Cats In The Bible

by Michael
(London, UK)

The Bible is devoid of reference to the domestic cat - photo Arpingstone (Wikimedia Commons)

The Bible is devoid of reference to the domestic cat - photo Arpingstone (Wikimedia Commons)

Only large wildcats are referred to in the bible and even those seem to be barely mentioned. There is apparently no mention of domestic cats. On first glance this might seem strange and a lot of people speculate why. I thought I would join in!

There are words in the bible for the big cats. The lion and leopard are referred to. But no domestic cats. Apparently the dog (and I presume this to be the domestic dog) is referred to 15 times and the word “dogs” 24 times (King James version of the bible)1. As there are 774,746 words in the bible1 that is not a lot! So the dog doesn’t do that well either.

For what it is worth, in the bible, four-footed animals with paws are considered unclean animals. Unclean animals are unfit for human consumption. This includes cats and dogs2 so we cannot differentiate between them on that basis.

As far as I am aware specific animals or species of animals are not referred to in the story about Noah’s Ark. Genesis says that seven pairs of each of the clean animals and one pair of each of the unclean animals and birds and seven pairs of clean birds where shipped. That doesn’t help us figure out why there are no domestic cats in the bible.

Just to remind ourselves; it is thought that wild cats were first domesticated (by mutual arrangement) about 9,000 years ago in Cyprus. The Egyptians domesticated the African wildcat some 2,000 BC so the cat was well and truly domesticated at the time of Christ.

One major factor that I feel is relevant for not mentioning the domestic cat in the bible is because it was written a long time after the events. Exactly how long seems to be in dispute. Some experts say hundreds of years but for example the Gospel according to Luke was written it is thought by Luke. But it is also thought that he was was not an eye-witness of Jesus' ministry and that his version of events came in part from Mark. In fact there is a great deal of repetition between Mark, Luke and Mathew in the New Testament. So when Mark did not mention the domestic cat neither would Luke.

…(dates) composition of the gospel to the early 60s, while higher criticism dates it to the later decades of the 1st century3.

On my reckoning that means this gospel (as an example) was written some 60 years after Jesus’s death when he was about 30 years of age4.

To put that into perspective it is like me writing about about events in 1950 without first hand experience (The Gospel of Luke is a secondary source based on earlier accounts of the life of Jesus3). The date of this post is June 2010.

Without any clear information and on the basis that the most common sense and obvious answer is probably the correct answer it becomes reasonable to argue that the reason why the domestic cat is not mentioned is because the account is a bit like an historical novel. Under these circumstances the broader picture is discussed but not fine detail to the point where domestic cats need be mentioned. They have no significance in the stories of the bible.

The domestic dog is mentioned in the bible but that is probably because they were more “visible” or conspicuous and more directly of use (e.g. put to use as sheep dogs) in those harsher times. Also the word “dog” is used more often in a derogatory manner in common usage, which is still the case. That would result in it being used more frequently.

..When David approaches Goliath, Goliath asks "am I a dog that you're coming to with sticks?" Also, raw unclean meat is to be thrown to the dogs (is this from Exodus 23)1.

The big cats, the lion particularly, were mentioned because they were very much in evidence in the wild throughout the middle east at the time of Jesus. The lion roamed Palestine until the 16th century at which time it was extirpated. Such an imposing animal at large would demand a mention I would have thought.

The only remaining question is, is there some sinister underlying or deliberate reason why the domestic cat was omitted from the bible? I have read that the fact that the cat cleans itself all over by licking itself is considered the work of the devil or some such bizarre theory but I don’t think that that is significant.

Another theory is that the Israelites disliked the Egyptians. As we know the Egyptians supposedly revered the cat so this may have lead to the Israelites disliking the domestic cat. Personally, this does not ring true. It certainly wouldn’t be the kind of thought process that would exist today, in my opinion, and on that basis it would exist then either.

Of all the above the biggest reason why there is no mention of domestic cats in the bible is because it was written many, perhaps hundreds of years after the events and the focus of the bible is people. Animals are seen as lesser creatures…which leads me to another gripe. Without wishing to be disrespectful, people who read the bible religiously as a verbatim model upon which to live life in the modern age are deluded. The principles are sound of course but reading it as a source of accurate representation of what happened and what should happen today, is unwise.

One final point may have a bearing on this matter. The bible has been translated into thousands of languages. Perhaps the best known version in the English language is the Authorized King James Version. This is a translation from the Greek text by 49 Church of England scholars. There is considerable latitude in translations. It was commenced in 1604 and completed in 16115.

In 1611 people still believed in “witches familiars”. These were a toad, hare or cat. Of these three the cat is the most firmly associated with witchcraft, particularly the black cat. It was believed that the devil appeared to a witch in one of these animals. Witches constantly confessed to this…

extract from book on witches familiars

Could this have had an effect on the translation of the bible and be a contributing reason as to why there is no reference to domestic cat in the bible?

P.S. The Islam faith is kinder to cats..

Michael Avatar

Notes:

1. funtrivia.com

2. ucgstp.org/lit/booklets/clean/animals.html

3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Luke

4. jesuspolice.com/common_error.php?id=18

5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorized_King_James_Version

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Cats In The Bible

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Sep 28, 2010 Very Beautiful
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

How lovely, Ruth-- Your post actually brought a tear to my eye. Cats do become your soul mate when you bond with one.
Too many people who believe in an omnipotent God then choose to limit God by saying animals couldn't be a part of what comes after this life. Why not?


Sep 28, 2010 To Ruth
by: Ruth

Hello Ruth, people who say animals don't have souls are very wrong because they do.
Your mom was probably told that at an impressionable age by someone who didn't like animals and sadly she believed it.
You only have to look into an animals eyes to know they are exactly the same as us inside, even though we are all very different on the outside.
Either there is a Heaven we all go to, people and animals or there is nowhere at all and we all go into oblivion.I choose to think that because life treats some living beings very badly here on this planet, that there must be somewhere better we all go, where we are all equal.
My own late mother wasn't particularly religious yet she often quoted 'In my Father's house are many mansions' from the King James Bible and I know that her mansion is full of love and kindness and that all cats who were abused or had no one to love them here on Earth, will be with her now.
Have you read any paraphrases of the King James version of the Bible ? It is written in some of the most beautiful words you can imagine. There are also some lovely stories in the 'forgotten' part of Bible where 'Jesus and the cat' came from.
You and I share our name with a book in the Bible and we share our love of cats.
You and Monty have something very special and he does have a soul, he is your soul mate.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Sep 27, 2010 Thanks, Ruth
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

I never heard that story of Jesus and the little cat before, but it has the ring of truth to it. People say animals have no souls, and sometimes that's an excuse not to treat them very well. Losing pets has been harder for me than losing people because my Mom always said there's no way our pets can go to heaven because they don't have souls.
The way I look at it is that the God who made Monty loves him more than I ever could. God loved him before Monty was even born and planned before either of us existed for Monty and I to be together. Was that plan just for this life? I'm really doubting that. The God who sees when a sparrow falls surely sees and knows our pain when we lose a pet.
The other thing to remember from a Christian perspective is that no animal ever sinned, only people turned from God. All animals are entirely innocent. This should influence how we treat them. Your cat can't be bad or deserving of punishment. Your cat knows who created him and lives in perfect harmony with the Creator at all times. It's we who are not living in harmony with our Creator (or his creation).
It's not what's in the Bible that makes people behave poorly toward animals -- they don't really know what's in there and they use their tiny bit of knowledge as an excuse to do what they want, taking a verse or two out of context or making assumptions; like my Mom's assumption that animals have no souls-- Ruth's example seems to say the opposite.
I do have to add that the King James Version is the worst translation of the Bible out there, though it is the most poetic. More recent translations are better, utilizing ancient texts (the Dead Sea Scrolls have been helpful). Also, all Lutheran Pastors learn to read ancient Greek and Hebrew and are required to be able to read the Bible in the original languages. I have a pastor friend who is very, very good at teaching the nuances of meaning you can get by going back to the original text. However, I've never once found an instance where he did that and it completely changed the meaning, or where reading it without his insight it would have been totally unclear.


Jun 19, 2010 Anoymous
by: Edward

Man you are a man or woman after my own heart.
If everybody who says they care did even the tiniest bit of something to help cats it would be better than nothing.
Ed


Jun 18, 2010 A difference
by: Anonymous

Doing nothing at all is very different from doing what one can.
One can not save the entire world but if each of us tried to save our own small corner of it the world would be a better place.
It is not only in the USA where cats suffer,it is in all countries.
We few who care can not save them all.
Evil are those who do nothing at all in any country.


Jun 17, 2010 Response to lasr comment
by: Michael

On the basis of what you say most of us are evil because we know that millions of cats are killed for no good reason in shelters each year in the USA and very few of us do anything tangible about it.

Michael Avatar


Jun 16, 2010 Clear message
by: Anonymous

The message at the end of that forgotten Gospel of the twelve is crystal clear.
Doing nothing to help animals being abused is as evil as abusing them oneself.


Jun 16, 2010 This should be in the Bible
by: Ruth

There is a book called “The Gospel of the Holy Twelve” said to be a translation of an early Christian document found in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. One legend in it seems to be among those things left out of the Bible when they ought to have been put in, for they bring before us the mind of Jesus Christ much more clearly than some other recordings by the disciples.

“As Jesus entered a certain village, He saw a young cat which had none to care for her, and she was hungry and cried unto Him, and He took her up, and put her inside His garment, and she lay in His bosom. And when He came into the village He set food and drink before the cat, and she ate and drank, and showed thanks unto Him. And He gave her unto one of His disciples, who was a widow, whose name was Lorenza, and she took care of her. And some of the people said, “This man careth for all creatures. Are they His brothers and sisters that He should love them?” And He said unto them, “Verily, these are your fellow creatures, of the great Household of God; yea they are brothers and sisters, having the same breath of life in the Eternal. And whosoever careth for one of the least of these, and giveth it to eat and drink in it’s need the same doeth it unto me; and whosoever willingly suffereth one of these creatures to be in want, and defendeth it not when evilly treated, suffereth the evil as done unto me.”

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Jun 16, 2010 Interesting Subject
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Wonderful insight as to the Bible and its various translations, religious affiliations, et al with regard to the domestic cat. Having never given it much thought before, I did a bit of digging as well. Here's what I found:

Greyhounds were apparently mentioned in the Bible - Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version.."There be three things which go well, yea, Which are comely in going; A lion, which is strongest among beasts and Turneth not away from any; A greyhound; A he-goat also.." The website: goes into further detail and worth the read.

I also found an interesting forum on the subject and rather than repeating everything within it, here's the link to peruse: http://ask.metafilter.com/99388/Animals-on-the-Ark

Finally, the last link provided more or less talks about the origins of cats in general; however, 3/4 down the page they talk about the folklore of cats on Noah's Ark. It's rather interesting if not amusing: http://pio.tripod.com/magicpaw/catmyths.html

I'm sure a number of comments will be forthcoming on this subject. That's why this site is so informative. Thanks again, Michael, for a home run!



Comments

Cats In The Bible — 6 Comments

  1. If his article isn’t biased against The Bible I don’t know what is….how can you allude to The Bible being against cats in general if God Himself is referred to as The Lion of Judah! Lions are cats last I checked. Also before you tell people to not take The Words of God literally maybe you should read it don’t you think? The New Testament has letters from Apostal Paul where he mentions people that are still alive at the time of his letter than witness Jesus appearance to over 300 people after He had resurrected and conquered the grave for both you and me.
    PS – Lastly, your PS says that the Islam faith is kinder to cats, however I say this with all respect and truth, to bad the faith orders the death of anyone who doesn’t believe in Allah, so much for kindness to humans not to mention cats.

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. I am not against the bible. I am for trying to find the truth. The Age of Reason is a fantastic book published in 1794, 1795, and 1807. Written by Thomas Paine. You may know it. It debunks the bible.

      I have read a bit of the bible. I don’t think calling God “The Lion of Judah” means that people like cats. It is more about fearing the lion and God. The word “lion” signifies strength and courage. This is not about cats but courage etc..

      When I mention Islam I am simply mentioning what the Quran and the hadiths say as compared to the bible. How the cat is portrayed in both but I don’t expect people to follow it. People often distort teachings to suit themselves.

      I would say that Christianity has in the past been bad for animals because of the declared “dominion” over animals. This has resulted in untold cruelty and killing of animals over centuries in my opinion.

      • People aren’t cruel to animals because of something God said. People are cruel to animals because they are evil, living in rebellion against God. We are by nature enemies of God. Like our first parents we seek to put ourselves higher than others all the time– we put other people down through gossip to feel better about ourselves, we are racist each thinking his race is better (yes, we do all think that deep down), we claim we are the superior species and put ourselves above the animals to justify whatever we want to do and we, like our first parents, want more than anything to declare ourselves above even God, to put ourselves in His place. This one upping everything, putting ourselves on top, is what we do.
        God obviously meant we were to care for all creation. He put us in charge as a servant is in charge when his master is away. He did make us differently than the animals, but only a fallen, evil being would use those differences as justification for acts of abuse against another. Humans prove the Bible true every day by being exactly what the Bible says we are– rotten to the core.
        Only the eyes of faith can accept the reality of God who would see all we do, yet find a way to pardon and spare us. What would any of us do to someone who hurt our furry companion? God owns and loves all the animals humans torture every day. In response to our cruelty He gave us His Son.

      • Thanks for recommending this book, however The Age Of Reason has long ago been refuted and debunked itself.

        You can start by reading this very detailed rebuttal by someone who actually knows the Bible a lot better than the author of the above mentioned book.

        I’ll close by saying this, I use to be in similar shoes as you in the belief that possibly the Bible was man inspired, however I continued to seek truth just like you stated your doing. And while on that journey I promised myself that I would accept the truth no matter how beautiful, ugly or boring it might actually be, as well as not continue to doubt and find more reasons to justify my sinfulness and accountability to a holy and perfect God. Well my journey brought me to the only truth, which is in Jesus Christ revealed in the entire Bible old and new testaments. God will give you all the proof you need, however some people refuse to accept the truth even when evidence and light is right in front of them already.

        In love and respect, thank you for being kind in your responses. May God lead us all closer to Him and His truth and further away from this worlds ways of “reasoning”. In Christ Jesus holy name! Amen!

        Here is the link to a rebuttal of Age Of Reason;

        http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/age-of-reason-rebuttal/

        • I respect everyone else’s views and thoughts as long they don’t harm others. There is a lot of excellent advice in the bible abut how to live well, even if, for me, it is not entirely factual.

    • It all does hinge on the Resurrection. Somewhere in Acts there is a list of other prophets who around that time had been preaching to the people out in the desert, but no one remembered or talked about them anymore– because they had been executed! There were probably thousands like Jesus over the years who gained a following, were executed by a government fearing an uprising, and were never heard of again, their followers scattering.
      All the authorities would have had to do was produce his body and all talk of resurrection would have been stopped. Roman soldiers claiming they fell asleep on duty? Not likely. The disciples, most of them, being martyred for a lie? They all scattered that night. How did they get so brave had they not seen Him? Could the Romans really have let a victim of crucifixion survive? No, looking at the accounts it’s surprising Jesus lasted as long as he did. Hypovolemic shock was inevitable and the cold air of the tomb would not revive someone in shock. Roman soldiers pronounced Him dead, yet three days later his emboldened followers begin preaching in the name of the Living Christ. There is just no way around the resurrection and if that happened Jesus probably is exactly who He said He was.
      He raised Lazarus from the dead after four days and cured people born blind and deaf. I always wondered how the Pharisees and Saducees could have continued to oppose him after that. They had to have known He was the Son of God, and knowing that still chose to oppose Him. Because that’s what sinful human beings will always do unless by a miracle, through hearing the Word, the Holy Spirit creates faith. Without faith worldly wisdom seems sufficient and the Bible silly. With faith the soul clings to Jesus as the only rescuer from what St. Paul calls “this body of death.” I am not ashamed to say that I cling to this crucified and risen Christ.

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