The Animals' Bible - Introduction
From All Creatures Book and Video Review Guide

Author: Ian A. Stuart
Anyone who wants an advance copy of The Animals' Bible should contact the author by e-mail at: [email protected] (Canada).

My inspiration to write this book goes far back into my childhood and based on a series of isolated and apparently unconnected experiences. The first of these events occurred when I was four or five years old and playing in the sandbox of an equally immature little boy who lived across the street. He noticed a worm crawling across the grass and got a strange glint in his eye Ė a look I have seen many times since with a sense of dread Ė cruelty. He picked up his metal toy shovel and chopped the worm in half. Worse, he reacted to the wriggling halves of the stricken creature as if its agony was funny. I didnít think. I just reacted. I picked up my shovel and swung it at him. I can still hear the "ding" sound as it bounced off his nasty little head. It didnít hurt him, much, and some time later the little monster managed to ding me back with an enormous cinder he threw at me from across the street. I just stood there, laughing, hands on my little hips, positive he couldnít throw anything that far. I was wrong and experienced my first nosebleed.

The second experience took place while I was sitting in Sunday school with the other, squirming, "Iíd rather be anywhere else." children. I found myself concentrating on the large, faded, moisture-buckled print that gazed down on us from its cheap, wooden frame: the man called Jesus with a lamb on his shoulder. This, we were told, was The Good Shepherd Ė kind, gentle and compassionate. He cared even for lost little lambs like us. I wasnít sure why we were lost. I knew where I was most of the time.

This sorrowful man with long hair was somehow the most important person not only at the Church but also in the entire world. He was dressed in an ankle-length, white garment that looked suspiciously like a nightgown. He died a long time ago but he wasnít really dead. He was the son of the enormous, invisible, grandfather called God and lived with him up in the sky above the clouds. I had no recourse but to accept all this at face value. So did the other kids. It was true because the adults said it was. However, I never heard anything, either in Sunday school or Church about how Christians (we were Christians) were supposed to relate to the other individual in that picture Ė the lamb. For my Anglican (Episcopalian) church, this was a non-issue. Half a century later, Iím ashamed to admit that it still is. Most Christians havenít arrived at an answer to the question because the question isnít being asked.

Another image I began to notice in Church was that of Jesus as a slain lamb. It was carved into the front of the altar (in our church it was a "communion table") a standing lamb wearing a crown with one leg hooked up to support a lance at the top of which was a little flag with a cross on it. This was also Jesus. In some mysterious way he had become a lamb. When I read the book of Revelation he was standing in the center of a throne, encircled by living creatures and had seven horns and seven eyes andÖÖwell, this was too much for me. I didnít understand this imagery as a child and no one could explain it to me. In fact they had a lot of trouble explaining a lot of things. Jesus was a carpenter, but he was also a good shepherd without ever being an actual shepherd. He was the Lamb of God without ever actually being a lamb. He was a Door. He was a Gate. He was a Light. He was the Word. He was the Resurrection. He was the Life. He was a Vine. He was bread. He was wine. It was totally confusing. I also got the impression that most of the adults didnít know the answers any more than I did, or if they did, they couldnít explain them.

"Why do we believe that?"

"Because itís true."

"How do we know itís true?"

"Because the Bible says so."

"How did Jesus become a lamb?"

"Itís a mystery."


Thatís how the conversations went, and they always ended with a look from my mother that said, "And thatís that!" to make sure this kind of questions didnít come up again. "Religion is a private matter." Was my fatherís favourite saying. He never said anything else about the subject.

The next incident came when my adoptive mother took me to the local Zoo to see the animals. There, in one enclosure, were little lambs and goats and I was allowed to pet them, cautiously.

"Arenít they cute?" she cooed, and her message was, "Always be kind to animals and never hurt them." I was pleased. I liked animals. Then one evening she put my dinner in front of me and there was a different kind of meat lying on the plate.

"Lamb," she said when I asked what it was.

Lamb? I thought. "You mean like the little lambs at the Zoo?"

She just smiled at my dawning awareness that animals people liked they also ate. There didnít seem to be anything inconsistent about petting them, calling them cute, never hurting them and always being kind to them on the one hand and killing them and eating their dead bodies on the other. It took me a very long time to get my brain to accept this convoluted thinking.

The next incident that would lead me inexorably towards this book occurred one day in Church when we were singing the hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful" which continues, "All creatures great and small; All thing wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all." At that moment the idea bloomed in my mind that all things, great and small, birds and animals, all living creatures made by God must have souls and go to Heaven just like we did. I was not aware the idea of the animal soul had been argued at least as far back as Aristotle in Ancient Greece but nobody took it seriously "these days".

Another religious experience that would have a profound effect on me was a moment when we were singing the childís hymn, "God Sees The Little Sparrow Fall" and I had an un-nerving thought. But he doesnít do anything to stop it from falling! This set me on the road to finding out how - and why - God could be so unlike me. If I had the power, Iíd stop it from falling. Wasnít he greater than me and a lot more powerful?

I was soon to learn another lesson about the world my parents inhabited and how different it was from the one I lived in. When a sparrow crashed into our window and died of a concussion, I collected the limp body, found a suitable little box, took it to the back yard and conducted a burial. I made a cross of two Popsicle sticks and put it on the birdís grave. I was saying a prayer for the little creature when I heard a very loud voice.

"What are you doing?" my mother demanded to know, striding towards me down the back lawn, her face a mask of dark emotions. I tried to explain but she jerked me away from the little pile of fresh dirt and stomped on the cross. "Birds donít have souls!" she thundered and dragged me back into the house. I had apparently done something terrible which bordered on the unimaginably foul; I had committed the sin of blasphemy, a word I didnít understand and could hardly pronounce.

Christians I found out - and my mother was very much a Christian - had an extraordinary ability to have their cake and eat it too. They could be very religious some of the time (one day a week) and act as if religion didnít exist for the rest of the time (the other six days). It had something to do with being "realistic". People had to live in the "real world."

We never think about harming or hurting our fellow creatures (Sunday thinking) unless we happen to be hunting them for sport, pulling them out of lakes and rivers on hooks, killing them in arenas for entertainment, torturing them in laboratories and religious festivals, trapping and skinning them for frivolous luxury garments, poisoning them because we think theyíre a nuisance or slaughtering them for food, especially when they are young and taste better. (Monday to Saturday thinking.) Under such circumstances everything our religion teaches us about love, compassion, gentleness, mercy and justice is completely ignored in the service of recreation, entertainment, scientific advancement, religious symbolism, fashion, convenience or appetite. However, and no matter how earnestly adults try, they canít fool children. They have an uncanny way of adding two and two and coming up with hypocrisy.

As I grew older I found that the thick, black, leather-bound book that sat around our house with its formal, gilt lettering called The Holy Bible was sacrosanct.

"Donít ever put anything on the Bible."


"Because itís the BIBLE!"

"But nobody ever reads itÖ"

This book filled with books is, to quote Dr. Bob McDougal, a Catholic priest, the book we trust and dust. It is both very important and totally ignored at the same time. I got curious and read some of it and immediately got lost in a quagmire of incomprehensible and archaic language; endless repetitions; strange, unpronounceable names, and Ė in some sections Ė a lot of death, sin, vengeance, suffering, slaughter and blood. I promptly put it down and forgot about it until I was fifteen. Then, an idealistic teenager seeking The Truth About Everything, I read it from cover to cover. This time it fascinated me. When I tried to discuss it seriously with my parents they thought my interest was laudable but a bit odd. As my interest deepened, I was apparently suffering from something called hyper-religiosity which suggested mental illness.

My friends though that going to Church on Sunday was sort of okay - if you had to - as long as you didnít take it too seriously. Being too religious was weird. So I kept my interest in the Scriptures to myself, especially my interest in the relationship between the many sacrifices of the Old Testament and the solitary Sacrifice of the New. I knew then that someday I would write a book about The Book, and try to make some sense of the sacrifice of all those helpless, unlucky-to-be-firstborn animals and how it was that Jesus was a Lamb.

It took most of my life to start this project, and I originally intended to include every passage relevant to animals, assuming from memory there were a few hundred. When I started counting and found there are more than a thousand (human beings may be the most important things in the Bible but animals are a very close second) I quickly adjusted my thinking about that approach. Therefore I have not included every Biblical reference to animals, such as Genesis 29:1-3 which details the importance of wells to the flocks of sheep kept by Israelite shepherds, or the fact that Lot owned flocks and herds and tents. I have, however, included any reference, no matter how obscure, that is not in the best interests of animals to make sure that this is a truly balanced analysis of the scriptures from the point of view of the other living beings who share our mutual world and the same Creator God.

I listed all the numerous metaphors, allegories and similes in the Bible which involve animals and asked myself if they should be used. They arenít about actual animals, but human characteristics like those of animals, or characteristics and behaviour of animals that are similar to those of human beings. Jeremiah 17:11 says, "Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means." Chronicles 12:8 "Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains." and Psalm 42:1 which describes the longing of the soul for its Creator reads, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." Then thereís, "I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof." (Psalm 102:6-7)

Since these literary references provide valuable insights into how animals were viewed by Biblical writers, I concluded they belonged.

Not every Biblical passage can be deciphered or understood today, but if they relate to animals I have included them. I assume the meaning was clear at the time of writing but has since been lost. For example, it is not possible for us to fully understand what David meant when he wrote, "He satisfied your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagleís." (103:5) Was there a common folk belief at the time that eagles had the capacity to renew their youth? Possibly. Otherwise this passage makes little sense.

I had a struggle about whether to use the capital "H" when referring to God as Him or He. However, since I chose the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible from which to extract the quotations from the Old and New Testaments, and that version does not use this referential capitalization, the matter was decided. However, by not capitalizing the sixth consonant when using these pronouns I mean no disrespect and therefore have used it from time to time.

By referring to God Ė who transcends gender differentiation Ė as "he" and "him" I am merely deferring to long-standing tradition. "It" is simply too impersonal, and "she and "her" simply does not fit the world in which the Bible was written Ė a world whose Supreme Being was universally male. I mean no disrespect to those who feel God is our Mother as well as our Father.

I realize that many readers have never seen a Bible containing books such as Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and Baruch. Although generally ignored by Protestants, these are essential books of the canon (approved list of books) in the Bibles of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians and in some Protestant Bibles are gathered together as the Apocrypha Ė a separate section inserted between the Old and New Testament. In each instance this material is very clearly identified. Those readers who are not interested in these books may simply skip the entire Apocrypha and ignore the references in the text.

I am also including relevant extracts from apocryphal books like Jubilees and The General Epistle of Barnabas which existed at the time the decision was made which books would be in the Bible and which would not. Most readers will have no idea these books exist, and will probably be amazed at how many there are. Whenever the reference is brief or extremely pertinent I have included the quotes in the general text. Where they are major, or different from the text, I have put them in a completely separate chapter which no one is obliged to read who feels unsure of - or threatened by - Biblical-era religious material not in the Bible.

The most important book in Judaism after the Bible is the Mishnah, completed in the second century of the Common (Jewish/Christian) Era. It contains an enormous amount of information that will enlighten anyone studying the Bible who seeks to understand its context. I have quoted from this truly enormous volume whenever I though it would make the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) material more comprehensible.

Before anyone concludes anything to the contrary, by including extra-Biblical material I am making no statement about its religious or scriptural value, if any. I am using the extracts only because they shed light on the attitudes of Jews and early Christians to other species.

I had a real dilemma about the name of the Deity since I believe we should call the Supreme Being by his name since there is no doubt that he claims to have one. The Teutonic Gott that we spell "God" is definitely not his name. He was almost surely known as El by the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the four consonants YHWH (known as the sacred tetragrammaton) appears to be the name he revealed to Moses from the burning bush. A verb, not a noun, YHWH is referred to by Orthodox Jews simply as ha Shem - The Name. Written Yahweh by adding the vowels a and e understood in Hebrew, the pronunciation YAH-weh (less correctly YAH-way) is the closest we may ever come to a correct pronunciation of a sound considered so holy the High Priest of Ancient Israel only breathed it once a year.

The very recent German version Jehovah (pronounced YEH-ho-VAH by the way and not gee-HO-vuh) is an amalgam of the consonants YHWH and the vowels from Adonay or Adonai (Lord) and is a completely arbitrary rendering of the Name. The NIV does not use the Name, rendering it LORD, but I have deliberately used YHWH and Yahweh interchangeably with the title God because, as he claims in Isaiah 42:8: "I am YHWH, that is my name!"

I have also decided to have his words appear in bold type to distinguish them from the rest of the Biblical text and, since God spoke through angels, to have their speech rendered in bold italics. The speech of animals is rendered in simple italics, and yes, animals do speak in the Bible.

Almost all Christians are used to reading B.C. for "before Christ and A.D.1 for "After Christ". However, I am dealing with both Jewish and Christian scriptures and therefore I have decided to use B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) to refer to the time between Genesis and the modern day divided Ė in common practice Ė by the year zero when Jesus of Nazareth was believed (incorrectly) to have been born.

A row of three dots Ö indicates that words have been omitted. Ordinary brackets ( ) indicate words not in the scriptural text that I have inserted to make grammatical sense of the quotations. Brackets such as these { } appear in the translations and are not my own.

Finally we all have to admit that for Jews there is no "Old" Testament. The first five books of the Bible are the Torah and all the books of the Old Testament, taken together, are the Tanack, or Hebrew Bible. However, I am sure most Jewish readers realize the commonly understood divisions Old and New Testament involve no disrespect.

It is many years since my early Sunday School experience, and, for whatever reason, I just cannot get that picture of the young man with the long hair and the lamb on his shoulder out of my mind. I am a Christian, however uncomfortably, and to me Jesus is the Good Shepherd, his Father is our Father, and as the Christ, the Messiah, he is an eternal being who loves and cares for all of us including all of his Fatherís bright and beautiful, great and small, wise and wonderful, harmless and terrible creatures.

Genesis tells us that God has a covenant with his non-human creatures. It is a covenant we do not Ė perhaps cannot Ė understand, but a covenant we are ignoring at our peril.

I invite you to take the same journey I did through the pages of Scripture to find out exactly how we should be relating to the other living beings who share our environment according to these ancient writings inspired by the Being who created us all, and discover what should be included in an "Animalsí Bible".

Iím sure some of you will find errors in this effort, and I have asked God to forgive those errors. I am, after all, a layman and make no pretence to being a theologian. I can only hope, as Psalm 116:5-6 claims, that he will continue to protect the simple-hearted.

I wrote this book because I could no longer ignore the lifelong urging of the Spirit, which commands me to obey the maxim of Proverbs 31:8 that became the motto of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."

Ian A. Stuart Toronto, Ontario December 10th, 2000

 *Anno Domini - Latin for Year of Our Lord

Copyright, 2001 Ian A. Stuart

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