Vegetarian Christians

Some historical documents testify that the twelve apostles, and even Matthew, who replaced Judas, were vegetarians, and that the early Christians abstained from eating meat for reasons of purity and mercy. For example, St. John Chrysostom (345-407 AD), one of the prominent apologists for Christianity of his time, wrote: “We, the heads of the Christian Church, abstain from meat food in order to keep our flesh in subjection … meat-eating is contrary to nature and defiles us.”  

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 160-240) BC), one of the founders of the church, undoubtedly had a great influence on Chrysostom, since almost a hundred years earlier he wrote: I’m not ashamed to call it “the demon of the womb,” the worst of the demons. It is better to care for bliss than to turn your bodies into animal cemeteries. Therefore, the Apostle Matthew ate only seeds, nuts and vegetables, without meat.” The Merciful Sermons, also written in the XNUMXnd century AD, are believed to be based on the sermons of St. Peter and are recognized as one of the earliest Christian texts, with the exception of the Bible alone. “Sermon XII” says unequivocally: “The unnatural eating of the flesh of animals defiles in the same way as pagan worship of demons, with its victims and unclean feasts, participating in which, a person becomes a companion of demons.” Who are we to argue with St. Peter? Further, there is a debate about the nutrition of St. Paul, although he does not pay much attention to food in his writings. Gospel 24:5 says that Paul belonged to the Nazarene school, which strictly followed principles, including vegetarianism. In his book A History of Early Christianity, Mr. Edgar Goodspeed writes that the early schools of Christianity used only the Gospel of Thomas. Thus, this evidence confirms that St. Thomas also refrained from eating meat. In addition, we learn from the venerable father of the Church, Euzebius (264-349 AD). BC), referring to Hegesippus (c. 160 AD BC) that James, who is considered by many to be the brother of Christ, also avoided eating animal flesh. However, history shows that the Christian religion gradually moved away from its roots. Although the early Church Fathers followed a plant-based diet, the Roman Catholic Church is content to command Catholics to at least observe a few fast days and not eat meat on Fridays (in commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ). Even this prescription was revised in 1966, when the Conference of American Catholics decided that it was enough for believers to abstain from meat only on Fridays of Great Lent. Many early Christian groups sought to eliminate meat from the diet. In fact, the earliest church writings testify that meat-eating was officially permitted only in the XNUMXth century, when Emperor Constantine decided that his version of Christianity would henceforth become universal. The Roman Empire officially adopted a reading of the Bible that permitted meat eating. And vegetarian Christians were forced to keep their beliefs secret in order to avoid accusations of heresy. Constantine is said to have ordered molten lead to be poured down the throats of convicted vegetarians. Medieval Christians received assurances from Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) that the killing of animals was permitted by divine providence. Perhaps Aquinas’ opinion was influenced by his personal tastes, since, although he was a genius and in many ways an ascetic, his biographers still describe him as a great gourmet. Of course, Aquinas is also famous for his teaching about the different types of souls. Animals, he argued, do not have souls. It is noteworthy that Aquinas also considered women to be soulless. True, given that the Church eventually took pity and admitted that women still have a soul, Aquinas reluctantly relented, saying that women are one step higher than animals, which certainly do not have a soul. Many Christian leaders have adopted this classification. However, with a direct study of the Bible, it becomes clear that animals have a soul: And to all the beasts of the earth, and to all the birds of the air, and to every creeping thing on the ground, in which the soul is alive, I gave all green herbs for food (Gen. 1:30). According to Reuben Alkelei, one of the greatest Hebrew-English linguistic scholars of the XNUMXth century and author of The Complete Hebrew-English Dictionary, the exact Hebrew words in this verse are nefesh (“soul”) and chayah (“living”). Although popular translations of the Bible usually render this phrase simply as “life” and thus imply that animals do not necessarily have a “soul”, an accurate translation reveals the exact opposite: animals undoubtedly have a soul, but at least according to the Bible. Moreover, the same Hebrew words are used to refer to the soul of human beings and even the soul of insects.

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