Did Mrs. White contradict 1 Timothy 4:1-4?
by Edwin M. Cotto
Adventists, and Ellen White in particular, claim that Christians should abstain from animal foods like pork, and in some cases all flesh foods. However, 1 Timothy 4:1-4 warns against those who would teach to abstain from meat!
THE SHORT ANSWER
A careful examination of each text reveals that Paul was actually warning against those who would teach to abstain from foods which God originally created to be eaten, and flesh foods was not a part of that original diet.
THE LONG ANSWER
It will help to examine each text carefully:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 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.” (verses 1-3).
Apparently, the individuals teaching to abstain from meats also teach not to marry. There aren’t many religious bodies that teach both to abstain from meats and forbids marriage except one, the Roman Catholic Church. This church forbids the eating of foods on certain of its holiday celebrations and actually does forbid marriage through its institutions of the nuns and priests.
Let’s dig a bit deeper. The Greek word translated “meats” in this verse is “broma” which simply means “foods” in general. You will find that often the Bible translates meat foods as “flesh” (e.g. Romans 14:21). Broma needs to be defined by its context. In 1 Cor. 8:13, for example, it is used when speaking of flesh foods. We can determine what foods Paul is speaking of in 1 Tim. 4 by reading the rest of the verse, “which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (verse 3). The word “created” takes the mind back to the beginning. What did God create at that time to be received with thanksgiving? According to Genesis 1:29, it was natural, non-flesh foods. Flesh meat was merely “allowed” either because circumstances made it impossible to eat vegetables, like with Noah’s case after the flood when all vegetation was destroyed, or because of the ignorance of the children of Israel who complained so much that God allowed clean meats to be eating, yet with the warning that they would die (and they did, see Num. 11:33). Thayer’s Greek Definition defines broma as “that which is eaten, food.” Normally this word is used in general of foods (plural). But here we have added information about this broma, that God created it to be received with thanksgiving. Animals were not created to be eaten, but natural foods were.
Let’s move on to verse 4, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” Ah ha! Here it says “creature” and so, Paul must be talking about animal products! Well first of all, it says creature, not animal or beasts.” This significant because there are various other Greek words which literally mean an animal, such as ktenos, therion and zoon, none of which are used in this verse. Instead, the Greek word used here is ktisma (κτίσμα) and, interestingly, Strong’s Greek definition says it means “an original formation, a product, a created thing.” Thayer’s Greek Definition says, “thing founded, created thing.” The idea, in both these definitions, and as used in this context, is that which was created originally “to be received with thanksgiving.”
In the three other times the word is used in the New Testament we find it used of true Christians (James 1:18), metaphorically of creatures that are “in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea (Rev. 5:13), and also of sea creatures (Rev. 8:9). None of these are used in the context of food as are the other Greek words above. Granting that Rev. 8:9 uses it for sea creatures, the context of 1 Timothy 4, particularly verse 3, shows that the “thing founded” that God created to be received, or eaten, was natural foods, and not animal flesh. It is important to remember that context defines terms.
Moving on to verse 5, we read, “For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” This word “sanctified” pretty much means to make holy. Note here, that it says it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer… not just prayer. This means that the prayer will have to agree with what the word of God says in regards to food. Where in the word of God does it teach pork can be made holy for food? Or insects and rodents (if we interpret creature in a general sense)? In other words, we are not to pray over just any creature, because many creatures, especially insects, are forbidden by “the word of God” (see Leviticus 11:23). Rather, let us pray that God sanctify the broma; foods which are in accordance with the word of God, which “God created to be received with thanksgiving” (cf. Gen. 1:29).
The body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16-17) and, our whole being was “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). The servants of God, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were children, “in whom was no blemish.” They were, “skillful in wisdom, and cunning in knowledge.” (Dan. 1:4). These young men refused to eat the filth upon the king’s plate, but told him to prove them for ten days as they eat only vegetables. The result? “Their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh then all the children which did eat the portion of the kings meat.” (Dan. 1:15). With their minds and with their bodies they glorified God and by Him were used mightily amidst the ruling power of the Babylonian empire. It is not wholly attributed to their diet, but when the trial arrived, God inspired these young men to make dietary decisions that ended up saving lives. God’s people will also face similar circumstances when they will not be able to “buy or sell” for standing up against coercion and wickedness. The health message is not something done to save us from sins, but rather, it is designed among other things to prepare us for that time of trial.
As seen above, our critic did not examine these texts closely. By his reasoning, we can eat anything, any creature, and God will be just fine with that, so long as we pray over it. But that will not stop us from getting heart disease, diabetes and cancer as a result. Let’s be reasonable. The scriptures say that we are to “be in health” (3 John 1:2). Paul is not suggesting we eat anything we encounter. On the contrary, he is warning against those who would forbid people from choosing to subsist of the healthier, original diet God had created for mankind.