Category Archives: Ebionites

“Vegan Nation” interview on Jesus and vegetarianism

Vegan Nation Xmas WCUW interview On Christmas day, WCUW radio (91.3 FM, in Worcester, Massachusetts) will broadcast an interview of me on Marlene Narrow’s “Vegan Nation” show. It will be on Friday, December 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm to 1 pm Eastern time (10:30 – 11:00 am Mountain time). (The interview has been pre-recorded.) The content will center around Jesus and vegetarianism. You can listen online by going to their website and click on the button on the left-hand side that says “WCUW Live / Listen Now!”

UPDATE December 26: here’s the link to the archive of this show (an MP3 file).

Was Jesus a vegetarian?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Was Jesus a vegetarian? The long answer is to investigate both Jesus and the movement that he was part of, something I’ve done in my books The Lost Religion of Jesus and Disciples. This post will give a shorter answer that briefly discusses three key points: the controversy over vegetarianism in the early church, the later history of Jewish Christianity, and Jesus’ attack on animal sacrifice.

The dispute over vegetarianism in the early church shows that the leadership of the Jerusalem church was vegetarian. Continue reading

The Ebionite Christian Church, part 2

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

What role would an Ebionite Christian Church play — why would anyone want to form one at all? The main reason is to provide a place for ethical vegetarianism in Christianity. The Ebionites, whatever else you may say about them, believed that vegetarianism was part of the gospel message. When Epiphanius asks an unnamed fourth-century Ebionite why they abstain from meat, when meat-eating is in the Bible, the Ebionite responds, “Christ revealed it to me.” Continue reading

The Ebionite Christian Church

Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)

A reader of this blog recently asked, “When are we going to form the ECC (Ebionite Christian Church)? Or maybe EUC, Ebionite Universal Church?” Many vegetarians and vegans who come from the Christian tradition find that there isn’t really a Christian church, group, or denomination, which it makes sense to join. So why not form our own? Here are my thoughts.

Continue reading

Islam on Christian Factionalism

Factionalism in the early church is baffling to many people. Sometimes, important realities about a religion are more visible to outsiders than to the participants themselves — or even to the scholars of those religions.  To early Islam, the factionalism in its key early rival, Christianity, was obvious. This is from the Qur’an: Continue reading

Factionalism in the Early Church

Christianity was shattered into many different factions at an unusually early stage. What do scholars make of the huge multiplicity of different Christian groups? For example, what caused it? Any ideas, scholars? Or anyone else?

For me, this is a central historical problem in understanding early Christianity. The vast extent of early Christian factionalism shifts our attention to the question, what caused this? Most likely, it is because the authority of the Jerusalem church was destroyed at an early stage. After the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, there was only a greatly weakened Jerusalem church, unable to provide direction to the many diverse gentile churches with which it had already experienced some considerable friction. The natural result was factionalism. Continue reading

“Disciples” is published

My new book, Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church (Apocryphile Press, 2013) has now been published. You can order it on Amazon here. (I will not be selling it through my website.)

A book about the disciples of Jesus would typically start with Jesus himself: first there was Jesus, then he had disciples. Disciples suggests a fundamentally different story: first there was a movement, then Jesus emerged as its leader. This movement was markedly different from both rabbinic Judaism and gentile Christianity. It became known to history as “Jewish Christianity”— Jews who followed both Jesus (as they understood him) and the Jewish law (as they understood it).

These first disciples affirmed simple living, nonviolence, and vegetarianism, and rejected wealth, war, and animal sacrifices. Some two decades after Jesus was crucified, they split with their most famous missionary, Paul, over the issues of vegetarianism and eating meat from animal sacrifices. These events become clear through examination of the letters of Paul and the Jewish Christian literature: the Recognitions, the Homilies, and testimony about Jewish Christianity in the early church fathers. The history of Jewish Christianity takes our understanding of Christian origins into a completely new realm. Continue reading

Was Jesus a Zealot? Part II

Reza Aslan’s Zealot provocatively places Matthew 10:34 as the book’s motto: “I bring not peace, but the sword.” What was the attitude of the early followers of Jesus towards violence?

One might conclude from the title and the motto that Zealot would be a rehash of the “Jesus as violent revolutionary” idea. S. G. F. Brandon, Robert Eisenman, and others have all made the case that Jesus was a militant Jewish nationalist. But Aslan’s book is more sophisticated than this; Jesus was a “zealot” with a lower-case “z,” not a member of the Zealot party. Continue reading

Was Jesus a Zealot? Part I

It’s a pleasure to encounter a book about Jesus that acknowledges the critical importance of Jesus’ disruption of the animal sacrifice business in the last week of his life; that acknowledges that Jesus was a Jew and tries to understand him in terms of the Jewish thought of the time; and that understands the historical importance of the shattering of the early church due to the dispute between Paul on the one hand, and James the brother of Jesus and the other disciples on the other.

Such a book is Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, 2013).  This book is sufficiently interesting that I will devote two blogs to issues which it raises, even though there is no mention of vegetarianism or the Ebionites.  In this first one, we’ll look at the incident in the temple, to which Aslan attributes central importance.  In the second, we’ll look at the early Christian attitude towards war. Continue reading

“Disciples” revised cover and index

Back and front of the cover for "Disciples"

Disciples will likely be published by Thanksgiving. In the meantime, here is the revised cover for the book, and the terms which we will have in the index. The page numbers, of course, will mean nothing to you because the book isn’t out yet, but it does give you an idea of what is being covered.

It’s great if we can get Disciples widely reviewed. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to contact me either privately (keith “at” compassionatespirit “dot” com) or through the comment section of this blog. A number of readers have already made some excellent suggestions as to who should get review copies, and these people have been added to the list. Thanks!
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This Just In: Ancient Temple was a Slaughterhouse!

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Well, surprise, surprise! According to a recent archeological report, the ancient temple in Jerusalem was a slaughterhouse that powered the local economy. The animals sacrificed came from both near and far away, which “confirms visions of the temple depicted in historical Jewish texts and suggests the economic heart of the city was its slaughtering operation.”

The Journal of Archeological Science, in the December 2013 issue has an article on “The pilgrimage economy of Early Roman Jerusalem,” by Gideon Hartman, et. al., which (despite the date) is evidently already available. You can find the abstract online (scroll down to see abstract). What is new in this report is not the ancient testimonies pro or con on animal sacrifice, but that modern evidence supports the idea that animal sacrifice was a key part of the first century Jewish economy. Continue reading

“Disciples” Coming Soon

My forthcoming book, Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church, will be published about November 1 probably before Thanksgiving likely by December 9. We also now have a better idea of what the cover will look like (to the left). I’m pleased to get a blurb for Disciples from Kamran Pasha, a Hollywood filmmaker and novelist.

We’re also assembling a list of people to get review copies. If you know someone who might be interested in reviewing the book, let me know.

Here’s the blurb I’ve written for the book: Continue reading

This Just In: Jesus was Married!

Mary Magdalene

Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School scholar whom I greatly respect, has submitted a draft of an article for the Harvard Theological Review discussing a Coptic gospel fragment which refers to Jesus having a wife.  This is now all over the internet, it was on the PBS Newshour last night, and even made the front page of the Denver Post and other papers.  The Smithsonian Channel is planning a special program. It’s big news!

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (as King has named it) is very short and very fragmentary.  Continue reading

Keith Akers

September 4, 2012

I am honored to have been invited to speak to the World Vegetarian Congress in San Francisco, which goes from October 5 to October 8.

I’ll be speaking on: “Vegetarianism and Christianity: Why Don’t they Mix?”  The talk will be on Sunday, October 7, in the Garden Room 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  I hope to see you there!

A lot of great speakers will be at the conference, including Vesanto Melina, Michael Greger, Melanie Joy, Brenda Davis, John McDougall, Will Tuttle, Gabriel Cousens, Alan Goldhamer, Michael Klaper, and International Vegetarian Union organizers and speakers from different countries.