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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 Corinthians 8



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Verse 1

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols (περι δε των ειδωλοτυτωνperi de tōn eidōlothutōn). Plainly the Corinthians had asked also about this problem in their letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1). This compound adjective (ειδωλονeidōlon idol, τυτοςthutos verbal adjective from τυωthuō to sacrifice) is still found only in the N.T. and ecclesiastical writers, not so far in the papyri. We have seen this problem mentioned in the decision of the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25). The connection between idolatry and impurity was very close, especially in Corinth. See both topics connected in Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20. By ειδωλοτυταeidōlothuta was meant the portion of the flesh left over after the heathen sacrifices. The heathen called it ιεροτυτονhierothuton (1 Corinthians 10:28). This leftover part “was either eaten sacrificially, or taken home for private meals, or sold in the markets” (Robertson and Plummer). What were Christians to do about eating such portions either buying in the market or eating in the home of another or at the feast to the idol? Three questions are thus involved and Paul discusses them all. There was evidently difference of opinion on the subject among the Corinthian Christians. Aspects of the matter come forward not touched on in the Jerusalem Conference to which Paul does not here allude, though he does treat it in Galatians 2:1-10. There was the more enlightened group who acted on the basis of their superior knowledge about the non-existence of the gods represented by the idols.

Ye know that we all have knowledge (οιδαμεν οτι παντες γνωσιν εχομενoidamen hoti pantes gnōsin echomen). This may be a quotation from the letter (Moffatt, Lit. of N.T., p. 112). Since their conversion to Christ, they know the emptiness of idol-worship. Paul admits that all Christians have this knowledge (personal experience, γνωσιςgnōsis), but this problem cannot be solved by knowledge.

Verse 2

Puffeth up (πυσιοιphusioi). From πυσιοωphusioō (present indicative active). See note on 1 Corinthians 4:6. Pride may be the result, not edification (οικοδομειoikodomei) which comes from love. Note article (ηhē) with both γνωσιςgnōsis and αγαπηagapē making the contrast sharper. See note on 1 Thessalonians 5:11 for the verb oikodomeō to build up. Love is the solution, not knowledge, in all social problems.

That he knoweth anything (egnōkenai ti). Perfect active infinitive in indirect discourse after οικοδομεωdokei (condition of first class with εγνωκεναι τιei). So “has acquired knowledge” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18), has gone to the bottom of the subject.

He knoweth not yet (δοκειoupō egnō). Second aorist active indicative, timeless aorist, summary (punctiliar) statement of his ignorance.

As he ought to know (ειkathōs dei gnōnai). Second aorist active infinitive, ingressive aorist (come to know). Newton‘s remark that he was only gathering pebbles on the shore of the ocean of truth is pertinent. The really learned man knows his ignorance of what lies beyond. Shallow knowledge is like the depth of the mud hole, not of the crystal spring.

Verse 3

The same is known of him (ουτος εγνωσται υπ αυτουhoutos egnōstai hup' autou). Loving God (condition of first class again) is the way to come to know God. It is not certain whether ουτοςhoutos refers to the man who loves God or to God who is loved. Both are true. God knows those that are his (2 Timothy 2:19; Exodus 33:12). Those who know God are known of God (Galatians 4:9). We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). But here Paul uses both ideas and both verbs. ΕγνωσταιEgnōstai is perfect passive indicative of γινωσκωginōskō an abiding state of recognition by (υπhup') God. No one is acquainted with God who does not love him (1 John 4:8). God sets the seal of his favour on the one who loves him. So much for the principle.

Verse 4

No idol is anything in the world (ουδεν ειδωλον εν κοσμωιouden eidōlon en kosmōi). Probably correct translation, though no copula is expressed. On ειδωλονeidōlon (from ειδοςeidos), old word, see note on Acts 7:41; note on Acts 15:20; note on 1 Thessalonians 1:9. The idol was a mere picture or symbol of a god. If the god has no existence, the idol is a non-entity. This Gentile Christians had come to know as Jews and Jewish Christians already knew.

No God but one (ουδεις τεος ει μη ειςoudeis theos ei mē heis). This Christians held as firmly as Jews. The worship of Jesus as God‘s Son and the Holy Spirit does not recognize three Gods, but one God in three Persons. It was the worship of Mary the Mother of Jesus that gave Mahomet his cry: “Allah is One.” The cosmos, the ordered universe, can only be ruled by one God (Romans 1:20).

Verse 5

For though there be (και γαρ ειπερ εισιkai gar eiper eisi). Literally, “For even if indeed there are” (a concessive clause, condition of first class, assumed to be true for argument‘s sake).

Called gods (λεγομενοι τεοιlegomenoi theoi). So-called gods, reputed gods. Paul denied really the existence of these so-called gods and held that those who worshipped idols (non-entities) in reality worshipped demons or evil spirits, agents of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:19-21).

Verse 6

Yet to us there is one God, the Father (αλλ ημιν εις τεος ο πατηρall' hēmin heis theos ho patēr). B omits αλλall' here, but the sense calls for it anyhow in this apodosis, a strong antithesis to the protasis (even if at least, και ειπερkai eiper).

Of whom (εχ ουex hou). As the source (εχex) of the universe (τα πανταta panta as in Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16.) and also our goal is God (εις αυτονeis auton) as in Romans 11:36 where δι αυτουdi' autou is added whereas here δι ουdi' hou (through whom) and δι αυτουdi' autou (through him) point to Jesus Christ as the intermediate agent in creation as in Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:3. Here Paul calls Jesus

Lord (ΚυριοςKurios) and not

God (τεοςtheos), though he does apply that word to him in Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Colossians 2:9; Acts 20:28.

Verse 7

Howbeit in all men there is not that knowledge (αλλ ουκ εν πασιν η γνωσιςall' ouk en pasin hē gnōsis). The knowledge (η γνωσιςhē gnōsis) of which Paul is speaking. Knowledge has to overcome inheritance and environment, prejudice, fear, and many other hindrances.

Being used until now to the idol (τηι συνητειαι εως αρτι του ειδωλουtēi sunētheiāi heōs arti tou eidōlou). Old word συνητειαsunētheia from συνητηςsunēthēs (συν ητοςsunως ειδωλοτυτονēthos), accustomed to, like Latin consuetudo, intimacy. In N.T. only here and John 18:39; 1 Corinthians 11:16. It is the force of habit that still grips them when they eat such meat. They eat it “as an idol sacrifice” (αστενης ουσαhōs eidōlothuton), though they no longer believe in idols. The idol-taint clings in their minds to this meat.

Being weak (συνειδησιςasthenēs ousa). “It is defiled, not by the partaking of polluted food, for food cannot pollute (Mark 7:18.; Luke 11:41), but by the doing of something which the unenlightened conscience does not allow” (Robertson and Plummer). For this great word αστενηςsuneidēsis (conscientia, knowing together, conscience) see note on Acts 23:1. It is important in Paul‘s Epistles, Peter‘s First Epistle, and Hebrews. Even if unenlightened, one must act according to his conscience, a sensitive gauge to one‘s spiritual condition. Knowledge breaks down as a guide with the weak or unenlightened conscience. For μολυνεταιasthenēs weak (lack of strength) see Matthew 26:41.

Defiled (μολυνωmolunetai). Old word molunō to stain, pollute, rare in N.T. (1 Timothy 3:9; Revelation 3:4).

Verse 8

Will not commend (ου παραστησειou parastēsei). Future active indicative of παριστημιparistēmi old word to present as in Acts 1:3; Luke 2:22; Colossians 1:28. Food (βρωμαbrōma) will not give us an entree to God for commendation or condemnation, whether meat-eaters or vegetarians.

Are we the worse (υστερουμεταhusteroumetha). Are we left behind, do we fall short. Both conditions are of the third class (εαν μη εανean mēπερισσευομεταean) undetermined.

Are we the better (perisseuometha). Do we overflow, do we have excess of credit. Paul here disposes of the pride of knowledge (the enlightened ones) and the pride of prejudice (the unenlightened). Each was disposed to look down upon the other, the one in scorn of the other‘s ignorance, the other in horror of the other‘s heresy and daring.

Verse 9

Take heed (βλεπετεblepete). A warning to the enlightened.

Lest by any means (μη πωςmē pōs). Common construction after verbs of caution or fearing, μη πωςmē pōs with aorist subjunctive γενηταιgenētai

This liberty of yours (η εχουσια υμων αυτηhē exousia humōn hautē). ΕχουσιαExousia from εχεστινexestin means a grant, allowance, authority, power, privilege, right, liberty. It shades off easily. It becomes a battle cry, personal liberty does, to those who wish to indulge their own whims and appetites regardless of the effect upon others.

A stumbling-block to the weak (προσκομμα τοις αστενεσινproskomma tois asthenesin). Late word from προσκοπτωproskoptō to cut against, to stumble against. So an obstacle for the foot to strike. In Romans 14:13 Paul uses σκανδαλονskandalon as parallel with προσκομμαproskomma We do not live alone. This principle applies to all social relations in matters of law, of health, of morals. Noblesse oblige. The enlightened must consider the welfare of the unenlightened, else he does not have love.

Verse 10

If a man see thee which hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol‘s temple (εαν γαρ τις ιδηι σε τον εχοντα γνωσιν εν ειδωλειωι κατακειμενονean gar tis idēi ̣sě ton echonta gnōsin en eidōleiōi katakeimenon). Condition of third class, a possible case. Paul draws the picture of the enlightened brother exercising his “liberty” by eating in the idol‘s temple. Later he will discuss the peril to the man‘s own soul in this phase of the matter (1 Corinthians 10:14-22), but here he considers only the effect of such conduct on the unenlightened or weak brother. This bravado at a sacrificial banquet is in itself idolatrous as Paul will show. But our weak brother will be emboldened (οικοδομητησεταιoikodomēthēsetai future passive indicative, will be built up) to go on and do what he still believes to be wrong, to eat things sacrificed to idols (εις το τα ειδωλοτυτα εστιεινeis to ta eidōlothuta esthiein). Alas, how often that has happened. Defiance is flung in the face of the unenlightened brother instead of loving consideration.

Verse 11

Through thy knowledge (εν τηι σηι γνωσειen tēi sēi gnōsei). Literally, in thy knowledge. Surely a poor use to put one‘s superior knowledge.

Perisheth (απολλυταιapollutai). Present middle indicative of the common verb απολλυμιapollumi to destroy. Ruin follows in the wake of such daredevil knowledge.

For whose sake Christ died (δι ον Χριστος απετανενdi' hon Christos apethanen). Just as much as for the enlightened brother with his selfish pride. The accusative (ονhon) with διdi' gives the reason, not the agent as with the genitive in 1 Corinthians 8:6 (δι ουdi' hou). The appeal to the death (απετανενapethanen second aorist active indicative of αποτνησκωapothnēskō) of Christ is the central fact that clinches Paul‘s argument.

Verse 12

Wounding their conscience (τυπτοντες αυτων την συνειδησινtuptontes autōn tēn suneidēsin). Old verb τυπτωtuptō to smite with fist, staff, whip. The conscience is sensitive to a blow like that, a slap in the face.

Ye sin against Christ (εις Χριστον αμαρτανετεeis Christon hamartanete). That fact they were overlooking. Jesus had said to Saul that he was persecuting him when he persecuted his disciples (Acts 9:5). One may wonder if Paul knew the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40, “ye did it unto me.”

Verse 13

Meat (βρωμαbrōma). Food it should be, not flesh (κρεαkrea).

Maketh my brother to stumble (σκανδαλιζει τον αδελπον μουskandalizei ton adelphon mou). Late verb (lxx and N.T.) to set a trap-stick (Matthew 5:29) or stumbling-block like προσκομμαproskomma in 1 Corinthians 8:9 (cf. Romans 14:13, Romans 14:21). Small boys sometimes set snares for other boys, not merely for animals to see them caught.

I will eat no flesh for evermore (ου μη παγω κρεα εις τον αιωναou mē phagō krea eis ton aiōna). The strong double negative ου μηou mē with the second aorist subjunctive. Here Paul has flesh (κρεαkrea) with direct reference to the flesh offered to idols. Old word, but in N.T. only here and Romans 14:21. This is Paul‘s principle of love (1 Corinthians 8:2) applied to the matter of eating meats offered to idols. Paul had rather be a vegetarian than to lead his weak brother to do what he considered sin. There are many questions of casuistry today that can only be handled wisely by Paul‘s ideal of love.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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