top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Did Jesus Need to Eat Fish--A Question for Prof. Andrew Linzey. By Dr. Chapman Chen




Executive Summary: Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey is the father of modern animal theology. He interprets “dominion” in Genesis 1:28 as stewardship instead of anthropocentric despotism in relation to animals (Linzey 1995:34), such that the killing of any innocent sentient being who doesn’t want to die is murder  (Linzey 1995:121). However, he also believes that “dominion” means lordship or God-given power over animals (Linzey 1995:54, 71), though he adds that the inner logic of Christ’s lordship is the sacrifice of the lower for the lower. While he argues that Jesus’ self-costly love exemplifies the kind of self-sacrificial priesthood (Linzey 1995:55), which humans are uniquely commissioned to exercise for all sentient creatures, he actually suspects that Jesus probably ate fish due to the scarcity of protein in 1st Century Palestine (Linzey 1995:134). The fact, however, remains that there and then, 99.9 % of the people there and then could not afford eating any animal flesh (cf. Keith 2014). And while Linzey believes that it is morally wrong to harm animals, he dare not advocate veganism as a must for Christians.


The fracture in Linzey’s animal theology is his refusal to explicitly interpret “dominion” as servanthood in place of lordship, to seriously question the authenticity of the Canonical Gospels as far as anti-vegan verses are concerned, to recognize Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple as an act of animal liberation which eventually led to His crucifixion, to earnestly consider pro-Vegan-Christ apocryphal materials, and, ultimately, to reexamine the Bible from a Vegan perspective.   



1. Major Contributions to Animal Theology 


Anglican priest, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics founder cum Oxford University Theology professor Rev. Andrew Linzey (1952- ) is one of the most pro-animal rights and most prominent theologians in the modern era.   


1.1.  Dominion = Stewardship


Linzey criticizes the conventional interpretation of "dominion" (Genesis 1:19) as despotism for being humanocentric. He contends that "dominion" means stewardship instead, on the ground that it is immediately followed by a vegan diet prescription by God to humans (Genesis 1:29), and that in Genesis 2:15, the first humans were assigned to till and keep or take care of the Garden of Eden (Linzey 1995:34).


1.2. Humanity as the Servant Species


In this vein, Linzey declares that the human species is the species that uniquely possesses the potential of turning into the servant species (Linzey 1995:45) able to exercise a self-sacrificial priesthood, as exemplified by Jesus Christ’s self-costly love (Linzey 1995:55), and of working together with Yahuah in the nursing, curing and liberating of all creatures (Linzey 1995:45).


1.3. Thou Shalt Not Kill!


Linzey questions St. Augustine's limiting the beneficiaries of the Sixth Commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to humans (Linzey 1995:13, 18, 33, 24), based on the following reasons. Since "all things were made by Him" (Linzey 1995:69) and the Logos has become flesh – highlighting the commonality amongst all sentient creatures -- it is virtually "impossible to separate the human and non-human worlds of creatures" (Linzey 1995:69). Animals are actually our neighbours who exist side by side with us. God made a covenant with not only Noah but all animals (Linzey 1995:69).


Linzey is therefore adamant that the sacrifice or killing of sentient beings who do not want to die is murder (Linzey 1995:121). And he righteously condemns animal experiments as un-Godly sacrifices, hunting as the Anti-Gospel of predation, and genetic engineering as animal slavery (Linzey 1995:95-1123, 138-152). He advocates that liberation theology should include the liberation of animals, who have been hunted, ridden, shot, fished, worn, eaten, caged, trapped, exhibited, factory-farmed and experimented on an on-going basis and a holocaustic scale, apart from oppressed men and women, for animals feel pain and suffering and deprivation only to a greater or lesser extent than humans, and we have no moral excuse to abuse them (Linzey 1995:73).


Linzey, however, believes that “dominion” also means Lordship and God-given power over animals; that Jesus probably ate fish due to the scarcity of protein in first-century Palestine.


2. Dominion as Servanthood

 

No doubt, Linzey nobly conceives that "dominion" means stewardship, and that humans have a special calling to serve other creatures as exemplified by the self-costly love of Jesus Christ. However, paradoxically, he also interprets "dominion" as “lordship” and as "God-given power over animals"(Linzey 1995:54, 71), though he adds that the inner logic of Christ’s lordship is the sacrifice of the higher for the lower (Linzey 1999:71). This is particularly concerning. Because when humans, being sinners, most of whom have not fully actualized their inner Christ, think that they have legitimate power over other creatures, they often tend to abuse that power. I, therefore, suggest that "dominion" be interpreted and translated as "servanthood" instead of "stewardship" because the former involves the least power/authority (Chen 2024a). This is supported by Hebrew etymology and by a saying of Jesus’.

 

To "have dominion over animals" in Genesis 1:28 signifies that God commands humandkind to lower themselves and wait on other animals as a servant/caretaker rather than a God-like authority (Chen 2024b). ירדו (yirdu), the ancient biblical Hebrew word in consonantal form for "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 connotes both רָדָה (radah) (to tread down, subjugate, rule) and יָרַד (yarad) (to lower oneself, to descend) (Chaim & Laura 2015).


Judging from its context, namely, Genesis 1:29, where humans are prescribed a vegan diet by Yahweh, and Genesis 2:15, where humans are particularly commissioned to “tend” (עָבַד/abad) and “keep” (שָׁמַר/shamar) the garden (NKJV) — i.e., to exercise great care over it (cf. Ritenbaugh 1999) — "dominion" should imply yarad (to lower oneself) more than radah (to tread upon).  This is confirmed by Jesus' saying the He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Luke 20:28 NKJV). Note that there is no object in this sentence. So the objects of Christ’ service are all creation rather than just humans.


"Caretakership" is a safer word than Linzey’s "stewardship", for the latter is usually supposed to have more power than the former. To borrow the words of Richard Ritenbaugh (1999), "in the context of Genesis 2:15... a caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it." Nonetheless, "servanthood" is even safer than "caretakership" for the former involves even less power and authority than the latter.


3. Jesus Ate Fish Because He Lacked Protein??!


Linzey affirms that Jesus Christ suffers in and for all creatures, who have been groaning since birth and are waiting eagerly for redemption by Him. However, Linzey also believes that Jesus, out of a necessity to survive, justifiably ate fish:-


sometimes it can be justifiable to kill fish for food in situations of necessity. Such a situation, we may assume, was present in first century Palestine where geographical factors alone seem to have suggested a scarcity of protein. Such a view would on the whole be more consistent with the biblical perspective that we may kill but only in circumstances of real need. Hence we may have to face the possibility that Jesus did indeed participate in the killing of some life forms in order to live. Indeed we may say that part of his being a human being at a particular stage and time in history necessitated that response in order to have lived at all. (Linzey 2019:134)


Now, Linzey claims that when Christ became creaturely flesh, His capability was limited  (Linzey 1995:87); and He should not be blamed for being deficient for veganism. But it does not follow that Jesus could not go vegan out of compassion for innocent creatures, especially when we consider the genuine food conditions of 1st century Palestine, the contradictions amongst the canonical gospels when it comes to all those “fishy” stories about Jesus (cf. Chen 2024b), Jesus’ family background and vegan sayings, and, ultimately, His cleansing of the Temple as an animal rescue action.


4. Most People in 1st Century Palestine Could Only Afford a Vegan Diet!


Keith Akers (2014), on the other hand, points out that in first-century Palestine, the majority of people were obliged to adopt a plant-based diet, consisting of bread and a few herbs or veggies, except during sacrificial festivals in the Temple (which’s why the impact of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was so earthshaking); only the rich and powerful upper class of the Roman Empire, constituting a mere one percent of the whole population, could afford buying meat sold in the market. At Homilies 12.6 and Recognitions 7.6, Peter portrays his food as bread, olives, and pot-herbs. This is really rather characteristic of what the common folk would eat. When Paul reassured people that they could eat any meat sold in the market without questions of conscience, he was actually targeting and flattering that "one percent"!

 

5. Jesus Eating Fish after Resurrection is Fake News!

 

Luke's story of Jesus helping Peter to catch fish and His eating fish to prove to the eleven disciples on the very night of his Resurrection that he's no ghost is clearly a forgery, for both the date and the venue contradict Mark and Matthew (cf. Vujicic 2016; Chen 2024b).  


6. Contradictions Amongst the Canonical Gospels


Luke 24: 39-43 and John 21:1-14 are the only places in the New Testament that mention Jesus eating meat. According to Luke, Jesus ate fish (ἰχθύος/Ichthys) in front of 11 disciples in Jerusalem on the first night of his Resurrection: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones... And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them." (Luke 24: 39-43 KJV)

However, according to the Gospel of Mark 16: 7 and 14:28, Jesus had long told his disciples that he would go to Galilee upon resurrection. According to Mark 16: 9 -19, Jesus revealed himself thrice after resurrection, the first time to Mary Magdalene; the second time to two disciples on the road; the third time to all the 11 disciples, presumably in Galilee. According to Matthew 28:16, the eleven disciples went up a mountain in Galilee as specified by Jesus, where Jesus met them the first time as well as the last time after He rose from the dead. So the Gospel of Luke's claim that Jesus ate fish in front of the disciples in Jerusalem on the very night of his Resurrection is wrong in terms of both date and venue. Apparently, it is fabricated and not to be believed (cf. Vujicic 2016).

 

6.1. Fishy Story Interpolated to Combat "Heresies"

 

According to Akers (2000:128), this fishy story was interpolated by Luke (Paul the anti-vegan, self-proclaimed apostle's underling) in order to combat veganism as wells as "the idea of the 'docetic Christ' -- the idea, held by certain Gnostics such as Marcion, that Jesus had no real body," being just a phantom or a ghost. The consumption of fish is a particular demonstration by Yeshua that He is no phantom:- "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39 NIV).

 

6.2. Jesus did not Supply Fish to His Disciples at the Sea of Tiberias

Similarly, the report of John 21:1-14 cannot be right and Peter accompanied by several of his fellow disciples could not have been catching fish at the sea of Tiberias (John 21:1) after Jesus’ rise from death. Jesus did not supply fish to his disciples there because that showing up, in accordance with Matthew's and Mark's account, never occurred. (Interestingly, the word in the Greek version for fish as in John 21:13 is ὀψάριον [opsarion], which could be a mistranslation of the Greek word for "fishweed (opson)" (Hicks 2019; Giron 2013).


Further, John, just like Luke, alleges that Jesus’ foremost showing up occurred in the evening of the first day, while the door was barred where the disciples were grouped together. John asserts that this was the earliest showing up and that Thomas was absent. It's not until seven days after that Jesus purportedly showed up to his disciples again while Thomas was there, too. This fails to concur even with Luke who says that all eleven disciples were there when Jesus manifested himself to them in the Holy City after rising from the dead (cf. Vujicic 2016).

 

6.3. Fsh (Ichthys) as a Code Signal


Additionally, fish (Ichthys) was a well known mystical symbol amidst these early persecuted Christians for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" (Akers 1989; Regenstein 1991). Given how the early Christians employed the term, there is therefore good historical evidence for the argument that all of the "fish stories" that managed to get into the gospels were intended to be taken symbolically rather than literally (cf. Chen 2024b),.


7. Jesus is Staunchly Vegan

Jesus comes from a vegan family. He desires compassion, not sacrifice, and is staunchly vegan. He even died for animal liberation. How could He possibly kill and eat innocent sentient creatures of God, especially when most of His folk were eating bread and veggies only? I would submit that even in a survival situation, He would still die rather than harm other innocent sentient beings, given His self-costly love for all.


7.1. Jesus has a Vegan Family


It is widely recognized that James, who led the Jerusalem church following Jesus' ascension and was Jesus' brother, strictly adhered to a vegan diet from childhood, as noted by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 2.23.5–6). This raises the question: If James was brought up vegan, why wouldn't Jesus have been raised the same way? It logically follows that both Jesus and James were brought up by their parents as vegans, suggesting that veganism was an integral aspect of the original teachings of the gospels. (Akers 2015).

  

7.2. Jesus Warns against Flesh-Eating


Jesus warns against flesh-eating:- “Now beware in yourselves that your hearts do not become heavy with the eating of flesh…that day will come up upon you suddenly; for as a snare it will come upon all of them that sit on the surface of the earth” (Luke 21:34, Evangelion Da-Mepharreshe — Old Syriac-Aramaic Manuscript of the New Testament Gospels).


Also, in Saying 87, the Gospel of Thomas, as translated and edited by Stevan Davies (2002), Jesus says, "Wretched is a body depending on a body". Now, how can a body be dependent on another body? Only if the body eats the other body. Hence, Davies (2002) comes to the conclusion that Thomas is not stating that all bodies are "wretched", just bodies which are dependent on other dead bodies, in other words, meat, for food.


At least equally importantly, Jesus admonishes the Pharisees, quoting Hosea 6:6, "Go and learn what this means: I desire compassion rather than sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13 NASB). According to Akers (2017), "that would explain why Jesus went into the temple and attacked what he found there", as will be explained below. Similarly, in the Gospel of the Ebionites, Jesus condemns animal sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem:- “I have come to abolish the sacrifices, and if you cease not from sacrificing, my wrath will not cease from you” (Panarion 30.16.5). Jesus also rejected the Passover meal :“I have no desire to eat the flesh of this Paschal Lamb with you” (The Gospel of the Ebionites 22.4). When Epiphanius questions a Jewish Christian as to why he was a vegan, the Jewish Christian responds simply: "Christ revealed it to me" (Panarion 30. 18.9).


7.3. Jesus as a Martyr for Animal Liberation


Akers (2020/2000) argues that prior to the Last Supper, Jesus, in emptying the Temple of animals about to be slaughtered for sacrifice, and in calling the Temple-turned-butcher-shop "a den of thieves", quoting Jeremiah 7:11, debunked the business fraud of animal sacrifice, and disrupted the lucrative revenue stream of the chief priests and scribes, who immediately afterwards conspired to destroy Him (Mark 11:15-18), eventually leading to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In this sense, Jesus was a pioneer and martyr for animal liberation. (I would add that "Cleansing the temple" was an act of animal liberation not unlike Direct Action Everywhere's open rescue of animals from factory farm.)


8. The Achilles Heel of Andrew Linzey


Apart from dangerously interpreting “dominion” as “lordship”, which implies supreme power over animals (though he adds that we should exercise that power with Christ’s spirit of service), Rev. Prof. Linzey appears to almost unconditionally trust the canonical gospels. He dismisses theories that, querying the canons, argue that Jesus was vegan as “implausible”, and pro-vegan apocryphal materials, as “questionable” and remotely possible, without ever exploring them in any detail. For example, as shown above, he ignores the discrepancies amongst the canonical gospels concerning Jesus' eating fish upon Resurrection. Another example, he alleges that fragments of early gospels, like the Gospel of Ebionites, which portray Jesus as a vegan, have ulterior motives, without providing any concrete evidence (Linzey 1995:133). 

 

Admittedly, Linzey (1990) does indicate that “Jesus did not sacrifice animals and, arguably, by His cleansing of the Temple indicates more than an ambivalent relationship to this practice,” and that “the priestly work of sacrifice is best characterized by the offering of self-costly love as exemplified by Christ Himself.” However, Linzey does not venture to explore the likelihood that Jesus died for the cause of animal liberation through his act of cleansing the slaughterhouse-Temple.


No doubt, Linzey (1990) asserts that “to make animals suffer for human purposes is not just morally wrong, it is an act of the gravest faithlessness.” But he still maintains that veganims is a just a biblical ideal, and dare not advocate veganism as a must for Christians.

 

Nonetheless, the holes in Linzey’s animal theology do not obscure his contributions. He is still the father of modern animal theology, promoting animal rights -- not just animal welfare -- from a Christian, theological perspective. He is ground-breaking in arguing that the killing of innocent beings who do not want to die is equivalent to murder, that animal experiments, hunting, genetic engineering, etc. are ungodly sacrifices, that to interpret “dominion” in Genesis 1 as despotism is humanocentric, that as all things are made by God, it is impossible to separate the human world from the animal kingdom, and that the human species are uniquely commissioned to be the servant species as demonstrated by Christ’s self-sacrificial spirit. He would get more crucial insights if he cares to review or reexamine the Bible from a VEGAN perspective.


 

References


Akers, Keith (2022). “Jesus and Animal Sacrifice.” Compassionate Spirit, Apr. 13.  https://compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2022/04/13/jesus-and-animal-sacrifice/


Akers, Keith (2020/2000). The Lost Religion of Jesus. NY: Lantern Publishing & Media/ Woodstock & Brooklyn. 


Akers, Keith (2015). “Was Jesus a Vegetarian?” Compassionate Spirit, Dec. 1. https://compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2015/12/01/was-jesus-a-vegetarian/


Akers, Keith (2014). "Vegetarian Propaganda." Compassionate Spirit, Jan. 30. https://compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2014/01/30/%E2%80%9Cvegetarian-propaganda%E2%80%9D/



Chen, Chapman (2024a). “Dominion in Genesis 1:28 Means Servanthood to Animals.” HKBNews, Apr. 14. https://www.hkbnews.net/post/dominion-in-genesis-1-28-means-servanthood-to-animals-go-vegan-by-dr-chapman-chen


Chen, Chapman (2024b). "All those Fishy Stories about Jesus the Vegan Christ." HKBNews, Mar. 17. https://www.hkbnews.net/post/all-those-fishy-stories-about-jesus-the-vegan-christ-by-dr-chapman-chen-hkbnews


Davies, Stevan, ed. & trans. (2002). The Gospel of Thomas. Boulder: Shambhala Publications.


Giron, Denis (2013). "Vegetarianism in the Bible". ISKCON News, Mar. 30. https://iskconnews.org/vegetarianism-in-the-bible/


Hicks, Ryan (2019). Why Every Christian Should Be A Vegan. n.p.: Ryan Hicks.


Linzey, Andrew (1990). “The Servant Species Humanity as Priesthood.” Between the Species, Summer, 109-120.

 

Regenstein, Lewsi (1991). Replenish the Earth: The History of Organized Religion's Treatment of Animals and Nature. New York: NY: Crossroad Pub Co.


Ritenbaugh, Richard T. (1999). "The Bible and the Environment." Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," February. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/2163/Dominion-over-Animals.htm

 

Vujicic, John (2016). "Did Jesus Eat Fish". https://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/didjesuseatfish-jv.html




#VeganChrist    #VeganTheology          #VeganChurch   

 

26 views0 comments

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page