William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.1 Corinthians Chapter 8
The apostle now turns to another subject which presented dangers to the saints in Corinth.
"But concerning the things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge: knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. If* any one thinketh that he knoweth" anything, not yet‡ knoweth§ he as he ought to know; but if any one loveth God, he is known by him. Concerning the eating, then, of the things sacrificed to idols, we know that [there is] no idol in [the] world, and that [there is] no"" God save one. For even if there are [so]-called gods, whether in heaven, or on earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet to us [there is] one God the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him. Howbeit not in all [is] the knowledge, but some with conscience of the idol until now eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat shall¶ not commend us to God ;** neither if we eat have we the advantage, nor if we eat not do we come short. But see lest in anywise this your authority become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if any one see thee who hast knowledge sitting at table in an idol's temple, shall not his conscience, as he is weak, be emboldened to eat the things sacrificed to idols? And he that is weak perisheth*** by†† thy knowledge, the brother for whom Christ died? But thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore if meat stumble my brother, I will in nowise eat flesh for ever, that I may not stumble my brother." (Chap. 8: 1-18.)
* δέ in Text. Rec. is not in B P) several cursives, and ancient versions.
† ἐγνώκεναι A B D E F G P and several cursives, etc., but K L and most cursives εἰδέναι: the former, objective knowledge, the latter, inward conscious knowledge, as remarked by another.
‡ οὔπω A B P, six cursives, etc., οὐδέπω the mass. The best do not add οὐδέν.
§ ἔγνω A B Dp.m. F G P, seven cursives, etc.
"" ἕτερος is not in p.m. A B D E F G P, many cursives, etc.
¶ παραστήσει p.m. A B, several cursives, versions, etc., instead of παρίστησι ("commendeth") corr D E L P, and most cursives, Ital., Vulg., etc.
** γάρ, added in Text. Rec., is not in A B) etc., several ancient versions, but in most MSS and versions. There is a difference of order also in the copies as to the clauses.
*** For καὶ ἀπολεῖται Text. Rec.. with most of the witnesses. B and a few other authorities read ἀπόλλυται γάρ many giving the present who read καί.
†† ἐν A B D E F G P, etc. ἐπί ("for") Text. Rec. L and most cursives, etc.
The construction of the opening sentence has led to some difference of judgment and arrangement. Griesbach and Scholz, among editors, insert marks of parenthesis from after "we know," in verse 1, to the end of verse 8, which involves translating ὅτι "for," or "because." This was the view of Luther, Bengel, Valcknaer, and others; but it is liable to the objection that in the resumed sentence "ὅτι," after the second οἴδαμεν, certainly means "that." I am therefore disposed to take it so in the former case. Mr. T. S. Green, etc., would begin the parenthesis with πάντες which necessitates singular abruptness in the structure. According to that which most commends itself to me, the apostle does not dispute that we Christians as such have knowledge; but he soon proceeds to show how empty it is without that love which brings in the consideration of others, and, above all, God Himself. This leads him to compare knowledge, in which they boasted, with love, which they overlooked, or ignored. The one puffs up, the other builds up. Love is only known in God's presence, where self is judged. Knowledge in one's own opinion is not love, which is inseparable from the new nature. For he who is born of God loves, having the nature of Him who is love. The apostle however says not that he who loves God knows Him, but that he is known by Him. The turn may be unexpected, and has embarrassed the critics, but its propriety is unquestionable. Not that the believer does not know Him, as indeed it is eternal life (cf. John 17:3; 1 John 4:6-18), but that it was seasonable for the consciences of the Corinthians to weigh that he is known of Him - a serious but blessed and blessing consideration. There is no sufficient or right ground therefore for taking ἔγνωσται in a Hophal sense - "hath been caused to know." It is really the converse (see Galatians 4:9). Nor is there need to give it the sense of approval. The best meaning is its ordinary one.
It would seem also that the parallelism in the last clause of verse 4 favours our translating οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόρμῳ as "there is no idol," rather than, "an idol is nothing in the world," though in itself equally legitimate. It is quite true, as the prophets assert, that the idols of the Gentiles are vanities and impotence; but here the apostle appears to affirm that they had no existence in the world. There were no such beings as they associated with their idols. Later on he shows there were demons behind, as indeed the law intimated. (Deuteronomy 32:17.)
The apostle, as all can see, refers not to the decrees of the apostles, though we know that he and his companions instructed the assemblies they visited to observe them. He meets the question on intrinsic grounds, according to the principle of his own apostleship, in no way as leading men to think that the apostolic decrees were not binding on the whole church. It is monstrous to infer the competency of Christians, even then, or at any time, to open and question a matter thus decided. Such an idea could only lead to lawlessness and presumption, especially in presence of the solemn claims of what seemed good to the Holy Spirit and the apostles. Their determination however was not at all impaired, but confirmed, by the apostle's dealing with the question on its own merits, and settling it similarly. He allows then, that there was no such thing as the heathen conceived in an idol, and no God save one. He insists that, whatever the multiplicity of so-called gods and lords in heaven or on earth, to us there is but one God, the Father, source of the universe and object* of our being and obedience, and one everything was absolutely indifferent and open. Love Lord, Jesus Christ, who has taken the place of administrator of all and mediator of redemption. But it would be rash and precarious to reason hence that takes account of things and beings as seen in the light of God; it seeks not its own things but the things of others - of Jesus Christ above all.
* The text of the English Bible "in" is quite wrong, as are many commentators, such as Calvin, etc.; the marginal correction "for" is right.
But conscientious men are apt to be slow in apprehension, often much more so than those who are less exercised. For them the apostle would have us feel. Howbeit knowledge, or that knowledge, is not in all: but some, with conscience of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. They were not at all assured of the nonentity of these false gods. The Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Porphyrian uncials, four or five cursives, and several of the most ancient versions, etc., read συνηθείᾳ, "through custom," not conscience, that is, from their habituation; and so Lachmann and Tischendorf. Doubting thus, they were condemned when they ate; and Satan thus took advantage of them through guilty fears. The apostle admits that food will not commend us to God. Those who pleaded their title should see that its exercise did not stumble the weak. What if the weak one imitated it with a conscience not free and emboldened or edified the wrong way, and the brother for whom Christ died perished? For scripture characterizes an act according to its tendency, without palliating it by the resources of grace in arresting the issue. To sin thus against the brethren, to wound their weak conscience, is to sin against Christ. The apostle closes this part of his subject by a fervid declaration of his refusal of a thing otherwise open to him, if it were the occasion of stumbling to his brother. Such is love according to Christ.
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.