Gluttony (Latin: gula, derived from the Latin gluttire meaning "to gulp down or swallow") means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food or drink.

Der Völler by Georg Emmanuel Opiz
A woodcut representing gluttony

In Christianity, it is considered a sin if the excessive desire for food leads to a lack of control over one's relation with food or harms the body.[1] Some Christian denominations consider gluttony one of the seven deadly sins.



In Deut 21:20 and Proverbs 23:21, it is זלל.[2] The Gesenius Entry[3] (lower left word) has indications of "squandering" and "profligacy" (waste).

In Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34, it is φαγος ("phagos" transliterated character for character),[4] The LSJ Entry[5] is tiny, and only refers to one external source, Zenobius Paroemiographus 1.73. The word could mean merely "an eater", since φαγω means "eat".

In religion




Rambam, for example, prohibits excessive eating and drinking in Hilchot De'ot (e.g., halachot 1:4, 3:2, 5:1).[6] The Chofetz Chaim (Yisrael Meir Kagan) prohibits gluttony on the basis of Leviticus 19:26, in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot Ha-Katzar (Prohibition #106).[7]


Gula – The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, by Hieronymus Bosch

Church leaders from the ascetic Middle Ages took a more expansive view of gluttony:

St. Gregory the Great


Pope Gregory I (St. Gregory the Great), a doctor of the Church, described the following ways by which one can commit sin of gluttony, and corresponding biblical examples for each of them:[8][9][10]

1. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the palate.

Biblical example: Jonathan eating a little honey, when his father Saul commanded no food to be taken before the evening.[11] (Note that this text is only approximately illustrative, as in this account, Jonathan did not know that Saul had forbidden eating.)

2. Seeking delicacies and better quality of food to gratify the "vile sense of taste."

Biblical example: When Israelites escaping from Egypt complained, "Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic," God rained fowls for them to eat but punished them 500 years later.[12]

3. Seeking to stimulate the palate with overly or elaborately prepared food (e.g. with luxurious sauces and seasonings).

Biblical example: Two sons of Eli the high priest made the sacrificial meat to be cooked in one manner rather than another. They were met with death.[13]

4. Exceeding the necessary quantity of food.

Biblical example: One of the sins of Sodom was "fullness of bread."[14]

5. Taking food with too much eagerness, even when eating the proper amount, and even if the food is not luxurious.

Biblical example: Esau selling his birthright for ordinary food of bread and pottage of lentils. His punishment was that of the "profane person . . . who, for a morsel of meat sold his birthright," : we learn that "he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears."[15]

The fifth way is worse than all others, said St. Gregory, because it shows attachment to pleasure most clearly. To recapitulate, St Gregory the Great said that one may succumb to the sin of gluttony by: 1. Time (when); 2. Quality; 3. Stimulants; 4. Quantity; 5. Eagerness. He asserts that the irregular desire is the sin, not the food: "For it is not the food, but the desire that is in fault".[16]

St. Thomas Aquinas


In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), St. Thomas Aquinas reiterated the list of five ways to commit gluttony:[17]

  • Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
  • Studiose – eating food that is excessive in quality (too daintily or elaborately prepared)
  • Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity (too much)
  • Praepropere – eating hastily (too soon or at an inappropriate time)
  • Ardenter – eating greedily (too eagerly)

St. Aquinas concludes that "gluttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating"; the first three ways are related to the food itself, while the last two related to the manner of eating.[17] He says that abstinence from food and drink overcome the sin of gluttony,[18] and the act of abstinence is fasting.[19]: A2  (see: Fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church) In general, fasting is useful to restrain concupiscence of the flesh.[19]: A6 

St. Alphonsus Liguori


St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the following when explaining gluttony:

"Pope Innocent XI has condemned the proposition which asserts that it is not a sin to eat or to drink from the sole motive of satisfying the palate. However, it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault."[20]



An interpretation of the meaning of a part of a Qur'anic verse is as follows:

“and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al‑Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance)” [al-A’raaf 7:31]

The Sunnah encourages moderation in eating, and strongly criticizes extravagance.

The Prophet said: The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2380); classed as saheeh (truthful) by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2265).

In the Bible (King James version)

  • Deuteronomy 21:20 – "And they shall say unto the elders of his city, this our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
  • Proverbs 23:20–21 – "Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."
  • Proverbs 23:2 – "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee. And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite."
  • Proverbs 25:16 – "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it."
  • Luke 7:33–35 (and parallel account in Matthew 11:18–19) – "For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."

In arts


Callimachus the famous Greek poet states, "All that I have given to my stomach has disappeared, and I have retained all the fodder that I gave to my spirit."[21]

Popular quote "Eat to live, not live to eat" is commonly attributed to Socrates.[22] A quotation from Rhetorica ad Herennium IV.28 : "Esse oportet ut vivas; non vivere ut edas"[23] ("It is necessary to eat in order to live, not to live in order to eat")[24] is credited by the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs to Cicero.[25]

See also


Further reading

  • Cassian, John (1885). "Book V: Of the Spirit of Gluttony" . Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Volume XI. Translated by Philip Schaff. T. & T. Clark in Edinburgh.
  • de la Puente, Lius (1852). "Meditations to obtain purity of soul (On Gluttony)" . Meditations On The Mysteries Of Our Holy Faith. Richarson and Son.
  • Padua, St. Anthony of (1865). "Book I: Second Part (Of Gluttony)" . The Moral Concordances of Saint Anthony of Padua. J.T. Hayes.
  • Slater S.J., Thomas (1925). "Book 4: On Sin (Gluttony)" . A manual of moral theology for English-speaking countries. Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd.
  • Vianney, Jean-Marie-Baptiste (1951). "On Gluttony" . The Blessed Curé of Ars in His Catechetical Instructions. St. Meinrad, Ind.


  1. ^ Okholm, Dennis. "Rx for Gluttony". Christianity Today, Vol. 44, No. 10, September 11, 2000, p.62
  2. ^ "Strong's Search: H2151". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  3. ^ "Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  4. ^ "Strong's Search: G5314". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  5. ^ "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, φάγος". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  6. ^ "Hilchot De'ot".
  7. ^ "ספר המצות הקצר" (PDF).
  8. ^ Shipley, Orby (1875). Shipley, Orby. A Theory About Sin, London (1875) pg. 268–278. ISBN 9781981450961. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  9. ^ Susan E. Hill (2007). "The Ooze of Gluttony". In Richard Newhauser (ed.). The Seven Deadly Sins: From Communities to Individuals. BRILL. p. 64. ISBN 9789004157859.
  10. ^ Lori Barcliff Baptista (2012). "Gluttony". In Carl A. Zimring, William L. Rathje (ed.). Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. SAGE Publications. p. 324. ISBN 9781452266671.
  11. ^ 1 Samuel 14:29
  12. ^ Num 11:4
  13. ^ 1 Samuel 4:11
  14. ^ Ezekiel 16:49
  15. ^ Gen 25:30
  16. ^ St. Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Book XXX, 60, Lectionary Central
  17. ^ a b St. Thomas Aquinas. "The Summa Theologica II-II.Q148.A4" (1920, Second and Revised ed.). New Advent.
  18. ^ St. Thomas Aquinas, "Question 146. Abstinence", The Summa Theologica II-II, A2 (1920, Second and Revised ed.), New Advent
  19. ^ a b St. Thomas Aquinas, "Question 147. Fasting", The Summa Theologica II-II (1920, Second and Revised ed.), New Advent
  20. ^ St. Alphonsus Liguori. The True Spouse of Jesus Christ; trans. from Italian. Dublin (1835), p. 282. 1835. p. 282. Retrieved 2014-08-27 – via Internet Archive. Innocent XI has condemned the proposition which asserts,.
  21. ^ Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Gluttony." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Sean Takats. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2006. Web.
  22. ^ George Alexander Kennedy (2008). The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 133. ISBN 9781556359798.
  23. ^ M. Tullius Cicero (1773), Rhetoricorum (in Latin) (1773 ed.), J. Manfré (from Montserrat Abbey Library), p. 335
  24. ^ Giambattista Vico (1996). Giorgio A. Pinton, Arthur W. Shippee (ed.). The Art of Rhetoric. Rodopi. p. 181. ISBN 9789051839289.
  25. ^ Jennifer Speake, ed. (2015). Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. OUP Oxford. p. 89. ISBN 9780191059599.