Is Vegetarianism Biblical?


Is Vegetarianism



“Vegetarianism has become an increasingly popular dietary choice.  Does Scripture have anything to say about this?”


The Bible reveals that several different arrangements were found in the history of mankind.  When God first created man and woman, He specifically limited their food to vegetables, grains and fruits, along with seeds and nuts, and perhaps grains.  The Lord said to Adam, “I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Genesis 1:29).  God also gave “every green plant for food” for animals and birds as well.

Obviously, this arrangement is far different from the evolutionary theory which asserts that the first man was a hunter, one who ate all kinds of animals.  Evolutionists also wrongly conclude that animals were carnivorous.  This shows how faulty the lie of evolution is, yet this is being taught as “fact” in the educational institutions of the country and in the media.

Later, after the flood, God changed His instructions: “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:3).  Only the blood was forbidden (v. 4).  Thus, after the flood, as they spread out over the face of the earth, people were omnivorous, eating both vegetables and animals as food.  Later yet, God’s people were forbidden to eat “unclean” meats, and the meaning of this was carefully explained by Moses (Leviticus 11).  Later yet, under Christ, God seems to permit all foods to be eaten (cf. Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-16; Romans 14), excluding animals that were strangled at death and excluding blood (Acts 15:20, 29).

The simple answer to the question is that the food restrictions, particularly regarding clean and unclean meats, have been lifted.  On the other hand, because of various considerations, we encourage people to limit their intake of meats: (1) Hormones are given to animals to fatten them up for slaughter, and these have been implicated in cancer and other health maladies; (2) Antibiotics are given to animals and poultry to ward off disease, but these have a deleterious effect on the human body, for we should avoid such medications unless absolutely necessary; (3) There is a widespread use of pesticides and herbicides, and this is consumed by the animal and passed on to the human consumer; and (4) Most animals butchered today are fed on feed lots rather than allowed to roam freely, thus the meat from the animal is filled with fat, and we know the danger of saturated fat to human health.

Vegetarians who say that the human being is not equipped to eat meat and conclude that we should avoid such food, err in certain respects.  They seem to overlook the fact that God has permitted animal products, such as milk (Exodus 3:8), eggs (Luke 11:12), and fish (Luke 11:11).  Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22), thus they must have eaten a lot of fish!  Granted, this was before they were called by the Lord, but it is worthy of note.  Furthermore, Jesus performed a miracle that involved the catch of a large quantity of fish, both at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 5:5-7) and at the end of His ministry (John 21:3-11).  Surely our Lord would not have encouraged something wrong or unhealthy.  We must also remember that Jesus actually prepared fish for the disciples to eat and commanded them to eat (John 21:9-13).  Recall also that in the upper room, Jesus ate fish that the disciples gave it to Him (Luke 24:41-43), a fact that Peter later alluded to (Acts 10:41).  Another point for strict vegetarians to consider is that Israelites were required to eat lamb or goat every Passover (Exodus 12:1-13), and this is something that Jesus and the apostles did (Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22:7-13).  Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).  If Jesus ate lamb, can we absolutely forbid this?

A lot of other evidence points to the need for some reserve regarding what we forbid.  Maybe you will remember the account of Abraham sitting by the oaks of Mamre.  “Three men” approached him, but later we discover that one was God Himself and the other two were angels (who later went to Sodom to rescue Lot from destruction) (see Genesis 18:13 and 19:1).  If God, in bodily form (some would say this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ), and angels as well, were willing to eat beef and drink milk (Genesis 18:7-8), can we forbid this?  Don’t forget also that the priests were to eat the meat of the sacrificed animals (Numbers 18:8-11, 18-19).

This has been just a cursory look at the evidence regarding what we should eat and not eat.  Yet we would include this comment. Although it seems wrong to forbid meats, per se, because of the modern way of raising animals for slaughter and the health-damaging effects of this, we would encourage you to limit or even cease your intake of this altered food.  We all know of the problem with saturated fat found in most meats, whole milk, and eggs. We know of the problem of mercury contamination in fish.  We know of the pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones found in meats.  Studies also indicate that high milk-drinking can lead to prostate cancer and osteoporosis.  Researchers also have discovered that some people groups, such as Seventh-day Adventists (who are vegetarians), live much longer than others. 

All in all, we would encourage you to major on good fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and perhaps a limited amount of nuts and seeds.  This seems to be prudent, particularly in the present age, in consideration of all of the nutritional research.  “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve proceed and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 27:12).  “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Richard Hollerman

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