1 Corinthians 8Reflections on 1 Corinthians 8
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By A. J. Fecko

This is not so much a commentary as it is an exploration of another way of considering the situation that is being addressed in 1 Corinthians 8. Much has been written on why Paul seems so lenient in the 8th chapter of 1 Corinthians regarding eating idol sacrifices, but so strict in the 10th chapter. My view is that in chapter 8, until verse 12, he is primarily addressing learned Christians that were mostly vegetarian. Therefore the issue there is not whether it's okay to eat idol victims, but care in the degree one participates in public Greek festivities, which included dinning on food not derived from the blood sacrifices. At verse 12 Paul begins to address primarily the average Corinthian Christian, who was normally a flesh eater, like most unbelieving Greeks. Through chapter 9 he shows that he willingly gives up his privileges for the sake of others. Then in chapter 10 he finally addresses the many meat eating Christians who wonder why, if so long as they themselves don't sacrifice, may not eat some of the idol slaughtered meat and drink from the cup that pored a libation on the victim, along with their neighbors. For Paul, eating idol victims takes their liberties too far. First, from his Jewish background, blood offered to anyone other than the Lord, even to the archangel Michael, was considered automatically idolatrous. For the life of every living soul belongs to God alone. Plus the fact that the Church had also abandoned the animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, and much of the Church's leadership was vegetarian (which I believe included Paul himself), it's easy to see why he viewed any compromise as a fellowship with demons. This explains why he must go over these issues as carefully as he does.

1 Cor. 8 is often said to show that Paul taught the members of his communities that they need not observe the apostolic decree of Jerusalem described in Acts 15.

While it is true Paul encountered much opposition from certain Jewish Christians who thought it is necessary to obey the Mosaic Law, and Paul and the Jerusalem apostles may have had some differences of opinion, it doesn't necessarily mean that Paul was at odds with the Jerusalem apostles over the Jerusalem decree. Though the apostles had permitted baptism of the uncircumcised, many (maybe even some of the Jerusalem apostles themselves [Gal. 2:12]) may have look upon the uncircumcised as lesser members, not acceptable for a higher office such as that of apostle.

Paul's understanding by revelation was that salvation comes through Christ apart from the Law. However, it seems unlikely Paul would have rejected the apostolic decree. These simple rules: abstaining from idol victims, blood, the stifled, and harlotry (some manuscripts also have "do not do to others what you would not want done to you"; and some omit "the stifled", possibly because it seemed redundant); are not simply Mosaic Law. The abstinence from blood and stifling (or strangulation) has nothing to do with ritual purity, but rather is a safeguard to prevent animal suffering given to all nations as part of the concession to eat flesh that was given to Noah.

Idol sacrifice is a combination of superstition and animal cruelty with no redeeming value. While the Lord may have "winked" at some things the pagans did in ignorance, [Acts 17:30] idol sacrifices are simply demonic. [1 Cor 10:20] True, the Hebrews were permitted their sacrifices, and the Holy Spirit used the manner of sacrifices to point to the death of the Lord. But after the coming of Jesus, while Jewish Christians continued to respect the Temple as a "house of prayer," [Matt. 21:13] [Mark 11:17] [Luke 19:46 ] only Non-Christians continued to eat animals that were sacrificed. [1 Cor. 10:18] Considering this, and the fact that the apostolic decree was inspired by the Holy Spirit, [Acts 15:28] it doesn't seem likely at all that Paul would have been in disagreement with the decree.

Here I give what I believe is a possible way 1 Corinthians 8 was meant by Paul to be read:

1 Now concerning the idol victims: We are aware that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, yet love builds up. [Paul begins addressing the church leadership in Corinth on the topic of idol victims. They seem to have thought they understood this topic well, but Paul shows there is more to consider.]

2 If anyone is presuming to know anything, he knew not as yet according as he must know.

3 Now if anyone is loving God, this one is known by Him.

4 Then, concerning the meal of the idol victims: [brwsewV oun twn eidwloqutwn: either the meals, or occasions where idol victims might be found; or the food served with an idol victim, but not the idol victims themselves.] We are aware that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God except One.

5 For even if so be that there are those being termed gods, whether in heaven or on earth, even as there are many gods and many lords,

6 nevertheless for us there is one God the Father, out of Whom all is, and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom all is, and we through Him.

7 But not in all is there knowledge. Yet, some with custom of the idol until now as are eating the idol victim, and their consciousness that is weak is polluted.

8 Yet food will not give us a standing with God, neither, if we should not be eating are we in want, nor if we should be eating do we exceed.

9 Yet watch ye, lest somehow this authority of yours may become a stumbling block to the weak.

10 For if anyone should be seeing you, who has knowledge, lying down in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to the eating of the idol victims? [Paul now addresses the specific case of those that attend temple festivals. Because those considered "strong" were well instructed in the faith, they knew that attending a public event in a Greek temple where sacrifices are performed doesn't break the rule against eating idol victims. Also, they may have abstained from flesh as did those mentioned in Romans 14, and so would not be inclined to eat idol victims. The Greeks of the first century were not unacquainted with vegetarians, so all that would be needed was to say "I don't eat flesh" and that would be accepted by the others in the temple. However, the average Christian who ate flesh, seeing a vegetarian Christian eating fruits and vegetables in a Greek temple, would naturally sit down and eat the flesh from the animal sacrificed to the idol.]

11 [and] the weak brother is lost on your knowledge; because of whom Christ died. [It is not only whether a particular action is in itself wrong, but we should also consider if the way we behave may be a source of damage to others.]

12 Yet so, if sinning against the brothers and beating their conscience into being weak [participle of result], are ye sinning against Christ." [Here Paul has switched from urging caution to those attending temple festivals to addressing a larger body of the Corinthian church whose inconsiderate behavior toward the brethren is indicated in the next passage.]

13 Wherefore, if a food dish is snaring my brother, I should never ever be eating flesh for a lifetime, lest I should be snaring my brother. ["I should never... etc.," A typical Pauline maxim using the first person pronoun. Basically saying this is what I would do in your situation, and strongly suggesting that being a vegetarian is the best solution. Those who behave inconsiderately toward vegetarian Christians also sin by either tempting them with flesh food, or treating them with disregard. For this, like reclining in a temple, can be harmful. Most of what follows in 1 Cor. 9 and 10 is addressed to the average Christian, rather than the leaders in the church of Corinth, or those attending temple festivals].

1 Corinthians 8:1 peri de twn eidwloqutwn oidamen oti panteV gnwsin ecomen h gnwsiV fusioi h de agaph oikodomei  
ei tiV dokei egnwkenai ti oupw egnw kaqwV dei gnwnai  
ei de tiV agapa ton qeon outoV egnwstai up autou  
peri thV brwsewV oun twn eidwloqutwn oidamen oti ouden eidwlon en kosmw kai oti oudeiV qeoV ei mh eiV  
kai gar eiper eisin legomenoi qeoi eite en ouranw eite epi ghV wsper eisin qeoi polloi kai kurioi polloi  
[all] hmin eiV qeoV o pathr ex ou ta panta kai hmeiV eiV auton kai eiV kurioV ihsouV cristoV di ou ta panta kai hmeiV di autou  
all ouk en pasin h gnwsiV tineV de th sunhqeia ewV arti tou eidwlou wV eidwloquton esqiousin kai h suneidhsiV autwn asqenhV ousa molunetai  
brwma de hmaV ou parasthsei tw qew oute ean mh fagwmen usteroumeqa oute ean fagwmen perisseuomen  
blepete de mh pwV h exousia umwn auth proskomma genhtai toiV asqenesin  
ean gar tiV idh [se] ton econta gnwsin en eidwleiw katakeimenon ouci h suneidhsiV autou asqenouV ontoV oikodomhqhsetai eiV to ta eidwloquta esqiein 
kai apoleitai o asqenwn adelfoV epi th sh gnwsei di on cristoV apeqanen 
outwV de amartanonteV eiV touV adelfouV kai tuptonteV autwn thn suneidhsin asqenousan eiV criston amartanete  
dioper ei brwma skandalizei ton adelfon mou ou mh fagw krea eiV ton aiwna ina mh ton adelfon mou skandalisw

See the following related articles and commentaries:
Reflections on 1 Corinthians 9 and 10
Reflections on Romans 14
A Commentary on the Second Chapter of Colossians
When Did Animal Sacrifices Begin?
When did the Church abandon animal sacrifice?

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