Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 8:1 a . Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων : another topic of the Church Letter, to which the Apostle continues his reply (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:1 ; also Introd ., chap. 2). The word εἰδωλόθυτον (see parls.), “the idol -sacrifice,” substituted for the ἱερόθυτον (1 Corinthians 10:28 ) of the heathen vocabulary, conveys an implicit judgment on the question in hand; see note on εἴδωλον , 1 Corinthians 8:4 , and on 1 Corinthians 10:19 f.; also Acts 15:20 , τὰ ἀλισγήματα τῶν εἰδώλων . οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν : the common rendering, “We know that we all have knowledge” yields a weak tautology, and misses the irony of the passage; otherwise than in οἴδαμεν ὅτι of 1 Corinthians 8:4 , this is the causal ὅτι (so Bg [1219] , Hn [1220] , Ed [1221] ). The Cor [1222] in making their inquiry virtually answered it themselves; they wrote Οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ (1 Corinthians 8:4 ); and P. takes them up at the first word with his arresting comment: “ ‘We know’ (say you?) because ‘we all have knowledge’! Knowledge puffs up,” etc. For γνῶσιν ἔχομεν , cf. 1 Corinthians 8:10 ; the phrase breathes the pride of the Cor [1223] illuminati; in γνῶσις this Church felt itself rich (1 Corinthians 1:5 , 1 Corinthians 4:10 ); its wealth was its peril.

[1219] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1220] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1221] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians . 2

[1222] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1223] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 8:1 b . The Ap. gives to Cor [1224] vanity a sudden, sharp rebuke by his epigram, Ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ , ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ : “Knowledge puffs up, but Love builds up”. Hn [1225] aptly compares Aristotle’s axiom, Τὸ τέλος οὐ γνῶσις , ἀλλὰ πρᾶξις ( Nic. Eth. , i., 1). For φυσιόω , to inflate , see note on 1 Corinthians 4:6 . The appeal of the Church to Knowledge as decisive in the controversy about “meats” disclosed the great flaw in its character its poverty of love (1 Corinthians 13:1 ff.). The tacit obj [1226] of οἰκοδομεῖ is the Church, the Θεοῦ οἰκοδομή (1 Corinthians 3:9 ; 1 Corinthians 3:16 ); Ephesians 4:15 f. describes the edifying power of love; see also Matthew 22:37-40 , 1 John 4:16-21 . For the Biblical use of ἀγάπη , see note to 1 Corinthians 13:1 . The divisive question at issue Love would turn into a means of strengthening the bonds of Church life; Knowledge operating alone makes it an engine of destruction (1 Corinthians 8:11 f.).

[1224] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1225] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1226] grammatical object.

Verses 1-6

1 Corinthians 8:1-6 . § 25. KNOWLEDGE OF THE ONE GOD AND ONE LORD. In inquiring from their Ap. “about the εἰδωλόθυτα ,” the Cor [1217] had intimated their “knowledge” of the falsity of the entire system of idolatry. Here Paul checks them at the outset. The pretension betrays their one-sided intellectualism. Such matters are never settled by knowledge; love is the true arbiter (1 Corinthians 8:2 f.). After this caution, he takes up the statement of the Cor [1218] creed made in the Church Letter, with its implications respecting idolatry (1 Corinthians 8:4 ff.).

[1217] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1218] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Verses 2-3

1 Corinthians 8:2-3 . Loveless knowledge is ruinous (1 Corinthians 8:1 b ); more than that, it is self-stultifying . The contrasted hypotheses εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι (= δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι , 1 Corinthians 3:18 ) and εἴ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Θεόν define the position of men who build upon their own mental acquirements, or who make love to God the basis of life. For emphatic δοκεῖ , cf. 1Co 3:18 , 1 Corinthians 7:40 ; it implies an opinion, well- or ill-founded, and confidence in that opinion. The pf. ἐγνωκέναι signifies knowledge acquired (for which, therefore, one might claim credit), while the aors. ἔγνω and γνῶναι denote the acquisition of (right) knowledge , rendered impossible by self-conceit “he has never yet learnt as he ought to do”. For τι probably τὶ in this connexion, something emphatically, something great cf. note on τὶ εἰδέναι , 1 Corinthians 2:2 . The Enchiridion of Epictetus supplies a parl [1227] to 1 Corinthians 8:2 : “Prefer to seem to know nothing; and if to any thou shouldst seem to be somebody, distrust thyself”; similarly Socrates, in Plato’s Apology , 23.

[1227] parallel.

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 8:3 is one of Paul’s John-like sayings. In the apodosis he substitutes, by an adroit turn, “is known ( ἔγνωσται : pf. pass [1228] of abiding effect upon the obj [1229] ) by God” for “hath come to know God,” the expected consequence see the like correction in Galatians 4:9 ; cf. Philippians 2:12 f., 1 Corinthians 3:12 ; John 15:16 ; 1 John 4:10 . Paul would ascribe nothing to human acquisition; religion is a bestowment, not an achievement; our love or knowledge is the reflex of the divine love and knowledge directed toward us. Philo, quoted by Ed [1230] , has the same thought: γνωριζόμεθα μᾶλλον ἢ γνωρίζομεν ( De Cherub ., § 32). οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὐπʼ αὐτοῦ (sc. τοῦ Θεοῦ ), “ he (and not the other) is known by Him”. Ev [1231] reverses the ref [1232] of the prons.: “He (God) hath been known by him (the man loving Him)” an unlikely use of οὗτος .

[1228] passive voice.

[1229] grammatical object.

[1230] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians .

[1231] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary .

[1232] reference.

Verse 4

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.

Verse 5

[1241] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1242] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians .

[1243] ad locum , on this passage.

[1244] parallel.

[1245] participle

[1246] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[1247] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[1248] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms in positive Christian terms, as 1 Corinthians 8:4 b stated negatively and retrospectively, the creed of the Cor [1249] believers. The “one God” of O.T. monotheism is “to us one God the Father”. “Of whom are all things, and we for Him:” the universe issues from God, and “we,” His sons in Christ, are destined therein for His use and glory He would reap in “us” His glory, as a father in the children of his house; see, on this latter purpose, Ephesians 1:5 ; Ephesians 1:10 ff., Ephesians 1:18 b , 1 Corinthians 3:9 ff.; also 1 Peter 2:9 , James 1:18 , John 17:9 f., etc.; cf. Aug [1250] , “ Fecisti nos ad Te”. In the emphatic ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτὸν there speaks the joyful consciousness of Gentiles called to know and serve the true God; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:2 f., Ephesians 2:11 ff. The “one Lord Jesus Christ” is Mediator, as in 1 Timothy 2:5 “through whom are all things, and we through Him”; again ἡμεῖς stands out with high distinction from the dim background of τὰ πάντα . The contrasted ἐξ οὗ , εἰς αὐτὸν of the previous clause is replaced by the doubled διὰ of this: God is the source of all nature, but the end specifically of redeemed humanity; Christ is equally the Mediator and in this capacity the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ) of nature and of men. The universe is of God through Christ (Hebrews 1:2 , John 1:3 ): we are for God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18 , Ephesians 1:5 , etc.). Colossians 1:15 ff. unfolds this doctrine of the double Lordship of Christ, basing His redemptional upon His creational headship. It is an exegetical violence to limit the second τὰ πάντα , as Grotius and Baur have done, to “the ethical new creation”; in 2 Corinthians 5:18 the context gives this limitation, which in our passage it excludes. The inferior reading διʼ ὅν (for οὗ : see txtl. note), “ because of whom are all things,” would consist with a lower doctrine of Christ’s Person, representing Him as preconceived object, while with διʼ οὗ He is pre-existent medium of creation. The full Christology of the 3rd group of the Epp. is latent here. The faith which refers all things to the one God our Father as their spring, and subordinates all things to the one Lord our Redeemer, leaves no smallest spot in the universe for other deities; intelligent Christians justly inferred that the material of the idolothyta was unaffected by the hollow rites of heathen sacrifice.

[1249] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1250] Augustine.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 8:7 . “But not in all is there the knowledge”( ἡ γνῶσις ) which you and I claim to have (1 Corinthians 8:1 ; 1 Corinthians 8:10 ), expressed just now in the terms of the Church confession (1 Corinthians 8:4 ff.). τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου , “by reason of their habituation up till now to the idol”: for this dat [1252] of defining cause, cf . Ephesians 2:1 . ἕως ἄρτι ( cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8 ; 1 Corinthians 4:11 ) qualifies the quasi-vbl. noun συνηθεία , actively used, which, as in 4Ma 13:21 and cl [1253] Gr [1254] , signifies with the objective gen [1255] (= συνηθεία πρὸς or μετά ) intercourse, familiarity with ; the other, passive sense is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:16 . The Western reading, συνειδήσει , preferred by some critics as the lectio ardua , gives the sense, “through relation of conscience to the idol” (Hf [1256] , Hn [1257] ). ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσι , “as an idol-sacrifice eat (the meat in question)” under the consciousness that it is such, with the sense haunting them that what they eat belongs to the idol and associates them with it; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:18 ff. and notes. “And their conscience, since it is weak (unable to get rid of this feeling), is soiled”(opp [1258] of the καθαρὰ συνείδησις of 1 Timothy 3:9 , 2 Timothy 1:3 ). The consciousness of sharing in idol-worship is defiling to the spirit of a Christian; to taste knowingly of idolothyta, under any circumstances, thus affects converts from heathenism who have not the full faith that the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; now, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”(Romans 14:23 ).

[1252] dative case.

[1253] classical.

[1254] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[1255] genitive case.

[1256] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht , ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[1257] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1258] opposite, opposition.

Verses 7-13

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.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 8:8 , like 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 , represents the pro in the question περὶ βρώσεως , as 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 the contra . Chap. 8 is virtually a dialogue; the double (challenging and rebutting) δὲ of 1 Corinthians 8:8 f., with the words “ your right” of 1 Corinthians 8:9 , in accordance with Paul’s dialectical style ( cf. Romans 3:1-8 ), compels us to read this ver., like 1Co 8:1 ; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 , as from the mouth of the Cor ., possibly from the Church Letter; “hic alter erat, vel esse poterat, Corinthiorum prætextus” (Cv [1260] ). At the word μολύνεται P. hears some of his readers interject: “The conscience of the weak brother is defiled , you say, by eating after my example. But ( δέ ) how so? You have taught us that God will not judge us by these trifling externals; abstinence or use of ‘meats’ makes no difference to our intrinsic state.” This Paul admits, to set against it the caution βλέπετε δὲ μὴ κ . τ . λ ., on which the rest of the paragraph hangs.

[1260] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii .

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 8:9 . “Beware, however, lest this right of yours” sc . to eat the idolothyta, for which many of the Cor [1261] are contending, and probably in the Church Letter (1 Corinthians 8:1 ). For ἐξουσία in this use, cf. 1Co 9:4 ff., 1 Corinthians 9:12 , also ἔξεστιν in 1 Corinthians 6:12 , 1 Corinthians 10:23 . The Jerus. Council (Acts 15:29 ), to whose decree P. was a party, had not denied in principle the lawfulness of using idolothyta; it forbade such use to the mixed Judæo-Gentile Churches within a certain area, in deference to Jewish feeling. Paul comes in effect to the same conclusion, though he advises instead of commanding. The πρόσκομμα is an obstacle thrown in the way of “the weak,” over which they may stumble into a moral fall, not having the strength either to overcome their scruples or to disregard an example contrary to their conscience.

[1261] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 8:10 enforces ( γάρ ) the above warning. σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν “thee, the man that has knowledge” (see 1): the Cor [1262] pretension to superior enlightenment, shown in 1 Corinthians 8:2 f. to be faulty in Christian theory, now discloses its practical mischief. The behaviour of the Christian man of knowledge who “reclines (at table) in an idol’s temple,” is represented as a sort of bravado a thing done to show his “knowledge,” his complete freedom from superstition about the idol. This act is censured because of its effect upon the mind of others; in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 it will be condemned on its own account. The form εἰδωλίον (or - εῖον ) occurs in the Apocrypha; it follows the formation of Gr [1263] temple names Ἀπολλωνεῖον , etc. οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ , ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος κ . τ . λ .; “will not his conscience, weak as he is, be ‘edified’ unto eating the foods offered to idols?” not because he is weak (as though overpowered by a stronger mind), but while he is still weak, as under the lingering belief that the idol is “something in the world” (1 Corinthians 8:7 ): “his verbis exprimitur horror infirmi, tamen edentis” (Bg [1264] ). Thus eating unpersuaded “in his own mind” (Romans 14:5 ), he sins (Romans 14:23 ), and therefore “is perishing” (1 Corinthians 8:11 ). The vb [1265] “edified” instead of “persuaded” or the like is used in sad irony ( cf. Tert [1266] , “ædificatur ad ruinam,” De Prœscr. Hœretic. , 3); P. probably takes up the word in this connexion from the Church Letter: the eaters of idolothyta thought their practice “edifying” to less advanced brethren “ edifying , forsooth! to what end?”

[1262] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1263] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[1264] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1265] verb

[1266]ert. Tertullian.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 8:11 . “For the weak man [whom you talk of building up!] is being destroyed through thy knowledge the brother, on whose account Christ died!” (Romans 14:15 ). This affirms, with terrible emphasis, the issue implied by 1 Corinthians 8:10 : “est ædificatio ruinosa” (Cv [1267] ). ὁ ἀσθενῶν means (more than ὁ ἀσθενής ) the man in a continued state of weakness. ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει , “on the ground ( or in the sphere) of thy knowledge”; in this atmosphere the weak faith of the other cannot live ( cf. ἐν in 1 Corinthians 2:4 ; Ephesians 4:16 , ἐν ἀγάπῃ ). His “knowledge” leaves the tempter inexcusable. “Notice the threefold darkness of the picture: there perishes, thy brother, for whom Christ died” (Bt [1268] ). Paul appeals to the strongest feelings of a Christian brotherly love and loyalty to Christ. For the prospective διʼ ὅν , cf. Romans 4:25 ; Christ’s death is thus frustrated of its dear object ( cf. Galatians 2:21 ) by thy heartless folly!

[1267] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii .

[1268] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 8:12 . In such case, not only the weak brother sins by yielding, but the strong who tempted him; and the latter sins directly “against Christ” (for the construction, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18 ): “But sinning in this way against the brethren, and inflicting a blow on their conscience while it is weak, you sin against Christ”. τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν , not “their weak conscience” ( τὴν ἀσθεν .), but “their conscience weak as it is”: how base to strike the weak! τύπτω describes as the violent wrong of the injurer, what is a μόλυσμα . and πρόσκομμα (1 Corinthians 8:7 ; 1 Corinthians 8:9 ) in its effect upon the injured. A blow on the conscience shocks and deranges it. For the bearing of such an act on Christ , see Matthew 18:6 ff; Matthew 25:40 ; Matthew 25:45 ; also Zechariah 2:8 , etc. The principle of union with Christ, which forbids sin against oneself (1 Corinthians 6:15 ), forbids sin against one’s brother.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 8:13 sums up the debate in the language of personal conviction: “Wherefore verily” for this last reason above all “if (a matter of) food ( βρῶμα , indef.) is stumbling my brother, I will eat no flesh-meats for evermore, that I may not stumble my brother”. κρέα (pl [1269] of κρέας ) signifies the kinds of βρῶμα in question, including probably beside the idolothyta other animal foods which might scandalise men of narrow views, such as the vegetarians of Romans 14:13-21 (see notes ad loc [1270] ). Four times in 1 Corinthians 8:11-13 P. repeats the word ἀδελφός , seeking to elicit the love which was needed to control Cor [1271] knowledge ( cf. 1 Corinthians 8:2 f.). For “ σκανδαλίζω , to put a σκάνδαλον (cl [1272] σκανδάληθρον , trap-stick = πρόσκομμα , 9) in another’s way,” cf. Romans 14:21 and parls. The strong negation οὐ μή (“no fear lest”: see Wr [1273] , p. 634 ff.) is further heightened by εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , “to eternity”. The rendering “while the world standeth” is based on the use of αἰῶν ( perpetuity ) in such passages as 1 Corinthians 1:20 , where the context narrows its meaning; in this phrase the noun has its full sense, but used rhetorically.

[1269] plural.

[1270] ad locum , on this passage.

[1271] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1272] classical.

[1273] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.