Sunday, July 29, 2007

Animals in the O.T.

Judaism is of course the other great root of western thought and attitudes, and in the biblical story of creation we have set out clearly the nature of the relationship between man and animals as the Hebrew people saw it.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image.

And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.

On this account, man alone is made in the image of God. Man alone is given dominion over all the animals and told to subdue the earth. It’s true that in the first chapter of Genesis this dominion does not involve killing animals for food, and Adam lives on herbs and fruits. But after the Fall, for which incidentally two of the lower life-forms, a woman and an animal, are held responsible, killing animals for food and clothing is expressly permitted.

It is at least possible to argue that the Old Testament is against wanton cruelty. But although in Isaiah there is a lovely vision of the time when the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the lion with the ox, for, says the Lord, ‘they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain’, this is taken by most commentators to be a vision of a distant utopia rather than a description of how we should or could possibly live now.

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