Yes, folks, Jesus Christ was a vegetarian! Now, how can we possibly know this? We can know that Chairman Mao smoked State Express 555 cigarettes because there are many photos of him smoking his favourite (American) brand. But surely the bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus didn’t eat meat, and surely there are no photos of him eating vegetables!
Well, what we can’t know from the New Testament we can still know from studying the society in which the man lived. A lot is known about first century Jewish society in the eastern Mediterranean. The sociology, the agronomy, the economy, the diet, the religious rituals and so on. There’s a gold-mine there that Christian scholars are only just beginning to realise the relevance of. John Dominic Crossan, an Irish Roman Catholic believer, has written a trilogy of books on this for the general reader, and Jewish scholar (and former Roman Catholic priest) Geza Vermes looks at Jesus from a Jewish perspective and is published by Penguin Books. Anything that is true of that society as a whole would probably be true of Jesus too.
It turns out that everyone was a ‘veggie’ or vegetarian, therefore Jesus must have been one too. The reason is as follows:
“Eating meat would have been problematic for Jews in the Diaspora. As in all ancient societies, meat was only available through the temples, as a sacrifice. There were no convenience or grocery stores around the corner selling meat. If someone wanted a meat meal, they would have to take an animal to a (Jewish) temple to be sacrificed. In practice, therefore, most observant Jews in the Diaspora would have been vegetarian.” -Dr Barrie Wilson (reference below).
Notice this qualifying phrase “in the Diaspora”. This normally means Turkey, Greece and Italy, and generally but not always, refers to the time after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E.
This has not clarified things as much as I initially thought. The questions to be answered are: Did every local temple sacrifice animals or was it just the big temple up in Jerusalem? How close was Jesus to a temple at different stages in his life – minutes away or miles away?
I need to do some more research before I can come to a definite conclusion on this one.
Wilson, B. “How Jesus became Christian” St Martin’s Griffin (2008)