1 Corinthians 8:1
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
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(1) Now as touching things offered unto idols.—A new subject is here introduced, and occupies the whole of this chapter. In Corinth and other cities meat was offered for sale which had been used for sacrificial purposes in the heathen temples, having been sold to the dealers by the priests, who received a large share of the sacrifices for themselves, or by the individuals who offered them, and had more remaining of their own share than they could use themselves. Thus, a Christian might unconsciously eat of meat, either at the house of a friend (see 1Corinthians 10:27) or by purchasing it himself in the public shambles, which had been previously brought in contact by sacrificial usage with an idol. There were some in Corinth who felt no scruple on the subject. An idol was nothing in their opinion. It could neither consecrate nor pollute that which was offered in its temple. Such Christians would, to show how completely and effectively their Christianity had dispelled all their previous heathen superstition, buy meat without caring whence it came, partake of a heathen friend’s hospitality, regardless of what use the meat had been put to, and even join in a repast held in the outer court of a heathen temple (1Corinthians 8:10), where the meat would almost certainly be what had been saved after the sacrifice. That St. Paul would have done so himself, so far as his own personal feelings alone were concerned, we can scarcely doubt. To him, therefore, those who acted upon his authority appealed upon this subject.

There were others at Corinth, however, who felt some scruples upon the subject. There were heathen converts who had not completely got rid of every vestige of the old superstition, or whose conscience would accuse them of not having wholly given up idolatry if they took any part even in its social aspect: for many social acts, as well as purely religious ceremonies, were in the heathen mind included in acts of worship. And there were Jews, the intensity of whose traditional hatred of idolatry could not allow them to regard as “nothing” that against which Jehovah had uttered His most terrible denunciations, and against which He had preserved their race as a living witness.

To both these sections of the Church the conduct of the more liberal party would prove a serious stumbling-block. The argument used by those who asked St. Paul’s advice was evidently that the Christians have knowledge enough to feel that an idol is nothing, and that, therefore. there can be no harm in partaking of what has been offered to “nothing.” “We know,” says St. Paul, in reply, taking up the words of their own letter, “we know that we all have knowledge: we know that an idol is nothing.” The last clause of 1Corinthians 8:1 and 1Corinthians 8:2-3 form a parenthesis; and in 1Corinthians 8:4 the opening words of 1Corinthians 8:1 are repeated, and the line of thought which this parenthesis interrupted is again resumed.

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.—Those who grounded everything on knowledge are reminded parenthetically that knowledge by itself may have a bad effect, and also (1Corinthians 8:2-3) that there is an element in the consciousness of our knowledge which destroys the truth and purity of that knowledge itself. Knowledge puffs up the man himself. Love builds up the whole Church. The word “edify” has now only a moral significance. Originally it could be applied to moral conduct only figuratively. The substantive “edifice” has retained its original literal meaning. In Spenser “edify” is used in its literal sense; and in Hakluyt’s Travels (1553) the “edification” of the castle of Corfu is mentioned. The use made by St. Paul of this figure is of some importance. The word is used only by St. Paul, and once by St. Luke (Acts 9:31), and the idea which it conveys is not so much the improvement of the individual as the building-up of the whole Christian edifice. We have come to speak of an “edifying discourse” if it helps the individual. St. Paul would have spoken of an “edifying work” if it built up the Church. “We are sometimes too apt to treat Christianity as if it were monolithic” (Howson). (See 1Corinthians 12:19; 1Corinthians 14:3; 1Corinthians 14:5; 1Corinthians 14:12; 1Corinthians 14:17; Ephesians 4:12-16; 1Thessalonians 5:11.) It is worth noting that the word used in the original in Hebrews 3:3-4; Hebrews 9:11, is quite different from the word employed, here and elsewhere, by St. Paul.

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 8:1 - 1 Corinthians 8:13

It is difficult for us to realise the close connection which existed between idol-worship and daily life. Something of the same sort is found in all mission fields. It was almost impossible for Christians to take any part in society and not seem to sanction idolatry. Would that Christianity were as completely interwoven with our lives as heathen religions are into those of their devotees! Paul seems to have had referred to him a pressing case of conscience, which divided the Corinthian Church, as to whether a Christian could join in the usual feasts or sacrifices. His answer is in this passage.

The longest way round is sometimes the shortest way home. The Apostle begins far away from the subject in hand by running a contrast between knowledge and love, and setting the latter first. But his contrast is very relevant to his purpose. Small questions should be solved on great principles.

The first principle laid down by Paul is the superiority of love over knowledge, the bearing of which on the question in hand will appear presently. We note that there is first a distinct admission of the Corinthians’ intelligence, though there is probably a tinge of irony in the language ‘We know that we all have knowledge.’ ‘You Corinthians are fully aware that you are very superior people. Whatever else you know, you know that, and I fully recognise it.’

The admission is followed by a sudden, sharp comment, to which the Corinthians’ knowledge that they knew laid them open. Swift as the thrust of a spear comes flashing ‘Knowledge puffeth up.’ Puffed-up things are swollen by wind only, and the more they are inflated the hollower and emptier they are; and such a sharp point as Paul’s saying shrivels them. The statement is not meant as the assertion of a necessary or uniform result of knowledge, but it does put plainly a very usual result of it, if it is unaccompanied by love. It is a strange, sad result of superior intelligence or acquirements, that it so often leads to conceit, to a false estimate of the worth and power of knowing, to a ridiculous over-valuing of certain acquirements, and to an insolent contempt and cruel disregard of those who have them not. Paul’s dictum has been only too well confirmed by experience.

‘Love builds up,’ or ‘edifies.’ Probably the main direction in which that building up is conceived of as taking effect, is in aiding the progress of our neighbours, especially in the religious life. But the tendency of love to rear a fair fabric of personal character is not to be overlooked. In regard to effect on character, the palm must be given to love, which produces solid excellence far beyond what mere knowledge can effect. Further, that pluming one’s self on knowledge is a sure proof of ignorance. The more real our acquirements, the more they disclose our deficiencies. All self-conceit hinders us from growing intellectually or morally, and intellectual conceit is the worst kind of it.

Very significantly, love to God, and not the simple emotion of love without reference to its object, is opposed to knowledge; for love so directed is the foundation of all excellence, and of all real love to men. Love to God is not the antithesis of true knowledge, but it is the only victorious antagonist of the conceit of knowing. Very significantly, too, does Paul vary his conclusion in 1 Corinthians 8:3 by saying that the man who loves God ‘is known of Him,’ instead of, as we might have expected, ‘knows Him.’ The latter is true, but the statement in the verse puts more strongly the thought of the man’s being an object of God’s care. In regard, then, to their effects on character, in producing consideration and helpfulness to others, and in securing God’s protection, love stands first, and knowledge second.

What has all this to do with the question in hand? This, that if looked at from the standpoint of knowledge, it may be solved in one way, but if from that of love, it will be answered in another. So, in 1 Corinthians 8:4 - 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul treats the matter on the ground of knowledge. The fundamental truth of Christianity, that there is one God, who is revealed and works through Jesus Christ, was accepted by all the Corinthians. Paul states it here broadly, denying that there were any objective realities answering to the popular conceptions or poetic fancies or fair artistic presentments of the many gods and lords of the Greek pantheon, and asserting that all Christians recognise one God, the Father, from whom the universe of worlds and living things has origin, and to whom we as Christians specially belong, and one Lord, the channel through whom all divine operations of creation, providence, and grace flow, and by whose redeeming work we Christians are endowed with our best life. If a believer was fully convinced of these truths, he could partake of sacrificial feasts without danger to himself, and without either sanctioning idolatry or being tempted to return to it.

No doubt it was on this ground that an idol was nothing that the laxer party defended their action in eating meat offered to idols; and Paul fully recognises that they had a strong case, and that, if there were no other considerations to come in, the answer to the question of conscience submitted to him would be wholly in favour of the less scrupulous section. But there is something better than knowledge; namely, love. And its decision must be taken before the whole material for a judgment is in evidence.

Therefore, in the remainder of the chapter, Paul dwells on loving regard for brethren. In 1 Corinthians 8:7, he reminds the ‘knowing’ Corinthians that new convictions do not obliterate the power of old associations. The awful fascination of early belief still exercises influence. The chains are not wholly broken off. Every mission field shows examples of this. Every man knows that habits are not so suddenly overcome, that there is no hankering after them or liability to relapse. It would be a dangerous thing for a weak believer to risk sharing in an idol feast; for he would be very likely to slide down to his old level of belief, and Zeus or Pallas to seem to him real powers once more.

The considerations in 1 Corinthians 8:7 would naturally be followed by the further thoughts in 1 Corinthians 8:9, etc. But, before dealing with these, Paul interposes another thought in 1 Corinthians 8:8, to the effect that partaking of or abstinence from any kind of food will not, in itself, either help or hinder the religious life. The bearing of that principle on his argument seems to be to reduce the importance of the whole question, and to suggest that, since eating of idol sacrifices could not be called a duty or a means of spiritual progress, the way was open to take account of others’ weakness as determining our action in regard to it. A modern application may illustrate the point. Suppose that a Christian does not see total abstinence from intoxicants to be obligatory on him. Well, he cannot say that drinking is so, or that it is a religious duty, and so the way is clear for urging regard to others’ weakness as an element in the case.

That being premised, Paul comes to his final point; namely, that Christian men are bound to restrict their liberty so that they shall not tempt weaker brethren on to a path on which they cannot walk without stumbling. He has just shown the danger to such of partaking of the sacrificial feasts. He now completes his position by showing, in 1 Corinthians 8:10, that the stronger man’s example may lead the weaker to do what he cannot do innocently. What is harmless to us may be fatal to others, and, if we have led them to it, their blood is on our heads.

The terrible discordance of such conduct with our Lord’s example, which should be our law, is forcibly set forth in 1 Corinthians 8:11, which has three strongly emphasised thoughts-the man’s fate-he perishes; his relation to his slayer-a brother; what Christ did for the man whom a Christian has sent to destruction-died for him. These solemn thoughts are deepened in 1 Corinthians 8:12, which reminds us of the intimate union between the weakest and Christ, by which He so identifies Himself with them that any blow struck on them touches Him.

There is no greater sin than to tempt weak or ignorant Christians to thoughts or acts which their ignorance or weakness cannot entertain or do without damage to their religion. There is much need for laying that truth to heart in these days. Both in the field of speculation and of conduct, Christians, who think that they know so much better than ignorant believers, need to be reminded of it.

So Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:13, at last answers the question. His sudden turning to his own conduct is beautiful. He will not so much command others, as proclaim his own determination. He does so with characteristic vehemence and hyperbole. No doubt the liberal party in Corinth were ready to complain against the proposal to restrict their freedom because of others’ weakness; and they would be disarmed, or at least silenced, and might be stimulated to like noble resolution, by Paul’s example.

The principle plainly laid down here is as distinctly applicable to the modern question of abstinence from intoxicants. No one can doubt that ‘moderation’ in their use by some tempts others to use which soon becomes fatally immoderate. The Church has been robbed of promising members thereby, over and over again. How can a Christian man cling to a ‘moderate’ use of these things, and run the risk of destroying by his example a brother for whom Christ died?

1 Corinthians 8:1-3. Now — As to the next question you proposed, namely, touching things offered — Meats sacrificed, and so consecrated; unto idols — When the heathen offered sacrifices of such animals as were fit for food, a part of the carcass was burned on the altar, a part was given to the priest or priests, and on the remainder the offerers feasted with their friends, either in the idol’s temple or at home. Sometimes also a part was sent as a present to such as they wished to oblige, and if the sacrifice was large, a part of it was sold in the public market. To these idolatrous feasts the heathen often invited the Christians of their acquaintance in Corinth, and some of the brethren there, desirous of preserving the friendship of their neighbours, accepted these invitations. They knew an idol was nothing in the world: and therefore they judged that their partaking of the sacrifice, given in the idol’s temple, could not be reckoned a worshipping of the idol. Besides, such a feast was considered, by enlightened Christians, as a common meal, which under the gospel they were at liberty to eat; especially if they did it to show their belief that idols had no existence as gods. These arguments, indeed, are not explicitly stated by the apostle; but the things he hath written in this and in chap. 10. being direct confutations of them, we may believe they were mentioned by the Corinthian brethren, in their letter referred to 1 Corinthians 7:1. The apostle here, and in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, treats of the meats which, having been sacrificed to idols, were afterward eaten in the idol’s temple, and in honour of the idol: of that which was sold in the shambles, or eaten in private houses, he speaks 1 Corinthians 10:25-33. We all have knowledge — That is, the generality, for some had not, 1 Corinthians 8:7 : we are well instructed in the nature of Christian liberty, concerning meats, and the nature of idols. Knowledge — That is, mere knowledge, knowledge without grace; puffeth up — Often has that tendency, and is the occasion of self-conceit and arrogance; a gentle reproof this of the self-conceit of the Corinthians. But charity — Love to God and our brethren; edifieth — Builds people up in holiness. If any man think he knoweth any thing aright — Unless so far as he is taught by God, and has love in proportion to his knowledge; he knoweth nothing — To any good purpose; yet, as he ought to know — Namely, to answer the proper ends of knowledge, or to make him humble in himself, and useful to others. If any man love God — In deed and in truth, in consequence of a persuasion of God’s love to him, 1 John 4:19; if any man, being justified by faith, and having peace with God, hath also the love of God shed abroad in his heart, Romans 5:1; Romans 5:5; the same is known of him — That is, approved by him, Psalm 1:6. Or, if ουτος, he, refers to God, the immediate antecedent, as some think the sense is, he, God, is known of him; namely, in a proper manner. See an example of the same phraseology, Acts 10:36.

8:1-6 There is no proof of ignorance more common than conceit of knowledge. Much may be known, when nothing is known to good purpose. And those who think they know any thing, and grow vain thereon, are the least likely to make good use of their knowledge. Satan hurts some as much by tempting them to be proud of mental powers, as others, by alluring to sensuality. Knowledge which puffs up the possessor, and renders him confident, is as dangerous as self-righteous pride, though what he knows may be right. Without holy affections all human knowledge is worthless. The heathens had gods of higher and lower degree; gods many, and lords many; so called, but not such in truth. Christians know better. One God made all, and has power over all. The one God, even the Father, signifies the Godhead as the sole object of all religious worship; and the Lord Jesus Christ denotes the person of Emmanuel, God manifest in the flesh, One with the Father, and with us; the appointed Mediator, and Lord of all; through whom we come to the Father, and through whom the Father sends all blessings to us, by the influence and working of the Holy Spirit. While we refuse all worship to the many who are called gods and lords, and to saints and angels, let us try whether we really come to God by faith in Christ.Now as touching - In regard to; in answer to your inquiry whether it is right or not to partake of those things.

Things offered unto idols - Sacrifices unto idols. Meat that had been offered in sacrifice, and then either exposed to sale in the market, or served up at the feasts held in honor of idols, at their temples, or at the houses of their devotees. The priests, who were entitled to a part of the meat that was offered in sacrifice, would expose it to sale in the market; and it was a custom with the Gentiles to make feasts in honor of the idol gods on the meat that was offered in sacrifice; see 1 Corinthians 8:10, of this chapter, and 1 Corinthians 10:20-21. Some Christians would hold that there could be no harm in partaking of this meat any more than any other meat, since an idol was nothing; and others would have many scruples in regard to it, since it would seem to countenance idol worship. The request made of Paul was, that he should settle some "general principle" which they might all safely follow.

We know - We admit; we cannot dispute; it is so plain a case that no one can be ignorant on this point. Probably these are the words of the Corinthians, and perhaps they were contained in the letter which was sent to Paul. They would affirm that they were not ignorant in regard to the nature of idols; they were well assured that they were nothing at all; and hence, they seemed to infer that it might be right and proper to partake of this food anywhere and everywhere, even in the idol temples themselves; see 1 Corinthians 8:10. To this Paul replies in the course of the chapter, and particularly in 1 Corinthians 8:7.

That we all have knowledge - That is, on this subject; we are acquainted with the true nature of idols, and of idol worship; we all esteem an idol to be nothing, and cannot be in danger of being led into idolatry, or into any improper views in regard to this subject by participating of the food and feasts connected with idol worship This is the statement and argument of the Corinthians. To this Paul makes two answers:

(1) In a "parenthesis" in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, to wit, that it was not safe to rely on mere knowledge in such a case, since the effect of mere knowledge was often to puff people up and to make them proud, but that they ought to act rather from "charity," or love; and,

(2) That though the mass of them might have this knowledge, yet that all did not possess it, and they might be injured, 1 Corinthians 8:7.

Having stated this argument of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge, in 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul then in a parenthesis states the usual effect of knowledge, and shows that it is not a safe guide, 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. In 1 Corinthians 8:4, he "resumes" the statement (commenced in 1 Corinthians 8:1) of the Corinthians, but which, in a mode quite frequent in his writings, he had broken off by his parenthesis on the subject of knowledge; and in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, he states the argument more at length; concedes that there was to them but one God, and that the majority of them must know that; but states in 1 Corinthians 8:7, that all had not this knowledge, and that those who had knowledge ought to act so as not to injure those who had not.

Knowledge puffeth up - This is the beginning of the parenthesis. It is the reply of Paul to the statement of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge. The sense is, "Admitting that you all have knowledge; that you know what is the nature of an idol, and of idol worship; yet mere knowledge in this case is not a safe guide; its effect may be to puff up, to fill with pride and self-sufficiency, and to lead you astray. charity or love, as well as knowledge, should be allowed to come in as a guide in such cases, and will be a safer guide than mere knowledge." There had been some remarkable proofs of the impropriety of relying on mere knowledge as a guide in religious matters among the Corinthians, and it was well for Paul to remind them of it. These pretenders to uncommon wisdom had given rise to their factions, disputes, and parties, (see 1 Corinthians 1; 2; 3); and Paul now reminds them that it was not safe to rely on such a guide. And it is no more safe now than it was then. Mere knowledge, or science, when the heart is not right, fills with pride; swells a man with vain self-confidence and reliance in his own powers, and very often leads him entirely astray. Knowledge combined with right feelings, with pure principles, with a heart filled with love to God and human beings, may be trusted: but not mere intellectual attainments; mere abstract science; the mere cultivation of the intellect. Unless the heart is cultivated with that, the effect of knowledge is to make a man a pedant; and to fill him with vain ideas of his own importance; and thus to lead him into error and to sin.

But charity edifieth - Love (ἡ ἀγάπη hē agapē); so the word means; and so it would be well to translate it. Our word "charity" we now apply almost exclusively to alms-giving, or to the favorable opinion which we entertain of others when they seem to be in error or fault. The word in the Scripture means simply "love." See the notes on 1 Corinthians 13. The sense here is, "Knowledge is not a safe guide, and should not be trusted. love to each other and to God, true Christian affection, will be a safer guide than mere knowledge, Your conclusion on this question should not be formed from mere abstract knowledge; but you should ask what love to others - to the peace, purity, happiness, and salvation of your brethren - would demand. If love to them would prompt to this course, and permit you to partake of this food, it should be done; if not, if it would injure them, whatever mere knowledge would dictate, it should not be done." The doctrine is, that love to God and to each other is a better guide in determining what to do than mere knowledge. And it is so. It will prompt us to seek the welfare of others, and to avoid what would injure them. It will make us tender, affectionate, and kind; and will better tell us what to do, and how to do it in the best way, than all the abstract knowledge that is conceivable. The man who is influenced by love, ever pure and ever glowing, is not in much danger of going astray, or of doing injury to the cause of God. The man who relies on his knowledge is heady, high-minded, obstinate, contentious, vexatious, perverse, opinionated; and most of the difficulties in the church arise from such people. Love makes no difficulty, but heals and allays all; mere knowledge heals or allays none, but is often the occasion of most bitter strife and contention. Paul was wise in recommending that the question should be settled by love; and it would be wise if all Christians would follow his instructions.


1Co 8:1-13. On Partaking of Meats Offered to Idols.

1. Though to those knowing that an idol has no existence, the question of eating meats offered to idols (referred to in the letter of the Corinthians, compare 1Co 7:1) might seem unimportant, it is not so with some, and the infirmities of such should be respected. The portions of the victims not offered on the altars belonged partly to the priests, partly to the offerers; and were eaten at feasts in the temples and in private houses and were often sold in the markets; so that Christians were constantly exposed to the temptation of receiving them, which was forbidden (Nu 25:2; Ps 106:28). The apostles forbade it in their decree issued from Jerusalem (Ac 15:1-29; 21:25); but Paul does not allude here to that decree, as he rests his precepts rather on his own independent apostolic authority.

we know that we all have knowledge—The Corinthians doubtless had referred to their "knowledge" (namely, of the indifference of meats, as in themselves having no sanctity or pollution). Paul replies, "We are aware that we all have [speaking generally, and so far as Christian theory goes; for in 1Co 8:7 he speaks of some who practically have not] this knowledge."

Knowledge puffeth up—when without "love." Here a parenthesis begins; and the main subject is resumed in the same words, 1Co 8:4. "As concerning [touching] therefore the eating," &c. "Puffing up" is to please self. "Edifying" is to please one's neighbor; Knowledge only says, All things are lawful for me; Love adds, But all things do not edify [Bengel], (1Co 10:23; Ro 14:15).

edifieth—tends to build up the spiritual temple (1Co 3:9; 6:19).1 Corinthians 8:1-3 The preference of charity to knowledge.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 An idol is nothing in the esteem of those who have

right notions of one God, and of one Lord Jesus


1 Corinthians 8:7-13 But it is sin in those, who by an indiscreet

use of their knowledge, in eating meats

offered to idols, tempt weaker consciences to offend.

The apostle proceedeth to a new argument, about which the Corinthians had wrote to him, viz. about the eating of meat offered to idols. Of this meat offered to idols we have this account given us: Feasts upon sacrifices were very usual amongst the heathens; they first offered oxen, sheep, or other cattle to the idol; then the priest offered a part, burning it upon the idol’s altar; other part they restored to the offerers, or took it to themselves. The priests made a feast in the idol’s temple of their parts, and invited friends to it. The offerers either so feasted with the part restored to them in the idol’s temple, or carried it home, and there feasted their neighbours with it; or else carried it into the market, and sold it (as other meat) in the shambles. The question was: Whether it was lawful for Christians, being invited to these feasts by those amongst whom they lived, to go to them, and to eat of such meat, whether it were in the idol’s temple, or at the pagans’ houses; or if any such meat were bought in the shambles, whether they might eat of that? Some amongst the Christians at Corinth thought any of these were lawful, because they knew an idol was nothing but a block, or piece of wood or stone, so could not defile any thing. The apostle tells them, that he knew very many of them had good degrees of knowledge, and every one understood that an idol was nothing; but yet he warneth them to take heed they were not puffed up with their knowledge, that is, swelled in such a confident opinion of it, that they thought they could not be mistaken, and be betrayed, by their conceit of it, to do that which is sinful; for charity edifieth. Charity signifieth either love to God, or love to our neighbour; here the latter seemeth to be intended, and the sense is: That they were not only concerned in the good of their own souls, but of their neighbours’ also, and to do that which might tend to their profit and edification, not to their ruin and destruction.

Now as touching things offered unto idols,.... This was another of the things the Corinthians wrote to the apostle about, desiring to have his judgment in; it was a controversy that had been before moved, whether it was lawful to eat things that had been sacrificed to idols. This was considered in the council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:28 and it was agreed to, for the peace of the churches, that the Gentiles, among other things, be advised to abstain from them; which, it seems, the church at Corinth knew nothing of, for the controversy was now moved among them: some that were weak in the faith, and had not, at least, clear notions of Gospel liberty, thought it very criminal and sinful to eat them; others that had, or boasted they had, more knowledge, would not only eat them privately at home, having bought them of the Heathen priests, or in the common meat markets, where they were exposed to sale, and at public feasts, to which they were invited by their friends; but would even go into an idol's temple, and sit and eat them there, to the great grief and prejudice of weak Christians; and what they had to plead in their own defence was their knowledge, to which the apostle here replies:

we know that we all have knowledge; said either affirmatively and seriously; and the meaning is, that the apostles and other Christians knew, and were conscious to themselves of their light and knowledge, and were assured, and might affirm with confidence, that they all, or the most part, only some few excepted, see 1 Corinthians 8:7 had the same knowledge of Christian liberty as they had; knew that an idol was nothing, and that eating meats offered to them could not defile, or do them any hurt; for they were very sensible there was nothing common or unclean of itself, and yet did not think fit to make use of their knowledge to the grieving and wounding of their fellow Christians: or else this is said ironically, we are wise folks; you particularly are men of knowledge, and wisdom will die with you; you know that you know; you are very knowing in your own conceits, and very positive as to your knowledge. It was the saying of Socrates, that that this one thing he knew, that he knew nothing; but men wise in their own opinions know everything:

knowledge puffeth up; not true knowledge; not that which comes from above, which is gentle and easy to be entreated; not sanctified knowledge, or that which has the grace of God going along with it; that makes men humble, and will not suffer them to be puffed up one against another; but a mere show of knowledge, knowledge in conceit, mere notional and speculative knowledge, that which is destitute of charity or love:

but charity edifieth; that is, a man that has knowledge, joined with love to God, and his fellow Christians, will seek for that which makes for the edification of others; and without this all his knowledge will be of no avail, and he himself be nothing.

Now {1} as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we {a} all have knowledge. Knowledge {b} puffeth up, but charity {c} edifieth.

(1) He begins to entreat of another type of indifferent things, that is, things offered to idols, or the use of flesh so offered and sacrificed. And first of all he removes all those things which the Corinthians pretended in using things offered to idols without any respect. First of all they affirmed that this difference of foods was for the unskilful men, but as for them, they knew well enough the benefit of Christ, which causes all these things to be clean to those that are clean. Be it so, Paul says: even if we are all sufficiently instructed in the knowledge of Christ, I say nonetheless that we must not simply rest in this knowledge. The reason is, that unless our knowledge is tempered with charity, it does not only not avail, but also does much hurt, because it is the mistress of pride. Nay, it does not so much as deserve the name of godly knowledge, if it is separate from the love of God, and therefore from the love of our neighbour.

(a) This general word is to be abridged as 1Co 8:7 appears, for there is a type of taunt in it, as we may perceive by 1Co 8:2.

(b) Gives occasion of vanity and pride, because it is void of charity.

(c) Instructs our neighbour.

1 Corinthians 8:1. Δέ] marks the transition to a new subject, which the queries from Corinth led the apostle to discuss.

περὶ τῶν εἰδωλοθ.] Since this is taken up again in 1 Corinthians 8:4, it is clear that 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 cannot form an independent series of thoughts (Hofmann), but that 1 Corinthians 8:3 is the close of a logical parenthesis (not a grammatical one, because at what is its true beginning the construction undergoes no interruption). It is not to be made to begin at ὅτι (for) πάντες, as is done by Luther, Bos, Er. Schmid, Raphel, Wolf, Bengel, Valckenaer, and others, among whom are Olshausen and Maier; for the fact that ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ stands unconnected with what precedes it, and the sense of ὅτι in 1 Corinthians 8:4 (that), are decisive against this. The true commencement is only at ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ (so, with older commentators, Pott, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Neander; Billroth is undecided on the point), so that the preceding γνῶσιν ἔχομεν has very naturally given occasion to the warnings which begin with ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ.

εἰδωλόθυτα, things offered to idols, κρέα εἰδωλόθυτα, 4Ma 5:1, are those parts of the animals offered in heathen sacrifices, which remained over after the priests had received their share, and which were either consumed in the temple or at home in connection with sacrificial feasts (Dougt. Anal. I. p. 234 ff.; Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § xxviii. 22), or else (by poor or miserly persons) sold in the flesh market. Comp on Acts 15:20.[1303] The Christians might thus easily come to eat such meat, either through being invited to a feast by heathen acquaintances (1 Corinthians 10:27), or, again, by buying it in the market (1 Corinthians 10:25), and thereby offence would be given to scrupulous consciences; while, on the other hand, those of a freer spirit, and with more of Paul’s own mode of thinking, might be apt to make light of the matter, and withal forget how a Christian ought to spare the weak. To assign the strong and the weak to one or other of the four parties respectively, is, to say the least of it, a very uncertain process, whether we are disposed to find the former in the Christ-party (Olshausen, Jaeger) or in the Apollonians (Räbiger). As regards the weak, see 1 Corinthians 8:7, and the remark subjoined to it.

οἴδαμεν] should not be joined directly with περὶ κ.τ.λ[1304], but the latter clause is to be taken as in 1 Corinthians 7:1 : Now, as respects meat offered to idols, we know that, etc. Hofmann, following Semler, but in the face of all the Versions and Fathers, reads οἶδα μέν (I know, indeed, that), by which he gains nothing but a μέν solitarium, which would be all the more uncalled for, seeing that the corresponding antithetic clause, where he ought to find ἡ δὲ γνῶσις, follows immediately. There is still less reason here for writing it as two words than in Romans 7:14, where it is, in point of fact, succeeded by a ΔΈ. The subject of οἴδαμεν consists of all those, besides the apostle himself, of whom the ΓΝῶΣΙΝ ἜΧΟΜΕΝ holds good, that is to say, of Paul and the (as regards this point) more enlightened Christians: I and those like myself in this. Theophylact puts it rightly (comp Chrysostom): ΠΡῸς ΤΟῪς ΤΕΛΕΊΟΥς ΔΙΑΛΈΓΕΤΑΙ, ἈΦΕῚς ΤΟῪς ἈΤΕΛΕΣΤΈΡΟΥς. Since ΟἼΔΑΜΕΝ and ἜΧΟΜΕΝ must have one and the same subject, Rückert is wrong in taking the first indefinitely: it is well known. Olshausen understands it of all Christians, and seeks to remove the contradiction between that and 1 Corinthians 8:7 in this way: he distinguishes γνῶσις and Ἡ ΓΝῶΣΙς, making the former to be a certain ground of knowledge in general; the latter, the specific knowledge of how the form and the power of idolatry stand related to each other. But the γνῶσις in 1 Corinthians 8:1, although without the article, has been already defined very exactly as regards its contents by ΠΕΡῚ Τ. ΕἸΔΩΛ., and still more by 1 Corinthians 8:4, so that Ἡ ΓΝῶΣΙς in 1 Corinthians 8:7 can mean nothing else but the γνῶσις under discussion; consequently the contradiction would remain. De Wette’s exposition is better; he holds that in 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul is speaking quite generally, and, as it were, theoretically (comp also Ewald), while in 1 Corinthians 8:7 he refers specially to the Corinthians. But such a theoretic generality would have needed to be expressed by the first person alone without πάντες, if the ΟὐΚ ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙΝ in 1 Corinthians 8:7 were to have any logical pertinence; while, on the other hand, if we are to maintain that general meaning in 1 Corinthians 8:1 as is stands, we should have arbitrarily to insert into the ΠΆΝΤΕς there the unexpressed idea, “properly speaking, all Christians as such” (Ewald), or to give to the ἔχομεν the sense of “should have.”[1307] Others, following Er. Schmid (“we at Corinth are all wise enough”), regard the Corinthians as the subject, and take (Nösselt, Opuscula, II. p. 152, Rosenmüller, Pott, Heydenreich, Flatt) the words περὶἔχομεν, and then ὍΤΙ ΟὐΔῈΝ ΕἼΔΩΛΟΝ in 1 Corinthians 8:4 on to 1 Corinthians 8:6, as quotations from the Corinthian letter, the refutation of which begins with 1 Corinthians 8:7. But this is unnatural; for in that case Paul would have brought the passage Ἡ ΓΝῶΣΙς ΦΥΣΙΟῖ Κ.Τ.Λ[1308], on to 1 Corinthians 8:3, into his refutation as well. Further, it is contrary to the apostle’s habitual way of writing, for he always marks out the words of an opponent as such by some formula; and lastly, it is quite unnecessary, seeing that the supposed contradiction between 1 Corinthians 8:1 and 1 Corinthians 8:7 vanishes on considering the change of person (from the first in 1 Corinthians 8:1 to the third in 1 Corinthians 8:7).

γνῶσιν] have knowledge; of what? is plain from the context, namely, of the way in which flesh offered to idols should be regarded. The contents of the statement are more fully expressed in 1 Corinthians 8:4.

[1303] Paul, however, makes no reference to the decree of the apostles either here or elsewhere, which is in keeping with his consciousness of his own direct and independent apostolic dignity. Comp. on Acts loc. cit., and on Gal., Introd. § 3. Moreover, this very chapter, along with chap. 10, shows plainly that, in virtue of his independent position as an apostle, he had early enough shaken himself clear of all applications of the temporary agreement come to at Jerusalem which might conflict, upon points in themselves indifferent, with the principles elsewhere enunciated by him, although coupling this with a wise forbearance towards those who were weak to the faith.

[1304] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1307] So Elwert, Progr., Quaestiones ad philol. sacram. N. T., Tübing. 1860, p. 17.

[1308] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3. Now follows the caveat inserted parenthetically with a view to γνῶσιν ἔχομεν.

The article turns the abstract γνῶσις into a noun appellative.

The knowledge (in and by itself, namely) puffeth up (1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 5:2); but the love (to the brethren; comp Romans 14:14-15) edifieth (1 Corinthians 10:23), furthers the progress of the church (viewed as οἰκοδομὴ Θεοῦ, see 1 Corinthians 3:9) towards Christian perfection. It is, indeed, the necessary ἡγεμονικόν to the effectively sympathetic and humble application of the knowledge. Comp chap. 13, especially 1 Corinthians 8:4.—1 Corinthians 8:2-3 explain the preceding statement, both from the wrong nature of the supposed knowledge and from the preciousness of love to God.

Since the γνῶσις in and by itself, divorced from love, is never a real knowledge, but only such as a man fancies himself to have (1 Corinthians 3:181 Corinthians 8:1-6. § 25. KNOWLEDGE OF THE ONE GOD AND ONE LORD. In inquiring from their Ap. “about the εἰδωλόθυτα,” the Cor[1217] had intimated their “knowledge” of the falsity of the entire system of idolatry. Here Paul checks them at the outset. The pretension betrays their one-sided intellectualism. Such matters are never settled by knowledge; love is the true arbiter (1 Corinthians 8:2 f.). After this caution, he takes up the statement of the Cor[1218] creed made in the Church Letter, with its implications respecting idolatry (1 Corinthians 8:4 ff.).

[1217] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1218] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

1. as touching things offered unto idols] These were the parts of the sacrifice not consumed by fire, but reserved, as in the Jewish peace-offerings (see Leviticus 7:15-16; Leviticus 22:30), for the use of the priest and the worshipper. Sometimes (see ch. 1 Corinthians 10:25) the meat not consumed was sold in the shambles as ordinary butcher’s meat, without any notification that it had ever formed part of a sacrifice. “Most public entertainments,” says Dean Stanley, “and many private meals, were more or less remotely the accompaniments of sacrifice.… This identification of a sacrifice and a feast was carried to the highest pitch among the Greeks. Sacrifices are enumerated by Aristotle (Ethics viii. 9), and Thucydides (ii. 38), amongst the chief means of social enjoyment.” Hence the difficulty referred to in the present chapter was likely to be an extremely pressing one. Among the Jews (Numbers 25:2; Psalm 106:28) to partake of these sacrifices was strictly forbidden. See also Revelation 2:14. For a description of heathen sacrifices, see Homer, Iliad, Book 1. 606–13. Cf. also Horace, Odes iii. viii. 6, 7: “Voveram dulces epulas et album … caprum.”

we know that we all have knowledge] Some have supposed a parenthesis commencing at ‘we all have knowledge,’ and including the whole passage between these words and ‘we know that an idol,’ &.c., in 1 Corinthians 8:4, where the construction in 1 Corinthians 8:1 is resumed. But it is better to regard the parenthesis as beginning at ‘Knowledge puffeth up,’ and extending thence to the end of 1 Corinthians 8:3. These words are not to be regarded as ironical. Admission into the Christian Church brought with it a vast amount of spiritual, and even intellectual, enlightenment. “I do not undertake to teach you as men destitute of knowledge; but ye are to be admonished to use what ye have well and prudently.” Estius. This commentator further remarks that there is no contradiction between this verse and 1 Corinthians 8:7, inasmuch as here it is knowledge generally that is spoken of, whereas there a particular sort of knowledge is meant. The meaning of this apparent digression is, “We all know that Christians, by virtue of their fellowship with Christ, possess knowledge; but it is not upon their knowledge that they are to rely. ‘And yet shew I you a more excellent way.’ ”

but charity edifieth] Rather, love. So Tyndale. Nothing has done more to obscure the connection between different passages of the New Testament, and to weaken our sense of the identity of sentiment between its different writers, than the use sometimes of the English word love, and sometimes of the word charity, derived from the Latin caritas, to translate the Greek word uniformly used throughout. To edify means to build up, a metaphor taken from the gradual building of a house (aedes), and applied either (1) to the gradual formation of individual character, or (2) to the growth of the Christian Church. The word is found in both significations in ch. 1 Corinthians 14:4, but it is more commonly used in the second. See ch. 14 throughout; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16, &c., and note on ch. 1 Corinthians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 6:19. ‘It is love that edifieth;’ love that builds up both the character of the individual man and the society, each member of which is ‘chosen in Christ,’ to be ‘holy and without blame before God in love.’

Ch. 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. The Question of Meats offered in Sacrifice to Idols

There is a great general similarity between this chapter and Romans 14. The question comes before the reader there in a somewhat different form. There rules are laid down concerning clean and unclean meats; here about meats offered in sacrifice to idols. There the weak brother is a Jew; here he may be also a Gentile. See note on 1 Corinthians 8:7. But this difference only brings out in stronger relief the identity of the principle, as laid down in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12 of this Epistle (where see note). Matters of this kind are purely indifferent in themselves. It is only so far as they are likely to affect the conduct of others that they become important. The Christian was not to be over-scrupulous; not to fret himself about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of this or that particular act, but to consider all questions of this kind on the broad general ground of the welfare of the community, and therefore, as a matter of course, of the individuals who composed it. By the decision in Acts 15:23-29, the Gentile converts were specially forbidden to eat meats offered to idols. Why does St Paul, it may be asked, make no reference to that decision here, and in some cases give a different one? It would seem that the directions given in Acts 15 were intended for special circumstances, and not for an universal rule. The letter containing them was addressed only to the churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, and was probably intended to allay the violence of the dissensions between Jewish and Gentile converts. So Bp. Lightfoot, Commentary on Galatians, p. 308.

1 Corinthians 8:1. Περὶοἴδαμεν, as touching—we know) This topic is taken up again at 1 Corinthians 8:4, when the parenthesis, which follows, has been concluded.—ὅτι) that. This explains the “we know.”—γνῶσιν, knowledge) The article is not added,[62]) that he may not concede too much.—ἔχομεν, we have) He speaks in the first person of himself and others, more established in the faith; when speaking more generally, he uses the third, 1 Corinthians 8:7. Thus we easily reconcile the all [1 Corinthians 8:1] and not in all [1 Corinthians 8:7].—ἡ γνῶσις, knowledge) without love. [Although the fundamental doctrines and those most necessary and difficult are spoken of. V. g.]—φυσιοῖ, puffeth up) when a man pleases himself; comp. thinks, 1 Corinthians 8:2.—ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη, but love) the right use of knowledge, love, towards God, 1 Corinthians 8:3, and towards our neighbour.—οἰκοδομεῖ, edifieth) when a man pleases his neighbour. Knowledge only says, all things are lawful for me; love adds, but all things do not edify.

[62] Therefore, also, in the Germ. Vers., the article ought to be wanting in this passage.—E. B.

Verses 1-13. - The relation of lore to knowledge with respect to the question of eating idol offerings. Verse 1. - As touching things offered unto idols. This was doubtless one of the questions on which the Corinthians had asked for advice. We judge from the tone of the questions to which St. Paul here replies that the majority of the Corinthians, being liberal in their views, held that it was a matter of perfect indifference to eat idol offerings; and that, in acting upon this conviction, they contemptuously overrode the convictions of those who could not help thinking that when they did so they committed a sin. The practical decision of the question was one of immense importance. If it were unlawful under any circumstances to eat idol offerings, then the Gentile convert was condemned to a life of Levitism almost as rigorous as that of the Jew. The distinction between clean and unclean meats formed an insuperable barrier between Jews and Gentiles. Wherever they lived, Jews required a butcher of their own, who had been trained in the rules and ceremonies which enabled him to decide and to ensure that all the meat which they ate should be clean (tahor), not unclean (tame). They could touch no meat which was not certified as free from legal blemish or ceremonial pollution by the affixed leaden seal on which was engraved the word "lawful" (kashar). But Gentiles had always been accustomed to buy meat in the markets. Now, much of this meat consisted of remnants of animals slain as sacrifices, after the priests had had their share. So completely was this case, that the word "to sacrifice" had come to mean "to kill" in Hellenistic Greek. Theophrastus, in his 'Moral Sketches,' defines the close-handed man as one who, at his daughter's wedding feast, sells all the victims offered except the sacred parts; and the shameless person as one who, after offering a sacrifice, salts the victim for future use, and goes out to dine with someone else. The market was therefore stocked with meat which had been connected with idol sacrifices. The Christian could never be sure about any meat which he bought if he held it wrong to partake of these offerings. Further than this, he would - especially if he were poor - feel it a great privation to be entirely cut off from the public feasts (sussitia), which perhaps were often his only chance of eating meat at all; and also to be forbidden to take a social meal with any of his Gentile neighbours or relatives. The question was therefore a "burning" one. It involved much of the comfort and brightness of ancient social life (Thucydides, 2:38; Aristotle, 'Eth.,' 7:9, § 5; Cicero, 'Off.,' 2:16; Livy, 8:32, etc.). It will be seen that St. Paul treats it with consummate wisdom and tenderness. His liberality of thought shows itself in this - that he sides with those who took the strong, the broad, the common sense view, that sin is not a mechanical matter, and that sin is not committed where no sin is intended. He neither adopts the ascetic view nor does he taunt the inquirers with the fact that the whole weight of their personal desires and interests would lead them to decide the question in their own favour. On the other hand, he has too deep a sympathy with the weak to permit their scruples to be overruled with a violence which would wound their consciences. While he accepts the right principle of Christian freedom, he carefully guards against its abuse. It might have been supposed that, as a Jew, and one who had been trained as a "Pharisee of Pharisees," St. Paul would have sided with those who forbade any participation in idol offerings. Jewish rabbis referred to passages like Exodus 34:15; Numbers 25:2; Psalm 106:28; Daniel 1:8; Tobit 1:10, 11. Rabbi Ishmael, in 'Avoda Zara,' said that a Jew might not even go to a Gentile funeral, even if he took with him his own meat and his own servants. The law of the drink offering forbids a Jew to drink of a cask if anyone has even touched a goblet drawn from it with the presumed intention of offering little to the gods. Besides this, the Synod of Jerusalem had mentioned the eating of idol offerings as one of the four things which they forbade to Gentile converts, who were only bound by the Noachian precepts (Acts 15:29). But St. Paul judged the matter independently by his own apostolic authority. The decision of the synod had only had a local validity trod was inapplicable to such a community as that of Corinth. St. Paul had to suffer cruel misrepresentation and bitter persecution as the consequence of this breadth of view (Acts 21:21-24); but that would not be likely to make him shrink from saying the truth. This treatment of the subject closely resembles that which he subsequently adopted in Romans 14. We know that we all have knowledge. It is very probable that this is a semi-ironical quotation of the somewhat conceited remark which had occurred in the letter from Corinth. No doubt there was a sense in which it might (theoretically) be regarded as true; but it was St. Paul's duty both to disparage this kind of knowledge and to show that, after all, there were some among them who did not possess it (ver. 7). Knowledge puffeth up. The brief energetic clause, "Knowledge puffeth up; love buildeth up," shows the strong feeling with which the apostle enters on the discussion. There is a wide distance between theoretic knowledge and heavenly wisdom (James 3:13-18). "He who is full is rich; he who is puffed up is empty" (Stanley). "The first person puffed up was the devil" (Beza). Charity edifieth. There is no reason whatever for the rendering of ἀγαπὴ sometimes by "love," sometimes by "charity." The fondness for variation which led King James's translators to do so only obscures the identity of thought which prevails among all the apostles respecting the absolute primacy of love as the chief sphere and test of the Christian life. Edifieth. Helps to build us up as stones in the spiritual temple (ch. 3:9; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12). "If because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love" (Romans 14:15). 1 Corinthians 8:1Things offered unto idols (εἰδωλοθύτων)

See on Revelation 2:14.

We know that we all, etc.

The arrangement of the text is in question. Evidently a parenthesis intervenes between the beginning of 1 Corinthians 8:1 and 1 Corinthians 8:4. It seems best to begin this parenthesis with knowledge puffeth up, and to end it with known of him (1 Corinthians 8:3).

We all have knowledge (πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν)

The exact reference of these words must remain uncertain. Some understand Paul himself and the more enlightened Corinthians. Others, all Christians. All the expositions are but guesses. I prefer, on the whole, the view that Paul is here repeating, either verbally or in substance, a passage from the letter of the Corinthians to him. In that case the sense is slightly ironical: "We know, to use your own words, that we all have knowledge." The parenthesis thus comes in with an appropriate cautionary force.

Puffeth up

See on 1 Corinthians 4:6. The contrast is striking between puffing up and building up - a bubble and a building.

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