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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

17 May 2006

Food for Thought: Veggies, Meat, and Genesis 1

Q: Genesis 1 seems to say that we are not to eat animals’ flesh. In verse 29, God gives us every herb and fruit for meat. Does this mean we should not eat the meat of animals?

VegetablesA: First of all, remember that “meat” has changed meaning in the English language. Older translations often use it where we would normally say “food.” So it is here. However, whether we say “meat” or “food,” the Lord clearly prescribed a vegetarian diet. Verse 30 extends this beyond humanity; vegetation was also the food given to “every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life.”

Man lost dominion over the animals with the first sin. Many of the creatures created physically able to prey upon others now began to do so, and death spread with the Fall. However, God didn’t change man’s diet when He sent Adam and Eve from the Garden. He told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field (3:17-18)”

The Lord said nothing more on the human diet until Noah built the Ark. After He commanded the loading of the animals, God told Noah, “Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them. (6:21)” This language continued the diet given in the garden. However, change was on the way.

T-BonesAfter the Ark landed, the Lord told Noah, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (9:2-3)”

At the same time, He forbad man to eat flesh with the blood still in it (v. 4) and our own lifeblood was specifically declared sacred. God said that man and beast alike faced divine reckoning for taking the life of any human being (vv. 5-6).

So choose your diet for health concerns, by reason of what tastes good, or according to what you can afford. Should you continue to eat meat (as I myself plan to do), it’s certainly proper to give a special word of thanks to God that He allows other creatures’ lives to end that ours may continue.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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