What does 1 Thessalonians 5:22 mean?

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to abstain from all appearance of evil. But I really don’t understand this verse. What’s an “appearance of evil”? Something is either sinful, or it isn’t. Is an “appearance of evil” something that’s a gray area that’s up to a person’s conscience to decide?

What are some examples of “abstaining from appearances of evil”?

From the Douay Rheims Confraternity edition.“Keep yourselves from every kind of evil”

From the RSV-2CE: “Abstain from every form of evil.”

So I’m inclined to say it was an archaic usage of “appearance” to mean “form”.

Along with what everyone else said, I would add that this could be referring to avoiding the near occasion of sin.

Imo, I think St. Paul is basically saying to stay away from all things that u know or perceive to be evil or bad for us. Examples of appearances of evil could be things like participation in abortion, drug dealing, gossip, porn, etc…

I concur! :thumbsup:


I once read that Billy Graham refused to ever be alone with his female secretary (even while riding in a car) because he wanted to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

This is true. The original Greek was ‘Eidos’ meaning form or shape. The King James Bible uses ‘appearance’ and that has lead to a lot of Protestants mistaking the passage for the warning against causing scandal. We more commonly refer to Pauls words from one Corinthians in that regard… “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9).

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 21. Prove all things. That is, examine prophecies whether they be true, and the doctrine which you hear from new preachers, and refrain yourselves not only from evil, but from every thing that hath the appearance of evil, and which may disedify and scandalize others. (Witham) — Hold that which is good. This we can best learn from the doctrine of the apostles, and the spirit of the Catholic Church. Men can deceive and be deceived, but the Spirit of God, speaking to us by his Church, can neither deceive us nor be deceived.

For example, if a boyfriend and girlfriend are living together and this is known in the parish that is cause for scandal and should be avoided.

I do apologise. Aquinas has used the verse to reference the sin of scandal in Summa Theologica.

" Hence the Apostle says (1 Thessalonians 5:22): “From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.” Scandal is therefore fittingly described as something done “less rightly,” so as to comprise both whatever is sinful in itself, and all that has an appearance of evil. "

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