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Justina Walls

Vegetarian Living

Book Review

The Lost Religion of Jesus Author: Keith Akers

Keith Akers established himself as a serious author when he wrote A Vegetarian Sourcebook: The Nutrition, Ecology, and Ethics of a Natural Foods Diet. His second book is as informative and persuasive as his first, yet in a very different field. The Lost Religion of Jesus (subtitled Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity), presents a view of the world of Jesus and his teachings that is greatly different from what is taught as modern Christianity and is convincingly more accurate.

If you have ever questioned the consistency of modern Christian teachings (regardless of your personal beliefs), this will be a fascinating book for you to read. If you've wondered how Jesus could teach a "turn the other cheek" philosophy, yet millions have been slaughtered throughout history based upon the supposed "rightness" of Christianity, this is a book that you will want to read. If you are either a serious or armchair historian, you need to read this book.

Akers begins by exploring who the Jewish Christians were not the modern day Jews who have converted to modern day Christianity, but the Jews who actually knew and followed Jesus and his teachings at the time that Jesus was alive. His research covers many writings on Jesus and the customs and culture of both the time and place where he lived and taught. Through this, we learn that what truly distinguished Jesus and his followers from other Jews at that time were his teachings of simple living and nonviolence not, as is generally taught, a new theology. Akers explores modern assumptions about both Judaism and Christianity in his examination of this subject.

Of particular interest to those committed to nonviolence in all forms is Akers' exploration into Jesus' teachings around nonviolence toward all beings. He delves into the meaning of "sacrifice", from the perspectives of religion, politics, and local custom. He explores the famous stories of Jesus and sheds new light on these often told stories. For example, we view the story of Jesus overturning the moneychangers' tables in the temple in a very different light Jesus was primarily driving out "those who sold and bought". What was "sold and bought" in the temple? Animals for "sacrifice," and for supporting the meat eating habits of the temple priests. Akers reminds us that the temple in Jesus' time was not what we think of when we hear the word "temple", but in fact was a crude slaughterhouse a ghastly, but truthful, image.

This is not a book for those looking for a "light" read. It is thought provoking and the ideas presented require serious consideration. It expands the reader's view of both historical and modern Judaism and Christianity and reminds us all of the importance of history recorded accurately.

After reading this book, one cannot help but draw the conclusion that if those proclaiming to be followers of Jesus today were truly following his teachings, modern Christianity would look very different. Christians would live very simply, and would be pacifists in all aspects - including recognizing and honoring that all life is from the same source, and is therefore to be cherished. For the animals, it finally would be peace on earth.

Justina L. Walls

(Vegetarian Living, May / June 2001)



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