3. The Goodness of Creation
After having condemned asceticism, Paul goes on to counter the teaching of the proto-Gnostics in regard to creation. Sadly, once again the older translations, while excellent, like the KJV and even YLT obscure the sense of Paul’s words by using archaic English expressions. The KJV for example tells us that ‘every creature of God is good’, which sadly some have erroneously understood as talking about animals being ‘good’ to eat. ‘Every creature’ from ‘ktisma’ κτίσμα, simply refers to creation, or that which is created, and is not talking in particular about individual animals. The idea that Paul is talking of ‘every creature’ in the sense of actual animals and meat would not even make sense biblically or factually as God did not create animals as food in the first two chapters of Genesis. This only occurred later as a concession to human hard-heartedness, and perhaps necessity, after the Flood. Conversely, I understand the verses as being correctly rendered in the NASB: ‘For everything created by God is good’. At this point Paul is actually referring to Genesis 1 when God pronounces his creation ‘good’ 6 times and finally ‘very good’ at the end of the chapter, and is refuting the Gnostics’ dualistic view of creation which saw the lower material realm as evil and the spiritual realm above as pure. Every part of God’s original world is called ‘good’ as the 7 days of creation progress. The fact that God calls his creation ‘good’ 7 times in total, with the final utterance being ‘very good’, indicates the completeness of it: 7 in Scripture is always the number of divine perfection and fullness.
The word for ‘good’ in Hebrew is ṭôwb, טוֹב, which is feminine and can also mean beautiful, excellent, right (ethically), or pleasant. Scripture is communicating that there is complete harmony and beauty in God’s perfect world. Furthermore, Paul in this passage is upholding the goodness of Genesis 1 and 2 against the false accounts of creation of the proto-Gnostics: in this sense Paul is contrasting various aspects of the Gnostic account of creation with the biblical one; we see this with the underlining of goodness of God’s creation (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31), the goodness of food (Genesis 1:29-1:31), and the goodness of marriage and procreation (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:18-25). In fact, Paul’s quoting of Genesis 1 and 2 can be seen as a point by point rebuttal of the dualistic Gnostic creation story:
Gnostic Account Biblical Account
1. Original Creation: Good and Evil 1. Original Creation: Totally Good
Material world and Matter are Evil Material world and Matter are Good
2. Marriage and Procreation are Evil 2. Marriage and Procreation are Good
3. Food is not a Blessing 3. Food is a Blessing
Mortification of the body Care for the body
Deny all Sensual Pleasures; Reject Creation Enjoyment of God and Creation
It is important to reread the sevenfold pronouncement of ‘good’ in chapter 1 of Genesis and notice how veganism and non-violence, far from being demonic, are in fact foundational to the final pronouncement by God that all of creation is ‘very good’:
1) 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
2) 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
3) 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.
4) 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18. and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
5) 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
6) 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
7) 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29. Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (NASB).
The passage from 1 Timothy 4 we have been discussing would, therefore, best be understood as highlighting how God’s creation, which was so beautifully described in Genesis 1, should be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth, as it is God’s gift to us and was pronounced good by him.
Stay tuned for Part Five coming soon! Link for Part Three, and for those who want to read the entire article:
 Genesis 9:2-4: the chapters leading up this describe humanity’s descent into violence and evil, and the consequent judgment which follows. The language used to describe God’s giving of animals to the post-diluvian generation appears to be concessional and based on the low spiritual and moral condition humanity had sunken to. Richard Bauckham describes it as a sort of ‘holding operation’ until humanity regained a greater spiritual condition. It may also have been based on a lack of plant food available at the time: Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically, 2nd ed. (London: SPCK, 2010), 134-136; Richard Bauckham, Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Exeter: Dartmon, Longman and Todd Ltd, 2010), 23-26.
 Strong’s Hebrew no. 2896: “2896. Towb,” Bible Hub, accessed April 10, 2018, http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2896.htm.
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