Bodily exercise


For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

For years I have always heard from preachers that “bodily exercise” refers to such things as lifting weights, jogging, etc. Some used this verse to give an excuse for their laziness, obesity and lack of self discipline. :rolleyes:

What is the proper interpretation of this verse from a Catholic perspective?
Is the evangelical interpretation a kind of fuzzy Gnosticism (spirit-good, body-disposable kind of thing)?


New American Standard Bible, considered a fairly accurate translation, says “bodily discipline,” not bodily exercise." Not sure if it makes a difference.

Considering how many times St. Paul used references to the athletic games practiced by the Greeks and Romans, I think it’s very possible that he was referring to sports.

I grew up evangelical Protestant, and my husband grew up Assemblies of God, which is pentecostal evangelical Protestant, and we never heard excuses given for obesity and laziness. Say what you like about evangelicals, but one thing they try to do is take Scripture in context. An evangelical refers to I Corinthians 6: 19, which describes our bodies as temples of God, and uses this verse to emphasize the need to take care of our bodies (and incidentally, this is one of the verses that evangelicals will use to defend total abstinence from alcohol). An evangelical will also refer to Romans 12: 1, and emphasize the need to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, which would appear to make obesity and laziness a sin. Finally, I Corinthians 9: 27 says that St. Paul buffetted his body and made it his slave–again–this does not seem to excuse obesity and laziness.

One more thing–I respectfully and humbly suggest that you need to be careful about putting obesity, laziness, and lack of self-discipline together. I am obese (240 pounds), and I am definitely NOT lazy. At work (a hospital), people comment on my speed and energy. I work out several times a week, and I am involved in many activities in the Church and the community, all of which take self-discipline to complete successfully. I have tried many times to lose weight, and always fail. It is a trial, a cross, something that I have been allowed to have by God to make me struggle and discipline the body.


Timothy was probably referring to athletics and military exercise as practiced in his day–if you think the Olympics athletes are showing to much skin and turning the games into a buff bod show-all contest, they have nothing on the athletes of Paul’s day who generally competed in the nude, and the gymnasium where athletic pursuits took place was by this time a euphemism for what today would be the gay bar or bathhouse.


From the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible:

Spiritual wellness is more important than bodily health. Nevertheless, the training regimen of athletes is a fitting model for the discipline and commitment necessary to advance in the spiritual life.


He was directly discipled by Paul who often quote things relating with excercise who may have been a tent maker directly at the Isthmian Games (similarity to the Olympics) - was trying to compare the difference between the temporary and the eternal.


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