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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 10

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 10:1 14. The Example of Israel a Warning to Christians

In this chapter the direct argument concerning meats offered to idols is resumed in ver. 14. The first fourteen verses of this chapter, like chapter 9., are parenthetical. But if we read ‘ for ’ with the best MSS. and versions, instead of the ‘ moreover ’ of our English version, we are to understand that there is a very close connection between this and the last verse of the preceding chapter. See ver. 12. We are taught in ver. 1 14, (1) that the possession of great privileges does not secure us from danger. But this is not the only link of connection. We learn, (2) that the worst sins of Israel were the direct result of idolatry , and hence a strong argument is derived against regarding idolatry as a light matter (ver. 14). And perhaps, with De Wette, we may also regard the actions of the Israelites as awful examples, (3) of the abuse of freedom , the danger which was just now most likely to befall the infant Church. “They were tempted to think that all things were safe to do, because all things were lawful.” Robertson.

1 . I would not that ye should be ignorant ] A characteristic expression of St Paul. Cf. ch. 12:1, and Romans 1:13 , Romans 1:11 :25; 2 Corinthians 1:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 .

all our fathers ] The emphasis on ‘ all ’ here it is repeated five times serves to point out the moral that though all without exception received the privileges, the greater number were very far from using them aright. The lesson is still more closely driven home in ver. 11, 12. The Israelites were as much the people of God as we, yet most of them fell. Why should we think, then, that we have less need for watchfulness than they? Some have thought that the expression ‘ our fathers ’ implies that St Paul was here speaking to Jews only. But this is not necessary. For (1) he might have used the expression as being himself a Jew, and (2) the Israelites were the spiritual progenitors of tie Christian Church. See Romans 4:16 , Romans 9:5 .

were under the cloud ] Cf. Exodus 13:20-22 , Exodus 14:19 , and 40:34 38; Numbers 9:16-23 , Numbers 9:14 :14; Deuteronomy 1:33 ; Psalms 78:14 , Psalms 105:39 .

passed through the sea ] Exodus 14:0 .; Numbers 33:8 ; Joshua 4:23 ; Psalms 78:13 .

2 . and were all baptized unto Moses ] The passing through the cloud (Exodus 14:19 ) and the sea was a type of Christian Baptism, in that he who passes through it exchanges a state of bondage for a state of freedom, the hard yoke of a Pharaoh for the fatherly care of God, and this in consequence of his following the guidance of a leader sent by God. The Israelites were baptized ‘ unto Moses ,’ because by passing through the cloud and the sea they had become connected with him, dependent on his commands and guidance.

3 . and did all eat the same spiritual meat ] The manna (Exodus 16:0 ), “inasmuch as it was not like common bread, a product of nature, but came as bread from heaven (Psalms 78:24 ; Wisd. 16:20; St John 6:31 ), the gift of God, Who, by His Spirit, wrought marvellously for His people.” Meyer. Cf. also Nehemiah 9:15 .

4 . and did all drink the same spiritual drink ] This miraculous supply of water, vouchsafed on two occasions (Exodus 17:1-6 ; Numbers 20:1-11 ) belonged, like the manna, not to the natural, but to the spiritual order of God’s Providence, which has its necessary points of contact with the lower and more contracted natural order, and issues in what we call miracles. Hence they were types of still greater miracles, which belong however more exclusively to the spiritual order of things, namely, the nourishing the Christian Church with the “spiritual food of the Body and Blood of Christ” In this sense, St Augustine ( Tract . 26 super Joannem ) says well, “Sacramenta illa fuerunt, in signis diversa fed in re quæ significatur paria,” because it was Christ who was the miraculous support and preservation of the Israelites in the wilderness, as well as of Christians in their pilgrimage through the world.

for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them ] The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan speak of a ‘well’ which followed the Israelites in their wanderings. In the Bemidbar Rabbah (c. i.) it is a Rock, in shape like a bee-hive, which rolled. continually forward to accompany the Israelites on their way (for the tradition consult Wetstein, or Schöttgen). Our great Rabbinical scholar Lightfoot rejects this interpretation, and believes that the expression refers, not to the rock, but the streams which issued from it, and which were gathered into pools wherever they encamped. It was to this, and not to the rock, that the words in Numbers 21:17 are supposed to be addressed. Estius cites Psalms 78:16 and 105:41 in support of the same view. See also Deuteronomy 9:21 , ‘the brook that descended from the mount.’ Meyer thinks that the tradition was a later invention of the Rabbis, since the Targums in their present shape cannot be traced back farther than the second century. It possibly grew out of an older tradition, here referred to, that a spiritual power invisibly accompanied the Israelites, and ministered to their temporal wants.

and that Rock was Christ ] See last note but one. Christ was the true source of all their nourishment, and He went with them whithersoever they went He, the Angel of the Covenant (Exodus 23:20 , Exodus 23:21 , Exodus 23:23 , Exodus 23:32 :34; Joshua 5:13 ) was their guide and their support. Cf. St John 4:10 , John 4:14 , John 4:7 :37, John 4:38 . For the term Rock, as applied to God, see Deuteronomy 32:4 , Deuteronomy 32:15 , Deuteronomy 32:18 , Deuteronomy 32:30 , Deuteronomy 32:31 , Deuteronomy 32:37 ; Psalms 18:1 , and many other passages in the Psalms too numerous to quote. We can hardly dismiss this passage without quoting Bengel’s remark; “Had there been more than two Sacraments, St Paul would have pointed out some spiritual resemblance to them.”

5 . with many of them ] Rather, most . The point aimed at is, that in spite of their high privileges and great opportunities, the majority of them were destroyed. Cf. Hebrews 3:17 . Joshua and Caleb only, Numbers 14:38 , were permitted to enter the promised land. See also Numbers 26:64 , Numbers 26:65 .

6 . Now these things were our examples ] Literally, types of us . In figure of us , Wiclif. The word here used is derived from τύπτω , to strike, and signifies (1) a mark, stroke of any kind, impressed or engraven, ‘ print ,’ St John 20:25 ; (2) an image, figure , as in Acts 7:43 ; (3) an example, pattern , Acts 7:44 (where the word is rendered fashion ), cf. Hebrews 8:5 ; (4) type , in the recognized sense of the word, that of a person or circumstance designed by God to foreshadow some other person or circumstance in the future, Romans 5:14 ; (5) as equivalent to purport, substance of a letter or address, Acts 23:25 ; (6) form, outline, substance , as of a system of doctrine or morals (like the derived word ὑποτύπωσις in 2 Timothy 1:13 ); Romans 6:17 ; (7) Example in the matter of conduct, for imitation or warning, Philippians 3:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:7 ; 1 Timothy 4:12 , &c. Either this, as in our version, or (4) is the meaning here, or it may include both meanings. God impressed such a character upon the Jewish history or rather perhaps it was the natural result of the similar position in which Christians now stand to that occupied by the Jews under the law that it foreshadowed the history of the Christian Church. This idea is carried out more fully than in this Epistles in reference to the Old Testament generally, in the Epistles to the Galatians and Hebrews. Here it is simply used to point out the way in which the warnings of the Jewish history are valuable to Christians.

as they also lusted ] St Paul gives five instances of the Israelites’ sin. First the desire for food other than God had given them, Numbers 11:4 , Numbers 11:33 , Numbers 11:34 .

7 . Neither be ye idolaters ] Tyndale characteristically renders “ worshippers of images ” See Exodus 32:6 .

to play ] Dancing (see Stanley and Alford in loc .) was probably included, as it formed part of the worship of the heathen deities. Cf. Horace, “Quam nee ferre pedem dedecuit choris.… sacro Dianae celebrant die.” Odes , 2:12. 19. But the original Hebrew word has a wider signification, to sport, to laugh , exactly the same as the kindred word from which is derived Isaac, “he shall laugh,” so named from Sarah’s laughter. The same is the case with the Greek word παίζειν , used here.

8 . Neither let us commit fornication ] i.e. the natural result of joining in the impure worship of Ashtaroth, or Astarte, the Syrian Venus. The temple of Aphrodite, on the Acro-Corinthus, contained a thousand priestesses devoted to the same licentious worship. See Introduction. The warning in the text was, therefore, by no means needless. The occasion referred to is that related in Numbers 25:1-6 .

three and twenty thousand ] In Numbers 25:9 we find 24,000. The actual number would no doubt be between the two, so that both here and in the book of Numbers only round numbers are given. “Our Apostle saith not definitely three and twenty thousand perished, but three and twenty thousand at the least.” Lightfoot.

9 . Neither let us tempt Christ ] Whether we read Christ here with the authorized version, or ‘the Lord’ with many MSS. and editors, makes but little difference. In either case Christ is meant, Who, as the Angel of the Covenant (see note on ver. 4), was the guide of the Israelites throughout all their wanderings. What it was to tempt Christ we may best learn from the Old Testament narrative. See Numbers 14:22 . It was to try Him, to see whether He would be as good as His word, whether He would punish their sin as He had declared He would. The word in the original means to try to the uttermost . For the occasion referred to see Numbers 21:6 , though this is not the only occasion on which the Israelites were said to have tempted God.

of serpents ] Literally, by the serpents , i.e. the well-known fiery flying serpents mentioned in Moses’ narrative.

10 . Neither murmur ye ] See Exodus 16:2 , Exodus 16:17 :2; Numbers 14:2-29 , Numbers 16:41 .

of the destroyer ] The angel of death. Cf Exodus 12:23 , Wisd. 18:25, where nearly the same Greek word is used in the Septuagint as here. Cf. also Genesis 19:0 ; 2 Samuel 24:16 ; 1 Chronicles 21:12 , 1 Chronicles 21:15 , 1 Chronicles 21:16 , 1 Chronicles 21:20 ; 2 Kings 19:35 ; 2 Chronicles 32:21 ; Acts 12:23 . Estius concludes from Jude 1:5 , Jude 1:9 , that this was the Archangel Michael, but the passage does not seem to warrant the conclusion.

11 . ensamples ] Here, as in ver. 6, the word in the original is types , or perhaps with some editors we should read ‘ typically .’ See note on ver. 6.

12 . let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall ] A warning against the over-confidence too common among the Corinthians. See chapter 1 throughout; ch. 3:18, 4:8. It is not sufficient to have been admitted into the Christian covenant; we need watchfulness, in order to use our privileges aright Cf. Romans 11:20

13 . There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man ] Adapted to human powers ( ἀνθρώπινος ). A consolation, as the last verse was a warning. These words were intended to meet an objection that it was impossible to walk warily enough impossible to adjust aright the boundaries of our own freedom and our brother’s need. Every temptation as it comes, St Paul says, will have the way of escape provided from it by God: All that a Christian has to do is to live in humble dependence upon Him, neither perplexed in the present nor anxious for the future. Cf. 2 Peter 2:9 .

will with the temptation also make a way to escape ] The original is stronger with the temptation will make the way of escape also .

14 . Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry ] A return to the main argument in ch. 8. An idol is nothing, and meats offered to idols are nothing; but idolatry is a deadly sin, and so also is whatever tends to promote it.

15 22. The danger of eating Meats sacrificed to Idols shewn from the example of Sacrificial Feasts in general

15 . I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say ] Even in the plenitude of his Apostolic authority, he does not forbid the Corinthians the exercise of their reason. They, as well as he, have the unction from above (1 John 2:20, cf. ch. 2:12), and can therefore discern the force of what he says. See also ch. 11:13.

16 . The cup of blessing which we bless ] Resumption of the argument. First reason against taking part in an idol feast. We communicate together in the Body and Blood of Christ, and we are thereby debarred from communion with any beings alien to Him; a communion into which, by the analogy of all sacrificial rites, we enter with the beings to whom such sacrifices are offered. See ver. 20. The term cup of blessing is a Hebraism for the cup over which a blessing is to be pronounced, whose characteristic it is to be blessed. It was the name given to the cup over which thanks were given at the Passover. Lightfoot.

which we bless ] Over which we pronounce the words of blessing and thanksgiving commanded by Christ. See St Luke 22:20 and ch. 11:25.

is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? ] “ Comynyng ,” Wiclif. See ch. 5:7. “The word communion is stronger than partaking,” Chrysostom. The idea is that of a meal on a sacrificed victim, which is Christ Himself, the true Paschal Lamb, by feeding on Whom all who partake of Him are made sharers of His Flesh and Blood, and thus are bound together in the closest fellowship with Him. The fact of this Eucharistic feeding upon Christ is adduced as the strongest reason why Christians cannot lawfully take part in idolatrous rites. It is as impossible to exclude here the active sense of “communication” (see note on ch. 1:9), as it is to confine the word to that signification. It must be taken in the widest possible sense, as including Christ’s feeding His people with His Flesh and Blood, and their joint participation in the same.

The bread which we break ] Calvin here characteristically contends that the Eucharistic loaf was handed from one to the other, and that each broke off his share. But it is obvious that the words are such as could be used by any minister of the Christian Church, of the solemn breaking of the bread in obedience to Christ’s command. And it may be further observed that only Christ is said to have broken the bread at the first institution of the Eucharist. The Roman Catholic commentator, Estius, here, however, agrees with Calvin. The breaking of the bread, he says, was first performed “a presbyteris et diaconis,” and afterwards “a caeteris fidelibus.” The language of St Paul is not precise enough to enable us absolutely to decide the point.

the communion of the body of Christ ] Wiclif, taking ; Tyndale, partaking . See note above on the communion of the Blood.

17 . For we being many are one bread, and one body ] “As one loaf is made up of many grains, and one body is composed of many members, so the Church of Christ is joined together of many faithful ones, united in the bonds of charity.” Augustine. So Chrysostom and Theodoret, and our English bishops Andrewes and Hall. Cf. ch. 12:12; Galatians 3:28 ; Ephesians 4:4 ; Colossians 3:15 .

for we are all partakers of that one bread ] Literally, for we all partake of the one bread . See St John 6:35-58 . As the bread passes into our bodies and becomes a part of each of us, so the Body of Christ, which the bread is the means of conveying, enters into and becomes part of each of us. Calvin reminds us that here St Paul is not dealing so much with our love towards and fellowship with one another, as with our spiritual union with Christ, in order to draw the inference that it is an unendurable sacrilege for Christians to be polluted by communion with idols.

18 . Behold Israel after the flesh ] Second reason (see ver. 16). As the Christian sacrificial feasts, so are those of the Jews.

are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? ] “In a strict and peculiar sense the altar having part of the animal, the partaker another part.” Dean Alford. The word here translated partakers is not the same as in the last verse. It is, like the word translated communion , from κοινὸς , common, and implies that the altar and the worshipper share together in the victim. Bengel remarks that “he to whom anything is offered, the things which are offered, the altar on which they are offered,” and he might have added those who offer them, “have communion with each other.” If, therefore, any one knowingly rakes of an idol sacrifice, as such (it would seem that some went so as to contend that Christians might do so), he makes himself responsible for the worship of the idol, and all the evils with which that worship is connected.

19 . What say I then? that the idol is any thing ] St Paul does not mean to say here, any more than in ch. 8:4, that an idol, or the god represented by it, has any real objective existence, or that the sacrifices offered to such idols are the property of any such being as that they are intended to represent. But for all that, it may stand as the representative of that which has a very real existence indeed; he kingdom of evil, and those beings which maintain it.

20 . they sacrifice to devils, and not to God ] Third reason. The worship of idols is a worship of devils. The words here used are found in Deuteronomy 32:17 , and similar ones are found in the Septuagint version of Psalms 96:5 ; cf. Psalms 106:37 . The point of the argument is shewn in the last words of this sentence, ‘ and not to God ’. As they were not sacrificed to God, they were sacrificed to His enemies, the ‘evil spirits,’ ‘dæmons,’ not ‘devils’ properly, for this word is confined to the ‘prince of this world’ (St John 12:31 ), ‘which is the Devil, and Satan’* * See note on St Matt 4:24 in Mr Carr’s Commentary in this series. (Revelation 20:2 ). Such beings as these are no mere conceptions of the fancy, but have a real and active existence. Their power over humanity when Christ came was great indeed. Not only was their master the Prince of this world (see above and cf. St Luke 4:6 ), but the fact of demoniacal possession was a proof at once of their existence and influence upon man.

fellowship ] Translated communion in ver. 16. See note on ch. 1:9.

21 . Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils ] See note on ver. 18, and for the nature of heathen sacrifices note on 8:1. The cup of devils was the libation with which the meal commenced. It was the cup of devils (1) because it was the cup of worship to beings other than God, which He Whose name was Jealous (Exodus 34:14 , cf. 20:5) and Who ‘will not give His glory to another’ (Isaiah 42:8 ) had forbidden, and (2) because the worship of many of the gods was a distinct homage to the powers of evil, by reason of its polluting nature. Such worship obviously unfitted those who took part in it for fellowship with Christ. Cf. also 2 Corinthians 6:15 , 2 Corinthians 6:16 .

22 . Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? ] i.e. as the Jews had done to their cost See note on last verse. Cf. also Numbers 14:0 ; Deuteronomy 1:32 :21 (see note on ver. 19 and observe that it was idol worship which provoked God); Psalms 95:8 ; Hebrews 3:16 . The same word is found, with the same translation, in Romans 10:19 , Romans 11:11 , and in ver. 14 of that chapter it is translated provoke to emulation .

are we stronger than he? ] So as to be able to resist His wrath.

23 Ch. 11:1. Practical directions on the subject of Meats offered in Sacrifice

23 . All things are lawful for me ] A repetition of the words in ch. 6:12, with a more emphatic enunciation of the doctrine that the great limiting principle of liberty is our neighbour’s edification. It is scarcely possible to help seeing in this repetition a confirmation of the view that the words were originally St Paul’s own, but had been used in a sense in which he did not intend them to be used.

edify not ] See note on ch. 8:1.

24 . Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth ] Rather, the profit of his neighbour . Cf. Romans 15:1 , Romans 15:2 , Romans 15:3 ; Philippians 2:4 . The conclusion is moral, not positive. No rule is laid down about eating or not eating any kind of food as a matter of importance in itself. With such things the Gospel has no concern. What St Paul does prescribe, relates to the effect of our conduct upon others. See Romans 14:0 throughout It will thus happen in our case, as in that of the Apostle, that what may be quite wrong under one set of circumstances may be quite right in another, as in Galatians 2:3 and Acts 16:1 . See also notes on ch. 8. It may be interesting to remark how these questions were treated by the theologians of later times. Estius gives several examples of the casuistry of the Latin Fathers. St Augustine decides the case of those who, pressed by hunger, might be tempted to eat of food in an idol temple when quite alone, by saying that if they know it to have been offered to idols, they must refuse it. St Jerome decides that the invocation of idols and dæmons makes such food unclean. St Gregory commends the virtue of some unlettered Christians who preferred rather to be slain than to eat meats offered to idols which their Lombard captors endeavoured to force upon them. The Greek Father St Chrysostom, however, remarks that St Paul does not suffer the Christian to question what it is he buys, but simply to eat whatever comes from the market

25 . Whatsoever is sold in the shambles ] This and the two following verses are directed against over-scrupulousness. Some Christians were afraid to buy meat in the public market, lest it might have been offered in sacrifice to an idol. See note on ch. 8:1.

asking no question for conscience sake ] Rather, entering upon no inquiry . This may be interpreted (1) as directing, that no inquiry was to be made, lest the answer should suggest conscientious scruples, or (2) as urging that no conscientious scruples need be felt which should lead to any necessity for making inquiries. The latter is more in accordance with the robust morality of the Apostle, and with the context The conscience need not be sensitive upon such points; it need not suggest entangling difficulties, where in truth there were none. This is better than to suppose with some, that information was to be kept back in order to avoid anxiety on the part of the scrupulous.

26 . for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof ] See Psalms 26:1 . Cf. Psalms 50:12 . It is not the eating of meats that is sinful. ‘An idol is nothing in the world,’ and all creatures are made by God, and are therefore fit for food. (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:4 .) But knowingly to countenance idolatrous rites, to give to another the glory due to the one True God alone, is a grievous sin. Therefore the whole question of sinfulness depends, not on the meat, but on the knowledge of him who eats it, what kind of meat it is. If he does not know that it has been offered to an idol, he may dismiss all scruples, for it is only this knowledge, and not the perishable meat (see ch. 6:13), which makes him partaker of the ‘table of devils.’ So ver. 27.

27 . If any of them that believe not bid you ] i.e. to a feast in a private house. Although some of the Corinthians had gone so far as to declare that a Christian might innocently sit at meat in the idol temple, confident in his conviction that an idol was ‘nothing in the world’ (ch. 8:10), yet the Christian religion could not permit them thus to abuse their freedom. To sit at meat in the idol temple was directly to countenance idol worship, and thus to become ‘partaker’ of the ‘table of devils.’

28 . But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols ] i.e. if (1) one of your fellow-guests should display scruples of conscience, or (2) a heathen should be likely to draw the inference that you approved of idol worship. The reading ἱερόθυτον confirms the latter, that in the text the former interpretation. “This altogether alters the case. You are no longer simply eating with thankfulness the food set before you as the gift of God. The question of idolatrous worship is now introduced. If your own conscience would permit you to eat, you have to consider whether your conduct might lead another to suppose that you regarded participation in the worship of idols as permissible to a Christian.” Most MSS. and Editors omit the words, ‘For the earth is the Lord’s, &c.’ in this verse, as a mere and meaningless repetition from ver. 16.

29 . why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? ] This and the following verse are a little obscure, but the sense appears to be that no man has a right to interfere with the liberty enjoyed by another, save so far as his own conduct and conscientious convictions are likely to be affected thereby. In fact the Apostle’s words in ver. 28, 29, 30 may be thus paraphrased. “For conscience sake. Not that you are to feel conscience-stricken, as though you had yourself been doing something wrong, and given your neighbours a right to blame you. No man has any such right You were doing no harm. You had a perfect right to eat what was set before you with gratitude to God for what He had given. No, it is not of your own, but of your neighbour’s conscience, that I was speaking. To him you would be doing harm incalculable, if you allowed him to suppose that there was no sin in worshipping idols.”

30 . by grace ] Rather, with gratefulness .

31 . Whether therefore ye eat, or drink ] The glory of God, that is to be the end of all your actions. In themselves, eating and drinking are things indifferent, but there are circumstances in which they may be matters of the highest importance. In our own day, for instance, the question of using or abstaining from intoxicating liquors is one which ought to be dealt with on the same principles as those which St Paul has laid down in this chapter. Such a question should be approached and decided on one ground alone, namely, whether by using them or abstaining from them we shall best promote the glory of God.

32 . Give none offence ] This verse and the next explain the words, ‘ I am made all things to all men ,’ ch. 9:22.

neither to the Jews ] This question is dealt with fully in Romans 16:0 , where the question of eating or abstaining from meats regarded by the Jews as unclean, is decided upon precisely the same principles as those laid down in this chapter.

Ch. 11:1. This verse belongs to the former chapter, and concludes the argument, as in ch. 4:16.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/1-corinthians-10.html. 1896.
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