1 Corinthians 8:7
Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
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(7) Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge.—The Apostle had admitted that in theory all have knowledge which should render the eating of things offered to idols a matter beyond question; but there are some who, as a matter of fact, are not fully grown—have not practically attained that knowledge.

Some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol.—Better, some, through their familiarity with the idol, even up to this time eat it as offered to an idol.

The weight of MSS. evidence is in favour of the word “familiarity” instead of the word “conscience,” and joins “even up to this time,” not with “eat,” but with the previous words. Thus the allusion is to heathen converts who, from their previous lifelong belief in the reality of the idol as representing a god, have not been able fully to realise the non-existence of the person thus represented, though they have come to believe that it is not God; and therefore, they regard the meat as offered to some kind of reality, even though it be a demon. (See 1Corinthians 10:20-21.) The Apostle admits that this is a sign of a weak conscience; and the defilement arises from its being weak.

1 Corinthians 8:7-8. Howbeit, there is not in every man — In every professing Christian; that knowledge — Namely, that there is but one God, and one Lord, and that an idol is nothing, and has no power to defile the meat: some Christian converts may not sufficiently apprehend this, but may imagine there is really some invisible spirit present in the idol, and acting by and upon it: for some with conscience of the idol — Out of some respect to it, as if it were a kind of deity; unto this hour — Even since their embracing of Christianity; eat it — The meat; as a thing offered unto an idol — With some religious regard to the idol, intending thereby to pay some kind of homage to it; and their conscience being weak, is defiled — “The weakness of their conscience,” says Macknight, “consisted in their believing that idols had a real existence as gods, and were employed by God in the government of particular countries and cities. And the defiling of their conscience consisted in their hoping to receive benefit from the idol, or at least to avoid the effects of his wrath, by joining in the sacrifice that was offered to him.” Others interpret the verse more consistently with the context, thus: Some eat with consciousness of the idol, that is, fancying it is something, and that it makes the meat unlawful to be eaten; and their conscience being weak — That is, not rightly informed; is defiled — Contracts guilt by so doing. But — Why should we occasion this inconvenience? for we know that meat commendeth us not in any degree to the acceptance and favour of God — Abstracted from circumstances; neither by our eating, nor by our refraining from it: eating and not eating are in themselves things merely indifferent. For neither if we eat — What has been offered to an idol, are we the better, more holy in God’s sight; neither if we eat not — But conscientiously abstain from such meat; are we the worse — Disapproved of by him, and exposed to his displeasure. “The great God does not so much esteem a man for being, or disapprove of him for not being, superior to such little scruples: but the tenderness of his conscience, together with the zeal and charity of his heart, are the grand qualities he regards.” — Doddridge.

8:7-13 Eating one kind of food, and abstaining from another, have nothing in them to recommend a person to God. But the apostle cautions against putting a stumbling-block in the way of the weak; lest they be made bold to eat what was offered to the idol, not as common food, but as a sacrifice, and thereby be guilty of idolatry. He who has the Spirit of Christ in him, will love those whom Christ loved so as to die for them. Injuries done to Christians, are done to Christ; but most of all, the entangling them in guilt: wounding their consciences, is wounding him. We should be very tender of doing any thing that may occasion stumbling to others, though it may be innocent in itself. And if we must not endanger other men's souls, how much should we take care not to destroy our own! Let Christians beware of approaching the brink of evil, or the appearance of it, though many do this in public matters, for which perhaps they plead plausibly. Men cannot thus sin against their brethren, without offending Christ, and endangering their own souls.Howbeit - But. In the previous verses Paul had stated the argument of the Corinthians - that they all knew that an idol was nothing; that they worshipped but one God; and that there could be no danger of their falling into idolatry, even should they partake of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. Here he replies, that though this might be generally true, yet it was not universally; for that some were ignorant on this subject, and supposed that an idol had a real existence, and that to partake of that meat would be to confirm them in their superstition. The inference therefore is, that on their account they should abstain; see 1 Corinthians 8:11-13.

There is not ... - There are some who are weak and ignorant; who have still remains of pagan opinions and superstitious feelings.

That knowledge - That there is but one God; and that an idol is nothing.

For some with conscience of the idol - From conscientious regard to the idol; believing that an idol god has a real existence; and that his favor should be sought, and his wrath be deprecated. It is not to be supposed that converted people would regard idols as the only God; but they might suppose that they were intermediate beings, good or bad angels, and that it was proper to seek their favor or avert their wrath. We are to bear in mind that the pagan were exceedingly ignorant; and that their former notions and superstitious feelings about the gods whom their fathers worshipped, and whom they had adored, would not soon leave them even on their conversion to Christianity. This is just one instance, like thousands, in which former erroneous opinions, prejudices, or superstitious views may influence those who are truly converted to God, and greatly mar and disfigure the beauty and symmetry of their religious character.

Eat it as a thing ... - As offered to an idol who was entitled to adoration; or as having a right to their homage. They supposed that some invisible spirit was present with the idol; and that his favor should be sought, or his wrath averted by sacrifice.

And their conscience being weak - Being unenlightened on this subject; and being too weak to withstand the temptation in such a case. Not having a conscience sufficiently clear and strong to enable them to resist the temptation; to overcome all their former prejudices and superstitious feelings; and to act in an independent manner, as if an idol were nothing. Or their conscience was morbidly sensitive and delicate on this subject, they might be disposed to do right, and yet not have sufficient knowledge to convince them that an idol was nothing, and that they ought not to regard it.

Is defiled - Polluted; contaminated. By thus countenancing idolatry he is led into sin, and contracts guilt that will give him pain when his conscience becomes more enlightened; 1 Corinthians 8:11, 1 Corinthians 8:13. From superstitious reverence of the idol, he might think that he was doing right; but the effect would be to lead him to conformity to idol worship that would defile his conscience, pollute his mind, and ultimately produce the deep and painful conviction of guilt. The general reply, therefore, of Paul to the first argument in favor of partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols is, that all Christians have not full knowledge on the subject; and that to partake of that might lead them into the sin of idolatry, and corrupt and destroy their souls.

7. Howbeit—Though to us who "have knowledge" (1Co 8:1, 4-6) all meats are indifferent, yet "this knowledge is not in all" in the same degree as we have it. Paul had admitted to the Corinthians that "we all have knowledge" (1Co 8:1), that is, so far as Christian theory goes; but practically some have it not in the same degree.

with conscience—an ancient reading; but other very old manuscripts read "association" or "habit." In either reading the meaning is: Some Gentile Christians, whether from old association of ideas or misdirected conscience, when they ate such meats, ate them with some feeling as if the idol were something real (1Co 8:4), and had changed the meats by the fact of the consecration into something either holy or else polluted.

unto this hour—after they have embraced Christianity; an implied censure, that they are not further advanced by this time in Christian "knowledge."

their conscience … is defiled—by their eating it "as a thing offered to idols." If they ate it unconscious at the time that it had been offered to idols, there would be no defilement of conscience. But conscious of what it was, and not having such knowledge as other Corinthians boasted of, namely, that an idol is nothing and can therefore neither pollute nor sanctify meats, they by eating them sin against conscience (compare Ro 14:15-23). It was on the ground of Christian expediency, not to cause a stumbling-block to "weak" brethren, that the Jerusalem decree against partaking of such meats (though indifferent in themselves) was passed (Ac 15:1-29). Hence he here vindicates it against the Corinthian asserters of an inexpedient liberty.

Though some of you know that there is but one living and true God, and that an idol is nothing in the world, and meat is neither sanctified nor polluted by being set before it; yet every one doth not know so much: and though the gospel have been a long time preached amongst them, yet to this day they may have some superstitions opinion of the idol, and then their conscience will be defiled or polluted. It is much the same case at this day as to the business of image worship, or veneration of images, and invocation of saints, amongst the papists. The wisest and most knowing of them will declaim against giving Divine adoration to the image, or to the saint, and tell us that they worship the true and living God upon the sight of the image only, and make use of the name of the saint only to desire him, or her, to pray to God for them. Now not to meddle with that question: Whether in our worshipping the true God, it be lawful to set a creature before us as our motive or incitement to worship, or use any Mediator but Christ? Yet the things are unlawful, upon the same account that the apostle here determines it unlawful for stronger Christians to eat meat offered to idols, though they knew and professed that an idol was nothing; for all people that come so to worship have not that knowledge; there are, without doubt, multitudes of simple people amongst the papists, that, plainly, in this kind of veneration and adoration venerate and adore the creature; and so their consciences are defiled by idolatry, because they have not such knowledge as others have, supposing that what those others did were lawful as to their practice, which indeed it is not.

Howbeit, there is not in every man that knowledge,.... The apostle is not speaking of Heathens, in whom there was no knowledge of the one true God, the author of all things, and of the one Lord Jesus, the only saviour and Redeemer; but of Christians, in whom there was the knowledge of these things, but not in all of them; the knowledge of this, that an idol was nothing; for though they knew that an idol was not God, and had no true deity in it, nor was it any true representation of God, yet fancied that it had an influence upon food that was offered to it, to defile it, and render it unclean, so that it ought not to be eaten; and since there were such persons that were so ignorant and weak, it became those who had more knowledge to be careful how they laid stumblingblocks in the way of such, to the prejudice of their consciences: that there were such, the apostle affirms,

for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; that is, there were some persons even at that very time, though they had been so long converted from Heathenism to Christianity, yet had such an opinion of an idol, that they really thought in their own consciences, that there were something in an idol, they could not well tell what, that defiled meats offered to it, and made them unlawful to be eaten; and yet, through the influence of the example of others, were prevailed upon to eat of them, having at the same time a notion of such food, as if it was not common food, but had received some virtue from the idol; and not without some regret, and uneasiness of mind, as being polluted with it. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, read, "through custom of the idol"; and so the Ethiopic version seems to have read: and the sense is, that some having been formerly accustomed to worship idols, and to eat things offered to them, as having received some virtue from them, still retained an opinion, that there was some difference between such meats and others.

And their conscience being weak is defiled; because such act against the dictates of their own conscience; which, though weak, is binding, and sinned against, defiles, according to the rules given by the apostle, Romans 14:14.

{3} Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for {4} some with {k} conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

(3) The reason why that does not follow, is this: because there are many men who do not know that which you know. Now the judgment of outward things depend not only upon your conscience, but upon the conscience of those that behold you, and therefore your actions must be applied not only to your knowledge, but also to the ignorance of your brethren.

(4) An applying of the reason: there are many who cannot eat of things offered to idols, except with a wavering conscience, because they think them to be unclean. Therefore if by your example they wish to do that which inwardly they think displeases God, their conscience is defiled with this eating, and you have been the occasion of this mischief.

(k) By conscience of the idol, he means the secret judgment that they had within themselves, by which they thought all things unclean that were offered to idols, and therefore they could not use them with good conscience. For conscience has this power, that if it is good, it makes indifferent things good, and if it is evil, it makes them evil.

1 Corinthians 8:7. “We know that there is no idol, etc.; however, this γνῶσις that we speak of () is not in all; but doubtless (the δέ as in 1 Corinthians 7:37, and very often—so 1 Corinthians 8:9—after a negative clause) there are many who,” etc.

τῇ συνειδήσει ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου] in virtue of their conscience till now regarding the idol, i.e. through this, that their moral consciousness is still burdened with the conception of an actual existence of the heathen gods as such. The opposite of the συνείδησις τοῦ εἰδώλου is: οἴδαμεν, ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, 1 Corinthians 8:4. Because those who are weak in the faith have not risen to this conviction, but still remain under the belief that the idols really exist, therefore they eat the meat offered to idols as meat offered to idols, i.e. their conception in eating it is, not that it is the same as other meat, and consequently to be partaken of without scruple and without receiving any idolatrous defilement, but that it is really meat consecrated to an idol which is assumed to exist, and hence that to eat of it is sinful.

συνείδησις[1347]] means simply conscience (neither judicium, as many maintain, nor obscure conception, as Schulz would have it; Billroth’s rendering is better, though still inexact: “conviction that there are εἴδωλα;” so also Reiche, Maier), and ΤΟῦ ΕἸΔΏΛΟΥ is the object of the moral consciousness, the article indicating the idol in a generic way. As to the gen. with συνείδ., comp Hebrews 10:2; 1 Peter 2:19; so also frequently in Greek writers. The context shows what the relation is as regards meaning (here it is that which is inherent in the consciousness as its contents).

ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ] marks off the time more sharply than “always as yet” (Hofmann), which would be ἜΤΙ; it means, “up to this very hour” (1 Corinthians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 15:6, and in all other passages). Taking the usual order of the words, it would most naturally attach itself to ἐσθίουσι; but since the place which on critical grounds must be assigned to it is before ΕἸΔΏΛΟΥ (see the critical remarks), it must be joined to Τῇ ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΙ. We might have expected Τῇ ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΙ ΤΟῦ ΕἸΔΏΛΟΥ or Τῇ ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΙ ΤΟῦ ΕἸΔΏΛΟΥ Τῇ ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ; even in Greek authors, however, one finds adverbial attributives used in this loose adjectival way without any connecting article; and Paul himself in other places employs this mode of expression (see on 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Corinthians 11:23; Php 1:26; Galatians 1:13).

It is an artificial construction, and without sufficient ground, to supply a second ΣΥΝΕΙΔΉΣΕΙ (without the article) after Τῇ ΣΥΝΕΙΔ., and connect ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ ΤΟῦ ΕἸΔΏΛΟΥ with this.

ἈΣΘΕΝῊς ΟὖΣΑ] because it is weak; for were it strong, it would no longer have suffered itself to be morally bound by the conception of idols, and hence would not have been defiled (made conscious of guilt) by eating, because in that case the eating would be ἐκ πίστεως (Romans 14:23). ΜΟΛΎΝΕΙΝ (comp 2 Corinthians 7:1), of ethical defilement; also in Sir 21:28; Porphyr. de Abstin. i. 42; Synesius, Ephesians 5. Comp Titus 1:15 : ΜΙΑΊΝΕΙΝ. Observe there the two sides of the conscience: it was weak to begin with, and afterwards it is defiled as well.

[1347] See generally, besides von Zezschwitz (Profangräcit. pp. 52 ff., 75), Köhler, Schriftgemässe Lehre vom Gew., 1864; Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 133 ff.; Lindes, de vi et ratione συνειδήσεως ex. N. T., Lund, 1866; R. Hofmann, Lehre vom Gew., Leipz. 1866.


The ἕως ἄρτι, which points back to their state before conversion, puts it beyond question that the weak brethren are not to be conceived of as Jewish-Christians, but as Gentiles, whose conscience was still burdened with the belief, brought with them from the heathen period of their lives, that the idol was a divine reality. They must have supposed the idols to be subordinate divine being (not demons, as Neander thought, which, according to 1 Corinthians 10:20, would have been the correct conception), from whose worship they had been brought to that of the one Supreme God; so that they could not look upon the consumption of sacrificial flesh as a mere harmless eating of meat, but had their conscience always hampered with the thought that by so eating they were brought into contact with those idol-deities. Theophylact puts it rightly (comp Chrysostom): ἮΣΑΝ ΓᾺΡ ΠΟΛΛΟῚ ἘΞ ΕἸΔΩΛΟΛΑΤΡΊΑς Τῇ ΠΊΣΤΕΙ ΠΡΟΣΕΛΘΌΝΤΕς ΟἻ ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ, ΤΟΥΤΈΣΤΙ ΚΑῚ ΜΕΤᾺ ΤῸ ΠΙΣΤΕῦΣΑΙ, ΤᾺ ΕἸΔΩΛΌΘΥΤΑ ἘΣΘΊΟΥΣΙΝ Ὠς ΕἸΔΩΛΌΘΥΤΑ. Theodoret says: ΟὐΧ Ἡ ΒΡῶΣΙς ΜΟΛΎΝΕΙ, ἉΛΛᾺ Ἡ ΣΥΝΕΊΔΗΣΙς ΤῊΝ ΤΕΛΕΊΑΝ Οὐ ΔΕΞΑΜΈΝΗ ΓΥῶΣΙΝ, ἜΤΙ ΔῈ Τῇ ΠΛΆΝῌ ΤῶΝ ΕἸΔΏΛΩΝ ΚΑΤΕΧΟΜΈΝΗ. This in opposition to the common view, that the weak brethren are to be sought among the Petrine party. Schenkel even goes the length of explaining the name of that party from the abstinence of the members from sacrificial flesh; therein they held strictly, he thinks, to the Apostolic Council, whose decree had been arrived at specially through the influence of Peter (?). The correct view, that the weak brethren were Gentile-Christians, is advocated also by Hofmann, and finds expression in Lachmann’s reading of συνηθείᾳ.

1 Corinthians 8:7-13. § 26. THE WEAK CONSCIENCE OF THE OLD IDOLATER. The knowledge of the one Father and Lord upon which the Cor[1251] Church prided itself, had not released all its members from fears respecting the idolothyta; in some the intellect outran the heart, in others it lagged behind. With the latter, through weakness of understanding or force of habit, the influence of the heathen god still attached to objects associated with his worship (1 Corinthians 8:7). For a man in this state of mind to partake of the consecrated flesh would be an act of compliance with heathenism; and if the example of some less scrupulous brother should lead him thus to violate his conscience and to fall into idolatry, heavy blame will lie at the door of his virtual tempter (1 Corinthians 8:10-12). Such blame P. declares that he will himself on no account incur (1 Corinthians 8:13).

[1251] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

7. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge] See note on 1 Corinthians 8:1.

for some with conscience of the idol] Some editors read by familiarity with instead of with conscience of. If so, we must understand the passage of Gentile converts, who by long habit had become so accustomed to the idea of the personality of the idol that they could not shake it off. The words unto this hour confirm this reading. It was very difficult for Gentile converts to shake off their heathen notions. Many of the heresies of early times were due to these invincible prepossessions, as is also the belief in magic and witchcraft, which in all nations has long survived their conversion to Christianity. If, on the other hand, we read conscience, it means either (1) conscientious dread of becoming in any way connected with the idol, or (2) conscientious apprehension of his personality, as though the meat were in some sense his property, and the eating of it an act of worship.

and their conscience being weak is defiled] He is mistaken in his idea that the idol has a real existence, but as long as he entertains that idea, he is bound to act up to it. Cf. Romans 15:14, ‘To him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. See also Romans 15:20; Rom 15:23 of the same chapter.

Verse 7. - There is not in every man that knowledge. A correction of the somewhat haughty assertion of the Corinthians in ver. 1. With conscience of the idol; literally, by their consciousness of the idol. In eating meat offered to any god whom they had been accustomed to worship, "being used to the idol," as the Revised Version renders it (reading "by familiarity with," συνηθείᾳ for συνειδήσει) cannot dismiss from their minds the palatal sense that, in eating the idol sacrifice, they are participating in the idol worship. Their conscience being weak is defiled. Being Gentiles who till recently had been idolaters, the apparent participation in their old idolatry wore to them the semblance of apostacy. The thing which they were eating was, in its own essence, indifferent or clean, but since they could not help esteeming it unclean, they defied a conscientious doubt, and so their conduct, not being of faith, became sinful (Romans 14:14, 23). St Paul admits that this was the sign of a conscience intellectually weak; but the weakness was the result of past habit and imperfect enlightenment, and it was entitled to forbearance and respect. 1 Corinthians 8:7With conscience of the idol (τῇ συνειδήσει τοῦ εἰδώλου)

The best texts read συνηθείᾳ custom, which occurs only here and John 18:39; see note. Lit., with custom of the idol; i.e., as Rev., being used to the idol. Their long habit previous to their conversion made them still regard their offering as made to something really existent, and consequently to feel that it was sinful to eat of meat thus offered.

Is defiled (μολύνεται)

See on Revelation 14:4.

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