If Jesus and the Twelve sanctioned the flesh diet and the consumption of alcoholic beverages - moreover, if they themselves ate animal flesh and drank wine - then we would not expect believers and followers of the Twelve to insist on vegetarianism and abstention from wine and other fermented drinks. On the other hand, if Jesus and the Twelve were in fact vegetarians and if they instructed their followers to adhere to a vegetarian diet, we should expect at least some evidence in the writings of Paul that this was the case. When we carefully sift through the epistles of Paul we do not only discover that there were believers in the assemblies Paul established who insisted on vegetarianism and who also abstained from wine, but we also discover that they appealed to the Jerusalem Apostles in order to justify their practice. It was in fact the emissaries of James, the brother of Jesus, and the Elders from Jerusalem, who actually made Paul’s converts aware that vegetarianism and abstention from alcoholic beverages is a requirement which Jesus himself imposed on all his true disciples and followers. Paul of course rejected vegetarianism and sanctioned the flesh diet and consumption of fermented beverages. He taught that every creature God created was all right to eat [1 Timothy 4:4]. He insisted that to the pure all things are pure while to defiled nothing was pure [Titus 10,15]. He claimed that food had no bearing on the relationship with God [1 Corinthians 8:8].
He instructed his followers to buy whatever meat was sold at the meat market [1 Corinthians 10:25]. He also instructed his followers to eat whatever their unbelieving friends may serve at the table. This included a sacrificial flesh, providing the host did not raise the issue. And even then, Paul told them to abstain not because it was wrong to eat flesh sacrificed to idols, but rather because of the unbelievers’ and weak brothers’ conscience [1 Corinthians 10:15,27]. Despite the fact that Paul rejected vegetarianism and in 1 Timothy 4:1-4 claimed that those who insisted on vegetarianism were actually teaching the “doctrines of demons,” many of his followers rejected Paul and his views and actually practiced vegetarianism. Romans 14 indisputably proves that there were two types of believers in Rome. One group consumed animal flesh and wine while other group practiced vegetarianism and also abstained from wine.
“Welcome all the Lord’s followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don’t criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours. Some think it is all right to eat anything, while those whose faith is weak WILL EAT ONLY VEGETABLES” [Romans 14:1-2 The Bible for Today].
These verses clearly prove that some believers in Rome did not eat animal flesh but were actually VEGETARIANS. Paul of course regarded this group as “weak” while the flesh eaters as “strong.” Romans 14:21 explicitly points out that the issue was flesh and wine. Please note:
“It’s best not to EAT MEAT or DRINK WINE or do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord” [The Bible for Today].
This text plainly states that eating meat and drinking wine could cause problems to other followers of Jesus. The phrase causes problems used in The Bible for Today is translated from the Greek word skandalizo, number #4624 in Strong’s and means:
“scandalize; apostasy, displeasure.”
The word scandilize is thus defined by the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary, Vol. 2. on p. 595:
“To shock the moral feelings of, as by improper, frivolous, or offensive conduct.”
It is evident therefore that certain followers of Jesus in Rome practiced vegetarianism and held very strong belief on the issue of meat and wine. It is also clear that some believers in Corinth were also vegetarians:
“Don’t cause problems for someone with a weak conscience, just because you have the right to eat anything. So if I hurt one of the Lord’s followers by what I eat, I will never eat meat as long as I live” [1 Corinthians 8:9,13 The Bible for Today].
The word hurt used here was also translated from the Greek word skandalizo. Therefore it follows that certain believers in Rome and Corinth practiced vegetarianism and they also abstained from wine. These believers could not tolerate those who consumed animal flesh and drank wine so Paul instructs those who ate meat and drank wine to better abstain from so doing rather than cause scandal in the congregation. In Colossians we discover that those who practiced vegetarianism actually criticised and condemned those believers who ate animal flesh and drank wine.
So don’t let anyone pass judgement on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Chodesh or Shabbat” [Colossians 2:16 Jewish New Testament].
This article does not deal with the subject of Jewish festivals and the Sabbath. So I will limit myself to the issue of eating and drinking. Please note how Paul states that the Colossians should not allow anyone to criticize them or pass judgement upon them for what they EAT and DRINK. By nature we must eat and drink in order to stay alive. The text does not refer to simple diet or drinking of water. For no one would condemn Colossians for drinking water or simply eating fruits, seeds and herbs/vegetables. Clearly the issue is animal flesh and wine - just as it was among the Roman believers. These believers who abstained from animal flesh and wine were influenced by the “emissaries” from Jerusalem Apostles. Some of these “emissaries” were actually important leaders. They followed Paul and disputed his views - claiming that his Apostleship was illegitimate. They urged Paul’s followers to conform to the doctrines taught by the Twelve and James, the brother of Jesus, who was the head of the Twelve and the seventy two Elders. Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts gives us the following information:
“Jewish Christian leaders followed in Paul’s footsteps, demanding that the gentile believers conform to their beliefs” [p. 542].
“They hotly opposed Paul’s law-free gospel by journeying to his churches and attempted to set his converts right” [The Illustrated Bible Handbook, p. 297].
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown also corroborates this fact:
“When, however, the original Jewish Christians at Jerusalem realized the nature of Paul’s teaching, they were shocked and vigorously repudiated it. They refused to recognize Paul as an apostle [he had never been an original disciple of Jesus], and they sent emissaries to Paul’s converts to present their own ‘gospel’ as the AUTHENTIC VERSION OF THE FAITH” [art. St. Paul, Pilot of Christianity, p. 2152].
“Paul, meanwhile, continued to face JUDAIZING OPPONENTS wherever his missionary endeavours took him, and for generations after his death, until the fourth or even the fifth century after the coming of Christ, the Judeo Christians strain survived as a heretical minorities in the increasingly gentile orientated church” [A History of Heresy, pp. 15-16].
That those who swayed the believers in Rome, Corinth, Colossae and other congregations which Paul established, were associated with James, the brother of Jesus, is evident from Galatians 2:4-5 where Paul clearly links the “Judaizers” with James the Just. Although they were James’ emissaries, Paul regarded them as false bothers. Some of these emissaries of James were in fact important leaders, but Paul rejected them nevertheless:
“Some of them were supposed to be important leaders, but I didn’t care who they were” [The Bible for Today].
Paul accused these IMPORTANT LEADERS whom he associated with JAMES, the brother of Jesus, of preaching “another Gospel” and “another Jesus.” He urges Galatians to reject the teachings of James and his “emissaries” and return to the Gospel he originally preached to them. Most Christians assume that Galatians simply accepted the admonition of Paul and rejected the teaching of James and his associates. The evidence however reveals that they did not and that Galatians refused to participate in the financial offering Paul organised as help for the Jerusalem Ebionites. We know that towards the end of his career Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. The Jews were going to kill him for his antinomian stance. As a Roman citizen he claimed his right to defend himself in the presence of Caesar - Nero at that time. The Jerusalem Apostles refused to send a delegation to defend Paul. During his first trial before Nero no delegation was sent either from Jerusalem or Rome.
“The first time I had to present my defense, no one stood by me; everyone deserted me” [2 Timothy 4:16].
We know for certain that there were believers in Rome at the time Paul faced Nero. Yet none of those believers tried to help Paul in anyway whatsoever. Not only the believers in Rome but virtually all in Asia deserted Paul and his Gospel.
“You know that everyone in the province of Asia turned away from me, including Phygelus and Ermogenes. May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he was often a comfort to me...when he came to ROME, he diligently searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant to him to find mercy” [2 Timothy 1:15-18].
The phrase turned away has been translated from the Greek word apostrepho. From this word apostasy derives. It is number #654 in Strong’s, where it is defined in the following manner:
“to turn away.”
The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, on p. 68, defines the word as follows:
“to turn away from allegiance; to defect.”
The prefix apo signifies separation. Believers in Asia and Rome simply abandoned Paul and separated from him. They became a part of what is now called Jewish Christianity. The final rejection and separation occurred after Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem. The problem however began much earlier. 1 Corinthians 1:12 points out that Corinthians already formed separate parties. Some recognised Paul, others Apollos, while still others Peter. In 2 Corinthians we find a dispute between Paul and the “emissaries” of the Twelve. In chapter 11:22 Paul identifies his opponents as “Christians” who were “Hebrews” of the “seed of Abraham.” This immediately points out that his opponents were connected with James and other Apostles in Jerusalem. His opponents claimed to be followers of Jesus and were accepted as such [10:7]. They claimed the authority of the Jerusalem Apostles so that Paul styles the Jerusalem Apostles as “super apostles” [11:5; 12:11] but at the same time styles them “false Apostles” and “servants of Satan” 11:13-15]. There is no doubt that Paul was actually denouncing the original Apostles of Jesus. In 11:22-23 Paul clearly states that these “super Apostles” were Hebrews, Israelites and the seed of Abraham just as he says he was. Paul acknowledged them as “ministers of Christ” but claimed that he was in fact “greater” than they because of his “greater” persecutions. In 12:11 Paul states that in no way is he inferior to these “super Apostles.” Paul also plainly states that these “super Apostles” performed miracles but he also credits their miracles to Satan [11:13-15]. Paul did not deny that these “super Apostles” actually performed miracles but he claimed that their power was derived from Satan.
Biblical scholars generally recognise that in these chapters we have a strong indication of the great schism between Paul and the Apostles of Jerusalem. In the Jerome Biblical Commentary in reference to this text we read the following:
“super apostles: This can refer to true apostles such as Peter and James...According to some commentators the reference is to the true apostles, because of vv. 22-23 and 12:11”.
Professor James Dunn writes:
“Here then is evidence of a deepening rift between Paul and Jerusalem church - with each disputing the other’ authority, and each attributing the other’s gospel to Satan...2 Cor. 10-13 remains a strong testimony to a depth of division between Paul and Jerusalem which helps considerably towards explaining later Jewish Christianity’s loathing for Paul the apostate” [Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, pp. 255-256].
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown, art. Jesus, gives us this important information:
“The earliest surviving Christian writings are not the gospels but the Epistles of St. Paul. They were written about 20 years before the gospels, and provide evidence of Christian life and thought some 20 years after the crucifixion. When these epistles are carefully examined they reveal that already an amazing conflict of opinion existed about Jesus. In two separate letters, Paul denounces certain opponents who “PREACH ANOTHER JESUS” and “ANOTHER GOSPEL” [Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:4]. Since Paul cannot possibly mean that these opponents were preaching about another person named ‘Jesus’, his denunciation must signify an interpretation of Jesus DIFFERENT FROM HIS OWN...what was the other interpretation of Jesus against which he inveighed so strongly? The evidence points out unmistakably to the ORIGINAL APOSTLES AND DISCIPLES OF JESUS, LOCATED AT JERUSALEM, AS PAUL’S OPPONENTS AND THE PROPAGATORS OF THE “OTHER GOSPEL”...Critical analysis of the New Testament writings reveals, therefore, that within two decades of the crucifixion TWO DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS OF JESUS WERE CURRENT WITHIN THE CHURCH...As soon as the Jerusalem Christians realized the nature of Paul’s gospel, they repudiated both it and him. They sent emissaries among Paul’s converts, warning them that Paul was not an apostle and that his teaching was not the original form of the faith.”
A Catholic scholar T. Patrick Burke states:
“By AD 70 there were in effect TWO CHRISTIAN CHURCHES with TWO VERY DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHRISTIANITY: The Jewish church, centered in Jerusalem, which retained its ties to the Jewish community and Jewish traditions and customs, and which understood Jesus and his preaching more in terms of his Jewish background; and the Gentile church, existing outside Palestine, which had no attachment to things Jewish at all, but believed in Jesus as the Savior of mankind PREACHED BY PAUL” [The Major Religions, p. 298].
The emissaries of James were not the ones who preached “another Gospel” and “another Jesus” - meaning different. The Twelve preached Jesus whom they knew personally and with whom they ate and drank and they preached the Gospel that Jesus taught them. It was Paul who actually twisted the Truth and who deviated from Jesus the Twelve knew and from the Gospel that Jesus preached. That these emissaries sent by James, the brother of Jesus, and that James and other original Apostles as well as the seventy two Elders who assisted James were actually vegetarian, is also evident from the canonical book of Acts. The book of Acts clearly shows that there were four Essene-Nazarean-Ebionite brothers who made [rather, renewed] their Nazarite vow, since they had to shave their head. According to the Jewish Pentateuch, the renewal of the vow and even the original making of the Nazarite vow demanded an ANIMAL SACRIFICE. Acts 21:26 speaks of an OFFERING which was to be presented by the priest on the behalf of all of them. It is of great significance for you to realise that this word “offering” is translated from the Greek word “prosphora” which always implies “an oblation” and therefore “a bloodless sacrifice.” The word is number #4376 in Strong’s where it is thus defined:
“presentation, an oblation, a bloodless sacrifice.”
A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, by the great scholar, Ethelbert Bullinger, on p. 548, thus defines the word “prosphora:”
“an offering, oblation; STRICTLY WITHOUT BLOOD; opposite to “thusia” [sacrifice] and “holocautoma” [burnt offering].”
This text irrefutably proves that James and the Twelve repudiated the Jewish bloody sacrificial cultus - just as Jesus himself did when he interfered with the sacrifice in the Temple. The Ebionites were therefore correct when they claimed that James spoke against the Temple altar and the fire of the altar which consumed the animals as burnt offerings. It is also significant to note that Church Father Epiphanius testified that whenever an Ebionite was asked why he does not eat animal flesh he would reply that “Jesus revealed it to me.” It is therefore fair to say that the followers of Paul who became vegetarians and who also abstained from wine drinking learned the practice from those who came from James, the brother of Jesus.James, the brother of Jesus, must have been a vegetarian since the Church Fathers unanimously testified to the same. Hegesepius stated regarding James the Just the following:
“James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ATE NO FLESH, never shaved” [The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. p. 361].
Eusebius Pamphilius stated regarding James:
“This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head” [Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, p. 76].
St. Augustine wrote:
“St. James never ate animal food, living on seeds and vegetables, never tasting flesh or wine” [Ecclesiastical History, 2 Vols. Translated by H.J. Lawlor and J.E.L. Oulton].
James was a vegetarian. We also know from the writings of the Church Fathers that not only James but also other apostles adhered to vegetarianism and abstained from wine. Church Father St. Chrysostom wrote:
“The apostle Matthew lived upon seeds, grains, nuts and vegetables, without the use of flesh” [Williams, Ethics of Diet].
Church Father Clement of Alexandria wrote:
“Matthew, the apostle, lived upon seeds and hard shelled fruits and other vegetables without touching flesh” [Clement of Alexandria, The Tutor, translated by Wilson].
An early Christian document depicts apostle Judas Thomas as abstaining from eating of flesh and drinking of wine [The Religion of Occident].
We know for example that apostle Peter also preached the message in Bithynia [1 Peter 1:1]. Bithynia was actually the stronghold of “Jewish Christianity”. Bithynia was the north-western province of Asia Minor. It was conquered by Romans in 75 b.c.e. During the reign of Trajan - the Roman Emperor, Plinus Secondus, the governor of Bithynia wrote a letter to Trajan in which he stated that “Christians” in his province abstained from animal flesh. Plinus, more commonly called Pliny, was born in 53 c.e. and died in 110 c.e. Trajan reigned from 98 c.e to 117 c.e. Professor Ewing writes:
“Pliny, who was the governor of Bithynia where Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus, wrote a letter to Trajan, the Roman Emperor, describing the early Christian practice...Pliny referred to Christianity as a contagious superstition, describing those under suspicion as abstaining from flesh food” [The Prophet of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 148].
Some forty years before Pliny wrote to Trajan, the Roman senator Seneca wrote a letter to Lucilius in which he stated that “Christians” who were under imperial suspicion was:
“the foreign cultus or superstition who abstained from the flesh of animals” [Williams, Ethics of Diet].
The testimonies of Pliny and Seneca must be trustworthy and significant, because they would not have stated that the followers of Jesus were vegetarian if they were not. Paul sanctioned the meat diet. But not only the eating of flesh but also the food sacrificed to idols. But Jesus in Revelation criticizes those who ate the food sacrificed to idols. Paul did not only sanction the eating of flesh but he also sanctioned slavery and taught other things which Jesus and the Twelve condemned. If you would rather listen to Paul than Jesus and the Twelve – then go ahead and be a bloody butcher – slaughtering animals in order to eat their flesh. But just remember this: it is a grave sin to kill and butcher God’s innocent creatures and one day you will pay for this monstrous crime.