The Question Of Vegetarianism In The Bible Is A Bit Complex. The Bible Addresses It From The Point Of View Of Creation To Re-Creation. Yet At The Same Time, It Allows For Humans To Eat Certain Meats. Thus, We Cannot Require Vegetarianism As Part Of A Christian Lifestyle. But Let's Examine Some Of The Biblical Evidence That Speaks To Your Question.
1. Vegetarianism in the Bible. It is well-known that the original
diet God gave to humans was vegetarian (Gen. 1:29) and that
it remained so after sin entered the world (3:18). This diet was
given in the context of God’s command to exercise dominion
over the animals (1:28), thus setting a limit to humanity’s power
over the animal kingdom. In the context of the Creation account,
the vegetarian diet pointed to the absence of violence and death
within the created order and to God’s intention to preserve that
order. But the diet also revealed God’s wisdom and love in providing
for humans the type of food that would make it possible
for them to work with the Creator in preserving their lives in optimal
conditions. Meat was unnecessary to sustain life.
Interestingly, the Bible suggests that, at the end, after the
eradication of sin from God’s creation, humans will again be
vegetarians. This is particularly implied by the prophetic description
of the transformation of the animal world and the absence of
violence within it: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my
holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the
Lord” (Isa. 11:9, NIV; see also Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25). The absence
of violence in the animal world presupposes its absence among
2. Restricted meat consumption. After the global flood, and
in the context of the absence of flora, God allowed humans to eat
animal flesh (Gen. 9:3). This was based on the divine distinction
between clean and unclean animals (Gen. 7:2; Lev. 11). This
restrictive use of animal flesh had two main purposes.
First, since it was a dietary law, it identified the flesh of animals
that could best contribute to the preservation of human life
in a world of sin and death. Second, it served to set limits on human
violence against animal life by restricting the consumption of flesh to a particular number of them. The animals would fear
humans and literally run for their lives when seeing one (Gen.
The divine ideal of a meat-free diet was not totally forgotten
later in the Bible. When Israel was in the wilderness, in need of
food, God provided manna. When they insisted on eating meat,
the Lord gave them quail, but the result was sickness (Num.
11:4-23, 31-33). According to the Bible, the Lord rarely provided
flesh to His people (cf. 1 Kings 17:6). In fact, the Israelites’
regular diet was basically vegetarian. Only under special
circumstances did they eat meat (e.g., sacrifices, Lev. 3:1-9).
Their domestic animals constituted their “bank accounts” and
were the source of milk, curds, and cheese (Deut. 32:14; Judges
5:25; 2 Sam. 17:29).
3. God’s ideal for His people. Adventists have taken
seriously the law of clean and unclean animals as representing
the minimum the Lord requires from us concerning proper
diet. We submit to it in grateful obedience to His will because it
expresses His loving interest in our physical and spiritual wellbeing.
By taking proper care of our bodies, which are temples of
the Holy Spirit, we glorify God. Biblical evidence has led Adventists
to conclude that vegetarianism is God’s ideal for His people.
Such an ideal is very relevant in a world that is slowly realizing
the tremendous benefits of such a diet.
Vegetarianism is on the rise around the world for a variety
of reasons: ethical, ecological, religious, even narcissistic. This
may be the proper time to reaffirm that ideal and avoid the use
of meat in official meetings of the church (potlucks, workers’
meetings, etc.) and, whenever possible, by excluding it from our
This I write to you that “you may enjoy good health and that
all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”
(3 John 2, NIV).
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez is retired after a career of service as a
pastor, professor, and theologian. He is a former director of the
Biblical Research Institute. This answer is used by permission from
the BRI website.