Volume 13, Number 1, May-June 2009

Fasting and the Vegan Diet in the Scriptures

Text Box: by Norman Edwards
For centuries, some Bible students have debated whether or not the Bible teaches veganism (eating only fruits and vegetables) or vegetarianism (veganism plus eggs and milk). A condensed summary of the scriptural arguments is as follows:
And God said, "See, I have given you [Adam] every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food (Gen 1:29).
God also gave Adam dominion over all the beasts of the field—with no instruction whether he could or could not eat them. Abel was a “keeper of sheep” and offered some to God (Gen 4:2,4). It is difficult to imagine that he only raised them for wool and never ate them. However, God’s statement to Noah afer the flood seems to indicate a change in mankind’s diet: 
"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen 9:3-4).
Arguments for veganism claim it was God’s original diet, but meat eating came about because of either Adam and Eve’s or the pre-flood world’s sin. In the Kingdom, they say that mankind will stop eating meat, just like the big carnivorous animals will be changed to eat straw (Isa 11:7; 65:25).
Scriptural arguments in favor of eating meat stem from the dozens of scriptures that place meat-eating in a favorable light. When the Eternal visited Abraham, he served Him meat, milk and butter (Gen 18:1-8). Israel was promised a land of “milk and honey” (Ex 3:8, etc.), and commanded to eat the passover lamb (Num 9:11-13). Meat is listed as a desirable thing at the Feast (Deut 14:26). 
The new Testament continues with many positive references to meat-eating. Eggs and fish are identified as “good gifts” given by human fathers (Luke 11:11-13). In Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son, the father, symbolizing God, has a fatted calf killed to honor his repentant son (Luke 15:21-23). Jesus pictures the celebration at his return as a beef dinner: 
"Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding"’” (Matt 22:2).
If meat were “bad” for us, our Savior could have chosen other good things as symbols for his parables, but He did not. He ate broiled fish after his resurrection just to prove he was real (Luke 24:42-43). 
Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them (Rom 14:2-3, NRSV).	 &
Everybody knows fasting is in the Bible. Jesus and His disciples fasted (Matthew 4:1, 2; 9:14, 15), Moses fasted (Exodus 34:28), Elijah fasted (1 Kings 19:3-8), John the Baptist and his disciples fasted (Matthew 9:14; 11:18), Paul and the early church fasted (Acts 9:9; 13:1-3; 14:23), etc. Fasting is an important part of being a serious believer. It’s an excellent tool for humbling oneself and gaining the focus needed for seeking knowledge and understanding as a part of a life of Bible study and prayer. In many cases, the Scriptures show a humbled state or a period of fasting first preceded major revelations or the start of a new ministry.

In Secrets to Fasting and Prayer, author Rebekah Montgomery, points out the difficulty but necessity of fasting. She says:

“Fasting is hard. But God honors the person who denies her own bodily desires for a time and devotes herself to prayer and fasting. It is clear from Scriptures that God expects us to fast. Jesus said, ‘When you fast... ‘ not ‘If you fast... ‘ He also gave instructions how to conduct your private times of prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:5-18).”

But how many people know a vegan diet can be considered fasting and that it’s much easier than water only fasting? Many health and fasting experts consider a strict vegan diet to be a partial food fast and this can be found in the Scriptures as well. On one occasion before receiving an important revelation, Daniel mourned for three weeks and ate no choice food, no meat and drank no wine. Daniel 10:1-3.

Daniel and his brethren also practiced a vegan diet or partial food fast with the Lord’s help during the initial stage of their captivity in Babylon. Daniel 1: 8-16. Faced with the unclean, unhealthy, luxury diet of the Babylonians they chose to eat only vegetables instead. As a result of their diligence and perseverance, they were rewarded with the good health effects that flow from a vegan diet, fasting, and following God’s law. Their spiritual life was enriched and strengthened as can be seen by the rest of their story in the book of Daniel.

Some Christians take Paul’s teaching in Romans 14:1-23 to indicate that foregoing meat and eating only vegetables is the act of someone who is weak in faith, and that it’s permissible to eat everything and anything – even meat designated unclean by the law set forth in Leviticus 11:1-47. This clearly is not the case. We who understand the Law know Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. Matthew 5:17. Not only does the Messiah’s statement that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets apply to not abolishing the Law of clean and unclean meats, but includes the righteous acts of the Prophets such as Daniel’s decision, with the support and assistance of God, to not defile himself with the royal food and wine which may have been sacrificed to idols or contained unclean meat prohibited by the Law. Daniel’s example of eating only vegetables when confronted with unclean food and his foregoing choice meat and wine as a part of a 21 day fast are righteous acts worthy of emulation. We must not twist Paul’s teachings to our own detriment. 2 Peter 3:15, 16.

There are many good reasons for going vegan and fasting. Here’s a partial list.

1) Going vegan and fasting saves money on the food bill, a very important consideration in these tough economic times. Like Daniel in Babylon, we’re also faced with an array of unclean, unhealthy, luxury foods that are just too expensive for regular indulgence.

2) A vegan diet and periodic water only fasting can quickly detoxify the body and reduce the cravings for drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, addicting junk foods, and excessively sweetened and artificially flavored drinks. Pollutants, toxins and metals that reside in the body’s fatty tissues are also removed. Again, money is saved.

3) The vegan diet and periodic water only fasting have been recognized by medical science to slow the aging process and to prevent and treat a host of diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune disease, etc. See, for example, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), at http://www.pcrm.org/health/prevmed/index.html; Study Finds Fountain of Youth, Vegan Diet and Exercise, at http://www.dbtechno.com/health/2008/09/16/study-finds-fountain-of-youth-vegan-diet-and-exercise/; and Pub Med research report entitled “The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction: eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life”, at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16529878. Again money is saved on medical bills and by being able to remain fully productive for longer.

4) By going vegan you don’t feed the meat and dairy industry the money it needs to stay in the business of feeding you and the rest of the population unhealthy food while it, at the same time, wastes natural resources such as water and land and pollutes the environment with excessive amounts of animal excrement and greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. Factory farms lace the water and grain it feeds its animals with tranquilizers, antibiotics and hormones in order to fatten and keep the animals healthy under crowded, unsanitary, cruel, and stressful conditions. These drugs and the conditions of confinement produce a fat-marbled and drug-tainted food product that it is unsafe and unclean for human consumption by both biblical and common sense standards.

5) By going vegan you make a statement that the health of the poor and hungry comes first. The Worldwatch Institute, says: “grain is used much more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Meat production depends on feeding nearly 40 percent of the world’s grains to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat eaters and the world’s poor.” And, water only fasting on a regular basis reminds us what it’s like to be hungry like the world’s poor.

The supreme diet in my opinion is the strict vegan diet. No meat, no dairy, no eggs. It’s the diet God started man out on in the beginning with a blessing, calling it “very good.” Genesis 1:29-31. It wasn’t until after the flood God permitted meat eating on the condition the blood be drained from it. Genesis 9:3,4. This was later modified to include the elimination of fat and certain animals considered unclean. Leviticus 3:14-17; 11:1-47.

Many Christian vegetarians, as well as this writer, believe God intends to restore the vegan diet during the Millennium when He brings peace to the world. Predatory animals living in harmony with their prey and eating vegetation mentioned in Isaiah 11:6,7, and the God made covenant between animal and man mentioned in Hosea 2:18 certainly suggest vegetarianism to be the Millennial diet.

In Micah 4:3, 4, God promises a Utopian horticultural society during the Millennium much like the Garden of Eden—before sin and animal sacrifices were necessary and peace and harmony prevailed - as men begin to focus on horticultural technique instead of war. Nothing is said about raising animals for slaughter and food, but instead a vine and a fig tree symbolic of abundant vegetation is mentioned. Certainly, man will finally figure out that it’s an unnecessary waste of time and labor raising animals for food, and that they can nourish themselves much better and live healthier and longer lives on fruits and vegetables than on meat.

Today it’s much easier to go vegan than in Daniel’s time. There’s a wide variety of meat substitutes available as well as many creative recipes. And, as calorie restriction and anti-aging research picks up, more ways to attain optimum nutrition while consuming less calories will certainly be devised. For now, however, the vegan diet is the best and easiest method available for restoring health, adding years to your life-span, and connecting or reconnecting with your Creator on a spiritual level.           &

Internet resources for further study:

For further information, Internet links and educational videos supporting fasting and the vegan diet see the author’s blog at



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