ICC New Testament Commentary
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.8:1-11:1. FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS
8:1-3. General Principles
An idol represents nothing which really exists. Consequently, eating what is offered to such a nonentity is a matter of indifference: yet, in tenderness to the scruples of the weak, we ought to abstain from eating.
1 Now, as to the subject of food that has been offered in sacrifice to idols, we are quite aware (as you say) that we all have knowledge; we all are acquainted with the facts and understand them. But do not let us forget that knowledge may breed conceit, while it is love that builds up character. 2 If any one imagines that he has acquired knowledge, he may be sure that he has not yet attained to the knowledge to which he ought to have attained. 3 But if any one has acquired love of God, this is the man who is known by God, and God’s recognition of him will not breed conceit. 4 Let us return then from these thoughts to the subject of eating the flesh of animals that have been sacrificed to idols. About that we are quite aware that there is no such thing in the world as the being that an idol stands for, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if so-called gods do really exist,—if you like, in heaven, or, if you like, on earth; and, in fact, there are many such gods and many such lords,— 6 nevertheless, for us there is but one God, who is the Source of all things and our Final End, and but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom the whole universe was made and through whom we were made anew. 7 Still, as I have intimated, we do not find in all men the knowledge to which you appeal. On the contrary, some of you, through being accustomed all their lives to look upon an idol as real, partake of sacrificed meat as if it were a real sacrifice to a god, and their conscience, being too weak to guide them aright, is defiled with the consciousness of having done something which they feel to be wrong. 8 But surely it is not food that will affect our relation to God: if we do not eat, we are none the worse in His sight, and if we do eat, we are none the better. 9 Always take care, however, that this freedom of yours to do as you like about eating or not eating does not become an obstacle to the well-being of the weak. 10 For if any such person sees you, who have the necessary knowledge, not only eating this meat, but sitting and eating it in the court of the idol, will not the very fact of his weakness cause his conscience to be hardened—hardened into letting him eat what he still believes to be a sacrifice to an idol? 11 This must be wrong; for it means bringing ruin to the weak man through your knowledge—ruin to the brother for whom Christ died. 12 But in thus sinning against your brethren, and in fact giving their conscience a blow which it is too weak to stand, ye are sinning against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat puts a stumbling-block in my brother’s way, I will never eat meat again, so long as the world lasts, rather than put a stumbling-block in my brother’s way.
1. Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων. St Paul is probably following the order of the Corinthians’ questions, but the connexion between this subject and the advisability of marriage (7:2-5, 9, 36) is close. Impurity and the worship of idols were closely allied (Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20), especially at Corinth, and either evil might lead to the other (see Gray on Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:2). By τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα is meant the flesh that was left over from heathen sacrifices. This was either eaten sacrificially, or taken home for private meals, or sold in the markets (4 Macc. 5:2; Acts 15:29, Acts 15:21:25; Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20). In 10:28 we have ἱερόθυτον, which, like θεόθυτον, gives the heathen point of view.*
οἴδαμεν. See Romans 2:2, Romans 3:19, and Evans on 1 Corinthians 8:1, additional note, p. 299. The expression is frequent in Paul.
πάντες γνῶσιν ἒχομεν. Perhaps a quotation, made with gentle irony, from the Corinthians’ letter. See Moffatt, Lit. of N.T. p. 112. They had claimed enlightenment—so dear to Greeks—on this subject of the true nature of idol-worship. They knew now that there were no gods; the worship of them was a nullity. The Apostle does not dispute that, but enlightenment is not everything: and in the gift which is better than enlightenment the Corinthians are lacking. Some commentators take πάντες to mean all Christians, which has point. It can hardly mean the Apostle and all who are similarly illuminated: he is urging that knowledge is not the prerogative of a privileged few.
ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ. Enlightenment is not merely insufficient for solving these questions; unless it is accompanied by love, it is likely to generate pride. While love builds up, mere knowledge puffs up. Thus in Colossians 2:18 (the only place outside 1 Cor. in which the verb occurs) we have, εἰκῇ φυσιούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ νοός τῆς σαρκός: The Apostle once more glances at the inflated self-complacency which was so common at Corinth (4:6, 18, 19, 5:2). ‘Puffed up’ is just what ἀγάπη is not (13:4). Cf. τνφύομαι, 1 Timothy 3:6, 1 Timothy 3:6:4; 2 Timothy 3:4. Est genus scientiae, quo homines tumescunt; quae quia charitate non est condita, idea inflat. Ille qui putat se scire, propterea quia intelligit omnia licita, et non inquinare quod in nos intrat (Matthew 15:11, Matthew 15:20), dum ad scandalum fratris licita sumit, nondum cognovit quemadmodum oporteat eum scire (Atto). Loving consideration for the weakness of others buttresses them, and strengthens the whole edifice of the Church (Romans 14:15). Ramsay, Pictures of the Apostolic Church, P. 257.
ἡ δὲ ἀγἀπη οἰκοδομεῖ. For the first time in this letter St Paul uses this verb: but οἰκοδομή occurs 3:9 and ἐποικοδομεῖν 3:10. The earliest use of it in his writings 1 Thessalonians 5:11, where he charges the Thessalonians to ‘build up each the other,’ and it becomes one of his favourite metaphors, especially in this Epistle (v. 10, 10:23, 14:4, 17), with οἰκοδομή still more frequent. It is possible that our Lord’s use of the metaphor of building up His Church (Matthew 16:18) may have suggested it to the Apostle; but it is a natural metaphor for any one to use. We find it in Acts 9:31, Acts 9:20:32; 1 Peter 2:5; Judges 1:20; cf. Acts 4:11. It is used of building up individuals, building up a society, and building up individuals to form a society (Hart on 1 Peter 2:5).* The metaphor is elaborately worked out Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 2:21; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-14. Jeremiah was set apart from his birth ἁνοικοδομεῖν καὶ καταφυτεύειν (Jeremiah 1:10; cf. 18:9, 24:6; Ecclus. 49:7). in the hymn in praise of ἀγάπη (xiii.) this characteristic is not mentioned. Cf. Aristotle (Eth. Nic. 1:3:6), τὸ τέλος ἐστὶν οὐ γνῶσις ἀλλὰ πρᾶξις: (II. ii. I) ἡ παροῦσα πραγματεία οὐ θεωρίας ἕνεκά ἐστιν … ἀλλʼ ἵνʼ ἀγαθοὶ γενώμεθα: also x. ix. I. See Butler’s “Thirdly” in the Sermon on the Ignorance of Man. On ἀγάπη see Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 198 f.; Light, p. 18.
The punctuation of Griesbach, Bengel, etc., ὂδαμεν·̔́ὁτι, ‘Now about things offered we know; because we all have knowledge,’ is intolerably harsh. It would be almost impossible in v. 4, and οἵδαμεν ὅτι in the two places are evidently parallel. Lachmann conjectured that the original reading was οἵδαμεν ὅτὶ οὑ πὰντες κ.τ.λ. See Alford.
St Bernard (In Canlica, xxxvi. 3) quotes Persius (1:27), Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter, in commenting on this passage, and remarks: Sunt qui scire volunt, ut sciantur ipsi; et turpis vanitas est. Et sunt qui scire volunt, ut scientiam suam vendant; et turpis quaestus est. Sed sunt quoque qui scire volunt ut aedificent; et charitas est.
2. ἕι τις δοκεῖ. ‘If any one fancies (existimat, Vulg.; sibi videtur, Beza) that he knows anything.’ The Corinthians fancied that they knew; ἐγνωκέναι (perf.) that they had acquired knowledge, and that the knowledge was complete. If they had had more real knowledge they would have been less confident. It is the man of superficial knowledge that is ready to solve all questions; and this readiness is evidence of want of real knowledge, for it shows that he does not know how ignorant he is. Cf. 3:18, 11:16; 1 Timothy 1:7. In οὒπω there is no reference to a future life.
3. εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ. This is the sure test, love; and love of the highest of all objects, which is the highest form of love,—the love of Love Itself. This is a very different thing from thinking that one knows something.
οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὐπʼ αὐτοῦ. The sentence is ambiguous in grammar, for either pronoun may refer to the man, and either to God; but there is no reasonable doubt that οὗτος is the man, who is recognized and acknowledged by God as His. In a special sense, ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His’ (2 Timothy 2:19; Psalm 1:6; Nahum 1:7; Jeremiah 1:5; Isaiah 49:1). To Moses He said, ‘I know thee by name,’ Οἰδά σε παρὰ πάντας (Exodus 33:12, Exodus 33:17). It is in this sense that the man who loves God is known by God. We might have expected the Apostle to say, either, ‘He who knows God is known by Him’ (Galatians 4:9), or ‘He who loves God is loved by Him’ (1 John 4:19): but the combination of the two verbs is more telling, and more to his purpose. One who in this special sense is known by God may safely be assumed to possess what may rightly be called γνῶσις and not something which merely generates pride. He has the highest recognition of all in being known by God, and is not eager to show off in order to gain the recognition of men. Ille veram habet scientiam qui Deum diligit; et qui diligit Deum, fratris, at suam, diligit salvationem (Atto). Consequently, the man who loves God is the one who can rightly solve the question about food offered to idols. What effect will his partaking of it have on his fellow-Christian’s progress in holiness?
4. Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν. After these preliminary considerations (vv. 1-3), which indicate the direction in which a solution of the question is likely to be found, he returns with a resumptive οὖν (Galatians 3:5) to the question mentioned in v. 1, and states it more definitely. We now learn that it was respecting the lawfulness of eating what had been offered to idols that the Corinthians wanted to have his decision. It was a question of very frequent occurrence. In private sacrifices certain portions of the animal were the perquisite of the priests, but nearly all the rest might be taken away by the offerer, to be eaten at home or sold. In public sacrifices made by the state the skins and carcases, which at Athens sometimes amounted to hundreds, were an important source of revenue and patronage, the skins being sold for the state (τὸ δερματικόν), and the flesh being distributed to magistrates and others, who would sell what they did not need for home consumption. Smith, Dict. of Grk. and Rom. Ant. 11. p. 585. In the markets and in private houses εἰδωλόθυτα were constantly to be found.
οἲδαμεν. Here again he seems to be quoting from the Corinthian letter; ‘What you say about the nullity of idols is quite true, but it does not settle the matter.’ Cf. 1 Timothy 1:8.
ὅτι οὐδὲν ἔδωλον … ὅτι οὐδεὶς Θεός. These two clauses are parallel, and they should be translated in a similar way; and, as οὐδείς cannot be the predicate, οὐδέν is not the predicate, although most versions take it so (quia nihil est idolum to mundo, Vulg.; dass ein Götze nichis in der Welt sei, Luth.). Either, ‘that there is no idol in the world, and that there is no God but one,’ or ‘that nothing in the world is an idol, and that no being is God except one,’ is probably right, and the former is far better: cf. Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19. An idol professes to be an image of a god, not of the only God, and such a thing does not, and cannot, exist, for you cannot represent what has no existence. If there is no Zeus, an ἔδωλον of Zeus is an impossibility. It represents ‘a no-god’ (see Driver on Deuteronomy 32:17, Deuteronomy 32:21), and the maker of it ἔπλασων αὐτὸ εώνευμα, φαντασίαν ψευδῆ (Habakkuk 2:18). This is what is meant by ‘they ate the sacrifices of the dead’ (Psalm 106:28; cf. 115:4-8, 135:15-18), deaf and dumb idols (12:2) in contrast to the living God. They are called νεκροί, Wisd. 13:10, 15:17. Jews regarded them as ‘nothing’ (aven), mere ‘lies’ (elîlîm).
With ἐν κόσμῳ here compare Romans 5:13. In the ordered universe there can be only one God, viz., the God who made it.
D3 E 17, Vulg. read περί δὲ τῆς βρώσεως without οὖν. D* has περὶ δὲ τῆς γνὠσεως, and P 121, περὶ τῆς γνώσεως οὖν. After οὐδεὶς Θεός, א 3 K L, Syrr. add ἕτερος, as in AV. None of these readings is likely to be right.
5. καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ κ.τ.λ. ‘For even granted that there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or upon earth, just as there are gods many and lords many.’ Here εἲπερ εἰσέν and ὥσπερ εἰσίν are correlative, and εἰσίν must be taken in the same sense in both clauses. If both refer to what really exists, the meaning will be, ‘If you like to say that, because there are supernatural beings in abundance, as we all believe, therefore the so-called gods of the heathen really exist, nevertheless for us Christians there is only one God.’* If both refer to heathen superstition, the meaning will be, ‘Granted that there are so called gods, as there are—plenty of them; still for us,’ etc. He seems to mean that to the worshippers the idol is an object of adoration; so that, while actually they worship a nonentity, ethically they are worshippers of δαιμόνια (10:20). Jehovah is God of gods and Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:2, Psalm 136:3), and therefore the second εἰσίν probably refers to actual existence. Moreover, St Paul, while denying that the heathen gods existed (see Lightfoot on Galatians 4:8), yet held that heathen sacrifices were offered to beings that do exist (10:19-21); there were supernatural powers behind the idols, although not the gods which the idols represented. It is perhaps too much to say that εἴπερ, which in N.T. is peculiar to St Paul (2 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 3:30, Romans 3:8:9, Romans 3:17), is used of what the writer holds to be true or probable, yet it certainly does not imply that the hypothesis is improbable: ‘granted that’ is the meaning. See Sanday and Headlam, p. 96; Thackeray, p. 144. ‘Whether in heaven or on earth’ gives the two main divisions of the κόσμος in v. 4. Dicuntur dii in caelo, ut sol, luna et varia sidera; in terra, imago Jovis, Mercurii atque Herculis (Atto). More probably the latter are the heavenly, while the earthly are the nymphs, fauns, etc. See Stanley’s notes on this verse.
6. ἀλλʼ ἡμῖν εἷς Θεὸς ὁ πατήρ. ‘Nevertheless (whatever may be the truth about these), for us believers (emphatically) there is one God, the Father, from whom come all things, while we tend towards Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, we also through Him.† There are two parallel triplets; θεοὶ πολλοί, εἷς Θεός, τὰ πάντα: κύριοι πολλοί, εἷς Κύριος, τὰ πάντα. The one God is compared on the one side with many gods, on the other with the sum total of the universe: so also the one Lord. The comparison results in opposition in the one case, in harmony in the other. The πολλοί are intolerable rivals to the εἷς Θεός and εἷς Κύριος· τα: πάντα are welcome creatures. The ἠμεῖς, like the previous ἡμῖν, means ‘we Christians.’ Bruta animalia et infideles homines in terram curvantur et terrena quaerunt; * nos vero per fidem et desiderium tendimus in eum a quo descendimus (Herv.). God is the central Fount and the central Goal: all beings proceed from the former; only believers consciously work towards the latter. See Resch, Agrapha, p. 129.
In the case of Jesus Christ we have the same preposition (διά c. gen.) with both τὰ πάντα and ἡμεῖς.† But διʼ οὗ does not refer to the same fact as διʼ αὐτοῦ. The former points to the Son’s work in creation, the latter to His work in the new creation of mankind. ‘If any man is in Christ there is a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; see Lightfoot on Galatians 6:15). “This verse contains the earliest statement in the N.T. as to the work of our Lord in creation. This is stated more fully in Colossians 1:16-18. There, as here, the work of our Lord in creation and His work for the Church are spoken of together” (Goudge). Per quem creati sumus ut essemus, per ipsum recreati sumus ut unum Deum intelligeremus, atque idolum nihil esse recognosceremus (Atto). The statement is clear evidence of the Apostle’s belief in the pre-existence of Christ; see on 10:4, where we have similar evidence. Schmiedel remarks that Paul nowhere else ascribes to Christ a share in the work of creation; but, as he frequently teaches the pre-existence, it is not going much further to ascribe to Him this work. Wace & Schaff, Nicene Library, IV. Athanasius, p. lxxi. n.; Sanday, Life of Christ in Recent Research, p. 131; J. Kaftan, Jesus u. Paulus, p. 64; Weinel, St Paul, p. 45.
B, Fay. omit ἀλλʼ before ἠμῖν. א* omits Θεός. B, Aeth. have διʼ ὃν for διʼ οὗ.
7. Ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις. ‘But not in all people is there the knowledge’ which is necessary for eating idol-meats without harm. They do not know the principle on which the more enlightened do this. Non omnes sciunt quod proptler contemptum hoc faciatis, sed putant vos propter venerationem hoc facere (Primasius); and they know that any veneration of an idol must be wrong. There is perhaps a difference intended between having knowledge (v. 1) and its being in them as an effective and illuminating principle.
τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου. To take ἕως ἄρτι with ἐσθίουσιν, ‘continue the practice of eating such food even until now,’ simplifies the translation, but it is not correct: τῇ ς. ἕως ἄρτι τ. εἰδ. is all one expression, in which ἕως ἄρτι (4:13, 15:6) qualifies τῇ ς. It is the force of habit which lasts even until now. They have been so accustomed to regard an idol as a reality, as representing a god that exists, that even now, in spite of their conversion, they cannot get rid of the feeling that, by eating food which has been offered to an idol, they are taking part in the worship of heathen gods; they cannot eat ἐκ πίστεως (Romans 14:23). Consequently, when the example of other Christians encourages them to eat meat of this kind, they do what they feel to be wrong. ‘But some, through the force of habit which still clings to them respecting the idol, eat the meat as being an idol sacrifice.’ Missionaries at the present day have similar experiences. A belief in witchcraft long continues to lurk in otherwise well-instructed Christians, and (against their reason and their conscience) they allow themselves to be influenced by it. Note the emphasis on τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι, and compare the datives in Galatians 6:12 and Romans 11:31.
καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὗσα μολύνεται. ‘And so their conscience, being weak, is defiled.’ It is defiled, not by the partaking of polluted food, for food cannot pollute (Mark 7:18, Mark 7:19; Luke 11:41), but by the doing of something which the unenlightened conscience does not allow. Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1. An uninstructed conscience may condemn what is not wrong, or allow what is; but even in such cases it ought to be obeyed. See notes on Romans 14:23. It is not quite clear what is meant by ἀσθενής. It may mean ‘too weak to resist the temptation of following the example of others,’ or ‘weak through being unilluminated.’* In either case it is defiled by a consciousness of guilt. The man feels that he is doing what is wrong; and, until he knows the real merits of the case, he is doing what is wrong. For συνηθεία see 11:16; John 18:39; Joh_4 Malachi 2:12 (ὁ γὰρ νόμος καὶ τῆς φίλων συνηθείας δεσπόζει, διὰ πονηρίας αὐτοὺς ἐξελέγχων), 6:13, 13:22, 27; and for συνίδησις see notes on Romans 2:15 and Westcott on Hebrews 9:9, p. 293: συνείδησις is rare in LXX, frequent in the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews. See Hastings, DB. 1. pp. 468 f. The ‘weakness’ consists in giving moral value to things that are morally indifferent. That must lessen the power of conscience.
συνηθείᾳ (א* A B P 17, Copt. Aeth.) is to be preferred to συνειδήσει (א 3 D E F G L, Vulg. Arm.), and ἕως ἄρτι shoul precede τοῦ είδώλου (א B D E F G, Latt.), not follow it (A L P). ‘With conscience of the idol’ (AV.) is hardly intelligible, and ‘with consciousness of the idol’ is not much better. If συνειδὴσει be adopted, we must expand the meaning; ‘with the scruple of conscience which they feel about the idol’ (Evans).
8. βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ Θεῷ. ‘Commend’ (AV., RV.) is perhaps a trifle too definite for παρίστημι: ‘present’ is accurate, meaning ‘present for approbation or condemnation.’ In this passage the Apostle probably had approbation chiefly in his mind, but in what follows both alternatives are given. Food will not bring us into any relation, good or bad, with God: it will have no effect on the estimate which He will form respecting us, or on the judgment which He will pronounce upon us. It is not one of the things which we shall have to answer for (Romans 14:17). It is the clean heart, and not clean food, that will matter; and the weak brother confounds the two. The question of tense (see small print below) is important. The future can hardly refer to anything but the Day of Judgment. For the verb cf. Romans 6:13, Romans 6:14:10; 2 Corinthians 4:14. The translation ‘commend’ obscures the reference to a judgment to come: ‘will not affect our standing before God’’ is right.
οὒτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα, ‘If we abstain from eating we are not prejudiced (in God’s sight), and if we eat we have no advantage.’ We lose nothing by refraining from using our liberty in this matter, and we gain nothing by exercising it. Others explain ὐστερούμεθα of being inferior to the man who does not abstain, and περεσσεύομεν of being superior to the man who does abstain. This explanation is somewhat superficial and loses all connexion with the preceding sentence. Almost certainly τῷ Θεῷ is to be understood in both clauses. See Alexander, The Ethics of St Paul, p. 239.
For ἡμᾶς the evidence is overwhelming, but א* 17, 37 read ὑμᾶς. The two words are often confused in MSS. παραστἡσει (א A B 17, Copt.) is to be preferred to παρλστησι (א 3 D E L P, Latt.). The γάε after the first οὔτε (D E F G L P, Vulg-Clem.) should be omitted (א A B 17, A m. Copt. Arm. Aeth,). And probably οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φ., ύστ. should precede οὔτε ἐἀνφ., περ. (A*B, Am. Copt. Arm.) rather then vice versa (א D F L P,: Syrr.). The interchange of the verbs, ἐὰν μὴ φ., περ., οὔτε ἐὰν φ., ὑστ. (A2 17), is not likely to be right, although adopted by Lachm. The interchange os the clauses was a natural correction, in order to put the positive before the negative hypothesis. The Apostle puts the negative first, because that is the course which he recommends; ‘If we do not eat, although we may, we are in no worse position before God.’ The form περισσεύομεθα (B, Orig.), adopted by the Revisers, is probably a mechanical assimilation to ὑστερούμεθα.
9. Βλέπετε δὲ μή πωσἡ ἐξονσία ὑμῶν. ‘Take heed, however, lest this liberty of yours prove a stumbling-block to the weak.’ It is lawful for those whose consciences are enlightened to do as they like about it (ἐξουσίαν as in 7:37, 9:4, and as ἔξεστιν in 6:12); their eating will not do them any harm. But it may do harm to others, and thus may bring the eaters into a worse position before God. See notes on Romans 14:13, Romans 14:20: excepting the quotation in 1 Peter 2:8, πρόσκομμα in N.T. is confined to this passage and Romans; in LXX it is not rare. It is that against which the man with weak sight stumbles; it is no obstacle to the man who sees his way; but the weak-sighted must be considered.*
ἀσθενέσιν (א A B D E F, etc.), as in v. 7; ἀσθενοῦσιν (L, Chrys. Thdrt.) perhaps from v. 11. P has ἡμῶν.
10. ἐν εἰδῳλί κατακείμενον. In order to show how the of endiculum (Vulg.) arises, he takes an extreme case. A Corinthian, in a spirit of bravado, to show his superior enlightenment and the wide scope of his Christian freedom, not only partakes of idol-meats, but does so at a sacrificial banquet within the precincts of the idol-temple. This was per se idolatrous; but St Paul holds the more severe condemnation in reserve: see on 10:14 f.† The τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν may mean either that this is the man’s own belief about himself, or that it is the weak brother’s opinion of him. Εἰδώλιον, uocabulum aptum ad deterrendum (Beng.), is not classical: in LXX it occurs 1 Esdr. 2:10; Bel 11; 1 Mac. 1:47 (v.l. εἴδωλα), 10:83; and in 1 Samuel 31:10, we have the analogous Ἀσταρτεῖον, like Ἀπολλωνεῖον, Ποσειδωνεῖον, etc.‡ Such words are frequent in papyri.
ἀσθενοῦς ὂντος. ‘Seeing that he is weak.’ It is just because he is feeble in insight and character that this following of a questionable example ‘builds up’ his conscience in a disastrous way. His conscience is not sufficiently instructed to tell him that he may eat without scruple, and yet he eats. Doing violence to scruples is no true edification: it is rather a pulling down of bulwarks. Tertullian seems to have had this passage in his mind when he says of those who are seduced into heresy; Solent quidem isti infirmiores aedificari in ruinam (De Praescr. Haer. 3). Atto paraphrases; provocabitur manducare idolothyta, non tamen ea fide qua tu. It is ruinosa aedificatio, quae in sana doctrina fundata non est (Calv.).
The σέ before τὸν ἔχοντα is omitted by B F G, Vulg. Some editors bracket it, but it is well attested (א A D E L P, Syrr. Copt. Arm). ὁδοποιηθήσεται is an insipid conjecture for οἰκοδομηθήσεται, which is deliberately chosen with gentle irony, and needs no mending.
11. ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τ. ς. γν. ‘For it is destruction that he who is weak finds in thy knowledge’. Ruin, and not building up, is what he is getting by following the example of one who is better instructed than himself. There is the tragedy of it; that the illumination of one Corinthian is precisely the field in which another Corinthian takes the road to ruin. And the tragedy reaches a climax in the fact that the one who is led astray is the brother in Christ of him who leads him astray, and is one whom Christ died to save from ruin. The last clause could hardly be more forcible in its appeal; every word tells; ‘the brother’, not a mere stranger; ‘for the sake of whom’, precisely to rescue him from destruction; ‘Christ,’ no less than He; ‘died’, no less than that: cf. Romans 14:15. Tu eris occasio mortis ejus propter quem Christus, ut redimeret, mortuus est (Herv.). See Matthew 18:6.
ἀπολ. γάρ (א* B 17, Copt. Goth.) is to be preferred to καὶ ἀπολ. (א3* D, d e) or ἀπολ. οὖν (A P 39). And καί ἀπολεῖται, though well supported (D3 E F G L, Vulg. Syrr. Arm. Aeth.), looks like a correction to assimilate the tense with οἰκοδομηθήσεται and carry on the question through v. 11. The question ends at ἐσθίειν, and what follows is explanation. The emphatic position of ἀπόλλυται, and also the tense, have force; it is no less than destruction that results, and the destruction is already at work.
12. οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδ. ‘But by sinning against your brothers in such a way as this’: οὕτως is emphatic. This verse confirms the view that εἰς τ. ἴδ. σῶμα ἁμαρτ. (6:18) must mean ‘sins against his own body.’
καὶ τύπτοντες. ‘And by inflicting blows upon their conscience in its weakness.’ The καί makes the ἁμαρτάνοντες more definite, by showing the kind of injury. The force of the present participles should be noted: the wounding is a continued process, and so also is the weakliness; not ἀσθενῆ, but ἀσθενοῦσαν. Nowhere else in N.T. is τύπτω used in a metaphorical sense: elsewhere only in the Synoptists and Acts. But this sense occurs, in LXX (1 Samuel 1:8; Proverbs 26:22; Daniel 11:20). ‘Wounding’ and ‘weakening’ are in emphatic contrast: what requires the tenderest handling is brutally treated, so that its sensibility is numbed. The wounding is not the shock which the weak Christian receives at seeing a fellow-Christian eating idol-meats in an idol-court, but the inducement to do the like, although he believes it to be wrong. His conscience is lamed by being crushed. This is the third metaphor used respecting the weak conscience; it is soiled (v. 7), made to stumble (v. 9), wounded (v. 12). The order of the words is a climax; ‘inflicting blows, not on the back, but on the conscience, and on the conscience when it is in a weakly state.’
εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμ. Like οὕτως and τύπτοντες, εἰς Χρ. is emphatic by position: ‘it is against Christ that ye are sinning.’ St Paul may have known the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45), but Christ Himself had taught him that an injury to the brethren was an injury to Himself (Acts 9:4, Acts 9:5).
13. διόπερ. ‘For this very reason,’ i.e. to avoid sinning against Christ; the πέρ strengthens the διό: here and 10:14 only, in N.T. See 2 Mac. 5:20, 6:27.
εἰ βρῶμα κ.τ.λ. ‘If food causes my brother to stumble, I will certainly never eat flesh again for evermore, that I may not make my brother to stumble.’ The declaration is conditional. If the Apostle knows of definite cases in which his eating food will lead to others being encouraged to violate the dictates of conscience, then certainly he will never eat meat so long as there is real danger of this (10:28, 29). But if he knows of no such danger, he will use his Christian freedom and eat without scruple (10:25-27). He does not, of course, mean that the whole practice of Christians is to be regulated with a view to the possible scrupulousness of the narrow-minded. That would be to sacrifice our divinely given liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17) to the ignorant pre-judices of bigots. The circumstances of this or that Christian may be such that it is his duty to abstain from intoxicants, although he is never tempted to drink to excess; but Christians in general are bound by no such rule, and it would be tyranny to try to impose such a rule.
The change from βρῶμα to κρέα is natural enough. If such a thing as food (which is always a matter of indifference) causes … I will never again eat flesh (which is in question here),’ etc. Note how he harps on ἀδελφός.
In dealing with both the question of fornication and that of eating idol-meats, the Apostle brings the solution ultimately from our relation to Christ. Fornication is taking from Christ what is His property and giving it to a harlot. Reckless eating of idol-meats is an injury inflicted on Christ. In neither case does he appeal to the decree of the Apostles at the conference in Jerusalem (Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29). The principles to which he appeals were far more cogent, especially for Greeks.* Compare carefully Romans 14:14, Romans 14:17, Romans 14:21.
In his recent (1908) paper on the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:20-29), Dr. Sanday says; “The decree was only addressed in the first instance to a limited area: and I can well believe that it soon fell into comparative disuse even within that area. It is true that, as we read it in the Acts, the decree has the appearance of a very authoritative document. Something of this appearance may be due to a mistaken estimate on the part of St Luke himself. But, even so, we are apt to read into it more than it really means. For the moment the decree had a real significance: it meant a united Christendom, instead of a disunited. Many an official document has had a temporary success of this kind, which the course of events has soon caused to become a dead letter. That was really the fate of the decree. The tide of events ebbed away from it, and it was left on the beach stranded and lifeless—lifeless at least for the larger half of the Church, for that Gentile Church which soon began to advance by leaps and bounds.”
“As to any further difficulty from St Paul’s treatment of meats offered in sacrifice to idols, I confess that I think little of it. He could upon occasion become a Jew to the Jews. But the decree, we may be sure, made no impression upon his mind. It “contributed nothing” to his Gospel. It was no outcome of his religious principles. It was just a practical concordat, valid in certain specified regions and under certain definite conditions. But when he was altogether outside these, among his own converts, he dealt with them by his own methods, and without any thought of the authorities at Jerusalem.”
The inference, from St Paul’s silence, that Act_15. belongs to a period later than this Epistle, is quite untenable.
* In Aristoph. Aves 1265, mortals are forbidden to send ἱερόθυτον καπνόν to the gods through the air which belongs to the birds.
* In Spencer and other contemporary and earlier writers, ‘edify’ and ‘edificatioon’ are used in their original sense of constructing buildings. See Kitchin on Faery Queene, 1:1:34, and Wright, Bible Word-Book, p. 219. It is found as late as 1670, “the re-edifying Layton Church” (Izaac Walton, Life of G. Herbert, sub fin.).
D D (Sixth century.) Codex Clarmontanus; now at Paris. A Graeco-Latin MS. 14:13 διο͂ ὁ λαλῶν-22 σημεῖον ἐστίν is supplied by a later but ancient hand. Many subsequent hands (sixth to ninth centuries) have corrected the MS. (See Gregory, Prolegomena , pp. 418-422).
E E (Ninth century). At Petrograd. A copy of D, and unimportant
17 17. (Ev. 33, Act_13. Ninth century.) At Paris (Nat. Gr. 14). See Westcott and Hort., Introd. §§ 211, 212.
P P (Ninth century). Porfirianus Chiovensis. A palimpsest acquired in the East by Porphyrius Bishop of Kiew. Lacks 7:15 ὑμᾶς ὁ θεός-17 περιπάτει: 12:23 τοῦ σώματος-13:5 οὐ λογί-: 14:23 τὸ λαλεῖν μή. A good type of text in St Paul’s Epistles.
אԠא (Fourth century.) The Sinaitic MS., now at St Petersburg, the only MS. containing the whole N.T.
K K (Ninth century). Codex S. Synod. xcviii. Lacks 1:1-6:13 ταύτην καί: 8:7 τινὲς δὲ—8:11 ἀπέθανεν.
L L (Ninth century). Codex Angelicus; At Rome.
* Quocunque te flexeris, ibi illum videbis occurrentem tibi; nihil ab illo vacat, opus suum ipse implet (Seneca, De Benef. iv. 8; compare M. Aurelius, xii. 28; Xen. Mem. IV. iii. 13). There is a close parallel in 1 Timothy 2:5.
† With εἴπερ … ἀλλά here compare ἐὰν… ἀλλά in 4:5. The context implies ‘only one God.’ See Deissmann, New Light on the N.T. p. 81.
* But the unbelieving heathen must not be wholly excluded from the είσαὐτόν. While the Jew was being drawn by a special revelation through the Prophets towards God, the Gentile was groping his way in a general revelation through the order of Nature towards him, till the course of both was completed by the revelation in Christ (Gwatkin, Early Church History, p.15).
† The AV. is very inaccurate, translating είς ‘in’ instead of ‘unto,’ and διἀ ‘by’ instead of ‘through.’ B. W. Bacon regards, vv. 6 and 8 as quotations from the Corinthians’ letter.
B B (Fourth century.) The Vatican MS.
* Perhaps 11:30 indicates that ἀσθενής here means ‘unhealthy,’ ‘morbid,’ and so ‘incapable of healthy action’: cf. Luke 10:9; Acts 5:15. Words signifying weakness of body easily become used of mental an moral weakness. A healthy conscience would not be uneasy about eating such food, and eating would then cause no defilement. In Ecclus, 21:28 the slanderer μολύνει τὴν ὲαντοῦ ψυχἡν: in blackening his neighbour’s character he violates and blackens his own conscience.
A A (Fifth century.) The Codex Alexandrinus; now at the British Museum.
F F (Late ninth century). Codex Augiensis (from Reichenau); now at Trin. Coll. Cambr. Probably a copy of G in any case, secondary to G, from which it very rarely varies (see Gregory, p. 429).
G G (Late ninth century). Codex Boernerianus; at Dresden. Interlined with the Latin (in minluscules). Lacks 1 Corinthians 3:8-16, 1 Corinthians 6:7-14 (F).
37 37. (Ev. 69, Act 31, Rev_14. Fifteenth century.) The well-known Leicester codex. Contains a good text.
* “The stronger one can, for the sake of the weaker, refain from using this liberty; but the weaker cannot, on account of his conscience, follow the example of the stronger” (B. Weiss).
† Grenfell and Hunt (Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 1. p. 177) give an invitation to sup at the κλινη of the Lord Serapis in the Seraperium. There is another invitation to a meal in honour of Serapis in a private house. See Bachmann, p. 307; also Deissmann, Light, p. 355.
‡ It is possible that St Paul used the unusual word εινδώλιον, because he was unwilling to put words with such sacred associations as ίερόν or ναός to any such use (Edwards). But εἴδωλον (v. 4) suggests είδώλεον, and no other world would have expressed the meaning so clearly. It is also possible that οίκοδομηθήσεται (a strange word in this connexion) is a sarcastic quotation of a Corinthian expression. Perhaps they talked of ‘edifying’ the weak brethren by showing them to what lengths they could go. This was “educating their consciences”, but it was a ruinosa aedificatio (calv.). The best MSS. have εἰδωλίῳ, not εἰδωλείῳ: comare δάνιον, Matthew 18:27. In Luke 10:34, πανδόχιον is well attested.
d d The Latin text of D
e e The Latin text of E
* See Gwatkin, Early Church History, i. 57, 63.
And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
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.
For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
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.
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.