Gnosticism is centered around gaining intellectual spiritual knowledge rather than remaining ignorant. It is a monotheistic religion that emphasises that the human goal is to cleanse themselves of sin, find their inner inherent light of goodness, and achieve enlightenment. It explores reality, the nature of being, and our origin concerning God and creation.
The Gnostic texts (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures) refer to Jesus many times with messages and references beyond the mainstream biblical depiction. Gnosticism’s view of Jesus advances the well-known narrative in that
- Jesus’s teachings incorporate the importance of Gnosis
- Jesus was sent to remedy the catastrophe of creation caused by the demiurge
- Jesus did not suffer through crucifixion due to his divine spiritual nature
In Gnosticism, Jesus spreads messages that link to other religions. Some of his teachings may have been close to Sankhya Yoga from Hinduism and Buddhism (2). Meditation, yogic practices, and peaceful behaviour to all beings are evermore displayed of Jesus in the Gnostic teachings than other texts.
He is also shown to have healing abilities. Christ was initially known as ‘soter’ being a healer who helped people with their health and early mystery schools included breathwork (pneumatics) for channeling spiritual energy for healing (3). This was already evident in the bible, as he helped many who were sick, crippled, had cancer or were blind. The connection between Jesus, healing practices, and Buddhism could imply that he must have had Gnosis about leading a healthy and mindful lifestyle. This would surely be a vegan lifestyle with only plant-based food and the avoidance of harm to others!
The Gnostics themselves were all at least vegetarian. The prayer of thanksgiving in the hermetic scriptures says “when they had said these things in the prayer, they embraced each other and they went to eat their holy food, which has no blood in it” (4, 5). The plant-based diet has been practiced by many spiritual groups throughout history due to the purifying and cleansing effect it has on the body and spirit. Gnosticism predates Christianity being closer to Jesus’s time, as Christianity originated in small mystery schools before becoming a state-controlled religion. Constantine at the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD shortened and changed the bible which became the religion of the empire and Gnosticism became heretical.
Various historical figures have referred to Jesus’s vegetarian principles. A text with vegetarian views, ‘Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy,’ written between 1637-1682 noted that “Jesus… was a member of the Essenes, the ascetic Jewish sect who ‘would rather suffer Martyrdom, than be prevail’d on to taste any Thing that had Life in it’ ” (6, 7). The Essenes had a simple plant-based whole foods vegetarian diet.
“The Essenes recommended eating a simple diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, barley, wheat, almonds, milk and honey – which they claimed would keep you healthy and lengthen your life” (8)
There are also non-vegetarian historical figures like St. Augustine, a catholic of the orthodox church, who noted Jesus’s vegan principles. He stated that Jesus “allowed no animal food to his own disciples” (9, 10). Jesus and his disciples were always against harm to other beings.
There is also evidence in a very early biblical text (a Syriac-Aramaic manuscript) of Jesus specifically associating health and diet with behaviour and goodness of character in his words spoken to others.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Gospel of Matthew, a saying attributed to Jesus from a Syriac-Aramaic manuscript) (11)
The lack of cleanliness of the internal body from unhealthy food (like foods from dead animals) certainly affects mental health and anger often results from pain and physical unease. Anger more often not leads to the kind of unrighteous behaviour that a peaceful and mindful individual does not do. The hypocrisy lies in these meat-eaters that he is talking to dressing in beautiful garments in aesthetically designed architecture and surroundings full of vanity about their perfect appearance with all the riches of the world, but never looking within to examine their inner beauty and question whether their behaviour to all other beings is graceful and dignified. To ascend past the material pleasures and the enjoyment that non-vegans find in using animal products is a spiritual ascension that genuinely and authentically denounces all evil against other beings!
- McCoy, D., 2021. Jesus Christ in Gnosticism. [online] Gnosticism Explained. Available at: <https://gnosticismexplained.org/jesus-christ-in-gnosticism/> [Accessed 5 January 2022].
- Johnsen, L., 2022. Gnostic Texts Reveal Jesus in a New Light. [online] Yoga International. Available at: <https://yogainternational.com/article/view/gnostic-texts-reveal-jesus-in-a-new-light> [Accessed 5 January 2022].
- Phillips, J., 2011. The Electric Jesus. Berkeley, Calif.: Evolver Editions: p.78.
- Bean, J., 2017. Oldest Veg and Vegan Quotes on Earth. [online] Medium. Available at: <https://sant-mat.medium.com/oldest-veg-and-vegan-quotes-on-earth-79ad2c514c8c> [Accessed 6 January 2022].
- Brashler, J., Dirkse, P. and Parrott, D., 2022. The Prayer of Thanksgiving — The Nag Hammadi Library. [online] Gnosis.org. Available at: <http://gnosis.org/naghamm/prat.html> [Accessed 6 January 2022].
- Stuart, T., 2006. The Bloodless Revolution. London: Harper Press: p.120.
- Spy, IV. 300-1; cf. Israel (2001), p.651. On the vegetarian Essenes, cf. Josephus (1755), ‘Antiquities of the Jews’, Bk XV, ch. 10. 4; Josephus (1755), ‘The Wars of the Jews’, Bk II, ch. 8; Lord (1630), pp.74-6; Evelyn (1850), II. 48-9; Grotius (1901), BK II, ch 2. & 2.
- Feder, S., 2018. Was Jesus A Vegetarian — Along With An Ancient Jewish Sect?. [online] The Forward. Available at: <https://forward.com/food/400058/jewish-vegetarianism-goes-back-to-ancient-times-jesus-may-have-been-part/> [Accessed 6 January 2022].
- Stuart, T., 2006. The Bloodless Revolution. London: Harper Press: p.151
- St John Augustine (2005), Bk XVI. 6, XXII. 3; cf. e.g. Pseudo-Clement (2005b), Homily XII, ch.6; Pseudo-Clement (2005a), Bk VII. ch.6; Eusebius (1903), II. 2-3; Berkman (2004).
- Medium. 2013. Evidence That Jesus and The Original Aramaic Christians Were Vegetarians. [online] Available at: <https://medium.com/sant-mat-meditation-and-spirituality/evidence-that-jesus-and-the-original-aramaic-christians-were-vegetarians-b8784ac42506> [Accessed 6 January 2022].