Historical Context: Biblical Fish Meat

Though the biblical evidence is scant, humans in biblical times likely ate meat from the fish farms of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire, and possibly the city of Heshbon (Song 7:4). Currently, around 50% of global fish meat eaten comes from “aquaculture,” an aquatic equivalent to “factory farming.” On aquaculture farms, fish are usually cramped together, which causes injuries. These fish are given antibiotics (and pesticides) to treat infections from overcrowding, which can contribute to antibiotic resistance– a harmful health outcome (3 John 1:2). Because commercial antibiotics (which keep fish alive while crowded) did not yet exist, our ministry has little doubt that ancient fish-farming was likely nowhere near as cruel or unsanitary as aquaculture today. Without question, Proverbs 12:10 condemns the cruelty towards animals present on current aquaculture farms. Additionally, in biblical times, meat was consumed from fish that were wild-caught at locations like the Sea of Galilee (Matt 4:18; Mark 1:16) and the Mediterranean Sea (Neh 13:15–16). Wild-caught fish nowadays are not equivalent to those same creatures in biblical times. Due to activities such as smelting, burning coal for electricity, and waste incineration, mercury pollutes the air. Then, it settles in waterways and bodies of water. Thus, wild fish are regularly contaminated with mercury nowadays. Therefore, frequently eating the flesh of wild-caught fish today can lead to mercury poisoning, a detrimental health outcome (3 John 1:2). Farmed fish flesh now also contains mercury, but generally at far lower levels than meat from wild fish. In conclusion, fish-farming today is likely much crueler (Prov 12:10) and less hygienic (3 John 1:2) than it was in biblical times. Likewise, meat nowadays, whether from farmed or wild-caught fish, is probably not healthy (3 John 1:2) to consume compared to eating the flesh of those same procured creatures in biblical periods and locations.