Christian Churches of God
Vegetarianism and the Bible
(Edition 2.0 19961116-19991023-20090620)
Many religions in the world espouse vegetarianism as a mode of religious development. Some see it as a rite of purification. Others see it, on ethical grounds, as cruel to animals. This paper traces religious vegetarianism from ancient times through to present Christianity. Abstinence from wine is also treated. It relates to the paper Wine in the Bible.
Vegetarianism and the Bible
Many religions in the world espouse vegetarianism as a mode of religious development. Some see it as a rite of purification. Others see it, on ethical grounds, as cruel to animals. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism have such prohibitions and the early Greek Pythagorean systems also had purification taboos on eating some meats. Buddhism tends to vegetarianism and in some more extreme levels to veganism, which is an absolutist form of vegetarianism, which abstains from even the produce of animals such as milk, cheese and eggs.
The idea was developed, in stages, not only in Ancient India but also in Egypt. Buddhist concepts were introduced to Greece by Pyrrho of Elis (c. 4th Century BCE) (Burnet, article Sceptics, ERE, Vol. 11, p. 228). Pyrrho went to India when Anaxarchus, the disciple of Metrodorus of Chios, went there in the train of Alexander the Great (c. 326 BCE). The Kshatrian noble called Sakyamuni or Siddhartha or Tathagata (b. c. 560 BCE) had given the law of the Dharma at Sarnath in circa 527 BCE, becoming acknowledged as the Buddha. Pyrrho heard the gymnosophists and Magi in India. He inhabited solitary and desert places (according to Antigonius of Carystus as recorded by Diogenes Laertius, ibid.) and was not so much a sceptic but an ascetic and a quietist. He should be regarded as the first Buddhist influence in the West. Buddhism, of course, was not vegetarian in ancient times and there were merely a series of food prohibitions given as to the types of meat that should not be eaten; elephants, tigers and big cats, snakes and humans being primary categories. These categories were not directly for asceticism but were related to it. Long before that, Pythagoras established a school of philosophy that sought to liberate mankind from the wheel of rebirth within the doctrine of transmigration. This view had entered India from the same influences that entered Greece, from the North, with the Hyperborean Celts, and was vaguely termed Scythian (John Burnet Early Greek Philosophy, fourth ed., Adam and Charles Black, 1958 reprint, p. 82 see fn. 2). Philosophy was itself a purification and a way of escape from the wheel (Burnet (B), ibid., p. 83). Philosophy of the early period denied the existence of the immortal soul and there is no room for the assertion of such a doctrine as applying to it. Socrates was the first to assert the doctrine of the soul on any rational ground (Burnet, ibid., p. 84 and also Burnet “The Socratic Doctrine of the Soul”, Proceedings of the British Academy, 1915-16, p. 235). Ancient religion was not a body of doctrine. Nothing was required but that the ritual should be performed correctly and in a proper frame of mind; the worshipper was free to give any explanation of it he pleased (Burnet, ibid.). Thus the religion of Israel as a written code was unique in relation to the Greeks and their associated systems. It is also easy to see how asceticism became important to a religious movement, which was concerned with form rather than with content of the written code. This legacy has been passed on into the Greco-Roman world where ritual has taken the place of understanding, and repetition the place of informed teaching.
Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchos passed his early manhood at Samos. He was prominent in the reign of Polykrates (532 BCE). He had much in common with the Orphic and Bacchic systems, which were present in Egypt (although the Egyptians did not believe in transmigration at all) and hence it was suggested he had visited there. According to Timaios he came to Italy in 529 BCE and remained at Kroton for twenty years (Burnet, p. 89), retiring at Metapontion (ibid., p. 91). He was an Ionian and the order was originally confined to the Achaian states. Apollo, and not Dyonisius as perhaps might be thought from their resemblance to the Orphic society, was their chief god. This was because of the connection of their order with Delos. He was identified with Apollo Hyperboreios (Burnet, p. 90).
We know that Pythagoras was well known in the fifth century both as a scientific man and a teacher of immortality. He taught the doctrine of transmigration and thus the doctrine preceded Buddhism. The structure came from the Scythians into both India and Greece. The influence of the Scythian Salmoxis may be a source of the doctrines of Pythagoras even though Salmoxis preceded him by many years. There is, however, a curious twist to the asceticism and purification of Pythagoras. He introduced the abstinence of some meats as part of the purification rituals. According to Aristoxenos, he did not abstain from all meats in general. However, the types prohibited are the direct established clean types of the ox and the ram (Burnet, p. 93). He was partial to sucking pigs and tender kids. Burnet notes the comments by Aristoxenos regarding the taboo on beans, which was an Orphic idea and that this may have penetrated the Pythagoreans (Burnet, p. 93 fn. 5). This view perhaps went from Pythagoreanism into the ancient world generally. The association of these practices of abstinence from animal flesh was with the Mystery cults from the Orphic, Bacchic and Pythagorean systems and from there appears to have entered Gnosticism from Alexandria and certainly from its appearance in Rome within Christianity. We will examine this process later.
The real point to be noted is that the clean foods are prohibited and the unclean in the case of the pig and the mystery cultic meal of the young kid (probably seethed in its mother’s milk is here espoused in direct contradiction to Scripture). Pythagoras taught the kinship of beasts and men and Burnet infers that his rule of abstinence from some types of flesh was based not on humanitarian or ascetic grounds but on taboo. This is confirmed by a comment from Porphyry’s Defence of Abstinence where he says that though they did abstain from flesh as a rule they nevertheless ate it when sacrificing to the gods (Burnet, p. 95 fn. 2 referring to Bernays Theophrastos’ Schrift über Frömmigkeit). Porphyry (V. Pyth. c15) has preserved a tradition to the effect that Pythagoras recommended a flesh diet for athletes (Milo?). Burnet holds that this story must have originated at the same time as those related by Aristoxenos, and in a similar way. Bernays shows that it comes from Herakleides of Pontus (Theophr. Schr. n. 8; cf. Burnet, p. 95, n. 3). Burnet holds that the neo-Platonists attempted to go back to the original form of the Pythagorean legend and to explain away the fourth century reconstruction (ibid.).
They had a large number of superstitious abstinences and dos and don’ts. They abstained from beans, did not break bread, did not eat from a whole loaf, and did not eat the heart (of their sacrifices). Example superstitions, such as not touching a white cock, not stepping over a crossbar, not stirring a fire with an iron, not plucking a garland etc. are too tedious to list here but can be seen in Burnet (ibid., p. 96).
There is no doubt this concept was entirely religious and selective. They also viewed music and astronomy as sister sciences. They used music to purge the soul and medicine to purge the body. Such methods of purifying the soul were familiar in the Orgia of the Korybantes and thus explain the Pythagorean interest in Harmonics (Burnet, pp. 97-98). Pythagoras’ influence on Aristotle is clear from the “three lives” argument of the Theoretic, the Practical and the Apolaustic, repeated by Aristotle in the Ethics (see also Burnet, p. 98). Nor should his influence on Plato be dismissed because of the merely indirect references to him by Plato (cf., for example, Burnet, p. 188). The religious drive of this system was also the first to carry mathematics beyond the needs of commerce (Aristoxenos’ treatise on Arithmetic; cf. Burnet, p. 99). Pythagoras seems to have originated the study of sums of series (Burnet, p. 104) and also determined the ratios of the harmonic and the octave. (From the harmonic proportion 12:8:6 we find that 12:6 is the octave; 12:8 the fifth, and 8:6, the fourth; cf. Burnet, ibid., p. 106).
Pythagoras also seems to have discovered the earth was a sphere (Burnet, p. 111), which the Ionians refused to accept. The real point here is that we are dealing with a major theoretical and religious system associated with the Mystery cults and from which vegetarianism in the West sprang. The arrangement of the taboos themselves reflects a contra-relationship with the Hebrew systems.
The religious systems of the Limit and the Unlimited within Pythagoreanism, and their opposition by such as Parmenides is too complex to go into here but there is a cosmological significance in the structure which deserves further examination and exposition. The central structure was concerned with the goddess whom Aetios tells us was called Ananke and the Holder of Lots. She was held to steer the course of all things and fixed the course of the stars. She is the beginning of all pairing and birth and she is held to have created Eros, first of all the gods (Burnet, pp. 190-191). We are dealing with the Mother goddess figure of the ancient near east, which emerged within Christianity later as a deified Mary. Burnet is unsure where she stands in the Myth of Er but notes Theophrastos as stating she occupied a position midway between the earth and the heavens. This cosmology is central to the system. Burnet holds that the theory of bands found in the early philosophic systems of Pythagoras etc. relates to the Milky Way and we find this as being central to the Gnostic doctrines concerning the soul and its progression to and from the heavens, that emerge later with purification systems akin to the Mysteries. What makes it so hard to deal with the facts of the matter is that Pythagoreanism, as with the other Mystery cults, had a developed oral tradition as opposed to the biblical written law.
We thus see a direct antipathy from the earliest times in this argument for abstinence from meat as being, firstly, a direct rite of the Mystery cults in the regulation of diet and, secondly, related to an anti-Judaic or anti-reaction to the laws of God. This whole thought process of accusation against God underlies the entire rationale of vegetarianism among religious groups, even among those who say they uphold the laws of God, as we will see.
The Biblical Position
The categories of prohibitions among animals are listed in the paper The Food Laws (No. 15). The food laws are directly related to the types of animals that can be eaten and those that cannot be eaten under the biblical law. From at least the time of Moses the laws have been concerned with the sacrifice of, and the consumption of, those animals, which fall within the permitted (or clean) category. These ordinances are not simply suggestions; they are laws of God which detail and control and indeed require, in the case of the Passover meal of 15 Nisan, the consumption of meats. The entire system was centred on a concept of expiation for sin as a blood sacrifice, which pointed towards Jesus Christ or Messiah.
Both Judaism and Christianity draw their references on meats from the same texts, which control the consumption of meat, namely the Old Testament. Some elements of Christianity draw conclusions from the texts in the New Testament, which are allegedly counter to the thrust of the Old Testament. This was examined in the paper The Food Laws (No. 15) and shown to be false. Other sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists make claim that vegetarianism is the correct biblical view. They justify this by claims regarding the Garden of Eden and the pre-flood system. These claims are not new. They stem from an aberrant form of Christianity found since the early days of the Church in elements of Gnosticism. The views extended into the sects we called Cathari or Puritans, which embraced other Gnostic doctrines such as Manichean dualism. These Cathari among the Albigensians brought persecution on the Sabbath-keeping Vallenses or Sabbatati and are often confused with them due to the persecution of both.
Consumption of meat and the use of animals from Adam
Much of the error of the position concerning the consumption of meat, stems from a misunderstanding of what is occurring in the Book of Genesis.
Genesis 2:4-25 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (KJV)
We see from the text, that there is a sequence in this story concerning Adam’s creation, and the food that he was given. He was created before there were any herbs or foods created in the garden, from the special planting of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:7-8), as opposed to the third day of creation. He, thus, appears to have been fed on a surrogate system, for at least a period. This is not surprising, as the adaptation process of his system to solid food, no doubt occurred in the sequence we see in the normal infant. He was created as a man, but nevertheless, his system was subject to an adjustment.
Adam was given to eat of the trees of the garden and was told to tend it. He was also given cattle. The word is SHD 929 behêmâh meaning a dumb beast or quadruped. The term behemoth is derived from this term meaning water-ox. The term behemah here is usually applied to cattle. This is in contrast to wild beasts which are termed SHD 2416 chay which is also used here in Genesis 1:30. The text in Genesis 2 explains the sequence of Genesis 1:20-31.
The assumption is made from the text in Genesis 1:30 that all animals were given herbs for food and that the entire creation was vegetarian.
Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (KJV)
Note from Genesis 1:25 that God made cattle and beasts from the beginning. This distinction was made and formed in the creation from the beginning. The process of eating meat is one of a balance of chemicals. The unclean animals have chemical reactions that break down their food chain. The chemical balances are incorrect for the human body. This is explained in the paper The Food Laws (No. 15). What is not explained there, is that there is an enzymatic process such that the enzymes of the predators or birds, cannot be consumed with impunity by humans. There is a balance, which no doubt was established from the creation with the food chain in mind. God does not experiment or, as Einstein said, He does not play dice.
The commentators Rashi and Ibn Ezra hold that, from verse 29, man and beast were permitted the same diet at the creation. They held that man was forbidden to kill animals for food. This was not permitted until after the flood. This interpretation is false for the reasons listed below. The commentaries such as that of Moses Cassuto From Adam to Noah regarding the vegetarian diet is pure invention. This tradition was established from isolated texts and without archaeology. The purification rituals from the Mystery cults cannot be excluded as an influence on these individuals through Kabbalah. Assertions, such as that of Joseph Albo, that the killing of animals involves cruelty, rage and the accustoming of shedding innocent blood is a direct and blasphemous imputation against the nature of Yahovah elohim who initiated the process (see below).
We see also in this sequence an adaptation to the creation in sequence. The last to be created was Eve. The process of the fall is in Genesis 3. The story sequence makes it appear that the serpent had legs up until this moment. Genesis 3:13-24 shows the punishment and the dialogue. This is not a simple story.
Genesis 3:13-24 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (KJV)
The process was foreseen by God from the beginning. The Lamb was slain and the elect written in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Thus, this event was foreseen and catered for. Note the serpent was not questioned. He had been shown to be guilty. From verse 14 we see the distinction once again between cattle and the wild beasts of the field. This can only mean that from the beginning this distinction was intended to show that the consumption of meat was the intended sequence. The dialogue concerning the serpent and the seed of the women is a spiritual story concerning the confinement of Satan.
The command in verses 18-19 is not to be construed as the limitation of diet but rather the hardship of the collection and type. The tree of life conferred immortality and so the creation had to be denied immortality so that they could be corrected and brought into a proper relationship with God and the spiritual Host. The comments are apparently allegoric.
The important thing is the next action of Yahovah elohim. He then kills cattle to make clothing of skins for the man and woman. Sforno explains in relation to the nakedness question that since their acts were in service of their maker, and not for the satisfaction of desire, their acts of cohabitation were as innocent as eating and drinking (Soncino). Rashi holds that the seductive counsel of Satan was aroused when it saw them cohabiting without concealment. Sforno holds that the serpent is a symbol for the tempter (Satan).
The rabbinical commentators also do not understand the concepts that Adam died spiritually and, hence, the Messiah was required to die as sacrifice for the sins of the world, under the disobedience of Adam.
Here we have the sequence that has Yahovah elohim commence the sacrifice of animals for the clothing of humans. So, the killing here was purely utilitarian and commenced by Yahovah elohim the subordinate of Psalm 45:6-7. Thus, God and Jesus Christ sanctioned the domestic use of animals from the beginning of the history of man. There can be no sin attributed to Yahovah elohim in this action. Thus the action was endorsed and established for mankind, which they utilised, as we see from archaeology.
This use of cattle or domestic animals is brought to a clear position in the incident of Cain and Abel. The cattle had been put into herds and Abel was a pastoralist or herdsman as a keeper of sheep. Cain was a tiller of the ground. Both Cain and Abel came before the Lord with offerings. Thus the harvest sacrifices were put in position with Adam. Thus the harvest festivals precede Sinai, as does the Sabbath.
Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof. Thus, the offering of the first fruits and the fat of the sacrifices were established from the beginning. Cain was rejected in his offering. Thus, the superiority of the living sacrifice was established here. The view that these people were vegetarians is impossible to sustain. Genesis 4:7 imputes sin to Cain in the rejection of his offering also. The Targum translates the text in an extended paraphrase.
If thou will amend thy ways, thy sins shall be remitted; but if thou will not amend thy ways, thy sin awaits thee for thy day of judgment, for thou wilt be punished if thou does not repent; but if thou repentest, it shall be forgiven thee (Soncino).
Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is inconceivable that he would establish a system and alter it immediately, prohibit the use of animals but kill the animals he put at their disposal for clothing, if it was not meant as an ongoing arrangement. It was indeed an ongoing system and the husbanding of animals and their killing and consumption was a feature of both pre-flood and post-flood civilisation.
The entire Adamic system down to Noah was given, and understood, the distinction of clean and unclean animals. Adam and Abel understood it and it was intact at the time of Noah.
Cain killed Abel and the strength of the produce of the ground was denied to him. The word for blood here is in the plural. Hence Abel’s bloods cried out. This deals with the blood of Abel and his potential descendants (Rashi holds that he was wounded so many times that he bled to death from multiple wounds).
The conflict between the pre-Adamic creation and the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth (the next son of Adam) and the other progeny of Adam was ongoing. The conflict and evil saw the decision to wipe out this aspect of the creation. This was not an error of God; it was the result of the interference in the creation of the Host in an attempt to destroy the plan of God. Much of the creation was lost in this phase (Gen. 6:7,13).
The next phase is the preservation of the animals through Noah.
Noah was commanded to take two of a kind into the ark and a common ration of food for the consumption of all animals in the ark. This does not mean that the entire pre-flood system ate the same food as the animals and that they were vegetarian. What it does mean is that, whilst in the ark, the diet of all would be the same and there was to be no killing in a confined space.
Genesis 6:17-22 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. 21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. 22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. (KJV)
Genesis 7:1 ff. continues on directly to explain that the clean animals were to be taken in seven pairs and the unclean by two or a single pair.
Genesis 7:1-3 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. 2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. (KJV)
There is no suggestion that Noah needed to have the concept of clean and unclean explained to him. Nor is there any suggestion that he was unaware of the entire breadth and scope of the creation in this regard. The suggestion that this text indicates that the consumption of animals occurred after the flood is not supported either from the Bible by the pastoral nature of the sons of Adam nor from what we know of the pre-flood epoch through archaeology.
We have found human remains of this epoch and we have found extensive record of the types of peoples. There is no evidence that the societies were vegetarian. Indeed, the evidence clearly shows they were not. The oldest human found in ice (in the Italian Alps) from c. 3000+ BCE had skin garments, a copper axe head and came from a village complex of hunter-gatherers.
Vegetarian apologists for this era ignore all of the known evidence. Their assertions are contrary to both the Bible and archaeology.
We know from records of ancient Egypt that meat and game birds as well as pigeon, doves and geese were consumed. Geese appear on the tomb of Itet c. 2560 BCE in the Old Kingdom. Chickens were not known until the New Kingdom and probably only became common during Roman times (Baines and Malek Atlas of Ancient Egypt, Time-Life Books, 1994, pp. 8,19). Whilst irrigation farming occurred in what is described as the late Neolithic period in Mesopotamia, there was a predominantly meat-consuming society of nomadic pastoralists and hunter-gatherers evident with evidence of gathering of grasses for cereals. Agriculture was evident in the pre-dynastic period further west from Egypt along the Mediterranean, but it appears that the arid changes in climate forced a concentration of peoples in the Nile Valley for agricultural purposes (ibid., p. 14).
Whilst North Africa around pre-dynastic Egypt consisted primarily of hunter-gatherers or herdsmen, agriculture had been established there during the Old Kingdom. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the civilisations from Mesopotamia to North Africa were vegetarian. Indeed, the evidence precludes such an assertion. To suggest that the sons of Adam, unlike all other pastoralists, were a race of pastoralists who herded animals but did not eat them, is bizarre reasoning. The Bible is clear that the sacrifice was established with Adam and employed by Abel. The categories of clean animals must, therefore, have been established. God would not allow or accept the sacrifice of unclean animals, as we know from the law. To suggest that the family of Adam would have shepherded flocks, instituting the sacrifice and then thrown the sacrifices away without consuming them is so absurd that it cannot be taken seriously. Moreover, the nomadic pastoralist life precludes vegetarianism as a possible lifestyle. Also barbed wire and mesh had not been invented. The farming offerings of Cain were less acceptable to God. The arguments put forward regarding vegetarianism pre-flood are those of people who have had little or no experience with agriculture and animal husbandry and ignore the plain words of the biblical texts.
Noah and the Flood
Noah obeyed God and built the ark and placed the animals he was instructed within the ark. The categories of cattle and beasts also are used in the text in Genesis 7:14 ff.
The flood commenced on the seventeenth day of the second month of the 600th year of Noah. The flood lasted for forty days or until the twenty-seventh day of the third month. The waters did not recede until the first of Nisan the following year. On the twenty-seventh of Nisan the following year the earth was dry.
Noah’s first action after the flood was to build an altar and sacrifice of every clean beast and of every clean fowl. This action pleased God. From this point the promise was made that while the earth remains the harvests, seedtime, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.
God had established the laws of firstfruits with Adam and it was kept with Noah and his progeny. The rebellion after the flood with Nimrod and the Babylonian system did not prejudice the integrity of the law. Abraham was given the promise because he was a friend of God. His people went into slavery because of the actions of the patriarchs in Palestine. They were multiplied under hardship and brought out in the Exodus under Moses that they might be His people and a light to the nations.
God brought Israel out of bondage with a sacrifice. That sacrifice pointed to Messiah. Israel was not then or intended to become vegetarian. The entire law of foods and firstfruits was re-issued to Moses at Sinai. The food laws concerning meats are found at Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The reasons and the prohibitions concerning these rules are covered in the paper The Food Laws (No. 15).
The priesthood of Israel was concerned with the sacrifice. The assertions regarding the sacrifice by the Jewish philosophers and kabbalists, which seem to include some of their eminent rabbis, are assertions which necessarily impugn both the nature of God and the regularity of the priesthood.
The next phase in this strange rabbinical process of qualifying God’s instructions concerns the injunctions about removal of blood. The arguments for vegetarianism, among the rabbinical authorities, are interesting but ignore the thrust of prophecy.
The rabbis who espouse this vegetarian plan seem to argue thus:
1. Death entered the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
2. The consumption of meats was not effected until Noah.
3. Humanity had degenerated greatly by this time.
4. Permission was given to eat meat after the flood.
The logic runs that the permission to eat meat was only a temporary thing. The grounds for this are thus:
It is inconceivable that the Creator who had planned a world of harmony and a perfect way for man to live should, many thousands of years later, find that this plan was wrong (R. Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, ed. R. David Cohen).
The logic is correct. The premise is incorrect. As we know, God is immutable and so is Messiah. God does not change (Mal. 3:6). Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8). The change in the law referred to in Hebrews 7:12 concerns the metathesis of the law that established the priesthood in the elect as of the order of Melchisedek. The change also concerned the sacrifice. Nothing was said or conveyed regarding the consumption of meats being eliminated; indeed, the contrary is the case.
Kook is of the mistaken view that Adam and his sons did not eat meat. He thus sees that logically this involves an inconsistency in the giving and application of God’s law. He incorrectly assumes that vegetarianism was the system in the beginning. Therefore, it will again be the system in the end. He concludes that the eating of meat is, therefore, a medium term aberration of God. He thus attributes to God the inconsistency he is seeking to avoid.
This aberrant reasoning process in Judaism continues on to the reasoning of R. Samuel Dressner.
The removal of blood which kashrut teaches is one of the most powerful means of making us constantly aware of the concession and compromise which the whole act of eating meat, in reality is. Again it teaches us reverence for life.
Moses Cassuto then carries this to the absurd lengths of stating:
Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood.
Such reasoning, which attributed whim to the laws of God, ignores the thrust of the sections concerned with the pastoral nature of Adam’s sons and shows an ignorance of the scientific basis of the food laws. The problem here is in the knowledge of Cassuto, Dressner and Kook, not in the logic and consistency of Torah. This mystical tradition comes from the Oral systems outside of the law of God and which entered Kabbalah from the Mystery cults. These people are vegetarian seeking to justify their aberration in the Torah in spite of the written law and the evidence against it. They, perhaps, might have a little more excuse than a Christian for such aberrant views but the Holy Spirit has given clear direction concerning this false doctrine through Christ and the apostles.
Prophecy and Meats
Resort is made to Isaiah for support of a millennial vegetarianism under Messiah.
Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (KJV)
Emphasis is placed on the fact that the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The calf and the young lion are accompanied by the fatling together. They shall not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain. Two things are evident here. The place is Zion and the calf and the fatling and the ox are mentioned. An ox is a neutered bull and thus husbandry is still in effect. The fatling is a stall fed beast for meat. The word is SHD 4806 merîy’ meaning fed or fat cattle. It is the same word found at Ezekiel 39:18. This setting in Ezekiel is at the Advent and it then goes on (in Ezek. 40) to deal with the restoration of the sacrifice during the Millennium (Ezek. 40:38-43; 43:18-27; 44:6-8; 45:13-25; 46:1-8).
These offerings will take place on the Sabbaths and the New Moons (Ezek. 46:3). The sacrifices of the people will be boiled in kitchens set aside for the purpose at the Temple (Ezek. 46:24).
In addition to the meat of the sacrifice that is cooked at the Temple, the rivers will be established from the waters of the temple mount, and the fish will be caught there by fishermen beside the sea from Engedi to Eneglaim. The swamps and marshes there will be for salt collection. In addition to these meats will be the trees on the banks of the river. The trees will be of various types that will bear fruit each month. Their leaves will be for the healing of the nations (Ezek. 47:9-12).
The text from Amos 9:14 can thus be seen in the context of a broad system and not of delineation of limited food types. Moreover, Amos 9:13 shows the consumption of wine as a promise of the Millennium.
Amos 9:13 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. 14 And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. (KJV)
Animal husbandry involving milk production is also seen from Joel 3:18.
Joel 3:18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim. (KJV)
Zechariah 14 shows quite clearly that at the millennial restoration the feasts will be kept and the nations will send their representatives to Jerusalem or they will be punished (Zech. 14:16-19). The text continues on to show clearly the sacrifice and the consumption of meat during the Millennium under Messiah.
Zechariah 14:20-21 In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. (KJV)
The text of the Bible thus has a consistent and clear message of sanctioned meat consumption from Adam to the end of the Millennium. God is thus constant and the system is sure and just. Vegetarianism has no sanction in any section of the Old Testament. The rabbis who make claim for it do so in the face of clear Scripture against it. Their arguments are imputations against the laws and nature of God. They are in fact accusations against the justice and the integrity of the Lord of Hosts and the Messiah.
The New Testament Message
It is clear that Christ was not a vegetarian. He kept the Passover (Mat. 26:17-19; Mk. 14:12-16; Lk. 2:41; 22:8-15; Jn. 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55; 18:28,39; 19:14) which of necessity involved the consumption of meat (Ex. 12:11-13) and was itself the Passover (Lk. 22:11).
The apostles kept the food laws and the eating of meats. Thus, there was no elimination of meats from Pentecost. Acts 10 has been used to attempt to show the extension of categories of permitted meats (see the paper The Food Laws (No. 15)) but could not in any way be construed as to allow vegetarianism. In fact, the explanation of that text is that it was to show that conversion had been extended to the Gentiles as Peter himself explains.
Meat Sacrificed to Idols
The more involved passage involving meats concerns meat sacrificed to idols. The text in Romans 14:1-4 is held to allow the practice of vegetarianism within Christianity, but as a weaker form of Christianity. This is an incorrect meaning. The abstaining from meat here is not on the grounds given by vegetarians, which are imputations against God. The grounds here are based on the supposition that the meat may have been sacrificed to idols. Thus, the abstention here is so as not to transgress the law, regarding the consumption of food sacrificed to idols.
Romans 14:1-4 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (KJV)
The text in Romans 14:6 has been extended to include a section which is not present in the ancient texts.
Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (KJV)
The text and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it is omitted from the texts (see Companion Bible, n. to v. 6). The text concerns food sacrificed to idols and whether it is or is not unclean. The position was taken in the church that if it was not known, it was to be assumed that it was not so sacrificed. The weaker in the faith chose not to eat at all so that their conscience was not impaired. Thus, this form of abstinence was not on vegetarian grounds but on the grounds of assumed idolatry. This was held to render meats unclean. This view then explains a text of Paul, which is one of the texts alluded to in 2Peter, as being wrested to the destruction of the individual.
Romans 14:14-23 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (KJV)
This text does not refer to the categories of clean and unclean meats given in the law. If it did, Paul cannot be an apostle of Jesus Christ. We know scientifically that the food categories are soundly based. Moreover, we know that the church observed the categories of clean and unclean meats for centuries. After the apostasy, the church in the persecution observed them and still does observe them. Thus Paul must be referring to the problem of food sacrificed to idols otherwise he does not speak according to the law and the testimony (Isa. 8:20). He speaks elsewhere about foods made to be received with thanksgiving. Thus this text refers to the category of food sacrificed to idols. Those who abstained were weak in the faith. There is, however, no basis for this form of abstention given the cessation of such sacrifice for centuries.
Paul was given clear direction on two issues by the Holy Spirit to be preserved on this matter. He made a pronunciation on one before he had direction and was corrected for his error. The other was to become a serious problem in the Church of God in the last days and thus required clear prophetic direction from the Holy Spirit.
The Doctrines of Demons of the Last Days
The doctrines of demons of the last days were dealt with in the paper The Doctrines of Demons of the Last Days (No. 48). The two doctrines asserted by the demons in the last days concerned marriage and vegetarianism. Paul had spoken on marriage but was clear that he had no direction from the Holy Spirit on the matter. The next time he spoke on these issues he did have clear direction. Let us examine the statements.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave an opinion which he said was just that; his opinion and he had no command of the Lord.
1Corinthians 7:25-40 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. 27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. (KJV)
This advice of Paul was wrong but was allowed because it served another purpose. It was correct in the spirit in which it was given and serves in this text as an admonition for those who serve God. Moreover, it is an uplifting passage for those who had no children and were eunuchs in reality or for the faith. There were at that time a considerable number of eunuchs (canon 21 of the Apostolic Canons, ANF, Vol. VII, p. 501 encourages their ordination as bishops). Thus this advice was correct in that it served to uplift those who were disadvantaged in the church. Such people are still in the faith and they have enough pain for their loss and should be elevated in their service of God. However, it was not, and is not, meant to be an injunction against marriage in the church. The Holy Spirit intervened because this issue and another would form a serious problem in the faith in later years.
1Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (KJV)
Here Paul makes it plain that the Spirit has expressly said that these doctrines of demons would occur in the last days. We are seeing them now on a larger scale than ever before. Up until this century, the doctrines of demons concerned celibacy, so-called, not only within the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, but within the Gnostic, Montanist, Manichean and the so-called Puritan, or Cathar systems, throughout the centuries. Vegetarianism and alcohol abstention, on the other hand, was confined to the Gnostics, Montanists, Manicheans and the Cathari and their inheritors. These sects had more or less shadowed the Church of God for centuries, often bringing persecution upon it.
The doctrine of Ascetics was originally present among the Mystery cults and through the Pythagoreans entered Western thought. The influence of the Mysteries in North Africa saw it influence the economic and social groups, which emerged in Alexandria as an opposing force to Judaic law. That system was called Gnosticism from the term gnosis or knowledge, which its adherents claimed from mystical experience. It was ascetic, as were the mysteries in abstention from meats. Another school of Gnosticism developed in Syria and was to produce a series of ascetic and anti-law thinkers. The most famous of this school is Simon Magus.
The two great schools of Gnosticism were thus the Alexandrian and the Syrian. Of the Alexandrian school which included Basilides, Valentine and the Ophites, we find Platonism and the emanation theory prevail. In the Syrian school which consisted of Saturninus, Bardesanes and Tatian, we find Parsiism and Dualism prevail.
Distinct from these two schools was the system of Marcion arising in Asia Minor. Schaff alleges this to be through the legacy of Paul and his strong free gospel message in opposition to legalism (see Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, Michigan, 1987 reprint, p. 459). Schaff appears to have misunderstood the message of Paul in this matter (see the paper The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104) and the Law series (No. 252-No. 263)).
Gnosticism appeared in three forms depending upon the system on to which it grafted itself. These are the Pagan, Jewish and Christian forms. Thus, it is not surprising to find Jewish writers supporting Gnostic ascetic concepts from the Old Testament, which run counter to the thrust of the Old Testament law and prophecy. This intrusion was affected through Kabbalah and is found among their most prominent rabbis. That so-called Jewish writers and so-called Christian writers can both construct ascetic doctrines around the Bible misusing Scripture should not be surprising. They are not espousing biblical doctrines; they are supporting their parasite Gnostic system, which has syncretised both systems on which they feed. This recognition is most important in understanding the insidious nature of their theology.
Schaff holds that the Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, Prodicians, Antitactes, and Manicheans belong to a paganising class of Gnostics. He holds Cerinthus, Basilides, Valentine, and Justin belong to a Judaising class and Saturninus, Marcion, Tatian, and the Encratites to a Christianising division (ibid., p. 460). But he notes correctly that the distinction is only relative. All Gnostic systems are heathen in their character and essentially opposed alike to the pure Judaism of the Old Testament and the Christianity of the New Testament. He says:
The Judaism of the so-called Judaising Gnostics is only of an apocryphal sort, whether of the Alexandrian or the Cabalistic tinge (ibid.).
At note 1 to page 460 he notes Gibbon as dwelling exclusively on their anti-Jewish feature making them express his own aversion to the Old Testament. An important point is that the Kabbalist elements, which widely penetrated Jewish philosophy, seek to influence Old Testament theology with asceticism and this is widespread in Judaism.
Schaff divided the Gnostics into three divisions: the speculative or theosophic Gnostics in which he groups Basilides and Valentine; the practical and ascetic (Marcion, Saturninus and Tatian); and the anti-nomian under which he groups Simonians, Nicolaitans, Ophites, Carpocratians, and Antitactes.
Simon Magus is perhaps the earliest mystical influence on Christianity (Acts 8:4-24). Simon Magus was baptised by Philip in Samaria about 40 CE and sought to obtain the power of the spirit with money and was dismissed by Peter. Justin Martyr, himself a Samaritan, claims Simon was a native of Gitthon in Samaria (Apol. 1, 26). There was a place referred to as Gittai, now called Kuryet Jit, near Flavia Neapolis or Nablus, the home of Justin Martyr (cf. Schaff, p. 461, fn. 2). Josephus however records a Jewish magician of the same name who was a native of Cyprus and a friend of the Procurator Felix. It seems he was employed to alienate, from her husband, Drusilla the wife of king Azizus of Emesa, in Syria. Felix hoped to marry her (Antiquities of the Jews XX, 7, 2). The story would therefore be one of movement from Samaria to Syria to achieve the aims of the procurator. Baptism in the church was apparently just another money-making scheme. The name simony is still used for the traffic in church offices.
Simon presented himself as an emanation of the deity and drew many in Samaria by his sorcery. He thus appeared to be an early Jewish mystic, perhaps the forerunner of Kabbalism operating outside of the limits of Judaic power. Irenaeus identifies him as the magister and progenitor of all heretics and of the Gnostics in particular. This of course is incorrect as Gnosticism was a force in Egypt long before this. It does note that he was a Gnostic and of great importance to the movement; but his Gnosticism was of a crude early type. He declared himself an incarnation of the creative world-spirit. His companion, the former prostitute Helena of Tyre, was declared the embodiment of the receptive world-soul. His adherents worshipped him as a redeeming genius into the third century. The sect was immoral in their principles and practices. Justin Martyr records that he made such an impression upon the Roman Senate and people that they paid him divine homage and erected a statue to him, which he alleges was on an island in the Tiber (Apol. 1. 26, 56). This location is incorrect and confuses the statue, found in 1574, inscribed with the words Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio sacrum etc. This refers to Semo Sancus or Sangus a Sabine-Roman deity unknown to him (cf. Schaff, p. 462, fn. 1). It does not of course preclude the erection of another memorial in Rome and this may have been the reason for the repeat of the error in Irenaeus (Adv. Her. 1. 23, 1) and Tertullian (Apol. 13) and also by Eusebius. Schaff notes Hippolytus who resided at Rome does not mention it (ibid.). The Simonians are still referred to as a term for Gnostics generally in some writings. The anti-nomian sects will be dealt with elsewhere. These sects practised immorality and were as a rule not ascetics in the same sense as the wider Gnostic groups and did not survive because of their degenerate lifestyles.
The Gnostic Cerinthus was allegedly an Egyptian Jew who studied at Alexandria under Philo according to a tradition collected by Epiphanius. This tradition asserts he was one of the false apostles who opposed Paul and demanded circumcision on the church (Gal. 2:4; 2Cor. 11:13).
He is held to have opposed John who, allegedly, left a public bath on the grounds that it might fall in while Cerinthus was there. He taught the separation of the earthly Jesus from the heavenly Christ who descended upon him. This view also falls into that of Antichrist. He was strongly Judaic. Schaff tries to place him with the Ebionites (ibid., p. 465). He was also a chiliast or millennialist, which was centred on Jerusalem. This is omitted by Irenaeus who was himself a chiliast but recorded by Caius, Dyonisius (in Eusebius), Theodoret, and Augustin (cf. Schaff, p. 466). These were the early types, which incorporated elements of the church theology but had commenced to twist their interpretation within Gnostic paradigms. Cerinthus might not be classed with the central core of Gnostics who were strongly anti-Old Testament. He seems to have tried to undermine it by proximity, but also had detractors among the later so-called orthodox. This ended the late first century deviations.
The second century Gnostic teachers commence during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE) with the first of the well developed systems, that of Basilides. His system was monotheist rather than dualist but later writers try to make him dualist.
Basilides produced a theoretical view of Christ, which developed a three-fold Christ. Christ was held as the son of the first archon, the son of the second archon and the son of Mary. The reconciliation of the sons of God to the being who was God beyond existence was effected by the production of Christ from these archons who were subordinate to Him. His followers were allegedly somewhat dissolute in practice and they corrupted the system of their founder. This group remained in Egypt until the fourth century, and according to Sulpicius Severus, some of its doctrines were brought to Spain by Marcus of Memphis (cf. Schaff, p. 472).
This group together with the Ophites, Perates and Valentinians referred to the Gospel of John often before the middle of the second century.
Valentine is thought to have been the most important of the Gnostic theorists. Irenaeus directed his work against him. Hippolytus claims he was a Platonist and a Pythagorean (Schaff, p. 472-3). He was also of Egyptian Jewish stock studying in Alexandria (Epiph. Her. XXXI. 2; cf. Schaff, p. 473). He broke with the orthodox church, according to the conjecture of Tertullian, through ambition. He came to Rome as a public teacher during the pontificate of Hyginus (137-142 CE), remaining there until the pontificate of Anicetus (154 CE) (Iren. III, 4,3). The Valentianians were entrenched before 140 CE and mentioned by Justin Martyr (Syntagma against all Heresies lost but noted in First Apology). Rome, as the centre of the empire, had become the centre of all sects and heresy. Valentine or Valentinus was among the first of the Gnostics who taught in Rome along with Cerdo and Marcion. This was to have a significant effect on some aspects of Christian theology. He was excommunicated and died in Cyprus about 160 CE (Schaff, p. 473). Schaff thinks the church was too well entrenched to be affected, but he argues from the modern orthodox view. The changes wrought between the times of Hyginus and Anicetus are highly significant. Valentine’s theology tries to utilise the biblical schema of the council of the thirty, which he arranges as thirty aeons proceeding from the abyss. Christ and the Sophia or Holy Spirit are the last of the thirty.
Valentinus’ school divides into two branches; an oriental and an Italian. Axionicos or Ardesanes (Bardesanes) taught a pneumatic and heavenly body of Jesus Christ, because the Sophia or Holy Spirit came upon Mary. The Italian school under Heraclion and Ptolemy taught that the body of Christ was psychical, and for this reason the Spirit descended upon him in the baptism. This sect came nearer the orthodox in the descendants than with the master. Here we see the syncretising of the systems.
Origen even accuses them of not being allegorical enough in their exposition of John’s Gospel (Grabe Spicil. II. 83-117; cf. Schaff, p. 479 fn. 2). Ptolemy, in the Epistle to Flora, held that the creation of the world and the Old Testament could not proceed from the highest God. He appeals to apostolic tradition and John 1:18 in this matter. God is the only Good (Mat. 19:17) and, hence, cannot be the creator of a world with so much evil. This view demonstrates a lack of knowledge of Scripture on their part and on those who espouse the Christian faith generally, even at this early stage.
Another disciple of the Valentinian school, Marcos, who taught in Asia Minor and in Gaul in the second half of the second century, grafted the Pythagorean and Kabbalist numerical symbolism onto the Gnostic theories of the school. The Syrian Bardesanes and his son Harmonius both of Edessa, are credited with being the fathers of Syrian hymnology and show no trace of dualism in their cosmology.
Gnostic theory emerged full-blown in its anti-Judaism and biblical criticism with Marcion. He was the forerunner of the rationalistic opposition to the Old Testament and the Pastoral Epistles. He did not understand the harmony of the revelation of the Bible and placed Christ in conflict with all previous revelation. This view anticipated the New Testament oriented modern Christianity, which neither understands the laws of God nor sees any logical necessity or relevance in them.
Schaff holds that Marcion
represents a extreme anti-Jewish and pseudo Pauline tendency and a magical supranaturalism, which in fanatical zeal for a pure primitive Christianity, nullifies all history, and turns the gospel into an abrupt, unnatural, phantomlike appearance (p. 483).
Marcion, son of the bishop of Sinope in Pontus, was excommunicated by his father. He went to Rome in the middle of the second century (c. 140-155 CE). Thus Rome became the centre of Gnosticism having originated none of the schools itself. He was regarded by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Polycarp, as the foremost heretic of the day. He asserted two or three primal forces. The good or gracious God, whom Christ first made known; the evil matter, ruled by the devil and to which paganism or heathenism (Schaff) belongs; and the righteous world maker, who is the finite imperfect, angry Yahovah of the Jews. Schaff holds some writers reduce Marcion’s principles to two. Marcion rejected the pagan emanation theory, the secret tradition, and the allegorical interpretation of the Gnostics. He has no Pleroma, Aeons, Dynamics, Syzigies, or suffering Sophia in his system. He excludes gradual growth and everything is unprepared sudden and abrupt. His system was more critical and rationalistic than mystic and philosophical (Schaff, p. 485). He held Christianity had no connection with the past whether Jewish or heathen. Christ was not born but suddenly descended into Capernaum in the fifteenth year of Tiberius as the revealer of the good God who sent him. He was held to have had no connection with the Messiah of the Old Testament though he called himself Messiah by way of accommodation (Schaff, pp. 486-486). They allowed females to baptise and taught vicarious baptism for the dead (Schaff, p. 487).
Marcion was a violent anti-nomianist but in spite of this he held to the classic Gnostic doctrines of asceticism.
Marcion taught and practiced the strictest ascetic self discipline, which revolted not only from all pagan festivities, but even from marriage, flesh and wine. (He allowed fish). He could find the true God in nature no more than in history. He admitted married persons to baptism only on a vow of abstinence from all sexual intercourse (Tertullian I. 29; IV. 10 as noted by Schaff p. 486).
Marcion’s sect spread in Italy, Egypt, North Africa, Cyprus and Syria. His disciples, who included Prepo, Lucanus (the Assyrian), and Apelles, softened the antagonistic approach to heathenism and Judaism probably in order to influence them. Their severe morality and ready acceptance of persecution made them a danger to the church (see Schaff, p. 487). They lasted through the fifth century despite Constantine forbidding their freedom of worship. They were extant in the seventh century when the Trullan council of 692 thought it appropriate to make provision for their reconciliation (Schaff, ibid.). We next hear of the form of their discipline some two hundred years later, where it was acknowledged as being entrenched for a long time (see below). The system was thus continuous over the centuries.
Another of the Christian systems that were its true inheritors was the Manicheans although orthodoxy inherited some aspects of its teachings.
The Gnostics taught that matter was intrinsically evil. The underlying motive of Gnosticism was to eliminate the laws of the God of the Old Testament. The New Testament only was of any validity and the canon included other texts, which were of a fabulous nature.
The dualism of both Gnosticism and the Christian sects of the Manicheans and the Cathari or Puritans that followed them has two groups, the sons of light and the sons of darkness. Satan and the kingdom of darkness made an assault on the kingdom of light. They held that Adam, who had a strong spark of light, and Eve, were the creation of Satan. Cain and Abel were the sons of Satan and Eve (i.e. Eve sinned with Satan) but Seth was the offspring of Adam and Eve and, hence, full of light. They were forced into this situation because Abel was a shepherd and hence a meat eater and, thus, he could not have been of the children of light.
Because all matter was evil, they held that only by strict asceticism could one purge the body of this intrinsic evil. They taught abstinence from all animal meats and abstinence from alcohol. Because the Old Testament sanctioned and regulated this consumption, it also was the work of the evil God of the Jews. The underlying thrust was an attack on the God of the Old Testament and the overthrow of the law.
The early Church was totally opposed to the false doctrines concerning the vegetarianism and abstention from marriage and wine. In the apostolic canon, which is appended to the eighth book of the Constitution of the Holy Apostles, the regulations concerning the governing of the church in most matters are given not only concerning the ministry, but also the lay Christians. The use of wine is dealt with in the Constitution at Book VIII, Ch. XLIV. On abstinence:
Canon 51 (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 503) says:
If any bishop or presbyter, or deacon, or indeed any one of the sacerdotal catalogue, abstains from marriage, flesh, and wine, not for his own exercise, but because he abominates these things, forgetting that “all things were very good” and that “God made man male and female,” and blasphemously abuses the creation, either let him reform, or let him be deprived, and be cast out of the Church; and the same for one of the laity.
Canon 53 (ibid.) says:
If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon does not on festival days partake of flesh or wine, let him be deprived, as “having a seared conscience”,: and becoming a cause of scandal to many.
Canon 63 says:
If any bishop, or presbyter or deacon, or indeed any one of the sacerdotal catalogue, eats flesh with the blood of its life, or that which is torn by beasts, or which died of itself, let him be deprived; for this the law itself has forbidden. But if he be one of the laity, let him be suspended.
Canon 64 says:
If any one of the clergy be found to fast on the Lord’s day, or on the Sabbath-day, excepting one only [i.e. Atonement], let him be deprived; but if he be one of the laity let him be suspended.
This text was constructed for use in the church prior to the Council of Nicea (325 CE) although Harnack and later Schaff attribute the final compilation (i.e. incorporating books seven and eight with the first six much older works) at circa 340-360 CE. It is uncomfortable for modern Trinitarians because it deals with the feasts and also has some aspects attributed to the Arians or Eusebians who were in power in Rome a few years after Nicea.
The reality is that the church was quite uncertain as to its theology before Nicea and Constantinople and that is probably the reason. The text also contains reference to Judith, Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach, the two Clements and the Constitutions. Hefele holds that Clement could not have been Clement of Rome that wrote the canons (ibid., fn. 8 p. 505). For our purposes it is easy to see the general thrust of the church, which denies vegetarianism, celibacy and abstention from wine as Christian. It was considered necessary to have written these works to deal with the heresies found in this Gnostic ascetic doctrine.
We see from this exposition here the true origin of vegetarianism within Christianity. It came from the Mysteries by way of Pythagoreanism and Gnosticism and was syncretised into pseudo-Christianity. The rule of celibacy and vegetarianism are the very heresies warned of by the Holy Spirit through Paul. This was then accompanied by the abstention from wine, which would also have been and was condemned.
This system became the basis for the heresies in the Middle Ages of the Cathari and continues on to this day. The explanation of the Godhead differs as we have seen and will see but the central theme is always the same. God allegedly changes His mind and the eating of meat is not really acceptable to Him. The Old Testament system is thus unjust and He will do away with that when Messiah (or the end) comes. The life after death is always developed as a soul doctrine, which moved in the heavens. This false doctrine of ascetics persists right on into the twentieth century. Only in one instance have we seen that the millennial reign from Jerusalem was upheld as being correct.
During the Albigensian crusades the vegetarian ascetics were the Cathari who were the logical descendants of both the Montanists and the Manichean dualists. They were more or less in the same areas as the Vallenses or Sabbatati and drew persecution because of their aberrant behaviour (see the paper The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)). The Churches of God had kept the food laws right throughout history but were never vegetarian. This was a factor in all of the branches. The Church in England up until the synod of Whitby kept the food laws, but was not vegetarian (see Edwards Christian England, Vol. I, pp. 25-27 ff).
The Cathari were termed as such from the purification and hence puritans of the Gnostic sect. The term came to be applied indiscriminately and seems to have been confused also with the Chazzari, which is examined in the paper General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122). The distinction of the Cathars as aberrant vegetarian dualists is not adequately brought out there but is mentioned in the paper The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170).
The Cathari were divided into two sections, the Albi (France) or Albanenses who were absolute dualists, and the Concorricci (Concorrezzo in Italy) who were relative dualists. The Concorricci held that Satan was a subordinate being permitted to create. This is much like the distinction between the Montanists and the Manicheans. Their true commonality was in their aesthetic doctrines.
The Cathari had two orders, the perfect or sinless and the lower grade who were simply credentes. The strictest asceticism was required of the former. They held prohibition on marriage, animal food, use of physical force, etc. They held that at death there was no resurrection, but rather a transmigration (ERE, Vol. 6, article Heresy (Christian), p. 619).
This system was quite apart from the Vallenses who believed nothing of this type. However both were called Albigensians and the Vallenses suffered, although both were blameless in their conduct. The Cathari were apparently present in Rheims as early as 991 from the ordination speech of Gerbert as archbishop (see ERE, Vol. 1, article Albigenses, p. 278; note the Trullan Council of 692 concerning the Montanists above). The branches of the Cathari seem to spread to Flanders where it was established in 1025 under the preaching of an Italian Gundulf. They also denied the Old Testament and the cross as a symbol.
Whilst the Vallenses denied the cross, they held firm to the Old Testament. Thus, there is an unbridgeable gap between the sects. The Cathari were suppressed from Northern France for some sixty years from the council of Rheims in 1049 (ibid., p. 279). The combined threat to Rome of the Cathars and the Waldensians induced the Inquisitions and the Albigensian Crusade.
The aberrations and asceticism of the vegetarian Cathars was to be a problem for the Church of God for centuries. The heresy of Christian vegetarianism is present in the twentieth century and gaining strength from a series of false premises. It is in a more subtle form than that seen in previous centuries and has adapted the non-essential aspects to ensure its greater acceptance or perhaps because the converts to it are derived from the orthodox system. The history of the viewpoint has stemmed from a series of ideas, which are more or less constant.
Gnosticism and Manichean theology was entirely docetic and, by its perverted view of body and matter, wholly excludes the idea of a divine incarnation. Schaff gives a simple account of the doctrines (in his History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, pp 503-508). The argument between the church and so-called Orthodoxy is concerning the position of the Christ in relation to the One True God and the relevance of the law. With the Cathari, it became a number of heretical ideas, each of which is irreconcilable with the nature of God and His omnipotence. Thus, the Dualists up to the Cathari celebrated Sunday, on which they fasted, as a symbol of the Sun as the representation of the light of Christ. Moral regeneration was found in physical refinement as it was in the Gnostics and Manicheans before them. This led to an almost pantheistic philosophy of nature. The Cathari however had begun to refine some of their ideas away from the problem with Christ. The suffering of Christ on the cross was held by the Manicheans to be illusory as a suffering of the world soul still enchained in matter. This was so with every plant that struggled upwards towards the light. Hence, the class of the perfect, which we have seen was also reflected in the organisation of the Cathari, would not kill or wound a beast, pluck a flower nor break a blade of grass. Schaff held that instead of being, as it pretends, a liberation to light from darkness, it is really a turning of light into darkness (ibid., p. 505). It is difficult to disagree with such sentiments given the blasphemy of the logic of its asceticism.
The morality of these sects was severely ascetic. This stemmed from their error regarding the intrinsic evil of matter. This was the extreme opposite of the Pelagian view of the essential good of human nature. They thus held quasi-Buddhist views regarding the setting of the good soul free from the fetters of matter. In this sense they attempted, in their higher class of the perfect, a separation from the world marking the separation from the kingdom of matter into the kingdom of light, which is akin to the Buddhist transition from the world of Sansara into Nirvana.
The distinction between Gnosticism and Manichean dualism was in the administration. Manichean dualism had a strictly hierarchical organisation whereas the Gnostics were loosely grouped. It was through this order that the ascetics were able to endure for so long.
Their organisation reflected the biblical system to a surprising degree. It was arranged in twelve apostles headed by a chief apostle. Under them were seventy-two bishops corresponding to the seventy-two disciples (constituted as the seventy of Lk. 10:1,17 and the Sanhedrin). Under these were organised presbyters, deacons and itinerant evangelists (Schaff, ibid., p. 507). They had weekly, monthly and yearly fasts. They rejected the orthodox feasts as did the Waldensian Church of God but in March the earlier Manicheans celebrated the martyrdom of Mani rather than the Lord’s Supper and Passover on 14-15 Nisan as did the church. They seemed to have baptised with water and anointed with oil. The Manicheans celebrated a kind of Holy Supper often under disguise in orthodox churches. The two classes of members corresponded to the catholic system. The lower class or hearers were similar to the faithful and the perfect, the esoteric or priestly class were similar to the clergy. Celibacy had, of course, penetrated both. The perfection of the elect consisted of a three-fold seal or preservative (signaculum).
(a) The signaculum oris, that is purity in words and in diet, abstinence from all animal food and strong drink, even in the holy supper, and restriction to a vegetable diet, which is furnished to the perfect by the “hearers,” particularly olives as olives are the food of light.
(b) The signaculum manuum: renunciation of earthly property, and of material and industrial pursuits, even agriculture; with a sacred reverence for the divine light-life diffused through all nature.
(c) The signaculum sinus, or celibacy, and abstinence from any gratification of sensual desire. Marriage, or rather procreation, is a contamination with corporeity, which is essentially evil.
This unnatural form of holiness of the elect at the same time atoned for the unavoidable daily sins of the catechumens who paid them the greatest reverence (Schaff, ibid., p. 506).
Schaff considers that, like the Gnostics, the piety was accompanied with an excessive pride of knowledge. But the general view is that they were of good conduct, although Schaff tries to attribute to them a refined form of vice. Indeed, they must have been altogether self-righteous and were in direct contradiction of the laws of God.
The system under the Cathari was more loosely organised under the persecutions and subject more to work of the evangelists from area to area. It seems that they were a continual thorn in the side of the church for centuries. They drew persecution for their aberrant views not the least of which was their asceticism. The modern ministry of the churches espousing abstinence, seem to fall within the classes a and b above, but the alterations to doctrine have taken place such that they are much closer to so-called orthodoxy in their doctrines concerning the Godhead and a major element celebrate the Sabbath and not Sunday. Much of orthodoxy espouses the doctrines at b and c and some hold all three. Gnostic asceticism is now more widespread than it was in the early days or in the Dark Ages.
The entire logic of vegetarian asceticism and abstinence from wine is an imputation against the nature of God and the sanctity of Jesus Christ. Christ drank alcoholic beverages or wine. He was called a glutton and a drunkard or a wine-bibber by the self-righteous ascetics of Judah and criticised for drinking with publicans (Mat. 11:19; Lk. 7:34). He was certainly not a vegetarian either before or after he was raised from the dead (see above and also Mat. 17:27; Jn. 21:9-10,13). Christ would not be allowed membership of some twentieth century ascetic vegetarian churches. Indeed, Jesus Christ would probably be refused baptism by one of the major churches that teach ascetic and vegetarian doctrines under their current views regarding alcohol. They justify the doctrine by claiming Christ did not drink alcoholic wine which is a ridiculous non-biblical assertion (the paper Wine in the Bible (No. 188) will explain this matter).
It is impossible to reconcile the Christian faith with the doctrine of vegetarianism (see above), or remove the wine from the Lord’s Supper or teach that such abstinence is of God. The argument advanced by vegetarians and those views regarding wine are heresies, which impugn the nature of God. The doctrines of vegetarianism and abstinence misrepresent the continuity of Scripture and ignore significant aspects of prophecy. The adherents depart from the faith for doctrines of demons.
When Messiah comes he will establish his kingdom at Jerusalem. It will rule this earth for one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-7). Messiah and the elect will enforce God’s system on this planet. Those who do not keep the Sabbaths and the New Moons (Isa. 66:23) and send their representatives to Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths will have no rain in due season. The eating of meat will be established under God’s law on this planet (see, for example, Zech. 14:21). The elect cannot be of the elect unless they consume the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper (Jn. 6:53-57). Those who teach otherwise will simply not be in the first resurrection.