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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols (περ δε των ειδωλοθυτων). Plainly the Corinthians had asked also about this problem in their letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1). This compound adjective (ειδωλον, idol, θυτος, verbal adjective from θυω, to sacrifice) is still found only in the N.T. and ecclesiastical writers, not so far in the papyri. We have seen this problem mentioned in the decision of the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25). The connection between idolatry and impurity was very close, especially in Corinth. See both topics connected in Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20. By ειδωλοθυτα was meant the portion of the flesh left over after the heathen sacrifices. The heathen called it ιεροθυτον (1 Corinthians 10:28). This leftover part "was either eaten sacrificially, or taken home for private meals, or sold in the markets" (Robertson and Plummer). What were Christians to do about eating such portions either buying in the market or eating in the home of another or at the feast to the idol? Three questions are thus involved and Paul discusses them all. There was evidently difference of opinion on the subject among the Corinthian Christians. Aspects of the matter come forward not touched on in the Jerusalem Conference to which Paul does not here allude, though he does treat it in Galatians 2:1-10. There was the more enlightened group who acted on the basis of their superior knowledge about the non-existence of the gods represented by the idols.

Ye know that we all have knowledge (οιδαμεν οτ παντες γνωσιν εχομεν). This may be a quotation from the letter (Moffatt, Lit. of N.T., p. 112). Since their conversion to Christ, they know the emptiness of idol-worship. Paul admits that all Christians have this knowledge (personal experience, γνωσις), but this problem cannot be solved by knowledge.

Verse 2

Puffeth up (φυσιο). From φυσιοω (present indicative active). See on 1 Corinthians 4:6. Pride may be the result, not edification (οικοδομε) which comes from love. Note article (η) with both γνωσις and αγαπη, making the contrast sharper. See on 1 Thessalonians 5:11 for the verb οικοδομεω, to build up. Love is the solution, not knowledge, in all social problems.

That he knoweth anything (εγνωκενα τ). Perfect active infinitive in indirect discourse after δοκε (condition of first class with ε). So "has acquired knowledge" (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18), has gone to the bottom of the subject.

He knoweth not yet (ουπω εγνω). Second aorist active indicative, timeless aorist, summary (punctiliar) statement of his ignorance.

As he ought to know (καθως δε γνωνα). Second aorist active infinitive, ingressive aorist (come to know). Newton's remark that he was only gathering pebbles on the shore of the ocean of truth is pertinent. The really learned man knows his ignorance of what lies beyond. Shallow knowledge is like the depth of the mud hole, not of the crystal spring.

Verse 3

The same is known of him (ουτος εγνωστα υπ' αυτου). Loving God (condition of first class again) is the way to come to know God. It is not certain whether ουτος refers to the man who loves God or to God who is loved. Both are true. God knows those that are his (2 Timothy 2:19; Exodus 33:12). Those who know God are known of God (Galatians 4:9). We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). But here Paul uses both ideas and both verbs. Εγνωστα is perfect passive indicative of γινωσκω, an abiding state of recognition by (υπ') God. No one is acquainted with God who does not love him (1 John 4:8). God sets the seal of his favour on the one who loves him. So much for the principle.

Verse 4

No idol is anything in the world (ουδεν ειδωλον εν κοσμω). Probably correct translation, though no copula is expressed. On ειδωλον (from ειδος), old word, see on Acts 7:41; Acts 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:9. The idol was a mere picture or symbol of a god. If the god has no existence, the idol is a non-entity. This Gentile Christians had come to know as Jews and Jewish Christians already knew.

No God but one (ουδεις θεος ε μη εις). This Christians held as firmly as Jews. The worship of Jesus as God's Son and the Holy Spirit does not recognize three Gods, but one God in three Persons. It was the worship of Mary the Mother of Jesus that gave Mahomet his cry: "Allah is One." The cosmos, the ordered universe, can only be ruled by one God (Romans 1:20).

Verse 5

For though there be (κα γαρ ειπερ εισ). Literally, "For even if indeed there are" (a concessive clause, condition of first class, assumed to be true for argument's sake).

Called gods (λεγομενο θεο). So-called gods, reputed gods. Paul denied really the existence of these so-called gods and held that those who worshipped idols (non-entities) in reality worshipped demons or evil spirits, agents of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:19-21).

Verse 6

Yet to us there is one God, the Father (αλλ' ημιν εις θεος ο πατηρ). B omits αλλ' here, but the sense calls for it anyhow in this apodosis, a strong antithesis to the protasis ( even if at least , κα ειπερ).

Of whom (εξ ου). As the source (εξ) of the universe (τα παντα as in Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16) and also our goal is God (εις αυτον) as in Romans 11:36 where δι' αυτου is added whereas here δι' ου (through whom) and δι' αυτου (through him) point to Jesus Christ as the intermediate agent in creation as in Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:3. Here Paul calls Jesus

Lord (Κυριος) and not

God (θεος), though he does apply that word to him in Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Colossians 2:9; Acts 20:28.

Verse 7

Howbeit in all men there is not that knowledge (αλλ' ουκ εν πασιν η γνωσις). The knowledge (η γνωσις) of which Paul is speaking. Knowledge has to overcome inheritance and environment, prejudice, fear, and many other hindrances.

Being used until now to the idol (τη συνηθεια εως αρτ του ειδωλου). Old word συνηθεια from συνηθης (συν, ηθος), accustomed to, like Latin consuetudo, intimacy. In N.T. only here and John 18:39; 1 Corinthians 11:16. It is the force of habit that still grips them when they eat such meat. They eat it "as an idol sacrifice" (ως ειδωλοθυτον), though they no longer believe in idols. The idol-taint clings in their minds to this meat.

Being weak (ασθενης ουσα). "It is defiled, not by the partaking of polluted food, for food cannot pollute (Mark 7:18; Luke 11:41), but by the doing of something which the unenlightened conscience does not allow" (Robertson and Plummer). For this great word συνειδησις (conscientia, knowing together, conscience) see on Acts 23:1. It is important in Paul's Epistles, Peter's First Epistle, and Hebrews. Even if unenlightened, one must act according to his conscience, a sensitive gauge to one's spiritual condition. Knowledge breaks down as a guide with the weak or unenlightened conscience. For ασθενης, weak (lack of strength) see on Matthew 26:41.

Defiled (μολυνετα). Old word μολυνω, to stain, pollute, rare in N.T. (1 Timothy 3:9; Revelation 3:4).

Verse 8

Will not commend (ου παραστησε). Future active indicative of παριστημ, old word to present as in Acts 1:3; Luke 2:22; Colossians 1:28. Food (βρωμα) will not give us an entree to God for commendation or condemnation, whether meat-eaters or vegetarians.

Are we the worse (υστερουμεθα). Are we left behind, do we fall short. Both conditions are of the third class (εαν μη, εαν) undetermined.

Are we the better (περισσευομεθα). Do we overflow, do we have excess of credit. Paul here disposes of the pride of knowledge (the enlightened ones) and the pride of prejudice (the unenlightened). Each was disposed to look down upon the other, the one in scorn of the other's ignorance, the other in horror of the other's heresy and daring.

Verse 9

Take heed (βλεπετε). A warning to the enlightened.

Lest by any means (μη πως). Common construction after verbs of caution or fearing, μη πως with aorist subjunctive γενητα.

This liberty of yours (η εξουσια υμων αυτη). Εξουσια, from εξεστιν, means a grant, allowance, authority, power, privilege, right, liberty. It shades off easily. It becomes a battle cry, personal liberty does, to those who wish to indulge their own whims and appetites regardless of the effect upon others.

A stumbling-block to the weak (προσκομμα τοις ασθενεσιν). Late word from προσκοπτω, to cut against, to stumble against. So an obstacle for the foot to strike. In Romans 14:13 Paul uses σκανδαλον as parallel with προσκομμα. We do not live alone. This principle applies to all social relations in matters of law, of health, of morals. Noblesse oblige. The enlightened must consider the welfare of the unenlightened, else he does not have love.

Verse 10

If a man see thee which hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol's temple (εαν γαρ τις ιδη [σε] τον εχοντα γνωσιν εν ειδωλειω κατακειμενον). Condition of third class, a possible case. Paul draws the picture of the enlightened brother exercising his "liberty" by eating in the idol's temple. Later he will discuss the peril to the man's own soul in this phase of the matter (1 Corinthians 10:14-22), but here he considers only the effect of such conduct on the unenlightened or weak brother. This bravado at a sacrificial banquet is in itself idolatrous as Paul will show. But our weak brother will be emboldened (οικοδομηθησετα, future passive indicative, will be built up) to go on and do what he still believes to be wrong, to eat things sacrificed to idols (εις το τα ειδωλοθυτα εσθιειν). Alas, how often that has happened. Defiance is flung in the face of the unenlightened brother instead of loving consideration.

Verse 11

Through thy knowledge (εν τη ση γνωσε). Literally, in thy knowledge. Surely a poor use to put one's superior knowledge.

Perisheth (απολλυτα). Present middle indicative of the common verb απολλυμ, to destroy. Ruin follows in the wake of such daredevil knowledge.

For whose sake Christ died (δι' ον Χριστος απεθανεν). Just as much as for the enlightened brother with his selfish pride. The accusative (ον) with δι' gives the reason, not the agent as with the genitive in 1 Corinthians 8:6 (δι' ου). The appeal to the death (απεθανεν, second aorist active indicative of αποθνησκω) of Christ is the central fact that clinches Paul's argument.

Verse 12

Wounding their conscience (τυπτοντες αυτων την συνειδησιν). Old verb τυπτω, to smite with fist, staff, whip. The conscience is sensitive to a blow like that, a slap in the face.

Ye sin against Christ (εις Χριστον αμαρτανετε). That fact they were overlooking. Jesus had said to Saul that he was persecuting him when he persecuted his disciples (Acts 9:5). One may wonder if Paul knew the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, "ye did it unto me."

Verse 13

Meat (βρωμα). Food it should be, not flesh (κρεα).

Maketh my brother to stumble (σκανδαλιζε τον αδελφον μου). Late verb (LXX and N.T.) to set a trap-stick (Matthew 5:29) or stumbling-block like προσκομμα in verse 1 Corinthians 8:9 (cf. Romans 14:13; Romans 14:21). Small boys sometimes set snares for other boys, not merely for animals to see them caught.

I will eat no flesh for evermore (ου μη φαγω κρεα εις τον αιωνα). The strong double negative ου μη with the second aorist subjunctive. Here Paul has

flesh (κρεα) with direct reference to the flesh offered to idols. Old word, but in N.T. only here and Romans 14:21. This is Paul's principle of love (verse 1 Corinthians 8:2) applied to the matter of eating meats offered to idols. Paul had rather be a vegetarian than to lead his weak brother to do what he considered sin. There are many questions of casuistry today that can only be handled wisely by Paul's ideal of love.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-corinthians-8.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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