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Genesis tells us that Adam, Eve and all animals had originally plant-based diets, as God provided them with every plant and tree for food:

29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. [Genesis 1:29-31, ESV]

However, later passages of the Bible reveal that, after the fall, God approved of animal-based diets:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. [Genesis 9:1-3, ESV]

9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. [Acts 10:9-16, ESV]

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. [Luke 15:22-24, ESV]

Question: Why did God eventually sanction animal-based diets after the fall if originally the norm across the board was veganism? Was it for nutritional reasons or something else?

I don't know if there is a unique answer to this question, so I'm posing it as a request for an overview of Christian viewpoints. Obviously, my intention is not to overwhelm you with a question that is impractically broad, so it would be just fine for me if an answer is posted simply enumerating some of the most compelling views according to e.g. a reputable Christian authority on the matter, etc.


Update based on the comments:

Answers can include viewpoints that reject the premise (that veganism was the norm right after Creation and before the Fall), I have no issues with that, as long as quotes or summaries of the argumentations given to reject the premise are included.


Update 2:

To those who reject the premise: you guys have inspired to ask a related question on Hermeneutics.SE: Does Genesis 1:29-31 leave any room for the existence of animal-based diets in the period between the Creation and the Fall?. Feel free to explain your reasons on that question.

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    Jehovah’s Witnesses offer this possibility: that God foresaw the necessity for some humans to eat meat when in places where vegetation is scarce. (Awake! 8/8/1997 pg 19-20)
    – user32540
    Apr 2 at 8:21
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    @MikeBorden haven’t yet seen a steak tree but I am not giving up hope.
    – Kris
    Apr 2 at 12:50
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    @workerjoe I'm not sure that everyone who calls themselves a Christian agrees with that. Apr 2 at 13:58
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    One often neglected angle is that 1) God practically sanctioned regular animal sacrifices during OT period (ox, lamb, goat, pigeon, etc.) which the Israelites consume with their families at the temple after consecration, even with regulations to allow them to consume in their own towns if Jerusalem is too far away! 2) No censure given in the OT for eating meat, even the unclean restriction was removed in the NT. 3) No censure for Solomon being provided meat on a daily basis for his royal table. 4) No abrogation of the Noahic Gen 9:1-3 in later OT nor in NT. Apr 2 at 15:35
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    This seems hugely opinion based. First there is the premise that the diet was only veganism (which while there is an argument for isn't definitive). Then you're asking why God did such and such based on the premise (which sounds like a truth question that doesn't have an answer). So even if the premise is true that veganism was the norm originally any views on why he later approved would be conjecture. There could be opinions, articles, but it would all be based on a premise that may not even be true
    – depperm
    Apr 2 at 15:45
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+100

Background information regarding the state of humanity prior to the flood: The depravity and ungodly lifestyles of the entire world at that time were enough to cause the Lord to “regret that He had made man” (Genesis 6:1-6).

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Genesis 6:11-12).

Noah, on the other hand, is described as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), suggesting he had spent years warning his friends and neighbours what the Holy God was about to do. No one listened. After the flood waters had receded God told Noah that it was permissible to eat animal flesh (but not to consume the blood).

You ask: Why did God eventually sanction animal-based diets after the fall? Was it for nutritional reasons or something else?

The Bible does not say. A Christian scholar (of the Reformed Protestant persuasion) by the name of Matthew Henry presents “the Magna Charta—the great charter of this new kingdom of nature which was now to be erected, and incorporated, the former charter having been forfeited and seized.” Here is a relevant paragraph from his commentary:

  1. A grant of maintenance and subsistence: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, v. 3. Hitherto, most think, man had been confined to feed only upon the products of the earth, fruits, herbs, and roots, and all sorts of corn and milk; so was the first grant, ch. 1:29. But the flood having perhaps washed away much of the virtue of the earth, and so rendered its fruits less pleasing and less nourishing, God now enlarged the grant, and allowed man to eat flesh, which perhaps man himself never thought of, till now that God directed him to it, nor had any more desire to than a sheep has to suck blood like a wolf. But now man is allowed to feed upon flesh, as freely and safely as upon the green herb. Now here see, (1.) That God is a good master, and provides, not only that we may live, but that we may live comfortably, in his service; not for necessity only, but for delight. (2.) That every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, 1 Tim. 4:4. Afterwards some meats that were proper enough for food were prohibited by the ceremonial law; but from the beginning, it seems, it was not so, and therefore is not so under the gospel. Source: https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mh&b=1&c=9

I have no idea what other Christian denominations think about this, and time does not permit me to investigate further. Suffice to say that sometimes, when the Bible is silent on a matter, we simply do not need to know. Curiosity and speculation are normal, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Further on in the commentary, Henry notes that although God had granted man dominion over animals, yet they were subjects to the Creator, and under the restraints of his law. Henry’s commentary goes on to discuss the Noahic covenant in Genesis chapter 6. He concludes:

Noah lived to see two worlds, but, being an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, when he died he went to see a better than either.

Additional information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Henry

https://www.gotquestions.org/eating-meat-with-blood.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/dominion-over-animals.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Noahic-covenant.html

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    (Up-voted +1.) In a world in which sin had (now) entered in, sacrifice had become a necessity. Blood would have to be shed. Flesh must needs be sacrificed. The flesh and blood that would be offered up would be that of God manifest in flesh, 1 Timothy 3:16 [KJV]. With his own blood, God would redeem, Acts 20:28. In such an environment, God gave flesh to mankind, to teach, to instruct, that humanity might partake and understand. I think the Reformers made comment on this but I have no time to research it.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 12 at 4:17
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I have wondered if God allowed meat after the flood because there was not a better option at this point in history. Man had become so corrupt that the destruction of almost every living thing was necessary, though not ideal. It had to happen for mankind to continue. Likewise, allowing meat was a necessary allowance predicated on mankind's inability to do better at this point. This exhibits Gods incredible grace and patience to allow mankind to exist until Christ would come and restore creation.

Also, it could be, based on the Genesis account of all animals living on plants, and the image in scripture of the lion laying down with the lamb in a redeemed creation, that God's ideal is nonviolence, which would logically exclude the eating of meat.

One last bit of conjecture; when God used animal skins to cloth Adam and Eve, rather than God killing an animal to do it, it could be that an animal died because death entered into the world when sin entered. It could have been an accident, a violent attack by another animal or a disease. No violence on God's part would have been necessary.

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  • Alternatively, God using animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve was a "foreshadowing" of sorts of animals (and eventually, Christ) being used as sin offerings. The imagery of "covering" sin is quite common; in this case, the covering is quite literal. Note too that before they sinned, A&E needed no covering, so there is another parallel between needing to cover nakedness and needing to "cover" sin.
    – Matthew
    Apr 8 at 17:45
  • Actually, there are two more problems in your hypothesis. First, before Adam and Eve sinned, there was no violence or disease. For an animal to have died of "natural causes", it would have had to happen almost immediately after The Fall. Second, wanting to think that God would not have done something violent, aside from the previously stated reason, seems sketchy when you consider that a few chapters later, He will kill almost everything alive. Yes, a sin-free world is non-violent. A sinful world is very violent, and plenty of it is God's doing.
    – Matthew
    Apr 8 at 18:14
  • Thanks Matthew. The first paragraph of my previous answer i think applied more to the original question. Could you comment on my theory regarding the reason God allowed for the eating of meat after the flood while, as far as we can tell, in the original creation gave only plants as food?
    – Mark O
    Apr 9 at 19:31

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