Bro. Peter Dimond
1 Timothy 4:1-5 “Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their conscience seared, forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
Some Protestants cite 1 Timothy 4:1-5 in an attempt to refute Catholic teaching. They incorrectly claim that it identifies the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church as “doctrines of devils”. However, they have totally misunderstood the passage. It doesn’t in any way refer to Catholic teaching or to the disciplinary laws of the Catholic Church.
There is a definite meaning of this passage in 1 Timothy 4. It refers to the various dualist sects throughout Christian history. Examples of these were the Gnostics, the Manicheans, the Cathars, etc. They believed in two gods: one evil and one good. According to them, the evil god was the god of matter, and the good god was the god of the spirit. They developed a theology that was destructive to any use of material things, to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the sect and their zeal for it. Hence, they forbade marriage, abstained from meats, and preached poverty (for they held that ownership of material things was evil). The most devoted would even kill themselves to put an end to their material existence. There’s no doubt that the passage refers to dualists, as a study of Christian history will confirm.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, does not forbid marriage. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. The Church also doesn’t forbid eating meat (except on Fridays and on certain days of the year out of devotion to the Lord). In fact, the Council of Florence declared that “no food, which society admits, is to be condemned”.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, 1441: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that ‘every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving’ [ 1 Tim. 4:4], since, according to the word of the Lord [ Matt.. 15: 11 ], ‘not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man’; and it asserts that the indifference of clean and unclean foods of the Mosaic law pertains to the ceremonials which, with the rise of the Gospel passed out of existence and ceased to be efficacious. And it says also that the prohibition of the apostles “from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things strangled [Acts 15:29] befitted that time in which one Church arose from the Judeans and the Gentiles, who before lived according to different ceremonies and customs, so that even the Gentiles observed some things in common with the Judeans, and occasion was furnished for coming together into one worship of God and one faith, and ground for dissension was removed; since to the Judeans, by reason of an ancient custom, blood and things strangled seemed abominable, and they could think that the Gentiles would return to idolatry because of the eating of things sacrificed. But when the Christian religion is so propagated that no carnal Judean appears in it, but all passing over to the Church, join in the same rites and ceremonies of the Gospel, believing ‘all things clean to the clean’ [Tit. 1:15], with the ending of the cause for this apostolic prohibition, the effect also ended. Thus it declares that the nature of no food, which society admits, is to be condemned, and no distinction is to be made by anyone at all, whether man or woman, between animals, and by whatever kind of death they meet their end; although for the health of body, for the exercise of virtue, for regular and ecclesiastical discipline many things not denied should be given up, since, according to the Apostle, ‘all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient’ [1 Cor.. 6:12; 10:22].”
The dualist heretics, on the other hand, who did forbid marriage and abstain from meats, popped up again and again. They became such a problem in the Middle Ages that the war against Cathar-dualist heretics in 1208 was called a crusade by Pope Innocent III (Carroll, A History of Christendom, Vol. 3, p. 175.). Thus, the passage is not at all referring to Catholic teaching or practices. Of course, the Catholic Church’s teaching that the celibate state is, in itself, superior to the married state (a truth reflected in the discipline of clerical celibacy) is the teaching of the Bible itself. See this file:
It’s also the teaching of the fathers of the Christian Church. In fact, Protestantism’s rejection of the biblical and patristic teaching on celibacy is another proof that it’s not true Christianity. In 1 Cor. 7, St. Paul clearly teaches that the celibate state is superior to the married state, thus providing a powerful refutation of the Protestants’ denial of this truth.
1 Corinthians, Chap. 7- “Now concerning the thing whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband… But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment. For I wish that all men were even as myself [unmarried]: but every one has his proper gift from God; one in this way, another in that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain single as I am…
If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his virgin… let them marry—it is no sin.
But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his virgin, he will do well. Therefore, both he that gives his virgin in marriage, does well; and he that gives her not, does better.”
As these facts show, the Protestants’ assertion that 1 Timothy 4:1-5 refers to Catholic teaching is completely wrong. It’s another example of how they misuse and twist Scripture to their destruction.