May 13, 2015

Was Man Vegetarian Before Noah?

Always ask yourself two questions when reading scripture; "How does this teach me about my own salvation?" and "How does this point to Christ?"
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.  (Genesis 9:3)
One of the fundamental attributes of God is that He is a creator. Creation is part of God's nature and the story of Noah is a third creation story. The narrative isn't about diet but about restoration of the correct order in God's creation and a hint at the future eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ.

The first creation story is Genesis 1. The order in which God creates things tells us about the right ordering of creation. Plants are first, then fish and birds, then the beasts. Man is created last. Those created first serve those created later. Those created later are stewards of those created earlier.

The second creation story is Genesis 3. In this creation story God names man and permits man to name the beasts. This tell us the order God intended in creation. Those who are named get their identity and purpose from the one who names them. Those who name something become their caretakers.
God names man: God cares for man and man serves God.
Man names the beasts: Man cares for the beasts and the beasts serve man.
It is true that the God neither explicitly prohibited nor allowed consumption of meat prior to Noah and the flood. Arguing whether man had a vegetarian diet prior to the flood however, completely misses the point. The point is creation, and re-creation. The story of Noah and the flood is the third creation account. The language used in this third creation account is almost identical to that used in the first account.
And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; (Genesis 1:28)

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1)
Man had become no better than the beasts, and this is why God sent the flood. In telling man that he may eat the beasts, God is elevating man, restoring him to a more dignified place in creation and re-ordering man above the beasts which he had become like. Who eats whom tells us about the order God intended for his creation.

Notice that God gives flesh to man but not blood... yet.
Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:4)
The complete restoration of man to his proper place - in the image and likeness of God - would take place later, when man was permitted to drink the blood of Jesus.
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; (John 6:53)
We eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus so that we might live the life of Jesus. Those who understood the story of Noah as a creation story would have understood Jesus words as a fulfillment. Christians today who understand the story of Noah as a creation story properly see the Eucharist as that very same fulfillment.

And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)