Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Bible Study: References to Food I

Ever since my adolescent years, I knew there would be time when I will read the Bible from cover to cover. Three weeks ago, that time has come when I made a trip out to the other end of town to a store called Scott's Parable Christian Stores and purchased two study Bibles: one edited by the former investigative reporter for Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel, and another a chronological life application Bible. Both stood out as an essential clue in answering many of my life's questions, and since nutrition has been of great interest to me over the last ten years, I hoped to find references to food and the appropriate way to nourish one's body. 

Specifically, I needed to know whether it was appropriate to consume animal-based foods and if so, how much of it is sufficient for one's spiritual well-being (through the Plant-Based Nutrition course series I took a few weeks earlier, it was clear that none is necessary for one's physical well-being. On the contrary, meat and dairy products were linked to health issues rather than health). I decided to remain open-minded to whatever evidence might reveal itself and let it take its rightful place in the big puzzle that healthful dieting is.

The first clue on nutrition appeared in Genesis 1:29, Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." These were the times of Adam and Eve before they ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of the good and evil, despite God's precaution, and as it appears, neither meat nor dairy products are mentioned. Were we meant to be vegan and live in harmony with the animal world before we sinned? 

After the sin was first introduced into the world and God destroyed all life on earth with the exception of Noah, his family and what some estimate to be approximately 35,000 animals (some suggest there could be up to 65,000 specimen), God commands in his covenant to Noah, Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. He then proceeds to caution Noah, But you must not eat meat that has its life blood still in it.

Why was the human kind allowed to consume animal-based foods and was it somehow related to the inherently sinful nature of every human being (Genesis 8:21, Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even through every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood)? What exactly is meant by the order not to eat meat with life blood still in it other than, perhaps, that men are not to attempt to extend their own lives by eating other living creatures and men are not to slaughter their own kind for any perceived gain?

One can speculate that meat has been eaten before Noah. Genesis 4:4 describes Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, make offerings of fat portions from some of firstborn of his flock to the Lord. The verse goes on, The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. The simple fact that people kept domesticated animals suggests not only their use in early agriculture, but also as a source of food- the food that appears more valuable to God than fruit of the soil that Cain brought forward, although the study Bible by Lee Strobel explains that the contrast is rather between a careless, thoughtless offering and a choice, generous offering. However, the same chapter describes Cain as someone who worked the soil, so all he could offer was the fruits of his labour. Abel was the one who kept flocks and logically, he gave some of his animals. Could Cain had given what he did not have?

Moving forward in time to one of Noah's descendants, Abram (or Abraham, as God renamed him), Genesis 18:7 describes meat, curds and milk being offered to the three visitors (one of whom is believed to be God himself) who wandered into Abraham's home to confirm once again that his wife Sarah will give birth to a son the following year. 
Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried and prepared it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before [the three visitors].

Again, animal food appears as an integral part of a God-worthy meal. And so the question becomes, does the value of meat and dairy come from humans' own perception or has it been communicated to them by God? Abraham hurried to offer the best of what he had to the visitors, suggesting that in his perception, the calf, curds and milk were the foods worthy of the highest figure in the heavenly kingdom. 

This is where my Bible study takes a pause until the next time I get to read the scripture. Whether it will provide more questions than answers remains to be seen, but in either case, I am certain that my insight on nutrition will progress the more I seek to understand it.

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