Genesis One Studies
Paul Says Vegetarians/Vegans Are Following Doctrines of Demons!
(An ongoing study that will continue to be expanded)
One of the wildest charges made by meat-loving flesh-consuming Christians today is pointing to 1 Timothy 4:1-3 and proclaiming that Paul is talking about vegetarians and thus vegetarians are following doctrines of demons. Ironically, this same scripture is also used by other Christians to call those who follow the clean vs. unclean meat principles of the Bible as followers of demon doctrines. It's seemingly a swiss army knife adjustable scripture that can be used to defend whatever form of meat you like & want to have on your plate for dinner. But what is Paul actually talking about in this scripture?
Now first of all, we do not condemn or begrudge those that are doing what they believe to be the right thing because of what is in the Bible (...without researching in depth what a scripture actually pertains to, or where it might have came from & if it was part of the original text, etc). If something is in the Bible and they think they are doing what is right, then God is the only One that knows what is in a person's heart and judge them accordingly.
But this courtesy, this show of grace, goes both ways. It should go both ways, but that respectful courtesy doesn't seem to be reciprocated to those who choose to be vegetarians, or vegans. Instead, they are attacked in very carnal-minded non-gracious ways. Appropriate behavior characteristics of carnivores, but I digress. For those that choose to take this form of dialogue, or perhaps you the reader have been recently confronted with this accusatory line of thought, we will dive into this topic in order to shed Godly light on the subject.
Before we begin, it should be noted that most theologians in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholarship question the authenticity of the letter in 1 Timothy, with many scholars suggesting that First Timothy, along with Second Timothy and Titus, are not the work of Paul, but rather are unattributable Christian writing some time in the late-first-to-mid-2nd centuries. Most scholars today now also agree. These Epistles contain 306 words that Paul does not use in his unquestioned letters, their style of writing is different from that of his unquestioned letters, and they reflect conditions and a church organization that was not current in Paul's day, and that do not appear in early lists of his canonical works. So while some would argue that the entire letter is questionable, which would explain why some of it seems to be in complete contradiction of Paul's words in other NT books of the Bible, for the sake of discussion we will go with the premise that it was in fact Paul who wrote it, and analyze what was actually being referred to.
So, how did this angle that Paul is talking about vegetarians, start?
Well, one of the most glaringly obvious reasons is because of the King James Version of the Bible. The King James, with its 1600s style of English-language, refers to food as "meat". And refers to actual meat as "flesh". This causes confusion in various instances of the Good Book, in both the Old and New Testaments. So for instance, we see in the KJV, verse 3 reads as "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." So for those who just read the KJV, they see the word "meats" and blindly correlate it that Paul must be talking about vegetarians! The word rendered "of meats" in the King James Version is "brwmatwn" that is "of victuals." In the 17th century when KJV says the word "meat" it's talking about solid "food". The New King James (NKJV) correctly translates the scripture as "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." If the author was discussing abstaining from animal flesh, he would have used a word like "kreas", but there is nothing in 1 Timothy 4 that links the "bromatwn" with animal flesh.
So we already can see here, that Paul is talking about abstaining from certain foods, not meats specifically, so there is something else going on here, other than being a vegan.
Now, before we dive into some theological study about what possibly was going on back then that Paul was perhaps talking about, let's pause to make a statement that using Paul's words in 1 Timothy to make such a serious charge towards non-meat eating Christians, violates the very words of the very same Paul in Romans 14, who said, " For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:2-4). "He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks." (v6) "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way." (v13).
So here we have the very same Paul, who we claim is saying that vegetarians are following doctrines of demons, saying here that those who eat meat should not despise those who do not, and vice versa. For God has received them both. Who are you to judge? And warns not to put a stumbling block or cause your brother to fall. That is a very strong statement & a warning, that those who attack fellow-Christians over what is on their plate should heed. Now while we understand what perhaps was being discussed here was the debate that was going on back then between those eating meat sacrificed to idols vs. those who did not want to eat the meat and ate only vegetables, Paul's opinion that those who eat the meat that was sacrificed to idols were of stronger faith than those who would not (i.e. weak) was later seemingly and clearly determined as incorrect by Jesus' own words in Revelation (see future study: Paul - Kicking Against The Goads). However, what's important here in terms of this specific discussion, is to pay close attention that Paul literally uses the word "vegetables". So we can clearly see that if Paul is discussing vegetarians he will refer to them as those who eat only vegetables. We can surmise that if he was talking about vegetarians in 1 Timothy, he would have clearly said such. Also, if being a vegetarian was following a doctrine of demons, would Paul not have stated such when discussing the issue in Romans 14? Did Paul say the correct answer was eating meat, because eating only vegetables is a demonic practice? No, he did not. He says not to judge those that choose not to eat it. You would not say such a thing, if you felt they were practicing demonic doctrines by doing so.
We see another example of this again, from the very same Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8 (NKJV). "But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse." (v8) "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." (v13). What??? How can that be!? Is Paul himself going to follow doctrines of demons? Of course not!!! Neither was Daniel, for example, when he chose to eat only vegetables & water and prove to be healthier. (Daniel 1:12-17).
So, based on Paul's own words, we can already surmise that clearly Paul was discussing something else in 1 Timothy. What, then?
The Nelson Study Bible says the following: "The false teachers at Ephesus evidently disparaged the material world as evil, which became a central doctrine of the full-grown Gnosticism of the second century." Basically, Paul mentions two specific points in which the false teachers of his day were mistaken. These are both consistent with the heresy of Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that all physical matter is evil; therefore, the human body, all forms of sexuality, and pleasant food were labelled as evil. As a result, the Gnostics rejected marriage and taught people not to eat certain foods. More specifically, reading the entirety of 1 Timothy it would seem Paul might have been dealing with the ascetic group of Gnostics who believed matter to be evil and their spirit to be good. They believed their avoidance of the flesh and its desires brought or developed this 'knowledge.' They emphasized abstaining, denying and other types of strict rules that would aid them in their quest. This is the problem Paul may have been addressing in 1 Timothy. But there were many religous sects at the time that Paul was encountering (see Col. 2:16-23) so Theologians have debated this topic for centuries as to who, or what, he was talking to. Many sects had "higher sacraments" for those they considered more spiritually advanced. It's easy to picture a Gnostic group holding that eucharistic participation is too holy for married people. But it could also simply be any overzealous sect. Even today, the Orthodox abstain from sexual relations for a certain amount of time before receiving Holy Communion, and abstain from certain foods, or only eat certain foods, at certain times. Likewise, some Orthodox priests abstain from relations with their wives for a period before performing the Liturgy. Eunuchs abounded back in this day as well.
And saying all of that, as we have shown, Paul clearly made it a point several times that what a God-fearing brother or sister chooses to eat or not to eat should not in any way be judged or ridiculed, because if you cause your brother or sister to stumble or fall that is clearly not something you want on your head. So the fact Paul is even saying such a thing, here, is what (of several) causes some to believe that this letter wasn't even written by Paul, himself.
In any event, after all of that being said, if we were to just go with the blind assumption and just say that, yes, Paul is talking about vegetarians here, who love all of God's creation and do not senselessly kill animals for food and eat as God originally intended at the beginning of Creation, then that would make Paul incredibly wrong, here. Because it is plain as day to anyone who reads the Bible with an open mind, that Genesis 1:29-30 clearly demonstrates God's original command as to what was given to mankind as food. As well as how it is clearly stated of how it will be once again in the millenium reign of Christ & the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 65:25; 11:6-9). If you refer to GOD'S PLAN as a demonic doctrine, and the actual demonic practices of death, bloodshed, and scenes of outright horror at your local slaughterhouse as "Godly"......then there is something fundamentally broken within that is blinding one's spiritual eyes. Or, you are simply not being honest, because you do not want to consider what that honesty might cost you on your delicious little plate, tomorrow, or how it will effect your attendance numbers (and thus, your offering baskets) at your local church or congregation. Money talks, food walks.
The truth always cuts like a searing hot knife. It is always better to be on the right side of truth. God will always take care of the rest. And most certainly, He will take care of you.
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