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‘Cleansing of the Temple’: An act of animal liberation, says Bible scholar

Keith Akers: We must remember, that the Jewish temple was more like a butcher shop than like a modern-day church or synagogue. Jesus' cleansing of the temple was an act of animal liberation.

MERRITT CLIFTON: Keith Akers in 2000 authored The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living & Nonviolence In Early Christianity, a rare easily read work of scholarship which has only risen in stature in the 20 years since first publication. With The Lost Religion of Jesus, Akers joined –– and has now long helped to lead –– a growing legion of historians and theologians who have come to believe that the real focal issue of Jesus’ life and death was opposition to animal sacrifice. This, by extension, meant opposition to all meat-eating, since animal sacrifice was practiced in Judaism as a means of sanctifying the consumption of any flesh.

In 2000 authored The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living & Nonviolence In Early Christianity, a rare easily read work of scholarship which has only risen in stature in the 20 years since first publication. With The Lost Religion of Jesus, Akers joined –– and has now long helped to lead –– a growing legion of historians and theologians who have come to believe that the real focal issue of Jesus’ life and death was opposition to animal sacrifice…

According to Genesis, God explicitly excluded meat from the human diet at the time of Creation. Only through the invention of animal sacrifice, purporting to “share” meat with God at God’s alleged own request, could the Hebrews rationalize transgressing their oldest commandment… Akers sought the truth of Biblical history by painstakingly finding and removing corrupted bits to resolve each system conflict.

Comparing the Biblical accounts of Jesus clearing the temple, Akers noted that, “There are several groups whom Jesus directs his anger against, and the moneychangers are nowhere at the top of the list. In Luke they are not even mentioned. Rather,” Akers reminded, “it is the ‘dealers in cattle, sheep, and pigeons,’ ‘those who sold,’ or ‘all who sold and bought’ who are his primary targets. Others have made the same argument, but Akers’ examination of the evidence is unusually free of sectarian bias, since –– unlike most Biblical scholars –– he is not aligned with any one religion.

This, by extension, meant opposition to all meat-eating, since animal sacrifice was practiced in Judaism as a means of sanctifying the consumption of any flesh… “We must remember,” Akers emphasized, “that the temple was more like a butcher shop than like a modern-day church or synagogue. ‘Cleansing the temple’ was an act of animal liberation… Objecting to animal sacrifice, Akers explained, was consistent with the interpretation of Judaism that Jesus otherwise advanced, following a line of Biblical prophets including Ezekial and Isaiah.

Opposition to animal sacrifice, moreover, was a growing trend within Judaism at the time, possibly though not necessarily as result of increasing commerce with India, where many Jews fled less than a century later after the Diaspora. Apocryphal stories and some scholarly investigators long have postulated that Jesus spent part of his youth in India, and that the Golden Rule was a recast form of ahimsa, the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain concept of avoiding doing injury to other living beings…

Akers cited passages indicating that, “The principle of compassion for animals is a presupposition of all of Jesus’ references to animals… Jesus in the gospels does not argue the question of whether we should be compassionate to animals; rather, he assumes it from the outset”… Akers argued that bits of Gospel such as accounts of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the Last Supper, which seem to show Jesus condoning flesh consumption, were corrupted by the Paulists, or followers of the Apostle Paul. Paul, under his original identity as Saul of Tarsus, initially persecuted the early Christians…

Through Paul’s influence, Christianity split both from the Jerusalem church, first led by James, who claimed to be Jesus’ brother, and from Judaism… Key evidence is that the Jerusalem church, which continued to identify itself as a branch of Judaism, kept vegetarianism as a central expression of faith for all of the 300-odd years that it existed…

Akers hoped in writing The Lost Religion of Jesus, and hopes still, that as growing numbers of Christians become vegetarian, they will return to the religion of Jesus. In the strictest sense, this was the religion of the Jerusalem church, which continued to identify closely with Judaism, whose core teaching, according to Akers, was the practice of ahimsa. Ahimsa, whether Jesus knew the term or not, is the oldest and purest theme common to every religion based upon ethical teaching. SOURCE…

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