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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 8

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 loveidentifying itself by sympathy with all akin to itself, whether more or less enlightenedcements them like stones in one building.

Verses 1-13

As part of the sacrificial victims went to the market, it was liable to be served to Christians at the tables of their heathen friends; and as festive entertainments were often held in the idol temples, as being the most spacious as well as most public places of meeting, this would inevitably raise the question, Should Christians go where such food might be presented to them? The more liberal Christians—regarding an idol as no god at all, and all wholesome food allowable to Christians—would say, Why not? Good, replies the apostle, but if by your participation in such cases the conscience of a weak brother is hurt and his soul endangered, you are not to exercise that liberty, and if you do, you sin,—On the abstract question, whether such entertainments ought to be countenanced by Christians, the apostle does not here enter—reserving that point for chapter 10.

Verse 1

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 knowhas 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 thingsas their primal Source, and we unto himas their last End; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all thingsas the immediate Agent in their production, and we through him.(1)

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 sayin 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 conceptionpervading alike the East and the West in different forms, and far from being confined to the vulgar, nor originating with themthat 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 expressedin 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 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 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!

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.