bible christianity theology


In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, humans are more than animals, but not less.

I used to (like too many Christians) be ‘nervous’ about comparing humans to animals, or being told about (for example) chimps that can count, etc (whether they are actually ‘counting’ [comprehending a numbered sequence] or not [responding as trained to images on screen with no concept of a numbered sequence] is an interesting question). I now see this as odd, as if animal superiority in a particular area (speed, strength, size?) makes humans any less able (as Jews/Muslims/Christians hold) to be God’s unique image-bearing creatures. ((Spiders weave much better webs than I; otters much better dams [well, certainly more eco-system friendly!?]; a chimp may well have faster hand-eye coordination; most birds can fly better than I, cheetah’s run faster, sharks have more teeth, eagles better vision, dogs better smell, etc., etc. – but none of these have ever rationally measured their abilities against other animals!))

Interestingly, the Judaeo-Christian tradition is quite animal-friendly. Animals and humans are sometimes called by biblical scholars ‘the community of the sixth day’, and it is noted that in the creation story of Genesis 1, God ‘blesses’ the animals in addition to the humans, and gives them as well the command to ‘multiply’.

Though of course animals are eaten and sacrificed, this is to be done in the wider framework of human responsibility to wisely ‘govern’ all of creation, including animals. A fundamental and basic component of the human vocation is to be ‘zookeepers’, as it were. Our “modwestern” (modern + western) insistence upon eating as much meat as we want, whenever we want, and whatever the consequences (ecological, environmental or otherwise) runs against this zoo-keeping vocation (and I say this as a lover of meat of many kinds).

Also interestingly, animals serve as examples for humans: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11) and “Go to the ant, sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)