“Thus says the Lord God,
You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God”
(Ezekiel 28:12-13) (1)
It may be that the main food consumed in the garden of Eden given by God was fruit, as every bible places emphasis on the abundance of fruit trees that grow there.
“And GOD made spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful in appearance and good for food…” (Gen 2:9, 2:16, 17) (2, 3)
The phrase ‘every tree’ has a knowing quality that could convey that the fruit that grows on trees has been specifically designed and placed there for Adam and Eve, so that they know that all of the trees that grow fruit carry their sustenance. Following this, the phrase ‘good for food’ brings this point to the foreground. Also in the garden of Eden,
“15 …Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ ” (Genesis 2:4-3:24) (4)
The phrase ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ may simply refer to the discovery of evil-doing, as it is made evident throughout Genesis that everything in the garden is good. As the bible seems to make clear that all fruit is sustenance that heals and restores, this specific tree referenced here and its fruit is probably a metaphor. As all fruit is healthy and good, one interpretation of this metaphor could be that the ‘evil’ is a non-vegan diet. Once an individual is killing animals for meat, then harm and cruelty begins along with an increased risk of illness and disease.
All of the food in Eden would also be organic, so they would have been very thriving. Research has found that a diet without pesticides and herbicides on food due to eating only organic reduces cancer risk (5). There is a question over whether the original humans had such health and immortality that they were immortal. In relation to commentaries on Genesis, “some argue that God desired humans to stay in a child-like state free from care and pain” (6, 7, 8). It is sad that in modern society only childhood is associated with a free and easy bodily experience, as a healthy diet can help to ease the pain at any age. Mortality being unnatural to man in terms of being a newer feature of mankind and the vital role of fruit to health is indicated by the Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BC.
“First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a
golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when
he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods with
out sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable
age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing
they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils.
When they died, it was as though they were overcome with
sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth
unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They
dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good
things, rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods.” (9, 10)
Hesiod sketched an idyllic vision of a heavenly life without evil, as basically fruitarian and peaceful. The use of ‘fruit’ and ‘fruitful’ accentuates this. There is blessed connotations being associated with this paradise (‘free’/ ‘merry’/ ‘ease’/ ‘peace’/ ‘rich’/ ‘good’/ ‘loved’), as opposed to the opposite (‘sorrow of heart’/ ‘toil and grief’/ ‘miserable’/ ‘evils’/ ‘stint’). In a comparable way, in the Epic of Gilgamesh about the search for eternal life, Enkidu reminisces on a more natural, pure, wild past, as he curses modernity of civilisation.
“As he is dying, Enkidu curses the hunter and the harlot who made him civilized, wishing for his former life among the beasts: ‘Because you made me weak, me who was pure! And me who was pure, you made me weak when I was in the wild.’” (11, 12)
The association here may be between weakness and civilization, as in the wild, human beings are still following a natural and pure diet, so they may have been stronger.
Fruit, nuts, and some vegetables would be the basis of the Edenic diet, as it includes ‘every herb bearing seed.’ This is described in the bible:
“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 [i.e. food].” (Genesis 1:29) (13)
The predominant food was fruit! There is an emphasis made on the fact that fruit trees reproduce and reseed again and again with the phrase ‘every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.’ This symbolises the circular path of nature in its cycles. It is also thought-provoking that the derivation of ‘meat’ was all food, but expanded to only include dead animals over time, as meat-eating gained popularity. After the flood, meat (i.e. food) was expanded to include all living things which had not before been food.
“Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3) (13)
This may be documented evidence of the shift of humanity in ancient times from their fruitarian roots to meat-eating. The fall of man could represent that humans had fallen in terms of less intelligence, less connection with nature, less purity, and less ‘good’-ness in their ways due to the beginning of non-veganism and hurting other beings.
In Genesis (1:26 – 28), “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (14). This could connect to our fruitarian origins in relation to the link between fruit, health, and fertility. It may have also suggested that fruit was still abundant in the diet due to etymology of the word ‘fruitful’ also. The etymology of the word could have been being ‘full’ of fruit after eating significant amounts of it, as was common habit. Fruit remained central in the bible, as later there is depicted a kingdom with a fruit tree at its centre.
‘2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.’ (15)
Fruit must have been central to life, as the phrase that describes it is ‘the tree of life.’ Meanwhile, the herbal leaves were known to have healing properties being ‘healing of the nations.’ This could indicate early herbalism.
Although there was meat-eating in the bible, the context of the time was no longer based on vegan individuals and communities only, unlike the beginning of Genesis. Nevertheless, there are various quotes, anecdotes, and depictions throughout the bible that may be aligned with veganism or fruitarianism. Biblical hermeneutics looks for eternal truth beyond the historical time and culture (16). Biblical hermeneutics is an ideal way for vegans and fruitarians to interpret and gain insight from the bible.
This quote in the bible pictures an idyllic world of peace, togetherness, and friendship between all beings:
“6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (17)
In the last sentence a definitive link is made between the avoidance of harm and destruction in relation to respecting the higher one. I, myself, feel that I have an inner knowing from the Lord that tells me that veganism is a worthy cause and respecting other beings is always a valued endeavour.
“Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’” (Jesus, Gospel of Matthew 9:13, Good News translation)
Animal sacrifices could include killing animals for meat or not, so the message here could be that all harming of other beings is not kind and we should only aim to be kind.
In Genesis, the focus seems to be on fruit and plant-eating in contrast with evil-doing. This diet helps with health and immune strength. And to the degree that they may have been immortal!? The fall of man seems to have a deep metaphorical meaning that does not link to actual fruit. Fruit is always referenced and envisioned with warmth throughout the bible. Biblical hermeneutics is a way for vegans to interpret the true meaning of the bible beyond any cultural dietary habits that may or may not have been accurate to the biblical figures.
- Bible.knowing-jesus.com. 2021. 30 Bible verses about Garden Of Eden, The. [online] Available at: <https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Garden-Of-Eden,-The> [Accessed 29 November 2021].
- Zeolla, G. 2017. Creationist diet: A Comprehensive Guide to Bible and Science Based Nutrition. 2nd ed: p.30
- Zeolla, G., 1999. Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible. http://www.Zeolla.org
- Bible Gateway. 2021. Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 2:4-3:24 – New International Version. [online] Available at: <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%202%3A4-3%3A24&version=NIV> [Accessed 27 November 2021].
- Cleveland Clinic. 2018. Do Organic Foods Reduce Your Cancer Risk?. [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-eating-more-organic-food-reduce-your-risk-of-developing-cancer/> [Accessed 27 November 2021].
- Van Ee, J. (2013). Death and the Garden : : An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia. UC San Diego. Available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0qm3n0mt#author: p.131
- Cassuto, Umberto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Translated by Israel Abrahams. 2 vols. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961 – 1964: 1: 113
- Wolde, Ellen J. van. Words Become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1 – 11. New York: Brill, 1994: p.44
- Van Ee, J. (2013). Death and the Garden : : An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia. UC San Diego. Available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0qm3n0mt#author: p.348
- Hesiod. Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn – White. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914: p.181
- Van Ee, J. (2013). Death and the Garden : : An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia. UC San Diego. Available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0qm3n0mt#author: p.31
- George, Andrew R. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition, and Cuneiform Texts. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003: p.640
- Creation, 1996. Eating out in Eden. [online] (18 (2), pp.10-13. Available at: <https://creation.com/eating-out-in-eden> [Accessed 27 November 2021].
- Bible Gateway. 2021. Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 1:27-29 – 21st Century King James Version. [online] Available at: <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%201:27-29&version=KJ21> [Accessed 29 November 2021].
- Bible Gateway. 2021. Bible Gateway passage: Revelation 22:2 – New International Version. [online] Available at: <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+22%3A2> [Accessed 27 November 2021].
- Wayner, R., 2014. The Christian Basis for Veganism. [online] Free From Harm. Available at: <https://freefromharm.org/veganism/christian-basis-veganism/> [Accessed 27 November 2021].
- Bible Gateway. 2021. Bible Gateway passage: Isaiah 11 – 21st Century King James Version. [online] Available at: <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+11&version=KJ21> [Accessed 29 November 2021].