Introduction to

Animal Welfare in the First Covenant:
Challenging the Accepted Anthropocentric Worldview

Joshua Duffy 2012


Introduction The subject of theological animal welfare is one that has had few supporters within the course of its history. The case could be made that it is related to the issues of human slavery and the status of women which have also suffered from a lack of “men” willing to stand up for the ethical implications of affording them higher rights than society as a whole offered. For most of the civilized world, we now know how barbaric and ignorant endorsements of human slavery and oppression of women are, as compared to what we once thought. Yet the status of animals remains comparatively quite low when great minds converge to discuss the injustices of society. Even religion, which should be the absolute benchmark for speaking out against oppression and injustice committed against sentient life, is notoriously silent about the subject; our negligence actually furthering the discomfort (maybe the word „torture‟ is too uncomfortable en masse) of billions of animals yearly through indifference regarding pet mills, battery and factory farming, hunting, fishing, and general anthropocentrism. Does God care about the animal kingdom? Should humanity care about the plight of nonhuman life? Are animals here solely for the sake of man, or (dare I say it) could we be here for them, or is there another option? One that places animals in their proper place within creation, far above the pit that man has buried them in. The purpose of this paper is to question the theological anthropocentrism prevalent in our current worldview regarding the Hebrew (Old) covenant. The contemporary opinions regarding animals and their status with their Creator can be arguably reasoned to come from Greek philosophy rather then Hebrew theology, and I contend that a topical overview of the Old Testament supports the opinion that Hebrew theology places the animal kingdom on a much higher pedestal than is generally recognized. Such a broad topic such as this demands a far greater endeavour than the one I attempt here, yet as an introduction, I believe the information contained herein will be of vital use to those who are seeking somewhere to start their journey questioning the human-centered theology taught in most circles today.


‘Four’ Fathers of Speciesism Our present mindset regarding animal life has been greatly influenced (mostly unconsciously) by four giants of human history: Aristotle, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Rene Descartes. While society has benefited from many of their philosophical and theological, their views on animals have contributed to much of our anthropocentric thinking. Here, in brief, are some of their contributions to anthropocentrism. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) taught that since “nature makes nothing without some purpose, without some end in view... it must be that nature has made [plants and animals] for the sake of man”. He also used the notion of animal slavery to justify the existence of human slaves, thinking of them as merely “tools” or pieces of property. Aristotle‟s views on women were also less than complimentary, ascribing to them a somewhat half-status, higher than animals yet lower than men, possessing at least some reason. This is not to diminish the positive influence of Aristotle in other areas, but to highlight the fact that not all of his reasoning is accepted. As stated, his views on women and slaves are particularly disturbing, which could suggest his views on animals are subject to greater scrutiny as well. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) may have had more influence on theology than any human being outside of the Biblical Apostles themselves. Augustine taught that the command “do not kill” (Exod. 20.13; Deut. 5.17) did not apply to animals, because they were without the faculty of reason and we do not have association or common bond with them. He bluntly states: “they are meant for our use, dead or alive”. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) has had a monumental impact on our theological thought as well, maybe second only to Augustine. Aquinas, who was heavily influenced by Aristotle, drew “on Aristotelian notions of natural ordering, specifically the idea that the „lower‟ creation exists to serve the „higher‟.” Aristotle taught that the soul had three parts: the nutritive (which plants also have), the sensitive (which animals also have), and the thinking (which is the only part immortal, and which animals are devoid of). Aquinas adopted this philosophy and the Church followed suit. He reasoned that since


animals were irrational, humans have no charitable duty towards them and could kill, or use them, as we please. Rene Descartes (1596-1650), “often credited with being the „Father of Modern Philosophy‟”, thought it ridiculous that people would believe that “dumb animals” think. He thought of them as machines who were only controlled by nature, or instinct, nothing more, even reasoning that they could not feel pain as we do. Descartes, like Augustine, viewed language as the crucial characteristic for admittance into the “realm of moral considerability”, and although he admitted that some animals may sound like they have some semblance of speech, it was beneath the level of spontaneity and expressive thought that is commanded by humans. It is within this tradition that we (knowingly or unknowingly) read and interpret our Old Testaments today. There is good news for animal welfare adherents (and animals too) though, and that is that there are many today who challenge the anthropocentric assumptions of Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and Descartes. In regards to the pre-Christian Jewish tradition to which we will be looking, animal consideration is expressed more fully and consistently than in any other culture. We will examine this subject from a Jewish perspective in five aspects. First, we will look at what the Hebrew Scriptures say, as a whole, regarding animal compassion/welfare; second, we will explore Genesis 1-9; third, a look at the Biblical sacrificial system; fourth, we will review the rabbinical side of animal welfare, and things the Jewish tradition has taught and believed about animals; and finally, we will look to the future and what the Scriptures and the rabbis say about the coming Kingdom.

1. The Old Testament
If we humans could get one paramount fact about creation into our understanding, then we would be better prepared to administer God‟s will upon the earth. The fact is this: Creation belongs to God, not to us. It may not sound revolutionary, but we live as if it belonged to us, not God. The Old Testament has many references which confirm this important foundation. God is praised by His Creation (Pss. 148.7-10;


150.6) because He is its Creator, and He loves and sustains it. When we treat something as „owners‟ and not as „stewards‟ then our relationship becomes one of „ownership‟ rather than „stewardship‟. We tend to see the value of things in relation to what they can be of value to us, rather than how valuable they are inherently.

Gods Compassion towards Animal Life It is impossible to overstate how important Torah is to the Jewish tradition, yet there have been leaders within that tradition who have kept a more practical perspective regarding it, such as Rabbi Tanhum ben Hiyya who “maintained that the gift of rain is greater than that of Torah since it nourishes animals as well as humans”. The point is that having the Hebrew Scriptures and reading them is not beneficial unless they provide something practical to our life. The rabbis hold such a high view of Torah not because it is a book, but because it is living, and life-giving. God has not given us something to read but something to impart His life into us. Unless the words which make up Torah are acted upon, no one and nothing will benefit. As we look at Scriptures relating to animal welfare it is clear that God wants us to practice mercy and compassion (Hos. 6:6; Mat. 9:13), not just read about it. God is consistently portrayed as having much compassion for the animal portion of His created works. The fourth commandment states that animals are not permitted to work on the Sabbath (Exod. 20.8-11; 23.10-12; Deut. 5.12-15), thus enjoying rest along with humanity. Animals were also intended to take part in the produce output of the seventh year Sabbath rest (Lev. 25.4-7). “When the Lord wanted to teach King David a lesson and show him the error of his ways, the Lord used an example concerning abuse of a pet lamb. This story clearly demonstrates the kind feeling toward pet animals that the Bible exemplifies as a virtue.” During the time of the Exodus, and after, it was considered a serious crime to kill an animal outside the gates of the Temple. For the next forty years God desires that the Israelites eat manna, which was vegetarian (Ex. 16 – Josh. 5.12), harkening back to a time when all created life ate a diet free of meat (Gen. 1.29-30). There is the curious event recorded in Numbers 11 where the Israelites do indeed receive


permission to eat meat. In fact, it was because they had “rejected the LORD” (Num. 11:20) that their carnivorous lusts were satiated. The result of this feast was no less a major plague which struck them “while the meat was still between their teeth” (Num. 11:33). The place this event occurred was named “Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food” (Num. 11:34), namely, meat. God promises to provide grass for cattle (Deut. 11.15), and David says that He preserves animals as well as humans (Ps. 36.6). The Sons of Korah speak affectionately of sparrows and swallows finding places in the Temple, near the altar, to birth and raise their young, saying that they are “ever praising” God (Ps. 84.1-4). God‟s care and concern for creation is stated throughout the Old Testament to such an extent that it is shocking how we could overlook it. He is good and has compassion on it (Ps. 145.9). He gives food at the proper time, sustaining His creation, “satisfying the desires of every living thing” (Ps. 145.15-16). He is honored by the wild animals because He provides drink as well (Isa. 43.20 cf. Joel 1.20). He knows His created animals deeply and intimately (Job 38-39; Ps. 104). He cares for the animals who have no one to care for them (Jer. 9.10). He is hesitant to give orders regarding the destruction of inhabited areas in part because of the presence of animal life (Jon. 4.11). He displays anger at the destruction of wild animals (Hab. 2.17). The overarching theme is stated well in the Wisdom of Solomon: “You love everything that exists; you do not despise anything that you have made. If you had not liked it, you would not have made it in the first place” (11.24). These scriptures show us that there is a substantial support to the fact that God is interested in, and evenly lovingly interacts with, other forms of His created life besides human beings. If it is important to God, which these scriptures suggest it certainly is, then it should be important to humans as well.


Human Compassion for Animals Although not as impressive as our last section, there are many references in the Old Testament of humans acting compassionately towards animals as well. Rebekah graciously drew water for Jacob‟s servant and his camels (Gen. 24.19). Laban‟s servants serve the camels before the humans are served (Gen. 24.31-33). Jacob showed concern for his animals (Gen. 33.12-14; 37.14). When Jacob drew his sons near to him so that he might prophesy over their future, Levi and Simeon are cursed because they have “killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased” (Gen. 49.5-7). Job says that there are men whom he would not want keeping company with his sheep dogs (Job 30.1), insinuating that they were important to him and worthy of compassionate care. Tobit travels with a dog, arguably as a companion animal (Tob. 6.1, 11.4). Solomon held that righteous people take good care of their animals (Pro. 12.10). And the prophets were constantly inspired by creation in all its forms. “Nature and wildlife were sources of inspiration for many of the prophets of the Bible, and one cannot fully understand the scriptures, their teachings and symbolism, without an appreciation for the natural environment that inspired so much of what appears therein.”

A Responsibility Towards Animals Woven throughout Torah there are mandates from God regarding certain duties humans should have towards animals. We owe them not only compassion, but certain civil assistances as well. Moses relates, “If you come across your enemy‟s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it” (Exod. 23.4-5). Echoing this sentiment, Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried in The Code of Jewish Law states that when your horse is pulling a cart up a hill and is struggling, it is your duty to help them. Deuteronomy 22:10 states, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together”, and the underlining concern behind this was that a larger animal would cause a smaller, weaker one to be overworked and discomforted.


A few chapters later in Deuteronomy Moses states that an ox should not be muzzled while it is treading out grain (Deut. 25.4). This is “because they should be able to enjoy the fruits of the earth they are helping to reap.” In fact, the Code of Jewish Law demands punishment by whipping for anyone preventing an animal from eating while it is working. Even though these scriptures permit the use of animals for human purposes, they convey concern about making sure they are treated humanely, with compassion.

Taking Notes from the Animal Kingdom The Old Testament also holds up different types of animals as examples who we can (and should) learn from. Animals are depicted as relating to their Creator in a way that is natural, instinctual, and free of sin. Although affected by the Fall of Man (Gen. 3.1-6), and suffering awful consequences because of that (Gen. 3.21), they maintain a natural kinship with God that is all but impossible to damage. In light of this, there are some ways in which they live that should be desirable to us humans. Job says that if we but ask of them, they will teach us that God is the ultimate Creator (Job 12.7-10). In Proverbs, ants (6.6-8; 30.25), hyraxes, locusts, lizards, lions, roosters, and goats are all looked to as examples we can, and should, learn from (30.24-31). Not all aspects of the animal kingdom are exemplary. Nature can be seen as cruel and unforgiving, favoring the strong with little pity for the weak and underprivileged. But this by no means excludes it from influencing our lives practically, as Job, Solomon, and Agur note above. There are many practices humans partake of that are not exemplary either, but that does not negate the positive examples. Sin has affected all of creation, whether directly or indirectly, and as in most areas of life, we need to discern the positives from the negatives and act accordingly.

Animals, Souls, and the Afterlife There is one more brief area which must be mentioned before moving on and that is the topic of souls, or more pertinently, do animals have them? There is a sliver of Hebrew tradition which affirms this


unorthodox doctrine, using scriptures such as Genesis 1:30, Job 12:7-10, and Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 as support. The basic premise of this belief stems from the fact that from God animals issue, and when they expire they return to Him. A fuller case can be made when the writings of the followers of the first century heretical rabbi Jesus are taken into consideration, but that case can not be made within the confines of this paper.

2. Sacrifices When the topic of animal rights in the Old Testament is discussed, almost immediately the sacrificial system is mentioned. Just how many thousands of animals were sacrificed in the days of the Temple we will never now, but it was more than those sympathetic to the cause of nonhumans are comfortable. And it seems the system as a whole reduced the status of animal life to nothing more than another tool for human use; something less than human which was put here for our benefit. Any answers that one may make to justify this practice in support of animals are feeble and lacking, yet there are aspects of the sacrificial system that are not as speciesist as might first seem. The sacrificial system of the Hebrew Bible has been described as “a complicated attempt to kill animals without degrading them”. It is also described as a system devised to “mitigate the wanton taking of life”, as we have already seen how during the Exodus and subsequent wandering that the murder of an animal outside the Temple gates was a serious offense. Thus, some believe the sacrificial system was a kind of „lesser of two evils‟ permitted to the Hebrews so that excessive amounts of animals were not killed and gorged upon (Prov. 23.19-21). Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (chief rabbi of Palestine prior to the State of Israel) seemed to believe that the system as a whole was not something that was necessary for God, but for man, preceding the further developed theory of mimetic violence made internationally known by Rene Girard. This theory, which basically teaches that minimal violence is necessary to keep human beings in check, somewhat diminishes the doctrine of the atoning properties of the animal‟s blood, and lacks substance in a number of ways, but it bears pointing out that there have been many who have propagated the teaching, even if they have not been part of the strictest majority.


The actual ritual of the sacrifice was not intended to be carried out with disregard for the animal. It was recognized that this nonhuman, who was able to perform atonement for the human, came from God and was being sent back to Him. Detailed rules for the shochet (ritual slaughterer) had to be followed closely, providing the animal with a clean, quick death. Any suffering would render the meat unkosher. Although the shochet is not a Biblical idea, the rabbis believed that God had given these instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai with the other commandments. Although this method has come under fire in recent times by studies suggesting it may not be the most humane method of killing, at the time it was prescribed, it was thought to be. This shows that although the ritual is not the most humane, the Jews thought it to be and carried it out in that respect. There are those, however, in the Jewish tradition that still defend the practice not based on its „humaneness‟ but on its „tradition‟. Such individuals are in need of further academic support regarding animal sentiency and coherent theological teaching regarding God‟s care and concern for animal life. Animal status gains some ground when it is realized that “such sacrificial animals were able by virtue of their innocence to do what sinful humans could not - namely bring about the desired expiation for sin.” Humans were dependant on animals to do what they themselves could not do, namely, fix their broken relationship with God which sin had marred, and this was thought to be the case because the animals were without blemish (and even innocent), not fallen as human beings are. But even this point for substitutionary atonement can be argued against. Leviticus 5:11-13 states that if one cannot afford an animal sacrifice then the “the finest flour” can be used instead. This does not make a great case for the absolute necessity of animal sacrifice. Indeed, even the infamous “scapegoat” was not killed, but sent off in an act of symbolism. And to finish this section, there appears to be some sins which no sacrifice can atone for. What all this shows is that the ethics behind the Jewish sacrificial system was more complex than the superficial views most of us have concerning it. Animals were not made available to us simply so that we could dispose of them in whichever way we saw fit. There is a growing body of evidence which points to a humaneness in the system often overlooked in many commentaries. This view is more consistent with


a Creator who is noted as the embodiment of sacrificial love. To ascribe to humanity alone the sole object of a God‟s love who has created millions of other species seems rather biased in my own opinion.

The Prophets The prophets routinely spoke out against the sacrificial system claiming that God desired something more from His people than the spilling of animal blood. Included were people such as Samuel (1 Sam. 15.20-23), David (Ps. 40.6-8; 51.16-17), Asaph (Ps. 50.7-15, 23), Solomon (Prov. 21.3), Isaiah (Isa. 1.11-18; 66.2-3), Jeremiah (Jer. 6.20), Hosea (Hos. 6.6), Amos (Amos 5.21-25), and Micah (Mic. 6.6-8). These men communicated to the Hebrews the true desire of God, which was to be Ruler over a people who were proficient in self-sacrifice, not animal blood sacrifice.

3. Genesis 1-9
The Creation narrative presents us with a striking fact; human beings are not God! Nature, animal life, and human life all have their origin in this creative God. Animals, more specifically, are created by, and belong to, God. They exist by Him and for Him, alone (Deut. 10.14; Neh. 9.6; Ps. 24.1). Humans do not hold any ruler-ship over nature, or animals. Our position is unique however, in that we are responsible to steward that which God has created.

Animal Creation Genesis 1:20-25 describes God creating all the nonhuman life upon the planet. Even pests such as flies and mosquitoes are thought to have been created to some end. God blessed them (Gen. 1.22) and proclaimed His created life “good” (Gen. 1.25). And so it existed in goodness for perhaps millions of years, until humankind rebelled against God (Gen. 3).


Before the Fall, God brought the animals to Adam and had him name them (Gen. 2.19-20). „Naming‟ here refers to a relationship greater than mere superficiality. He is given the honor of naming the animals because God has commissioned him to be creation‟s servant. Biblical naming denotes drawing out the personality of that being named, which set a precedent for human naming in the future (Gen. 3.20).

Human Creation In Genesis 1:26-30 we have the creation of human beings. Verse twenty-six has led to no shortage of debates and opinions throughout history as to what constitutes being made “in God‟s image”. Most think it involves human‟s capacity to think rationally, but in the past fifty years or so scholarship is recognizing that the image is one of responsibility; “humans are made in God’s image, in the image of a God who is just and holy. Humans then are meant to reflect God’s holiness and justice.” A definite aspect of the Imago Dei is that humans are to reign over all created things (Ps. 8.6-8), but how we are to reign, rule, or have dominion is the more important question. Some Jewish scholars say it means that we are to “serve as God‟s representative”, stewarding creation by showing concern for what has been left in our care. We are to manifest the glory and grace of God, as we govern His creation with the greatest love and charity.

Creation Anthropocentrism heralds humanity as the pinnacle of creation, but this is wrong. God does not affirm the creation of humanity with a statement of “very good” (Gen. 1.31), but all of creation, as a whole. This is what is very good. And the fulfillment of creation is the Sabbath, where God rests because all is perfect. The Sabbath is God‟s high-point of creation; rest, peaceful and complete. Genesis 1:29-30 also tells us that God‟s original intent for created life was that for it to exist in a state of veganism. Humans and animals were to exist on a diet of plants alone. There was to be no eating of any flesh, which also denotes a lack of killing and violence between humans and animals, and even


between animals and animals. It is telling that Moses, who is traditionally ascribed to have written this portion of scripture, was definitely not vegan or pacifist, yet recorded that those things were part of God‟s original intent for creation. It was only after human sin that it is recorded that animals were used for the sake of man (Gen. 3.21). Human sin was the cause of the first violence done to animals, and it has continued through the years to this very day. Animals have paid an awful price for the consequences of our sin.

Genesis 6:9-9:17. The Flood of Noah By the sixth chapter of Genesis, sin has reached such epic proportions that God has decided that it would be better not to have this race of men upon the earth anymore (Gen. 6.5-7), so He finds a righteous man by the name of Noah to salvage humanity through (Gen. 6.8). He is commended to build an ark (Gen. 6.14), which will house his family and a remnant of animal life (Gen. 6.18-19), in preparation for a cataclysmic flood which will eliminate God‟s problem from the earth (Gen. 6.17). A Jewish legend tells how the animals were so eager to obey God that they immediately entered the ark willingly. Genesis 8:1 tells how God thought about Noah and all the animals with him as they rode out the flood. It is possible David had this story in his mind as he penned the words: “Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals” (Ps. 36.6). The flood eventually receded (Gen. 8.1) and the relationship between humans and animals changed quite drastically. God then permitted human beings to partake of animal flesh as a means of sustenance (Gen. 9.3). The Union of Local and Progressive Synagogues believe that the human consumption of animals was permitted as a concession, “both to human weakness and the supposed scarcity of edible vegetation”. This concession was an act of grace which humanity used to justify a later indulgence, which the sacrificial system curtailed, as has been previously mentioned. This concession to allow carnivorous activity is supplemented with a telling moment recorded in Genesis 9:1-13. Now, the fear of man will be upon animals (Gen. 9.2), something which previously never


was. It is important to note that in the chronology of this passage of allowing humans to partake of nonhuman flesh, the fear of man will be upon those nonhumans, and then God enters into a covenant with humans and animals. While allowing men to rule over the animal kingdom in a way that was previously less violent, God seems to have chosen to enter into covenant with a portion of creation “after having first recognized and empathized with their plight”. In other words, God may have given the animals over to man physically, but He retained them for Himself spiritually.

4. Jewish Tradition While rabbinical sources may not hold much weight in certain contemporary circles, orthodox Jewish tradition believes that on Mt. Sinai God handed down to Moses a two-fold Torah, written and oral, which the great heroes and prophets passed down to the rabbis who recorded it in the Talmud. The Talmud is considered as inspired as anything which came directly from Moses. Thus, without looking at the teachings of the rabbis, we disvalue the Jewish tradition as a whole, rendering our study incomplete. The rabbis taught that even such a thing as feeding animals was enhancing to your life and an act of “ethical distinction”. Kindness towards animals was the basis for a whole code of Talmudic law, two specific rules of which were: 1) leather shoes could not be worn on Yom Kippur, on the grounds that one could not ask for mercy if they had not shown it, and 2) Jews were permitted to ask non-Jews to milk their cows for them on the Sabbath since not doing so would cause the cows to become uncomfortable. Jewish law states that fish cannot be hooked, only netted, because of the injury and pain hooks inflict. Because it was thought that animals were more sensitive to pain, due to their lack of reasoning, we must be even more sensitive to their well-being. It was thought noble to feed one‟s animal before serving oneself. The Talmud declares one should not have an animal unless one can provide for it, and “the medieval rabbis


spoke repeatedly of one‟s obligation to provide homeless animals with food and shelter”. Rabbinical law stated that one should not sell their animal to a cruel man. The Encyclopedia Judaica states that “one who harms an animal harms his own soul”. Maimonides “emphatically taught kindness to animals”, and believed that nonhumans must have some stake in the afterlife because of all the injustice and suffering they endured in the present. The Talmud states that Moses and David were selected by God as having leadership potential to lead Israel specifically because they had proven themselves as good sheperds. The Talmud discourages hunting (especially for sport), seeing it as cruel; it also discourages association with hunters based upon the scripture “not to stand in the way that sinners take” (Ps. 1.1). Rabbi Akiba taught that it was forbidden to kill a wild animal unless that animal was given a fair trial, “like a human being, before a court of twenty-three judges”. And speaking in an overall general sense, Hebrews were not to

cause distress to any of God‟s creatures.

5. The Future Return to Genesis God‟s purpose of creation has already been stated as the Sabbath. It is creation that is at rest, at peace, with itself, and with God. The coming eschatological Kingdom, which is seldom stressed in Judaism, seems to be spoken of in terms of what once was, rather than what will be. The prophet Isaiah describes a coming kingdom in which there will be no animosity between members of the animal kingdom, and a gentleness will pervade created beings to such an extent that there will be a return to a non-violent life (Isa. 2.4; 11.6-9). Hosea echoes this sentiment (Hos. 2.18), and Eliphaz hints at it as well (Job 5.19-23). Ezekiel speaks of an eschatological river where “swarms of living creatures will live” (Ezek. 47.9), and where fruit trees of all kinds will line its banks, providing food for inhabitants (Ezek. 47.12). Isaiah speaks of a future where cows will be kept, not to be eaten, but to provide for a vegetarian diet, in a land where “cattle are


turned loose and sheep are allowed to run” (Isa. 7.21-25). Rabbi Abraham Kook taught that “the
restrictions on eating meat, such as the kosher laws, are intended to keep alive a spirit of reverence for life among meat eaters, so that someday they may return to the vegetarian diet humans had before the Great Flood.” These references speak of a return to an existence free of violence and despotism, where humans do not unjustly oppress millions of others of God‟s created beings. It is an existence that the nonhumans must be anxiously longing for.

Conclusion There is a positive view of non-humanity which the Jewish scriptures and tradition can support, but it is unfortunately strange to the ears of many who read the sacred texts with an unconscious bias towards their own species. We do not have to read our Bibles with an Aristotelian, Augustinian, Thomistic, Cartesian lens. “The legacy of Aristotle - and Augustine and
Aquinas - represent only one way of looking at the world. There are others: and these other ways can arguably claim to be as, if not more, authentically Jewish... as the dominant ones that obscured them.”

We have journeyed through a macro view of the First Covenant, narrowing the scope down to see into the Hebrew sacrificial system, the early years of creation, and the rabbinical tradition. There is extensive support to challenge the predominant anthropocentric view with which the majority interpret their Bibles today. I would suggest that there is a higher view from which we read scripture, and that it would be Sabbath-centered rather than human-centered. By Sabbath-centered I do not mean a twenty-four hour period occurring once every seven days, but a perpetual, timeless state characterized by the peaceable presence of God, as intended in Eden before the Fall. This latter Sabbath should be the lens with which we live our lives and read our Scriptures, always seeking ways to implement the practice of a perpetual Sabbath-like state.


The oppression of one sentient being should be, on its own, enough to raise questions about the theology and its orthopraxy in which it occurs, but the oppression of billions and billions and billions throughout history, and the corresponding indifference of the image bearers of God, is grounds for a label of absolute depravity. When we use our status of Imago Dei as a license to tyrannize the majority of creation, we prove how far we actually are from the heart and will of that same God in whose image we have been made. God‟s will for us is always good. He created all things good, and those good things are pleasing to Him. This is reason enough to reflect His goodness, care, and provision to those things that are under our power. Let us, as His image bearers, climb down off our corporate ladder to tend His garden.


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Walters, Kerry S. , and Lisa Portmess, eds. Religious Vegetarianism: From Hesiod to the Dalai Lama. Albany: State University of New York, 2001. Print. Webb, Stephen H. On Gods and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998. Print.


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