certain kinds of flesh. Almost as if the Gospel came so people could eat pork chops and ham. Whether something is specifically prohibited in the law or not, it may not be good for us. The food the Lord made in the beginning for us was vegetarian. As we become more affluent, and meat production has become even more harmful to animals, the poor, and the environment, increasingly Christians have discerned the wisdom of returning to our original diet. They have found what a blessing there is in following what was our Father's plan from the beginning. 
 

A. J. Fecko

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