Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 8

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1 Corinthians 8

Supplemental Commentary:

III:  ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS  7, 1 -- 11, 1 (continued)

2.  Idol Offerings  8, 1-13

This section really extends from 8, 1 -- 11, 1.  Notice that the discussion is resumed in 10, 14.  The apparent digressions form really a part of this central theme: although one may feel free to eat things sacrificed to idols, it is not always well to use one's rights, as illustrated by Paul's foregoing his rights (9, 1-27).  Eating these foods may be connected with idol worship, and the Christians are no more secure from relapse into idolatry than were the Jews (10, 1-13).  The background of this problem was complex.  A large number of animals were sacrificed daily on the pagan altars in the busy temples at Corinth.  Some of the meat was burned for the god, some was taken by the priest for the service, and some was eaten by the votary as communion; the rest was sold for general use.  The meat was served on the temple grounds, which became the most frequented restaurants.  The markets obtained this meat for a low price so that the poor could have the meat cheap.  Even if the Christians would avoid the tables around the temple and refuse to patronized the butchers who handled these meats, they would still be embarrassed in the houses of pagan friends who might be serving food that had been offered to idols.  They presented these cases to Paul and sought his advice.  At Jerusalem when the Apostles had decided that in general the Gentile Christians were not to be held to the observance of the Mosaic law, a restrictive clause was added forbidding the use of food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15).  But this was a local and temporary measure to spare the feelings of Christians, newly converted from Judaism, in places where these were numerous.  The restriction did not seem to apply in Corinth at this time.

8, 1-6:  General Principles.    1-3.  Even if some had taken a logical and correct attitude towards the present problem they could not put it into practice without consideration for less favored brethren.  Charity, which is one with the love of God, commends us to God more than knowledge.    4-6.  Even though idols are known as gods and lords, there is only one God and one Lord.  The gods and lords then are nothing.  Something offered to nothing is nothing changed.  Therefore food sacrificed to idols is the same as ordinary food.

8, 7-13:  Practical Rules.  Food does not commend us to God: eating in itself is an indifferent act.  Apart from the motives for eating it is not a source of merit.  But circumstances may make it wrong.  A brother, who, through lack of proper knowledge, is still idol-conscious through habit of considering an idol some reality, thinks it wrong to eat of food offered to them.  When he sees a fellow Christian, who has proper knowledge in this matter, eating without qualms where such food is served (an idol place), the weak brother may be led to do what he thinks is wrong.  The knowledge of one has become the occasion of sin to the other.    13.  Paul would rather not eat at all than be the occasion of the loss of a soul to the crucified Christ.  Scandalize is not to be taken merely of a shock in innocent matters, which is often temporary and sometimes hypocritical, but of a real occasion of sin even to an erroneous conscience.

Confraternity Bible:

General Principles  1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies.  2 If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.  3 But if anyone loves God, the same is known by him.  4 Now as for food sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.  5 For even if there are what are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (for indeed there are many gods, and many lords), 6 yet for us there is only one God, the Father from whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.

Practical Rules  7 But such knowledge is not in everyone.  Some, still idol-conscious, eat idol offerings as such, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  8* Now food does not commend us to God.  For neither shall we suffer any loss if we do not eat, nor if we do eat shall we have any advantage.  9 Still, take care lest perhaps this right of yours become a stumbling-block to the weak.  10* For if a man sees one who "has knowledge" reclining at table in an idol place, will not his conscience, weak as it is, be emboldened to eat idol-offerings?  11 And through thy "knowledge" the weak one will perish, the brother for whom Christ died.  12 Now when you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  13 Therefore, if food scandalizes my brother, I will eat flesh no more forever, lest I scandalize my brother.


8: The eating of food sacrificed to gods still entices them and would be heathen worship.  Hence the example of one who sees no wrong in it would encourage them to do what they think wrong.  By habit they are idol-conscious.

10: "Has knowledge": i.e., a false or over-confident knowledge.  Idol place: includes not only the pagan temple, but also the surrounding gardens and buildings where sacrificed meats were served.