Jesus Heals a Mule:- A Coptic Bible Story. Go Vegan! By Chapman Chen, HKBNews
Updated: Apr 13
Below please find a Coptic Bible story about Jesus healing an abused, badly beaten, exploited, and overloaded mule. It is indeed a precedent of modern animal activism. It shows that Jesus loves animals as much as he loves humans; that animals also have a personal relationship with God; and that those who look the other way in the face of animal cruelty or social justice are accomplices to the wrongdoing. The authenticity of this narrative is corroborated by the fact that Jesus died for the cause of animal liberation.
Jesus Heals a Mule -- A Coptic Bible Text
Most impressive of all is a narrative from a Coptic fragment, of unknown background but definitely from ancient times. It merits quoting in full: "It happened that the Lord left the city and walked with his disciples over the mountains. And they came to a mountain, and the road which led up it was steep. There they found a man with a pack-mule. But the animal had fallen, because the man had loaded it too heavily, and now he beat it, so that it was bleeding.
And Jesus came to him and said, 'Man, why do you beat your animal? Do you not see that it is too weak for its burden, and do you not know that it suffers pains?'
But the man answered and said, 'What is that to you? I may beat it as much as I please, since it is my property, and I bought it for a good sum of money. Ask those who are with you, for they know me and they know about this.' And some of the disciples said, 'Yes, Lord, it is as he says. We have seen how he bought it.' But they Lord said, 'Do you then not see how it bleeds, and do you not hear how it groans and cries out?' But they answered and said, 'No, Lord, that it groans and cries out, we do not hear.'
But Jesus was sad and exclaimed, 'Woe to you, that you do not hear how it complains to the Creator in heaven and cries out for mercy. But threefold woes to him about whom it cries out and complains in its pain.'
And he came up and touched the animal. And it stood up and its wounds were healed. But Jesus said to the man, 'Now carry on and from now on do not beat it any more, so that you too may find mercy.' " (Linzey 2010).
1. The Source of the Text
The story above is a translation by Richard Bauckham of a version in an earlier collection of Coptic texts first translated into German and listed under the heading "Coptic Bible" by J. Boehmer in 1903. Bauckham's translation can be found in Linzey and Dorothy (1998: 38-39) and Linzey (2010: 60-61). The same story is also cited and discussed in Linzey and Dan Cohn-Sherbok (1987: 66f). Besides, there is an earlier English translation by Roderick Dunkerley (1957).
2. The Coptic Language
Coptic is a family of closely-related dialects descended from the Ancient Egyptian language and historically spoken by the Copts of Egypt. Coptic was replaced by Egyptian Arabic as the primary spoken language of Egypt following the Muslim conquest of Egypt, although it remains in use today as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church in Egypt.
There have been many Coptic versions of the Bible. Several different versions were made in the ancient world, with different editions of the Old and New Testament in five of the dialects of Coptic. These biblical books were translated from the Alexandrian Greek version.
Partial copies of a number of Coptic Bibles survive. A considerable number of apocryphal texts also survive in Coptic, most notably the Gnostic Nag Hammadi library. Coptic editions of the Bible are central to the Egyptian Coptic Church's faith.
3. Significance of the Miracle
3.1. Jesus Loves NOT Only Humans but ALSO Animals
In the canonical Gospels, Jesus heals an infirm woman (Luke 13:10-17), a paralytic at Capernaum (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1, Luke 5:17–26), a leper (Matthew 8), a blind man (John 9), a man’s withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3: 1-6, Luke 6:6-110, a dead man (Lazarus) (John 11:38-44), and many others. In this Coptic fragment, Jesus heals an animal, too. It follows that God/Christ loves and values animals as much as He does humans.
In fact, “God suffers in all suffering creatures” (Linzey 1995; Southgate 2008; Chen 2021d):
“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145: 9). “I know what they are suffering” (Exodus 3:7) ; "In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9 KJV).
3.2. Bystanders to Animal Cruelty are also Guilty
In the story concerned, Jesus exclaimed, "Woe to you, that you do not hear how it [the mule] complains to the Creator in heaven and cries out for mercy. But threefold woes to him about whom it cries out and complains in its pain." Here, Jesus obviously suggested that those who look the other way in the face of social injustice, especially in terms of animal cruelty, are also guilty, even though those directly causing innocent beings pain are three times more condemnable. To borrow South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu's words, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor" (see Brown 1984: 19).
3.3. Animals also Have a Personal Relationship with God
The fact that the mule, in Jesus' words, "complains to the Creator in heaven and cries out for mercy", and Christ/God actually listens to its complaint and helps it out indicates that animals, like humans, could have a personal relationship with God.
3.4. A Precedent of Contemporary Animal Activism
The contemporary significance of this story lies in its being a precedent of animal rights activists' (like Joey Armstrong's, Stefania Ferrario's and Tash Peterson's), and NGOs' (like PETA's) stance or advocacy that animals should not be (ab)used for food, transport, labor, testing, entertainment, etc.
4. Authenticity of the Text
The authenticity of the narrative concerned is corroborated by the fact that Jesus loved animals so much as to die for the cause of animal liberation. When he drove out from the Holy Temple those vendors who were buying and selling animals for cruel sacrifice (Matthew 21:12), he offended the chief priests and teachers of the law, for the reason that he was disrupting their revenue stream. Immediately afterwards (cf. Akers 2000), "the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard about this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teachings"(Mark 11:18). Eventually, they arrested Jesus for blasphemy, handed him over to Pontius Pilate, incited the masses and pressed Pilate to crucify Jesus. For a more detailed argument in this vein and for proofs that Jesus was a vegan, please read Chen (2020).
5. Why the Text is Missing in the Canonical Gospels
As argued by Dunkerley (1957), the idea that Jesus had great compassion for animals like the mule concerned was considered so radical that the text was ditched at an early stage. Similarly, Jane Erwin (2010) points out that editors commissioned by mainstream Christianity systematically purged from the Bible verses, chapters, and books advocating veganism and animal rights, like the Bible of the Holy Twelve and the Ebionite Gospel.
Although Jesus' animal rights speeches and acts as recorded in the canonical Gospels were probably tampered with by Paul's carnivorous gentile Christianity camp (Chen 2020), some fragments of Jesus' love for innocent animals survive in them. E.g., "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew 10:29); “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? (Luke 14:5). "Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you...I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:7, 11).
6. Jesus Died for Animal Liberation
Even more importantly, Jesus died at least partly for the cause of animal liberation. When he drove out from the HolyTemple those vendors who were buying and selling animals for cruel sacrifice (Matthew 21:12), he offended the chief priests and teachers of the law, for the reason that he was disrupting their revenue stream. Immediately afterwards, "the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard about this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teachings"(Mark 11:18) .
Article link: https://www.hkbnews.net/post/jesus-heals-a-mule-a-coptic-bible-story-go-vegan-by-chapman-chen-hkbnews
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