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The Guardian of the Species: Genesis 1:28 and Covid-19

Jean-Pierre Sonnet, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Thu, Jan 14th 2021

Tyger Tyger burning bright / In the forests of the night… / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

William Blake, Songs of Experience, 1794

The Covid-19 pandemic and other recent outbreaks of infectious diseases of animal origin have shed a new light on one of the most famous passages of Genesis, the story of the creation and the relationship between human beings and the animal world. In Gen 1:26, in an inner monologue, God shows his intention to create humans, male and female, “in our image, according to our likeness,” and this – he specifies it from the very beginning – in order to “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Once having created in this way, God communicates to them their purpose with a sequence of imperatives: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (v. 28).

The coronavirus crisis is linked, as we know, to human interference in the integrity of the habitat and life of non-domestic animals, and it has been amplified by people’s lifestyles and movements today, which make them high-speed viral propagators. The outbreak of the pandemic did not surprise virologists and epidemiologists: the clinical outcome of Covid-19 was a feared scenario.

David Quammen’s 2012 book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, is instructive in this regard. In it the spillover phenomenon, the jump of a virus from an animal species to the human species, is considered an inevitable scenario: “Human-caused ecological pressures and disruptions are bringing animal pathogens ever more into contact with human populations, while human technology and behavior are spreading those pathogens ever more widely and quickly.”[1]

To Quammen’s voice can be added that of Richard Leakey, who has warned: “By continuing to put pressure on other living beings, we will promote the passage of new pathogens from fauna to humans.”[2] Leakey is the Kenyan paleoanthropologist who, in 1995, published the prophetic book, The Sixth Extinction. Biodiversity and Its Survival.[3] Five major extinctions have interrupted natural evolution since plants and animals began to diversify about a billion years ago.

They were caused by catastrophes on a planetary scale: large volcanic eruptions, climate change, alterations in the composition of the atmosphere, impact of an asteroid. Each time the cataclysm caused a huge extinction of living species. The sixth extinction has as its cause a particular species: humans. The pressure we exert on animal species with our intensive agriculture and animal husbandry, deforestation, poaching of wild species for the benefit of the growing urban population, etc., leads inexorably to the upheavals we are witnessing.

Long before Leakey and Quammen, the Book of Genesis expressed a similar warning. In Gen 1:28, the Creator God constitutes humans, male and female, as the guardians of animal species and makes them the guarantors of their distinction. So we can see that the Bible, far from being an anthology of obscurantism, is the fruit of a wisdom at once long-established and prophetic. It knows that the (right) relationship between humans and animal species is a fearsome place, where something divine is at stake.

‘Each according to their own species’

God’s creative work in Gen 1 is represented, as we know, by the idea of separation and distinction.[4] The text in question depends on the Priestly document. Of all the sources that flow into the Hebrew Bible, the Priestly one is the most attentive to the articulation of the world and human experience before God. To the framework of distinctions that it manifests, it associates the difference and holiness of the God of life. In Gen 1, on the scale of the macroelements of the cosmos, the idea of distinction is expressed by the verb b?dal in the causative hiphil form, “to separate”: “God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:4; cf. vv.

When the act of creation passes to “living beings” (nephesh ?ayy?h, “everything that has the breath of life,” see vv. 20,21,24,30), the phenomenon of distinction takes the form of a double articulation. On the one hand, living beings are created according to their biotope: water and air are populated on the fifth day (vv. 20-23); the earth is provided with its animal population on the sixth day (vv. 24-25). Thus, God provides living beings for the spaces that had been separated on the second and third days (vv. 6-13). Equally, the living beings in question are systematically created “according to their species” (vv. 21.24.25; cf. 6:20 and 7:14).[5] The species have in common the fact that they are dynamic (the bird flies, the marine animal swims, the terrestrial animal moves); each of them is therefore provided with a way of moving adapted to its own biotope.

Created after terrestrial animals, humans are, of course, terrestrial creatures, responsible for terrestrial domination, and this condition is reflected in their diet. They are in fact created vegetarian, dedicated to the cultivation and harvesting of the fruits of the earth: “I give you every herb that produces seed and that is on all the earth, and every fruitful tree that produces seed: they will be your food” (1:29). Created in the image and in the likeness of God, however, humans become, in the mission they receive in Gen 1:28, the living beings called to exercise dominion over the living beings of the three kingdoms – air, water and earth – somehow transcending their original ethos. How are we to understand this singular vocation?

The mission of government entrusted to humanity is expressed twice: first in the divine project (Gen 1:26: “dominate [w?yirdû]”), then in its communication (see 28: “Have dominion [ûr?dû]”). In both cases this mission brings into play the verb r?d?h (“govern, subdue, subjugate”), normally associated with a relationship of domination in the context of human relations.[6] The verb also appears when we mention the relationship between people and animals in Ezek 34:4, in a reference to the shepherd and his management of the flock. In this text, the prophet regrets that this authority has been exercised “with harshness” toward the weakest sheep. As Norbert Lohfink has pointed out, the expression “with harshness” in Ezek 34:4 (and other similar uses) suggests that the verb does not in itself imply brutality.[7]

Moreover, the context does not speak in favor of an arbitrary or brutal interpretation of human government. The creative work is marked by divine non-violence (Gen 1 opposes the model of creation through a theomachy, illustrated in particular in the epic Enuma Elish), and the human person is the image of this non-violent God. Also, as we have seen, humans were created vegetarian, just as were the animals (cf. v. 30). When they receive their mission in Gen 1:28, they are neither hunters nor shepherds in their relationship with animals; they derive no profit from them; they exercise no power over them. As Paul Beauchamp writes, Gen 1 makes “a paradoxical use” of the verb r?d?h: “The vegetarianism of Gen 1 […] is based on a relationship between people and animals that is paradoxical, because it is called ‘domination’ and at the same time it is exercised with the gentleness of a human being who is not a threat to the animal.”[8]

So what is the logic of the relationship between humans and animals as formulated in Gen 1:26-28?[9] It is essentially the being-image and the being-likeness of God that give grounds for human power over the animal world: God created the different orders of living beings from above, and the human person, God’s image, reproduces something of this supernatural state. As a substitute (tselem, “statue, image”) for God, the person exercises, in the immanence of the world, an aspect of divine transcendence. This is our “royal” vocation (in the ancient Near East the motif of the “image of God” connotes the figure of the king).

In a very elementary way, this transcendence rests on the fact that we are the creatures capable of understanding the divine discourse on the ordering of species (this cognitive capacity is reflected and doubled in that of the reader of Gen 1). The human person is the one to whom God, in his discourse, can describe the animal kingdom, biotope by biotope. The perspective here is theological and anthropological. One could find a philosophical correspondence in the epistemological perspective of Aristotle, who states that the human soul is “in a certain way all beings.” The biblical person is the being who by knowledge can embrace the entire animal kingdom. The latter is entrusted to us by God as a system, in its perfect synchrony.

The Bible has no Darwinian theory connecting species to their evolution (in a diachronic perspective) nor does it endorse the theories of today’s zoologists who warn us about endangered species (in another form of diachrony). Genesis puts us in relation with the balance of the living system at a given time (which it projects back to the origins). However, the mythical perspective in question has a very modern aspect: we know how people exert, at all times, a decisive influence on the balance of ecosystems because of the power we have progressively acquired. The account of Gen 1:26-28 has the specificity of placing this perspective in the mind of God and in the divine plan: we are, in the eyes of God, the point of equilibrium between all species.

The fact of being the only living beings capable of divine discourse on species confers on us an authority and responsibility that is neither formal nor arbitrary. Humans are endowed with a profound motivation, which emerges in the divine perception of the goodness of completed creation. God takes note of the goodness of his creatures during the week of creation (cf. Gen 1:; on the sixth day, after the humans, male and female, have been put in relation with the animal species, God recognizes that what he has done is “a very good thing” (v. 31). Informed about the divine discourse about living species, they are promoted to be witnesses and guarantors of the goodness of what God has created and distinguished. Responding to all other living beings, they answer for the goodness of God in his creative work.

Pure and impure animals

The theme of the relationship between humans and animal species underwent important developments in the Pentateuch, in particular in texts of priestly origin. The episode of the flood marks a significant turning point in this matter, because it leads to a divine redefinition of human diet: from now on the children of Adam are allowed to include food of animal origin in their diet (cf. Gen 9:3). The narrative has a clear etiological value: it realizes that humans, in their historical condition, are not only vegetarian. The etiology also explains the fear that people provoke in animals: “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air” (Gen 9:2). The divine concession of animal-based food has made us hunters, and this explains the fear that animals feel when we appear.

However, the transition to the consumption of meat does not mean the granting of full powers over the animal world. The divine permission is accompanied by significant restrictions. First of all, on a universal level, there is the exclusion of the consumption of the blood of the slaughtered animal. Absorbing the blood of the animal would mean denying it in its deepest being, “for the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev 17:11).

Then, in Lev 11 there is the command addressed to the Israelites to eat only clean or pure animals. In this legal determination, the species of the three biomes – the terrestrial, aquatic and aerial macro ecosystems – are examined and defined according to their purity or impurity according to a new set of criteria. On a first level, fish with scales that move thanks to their fins are clean, as are two-legged winged birds and four-legged terrestrial animals that walk or jump. Pure animals are in fact the animals that best conform to their motor purpose in their natural environment, unlike animals deemed impure, whose way of proceeding is incongruous or indefinable (vv. 41-43).

The criterion is therefore that of distinction, and illustrates the classifying genius of the Priestly tradition, as indicated by the anthropologist Mary Douglas in her work Purity and Danger (1966). Here too it is a revealed law, whose scope is above all theological: in the distinctions between pure and impure animals there is at stake the attachment of the people of Israel to the God who has distinguished them among the nations. In Lev 20:24-26, the holy God thus orders the Chosen People to show a wealth of distinctions: “I the Lord, your God, have separated you from other peoples. You will therefore make a distinction between pure and impure animals, between impure and pure birds, and you will not defile yourselves by eating animals, birds or beings that crawl on earth and that I have made you separate from the impure. You will be holy for me, for I, the Lord, am holy and I have separated you from other peoples, that you may be mine.”

The distinctions in Lev 11 have a practical purpose: they determine the diet of the Israelites.[10] There is nothing ontological in them. Of all animals, pure and impure, it has been said: “God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:21.25). These distinctions show how much caution is necessary when people venture into the categorizing of animal species. The system of Lev 11 has the effect of keeping the Israelites in the symbolic order, that of an “articulated” world, distinct from the purely natural order. However, it also derives from some empirical reasons.

The ultimate criterion that determines the pure and the impure, with regard to terrestrial animals (“You can eat of every quadruped that has split hooves and that chews the cud” [v. 3]), is designed to eliminate the pig (“It has split hooves but does not chew cud” [v. 7]). The revulsion that the Israelites felt for this animal (see Isa 65:4) is explained at many levels[11]; nor can the presence of a prophylactic reason be excluded. The pig transmits many parasites to humans (including trichinosis), and the ban on it may also be the result of lessons learned over time.[12]

The distinction between pure and impure animals in Lev 11 reflects a zoological knowledge that is clearly not ours. In its way of combining the empirical and the logical, it offers a lesson that is still relevant today: the right relationship between humans and animal species, especially when it comes to food, is fearsome; it requires distinctions and precautions.[13] In our scientific culture this relationship is experienced as completely divorced from religion. The Bible inscribes it in divine revelation. The provisions of Lev 11, of course, concern only the Israelites, but every reader of the Bible can meditate on the lesson imparted by the chapter: the increased intimacy in the relationship with the holy God is translated into a growth of discernment in the relationship with animal species. In other words, union with the living God goes hand in hand with a more conscious form of union with the other living beings on this Earth. Between God, humans and animals it is always a matter of life. For living people, it is a matter of finding the right relationship with the Living One and with other living beings.[14]

Reasoning about the species

The question of the human relationship to animal species resurfaces in other parts of the Bible, outside the priestly tradition.[15] We know the scene in Gen 2, where God leads to Adam “every animal of the field and every bird of the air […] to see what he would have them called” (v. 19). If in Gen 1 the naming of creatures was God’s prerogative (with regard to cosmic macroelements), this task is now entrusted to Adam, with regard to the animals of his living space. In Gen 1, humans were the recipients of the “discourse of the species” that God had addressed to them; in Gen 2, Adam is the author of the discourse: he is all the more capable of it. This is the paradox of the history of the garden in Gen 2: in it Adam is “an animal like others”[16] (In Gen 2:7 he is described as nephesh ?ayy?h, “a living being endowed with a breath of life,”)[17] capable, however, of giving names to the animals presented to him by God. Is this an effect of the “breath of life” that we alone have received from God who shapes us [v. 7]?

The scene finds a revealing echo in the first book of Kings. In 1 Kings 5, Solomon appears just like a new Adam, because he also speaks about species. In the Garden State consisting of Judah and Israel – “each was under his own vine and under his own fig tree” (1 Kings 5:5) – the king, filled with the wisdom he received, prolongs Adam’s gesture. The taxonomic work is now particularly vast, because it includes plant species and extends to fish: “He spoke of plants, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop coming out of the wall; he spoke of beasts, birds, reptiles and fish” (v. 13). It will be noted that here reappear the three dominions reported in Gen 1:26.28: the earth (“the cattle according to their species and all the reptiles of the earth according to their species”), the air (“the birds”) and the water (“the fish”).[18]

What meaning can we give to the gesture of the king, the new Adam? In the wake of Johann Gottfried Herder and Martin Heidegger, there has been no lack of interpretations of the fact that Adam, in giving a name to animals marks the birth of people to their poetic vocation, that of “poetically inhabiting” this Earth (Hölderlin). In reality, the cultural background of the double scene (in Gen 2 and 1 King 5) leads us to see Adam and Solomon represented as “men of learning” rather than poets. The encyclopedic wisdom of Solomon, in the portrait of 1 Kings 5:12-13, in fact reflects the classificatory knowledge and the Mesopotamian “science of lists,” from which derive the “inventories” of the book of Proverbs (ascribed to Solomon) and the codes of biblical laws.[19]

In Mesopotamian lists, the classification of the phenomena of reality is organized in a particular way, starting from their names; Solomon does a similar work, prolonging that of Adam. “The range of Solomon’s knowledge (zoological and botanical) reflects a second garden of Adam,” writes Paul Beauchamp.[20] Of King Solomon (shl?m?h) it is said that “he dominated (r?deh)” the territories of his kingdom (the verbal root r?d?h, “dominate,” re-emerges here) and that “he had peace (sh?lôm) everywhere” (v. 4). It is noteworthy that the peaceful exercise of authority by the Adamite king is associated with the reasoning about the species, or “species discourse.” The peaceful relationship between humans and the inhabited world passes through the wisdom of this species discourse.


No less than some in-depth scientific books published in recent years, the Bible is prophetic when it comes to the relationship of humans with the range of animal species. It develops a “species discourse” that is perhaps archaic, but also coherent and attentive to the role of humans in the environment of living beings. It dares to make humans the guardian of the species, the witness and guarantor of their distinction within the system of living beings. It teaches that the divine image in us is inseparable from a right relationship with all animal species. The Christian reading of the Bible over time has not enhanced this line of interpretation, and there was a need for the encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS) of Pope Francis (2015), a document of the Magisterium dedicated exclusively to the question of the protection of creation.[21]

“Each year,” wrote Pope Francis, “sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (LS 33).[22] There is still a need for “Biblical thinking” in this new light, together with the reflections of anthropologists, zoologists, botanists and other specialists in the environment.

An example will suffice here, which allows us to conclude the theme of these pages. It is well known how much attention the Jewish and Christian traditions have given to Lev 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Rabbi Aqiba made it “the great commandment.”[23] Jesus, before him, did the same, associating it with Deut 6:5: “You will love the Lord your God” (Matt 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; cf. Luke 10:25-37). The verse accompanied the ethical tradition in theology; it also inspired philosophical reflection, even in modern times, since it was associated with the Golden Rule.[24] Nowadays, it is a matter of reading this verse in its connection with the one that follows it: “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind” (v. 19). Chapter 19 of Leviticus opens with the divine injunction: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” (v. 2). The holiness of God is fulfilled, for us, in the commandment of love of neighbor as well as in that of respect for the distinction of animal species.[25]

In divine revelation, the humane treatment of the other goes hand in hand with the correctness of the relationship with other living beings on this Earth. Our age, which puts under pressure and endangers the entire system of the living, is the one that will have to rethink the link between these two commandments. In the sequence of these short verses, the Bible puts before our eyes an immense lesson to reflect on: knowing how to live with others involves knowing how to live with animal species, and with all other species, in the “land of the living” (cf. Psalm 27:13; 116:9; 142:6).[26]

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 4, no. 11 art. 6, 1120: 10.32009/22072446.1120.6

[1].    D. Quammen, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, New York (NY), W. W. Norton & Company, 2012, 40.

[2].    R. Leakey (interviewed by T. Pievani), “Estinguendo gli animali ci attiriamo i loro virus”, in Corriere della Sera, “La Lettura”, June 21, 2020, 16.

[3].    R. Leakey – R. Lewin, The Sixth Extinction. Life on Earth and the Future of Humankind, New York, Random House, 1995.

[4].    Cf. P. Beauchamp, Création et séparation, Paris, Aubier – Cerf – Delachaux – Desclée de Brouwer, 1969.

[5].    Before the animals, plants were also created “according to their species” (cf. Gen 1:11-12).

[6].    These relationships are those of a master to a servant (1 Kings 5:30), of an administrator to his employees (1 Kings 9:23), of a king to his subjects (1 Kings 5:4; Psalm 72:8; 110:2), or of one nation to another (Lev 26:17; Num 24:19; Neh 9:28 etc.). Cf. V. P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis. Chapters 1-17, Grand Rapids (MI), Eerdmans, 1990, 137.

[7].    See the addition of “with hardness” in Lev 25:43.46.53 and “with anger” in Isa 14:6; cf. N. Lohfink, “Subdue the Earth (Gen 1:28)”, in Id., Theology of the Pentateuch. Themes of the Priestly Narrative and Deuteronomy, Minneapolis (MN), Fortress, 1994, 11f. Lohfink also emphasizes that in the use of this verb in Psalm 68:28 any connotation of a dominion exercised by force is excluded, because it is a festive procession in which Benjamin precedes the princes of the tribes: “Behold Benjamin, the youngest, leads (rod?m) the princes of Judah, in embroidered clothes, the princes of Zabulon, the princes of Naphtali.” Lohfink’s translation is based in particular on the related word redû in Akkadian (“accompany, lead, go” that is used especially in relation to the guidance of herds and animals) (p.12). See also, in the same sense, T. E. Fretheim, “Genesis and Ecology”, in C. A. Evans – J. N. Lohr – D. L. Petersen, The Book of Genesis, Leiden, Brill, 2012, 690f.

[8].    P. Beauchamp, “Création et fondation de la loi en Gn 1,1–2,4a. Le don de la nourriture végétale en Gn 1,29 s ”, in Id., Pages exégétiques, Paris, Cerf, 2005, 134. See the essay by André Wénin, who bases the imperative of Gen 1:28 on the whole treatment of the animals in the Hebrew Bible: A. Wénin, “Maîtrisez les animaux… (Genèse 1,28). Humanité et animalité dans le premier Testament”, in D. Luciani (ed.), Des animaux, des hommes et des dieux, Louvain-La-Neuve, Presses Universitaires de Louvain, 2020, 9-22.

[9].    The divine order regarding animal species is preceded by an imperative regarding the relationship with the earth: “Subdue it (w?kibshuh?)”. Much more than the verb r?d?h, the verb k?bash implies a relationship of strength (cf. Jer 34:11.16; Mic 7:19; Zach 9:15; 2 Chr 28:10; Neh 5:5; Est 7:8). Again, the context of Gen 1 does not allow such a connotation of violence to be accentuated; it is possible to see in the use of the verb, as proposed by Hamilton (The Book of Genesis …, op. cit., 140), a reference to the fatigue of the first tillage of land for agriculture in settlements(cf. Gen 2:5.15). The discussion is not pointless, because a now classic article has argued that the biblical and Christian anthropocentric perspective, legitimizing the exploitation of the natural world, is at the root of the ecological crisis we are experiencing (L. White, “The Historical Root of our Ecological Crisis”, in Science 155 [1967] 1203-1207). See P. Harrison, “Subduing the Earth: Genesis. Early Modern Science and the Exploitation of Nature”, in Journal of Religion 79 (1999) 86-109. A “hard” reading of the verbs k?bash and r?dâ, in terms of “submission” (thus crediting White’s interpretation), is defended by N. C. Habel, “Geophany: The Earth Story in Genesis 1”, in N. C. Habel – S. Wurst (eds), The Earth Story in Genesis, Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, 34-48 (in particular 46f); see general discussion in D. G. Horrell, The Bible and the Environment. Towards a Critical Ecological Biblical Theology, London, Equinox, 2010, 23-36, and in A. Marx, “Assujettir ou veiller sur la création?”, in Projet 347 (2015) 36-44.

[10].   To the dietary regime is added the question of contact with the corpse of impure animals (see Lev 11:24-44). On the other hand, as is known to the reader of Genesis since Gen 7:2-3 and 8:20, animals offered for sacrifice are taken only among pure animals (see the determinations specified in Lev 1:3-7). With regard to the sacrificial system of biblical Israel, cf. D. Luciani, “Les animaux du sacrifice”, in Id., Des animaux, des hommes et des dieux. Parcours dans la Bible hébraïque, Louvain, Presses Universitaires de Louvain, 2020, 33-54 (and the taxonomic tables on pp. 125-129). It is worth mentioning here Edwin Firmage’s contribution, which integrates the anthropological considerations of Mary Douglas in a theological key. For the Israelites, the consumable animals par excellence are land animals: cattle, sheep and goats. These are also the animals that can be sacrificed par excellence. In other words, the diet prescribed to the Israelites brings them closer to God in his sacrificial regime: see E. Firmage, “The Biblical Dietary Laws and the Concept of Holiness”, in J. A. Emerton, Studies in the Pentateuch, Leiden, Brill, 1996, 177-208; Id., “Genesis 1 and the Priestly Agenda”, in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 82 (1999) 97-114.

[11].   See the discussion in J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, New-York (NY), 1990, 649-653, which mentions the revulsion towardsthe pig attested throughout the ancient Near East and favors the hypothesis of its prohibition by the Bible because of its association with chthonic cults (cf. Isa 66:3; 66:17).

[12].   Diseases derived from animalsare known in the ancient Near East; see P. Norrie, A History of Disease in Ancient Times, London – New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, which mentions in particular bubonic plague, anthrax, tularaemia, typhus and cholera. In the causal patterns of the time the responsibility for the scourge is attributed to a demon or a demonic force and not to the animal. However, the latter may appear in the overall clinical picture. In some cases the Bible therefore links the pathology and the pathogen (animal). Thus the fifth plague of Egypt, which affects herds, probably represents an anthrax epidemic (Exod 9:3), most often observed in herbivorous animals. Similarly, the “outbreak of tumors” that affects the Philistines in 1 Sam 5:6-12, is apparently a form of bubonic plague, transmitted by rats (cf. 1 Sam 6:5).

[13].   We might ask ourselves what is the fate of bats. It is no surprise: being impure, they are not to be consumed (Lev 11:19; cf. Deut 14:18). Their habitat – “in the crevices of the rocks and the cracks in the cliffs” – is fearsome (cf. Isa 2:20-21).

[14].   The references in the New Testament (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:15) refer to the particular revelation made to Israel – stated above all in Lev 11 – concerning its diet; they do not concern the investiture of humans with respect to the animal species of Gen 1:28. On the other hand, it should be noted that the narrator’s comment in Mark 7:9 – “So [Jesus] declared all pure food” – refers to food and not to animals. With Daniel Boyarin, we can assume that the foods in question were probably (considered) contaminated because of ritual purity practices (cf. Matt 15:16-20) and not because of their animal origin, probably in accordance with the law. See D. Boyarin, Le Christ juif. À la recherche des origines, Paris, Cerf, 2013, 123-152.

[15]. The distinction between clean and unclean animals found in Lev 11 is also in Deut 14:3-21. Regarding the enigma of the relationship of the two texts, see C. Nihan, “The Laws about Clean and Unclean Animals in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Their Place in the Formation of the Pentateuch”, in T. Dozeman – K. Schmid – B. J. Schwartz (eds), The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2011, 401-432.

[16].   We borrow the expression from D. Luciani, Les animaux dans la Bible, Cahiers Évangile, No. 183, Paris, Cerf, 2018, 18.

[17].   We must not forget that the story of the garden, in Gen 3, is also the etiology of the deep intimacy between humans and an animal species, between the head of the snake (which bites) and the heel of man (which crushes) (v. 15). The danger of some contacts between species could not be better illustrated.

[18].   Cf. J.P. Sonnet, “Côté cour, côté jardin. Salomon, l’Adam royal”, in C. Lichtert – D. Nocquet (eds), Le Roi Salomon. Un héritage en question. Hommage à Jacques Vermeylen, Brussels, Lessius, 2008, 247-260; Id., “L’origine delle specie: Genesi 1 e la vocazione scientifica dell’uomo”, in Civ. Catt. 2009 I 220-232.

[19].   Cf. R. Labat, “La Mésopotamie”, in R. Taton (ed.), Histoire générale des sciences. Tome 1. La science antique et médiévale. Des origines à 1450, Paris, PUF, 1994 (1957) 86-87. Concerning the “science of lists,” see J. Bottero, Mésopotamie. L’écriture, la raison et les dieux, Paris, Gallimard, 1987, 165-169 and 206-217; the materials and presentation by J. Trublet, “La science dans la Bible. Méthode et résultats”, in F. Mies (ed.), Bible et sciences. Déchiffrer l’univers, Brussels, Lessius, 2002, 11-58; J. Vermeylen, “Les représentations du cosmos dans la Bible hébraïque”, ibid., 59-102 (in particular 65).

[20].   P. Beauchamp, L’uno e l’altro Testamento. Saggio di lettura, Brescia, Paideia, 1985, 255.

[21].   The theme had already been developed in the teaching of John Paul II. It is worth mentioning in particular the joint declaration he made with Patriarch Bartholomew for the protection of the environment (Venice, June 10, 2002).

[22].   Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’,

[23].   Cf. Syphra Lev 19:18; b. Shabbat 31a.

[24].   See the historical process from ancient philosophy to contemporary philosophy retraced in the work of C. Vigna – S. Zanardo, La regola d’oro come etica universale, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 2005; see also the essay by O. du Roy, La Règle d’or. Histoire d’une maxime morale universelle, 2 vols., Paris, Cerf, 2012.

[25].   As an echo to Lev 19:18-19, Ben Sirach develops in his own way a “species discourse” that is attentive to the challenges of union within the species: “Every creature loves it’s like and every person the neighbor. All living beings associate with their own kind, and people stick close to those like themselves” (Sir 13:15-16).

[26].   With regard to Lev 19 and his way of associating commandments of different registers, cf. D. Luciani, La sainteté pour tous: sublime ou ridicule? Lévitique 19, Namur – Paris, Lessius, 2019.

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