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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 8:1. Now concerning things sacrificed unto idols: we know that we all have knowledge ‘Ye plead your knowledge; we are at one with you there; but this is a question, not of knowledge, but of love.’

Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth Gr. ‘buildeth up.’ The knowing are apt to put on an air of superiority to their less knowing brethren, whereas love identifying itself by sympathy with all akin to itself, whether more or less enlightened cements them like stones in one building.

Verses 1-13

It was impossible for Christians in almost any Greek or Roman colony, and least of all at Corinth, to avoid coming frequently in contact with idolatrous practices in various and ensnaring forms. In writing, therefore, for instruction and direction on various practical points, we can hardly suppose that this would be omitted. Here, accordingly, it is dealt with in great detail.

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 8:2. If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know has not got upon the right track in his search after knowledge, for what inflates its possessor cannot be true knowledge: all knowledge worthy of the name begets such a consciousness of remaining ignorance as effectually checks self-sufficiency.

Verses 3-5

1 Corinthians 8:3. but if any man loveth God, the same is known of him. See Galatians 4:9. These preliminaries now bring the apostle to his point.

1 Corinthians 8:4. Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed unto idols, we know that no idol is any thing in the world, and that there is no God out one.

1 Corinthians 8:5. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 8:6. yet to us (Christians) there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things as their primal Source, and we unto him as their last End; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things as the immediate Agent in their production, and we through him. [1]

[1] The use of the preposition “through,” of Christ’s agency, has been urged as shewing that the apostle viewed Him as a mere subordinate instrument of God in the production of all things. But even in classical Greek and most certainly in the Greek of the New Testament this preposition is used where immediate agency is intended; it being left to the context or the subject itself to determine whether immediate or subordinate agency is intended (see Winer, § 47; Jelf, § 627; and Fritzsche, ad Rom. i. 5, p. 15). In Romans 11:36, it is said of God, in the most absolute sense, “ through whom are all things;” and in this very Epistle, “God is faithful, through whom ye were called” (Romans 1:9). It is not that this preposition differs nothing from those which properly express primary causation, but merely that it is often used in place of such and no doubt with a shade of meaning not easily conveyed in English.

Note. This statement embodies a profound truth, which however only close study of it reveals. It might have sufficed for the apostle’s purpose to say in opposition to the polytheism that reigned at Corinth ‘To us Christians there is no divinity, and no object of worship, save the one living and true God.’ But instead of this, he breaks his statement into two distinct propositions, expressing two marked contrasts between Christianity and heathenism. First, by the “one God,” of us Christians, we mean “The Father,” in opposition to the “ gods many” of the heathen. Next, in opposition to the “ lords many” of the heathen, “to us there is one Lord, (even) Jesus Christ.” Now, why so? Because there is in the human breast a deep conviction of the vast distance between God and men, but at the same time insatiable longing to have it bridged over, and a fond persuasion that this difficulty must and can be met. From this state of mind sprang the conception pervading alike the East and the West in different forms, and far from being confined to the vulgar, nor originating with them that there exist intermediate and subordinate divinities, or emanations from the supreme Divinity through whom the two extremities meet. Now what Christianity does is not to extinguish this conviction and this emotion, out of which the universe came to be thus ignorantly peopled, but to disclose the sublime Reality that underlies all these dreamings, namely, that while there is one Fontal Source of all things, “one God, the Father, of whom are all things, there is also “one (Mediatorial) Lord, even Jesus Christ, through whom are all things,” and through whose intervention “we through Him” are brought nigh to this “one God,” otherwise unapproachable. See 1 John 1:1-4, where this same profound truth is expressed in studied opposition to that subtle Gnosticism, which even in our apostle’s time was stealing into the atmosphere of Christian thought (as is plain from the Epistle to the Colossians), but was threatening, in the beloved disciple’s old age, when he wrote his first Epistle, to darken the air of the churches of Proconsular Asia and the surrounding region.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 8:7. Howbeit in all men there is not that knowledge: but some, being used [1] until now to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. The “weak” here are Gentile converts who, being steeped in idolatry up to the time of their conversion, were unable as yet to shake off the impression that the idol, which by them had so long been regarded as a god, had after all something divine in it. In this view, the argument is, that when such weak brethren saw their stronger-minded brethren openly partaking of meat known to have been sacrificed to an idol, they would be emboldened by their example to do the same, while still regarding the act as idolatrous, and so would defile their conscience.

[1] The received text here reads, “from conscience of the idol;” and Meyer and Alford think this right. But the above reading is decidedly better supported, and it is the text of Griesbach. Lachmann, Tregelles, and Tischendorf.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 8:8. But meat will not commend us to God: neither, if we eat, are we the better; nor if we eat not, are we the worse. [2]

[2] The order of these clauses is reversed in some texts; but as the evidence is pretty equally balanced, the sense precisely the same, and the matter of no importance either way, the natural English order may be adhered to.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 8:10. For if a man see thee who hast knowledge of the emptiness of idols and the lawfulness of all food sitting at meat in an idol’s temple. The word here used (in the Greek of the Old Testament and this one place of the New Testament) is used only for heathen temple, to mark its idolatrous character; the word employed for the temple of the living God being studiously avoided on such a subject.

will not his conscience, if (or ‘while’) he is weak, be emboldened Gr. ‘ built up,’ just as we speak of one built up in self-conceit to eat things sacrificed unto idols?

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 8:11. for through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother [1] for whose sake Christ died. It might seem that “for” here is inappropriate; but the thought is this: ‘The wrong you thus do, through your uncalled-for exercise of liberty, is far greater than you think; for whoever is thus the means of leading a Christian brother to violate his conscience is helping so far to destroy his soul.’ Well might Olshausen say, in view of so affecting a statement, ‘The worth of even the poorest, weakest brother could not be more emphatically expressed.’

[1] Such is the correct reading here.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 8:12. And (not only so, but) thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ who is wounded in their wounds.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 8:13. Wherefore, if meat maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I make not my brother to stumble a hyperbolical way of expressing the recoil of his soul from any act of selfish gratification by which the soul of a brother might be endangered.

The question of murderous Cain, and of his children in every age and country “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

is abhorrent to the whole spirit of Christianity, which is designed to kill that principle in the bosoms of men. Would that Christians would let that spirit reign in them, in their social intercourse!

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/1-corinthians-8.html. 1879-90.
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