Evidence That Jesus and The Original Aramaic Christians Were Vegetarians, By James Bean (Exploring the World Religions Column)
NOTE: Also see my companion article: Uncovering A Vegetarian Jesus at the Beginning of Christianity: https://medium.com/sant-mat-meditation-and-spirituality/9279741be7c4
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” (Albert Einstein)
When it comes to vegetarianism and Christianity the first question people always ask is: “In the scriptures aren’t there passages describing Jesus as serving fish, as well as eating lamb during the Jewish holiday known as Passover?” Some might also cite a verse about John the Baptist eating insects (locusts). This of course is based on a couple of quotes from the Orthodox New Testament that people are familiar with.
For those not acquainted with Judeo-Christian history and the various collections of writings or scriptures from that period that have survived, at first glance it appears as if Jesus ate fish and that John the Baptist dined on bugs. Certainly the well-known writings of European Christianity portray it that way. But not so fast. These gospels represent writings used by a religious sect following the Apostle Paul’s Western version of Christianity, which was attempting to recruit followers from around the Roman Empire. Paul did advocate eating meat, but he himself supplies us with evidence in his own letters (‘epistles’) dating back to the early decades of the First Century AD (around 50 AD) that others in early Christianity disagreed with him about diet and many other issues. It turns out that Paul dropped the vegetarian requirement as part of his attempt to make new converts. If you read his New Testament Epistle to the Galatians closely however, you can notice there was quite a bit of tension between Paul and the original Jesus Movement based in Jerusalem. Paul gives them ‘left-handed compliments,’ calls them “weak,” “of the circumcision,” and even “Judaizers.” Given their solid credibility and affiliation with the historical Jesus, Paul couldn’t completely denounce them, but he does greatly marginalize them. They are barely mentioned at all in the New Testament.
Those in the Jerusalem part of the Jesus movement, Jesus’ own family and spiritual successors headed by the Apostle James, the brother of Jesus and next leader of the Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem community, were all vegetarian. They disagreed with Paul’s group or sect about diet: “The consumption of animal flesh was unknown up until the great flood. But since the great flood, we have had animal flesh stuffed into our mouths. Jesus, the Christ, who appeared when the time was fulfilled, again joined the end to the beginning, so that we are now no longer allowed to eat animal flesh.” (Hieronymus)
The earlier Essene movement within Judaism adhered to a vegetarian diet. That’s the context within Judaism. The Essenes (of Dead Sea Scrolls fame), the John the Baptist group, and the Jesus movement had much in common and are somehow related to each other. Scholars frequently debate the exact nature of their relationship. In any case, they shared many of the same values, scriptures, and spiritual beliefs.
How could it be that Jesus’ own family, the actual group of direct, spiritual successors and disciples, would have it all wrong about diet, and Paul, who never physically met Jesus and was never directly affiliated with the original disciples, got it right? The truth of the matter is that the Hebrew gospels did not portray Jesus as eating fish or Passover lamb, and in those gospels, John the Baptist did not eat any insects. Paul’s group had their literature, but so did the Ebionites, the Hebrew Christians. There were pro-meat gospels, as we all know, but there were also vegetarian gospels: the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of the Ebionites, and other Ebionite literature including the Clementine Homilies and the Recognitions of Clement. These are not channeled or recently composed writings, but scriptures that have long been known to scholars and were used by other branches of Christianity from the Middle East in antiquity. Sometimes these books are called “extra-canonical writings” or “lost books of the Bible.” These are books of someone else’s Bible; in other words, sacred texts once used by other forms of Apostolic Christianity long ago in Israel, Syria (Mesopotamia), Turkey (Asia Minor), Egypt, Ethiopia, the Mediterranean region, etc.
The Jewish Christians called themselves “Ebionites.” “Ebionite” is a word derived from Hebrew meaning “The Poor.” They traced their vow of poverty back to the first Christian community described in the New Testament Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35), and were a spiritual or intentional community that shared all of their possessions in common.
Epiphanius quotes their gospel, the Ebionite or Hebrew Gospel, as ascribing these words to Jesus: ‘I have come to destroy the sacrifices’ (Panarion 30.16.5), and as ascribing to Jesus' rejection of the Passover meat (Panarion 30.22.4), and these are analogous to numerous passages found in the Recognitions and Homilies (e.g., Recognitions 1.36, 1.54 and Homilies 3.45, 7.4, 7.8).
The Ebionite or Hebrew Gospel quotes Jesus as saying, “I have come to abolish the sacrifices, and if you cease not from sacrificing, my wrath will not cease from you.” (Panarion 30.16.5)
One of the earliest Ebionite Christian documents is the Clementine Homilies, a work based on the teachings of Saint Peter. Homily XII states, “The unnatural eating of flesh meats is polluting, with its sacrifices and its impure feasts.”
Paul was OK with the practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols that came from various temples, but, like their Essene ancestors, the original Jesus Movement categorically rejected this. The author of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament also denounced this practice. (See Book of Revelation 2:12-17). The passage from Revelation actually contradicts other verses in the New Testament authored by Paul.
The first followers of Jesus, also known as Ebionites or Nazoreans, were not only kosher, but also strictly adhered to a vegetarian diet. The largest surviving collection of Ebionite scriptures is the Clementine Homilies and the Recognitions of Clement, which are vegetarian gospels that condemn animal sacrifice in any form. For example, the Book of Homilies states that God does not want animals killed at all (3.45), and condemns those who eat meat (7.4, 7.8). And the passages below also show that the Ebionites’ diet was vegan – plant-based (no eggs, no dairy, and no animal products).
Peter said, “I live on olives and bread, to which I rarely only add vegetables.” (Clementine Homilies 12,6; also see, Recognitions 7,6)
“And happiness is found in the practice of virtue. Accordingly, the Apostle Matthew partook of seeds, and nuts, hard-shelled fruits, and vegetables, without flesh.” (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
“John never ate meat.” (Church historian Hegesipp according to Eusebius, History of the Church II 2:3)
“James, the brother of the Lord, lived on seeds and plants and touched neither meat nor wine.” (Epistulae ad Faustum XXII, 3)
“James, the brother of the Lord was holy from his mothers womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh.” (Hegesippus, quoted in The Church History of Eusebius, book 2, chapter 23)
And James became the successor of Christ and next leader of the Jesus Movement! The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 12: “The disciples said to Jesus; ‘We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?’ Jesus said to him, ‘No matter where you come, it is to James the Just that you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist.’”(Bently Layton’s translation)
Though never seeing eye-to-eye with the original Jerusalem community on many things including the issue of meat eating, in his epistles even Paul the rogue Apostle, confirms this leadership role of James the Just, “the Lord’s brother” in Jerusalem, and he himself went to visit him to seek his blessings on a couple of occasions.
The following passage is from the Recognitions of Clement. This Ebionite Christian author has very nice things to say about those in India who worship One God, follow peaceful customs and laws, and are vegetarian or vegan. Imagine! Clearly he sees parallels between his own religion and that of his brothers and sisters “in the Indian countries.” This is one of the most amazing passages I know of in the extra-canonical scriptures, as it is a rare example of one religion (Ebionite, Hebrew Christianity) recognizing “Truth” in another religion (Hinduism), a rare inter-faith moment in human history. The Recognitions of Clement, and The Clementine Homilies are surviving Jewish-Christian texts representing an Ebionite vegetarian point of view:
“There are likewise amongst the Bactrians,
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.”
Recognitions of Clement, Book 9, Chapter 22, Brahmans Volume Eight, of the, Ante-Nicene Fathers, page 187, T & T Clark Eerdmans edition.
More Wisdom from the East
The harshest words that Kabir, a great spiritual Master and poet-mystic from Northern India (loved by Sufis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Sants and Hindus alike) ever spoke were directed against the slaughter or consumption of innocent animals.
Kabir says, “Keep away from the man who eats meat – his company will ruin your meditation."
Part Two, Evidence That Jesus and The Original Aramaic Christians Were Vegetarians
Based on Keith Aker's Research Into Ebionite Christianity:
The first clear evidence that Master Jesus was a vegetarian is that his apostles and followers abided by the plant-based diet. Church Father Eusebius wrote in his work “Demonstratio Evangelica” (“Proof of the Gospels”):
“They [the apostles] embraced and persevered in a strenuous and a laborious life, with fasting and abstinence from wine and meat.”
And in his “Church History” text, Eusebius wrote that apostle John “never ate meat.” The Early Church Father St. Clement of Alexandria, who was also a vegetarian, wrote about the apostle Matthew:
“It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh.”
And in the Ebionite Gospel known as the “Clementine Homilies,”, St. Peter is quoted as having said: “I live on olives and bread to which I rarely only add vegetables.”
In the Gospel of the Hebrews, which was sacred to Early Christian groups such as the Ebionites, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist are portrayed as vegetarians. The Ebionites as well as the other Early Christian groups were themselves vegetarians. The Ebionites accepted only the Gospel of the Hebrews as authentic and believed that this gospel was the original Gospel of Matthew. In their version of the Gospel of the Hebrews, known as the Gospel of the Ebionites, Jesus said:
“I am come to do away with sacrifices, and if you cease not sacrificing, the wrath of God will not cease from you.”
According to the Gospel of the Ebionites, Lord Jesus also rejected the Passover meal:
“Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?”
To which he replied:
“I have no desire to eat the flesh of this Paschal Lamb with you.”
The view that Jesus did not eat lamb at the Passover meal is also supported by His Holiness Pope Benedict XIV, who stated:
“In all likelihood he [Jesus] celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the Qumran calendar, hence, at least one day earlier; he celebrated it without a lamb, like the Qumran community which did not recognize Herod’s temple and was waiting for the new temple.”
Master Jesus’s brother, James the Just, is also reported to have been a vegetarian. According to the Church historian Hegesippus and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus’ brother James became the leader of the Early Church after the passing of Jesus. Hegesippus, as quoted by Eusebius (oui-sebius), wrote:
“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed 'the Just' was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people.”
Biblical scholar Dr. Robert Eisenman wrote in his highly acclaimed book “James, the Brother of Jesus”:
“Because of James’ pre-eminent stature, the sources for him turn out to be quite extensive, more than for any other comparable character, even for those familiar to us as John the Baptist and Peter. In fact, extra-biblical sources contain more reliable information about James than about Jesus.” Dr. Robert Eisenman concluded: “Who and whatever James was, so was Jesus.” When Dr. Eisenman was asked if it can be assumed that Jesus was a vegetarian as well, he replied: “Almost certainly.” In an interview with Supreme Master Television, Keith Akers, author of the book “The Lost Religion of Jesus,” reaffirmed the evidence that Lord Jesus was indeed a vegetarian:
"There were a bunch of people in the Early Church who didn’t eat meat and didn’t drink wine. It’s clear. We hear from other sources, that all the Apostles were vegetarian, and that James, the brother of Jesus, was also a vegetarian. Hegesippus is quoted as saying that James, the brother of Jesus, was not only a vegetarian, but he didn’t drink wine. And he was raised that way. He was holy from his mother’s womb. In other words, he was vegetarian from his birth. So why would Jesus’ parents raise James as vegetarian, and not raise Jesus as a vegetarian? It was a vegetarian family. So I think it’s pretty clear, actually, that Jesus was a vegetarian.
"There are versions of the Gospels in which Jesus directly denounced the eating of meat. One such version is the Evangelion Da-mepharreshe, also called the Old Syriac Gospels. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language in which Jesus spoke. Two manuscripts of the Old Syriac Gospels exist: the Syriac Sinaiticus and the Curetonian Gospels. The Syriac Sinaiticus was found in the St. Catherine Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Egypt in 1892, and the Curetonian Gospels were brought from the Wadi El Nat-run monastery in Egypt to the British Library in 1842. In the Old Syriac Gospels, Luke 21:34, Jesus is quoted as saying:
“Now beware in yourselves that your hearts do not become heavy with the eating of flesh and with the intoxication of wine and with the anxiety of the world, and that day come up upon you suddenly; for as a snare it will come upon all them that sit on the surface of the earth.”
"And in the Gospel of Matthew, there are also teachings of Jesus which make the most sense when deciphered from a vegetarian standpoint. For example:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
"Another incident in the Gospels that depicts the Master’s concern for animals is when he boldly puts an end to the animal sacrifice.
"This is a critical event in the life of Jesus, and just the week before his death, Jesus goes into the temple and he disrupts the animal sacrifice business. And this is the incident that everyone remembers as Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers. But in fact, he’s not primarily interested in the moneychangers, he’s interested in the people that are selling and buying animals. Why are they selling and buying animals?
"These are the animals that are going to be sacrificed. The incident in the temple is actually found in all four Gospels. It’s one of the few incidents in Jesus’ life, which is found in all four Gospels. And this is how John describes it: “When 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 moneychangers at their business.
"And making a whip of cord, he drove them all with the sheep and oxen out of the temple. And he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned the tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons: ‘Take these things away.’” And so, what is going on here? It’s primarily directed against the people who are dealing with animals. And this is what got Jesus killed.
"The sacrifice of animals is also condemned in the Hebrew Bible. For example, in the Book of Isaiah it is stated:
“Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being; whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck”.
(KEITH AKERS, interviewed on SMTV)
Keith Akers also points out the existence of different versions of the biblical story -- the Feeding of the 5,000 or the Multitude:
"If you look at other accounts of the same incident. If you look, for example, at the Early Church Fathers, who also talk about these stories, Irenaeus mentions the feeding of the 5,000. Eusebius also mentions that, and Arn-o-bius, another early church writer also discusses Jesus’ feeding of the multitude, the miraculous feeding of the multitude.
"And in every case they discuss, they discuss the bread but they don’t mention anything about fish. So I think that fish is a later addition. In fact, if you even look at the New Testament, it says, at another point, when Jesus is talking about the feeding of the five thousand, he says, “Don’t you remember when I fed the multitudes and all the bread that we took up?” And he doesn’t mention the fish.
Keith Aker’s website: www.CompassionateSpirit.com
John the Baptist, Saint John's Tree, Locusts and Carob
Carob and cocoa are very similar. They can be substituted for each other in baking recipes or drinks. They are both dried and ground into a brown powder. However, they do have some major differences as can be seen on this link.
Carob is less well known. It has a sweeter flavor and is very nutritious, being full of B vitamins and many minerals. It comes from a tree called St. Johns. Legend has it that this is the type of tree where John the Baptist got nourishment in the desert.
The carob bean is also called a locust bean. Another word for locust is a certain type of insect. That’s why people think John the Baptist was eating grasshoppers and honey because the bible says he ate locusts and honey. However, if he truly lived off the locust bean, then he would have been getting excellent nutrition from the locust bean and not an insect.
Some people are allergic to cocoa, also known as chocolate, because it is a little too stimulating. The results are severe migraine headaches for those whose nerves are sensitive. There are some detrimental effects on this link, possibly from the theobromine and caffeine content in cocoa.
Recently though, there have been many studies as can be seen on this link about the beneficial and antioxidant effects of bitter cocoa. This inspires a lot of people to continue their indulgence for chocolate without guilt.
However, considering all the wonderful antioxidant effects of dark chocolate, recommendations are to only have one or two small squares a day.
There is a substance in the bean that promotes the feelings of well being and love. So, people end up wanting it even more. Regular beans of any kind, such as pinto and black beans also have this same effect. You could just eat more beans for the same feel-good effect and then enjoy all the nutritional benefits they have to offer.
Dark chocolate has become a health food. However, natural enthusiasts are also learning about an even better source of chocolate being cacao or raw cocoa. Cacao is being used in many candies and treats as the new health food. Some say that the antioxidant properties are not accessible to the health of an individual unless it is in the raw form. So, you might be eating a lot of candy bars for nothing.
Candy bars tend to have a lot of sugar and fat leading to weight gain. There are some healthier alternatives at the health food store for whatever flavoring you choose.
If the stimulating effects of extra caffeine or other detrimental chemicals in cocoa don’t bother you, you can be glad for the antioxidant properties and enjoy the cacao or dark chocolate goodies. They say there are possible dried and powdered cockroaches that tend to be mixed in the chocolate powders. This may because the original bean has to be laid on the ground to ferment awhile.
If you just want to enjoy a naturally sweeter flavor of carob without the usual addition of a lot of added sweeteners, then go for the carob. Many people want the added nutritional benefits of the carob or raw carob and prefer to avoid stimulants. It’s a product that will keep you calm and benefit your nerves.
JESUS AND THE MONEYCHANGERS
Undergirding the theory that it was the cheating moneychangers whom Jesus targeted as the culprits in the system of animal sacrifice, is the claim that the whole process had become "too commercial." This is akin to claiming that the institution of slavery had to be dismantled because it had became too commercial. Although both Temple sacrifices and human slavery had a firm economic foundation, it was the inherent immorality of those systems that brought together the historical forces which finally led to their collapse.
Several hundred years after prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Hosea had denounced the sacrificial slaughter of animals, Jesus carried out what is euphemistically called the Cleansing of the Temple. It was just before Passover and he disrupted the buying and selling of animals that were being purchased for slaughter. (See article "Slaughter of The Innocent" www.HumaneReligion.org). And because Christian scholars and religious leaders continue to ignore biblical denunciations of that bloody worship, they also try to obscure the reason for Christ's assault on the system.
They have done this by focusing on the moneychangers, although they were only minor players in the drama that took place. It was the cult of sacrifice that Jesus tried to dismantle, not the system of monetary exchange. In all three gospel accounts of the event, those who provided the animals for sacrifice are mentioned first: they were the primary focus of Christ's outrage.
The Gospel of John gives the most detailed account of the event.
"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the Temple, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said: 'Get out of here.' (John 2:13-16)
Matthew's gospel does not detail the kind of animals that were being sold for slaughter, but it gives the same order of events.
"Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:12-13)
The same account is given in the gospel of Mark who, like Matthew, also reports that Jesus accused those at the Temple of making God's house into a "den of robbers." And there is universal acknowledgement that in both gospels, when Jesus said this, he was quoting from the prophet Jeremiah (7:11). That prophet had hurled the same accusation at the people of his own time, almost six hundred years earlier. He said it while standing at the Temple entrance, after he had already warned the people "do not shed innocent blood in this place." And when Jeremiah said God's house had been turned into a den of robbers it could not have had anything to do with moneychangers--they did not exist in his time.
In the time of Jeremiah, as in the time of Jesus, there was a great distinction made between "robbers" and "thieves." In contemporary times that distinction can best be understood by comparing the crime of petty theft with crimes of armed robbery by those who violently attack/kill their victims. But in ancient Israel there was an even greater distinction. A thief could be anyone who succumbed to a momentary impulse to steal something, but a robber was someone for whom violent crime and killing was a lifestyle.
Both Jesus and Jeremiah were indignant about the violence of sacrificial worship, not the possibility of petty theft by moneychangers. When they said God's house had become a den of "robbers" the Hebrew word that was used (here, transliterated) was "per-eets'" defined as "violent, i.e., a tyrant--destroyer, ravenous, robber." It was the violence of the system, the killing of innocent victims in the name of God, that they were condemning. The moneychangers operating in the time of Jesus were driven out of the Temple because they were taking part in the process of sacrificial religion, not because they may have been cheating the pilgrims.
The gospel of Mark correlates Christ's attempt to dismantle the sacrificial system with the plot to kill him. Like Matthew's gospel, Mark's account of the Temple Cleansing starts by saying that Jesus "began driving out those who were buying and selling there." It goes on to relate how he explained to the people why he was doing this, by quoting Jeremiah's opposition to animal sacrifice: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a 'den of robbers.'" And in the verse of scripture immediately following that statement, Mark reports that "The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard about this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teachings."(Mark 11:18)
It is ridiculous to claim that the religious leaders of Christ's time would have plotted his death because he undermined the function of the moneychangers. Nor would the crowd have been "amazed at his teachings" if Jesus was simply telling them to make sure they were not short-changed when they purchased Temple coins. What the people were amazed at was his condemnation of animal sacrifice; it had been hundreds of years since that kind of condemnation had been heard in Jerusalem. And it would not be allowed. A few days after he tried to overthrow the cult of animal sacrifice, Jesus was crucified. /////////