What Did Jesus Eat? [Food in the First Century]


God created food, which he uses to sustain the bodies of human beings (Gen. 1:29). It plays a part in many Bible stories, from the temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:2) at the beginning of time to the Tree of Life at the end of it (Rev. 22:2). And from fasting to miracles to fellowship, food is also part of Jesus’ life and ministry. These facts led many people to wonder about what Jesus ate.

The Gospel of Luke makes the only explicit reference to Jesus eating. It says he ate fish with some of his disciples after the resurrection. In addition to fish, staples of the first-century diet in Israel included a lot of vegetables; grain, bread, and meat (like fish) in limited quantities; and fruit.

What kind of vegetables did Jesus likely eat? Was he a vegetarian? Why did the Israelites eat meat less frequently than other foods? What kind of bread and grain was Jesus probably able to access? What kind of fruit does the Bible mention? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Jesus Christ eat
Did Israelites have vegetable gardens? See below

Jesus Likely Ate a Lot of Vegetables

“Vegetables were everyday fare for the Israelites,” writes one scholar. [1] In first-century Israel, certain foods, like meat, nuts, and honey, were available in lesser quantities. Vegetables were the most common food because they were plentiful and easy to grow. Jesus likely consumed wide varieties.

Vegetables mentioned in the Bible

The Bible mentions different kinds of vegetables. The Gospels don’t include details about what kind of vegetables Jesus ate. However, he likely consumed many of those mentioned in other Bible passages because they grew in the same climate and region in which Jesus lived.

VegetablesReference
Beans2 Sam. 17:28
LentilsGen. 25:29-34
CucumberIsa. 1:8
OnionNum. 11:5
LeekNum. 11:5
HerbsExod. 12:8

Many people in Bible times probably had vegetable gardens (e.g., Deut. 11:10; 1 Kings 21:2). Cultivating rows of vegetables was faster than growing trees and bushes that produced foods like fruit and nuts.

Vegetable gardens better fit nomadic lifestyles, too. People likely ate many different kinds of vegetables in addition to those that Scripture mentions explicitly.

The health benefits of vegetables

In the Bible, there are examples of God’s servants eating lots of vegetables. For instance, Daniel 1:12 reads, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink” (ESV).

Later in the story, the health of Daniel and his friends is apparent, “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (1:15, NIV).

Was Jesus a vegetarian?

The New Testament doesn’t indicate that Jesus only ate vegetables. The only passage that refers to him eating says he consumed fish, a type of meat (Luke 24:42-43).

While the Bible mentions the health benefits of eating lots of vegetables (e.g., Daniel), God permits people to eat meat as a part of their diet (see Gen. 9:1-3).

fish symbol
When did the Israelites eat meat? See below

Jesus Probably Ate Some Meat

Meat wasn’t an everyday food for many Israelites. While it was available, it was less accessible. Instead, people tended to serve and eat meat on special occasions, such as when hosting friends or guests or at feasts and banquets. The Bible mentions different kinds of meat, but the Israelite diet likely consisted of other unnamed varieties.

MeatReference
CalfLuke 15:23
GoatLuke 15:29
BirdDeut. 14:20
FishLuke 24:42-43
SheepExod. 12:8

Jesus ate fish after the resurrection

Luke records the only passage that explicitly mentions Jesus eating. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

He continues, “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Luke 24:39-43, ESV).

Did Jesus eat lamb at Passover?

Some readers think the Bible implies that Jesus shared a Passover meal with his disciples. On that evening, he said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16, ESV).

Bible scholars disagree on if Jesus ate the meal or not. New Testament scholar Leon Morris writes, “It is not clear whether Jesus is saying that he has desired to eat the Passover and is eating it, or that despite his desire he will not eat until its fulfillment in God’s kingdom.” [2]

Did Israelites hunt?

In Genesis, Isaac tells his son Esau to hunt. “Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die” (Gen. 27:3-4, ESV).

The Israelites probably used pitfalls, nets, traps, and bows and arrows to catch animals. Deer, jackals, bears, and foxes are among the animals the Old Testament mentions that Israelites may have hunted.

what Jesus ate
What kind of fruit does the Bible mention? See below

Jesus Likely Ate Grains and Bread

Grain, which makes bread, is important in some Bible stories. For example, Joseph stores grain during a time of famine (Gen. 41:47-57).

In another story, Jesus permits his disciples to pick and eat heads of grain on the Sabbath: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (Matt. 12:1). However, the text doesn’t explicitly say that Jesus ate grain.

Grain/BreadReference
BarleyRuth 2:17
MilletEzek. 4:9
WheatExod. 9:32
BreadMatt. 6:11
WaferExod. 16:31

Fruit Was Probably A Staple In Jesus’ Diet

Fruit was second only to vegetables in the Israelites’ diet in the first century. One reason people valued fruit is that grapes could make wine.

FruitReference
GrapesJer. 48:32
Raisins1 Chron. 12:40
PomegranateExod. 28:33
MelonNum. 11:5
AppleSong 2:3
FigGen. 3:7
OliveGen. 8:11

References:
[1] Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible. p. 472.
[2] Luke by Leon Morris. TNTC. p. 324.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

Recent Posts

error: This content is copyrighted.