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1 Timothy 4:8 – the physical exercise

08-02-2024 - Posted by Hans

For bodily exercise is beneficial for a few things, yet devoutness is beneficial for all, having promise for the life which now is and that which is impending.

In the previous verse, Paul wrote that Timothy would train himself in devoutness (commonly translated as “godliness”). In this verse he explains himself further and contrasts this devoutness with “physical exercise”. The latter is often interpreted as a reference to the obligatory asceticism mentioned in verse 3. But would Paul have indicated that with a word (gumnasia) from which our word gymnastics is derived? Moreover, asceticism is not so much an exercise of the body, but rather of the mind.

By the way, if Paul had referred to the asceticism in verse 3 by “physical exercise,” he would have expressed himself much less kindly (“teachings of demons”). Because such asceticism is not “unhelpful” but downright harmful!

Paul does not speak negatively about physical exercise, as it has often been explained. He makes a comparison between the usefulness of “physical exercise” and that of “devoutness”. Compared to the latter, physical exercise obviously has to lose out because its usefulness does not extend beyond the present life. But that does not argue against physical exercise, but all the more in favor of devoutness!