Recently the concept that God’s original intent for man was vegetarianism has surfaced and gained currency amongst Christians (to say nothing of the followers of synthetic Judaism that passes for Christianity in the US.) This has been promoted for commercial gain by such movements as the Hallelujah Diet.
But is this correct? A succinct case for this comes from, of all places, "Spengler" at Asia Times Online:
Genesis further tells us that humankind was only permitted to eat plants (1:29, 2:9) until the Flood, when God permitted the eating of animals under certain conditions (9:2-3). Wyschogrod sees this as a divine concession to our “innately evil drive”, and concludes, “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that God would prefer a vegetarian humanity.” Although only humans were created in God’s image, he adds, “It does not mean that the gulf between humans and animals is as absolute as that between humans and God.”
(Note to readers: I chose Spengler’s presentation just because it’s succinct, as opposed to the profuse verbiosity that is fashionable in Christian circles these days.)
Since Spengler gives us the Scripture references, let’s look at them:
“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. 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.” Genesis 1:29, 30, KJV.
“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.” Genesis 2:9, KJV.
There’s no question that fruits and vegetables were given to us and to the animal kingdom as food. The reference to "meat" in v. 29 is a KJV translation for the Hebrew term that signifies "stuff that you devour;" it does not mean that the fruits and vegetables act as substitutes for meat.
Let’s turn now to the last verse he cites:
“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. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” Genesis 9:2, 3, KJV.
This proclamation, given following the Flood, looks to complement the last one; now man is allowed to eat meat, and not only that but to hunt the meat down and kill it. This verse should be engraved over the entry way of every hunting license issuing location in the Old Confederacy.
These verses seem to indicate that meat was prohibited to man before the Flood. But perhaps we should consider this:
“And she (Eve) again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Genesis 4:2-5, KJV.
Abel kept sheep. Not only did he keep the sheep, but he offered some of them in sacrifice to the Lord. It’s hard to believe that, in the subsistence economy after the Fall, that Adam and his family did not eat the sheep after giving so much effort to tend to them.
Beyond that, God showed a preference for Abel’s sacrifice of meat as opposed to Cain’s sacrifice of vegetables (and perhaps fruits.) Theologically, this points to the future sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law, and ultimately to Jesus Christ’s own sacrifice on the Cross. In same Mosaic system, the priests frequently ate of the meat sacrifice. The signal that preference sent to Cain and Abel about the nature of what they were offering–both of which were edible–was unmistakable.
Moreover even the fruit of the ground went sour after the Fall:
“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; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 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.” Genesis 3:17-19, KJV.
Before the Fall, it makes sense to say that Adam and Eve did not eat meat. But the evidence subsequent to that disaster–and it didn’t take long for that to occur–indicates that meat was eaten thereafter.
Now some will suggest that, if we want to get back to Eden, we should quit eating meat. But the Biblical way of getting back to Eden is for us to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who undid the work of sin that started with Adam’s fall. Same solution explicitly rejects a salvation through dietary restrictions:
“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 7:14-16, KJV.
“But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” 1 Corinthians 8:8, KJV.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Romans 14:17-19, KJV.
From a health standpoint, there’s no question that we have too much meat in our diets in the West. It is the product of prosperity, and if I speak of that I will grind down some other people’s theology. When living in Texas, I heard people who started out with little–including people with earned doctorates–referred to the upcoming meal as "bean time." Beans were an important source of protein, and still need to be.
Moreover the meat we have today has a higher fat content than that our ancestors ate. Consider this: when God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees for the Promised Land, did he load up his livestock on a truck to take them there? Of course not, they answered God’s call on all fours. That resulted in some lean meat, just as the cattle drives of the nineteenth century did. One consequence of reducing meat consumption is reduction of fat intake, and that’s beneficial in weight and cholesterol reduction.
To spiritualise the whole thing, however, by an artificial reconstruction of what was eaten before the Fall just doesn’t make sense. It’s another way of making Christianity difficult. And that goes against another one of Our Lord’s sayings:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29, 30, KJV.