You Are What You Eat: The Original Diet

Before we jump into the deep stuff, let's take a minute to think about God's original design. Before I started digging into what the Bible defines as food, I never realized that of all the instructions God could give Adam and Eve in the garden, he gave them dietary instructions...
The Beginning, A Perfect Diet

Introduction

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Brian Jimenez
One of the first things God did was define a diet for Adam and Eve. In fact, straying from this diet is the sin that plunged us into a fallen state. In the perfect world after creation, the only rule was about what could be eaten.

Think about this: God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from a specific tree, warning that eating from that tree would mean their deaths. The devil, referred to as the serpent, convinced Eve that this fruit was actually OK and wouldn't harm her. The couple ate the fruit, which robbed them of their chance to escape death. It was only after this that people experienced pain, disease, and death...

The Perfect Diet

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. Genesis 1:29 KJV
In the beginning, when the world was perfect, God gave Adam and Eve a vegan diet—

I'm not suggesting we all run out and become vegan; I'm merely starting at the beginning and examining what God defined as ideal. It shouldn't surprise you, though, that vegetarian and vegan diets have been proven to have health advantages.[10] Going vegan could even increase your life expectancy.[11]

God tells Adam and Eve that they can eat the fruit of plants that bear seeds. At this time, even the animals only ate from the vegetation. God doesn't say anything about obtaining milk from animals or eating eggs; the only thing He permits is the fruit of seed bearing plants.

Take Note

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Jannis Brandt
There are a few things I want to point out about the diet defined by God in Genesis 1. Many times we gloss over this passage without thinking, but there are quiet a few hidden gems here to be thought on and some of these points will be relevant later in the series.

What is Meat?

Today, when we say meat, we mean flesh—chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc. However, as evidenced in Genesis 1:29, the Bible uses meat simply to define food. Remember, in previous times, it was common for people to refer to the meat of a fruit. This usage of meat to mean something edible, not specifically flesh, is further seen in Leviticus 2 where Moses refers to unleavened cakes and flour as "meat" offerings. This is important to remember because our 21st Century minds read the word "meat" and assume it references a specific subset of food when actually the language of the Bible is referring to what God has ordained as food and may not include flesh at all.

Seeds...or Lack Thereof

Last week I bought a bag of naval oranges. I was eating one as I started planning out this series. When I bit into it, I realized I had eaten several slices and never come across a seed. I started to wonder about seedless fruit. God gave us permission to eat from seed yielding plants, and in the case of fruits, the seeds are found inside the object you eat. Vegetables like collards, on the other hand, have pods in which the seeds are located.[1] Other times we actually eat the seed itself. Nonetheless, God was very specific about the seeds, meaning He did not give us permission to eat from seedless plants... Almost every translation of Genesis 1:29-30 says something similar to "fruit containing seed."

Which of course triggered the question: when in nature do seedless plants develop? My basic understanding of biology is that plants grow from seeds and those seeds are produced by the original plants. So, why did God specify plants bearing seeds in Genesis 1 and why don't navel oranges have seeds in them?

Certain plants actually don't produce seeds, they spread through spores; examples include mushrooms and ferns.[2] Scientifically speaking, seeds and spores are not the same thing.[3] Using the scientific terminology, mushrooms wouldn't be included in the list of edible food items. However, if you go to the store, you'll notice many brands selling mushrooms with a kosher seal. For those unfamiliar with kosher labeling, there are several agencies entrusted with verifying if food adheres to the Kosher laws. Kosher laws are based on the dietary law given in the Bible. Obviously the Rabbis issuing the Kosher seals consider spores and seeds to be the same, thus permitting mushrooms as food. However, there are also groups who argue mushrooms should not be included based on this seemingly small fact.[4]

Wild Banana
We can resume the discussion on mushrooms and their lack of seeds later in the post, but oranges, bananas, grapes and other fruits that are sold as seedless in the stores are supposed to have seeds. Did you know that wild bananas actually have large seeds that you can't swallow? The bananas we eat today have tiny black seeds that are edible but sterile. The trees they grow from are basically clones of each other. Since they don't vary in genetics, they are prone to diseases. 50 years ago, all the bananas sold in stores were Gros Michel, but that variety is extinct due to a fungus that wiped out the fragile trees.[6] The fruits in the store that don't have seeds are that way because man has altered the plants that produce them.

My question to you is, did God specify plants that bear seeds to steer us away from mushrooms and ferns which spread through spores, or because He knew man would start tampering with His creation to create seedless fruit?

Vegetarian/Vegan Lifestyle

When you think about it, it makes sense that God's perfect diet would enable us to live without taking life. When you pick blueberries, the bush does not die and as long as you pick ripe berries, you won't damage the plant. When you pull up collards or carrots, technically you kill the whole plant, but there are seeds present to replant and the new bush has no need for it's predecessor. Furthermore, there is much less damage in cultivating a cabbage, which will die in a few weeks anyway, than killing an animal years before it's lifespan is complete and having to clean up after the mess.

According to the Bible, humans adhered to (or at least were commanded to adhere to) this diet up until the flood. This is also the time in which humans had the longest life spans.

Seeds vs. Spores

Before we move on to God's command to Noah which introduced flesh to our diet, we should examine the argument posed by various people as to whether plants that reproduce by way of spores were permissible in our diet from the beginning. Commonly consumed foods from this group include mushrooms and seaweed.[7]

The original Hebrew word that appears as "seed" in Genesis 1:29 is zera (זֶ֗רַע). Although it is usually translated as "seed," the definition actually means offspring.[8][9] Essentially, Genesis 1:29 is saying we can eat from plants that have the ability to reproduce themselves. Plants that spread through spores reproduce and thus have offspring or "zera." Based on this, it is my opinion that mushrooms and seaweed were always included in God's prescribed diet. The implication that there are plants unable to reproduce is probably a message for those of us eating bananas and seedless fruits today.

The Imperfect Diet

God introduces flesh to our diet in Genesis 9, after Noah and his family survive the flood. At this point, much of the Earth's vegetation was underwater and it would take time to rebuild farms for harvesting crops. Today, we are familiar with the idea of an impending climate change, but the flood is a Biblical example of climate change (Matthew 24:37)! The face of the Earth changed drastically after the flood. Not only would much of the vegetation be destroyed, but how it grew, how long it took to grow, etc. might have changed. There may have been toxins or pollutants from saltwater flooding certain areas, or from the carcasses of the dead animals and people in the flood waters. All of these things would have effected the future growth of plants. If you pay close attention in Leviticus 19:23, the Israelites were commanded not to eat from their newly planted trees in the promised land for three years. Did God command the same of Noah and his family?

FreeImages.com/JCB Spares
Given the changes to our environment, God gave Noah and his family permission to eat the flesh of animals (Genesis 9:3-5). In this command, God forbids the consumption of blood, but we don't see the specification of clean vs. unclean animals here. It appears that God has given permission to eat all living creatures. However, after God gives permission to eat anything that lives, He says He requires it's blood. This is a reference to sacrifices. During Biblical times every piece of meat they ate was first sacrificed to God. The blood from the sacrifice acted as a replacement of their own blood, which was owed due to sin. The meat would be cooked in fire (hence the name "burnt" offering) and then eaten. Notice, in Genesis 8:20, Noah only sacrifices the clean animals, and in Genesis 7:2, Noah is instructed to bring more of the clean animals than of the unclean animals. The fact that these distinctions are made prove that Noah had some notion of this difference between certain animals. Furthermore, if Noah and his family had been killing the unclean animals for food or sacrifice, they would never have been able to repopulate the Earth. Since unclean animals are not extinct, Noah and his family probably didn't eat or sacrifice them. This is step one to confirming that the dietary laws weren't just meant for the Jews/Israelites, because Noah was neither.

Remember, this change to our diet wasn't because we couldn't survive without flesh or because God wanted to see us kill and eat His other creations, but out of necessity because our sins led to the devastation of our home. Also note that it is after this change in diet that the life span of mankind begins to rapidly decline.

Next Up: Mark 7

The first verse anyone ever offered to suggest the dietary law given in the Old Testament wasn't in effect for Christians was Mark 7:15. In the next post, we'll take a look at this verse.

References

  1. Bridget Kelly. "When to Pick Seed Pods Off a Collard Plant?". SF Gate; visited September 9, 2017
  2. Michael J. Gregory, Ph.D. "Seedless Plants". Libre Texts. February 5, 2016
  3. Steve Thompson. "The Evolution and Diversity of Life". Biology 1010: Introduction to Biology, via Florida State University. Spring 2011
  4. "Clean or Unclean: Mushrooms, Duck, Rabbit, Blood in Meat, and Chicken | Romans 14:1-23". Amazing Discoveries. May 10, 2012
  5. "Genesis 1:29-30 Plants and Fruits that are allowed". Biblical Truth; visited September 9, 2017
  6. "Why Don’t Bananas Have Seeds?". Huffington Post. August 6, 2017
  7. "Seaweed Farming". Wikipedia; visited September 9, 2017
  8. "Genesis 1:29. BibleHub.com; visited September 9, 2017
  9. "2233. zera". BibleHub.com; visited September 9, 2017
  10. Claus Leitzmann. "Diet Diversification and Health Promotion". European Academy of Nutritional Sciences (EANS). May 2005
  11. Siobhan Fenton. "Vegans Live Longer Than Those Who Eat Meat Or Eggs, Research Finds". The Independent. August 2, 2016

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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