The Lost Religion of Jesus
By Rev. Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
I have great news for everyone who feels, deep down, that Jesus must have been a vegan, and that his original message has been tampered with and suppressed over the centuries. Keith Akers has written a provocative book, The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity that convincingly demonstrates that the original teachings of Jesus reflected a profound commitment to showing mercy and respect to both animals and humans.
Drawing entirely on the earliest written source materials by and about the early followers of Jesus, who were Jewish people known as Ebionites, Akers painstakingly and carefully builds his case. His understated writing style and careful scholarship contrast starkly with the radical nature of the conclusions which are inescapable: that Jesus and his earliest followers were ethical vegetarians committed above all to nonviolence and the spiritual harmony of simple living.
Akers shows that the reason the early church was so plagued by schisms was that Paul and others wanted to take the church in a direction almost completely opposite from what Jesus’ teachings actually were. Paul in particular was antagonistic toward the veganism that was a core tenet of Jesus’ teaching and Akers skillfully explains many passages in Acts, such as conflicts between Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, in the light of the earliest writings attributed to Clement, Epiphanius, Tertullian, and Origen, that point decisively to the fact that Jesus, James, and Peter were ethical vegetarians, whereas Paul, Barnabus, and others were not.
Through a detailed historical analysis, Akers shows just how Paul’s non-vegetarian movement was able, often through brutal means, to eventually eclipse the original thrust of Jesus’ teachings regarding nonviolence and why the original Christians, the Ebionites, were unable to survive.
Then, as now, veganism’s divisive nature is apparent. We owe Keith Akers a big thank-you for his meticulous research, which has such profound ramifications. If you’d like more confidence in your vegan WWJD, read this book and tell your ministers and friends as well. The lost religion of Jesus, though never completely lost, has been rediscovered. Hallelujah!
Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.