QUO VADIS? THE BIBLE’S REAL MESSAGE ABOUT ANIMALS by Heidi Stephenson.

 

  • Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”~ Jeremiah 21:8

 

  • “There are two ways: the way of life and the way of death, and the difference is great between the two.”~ Didache (or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) 1:1

 

  • “See, I have set before you this day Life and good, Death and evil.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:15

 

  • I call heaven and earth to witness (to) you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

 

  • “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” ~ Job 24:13

 

  • “You shall not kill.” ~ Exodus 20:13 & Deuteronomy 5:17

 

  • “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 animal 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.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” ~ Genesis 1:29-31

 

  • “And this shall be the sign for you: …eat what grows of itself, and…what springs of the same…sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.” ~ Isaiah 37:30

 

  • “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the Way.” ~ Proverbs 15:10

 

  • “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.~ John 7:19

 

  • “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” ~ Matthew 5:17

 

The Bible is a hugely influential book. Every year over a 100 million new Bibles are either bought or given away. The whole of Western Civilization has been built on its precepts. The world’s most powerful religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share its so-called ‘Old’ testament in common. Even secular humanists are unconsciously influenced by its thinking.

 

But we have been woefully misled. The words which we now take to be God’s own, which we now treat as ‘gospel,’ are largely those of the Bible’s false, man-made path: the Death path.

 

Underneath an appalling, heavy layer of self-serving violence and corruption, one which was first written in by the Hebrew priests and their scribes, who, after a long exile in pagan Egypt, and later in pagan Babylon, had become addicted to flesh-eating and thus to animal killing and blood sacrifice (the poor excuse of ‘offering’ to God His own creatures, and atoning for human sins with innocent animal blood) – there is a very different message indeed.

 

The Way of Life is the Way of God, the Way of the prophets, and the Way of Jesus. It is the Way of love, of kindness, of compassion, of nonviolence, of the sacredness of all life – and, crucially, the Way of vegetarianism. It is the Way of “manna,” of “bread” and of “milk and honey” – as opposed to the false way of blood and flesh, of exploitation, death and suffering.

 

The Bible, as we have inherited it, is, in fact, a battle ground in which the voices of Death have tried – very successfully and for over 2000 years – to drown out and bury the voices of Life.

 

The Death path has had – and still exerts – a powerful hold over us, and it has caused – and continues to ‘license’ – the most immense suffering for animals. 60 billion conscious, sentient beings lose their lives to the meat-industry alone – every year. Another 100 million are ‘sacrificed’ in our laboratories, dying in often agonizing ‘experiments’ and deprived of everything but their most basic needs. This is just the tip of the bloody ice-berg. In the fur trade, in circuses, through hunting and other blood ‘sports,’ and in our everyday treatment even of our animal companions, the animals continue to suffer.

 

It is not my intention to give the Death path any more of an opportunity to influence us, but we need to see its violence and understand the roots of our animal abuse and exploitation, of false, man-made ‘dominion,’ of our subjugation and denigration of our fellow, sentient kin – if we are ever to choose differently.

 

It was certainly not God who decided:

 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth…fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26, 28)

 

The priests, in fact, cast God in their image! The Great Creator, the compassionate Father, does not violently “subdue.” In Hebrew this word kavash actually means to stamp on the neck of your conquered enemy – hardly an act of the God of Love, and hardly something God wanted us to do to His beloved creatures!

 

It was certainly not God who demanded:

 

 “All that opens the womb is mine, all your male cattle, the firstlings of cow and sheep. The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck.” (Exodus 34:19-20)

 

“…he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head, and burn it on the altar; and its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar; and he shall take away its crop with the feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes; he shall tear it by its wings…And the priest shall burn it on the altar, upon the wood that is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the LORD.” (Leviticus 1:14-17)

 

“When a bull or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother; and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as an offering by fire to the LORD.” (Leviticus 22:26-27)

 

Or who inspired such terrible words as these:

 

“Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:30)

 

It was not God’s will that Solomon should ‘dedicate’ the Jerusalem temple with a blood-bath massacre of His beloved creatures:

 

And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.” (1 Kings 8:5)

 

“Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD. Solomon offered as peace offerings to the LORD twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.”  (1 Kings 8:62-63)

 

Or that David should hamstring horses:

 

“And David took from him a thousand and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers; and David hamstrung all the chariot horses.” (2 Samuel 8:4)

 

Or that Samuel should take the life of a nursing baby, in an abominable move against the miracle of newborn life itself:

 

“So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:9)

 

It was not Moses, the Man of God either, who had given the people the Ten Commandments (a reminder of God’s simple, nonviolent Law from Genesis) – and who had tried so hard to bring the people back to God’s Way of manna, of bread and vegetarianism in the wilderness – who advocated:

 

“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.” (Deuteronomy 12:20)

 

Moses’ authority was appropriated, and his good name was used to command an extra 603 sacrificial “ordinances.” But Moses’ own message couldn’t have been more different:

 

 “…You shall not eat…blood…Be sure that you do not eat…blood; for…blood is…life, and you shall not eat…life with…flesh. You shall not eat it…You shall not eat it; that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-25)

 

“And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you…and fed you with manna.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

 

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9)

 

“Keep all this commandment…by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways…lest innocent blood be shed in your land…and…the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.” (Deuteronomy 19:9-10)

 

“The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat…on no account shall you eat it. For every person who eats of the fat of an animal…shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”…This is the law…which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel… in the wilderness of Sinai.” (Leviticus 7:22-27, 37)

 

“You shall not eat any flesh with…blood in it!” (Leviticus 19:26)

 

“But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit…a land flowing with milk and honey.’” (Leviticus 20:24)

 

It was not Isaiah who wrote the words:

 

“The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood, it is gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams…Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their soil made rich with fat.” (Isaiah 34:6-7)

 

It was not Noah, a righteous man, blameless in his generation” who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9) who sacrificed God’s creatures straight after the Flood; the very creatures whom God had been at pains to save two by two in order to regenerate the world:

 

And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.” (Genesis 6:19-20)

 

It was the priests and their scribes who re-wrote Genesis (and the whole of sacred scripture, during and after the Babylonian exile: Ezra playing the lead role,) who suddenly manifested seven pairs of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals in Genesis 7, when God had never spoken of any of His creatures as ‘unclean’ – to make way for their sacrificial cult. Just two of each would have meant the mass extinction of all ‘sacrificial’ animals: doves, pigeons, sheep, goats and cattle! It was the priests and their scribes who wove into these beautiful verses, the following terrible words:

 

Then God said to Noah, “Go forth from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh -birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth – that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man.” (Genesis 8:15-20)

 

“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. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man.“ (Genesis 8:2-5)

 

God goes on to make His Rainbow Covenant with all His creatures – human and non-human and He repeats no less than 7 times: “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Genesis 8:17)

 

Humanity’s Original Sin, which had brought such a terrible dualism to God’s earth, the knowledge not just of Good, but also of Evil, had nothing whatsoever to do with an apple! Adam and Eve ate from the ‘tree’ of life, from the fruit of the womb! Adam, it seems, killed a fellow being and Adam and Eve were thus banished from God’s peaceful Garden:

 

He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)

 

The priestly scribes went to great lengths to remove this fact from the original story. They placed the blame squarely on Eve (for which women have been punished ever since) and they wove in, for example, the false story about Abel’s pleasing blood sacrifice: “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4) and God’s rejection of Cain’s vegan, arable offering, to bury the important words (which they also moved to their current position in Genesis 4):

 

“And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” (Genesis 4:10-11)

 

As St Francis of Assisi knew well, the animals are our brothers and sisters.

 

God’s Commandments – and especially “You shall not kill,” which was always a cross-species edict – were turned on their head:

 

“And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron and his sons, and to all the people of Israel, This is the thing which the LORD has commanded. If any man of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp and does not bring it to the door of the tent of meeting, to offer it as a gift to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man; he has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people…If any man of the house of Israel or of the strangers that sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people(!) For the life of the flesh (of living beings) is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.” (Leviticus 17: 1-4, 10-11)

 

The corruptions were used to make way for a path that not only endorsed mass animal-killing and flesh-eating, but war and murder, the violent conquest of other peoples, slavery, rape, misogyny, racism, homophobia – and capital punishment for anyone who dared challenge the power of the priests!

 

Beautiful pacifist visions, like Isaiah’s of God’s restoration of peace on earth, for example:

 

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4)

 

– were turned into the very opposite; the words falsely woven into the message of the prophets:

 

“Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”” (Joel 3:10)

 

“The LORD is a man of war.” (Exodus 15:3)

 

God’s true prophets dedicated their lives to turning this terrible, blood tide:

 

With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6: 6-8)

 

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fattened animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?” (Amos 5: 21-25)

 

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed animals; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats.” (Isaiah 1:11)

 

“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…These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations.” (Isaiah 66:3)

 

“The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5)

 

“He will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young…Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (Isaiah 40:11, 21)

 

“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:25)

 

There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is… lying, killing, stealing…and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish…the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air; and even the fish of the sea are taken away…with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children…They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity.” (Hosea 4:1-8)

 

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars.” (Jeremiah 17:1)

 

“The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh.” (Jeremiah 32:26-27)

 

In the Psalms and the Proverbs (which were not the sacrificial David’s or his temple-building son, Solomon’s at all – though they were later assigned to them and re-written by the scribes to support the blood cult), they tried desperately to teach God’s powerful pro-Life message again, in a simple, memorable form:

 

“The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

 

“Open your mouth for the dumb,for the rights of all who are left desolate.” (Proverbs 31:8)

 

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox – and hatred with it.” (Proverbs 15:17)

 

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not requite man according to his work? My son, eat honey, for it is good.” (Proverbs 24:11-13)

 

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 15:8)

 

But most of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Zechariah, Joel, Habakkuk and Ezekiel, for example,) were murdered – a fact of which Jesus was all too acutely aware:

 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

 

Tragically, Paul completed what the priests and their scribes had started. Paul worked for the sacrificial temple. It was on the high priest’s orders that he went to Damascus to hunt down the nonviolent Nazarene Jews who had maintained God’s true Way (and in the face of extreme danger, given the power of the temple: a key reason why Jesus spoke in parables.) Paul was their biggest persecutor. And, having never heard Jesus teach, having never personally met him, and as a determined meat-eater and animal killer, he and the Bible’s later Pauline-inspired writers and redactors, would go out of their way to destroy Jesus’ vegetarian, pro-animal message.

 

Paul’s letters – which make up the bulk of the so-called ‘new’ testament (Jesus came to fulfil the law, not to abolish it – and his teachings in relation to Paul’s are comparatively marginalized) – are full of anti-animal sentiment and contempt for ethical, Nazarene vegetarianism. Here are some classic examples:

 

  • Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:25
  • “All things are lawful for me…Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:12-13
  • “Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake?” ~1 Corinthians 9:9-10
  • “The weak man eats only vegetables.” ~ Romans 14:2

 

Paul, his followers, and the Pauline Church’s “correctores,” were so successful in this that we are now convinced that Jesus ate fish, that he participated in sacrificial Passovers, that he sent demons into the poor Gadarene swine, and that he generally showed very little concern for animals at all. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

Jesus came, as a true son of God, as a true prophet, as God’s Messiah, to restore right relationship between all of God’s creatures on earth – human and non-human. He came to bring earth back to its original state of unity and peace, of shalom: as it had been in the Beginning, when there was no killing and all beings lived in harmony. He came to restore God’s Kingdom: “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He came to end the false rule of the priests, so that God’s will, and not man’s will, would finally be done once more: “Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) He came to destroy the bloody, sacrificial cult once and for all.

 

In his 4th century Panarion, the Pauline bishop Epiphanius of Salamis rages against the Nazarene ‘heretics’ (later known as “Ebionites” after their flight to Pella when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed; something for which the Nazarenes were blamed) – for preserving Jesus’ crucial words: “I am come to do away with sacrifices, and if you cease not sacrificing, the wrath of God will not cease from you.” (Panarion 30.16, 4-5)

 

All four gospels record an important incident, the most important of Jesus’ mission, in fact – though all of them go out of their way to marginalize it too. Luke, Paul’s disciple, reduces it to two brief verses and cuts out all mention of the animals; John places it at the very beginning of Jesus’ mission, when it was, in fact, the culminating event that cost him his life; in Matthew and Mark, the accounts are turned into just another teaching. We have come to know it euphemistically as ‘The Cleansing of the Temple.’ We have been taught that Jesus was only concerned about the temple becoming a house of trade – and that he was angry with the money-makers.

 

But those traders were selling animals for sacrifice! They were trading in blood money. Jesus’ act was the first act of animal liberation!

 

Notably, it was the only time during his ministry where he became so incensed with rage at the sheer injustice and wickedness of what he was witnessing, that he became physically violent – over-throwing the tables where men were selling caged and bound animals and driving them – and importantly the animals – out of the temple, with “whips and cords.” His compassionate and courageous act of resistance cost him his life – as he knew it would do.

 

“And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13)

 

The “robbers” were those who were stealing the animals’ God-given lives – the priests.

 

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the (little ones) crying out in the temple…they were indignant…And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise’?” (Matthew 21:15-16)

Those who were “crying out” were not human children (despite what the corrupters tried to suggest with their additions), they were the terrified, young animals: many of them as young as eight days old, and still “sucklings.” Jesus describes the voices of God’s beloved creatures as “perfect praise.”

 

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 through the temple.” (Mark 11: 15-16)

 

Jesus won’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple – no animals, and no sacrificial vessels, because he is taking direct action – and stopping the sacrificial cult in its tracks!

 

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.” (John 2:13-16)

 

And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him.” (Mark 11:18)

 

Jesus, the Nazarene, paid the ultimate price for his compassion and his goodness, as he knew he would have to.  He was not from the sacrificial house of David at all, and he was not from “Nazareth” either: a place which didn’t even exist in his time. ‘Nazareth’ was a Pauline ruse to obscure Jesus’ nonviolent vegetarianism.

 

The word Nazarene (Nazar?nos and Naz?raios in Koine Greek) comes from the Hebrew word: ne·tser which means “branch.”  Jesus was from the true vine, from the world’s beautiful, original religion. He was the living embodiment of God’s shalom.

 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch…that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

 

“Verily I say unto you that if the truth had not been erased from the book of Moses…God would not have committed the Gospel to me; seeing that the Lord our God is unchangeable, and hath spoken but one message to all men.” (The Gospel of Barnabas: Ch. 124.)

 

“Philip found Nathan’a-el, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus the Nazarene, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

 

The Messiah was from the house of Joseph, (and not the usurping house of Judah,) as both the nonviolent Jacob and the nonviolent Moses had both predicted he would be. Joseph who was “separate from his brothers” (Genesis 49:26, i.e. different from them, nonviolent) – and “prince among his brothers” (Deuteronomy 33:16) was the rightful heir to God’s restored Kingdom.

 

It is no coincidence that Jesus was born in an animal’s eating trough – a manger.

 

It is no coincidence that a dove, the bird of the holy Spirit – and the bird most sacrificed by the temple – should have alighted on him when John baptized him in the Jordan (in living water, not blood).

 

It is no coincidence that Jesus chose to prepare for his mission in the wilderness and that the animals were with him: “And he was in the wilderness forty days; and he was with the wild animals; and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:13)

 

It is no coincidence that he said to his disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) – or that he should have taught that all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”(Luke 3:6)

 

It is no coincidence that Jesus’ parables so often involved animals, and that they were so positive about animals:

 

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6)

 

“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

 

“Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? …As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame.” (Luke 13: 15, 17)

 

“And he said to them, “Which of you, having…an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?”” (Luke 14:5)

 

He said to them, “What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?…it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12)

 

“There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz’arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:19-21)

 

“Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom…is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”” (Matthew 13: 31-32)

 

We need to see verses like the following in a completely new light:

 

“It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)

 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.” (Matthew 18:10)

 

“And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water, because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

 

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then He will say to those, ‘Depart from me, you cursed.” (Matthew 25:40-41)

 

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

…He who blasphemes against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:6, 10)

 

“…whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32)

 

To blaspheme against the holy Spirit, the life-force itself, the breath of life – is to kill. Killing was always the ultimate blasphemy against the Creator. Jesus had come to end the sacrificial cult and to restore God’s true Law and God’s peace on earth again. It is high time we heard his beautiful message and with fresh ears.

 

To kill our fellow beings, to take their lives so that we can eat their flesh is – and always was – nothing less than an abominable rejection of God, their Creator – of Life itself.

 

If there are those who are still not convinced, we have only to remember what happened to those who craved forbidden animal flesh in the wilderness:

 

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses…in the wilderness, and said to (him), “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate…to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3)

 

“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving; and the people of Israel also wept again, and said, “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing…but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”(Numbers 11:4-6)

 

God taught them a powerful, one-off lesson, one which pained Moses terribly because of the animal deaths which were incurred thereby. He did what every good parent does when their child craves what is unhealthy and forbidden.

 

…the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you.” (Numbers 11: 18-20)

 

“While 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. Therefore the name of that place was called Kib’roth-hatta’avah, because there they buried the people who had the craving. (Numbers 11:33-34)

 

The Way of Life is the Way of Peace. It is the Way of inter-species harmony, as it was in the Beginning. As the ancient book of Job reminds us:

 

“Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose what is right; let us determine among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34:2-4)

 

“You will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” (Job 22:30)

 

“If you set your heart aright, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in your tents.” (Job 11:13-14)

 

“For according to the work of a man he will requite him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him.” (Job 34:11)

  

“Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod?” (Job 22:15)

 

“Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart.” (Job 22:21-22)

 

“…to depart from evil is understanding.'” (Job 28:28)

 

Meat-eating, the Bible tells us explicitly, is “evil.” When we return to God’s original arable, plant-based diet, we will come back into Life again. And the result will be a much happier world, one of unity:

 

“You…shall not fear the beasts of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.” (Job 5:22-23)

 

And one in which nothing is lacking:

 

He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell…they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield.” (Psalm 107:35-37)

 

The World to Come is indeed a future world, but it is not a transcendental world. It is planet earth restored. The renewal of God’s Kingdom – where God’s will and not man’s will, will finally be done. We need to be active agents in that restoration. The choice is ours: Life or Death? Quo vadis?

 

 

Heidi Stephenson is a writer and animal campaigner. Her forthcoming book is Back To The Garden: The Nonviolent, Vegetarian Bible. This article also be appears in International Times and on All-Creatures.org .

 

 

 

 

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