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peteprint
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« on: March 28, 2011, 03:17:01 AM »

This may have been discussed on the OO forum before but I have been having difficulty finding it.  A large number of EO Fathers and saints have basically stated that sex came into being after the fall and was not originally intended by God for humanity.

In this posting on Monachos are included many of these statements:

http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?5710-Sex-and-Orthodox-anthropology

This is one of many such statements:

"What is the starting point of our coming into the world? Is it not almost the same as for irrational animals? Actually it is worse, because the procreation of animals did not originate from sin, whereas in our case it was disobedience that brought in marriage. That is why we receive regeneration through holy baptism, which cuts away the veil which covers us from our conception. For although marriage, as a concession from God, is blameless, yet our nature still bears the tokens of blameworthy events. For that reason one of our holy theologians calls human procreation, "nocturnal, servile, and subject to passion", and before him David said, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me"
- St. Gregory Palamas

"When he was created, Adam remained in paradise, and there was no question of marriage. He needed a helper and a helper was provided for him. But even then marriage did not seem to be necessary... Desire for sexual intercourse and conception and the pangs and childbirth and every form of corruption were alien to their soul."
-St. John Chrysostom  (to me this begs the question, "why was the "helper" female?)

Some of these saints/Fathers I assume are considered such by the OO as well (?)

Also, Serbian Bishop Artemije is quoted as saying, on Orthodoxinfo.com:

"The Church condescends to our weaknesses even further and also tolerates relations within marriage that result from "lack of self-control" (in accordance with I Cor. 7:5-9), when such relations do not have procreation as their immediate purpose, but rather serve as medicine against immorality or adultery (that is, extramarital relations). When such is the case, one ought to realize and acknowledge his lack of self-control and to humble himself before the Lord. He should not expect to receive crowns for his weakness, but rather should hope that God will have mercy on him because of his humility."

This statement to me implies that sex between a husband and wife for pleasure and not procreation is basically sinful.

Do the OO Churches concur with these opinions?  Many modern EO writers do not address sex as being sinful in origin, but it is obvious that many (if not most) of the Fathers did.  What is the traditional OO teaching in this regard?  The same?

Thank you for any assistance in understanding the OO position.

In Christ

Peter
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2011, 09:51:10 AM »

Quote
"What is the starting point of our coming into the world? Is it not almost the same as for irrational animals? Actually it is worse, because the procreation of animals did not originate from sin, whereas in our case it was disobedience that brought in marriage. That is why we receive regeneration through holy baptism, which cuts away the veil which covers us from our conception. For although marriage, as a concession from God, is blameless, yet our nature still bears the tokens of blameworthy events. For that reason one of our holy theologians calls human procreation, "nocturnal, servile, and subject to passion", and before him David said, "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me"
- St. Gregory Palamas

"When he was created, Adam remained in paradise, and there was no question of marriage. He needed a helper and a helper was provided for him. But even then marriage did not seem to be necessary... Desire for sexual intercourse and conception and the pangs and childbirth and every form of corruption were alien to their soul."
-St. John Chrysostom  (to me this begs the question, "why was the "helper" female?)

I think it really depends on the clergy member.   There are members of our clergy who see sex as intimacy, and have said in sermons, they encourage couples to HAVE MORE SEX, in order to help their marriage.   They see sex as a beautiful thing God created, in order to experience unity of soul.  There are many couples who cannot pro-create because of biological issues.  Does that make their intercourse with each other invalid?

Ascetic world view suggests fleeing from desires of the body, however, I don't know if most people are called to such a strict spiritual practice.  This isn't OO, but EO priest Thomas Hopko gave a wonderful lecture on the topic of which I heard a recording of some years back, talking about God's purpose and design for sex as being the holiest act between a man and his wife.  As it is a metaphor in and of itself of God's union with the church.   

While some OO priests are "pro-sex for intimacy" there are some that see it as a necessary evil. 
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2011, 10:08:44 AM »

Also, Serbian Bishop Artemije is quoted as saying, on Orthodoxinfo.com:

"The Church condescends to our weaknesses even further and also tolerates relations within marriage that result from "lack of self-control" (in accordance with I Cor. 7:5-9), when such relations do not have procreation as their immediate purpose, but rather serve as medicine against immorality or adultery (that is, extramarital relations). When such is the case, one ought to realize and acknowledge his lack of self-control and to humble himself before the Lord. He should not expect to receive crowns for his weakness, but rather should hope that God will have mercy on him because of his humility."

I don't see how he's saying it's sinful.  He seems to be saying that it's more of a necessary evil rather than sin, i.e. it's done to avoid other sins.  This seems to take the middle road between "it's a sin" and "it's a holy and beautiful act."

From my experience, the Coptic Church seems to take a position similar to Fr. Thomas Hopko, where sex within marriage is a holy act and need not be done for procreation.  But sex is also a pleasure that we must fast from as if abstaining from foods on fasting days.

As for the Church fathers, I can't really comment on that.
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2011, 10:57:27 AM »

Thank you both for your replies.  That is how I see it in EO circles today.  Many modern writers (priests and theologians) like Fr. Hopko have a more positive view of sexuality.  As I study the Fathers and older writings in general I see the more negative views that I was not aware of before. 

I have been reading a book, "Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700" that goes into great detail about the penances the Church imposed for such things as not using the "missionary" position (one of the opposite positions incurred a penances ranging from 600 prostrations up to denial of communion for 30 years).  One regulation even prescribed between 8-50 prostrations if a man dreamed about relations with his wife.

It makes me wonder if what we have today is a "watered-down" Orthodoxy.

P.S.  I prefer to agree with the views of Hopko and others, yet I don't feel comfortable saying that the early Fathers were "wrong".
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2011, 11:06:47 AM »

I found something by St. Clement of Alexandria that may be of use for the earliest Church father views:

Quote from: Clement of Alexandria's Stromata, Book 3, Chapter XV
96. And again when the apostle says, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman; but because of the risk of immorality let man have his own wife," he explains it, as it were, by the further words "lest Satan tempt you."  In the phrase "because of continence" he speaks not to those who chastely use marriage for procreation alone, but to those who were desiring to beyond procreation, lest the adversary should raise a stormy and arouse desire for alien pleasures. But perhaps because Satan is zealously hostile to those who live rightly and contends against them, and wishes to bring them over to his own side, he aims to give them occasions for falling by making it difficult for to be continent.

In other words, it's not sinful, but it's a means (albeit not as highly admirable as those who only desire procreation) of avoiding sins.

If I find more, I'll share more.
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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2011, 11:11:40 AM »

Thank you Minasoliman.  That is what I was looking for, the actual teachings of the OO Fathers on the subject.

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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2011, 12:03:28 PM »

Well, if for OO fathers you mean post-Chalcedonian, I personally have none.  I am offering you however, common fathers, pre-Chalcedonian.  Here's another one by St. Methodius (2nd century), which I seem to find very persuasive:

Quote from: St. Methodius' Banquet of the Ten Virgins:  Thaleia
Chapter XI
For consider, O virgins, how he, desiring with all his might that believers in Christ should be chaste, endeavours by many arguments to show them the dignity of chastity, as when he says, "Now, concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman," thence showing already very clearly that it is good not to touch a woman, laying it down and setting it forth unconditionally. But afterwards, being aware of the weakness of the less continent, and their passion for intercourse, he permitted those who are unable to govern the flesh to use their own wives, rather than, shamefully transgressing, to give themselves up to fornication. Then, after having given this permission, he immediately added these words, "that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency;" which means, "if you, such as you are, cannot, on account of the incontinence and softness of your bodies, be perfectly continent, I will rather permit you to have intercourse with your own wives, lest, professing perfect continence, ye be constantly tempted by the evil one, and be inflamed with lust after other men’s wives."

Chapter XII
Come, now, and let us examine more carefully the very words which are before us, and observe that the apostle did not grant these things unconditionally to all, but first laid down the reason on account of which he was led to this. For, having set forth that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," he added immediately, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife"—that is, "on account of the fornication which would arise from your being unable to restrain your voluptuousness"—"and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment."

And this is very carefully considered. "By permission" he says, showing that he was giving counsel, "not of command;" for he receives command respecting chastity and the not touching of a woman, but permission respecting those who are unable, as I said, to chasten their appetites. These things, then, he lays down concerning men and women who are married to one spouse, or who shall hereafter be so; but we must now examine carefully the apostle’s language respecting men who have lost their wives, and women who have lost their husbands, and what he declares on this subject.

"I say therefore," he goes on, "to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." Here also he persisted in giving the preference to continence. For, taking himself as a notable example, in order to stir them up to emulation, he challenged his hearers to this state of life, teaching that it was better that a man who had been bound to one wife should henceforth remain single, as he also did. But if, on the other hand, this should be a matter of difficulty to any one, on account of the strength of animal passion, he allows that one who is in such a condition may, "by permission," contract a second marriage; not as though he expressed the opinion that a second marriage was in itself good, but judging it better than burning. Just as though, in the fast which prepares for the Easter celebration, one should offer food to another who was dangerously ill, and say, "In truth, my friend, it were fitting and good that you should bravely hold out like us, and partake of the same things, for it is forbidden even to think of food to-day; but since you are held down and weakened by disease, and cannot bear it, therefore, 'by permission,' we advise you to eat food, lest, being quite unable, from sickness, to hold up against the desire for food, you perish." Thus also the apostle speaks here, first saying that he wished all were healthy and continent, as he also was, but afterwards allowing a second marriage to those who are burdened with the disease of the passions, lest they should be wholly defiled by fornication, goaded on by the itchings of the organs of generation to promiscuous intercourse, considering such a second marriage far preferable to burning and indecency.
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2011, 12:35:54 PM »

Thank you for this.  One thing that crossed my mind was, it seems to me that when St. Paul was saying that it was better to remain celibate, but that if a person had strong sexual feelings that it was better to marry it was his personal opinion.  The Fathers seem to have taken it a step further and implied that those feelings in themselves, were sinful, and that marriage was a concession.  If that were true, then why don't we see "concessions" for lying, stealing, drunkenness, etc. if a person could not overcome his passions?

Sin is sin, and we don't see allowances for such behavior.  I am just speculating here.  I personally think that God intended for Adam and Eve to be attracted to one another, and to reproduce sexually.  Its just that I don't see that in the writings of many Fathers.  The "be fruitful and multiply" command was before the fall, to which St. John of Damascus wrote:

"But they will perhaps ask, what then is the meaning of “male and female,” and “Be fruitful and multiply?” In answer we shall say that “Be fruitful and multiply ”does not altogether refer to the multiplying by the marriage connection. For God had power to multiply the race also in different ways, if they kept the precept unbroken to the end. But God, Who knows all things before they have existence, knowing in His foreknowledge that they would fall into transgression in the future and be condemned to death, anticipated this and made “male and female,” and bade them “be fruitful and multiply.”

I think that is a stretch, that God originally planned to reproduce them in some other way.  If that were the case, then there would have been no need to make men and women, except as St. John says, that God foresaw the fall and devised the genders to make reproduction possible.  Of course the ability to reproduce would imply that God wanted the population to grow.  Why then,after the advent of Christ, would it then be desirable to see the human race die out with the promulgation of celibacy as the ideal?

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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2011, 12:48:00 PM »

This is from a Coptic site, http://suscopts.org/resources/literature/696/gods-view-of-sex/

"When God created the universe, He made everything beautiful. Because of His love, He made animals and human beings with many gifts - one of them is the gift of sex. God made companionship for human beings and for animals and to help us understand His love for us. He allowed Man and women to build family together and to satisfy their desires and sexual needs."

I personally agree with this.  The problem is, as I read the Fathers, it is obvious that most of them did not see sex as "a gift".  I know what I feel on the matter, but I feel uncomfortable being at odds with the Fathers.

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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2011, 01:38:40 PM »

I think St. Methodius if anything takes quite the middle road.  It's more fitting to think of sex like you would think of food, misproper use of which is sin, and virtuous use of with is ideal, and anything in between well, is a mild pleasure of sorts that need to be abstained from as you would fasting, or an unnecessary pleasure (like perhaps alcohol or arguably smoking tobacco) that is not in and of itself sinful, but surely worthy of abstinence.

It seems wholly proper then that two sides from this developed later on, the radical ascetic side that looks at anything less than ideal is sinful (and most of the Church fathers later on were ascetics; I would wonder what a married Church father would write if he even had time to write while caring for his family), and the more "liberal" side that anything other than clear sins are virtuous.

This is at least my objective view without trying to support the Coptic view.  It's a concession that's not sinful, but not virtue either, i.e. not a striving towards a certain perfection that others might be born with.  Nevertheless, all do have their unique gifts, and in so doing, can properly use them for their own edification.  To some it may be chastity, to others teaching, and others raising families etc.  In each of these gifts, there's an ideal of exemplary attitude.  Therefore, for those who are chaste, they should be in the best chastity as possible, and not merely chaste physically.  For those who can teach, you must present yourself as if you're the best teacher.  For anyone who has a certain talent, they should double it and not hide it to waste, as the parable teaches.

The person who's sick and must eat from things abstained can nevertheless be virtuous in other things.  It's not a concession to sin (because eating meat is obviously not a sin).  Could eating meat be a "necessary evil?"  I don't know.  One can argue that there are many necessary evils in this world that are not sins also, but virtuous if abstained from as well, although they're necessary so as to avoid sins, the greater evils, and necessary implies how almost impossible the abstinence can be.
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« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2011, 02:01:22 PM »

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.  I appreciate all your responses to my posting.

Peter
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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2011, 02:03:54 PM »

Fwiw, I gave some quotes from EO Fathers (including St. John Chrysostom) on this thread defending the idea that it's ok to enjoy sex.
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« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2011, 02:11:58 PM »

Thank you Asteriktos. 

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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2011, 10:28:40 PM »

A more general discussion about the Church Fathers and their view of intimacy has been moved to the Faith Issues Section:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,34820.0.html
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2011, 11:53:10 PM »

I think St. Methodius if anything takes quite the middle road.  It's more fitting to think of sex like you would think of food, misproper use of which is sin, and virtuous use of with is ideal, and anything in between well, is a mild pleasure of sorts that need to be abstained from as you would fasting, or an unnecessary pleasure (like perhaps alcohol or arguably smoking tobacco) that is not in and of itself sinful, but surely worthy of abstinence.

It seems wholly proper then that two sides from this developed later on, the radical ascetic side that looks at anything less than ideal is sinful (and most of the Church fathers later on were ascetics; I would wonder what a married Church father would write if he even had time to write while caring for his family), and the more "liberal" side that anything other than clear sins are virtuous.

This is at least my objective view without trying to support the Coptic view.  It's a concession that's not sinful, but not virtue either, i.e. not a striving towards a certain perfection that others might be born with.  Nevertheless, all do have their unique gifts, and in so doing, can properly use them for their own edification.  To some it may be chastity, to others teaching, and others raising families etc.  In each of these gifts, there's an ideal of exemplary attitude.  Therefore, for those who are chaste, they should be in the best chastity as possible, and not merely chaste physically.  For those who can teach, you must present yourself as if you're the best teacher.  For anyone who has a certain talent, they should double it and not hide it to waste, as the parable teaches.

The person who's sick and must eat from things abstained can nevertheless be virtuous in other things.  It's not a concession to sin (because eating meat is obviously not a sin).  Could eating meat be a "necessary evil?"  I don't know.  One can argue that there are many necessary evils in this world that are not sins also, but virtuous if abstained from as well, although they're necessary so as to avoid sins, the greater evils, and necessary implies how almost impossible the abstinence can be.
The issue of meat is interesting.  The Scripture plainly states that man was not originally meant to eat meat. Yet St. Paul is rather emphatic that it is not something we are to be judged on, and a matter of indifference (in itself: in the grand scheme of things that is another matter). It would be interesting to see if the Fathers who make much of their idea that sexuality was not intended in Eden, if they are equally vigorous on the issue of eating meat, and how to deal with the problem that the Lord, as Scripture plainly states, ate meat.
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2011, 01:34:53 AM »

I think St. Methodius if anything takes quite the middle road.  It's more fitting to think of sex like you would think of food, misproper use of which is sin, and virtuous use of with is ideal, and anything in between well, is a mild pleasure of sorts that need to be abstained from as you would fasting, or an unnecessary pleasure (like perhaps alcohol or arguably smoking tobacco) that is not in and of itself sinful, but surely worthy of abstinence.

It seems wholly proper then that two sides from this developed later on, the radical ascetic side that looks at anything less than ideal is sinful (and most of the Church fathers later on were ascetics; I would wonder what a married Church father would write if he even had time to write while caring for his family), and the more "liberal" side that anything other than clear sins are virtuous.

This is at least my objective view without trying to support the Coptic view.  It's a concession that's not sinful, but not virtue either, i.e. not a striving towards a certain perfection that others might be born with.  Nevertheless, all do have their unique gifts, and in so doing, can properly use them for their own edification.  To some it may be chastity, to others teaching, and others raising families etc.  In each of these gifts, there's an ideal of exemplary attitude.  Therefore, for those who are chaste, they should be in the best chastity as possible, and not merely chaste physically.  For those who can teach, you must present yourself as if you're the best teacher.  For anyone who has a certain talent, they should double it and not hide it to waste, as the parable teaches.

The person who's sick and must eat from things abstained can nevertheless be virtuous in other things.  It's not a concession to sin (because eating meat is obviously not a sin).  Could eating meat be a "necessary evil?"  I don't know.  One can argue that there are many necessary evils in this world that are not sins also, but virtuous if abstained from as well, although they're necessary so as to avoid sins, the greater evils, and necessary implies how almost impossible the abstinence can be.
The issue of meat is interesting.  The Scripture plainly states that man was not originally meant to eat meat. Yet St. Paul is rather emphatic that it is not something we are to be judged on, and a matter of indifference (in itself: in the grand scheme of things that is another matter). It would be interesting to see if the Fathers who make much of their idea that sexuality was not intended in Eden, if they are equally vigorous on the issue of eating meat, and how to deal with the problem that the Lord, as Scripture plainly states, ate meat.

What about Adam and Eve having dominion over the Earth? Seems like that would allow eating meat and the Lord didn't forbid it in Eden.
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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2011, 11:12:53 PM »

I think St. Methodius if anything takes quite the middle road.  It's more fitting to think of sex like you would think of food, misproper use of which is sin, and virtuous use of with is ideal, and anything in between well, is a mild pleasure of sorts that need to be abstained from as you would fasting, or an unnecessary pleasure (like perhaps alcohol or arguably smoking tobacco) that is not in and of itself sinful, but surely worthy of abstinence.

It seems wholly proper then that two sides from this developed later on, the radical ascetic side that looks at anything less than ideal is sinful (and most of the Church fathers later on were ascetics; I would wonder what a married Church father would write if he even had time to write while caring for his family), and the more "liberal" side that anything other than clear sins are virtuous.

This is at least my objective view without trying to support the Coptic view.  It's a concession that's not sinful, but not virtue either, i.e. not a striving towards a certain perfection that others might be born with.  Nevertheless, all do have their unique gifts, and in so doing, can properly use them for their own edification.  To some it may be chastity, to others teaching, and others raising families etc.  In each of these gifts, there's an ideal of exemplary attitude.  Therefore, for those who are chaste, they should be in the best chastity as possible, and not merely chaste physically.  For those who can teach, you must present yourself as if you're the best teacher.  For anyone who has a certain talent, they should double it and not hide it to waste, as the parable teaches.

The person who's sick and must eat from things abstained can nevertheless be virtuous in other things.  It's not a concession to sin (because eating meat is obviously not a sin).  Could eating meat be a "necessary evil?"  I don't know.  One can argue that there are many necessary evils in this world that are not sins also, but virtuous if abstained from as well, although they're necessary so as to avoid sins, the greater evils, and necessary implies how almost impossible the abstinence can be.
The issue of meat is interesting.  The Scripture plainly states that man was not originally meant to eat meat. Yet St. Paul is rather emphatic that it is not something we are to be judged on, and a matter of indifference (in itself: in the grand scheme of things that is another matter). It would be interesting to see if the Fathers who make much of their idea that sexuality was not intended in Eden, if they are equally vigorous on the issue of eating meat, and how to deal with the problem that the Lord, as Scripture plainly states, ate meat.

What about Adam and Eve having dominion over the Earth? Seems like that would allow eating meat and the Lord didn't forbid it in Eden.
LOL. You sound like an oriental despot, who haven't figured out that you do not have to eat the people to have dominion over them.

God told them what He had given them for food, and the critters were not on the menu.

I never thought of it before, at least as far as I can remember, but the first mention of kiling an animal is Abel's sacrifice, and it has nothing to do with eating (it wouldn't be put on the menu until after the Flood). The first use of animals was the skins gave to Adam and Eve on their way out.
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« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2011, 11:35:50 PM »

I would think the verse concerning having dominion over the earth doesn't necessarily mean to eat the animals, but rather to take of the land around them, and keep it and be stewards of the world.  We have that power.

I wanted to do a quick check on interpretation of Acts 15, where it is told we should eat of things offered to idols, or blood, or things strangled.  I found that St. Augustine didn't take that literally, or found that the practice was only relevant at the time.  He did advocate draining the blood of the animal, but he interpreted the verse as not partaking of murder, which was interesting.
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« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2011, 05:46:38 PM »

LOL. You sound like an oriental despot, who haven't figured out that you do not have to eat the people to have dominion over them.

LOL, oh no I understand that completely but if having dominion over them surely leads to being allowed to eat them for food.

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God told them what He had given them for food, and the critters were not on the menu.
You illumined a new thought to me that in Eden since Man was in harmony with nature, God and other creatures it would make sense they were not on the menu. But Jesus eating fish does pose a particular problem then no?
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