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The subject of vegetarianism (or dietary recommendations in general) appears to me to be a bit ambivalent in the Bible.

For example, Genesis 1:29 , Romans 14:21 and Isaiah 65:21-25 appear to endorse a plant-based diet, while passages such as Genesis 9:3 and Matthew 14:13-21 seem to suggest that animal-derived foods are to be included in our diet as well.

How should these (and any other similar) seemingly contradictary passages be interpreted?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Caleb Jun 27 '13 at 10:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Funny how everything is getting put "on hold" now... This question specifically asks for "where the bible stands" which is not "opinion based." –  user1477388 Jun 27 '13 at 12:12
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4 Answers 4

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Romans 14 as a whole doesn't endorse a vegetarian diet as necessary or otherwise better. Look at the beginning of the chapter for the context:

Romans 14:1-4 (KJV)

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

What Paul is saying is that some believe it is better not to eat meat, and that if he is in such a case as to be a cause of temptation for such a brother, he would rather not eat meat at all so that his brother is not tempted. This is the same problem as wine in a way, in that wine is not bad in itself, but it is better to not drink wine if it will cause a brother or sister to stumble.

Paul is not saying that it is better to be a vegetarian, but he is warning to not let such fleshy matters be reasons for brothers or sisters to stumble. In other words, I'd say if you are eating with someone who believes being a vegetarian is better, don't argue on it, just go with it so it doesn't become a subject of stumble for this brother or sister.

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The issue with eating meat at the time was more about it being sacrificed to idols rather than dietary or concerns about the animal's well being by the way. –  Bryan Rosander Jan 12 '12 at 18:26
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Genesis 9:3 says that God gave all living things to Noah for food. This, in turn, applies to us as Christians.

3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

1 Timothy 4 also gives more insight into this. It deals with those who mislead the church and tell believers that they should stop eating meat.

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

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+1 How did I miss 1 Timothy 4. –  Joshua Drake May 4 '12 at 13:58
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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." (NIV).

In my understanding, that includes plants and trees as food, but does not exclude non-vegetarian food

Isaiah 65:21-25 is a prophecy is on new heaven and new earth. Even today, people build houses and live in them. Wolf and Lamp is not yet eating together. So I do not think we can use that text to say that it appear to endorse a plant-based diet.

Raphink already explained Roman 14:21 and explained it does not endorse plant-based diet.

So I do not think any of the above text explicitly talk for vegetarianism and make a contradiction.

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Vegetarian diet is highly promoted in Daniel 1:8-16:

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

And notice, that not only it implies that the vegetarian food is more healthy; it is also mentioned that more of spiritual world has opened to them as a result - see Daniel 1:16-17:

16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

While I agree to Paul's comment that the causality is not explicitly stated, it is not denied and we might suppose so. It is consistent with fasting before important events like Easter, which was also probably meant to open yourself more to the spiritual world.

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It is good that the passages from Daniel were brought in, but it should be noted that such indicates the simple diet was healthier than the royal diet. (Jesus had no problem eating fish or providing fish for others to eat.) It might also be implied that faithfulness to the Law was being honored by God. More importantly, the diet was not responsible for spiritual openness (ESV, NIV, NASB insert a paragraph break after v. 16). –  Paul A. Clayton Jun 26 '13 at 23:19
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