1 Timothy iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. In the last times. Literally, last days; i.e. hereafter, or in days to come. — To spirits of error and doctrines of devils; or, to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, as in the Protestant translation. The sense must be, that men shall teach false doctrine by the suggestion of the devil. (Witham)

Ver. 2. Their conscience seared; hardened: a metaphor from the custom of burning malefactors with a hot iron. (Witham)

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. Irenĉus, 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.

Ver. 5. It is sanctified by the word of God, and prayer. That is, praying that they may not, by the abuse we make of them, be an occasion to us of sinning and offending God. (Witham) — The use of all kinds of meat is in itself good; but if it were not, it would become sanctified by the prayer which we usually pronounce over it, and by the word of Christ, who has declared that not that which enters the mouth defiles a man. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Old wives’ fables.[2] Some understand the groundless traditions of the Jews; others the ridiculous fictions of Simon Magus and his followers. In the Greek they are called profane fables. (Witham)

Ver. 8. Some think St. Paul alludes in this verse to the corporal exercises of wrestlers, which procured them but a little short renown, whereas the works of piety have a more lasting reward. (Menochius; Tirinus) — Corporal exercises of temperance, mortification, &c. are good, but not to be compared with the spiritual virtues of charity, piety, &c. (St. Bernard)

Ver. 10. Of all men, and especially of the faithful, who have received the grace of faith. (Witham)

Ver. 12. Let no man despise thy youth. That is, let thy behaviour be such that no one can have occasion to despise thee. He seems then about the age of forty. (Witham)

Ver. 13. Attend to reading, &c. He recommends to him the reading of the Holy Scriptures; which, says St. Ambrose, (lib. 3. de fid. chap. vii.) is the book of priests. (Witham)

Ver. 14. Neglect not the grace. The Greek seems to imply the gifts of the Holy Ghost, given by the sacraments,[3] by prophecy; which may signify, when the gift of preaching or of expounding prophets was bestowed upon thee. — With the imposition of the hands of the[4] priesthood. Some expound it, when thou didst receive the order of priesthood, or wast made bishop: but the sense rather seems to be, when the hands of priests of the first order (i.e. of bishops) were laid upon thee, according to St. Chrysostom. (Witham) — St. Augustine sayeth that no man can doubt whether holy orders be a sacrament; and that no one may argue that he uses the term improperly, and without due precision, he joineth this sacrament in nature and name with baptism (Contra Ep. Parmen. lib. 2. chap. xiii.) St. Ambrose on this verse understands in the words imposition of hands, all the holy action and sacred words done and spoken over him when he was made a priest; whereby, says the saint, he was designed to the work, and received authority that he durst offer sacrifice in our Lord’s stead unto God.


[1] Ver. 3. St. Chrysostom, Greek: om. ibou koluomen, me genoioto. St. Jerome, (lib. 1. contra Jovinian. tom. 4. p. 156) Si nupserit Virgo, non peccavit….non illa Virgo, quĉ se semel Dei cultui dedicavit; harum enim si qua nupserit, habebit damnationem. See St. Augustine (lib. 30. contra Faust. chap. vi.) both as to marriage and meats.

[2] Ver. 7. Bebelous.

[3] Ver. 14. Gratiam, charismatos.

[4] Ver. 14. Presbyterii, tou presbuteriou. See Luke xxii. 26. and Acts xxii. 5., where presbuterion is taken for a number of Jewish priests.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

He warns him against heretics; and exhorts him to the exercise of piety.

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:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 Proposing these things to the brethren, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished up in the words of faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast attained.

7 *But avoid foolish and old wives’ fables: and exercise thyself to piety.

8 For bodily exercise is profitable to little: but piety is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

9 A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.

10 For we labor for this, and are reviled, because we hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.

11 These things command, and teach.

12 Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the faithful, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity.

13 Till I come, attend to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.

14 Neglect not the grace which is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the imposition of the hands of the priesthood.

15 Meditate on these things: be wholly in these things: that thy proficiency may be manifest to all.

16 Attend to thyself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.



1: 2 Timothy iii. 3.; 1 Peter iv. 3.; Jude i. 1. and 18.

7: 1 Timothy i. 4.; 2 Timothy ii. 23.; Titus iii. 9.