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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

"Dominion" in Genesis 1:28 Means Servanthood to Animals. Go Vegan! By Dr. Chapman Chen

Executive Summary: 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). 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, as noted in the 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). 


Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey also argues that "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 means stewardship rather than despotism (Linzey 1995:34), that humans are the species uniquely assigned by God to be "the servant species", after Jesus Christ, "capable of co-operating with God in the healing and liberation of creatures" (Linzey 1995:44).


Thus, "have dominion over animals" signifies that God commands humandkind to lower themselves and serve other animals as a caretaker. Unfortunately, many Christian priests over the last 2000 years, e.g. St. Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Billy Graham, under the disingenuous influence of Paul the anti-vegan apostate, have misinterpreted "dominion" as dictatorship/lordship so that the majority of Christians enslave, exploit, rape (as in the diary industry), murder and eat animals "without questions of conscience" (I Corinthians 10:25).


"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," Jesus emphasized in Luke 22:24-27 ESV. From a Christly perspective, "dominion" is not only stewardship but "servanthood" (cf. Linzey 1995:45, 57).



Many animal flesh eating Christians and even non-Christians have seized upon the "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 to justify enslavement, exploitation, abuse, rape, and murder. Now let's examine this verse itself:-


Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NKJV)


1. "Dominion" could Mean Either to Tread Down or to Come Down


The original Hebrew word in the ancient biblical consonantal form for "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 is yirdu (ירדו). As pointed out by Chaim and Laura (2015), seven hundred years after the birth of Christ, the Masoretes put a chireq (one dot) under the Resh (ר) making this the root word radah (רִדָּה) (Masoretic Hebrew) which, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, means to tread down, subjugate, rule, prevail against (Note 1). Had they put a tsere (two dots) under the Resh, they would have come up with the root word yarad (יָרַד) (Masoretic Hebrew) (Chaim & Laura 2015), which, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs, means to come down, descend (Note 2).  


The vowel points (nikkud) is representative of the Masoretic text. The Masoretes, who were Jewish scholars active between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, added these vowel pointings to the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible to determine pronunciation and meaning. This system of vocalization is a feature of the Masoretic text and is not found in the ancient biblical Hebrew manuscripts. Modern Hebrew, especially in formal and religious contexts, often follows the Masoretic vocalization. In Hebrew, vowels play a crucial role in conveying the meaning and pronunciation of words. The Masoretic text added vowel pointings to the ancient consonantal text to standardize pronunciation and meaning. Without these vowel pointings, the same set of consonants can lead to different pronunciations and meanings, depending on the context and grammatical structure.


2. The Context of Genesis 1:28


Before determining the exact meaning of yirdu (ירדו), let's look at the context of the verse in question.


2.1. Genesis 1:29 -- A Vegan Diet


Immediately following the verse containing the word "dominion", God prescribed humanity a vegan diet:-


And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. (Genesis 1:29 NKJV)


2.2. Genesis 2:15 -- Exercise Great Over the Garden


Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 NKJV)


According to Strong's Concordance, עָבַד (abad), the Hebrew word for "tend", means to serve or to work (Note 3); שָׁמַר (shamar); the Hebrew word for "keep", means to keep, watch, preserve (Note 4) and according to Rittenbaugh (1999), שָׁמַר (shamar) means "to exercise great care over".


Indeed, Oxford University Theology Professor Rev. Andrew Linzey argues that the context of "dominion" in terms of Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 2:15 precludes any right to kill animals for food:-


Dominion has frequently been interpreted as despotism... Judged from its context, God shares his or her moral rule with humans so that they can look after and care for the creation which is made (cf. e.g. Gen. 2.15)... this divinely given commission to look after the earth eschews any right to kill for food. The dominion granted is such that subsequent upon its bestowal, God commands a vegetarian diet. (Gen. 1.29f) (Linzey: 1995:34)


2.3. God's Covenant with Animals


Moreover, according to Andrew Linzey (1995:34), the covenant in Genesis 9 is a reminder of God's assurance never to exterminate "all living creatures" again (Gen. 9:8-17 NIV). The covenant's main focus extends beyond humans to include "every living creature that was with you," explicitly mentioning "the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you" To emphasize its importance, this detail is reiterated five times (Gen. 9:10, 12, 15, 16, 17 NIV).


3. Jesus Came to Serve, NOT to be Served!


Judging from the context provided above, "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 should imply yarad (to come down or lower oneself) more than radah (to tread down). This is confirmed by Jesus' saying that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Luke 22:24-27 ESV). That is to say, in all probability, Jesus would interpret "dominion" in Gen. 1:28 as servanthood instead of tyranny.


Talking about servanthood, Andrew Linzey (1995:45-61) contends that humans should not consider themselves as the master species with dominion over animals, but rather as servants to them. This perspective is rooted in the Christian understanding of stewardship and the example of Christ as a humble servant. Linzey suggests that this servant role calls for love, care, and non-harm towards all creatures, reflecting a moral and ethical duty to protect and serve the animal kingdom.


Thus, "have dominion over animals" indicates that God orders the human species to lower themselves and serve other animals as a caretaker (cf. Chen 2021b, 2021c).


4. Christian Priests who Equate "Dominion" with Lordship


Unfortunately, many Christian priests over the last 2000 years, e.g. St. Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Billy Graham, under the disingenuous influence of Paul the anti-vegan apostate, have anthropocentrically misinterpreted "dominion" as dictatorship/lordship so that the majority of Christians enslave, exploit, rape (as in the diary industry), murder and eat animals "without questions of conscience" (I Corinthians 10:25).


4.1. Aquinas on Dominion and Natural Order


In Question 96 of his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas (1920) suggests that the dominion over animals given to humans by God is in keeping with the natural order where less perfect beings serve more perfect beings such that humans are entitled to use animals for their needs, such as food and hunting:-


It is written (Gen. 1:26): "Let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth" [Vulg."and the whole earth"]...I answer that... Now all animals are naturally subject to man...from the order observed by makes use of both plants and animals... the hunting of wild animals is just and natural, because man thereby exercises a natural right... the order of Divine Providence...always governs inferior things by the superior... as man, being made to the image of God, is above other animals...the subjection of other animals to man is proved to be natural.


4.2. Martin Luther Thinks Humans Have Absolute Power over Animals


While he confesses on at least one occasion that every animal has a God-given soul, Luther interprets "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28 KJV) as domination and despotism, claiming that humans are far superior to all other animals (cf. Clough 2009:45-46). 


Luther seeks to affirm the superior characteristics of humans compared with other sentient being. For him this was particularly obvious before the fall:-


I am fully convinced that before Adam’s sin his eyes were so sharp and clear that they surpassed those of the lynx and eagle. He was stronger than the lions and the bears, whose strength is very great; and he handled them the way we handle puppies. (LW 1.62)


Had there been no fall Adam and his folk would have assembled to praise and extol God "for the dominion over all the creatures on the earth which had been given to mankind" (LW 1.105).


Even in the post-fall state Luther suggests that "there is still a great difference between the human being and the rest of the animals" (LW 1.67). And according to Luther's commentary on Genesis 7, "even though the greater part of the world perishes [due to the Deluge], man nevertheless remains lord of the creatures" albeit over fewer creatures than there were previously (LW 2.100).


And when he comes to dwell on Genesis 9:2 "the fear of you shall be upon every beast," Luther argues that human dominion has been enhanced and metamorphosed compared with  that gifted to Adam: "until now the animals did not have to die in order to provide food for man, but man was a gentle master of the beasts rather than their slayer or consumer" but now "the animals are subjected to man as to a tyrant who has absolute power over life and death" (LW 2.132).


4.3. John Calvin Deems Man Lord of the World!

In his commentary on Genesis 1:28, Calvin seizes upon the word "dominion" and anthropocentrically claims that God "appointed man, it is true, lord of the world; but he expressly subjects the animals to him...And hence we infer what was the end for which all things were created; namely, that none of the conveniences and necessaries of life might be wanting to men"  (note 5). In his commentaries on Genesis 9:1-29, Calvin unabashedly argues that eating animal flesh is not only consistent with Pauline teaching regarding liberty in meals, but is also likely a post-Ark restoration of accepted practice before the Flood (note 6). In fact, humans may take food from the animal kingdom as if from a "storehouse" (note 7) for the entire universe “was established especially for the sake of mankind” (note 8).



4.4. Billy Graham Believes Animals are for Man's Enjoyment and Use!


In reply to the question, "Will there will be animals in heaven?", Billy Graham stated,


Man, as the highest order of creation, has been given dominion over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:26-28). We believe that animals were intended for man’s enjoyment and use. The Bible itself does not indicate that there is life after death for animals. It may be that God’s purpose for animals is fulfilled on this earth. However, if animals would make us happier in heaven, surely there will be a place for them there. (Graham 2004)


Apparently, this world-famous Christian evangelist had no respect whatsoever for God's creatures.


5. The First Corrupter of the Doctrines of Jesus the Vegan Christ


Most mainstream church leaders like those quoted immediately above follow Paul the anti-vegan apostate rather than Jesus the Vegan Christ (cf. Chen 2024c, 2023b, 2022c, 2020).


According to US President Thomas Jefferson, St. Paul was the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus" (Washington 1854). As pointed out by Albert Schweitzer (1910) in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Paul perverted the discourse of Jesus and "displace[d]" it. As argued by Keith Akers (2020), Paul violated Jesus' vegan principle and the Jerusalem Council's vegan decree; as admitted by Paul himself, he was a relative of the Herodian family (Romans 16:11) and his real name was Saul (Acts 7:58, 8;1-3); as interpreted by Robert Eisenman (2012), Paul was the liar described in the Dead Sea Scrolls; according to Thijs Voskuilen (2005), Paul was a Roman spy sent to subvert Jesus' church from inside; as pointed out by Robert Mt. Sion (2013), Paul was the AntiChrist. Paul corrupted Jesus' vegan church and Pauline Christianity has hijacked the Vegan Christ for two thousand years (cf. Chen 2023). 


6. Paul Insists that Flesh-eating is OK


After Jesus' martyrdom for animal liberation (cf. Chen 2024a, 2024b, 2024d, 2023b, 2022c), Paul told believers that we may eat any meat sold in the market without "questions of conscience" (I Corinthians 10:25), but because the vegan Jerusalem Council led by Jesus' natural brother James the Just was still in power in the church, Paul diplomatically advised believers not to cause brethen to stumble because of meat-eating (Romans 14:21). In Romans 14:1-2, Paul disparages those Christians who "eat only vegetables" claiming that their "faith is weak." Apparently veganism was widespread among Christians in Paul's day, so much so that he had to contest their assertion that abstaining from meat was an act of piety (Kamran Pasha 2009). The fact that Paul has to make this point means that ethical veganism was being presented as a moral requirement to be a Christian! After the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which witnessed the martyrdom of most followers of vegan Christianity, Paul's flesh-eating gentile Christian camp rose from the periphery to the centre of Christianity (cf. Akers 2020:173-185; Dixon 2018). 


Worst still, in the year 325 A.D., the Council of Nicaea was commissioned to create a new religion acceptable to Emperor Constantine, who, at the time, was busily engaged in the bloody persecution of early vegan Christians. To accomplish this aim, certain "correctors" were appointed, whose task it was to rewrite the Gospels, removing most passages that pertained to veganism and animal rights. The Church Fathers had an additional reason to do this - for they themselves had no desire to make such a radical change in their own living habits (Bernard 1964). Ever since then, Jesus' own vegan Christianity has become heresy till now.


7. Conclusion


To put it in a nutshell, yirdu, the consonantal ancient Hebrew word for "dominion" in Genesis 1:28, could denote either to tread upon or to lower oneself. Given its context, including Genesis 1:29 (a vegan diet), Genesis 2:15 (great care for the garden) and Genesis 9:8-17 (God's covenant with all animals), Jesus the Vegan Christ Himself, who came to serve rather than to be served, would interpret "dominion" as servanthood rather than despotism/dictatorship/lordship over God's creatures. It is high time real followers of Jesus dumped Paul the anti-vegan apostate's stance, adopted the Christly, animal-friendly interpretation of "dominion", and went vegan!














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