What New Testament people ate
Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:48). In Matthew 4:4, He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” In context, He was being tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread to alleviate His hunger. Bread appears in many New Testament Scriptures. Since the importance of bread for physical sustenance had long been established, He was using bread as an analogy for the vital importance of obedience to God.
The diet of New Testament peoples must not have been much different from that of Old Testament peoples. In addition to fruits, vegetables, and herbs, unlimited seafood was available from the Sea of Galilee; seven of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. Fish could be eaten boiled, sun-dried, pickled, or salted.
As in Old Testament times, mammals usually were slaughtered only for special occasions. In the Luke chapter 15 story of the Prodigal Son, the fatted calf was killed and prepared for the feast in celebration of the son’s return. (The emphasis here is that the Prodigal Son’s return was such a big occasion that it warranted the slaughter of a calf.) One reason that large mammals were slaughtered only for special occasions is that, in the absence of refrigeration, leftovers were not an option; therefore, a large group of people was required to consume the animal.
Jesus, like all Jews, followed a ritual for the Passover meal. The lamb would be slaughtered and grilled according to special rules; at least ten people would be required to consume it, and it had to be eaten before midnight. (Again, there was no refrigeration.)
To the present, His people have taken bread and wine together in remembrance of Him.
Dominion over the animals…what exactly does this mean?
If you have read my “Companion Animals” article, you will have already thought about the ambiguity of man’s “dominion over animals.”
The same verse (Genesis 1:26) that gives man dominion over the animals also tells us that God made man in His image. Undoubtedly, we are to conclude that people are to be considered higher than animals. But are we simply to care for them, as if they were babies or elderly humans? Or do we do with them however we please?
It is worth noting that both animals and humans breathe (respire) and plants do not. Respiration has the same root (“spir”) as “spirit.” So, while animals do not have an eternal soul, as humans do, they do have a spirit. That alone elevates them above plants and all other members of creation, except humans.
In giving us dominion over animals, perhaps God meant to warn us not to worship animals, as some pagans had done. Dominion seems to imply a middle ground between worship and wanton use.
Man began to eat meat after the Flood, when the earth was a wasteland and Noah and his family had nothing else to eat until they could establish their crops, and wild plants flourished again. At the time of creation, God had said, “I have given every green herb for food” (Genesis 1:30). After the flood, circumstances changed. God now said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). For the first time, humans had the option of including animals in their diet.
We do not know, however, if people were supposed to continue eating meat indefinitely, or if it was a temporary solution to the food shortage problem. Postdiluvian peoples have not lived such long lives as before. Perhaps regular meat eating should be viewed as a sacrifice that Noah’s generation had to make for the survival of the human species.
What does all this mean for 21st-century people?
Cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure—not to mention obesity—are among the life-shortening diseases now connected to a diet too high in fat. Fat is not an inherently bad thing. Even if it were possible to avoid dietary fat, it would not be advisable. Fats are needed for the assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. Fat is necessary for healthy skin and for nerve function. Leviticus 7:23, however, advises us not to eat animal fat. Remember that olive oil was used prodigiously by Biblical people, and is now known to improve health rather than deteriorate it as animal fats do.
While these fat-attributable ailments may not have been known by these names in Bible times, when Biblical people died, it was usually for a known reason, and the reason was usually advanced age or battle casualty. It would seem, then, that people did not often die of these diseases, which are now among the major causes of death.
When people eat only to satisfy their tastes and desires, God is not pleased. Excessive meat eating, like excessive partying, is equated with gluttony.
It could be argued that Biblical guidelines no longer apply. We have refrigeration, so food need not spoil. We have plumbing, so we can wash our food easily. And we have antibiotics and other modern medicines, so if we do get sick, we can be made well again.
Yet, the road that leads away from dependence on God always leads toward destruction. The reasons behind the rules still apply: God wants us to stay pure for Him. I Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we need to obey even when we don’t know the reasons for the rules. The attitude that we don’t need His help because we have invented wonderful things for ourselves does not please Him. (Remember the Tower of Babel? Remember the Titanic?)
The very real consequences of overdependence on our own intelligence can be seen in the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics because of overuse and misuse. We have had these wonder drugs for our use for only a few decades, and we are in very real danger of losing them through irresponsible breeding of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A whole generation of people has deluded themselves into a false sense of security that because of antibiotics, we do not need to heed the old rules against, for example, casual sex. Now antibiotic-resistant sexually-transmitted diseases are rampant.
We really do reap what we sow.
What New Testament people ate