Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Long, Stephen D.

Second Advisor

Nussberger, Danielle

Third Advisor

Camosy, Charles


In this exploratory work I argue that Jesus’s particularity as a Jewish, male human is essential for developing Christian theology about nonhuman animals. The Gospel of John says that the Word became “flesh” not that the Word became “human.” By using flesh, John’s Gospel connects the Incarnation to the Jewish notion of all animals. The Gospel almost always uses flesh in a wider sense than meaning human. The Bread of Life discourse makes this explicit when Jesus compares his flesh to “meat,” offending his hearers because they see themselves as above other animals. Other animals are killable and consumable; humans are not. The notion that the Word became flesh has gained prominence in ecotheology, particularly in theologians identifying with deep Incarnation. Unless this notion is connected to Jesus’s particularity, however, there is danger in sacrificing the individual for the whole. We can see this danger in two early theologians, Athanasius and St. John of Damascus. Both of these theologians spoke of the Word becoming “matter.” Yet they ignored Jesus’s Jewishness and rarely focused on his animality, preferring instead to focus on cosmic elements. Consequently they often devalued animal life. Jesus’s Jewishness is essential to the Incarnation. His Jewishness entailed a vision of creation’s purpose in which creatures do not consume one another, but live peaceably by eating plants. This Jewish milieu also entails a grand vision for transformation where predators act peaceably with their former prey. Jesus’s maleness is also connected to his Jewishness. In the Greco-Roman context in which he lived, his circumcision marked him as less male and more animal-like. Moreover, Jesus’s Jewish heritage rejected the idea of a masculine hunter. His theological body was far more transgendered and connected to animality than the Roman ideal. Finally, Jesus’s humanity entails a kenosis of what it means to be human. By becoming-animal he stops the anthropological machine that divides humans from animals. We see this becoming animal most clearly in his identity as a lamb, but also in Revelation’s idea that he is both a lion and a lamb. His eschatological body fulfills the Jewish vision for creation-wide peace.