I can’t stand it when non-religious progressives use quotes from the Bible in support of political positions. Even though such a tactic may help them make progress in the short term, it really just creates another problem down the road by underscoring the Bible as a legitimate source of moral or social injunctions.
Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Ba dum tchhh.
So I’ve been reading the Bible, and my point is really just that I’ve noticed that the Bible doesn’t actually say a lot of the things that we — as a culture — think it does. And it does say a lot of things that we don’t think it does.
For example, here’s a pop quiz:
Q. What is the name of the forbidden fruit that Eve eats in the garden of Eden?
A. No fucking idea. There is no mention of an apple in Genesis, that is for sure. And by the way, apples don’t even grow in the Middle East.
Here’s one that’s a bit tougher:
Q. Why did God call Adam ‘Adam’?
A. He didn’t. Seriously, I don’t know what was going on with the translators on this one; they must have been high on hashish. So ‘adam’ means ‘man’ or ‘human’ in Hebrew, so when the Bible said (in Hebrew) “God created an ‘adam'” any translator in his or her right mind would have translated that as “God created a human” or “God created a man,” but some novice idiot seems to have just, I don’t know, forgotten to translate the word ‘Adam’? “And then God created Adam!” And then the copy editors were on their lunch break?
That’s enough examples, right? I’ve made my point? The Bible we think we know doesn’t exist, and the Bible that does exist — well, that’s the crux of the issue, right? We don’t know it at all.
So I hope you’ll suspend your disbelief for a moment — get it? ‘cuz the Bible is literature? sorry, Comp Lit humor — when I say that Genesis actually has some thoughts on vegetarianism. (Don’t send this to PETA and don’t suddenly give up meat; I meant what I said earlier about progressives needing to not give a rat’s ass whether or not the Bible condones any given activity.)
When God creates, well, everything, he goes through it all pretty systematically. In chapter 1, he says here is the light (verse 3), the water (verse 6), the land (verse 9), the plants (verse 12), the stars (verse 15), etc. So he creates everything, including the animals and mankind, and then he says in verses 28-30 of Chapter 1:
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
This is kind of explicit. “Here, I made some animals,” God says. And then directly after that, he adds, “And here, I made some plants, and these are yours to eat.” He specifically says — twice — here, have some plants for food. And he specifically doesn’t say that about the animals.
So that’s suspicious, right? But it could have been an oversight, or you could potentially play it fast and loose with English and interpret the word ‘rule’ to mean ‘eat’. So let’s flip to Chapter 9 of Genesis, where God gets super disappointed with humankind and drowns everyone.
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
So there you have it: God, and I quote from Chapter 6, “repenth…that [He] hath made man” and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” and “it grieved him” “for the earth was filled with violence through them.” And it is at that point — the point at which he’s given up on mankind and drowns everyone — that he says, fuck it, you can eat the animals, too. They are gonna be terrified of you, and I deliver them unto you, along with all the green herbs, for food. And as evil as you are, I just want to beg one thing of you: please don’t eat them while they’re still alive, you barbaric assholes.
Make of these verses what you will. Certainly I would not argue with any Christian about whether or not eating animals is condoned by God; he definitely gives mankind the go-ahead on that. I’m just saying that if you look at the context in which he gives the plants to mankind to eat (“look at this great thing I’ve created!”) in contrast with the context in which he gives the animals to mankind to eat (“these assholes are hopeless”)…well, you might just conclude that God’s a card-carrying PETA member.
For more posts on the Bible in the literary tradition, click here.