For nearly a year I’ve been working on a project on animals and animality in the gospels. I have worked through a few issues, including John the Baptist and animals, Jesus & animal sacrifice in the Gospels, and even animals and animality in gospel films. Currently, I am thinking about the consumption of animals in the gospels.
The gospels present several food scenes. In fact, many studies in the “third quest” for the historical Jesus made a lot of hay about Jesus’ eating, especially his “open commensality” (JD Crossan). But, in my quest for the study of animals in the gospels, I have to ask the question: Would Jesus eat an animal? The simple answer is: yes, he ate fish, right? And what of the Passover lamb at the very least? Nonetheless, from antiquity to the present day, there has been debate about whether or not Jesus ate animals.
The gospels present Jesus and animal-eating in several ways. Most of the time, there is not a clear time when it says, “Jesus ate…” as it does for John the Baptist eating locusts. Most of the time, the gospel writers evade the issue or simply do not see it worth bringing up. Nonetheless, Jesus goes to and talks about feasts. The consumption of animals, in particular, shows up in Jesus’ parables and even (especially?) miracles. Even if the gospels rarely clearly depict Jesus eating an animal, Jesus clearly enables others to eat animals, particularly fish. Though, really, he ate fish, right?
Most studies of Jesus and meals focus on whom Jesus ate with rather than what he ate. There is nothing particularly wrong with this. As these studies have shown, there are important social arrangements and hierarchies – and critiques of these arrangements and hierarchies – that can be enacted through meals (JD Crossan; H Taussig; etc.). But, for the time being, let’s begin thinking about: what would Jesus – and others in the gospels – eat?
I hope to roll out a few forays into this question in the next few weeks! And, truly, Jesus ate fish right?
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