Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4063. A.D. 59.

The apostle now proceeds to answer another question proposed to him by the Corinthians, viz., respecting the lawfulness of eating things that had been sacrificed to idols: with respect to which,

(1,) He cautions them against self-conceit with respect to their knowledge, 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 .

(2,) Asserts the vanity of idols, and the unity of the true God, 1 Corinthians 8:4-7 .

(3,) Shows the sin and danger of giving offence to others by eating what had been offered to idols, though it were ever so innocent in itself, 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 .

Verses 1-3

1 Corinthians 8:1-3. Now As to the next question you proposed, namely, touching things offered Meats sacrificed, and so consecrated; unto idols When the heathen offered sacrifices of such animals as were fit for food, a part of the carcass was burned on the altar, a part was given to the priest or priests, and on the remainder the offerers feasted with their friends, either in the idol’s temple or at home. Sometimes also a part was sent as a present to such as they wished to oblige, and if the sacrifice was large, a part of it was sold in the public market. To these idolatrous feasts the heathen often invited the Christians of their acquaintance in Corinth, and some of the brethren there, desirous of preserving the friendship of their neighbours, accepted these invitations. They knew an idol was nothing in the world: and therefore they judged that their partaking of the sacrifice, given in the idol’s temple, could not be reckoned a worshipping of the idol. Besides, such a feast was considered, by enlightened Christians, as a common meal, which under the gospel they were at liberty to eat; especially if they did it to show their belief that idols had no existence as gods. These arguments, indeed, are not explicitly stated by the apostle; but the things he hath written in this and in chap. 10. being direct confutations of them, we may believe they were mentioned by the Corinthian brethren, in their letter referred to 1 Corinthians 7:1. The apostle here, and in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, treats of the meats which, having been sacrificed to idols, were afterward eaten in the idol’s temple, and in honour of the idol: of that which was sold in the shambles, or eaten in private houses, he speaks 1 Corinthians 10:25-33. We all have knowledge That is, the generality, for some had not, 1 Corinthians 8:7: we are well instructed in the nature of Christian liberty, concerning meats, and the nature of idols. Knowledge That is, mere knowledge, knowledge without grace; puffeth up Often has that tendency, and is the occasion of self-conceit and arrogance; a gentle reproof this of the self-conceit of the Corinthians. But charity Love to God and our brethren; edifieth Builds people up in holiness. If any man think he knoweth any thing aright Unless so far as he is taught by God, and has love in proportion to his knowledge; he knoweth nothing To any good purpose; yet, as he ought to know Namely, to answer the proper ends of knowledge, or to make him humble in himself, and useful to others. If any man love God In deed and in truth, in consequence of a persuasion of God’s love to him, 1 John 4:19; if any man, being justified by faith, and having peace with God, hath also the love of God shed abroad in his heart, Romans 5:1; Romans 5:5; the same is known of him That is, approved by him, Psalms 1:6. Or, if ουτος , he, refers to God, the immediate antecedent, as some think the sense is, he, God, is known of him; namely, in a proper manner. See an example of the same phraseology, Acts 10:36.

Verses 4-6

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 . As, &c. To proceed, therefore, to the question in debate; concerning the eating of those things that are offered unto idols Meats of whatever kind sacrificed to them. We know that an idol Or the supposed deity residing therein; is nothing A mere nominal god, having no real divinity, virtue, or power; and that there is none other God but one Jehovah, the self-existent, independent, infinite, and eternal Being, to whom the Scripture in general, and the gospel in particular, hath taught us to appropriate our worship. “The Greek word ειδωλον , translated idol, signifies an image formed in the mind, and which exists nowhere else. Wherefore, to show that the gods of the heathen were mere creatures of the human imagination, the Jews, who used the Greek language, termed them ειδωλα , idols. By this word, likewise, they signified the pictures and statues which the heathen set up in their temples, as representations of their gods; and by giving them the appellation of idols, they declared their persuasion that the things of which they were the representations had no existence. Nevertheless, as the apostle knew that some of the heathen worshipped their dead ancestors, legislators, kings, &c., others of them the heavenly bodies, others certain kinds of brute animals, he cannot be understood to say that an idol is nothing, in the sense of its having no existence as a being, but of its having no existence as a god, and no share in the government of the world.” For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth Or even under the earth; for the heathen had not only their celestial and terrestrial, but likewise their infernal deities: as there be gods many, and lords many Who are in their various subordinations adored by the Gentiles, and have great, though very absurd worship paid to them. But to us Christians; there is In the whole universe; but one God One supreme essence; the Father Of angels and men. This is exclusive not of the Word which was in the beginning with God, and was God, termed the one Lord, in the next clause, any more than of the Holy Spirit, but only of the idols, to which the one God is opposed. Of Or from; whom are all things By creation, providence, and grace; and we in him Living, moving, and having our being; or we are, εις αυτον , for him, for his glory, the end of all we are, have, and do. And one Lord The Word and Son of the eternal Father, equally the object of divine worship; by whom are all things Created, sustained, and governed; and we by him Thankfully acknowledging ourselves obliged to his agency and care for all we are, have, or hope for, and by whom, as the only Mediator between God and man, we have access to the Father and all spiritual blessings.

Verses 7-8

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 Christianit y; 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.

Verses 9-13

1 Corinthians 8:9-13. But take heed lest this liberty of yours To eat indifferently of such meats; become a stumbling-block An occasion of doing what they judge unlawful; to them that are weak Uninformed in the truth, or unsettled as to their knowledge of it. For if any man see thee Whom he believes to have more knowledge than himself, and who really hast this knowledge, that an idol is nothing; sit at meat in the idol’s temple To an entertainment there; shall not the conscience of him that is weak Scrupulous; be imboldened Encouraged by thy example; to eat those things which are offered to idols Though with a doubting, or perhaps condemning conscience. And through thy knowledge Thy abuse and unseasonable discovery of thy knowledge; shall the weak brother perish Be drawn into sin, which is the way to destruction; for whom Christ died And for whom thou wilt not lose a meal’s meat: so far art thou from laying down thy life for him! We see Christ died even for them that perish. Observe this, reader. But when ye sin so Act so uncharitably and contrary to your duty; against the brethren Who, as well as you, are the children and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; and wound their weak conscience Their ill-informed and scrupulous consciences, leading them into guilt, and hazarding their salvation; ye sin against Christ Whose members they are, and who had such regard for their souls, that he died in ignominy and torture to redeem them, and hath done all that example or precept could do, to make his followers enter into such humane and compassionate views. Wherefore For a conclusion, I lay down this general rule, that all things indifferent in their own nature are to be forborne, when the use of them would be a cause of scandal, or an occasion of falling to others, of turning them out of the right way, or hindering them therein; yea, though such things may have a great deal of apparent expediency in them. So that if meat Of what sort soever it be; make my brother to offend Lead him into sin, and cause him to contract guilt, and wound his conscience I will eat no flesh while the world standeth But live entirely on vegetables; lest I make my brother to offend That I may not scandalize and insnare him in evil, if there be no other way of avoiding it. Of such importance do I esteem the preservation of one endangered soul: and in this, and other things of a similar nature, I pray that God may incline you to use the like self-denial for your own sakes, and for the peace and honour of the Christian Church. But who will follow this example? What preacher or private Christian will abstain from any thing and every thing, lawful in itself, when it offends a weak brother?

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". Benson's Commentary. 1857.