1 Corinthians 8:4
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(4) As concerning therefore the eating of those things.—See 1Corinthians 8:1. The subject resumed after the parenthesis. We have, perhaps, in this repetition of the words a characteristic of a letter written by another from the author’s dictation, as was the case with this and other epistles.

An idol is nothing in the world.—It is nothing in itself but a piece of wood or metal, and it really represents nothing, for we know that there is “no God but one.” The word “other” was inserted in later MSS., probably from a recollection of the words of the first commandment.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6. As, &c. — To proceed, therefore, to the question in debate; concerning the eating of those things that are offered unto idols — Meats of whatever kind sacrificed to them. We know that an idol — Or the supposed deity residing therein; is nothing — A mere nominal god, having no real divinity, virtue, or power; and that there is none other God but one — Jehovah, the self-existent, independent, infinite, and eternal Being, to whom the Scripture in general, and the gospel in particular, hath taught us to appropriate our worship. “The Greek word ειδωλον, translated idol, signifies an image formed in the mind, and which exists nowhere else. Wherefore, to show that the gods of the heathen were mere creatures of the human imagination, the Jews, who used the Greek language, termed them ειδωλα, idols. By this word, likewise, they signified the pictures and statues which the heathen set up in their temples, as representations of their gods; and by giving them the appellation of idols, they declared their persuasion that the things of which they were the representations had no existence. Nevertheless, as the apostle knew that some of the heathen worshipped their dead ancestors, legislators, kings, &c., others of them the heavenly bodies, others certain kinds of brute animals, he cannot be understood to say that an idol is nothing, in the sense of its having no existence as a being, but of its having no existence as a god, and no share in the government of the world.” For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth — Or even under the earth; for the heathen had not only their celestial and terrestrial, but likewise their infernal deities: as there be gods many, and lords many — Who are in their various subordinations adored by the Gentiles, and have great, though very absurd worship paid to them. But to us — Christians; there is — In the whole universe; but one God — One supreme essence; the Father — Of angels and men. This is exclusive not of the Word which was in the beginning with God, and was God, termed the one Lord, in the next clause, any more than of the Holy Spirit, but only of the idols, to which the one God is opposed. Of — Or from; whom are all things — By creation, providence, and grace; and we in him — Living, moving, and having our being; or we are, εις αυτον, for him, for his glory, the end of all we are, have, and do. And one Lord — The Word and Son of the eternal Father, equally the object of divine worship; by whom are all things — Created, sustained, and governed; and we by him — Thankfully acknowledging ourselves obliged to his agency and care for all we are, have, or hope for, and by whom, as the only Mediator between God and man, we have access to the Father and all spiritual blessings.

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.As concerning therefore ... - The parenthesis closes with 1 Corinthians 8:3. The apostle now proceeds to the real question in debate, and repeats in this verse the question, and the admission that all had knowledge. The admission that all had knowledge proceeds through 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; and in 1 Corinthians 8:7 he gives the answer to it. In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 everything is admitted by Paul which they asked in regard to the real extent of their knowledge on this subject; and in 1 Corinthians 8:7 he shows that even on the ground of this admission, the conclusion would not follow that it was right to partake of the food offered in sacrifice in the temple of an idol.

The eating of those things ... - Whether it is right to eat them. Here the question is varied somewhat from what it was in 1 Corinthians 8:1, but substantially the same inquiry is stated. The question was, whether it was right for Christians to eat the meat of animals that had been slain in sacrifice to idols.

We know - 1 Corinthians 8:1. We Corinthians know; and Paul seems fully to admit that they had all the knowledge which they claimed, 1 Corinthians 8:7. But his object was to show that even admitting that, it would not follow that it would be right to partake of that meat. It is well to bear in mind that the object of their statement in regard to knowledge was, to show that there could be no impropriety in partaking of the food. This argument the apostle answers in 1 Corinthians 8:7.

That an idol is nothing - Is not the true God; is not a proper object of worship. We are not so stupid as to suppose that the block of wood, or the carved image, or the chiseled marble is a real intelligence and is conscious and capable of receiving worship, or benefiting its volaries. We fully admit, and know, that the whole thing is delusive; and there can be no danger that, by partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to them, we should ever be brought to a belief of the stupendous falsehood that they are true objects of worship, or to deny the true God. There is no doubt that the more intelligent pagan had this knowledge; and doubtless nearly all Christians possessed it, though a few who had been educated in the grosser views of paganism might still have regarded the idol with a superstitious reverence, For whatever might have been the knowledge of statesmen and philosophers on the subject, it was still doubtless true that the great mass of the pagan world did regard the dumb idols as the proper objects of worship, and supposed that they were inhabited by invisible spirits - the gods. For purposes of state, and policy, and imposition, the lawgivers and priests of the pagan world were careful to cherish this delusion; see 1 Corinthians 8:7.

Is nothing - Is delusive; is imaginary. There may have been a reference here to the name of an idol among the Hebrews. They called idols אלילים 'ĕlı̂yliym (Elilim), or in the singular אליל 'ĕlı̂yl (Elil}}, vain, null, nothingworth, nothingness, vanity, weakness, etc.; indicating their vanity and powerlessness; Leviticus 26:1; 1 Chronicles 16:26; Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 10:10; Isaiah 19:11, Isaiah 19:13, Isaiah 19:20; Isaiah 31:7; Psalm 90:5; Ezekiel 30:13; Habakkuk 2:18; Zechariah 11:17, etc.

In the world - It is nothing at all; it has no power over the world; no real existence anywhere. There are no such gods as the pagans pretend to worship. There is but one God; and that fact is known to us all. The phrase "in the world" seems to be added by way of emphasis, to show the utter nothingness of idols; to explain in the most emphatic manner the belief that they had no real existence.

And that there is none other God but one - This was a great cardinal truth of religion; see the note at Mark 12:29; compare Deuteronomy 6:4-5. To keep this great truth in mind was the grand object of the Jewish economy; and this was so plain, and important, that the Corinthians supposed that it must be admitted by all. Even though they should partake of the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols, yet they supposed it was not possible that any of them could forget the great cardinal truth that there was but one God.

4. As concerning, &c.—resuming the subject begun in 1Co 8:1, "As touching," &c.

idol is nothing—has no true being at all, the god it represents is not a living reality. This does not contradict 1Co 10:20, which states that they who worship idols, worship devils; for here it is the Gods believed by the worshippers to be represented by the idols which are denied to have any existence, not the devils which really under the idols delude the worshippers.

none other God—The oldest manuscripts omit the word "other"; which gives a clearer sense.

Those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols; meat which is part of that sacrifice which hath been offered to an idol, whether it be to be eaten in the idol’s temple, or in a private house.

We know that an idol is nothing in the world; we know that an image, or an idol, the representation of some other thing, though in respect of the matter it be something, either wood, stone, or earth, and in respect of form it be something, yet it is nothing formally, or representatively; though it is set up to represent to us a Deity, there is nothing of a Divine nature, or the representation of a Divine nature, in it. It

is nothing of what the poor blind heathen take it to be, and therefore in the Hebrew it hath its name from a word la that signifieth nothing; Job 13:14 Zechariah 11:17: or it is nothing, that can either sanctify or pollute any meat that is set before it. And we know that there is none other God but one: the apostle may be conceived to have spoken these words as from himself, granting what those said who took themselves to be men of knowledge; or else in the language of those who thus spake, repeating their words.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things,.... The apostle having enlarged on the head of knowledge, which those who made an ill use of their Christian liberty urged in favour of their conduct; he returns to the subject in question, in relation to meats,

that are offered in sacrifice unto idols. The determinations of the Jewish schools concerning this affair are as follow, which admit of no manner of profit by them in any shape:

"a beast, the whole of which they offer to idols, is forbidden of profit, even its dung, and its bones, and its horns, and its hoofs, and its skin, all is forbid to be of any profit'' (y).

Again (z),

"flesh or wine, or fruits, which are brought in to be offered up to idols, are not forbidden to profit with, although they are brought into the idol's temple, until they offer them up before it; "but when offered up before it"; they become an offering; and though they may return them, and bring them out, lo, these are forbidden for ever; and all that is found in an idol's temple, even water and salt, are forbidden of profit by the law, , "and he that eats anything thereof" is to be beaten.''

Once more (a),

"an Israelite that lifts up a cheese to worship it, but does not worship it, but a Gentile worships it, it is forbidden of profit, became the lifting of it up is an action; and so if he lifts up an egg, and a Gentile comes and worships it, it is forbidden; he that cuts a gourd, or any such thing, and worships it, it is forbidden, &c.''

But by these decrees we Christians are not bound;

we know that an idol is nothing in the world; among the things created by God in the world; for though the matter of it may be of God, the form is of men; nor has it any share in the government of the world: and though that of which it may be made, as gold, silver, brass, &c. is something; yet as it is a form and representation of God, it is nothing, because there can be no representation of the invisible God; it is nothing, that is, it has no divinity in it, it is no God. Though it may have an existence, as the sun, moon, and stars, yet not divinity; and in that sense nothing. The apostle here speaks the language of the Jewish doctors, who say (b),

"why dost thou envy an idol? , "since it is nothing, or there is nothing it."''

And again (c),

"the Rabbins say, since , "there is nothing in an idol", why do they call them deities;''

Very likely the apostle may have reference to the Hebrew word for idols, which signifies things of nought, that are good for nothing, are of no value, and are as nothing, Isaiah 2:20.

And that there is none other God but one. This clause may be considered either as a reason of the former, why an idol is nothing, is no deity, is no God, "for there is none other God but one", as it may be rendered; or as a part of what believers know; for as they know an idol is nothing, so they know, both from reason and revelation, from the books of the Old and New Testament, that there is but one God, and consequently that idols are nothing, and that they cannot defile them, nor anything that is offered to them.


{2} As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto {d} idols, we know that an idol is {e} nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

(2) The application of that answer to things offered to idols: I grant, he says, that an idol is indeed a vain imagination, and that there is but one God and Lord, and therefore that food cannot be made either holy or profane by the idol. But it does not follow therefore, that a man may, without regard of what they are, use those foods as any other.

(d) The word idol in this place is taken for an image which is made to represent some godhead, so that worship might be given to it: whereupon came the word idolatry, that is to say, image service.

(e) Is a vain dream.

1 Corinthians 8:4. Οὖν] igitur, takes up again the interrupted statement (1 Corinthians 8:1); comp 1 Corinthians 11:20, and see on Mark 3:31, and Baeumlein, Partik. p. 177.

τῆς βρώσ. τ. εἰδ.] more precise definition of the indefinite ΤῶΝ ΕἸΔΩΛΟΘ., 1 Corinthians 8:1. There is no reason any more than formerly for writing ΟἼΔΑΜΕΝ here as ΟἾΔΑ ΜΈΝ with Hofmann.

ὍΤΙ ΟὐΔῈΝ ΕἸΔΩΛ. ἘΝ ΚΌΣΜῼ] that there is not an idol in the world. Paul’s meaning here is not: what the heathen adore as gods is something absolutely without existence (see, on the contrary, 1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Corinthians 10:20); but: no heathen god exists as the being which the heathen supposes him to be; and so there is no adequate reality, corresponding to the heathen conception of a god Jupiter, Apollo, etc. Most of the old interpreters, with the Vulgate, Luther, and Beza (also more recently, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Heydenreich), took οὐδέν to mean nihil: “that an idol is a nonentity.” Comp Jeremiah 10:3; Isaiah 41:24, al[1322], Addit. to Esther 4:8; Sanhedr. f. 63. 2 : “Noverant utique Israelitae, idolum nihil esse.” Comp also Joseph. Antt. viii. 13. 6. But this must be held incorrect, seeing that ἐν τ. κόσμῳ does not harmonize with it, and because of the parallel expression ΟὐΔΕῚς ΘΕΌς.

[1324]] and that there is no other God but one. The εἰ μή refers simply to οὐδεὶς Θεός, not to ἕτερος. see on Galatians 1:19.

[1322] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1324] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

1 Corinthians 8:4. After his thrust at Cor[1233] γνῶσις, P. resumes, with οὖν (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:17-20), from 1 Corinthians 8:1 the question “About the eating of idolothyta,” repeating the “we know” at which he had interrupted his correspondents. For οἴδαμεν in a confessio fidei, cf. 1 John 5:18 ff. That the theological statement given in 1 Corinthians 8:4 ff. comes from the mouth of the Corinthians seems probable from the following considerations: (a) the repeated οἴδαμεν (h.l. in this Ep.; cf. the frequent interrog. οὐκ οἴδατε; of chh. 3, 5, 6; also 1 Corinthians 12:2), by which P. associates himself with the readers, who are men of knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 10:15, etc.); (b) the solemn rhythm of 1 Corinthians 8:4 b and 1 Corinthians 8:6, resembling a confessional formula (cf. Ephesians 4:4 ff., 1 Timothy 3:16)

[1233] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

4. we know that an idol is nothing in the world] Some have rendered, that there is no idol in the world, but the rendering in the text gives the clearest sense; “A name without a thing, a mere figment of the human heart.” Estius.

1 Corinthians 8:4. Βρώσεως) He more closely limits the subject proposed at 1 Corinthians 8:1 : as concerning, therefore, the eating, etc.—οὐδὲν) nothing, is the predicate; nothing, the force of which is augmented by the antithetic words, in the world, תהו, 1 Samuel 12:21, LXX., οὐδεν; comp. ch. 1 Corinthians 10:19, note. [A piece of wood or stone and nothing besides.—V. g.]

Verse 4. - We know that an idol is nothing in the world. After his brief but pregnant digression on the nature of true knowledge, he returns to these questions, and probably once more quotes their own words. They had given this reason for open and public indifference with respect to meat offered to idols. With respect to idols, three views were possible to Christians: either

(1) that they were "demons" - the spirits of deified dead men; or

(2) that they were evil spirits - a favorite view among the Jews (via 10:20; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37; Revelation 9:20); or

(3) that they were merely (lead images corresponding to nothing at all (Isaiah 44 etc.). That there is none other God but one. This belief is the signature of Judaism, according to their daily and oft repeated shema (Deuteronomy 6:4, etc.). 1 Corinthians 8:4
1 Corinthians 8:4 Interlinear
1 Corinthians 8:4 Parallel Texts

1 Corinthians 8:4 NIV
1 Corinthians 8:4 NLT
1 Corinthians 8:4 ESV
1 Corinthians 8:4 NASB
1 Corinthians 8:4 KJV

1 Corinthians 8:4 Bible Apps
1 Corinthians 8:4 Parallel
1 Corinthians 8:4 Biblia Paralela
1 Corinthians 8:4 Chinese Bible
1 Corinthians 8:4 French Bible
1 Corinthians 8:4 German Bible

Bible Hub

1 Corinthians 8:3
Top of Page
Top of Page