To Christians: A few questions regarding Christianity and vegetarianism - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 10-20-2010, 03:28 PM
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In the Old Testament, God did command man to offer animals as living sacrifices to atone for their sins. I find that this contradicts the ethical argument that killing animals is a form of speciesism (and therefore a sin?). How can a sin atone for a sin? The only conclusion I can come to is that killing animals is not really a sin, or that it is not sin in the situation when they had to be sacrificed. Don't get me wrong, I am still against the killing of animals, but I am just questioning the idea of whether it is really a sin or not in the context of Christian belief.

Furthermore, I found Romans 14:1-4 which says:
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
What does the bold portion mean? So if you are weak you eat only vegetables? This seems to contrast the Daniel story.

And lastly, what about I Timothy 4:4:
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.

So I think I am reading the Bible too superficially. I will really appreciate any good insights on these issues.
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#2 Old 10-20-2010, 04:39 PM
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I think that modern day Christians, or any religion and their book, shouldn't analyze every single part of the bible, as it is so old and so many of it's sayings are wrong today, such as beating your wife and hitting a slave as long as they don't die. We've evolved.
I think the main purpose of Christianity is to love your God, be thankful, and be kind to others. The bible is just a big book of very old "rules"
That's coming from an atheist, however I know many Christians who agree with me and don't need the bible to keep their faith

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#3 Old 10-20-2010, 04:55 PM
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If you look at the Old Testament, it doesn't take much of a stance against human-to-human violence either.

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#4 Old 10-20-2010, 05:08 PM
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I'm not a Christian anymore but i hope i can help. I don't think that it is inherently wrong to kill an animal according to Judaism and Christianity. The way i saw it was that God gave us power over non-human animals but God gave animals the ability to suffer and gave me the ability to live healthily without animal products and the ability to understand the things i just mentioned. So unless God's a sadists i felt it would be wrong according to my Christian beliefs (and definitely wrong according to my believes in general) to support the suffering that comes to animals used for food.

Wrt to Romans i've heard several interpretations of this but the most satisfactory is that people who are weak in faith might refuse to eat meat that was sacrificed to another god or feel the need to fast (from meat) to show their faith but these thing are not necessary and fellow Christians shouldn't be judged based on what they do or don't eat. It's been a long time since i though about this so sorry if i'm not explaining it very well. Colossians 2:16 might help a bit.
Just some food for thought, the Bible also say that some horrible ways of treating other human beings are not sinful.

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#5 Old 10-20-2010, 05:14 PM
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The old testament also said you couldn't shave, couldn't mix fibers and no gossiping... we have been "excluded" from the laws of the old testament and are not required to give any form of sacrifice to god...
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#6 Old 10-20-2010, 05:19 PM
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I'm pretty much agnostic, but have a Christian friend, so I think I can answer this.

What many hardcore Christians don't realize is that spiritualism is purely symbolic. It's about finding happiness and believing in things you can't explain to help answer questions that cannot be answered. This applies for sacrifices too.

Sacrifices were purely symbolic. People back then were mostly shepherds or herders who relied on the milk, wool, or meat of their animals to make an income and to feed themselves. So, if they sinned, giving up one of their animals, which they relied on, showed that they truly were sorry for their sins and that sin was expensive. If you sin a lot, and you have to give up an animal, who you rely on for every aspect of life, every time, then you'll soon be poor and in complete poverty because you'll have no source of income or food.

I see it as not truly concentrating on the animal's pain or the killing of the animal, but the human aspect of sin being costly.

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#7 Old 10-20-2010, 05:31 PM
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Yes, the Bible commands animal sacrifices and gives instruction for killing animals for meat. The sacrifices are no longer carried out by Jews today because the Temple has been destroyed, and sacrifices cannot be brought anywhere else. Observant Orthodox Jews pray three times each day for the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of the sacrifices.

Some Hasidic Jews believe that through eating meat, they are "raising the sparks" of holy energy in the animal back to a higher spiritual level. However, other Hasidim question whether sparks can really be raised in today's factory farming meat industry.

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#8 Old 10-20-2010, 06:15 PM
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In the Old Testament, God did command man to offer animals as living sacrifices to atone for their sins

And in the new testament Christ's sacrifice fulfills this obligation. This is why you don't see the Pope (or whoever) burning sheep.

There are folks that argue that one reason the Pharisees etc. had problems with Jesus was because he opposed sacrifice. The expulsion of the money changers from the temple makes a lot more sense then. (Matthew 21:12)

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Romans 14:1-4

Context is needed to understand this passage. Two factions of early Christians were squabbling, one point of contention being diet. Basically Paul is saying, hey, don't sweat differences like that, we should stick together.

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#9 Old 10-20-2010, 07:12 PM
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I'm about the farthest thing from Christian that you can get, but the booklets the Christian Vegetarian Association hand out are filled with connections between Christianity and Vegetarianism if you're interested:

http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/WJEMT-Jan10.pdf

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#10 Old 10-20-2010, 07:34 PM
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I'm Christian and from what I read in the Bible, there are verses advocating animal killing and consumption and also verses supporting equal treatment of animals. Due to these conflicting verses, I have to conclude the Bible does not totally support vegetarianism. As much as I would like to find that the Bible totally supports vegetarianism, I cannot. I choose to go with my own conscience and be a vegetarian regardless of what the Bible says.

*I'm not your typical Christian*
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#11 Old 10-21-2010, 08:13 AM
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Genesis 1:29-30 (King James Version)

29And 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.

30And 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.
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#12 Old 10-21-2010, 12:17 PM
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I am a New Testament Christian. Which means sacrficing animals is no more Thank Goodness for that. I believe being a vegeterian is part of a lifestyle change for a better planet and environment. In the Bible times you didn't have factory farming like they do today and you didn't have pollution like we do today. So its means its best to help your environment and eat anything that is not grown as a factory.
I wouldn't worry too much on how God or the Bible stated about vegetarian and animal sacrfices because that was in the Bible times , The reason why there was meat available to eat is because When the flood occurred the plants and fruits and veggies were not grown yet. So he just said to eat them until the plant based foods grown. Which I understand survival.
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#13 Old 10-21-2010, 02:41 PM
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My belief is God also told us to take care of his creation. The current state of factory farming and slaughter harm the environment as much if not more than anything else man does, so by eating meat I would not be being a good steward of creation. I do not think eating meat is a sin; however, I do believe God expects us to respect his creation and the current system is unethical.

It's been a while since I've study Romans intensely, but I can tell you most of Paul's writings are often used out of context (for example what Paul says about women). They were written for specific churches at specific times and not intended to be applied the same in every situation. Additionally, if you look at the writings of others such as St. Francis they are much more pro-Veg.
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#14 Old 10-22-2010, 02:23 AM
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Thanks for the replies guys!

Well, I am not questioning the fact that we no longer need to sacrifice animals because Jesus made himself the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. My issue is more about the Bible suggesting that the killing of animals is not necessarily wrong, whereas I have often seen people compare the present society's treatment of animals to society's treatment of women and slaves before; and from this comparison they make the conclusion that speciesism is morally wrong (and therefore a sin.) I guess when I first heard about the idea of speciesism from the book Animal Liberation, I was convinced that killing animals for the sake of our gustatory pleasures is unethical. Before I read about this idea, I believed that eating meat would be alright as long as they are not raised in factory farming conditions.

So now I guess I am stuck on the fence, especially since the Bible does not seem to be against eating meat (although I think it would be against factory farming treatment), and as a Christian I still hold God's Word to be the Ultimate Truth. At the same time, I still find the arguments in Animal Liberation to be convincing. Although you might say that because factory farming is occurring everywhere anyway, then it doesn't matter what my position is, but I would like to have my own stand in case anyone goes on a debate with me regarding this.
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#15 Old 10-22-2010, 03:45 AM
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Originally Posted by omnisheep View Post

Thanks for the replies guys!

Well, I am not questioning the fact that we no longer need to sacrifice animals because Jesus made himself the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. My issue is more about the Bible suggesting that the killing of animals is not necessarily wrong, whereas I have often seen people compare the present society's treatment of animals to society's treatment of women and slaves before; and from this comparison they make the conclusion that speciesism is morally wrong (and therefore a sin.) I guess when I first heard about the idea of speciesism from the book Animal Liberation, I was convinced that killing animals for the sake of our gustatory pleasures is unethical. Before I read about this idea, I believed that eating meat would be alright as long as they are not raised in factory farming conditions.

So now I guess I am stuck on the fence, especially since the Bible does not seem to be against eating meat (although I think it would be against factory farming treatment), and as a Christian I still hold God's Word to be the Ultimate Truth. At the same time, I still find the arguments in Animal Liberation to be convincing. Although you might say that because factory farming is occurring everywhere anyway, then it doesn't matter what my position is, but I would like to have my own stand in case anyone goes on a debate with me regarding this.

So would you not have an equal reason to think that
a) since Leviticus 25:44 states "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.", it doesn't seem like the Old Testament is against slavery, and so you're on the fence about slavery?
b) since Leviticus 24:13-14 says "Then the LORD said to Moses: Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.", it doesn't seem like the Old Testament advocates human rights for blasphemers, so you're on the fence about that?

(got those from the famous Letter to Dr. Laura)

How is a pro-sacrifice position any different from those?

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#16 Old 10-22-2010, 04:37 AM
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I used to do a blog here on vb that dealt with these topics but it kind of got chewed up in the server switch I think.

Quoting from my website (link in my sig) on the related topic of Jesus eating fish (the arguments I make can hopefully be applied to reading anywhere in the Bible):

One possible refrain vegetarians might hear from Christians - and this is true whether the vegetarian in question is Christian or not - is that Jesus wasn't a vegetarian. At the very least, he ate fish, and although there are no explicit references it would be unreasonable to assume that he entirely abstained from eating other animals (the most likely suspects being lambs or goats).

So what does this mean? Obviously if you're not Christian it means approximately nothing to you anyway: fair enough, and I hope in that case I can demonstrate to you that, despite Jesus eating fish in the Bible, Christianity is not an intrinsically flesh-eating religion. As I've mentioned elsewhere in blog posts and discussions in the comments, it's always worth remembering that Jesus was (theologically-speaking) Son of Man as well as Son of God, and as such he was bound by the time and place he was in, that is first-century Galilee. In this context most people ate animal flesh rarely, usually only on festivals, because of its expense as much as anything. But they ate meat, and they ate it as a part of religious rituals, and within the framework Jesus was working this was the background reality. This isn't an excuse, but it's worth remembering.

In any case, I would argue that Christians shouldn't be trying to draw their ethics directly from the Bible, for the simple reason that the Bible is equally bound by the various times and places it was written. Various things which are categorically wrong today are an assumed background norm in the Bible, from patriarchy to slavery, and so trying to derive ethics directly from the Bible is pretty obviously an unacceptable way to proceed. Rather than dwelling on why these things are mentioned, then (it is because they were the norm at the time the books in question were written), we should consider how the biblical writers negotiated these morally dangerous issues.

With regards to animals, the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament, if you prefer) casts an interesting light on their place in nature and the relation between them and humans. In the creation story, humans do not receive a special day for their own creation but are created at the same time as all other land animals; furthermore, the land animals are declared good independent of people whatsoever. The original creation, after all, was vegetarian (within the creation story - I'm not suggesting that the earliest humans, biologically speaking, were vegetarian). It is only after God realises the extent of the human capacity for exploitation and violence that flesh-eating is sanctioned, and when it is it is ritualised in a legal context which sees animal sacrifice introduced at the same time as capital punishment for murder. Post-Flood, God is shown to attempt to control human violence, and in this way eating animals is clearly cast as an undesirable form of killing. Not as undesirable as killing a human, true - there is no capital punishment for killing an animal, even if it is not ritually killed - but undesirable nevertheless. The limited allowance of meat-eating is in this way a concession to human sinfulness, and the Bible presents it in this way: over time, unfortunately, this aspect of the book of Genesis has been sidelined in the interest of allowing human gluttony to proceed unhindered.

It would be hard to deny that the New Testament played no role in this sidelining. The Early Church's need to differentiate itself from the Jewish religion, and in the process win converts in the polytheistic Roman culture, meant that early Christian writers tended to focus on Christianity as a religion of freedom from overbearing legalism, where Love, not Law, was the key. This is of course quite ironic, given the rise of Law and ritual in certain Christian traditions throughout human history, often to the extent of replacing Love altogether. In any case, freedom from laws included freedom from dietary laws, and so it is today that biblical verses intended to annul the Jewish dietary rules (such as Matthew 15:11, say) are used to justify Christians continuing to eat flesh in a wholly different context.

Paul in particular was no friend of the animal creation: a need to disassociate himself from the legalism of his pre-Christian days meant that animals were relegated to a sub-moral status for him. In dealing with a rift in the Roman church* between a vegetarian group and a flesh-eating group, Paul's primary concern with church unity meant that he essentially ruled that both groups could eat as they wished so long as they did not infringe upon the other group's faith. Whatever his intentions, Paul's ruling here has proved instrumental in instituting the influential view for Christians that vegetarianism is superstitious and so-called Christian 'freedom' requires the individualisation and therefore irrelevance of food consumption.

I'm not saying that we should focus on the Hebrew Bible and ignore the New Testament on this issue; I am saying, once again, that we must remember the context of the times and places these books were written in. In the book of Jonah, when Jonah wonders why God cared about the city he'd been sent to, God asks him "Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" It isn't only the people of Nineveh that matter to God; it's the animals too, even though Jonah clearly doesn't think so. For a Christian, these are the two strands of the Bible on animals in microcosm: the strand of God caring for all creation, and the strand of humans abusing and exploiting all creation. Both strands need to be borne in mind if we are to read the Bible in a way that does justice to what it can tell us about animals and how we are to relate to them.

This was a more theological/biblical blog post than usual so apologies and thanks to non-Christians reading who've actually made it through! I ummed and ahhed about whether I should post this here or on my website (which also has a new article today!) for that reason but I decided to go ahead because hopefully it can explain a bit more deeply some of the Bible texts some Christians unthinkingly and uncritically use to attack whatever they happen to disagree with. Like I said, it doesn't excuse everything the Bible says on this topic, but hopefully it goes a little way to explaining it, and demonstrating how being a Christian and being a vegetarian are far from being a esoteric combination.

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#17 Old 10-22-2010, 05:10 AM
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It's been a long time since I've read it but you might check out Is God a Vegetarian?.

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#18 Old 10-22-2010, 05:59 AM
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I am with Mgoat I am a Christian and I don't use my ethnics and Vegetarian living from the Bible. The Bible is a spiritual book and some of it is a lifestyle yes. However, there is evidence in other resources that I choose this route to combat factory farming. When God Said it was old to eat meat those times of Noah he only oked it for until the plants was ok to eat again and grow. There was no factory farming back then. The last over 100 years or so developed factory farming and is hurting our environment and also our planet and those in it.
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#19 Old 10-22-2010, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by IheartPrincess&Leo View Post

Genesis 1:29-30 (King James Version)

29And 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.

30And 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.

The Hebrew word translated 'meat' in both verses is okhla, which means 'food'. At the time the King James Bible was translated, the word 'meat' was used to refer to any food, and they would say 'meat and drink' where we would say 'food and drink'. As time went by, the word 'meat' got a narrower meaning. That is why the word 'meat' is used in this verse - it is the same way that 'fair' used to mean 'beautiful'.

From the verses in Genesis, we can see that the original diet of man was vegetarianism (more specifically raw veganism). However, there is another verse a few chapters later that reads:

"Every living thing that moveth shall be meat for you" (Genesis 9:3). Again the Hebrew word is okhla meaning 'food' in general, but there permission is given to eat animals.

Eating animals is permitted in this verse, but nothing says that Jews or Christians have to eat animals. You can be a God-fearing Christian or a Torah-true Jew and be vegetarian, although you cannot say that killing animals is wrong because God has said it is permissible. Islam has the same stance as well.

Quote:
"One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables." (Romans 14:2 NIV)

So eat things like fruit and rice - they're not vegetables. Bread isn't a vegetable either. Neither the verse nor its context say anything about meat.

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#20 Old 10-23-2010, 03:45 AM
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Pretty much all scholars are in agreement that Romans 14 is talking about whether to eat meat or not, though. The question wasn't about vegetarianism for moral reasons in any case; it is much more likely it was about whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In other words, if Christians living in Roman cities at this time wanted to eat meat and couldn't farm it for themselves, they'd have to get it from a pagan market and in so doing would be eating food sacrificed to a pagan god, which would - to those who thus became vegetarians at least - have constituted idolatry. So really, these 'weak' vegetarians aren't particularly likely to be concerned for the lives of animals so much as their own soul.

That said, it doesn't really help those who are already vegetarian to pore over old chapters like this as if in isolation from the world we're in now. The context then was so different from where we in the affluent parts of the world today are as to make it meaningless if we're looking for direct, deontological guidance.

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#21 Old 10-23-2010, 04:01 AM
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Pretty much all scholars are in agreement that Romans 14 is talking about whether to eat meat or not, though. The question wasn't about vegetarianism for moral reasons in any case; it is much more likely it was about whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In other words, if Christians living in Roman cities at this time wanted to eat meat and couldn't farm it for themselves, they'd have to get it from a pagan market and in so doing would be eating food sacrificed to a pagan god, which would - to those who thus became vegetarians at least - have constituted idolatry. So really, these 'weak' vegetarians aren't particularly likely to be concerned for the lives of animals so much as their own soul.

That said, it doesn't really help those who are already vegetarian to pore over old chapters like this as if in isolation from the world we're in now. The context then was so different from where we in the affluent parts of the world today are as to make it meaningless if we're looking for direct, deontological guidance.

Thank you mgoat. I find your replies to be extremely helpful.

However, I'm just curious if there is any evidence to support that Christians who couldn't farm had to get it from a pagan market, and that meat from pagan markets are always sacrificed to a god? I know that you said that these are mere probable projections of what could have been, but is there existing evidence that led people to believe that this happened?
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#22 Old 10-23-2010, 06:58 PM
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Pretty much all scholars are in agreement that Romans 14 is talking about whether to eat meat or not

I googled 'romans 14 commentary' and did not find such agreement, at least not in the first few pages of results. It seems irrelevant on what the two factions differed. The verses could reference wearing special headgear or something rather than diet without much change in the overall interpretation.

I agree that the herb-eaters motives were probably very unlike contemporary ethical vegetarians though.

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#23 Old 10-23-2010, 07:31 PM
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Sometimes when meat is spoken in the Bible, like Meats for the Belly it means food , to have food for you Belly. I think alot of people takes these Meat verses out of context and thinking its directly eating animals which its really referring to food. There are a few references in the Bible that actual eating meat and animals for survival but, other then that you have freedom to choose how you life your lifestyle and choices because we are under Grace and not the Law. If I would've stayed with my old church they literlly would tell you that being a vegetarian is wrong. Even tho my pastor's hunt we are free to eat and live in our houses as we want as our lifestyles.
I would not worry about what the Bible says about Vegetarian living its a spiritual book. Its between you and the maker how you live your life , don't allow anyone talk you out of standing up what you believe and living what you would to live. That is what I learned this year.
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#24 Old 10-24-2010, 01:10 PM
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The Bible can really confusing when it comes to certain issues; especially since a lot of contemporary Christians seem to have forgotten that many portions of the Old Testament were retconned when J-zizzle came around. Things would be a lot simpler if that little detail wasn't ignored, oh, and btw, Papa Smurf would kick the **** out of all of you!


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#25 Old 10-25-2010, 05:32 AM
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I googled 'romans 14 commentary' and did not find such agreement, at least not in the first few pages of results.

Not to sound snooty, but by 'scholars' I meant academics who publish in peer reviewed journals etc. On the internet you can write anything you want and pretend to be an expert without anyone being able to stop you.

Look, I'm doing it right now! :P

(but yeah I think we're in agreement on the essential point there)

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#26 Old 10-25-2010, 05:38 AM
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Thank you mgoat. I find your replies to be extremely helpful.

However, I'm just curious if there is any evidence to support that Christians who couldn't farm had to get it from a pagan market, and that meat from pagan markets are always sacrificed to a god? I know that you said that these are mere probable projections of what could have been, but is there existing evidence that led people to believe that this happened?

Well, it's hard to find absolute concrete 100% evidence given the timeframe we're talking, but in the cities (where the early Church grew) the vast majority of the population was pagan, with most cities having a separate Jewish sector, and the Church at this time was unsure where it was supposed to be located - was it going to mission to only Jews (as Peter said) or reach out to the pagans/Gentiles too (as Paul said)? I think if Peter had won this fundamental argument the Church wouldn't have survived up to the present day. But anyway, as to your actual question, references to practices such as these are found from the Roman Empire's historians, most notably Pliny, Tacitus, ummm I know I'm missing some names here but for the moment they escape me. It's from writers like these that we know what we do about life in the Roman Empire, and it's a result of biblical historians cross-referencing the New Testament with these historical accounts that we can reach hypotheses such as Romans 14 being a debate about sacrificial meat. As you say, it's not the only tenable hypothesis.

The most important texts of these historians should be available online for free, by the way. Here's Tacitus' Annals.

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#27 Old 10-25-2010, 09:36 AM
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On the internet you can write anything you want and pretend to be an expert without anyone being able to stop you.

True, 'anyone' can write anything they want to, but of the first five commentaries that pop up, 4 are from clergy of historical note.

For what it's worth.

Actually this little trip I've taken into looking at Biblical commentaries (not how I usually spend my time ) has proved fruitful. Sometimes Romans 14 is used as an argument against Christian vegetarians. I was unaware of the larger context - the verses that pretty much invalidate this usage, in fact cautioning against judgementalism.

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#28 Old 10-27-2010, 04:34 AM
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Yeah, quite so. It's a shame that despite his intention seemingly being to restore church unity, Paul was here effectively instrumental in providing biblical 'support' for the later idea that vegetarianism was a superfluous superstition; whereas 'true' Christian freedom necessitated the individualisation and therefore indifference of food preparation and consumption.

It's not that Paul was really pro-vege or anything; it's just that at the time it wasn't even an issue he needed to have an opinion on one way or the other.

http://dietarypacifism.com/

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