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The Status of Animals in Biblical and Christian Thought: A Study in Colliding Values

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A common contemporary view is that the Bible and subsequent Christian thought authorize humans to exploit animals purely as means to human ends.This paper argues that Biblical and Christian thought have given rise to a more complex ethic of animal use informed by its pastoralist origins, Biblical pronouncements that permit different interpretations, and competing ideas and doctrines that arose during its development, and influenced by the rich and often contradictory features of ancient Hebrew and Greco-Roman traditions. The result is not a uniform ethic but a tradition of unresolved debate. Differing interpretations of the Great Chain of Being and the conflict over animal experimentation demonstrate the colliding values inherent in the complex history of Biblical and Christian thought on animals.


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