Does Scripture disapprove of celibacy and vegetarianism?


We read in 1 Timothy 4: 1-4:
[1] 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, [2] Speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their conscience seared, [3] Forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth. [4] For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving:
Does this passage indicate that it is a departure from the faith and a doctrine of the devil to forbid clergy to marry, or to abstain from meat ?


Context is everything, in this letter who is the listener? to whom it is addressed?

Can we infer that what the Apostle Paul is talking about applies to the whole of the human race?

Hardly. He is addressing the letter to the laity of Ephesus where he had left his disceple Timothy.

St. Paul is a strong advocate of celibacy for the priesthood and he openly declares that he himself practices the discipline.

As for food, that is a bit easier to address, the Jews had to eat the sacrificial lamb in order to fulfill their religious obligation. So I doubt that anyone would even try to claim that they would not eat meat. He, St Paul is rather addressing the problem that the jews had created for themselves when dietary laws were enacted declaring slews of food clean or unclean.


No body is forced to become a priest; thus they voluntarily refrain from marriage.

We abstain from meat as penance because meat is luxurious and wholesome; not because it is something spiritually impure.


From Haydock’s Bible commmentary:

Ver. 3. Forbidding to marry, to abstain from meats, &c. Here, says St. Chrysostom,[1] are foretold and denoted the heretics called Encratites, the Marcionites, Manicheans, &c. who condemned all marriages as evil, as may be seen in St. Irenæus, Epiphanius, St. Augustine, Theodoret, &c. These heretics held a god who was the author of good things, and another god who was the author or cause of all evils; among the latter they reckoned, marriages, fleshmeats, wine, &c. The doctrine of Catholics is quite different, when they condemn the marriages of priests and of such as have made a vow to God to lead always a single life; or when the Church forbids persons to eat flesh in Lent, or on fasting-days, unless their health require it. We hold that marriage in itself is not only honourable, but a sacrament of divine institution. We believe and profess that the same only true God is the author of all creatures which are good of themselves; that all eatables are to be eaten with thanksgiving, and none of them to be rejected, as coming from the author of evil. When we condemn priests for marrying, it is for breaking their vows and promises made to God of living unmarried, and of leading a more perfect life; we condemn them with the Scripture, which teaches us that vows made are to be kept; with St. Paul, who in the next chap. (ver. 12) teaches us, that they who break such vows incur their damnation. When the Church, which we are commanded to obey, enjoins abstinence from flesh, or puts a restraint as to the times of eating on days of humiliation and fasting, it is by way of self-denial and mortification: so that it is not the meats, but the transgression of the precept, that on such occasions defiles the consciences of the transgressors. “You will object, (says St. Chrysostom) that we hinder persons from marrying; God forbid,” &c. St. Augustine, (lib. 30. contra Faustum. chap. vi.) “You see (says he) the great difference in abstaining from meats for mortification sake, and as if God was not the author of them.” We may observe that God, in the law of Moses, prohibited swine’s flesh and many other eatables; and that even the apostles, in the Council of Jerusalem, forbad the Christians, (at least about Antioch) to eat at that time blood and things strangled; not that they were bad of themselves, as the Manicheans pretended. (Witham) — St. Paul here speaks of the Gnostics and other ancient heretics, who absolutely condemned marriage and the use of all kind of meat, because they pretended that all flesh was from an evil principle: whereas the Church of God so far from condemning marriage, holds it to be a holy sacrament, and forbids it to none but such as by vow have chosen the better part: and prohibits not the use of any meats whatsoever, in proper times and seasons, though she does not judge all kinds of diet proper for days of fasting and penance. (Challoner) — We may see in the earliest ages[centuries] of Christianity, that some of the most infamous and impure heretics that ever went out of the Church, condemned all marriage as unlawful, at the same time allowing the most unheard of abominations: men without religion, without faith, without modesty, without honour. See St. Clement of Alexandria, lib. 3. Strom.


Scripture forbids us to say that eating meat or having sex within marriage are sins. It does not forbid us to voluntarily practice restraint in these matters. The Church does not oblige anyone to become a priest, monk or nun. Nor does it suggest that eating meat on a fast say, if you have a lawful reason to do so, is a mortal sin.


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