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The First Letter Of Paul To The Corinthians: Chapter 8

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Text view alone

1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so‐called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” a The quotation may extend to the end of the verse We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. b Gk the weak brother … is destroyed 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, c Gk against the brothers and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, a Gk my brother's falling I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them b Gk cause my brother to fall.


a The quotation may extend to the end of the verse

b Gk the weak brother … is destroyed

c Gk against the brothers

a Gk my brother's falling

b Gk cause my brother

Text Commentary view alone

8.1–11.1 :

Argument concerning food offered to idols. Now concerning … opens discussion of another issue about which the Corinthians had written (see 7.1n. ): food sacrificed to idols. At several points Paul cites principles and formulations of some of the Corinthians, so that it is possible to discern both sides of the argument. The phrase accustomed to idols until now in 8.7 indicates that the weak in conscience (or, better, “consciousness”) for whom Paul is concerned are Gentiles, not Jews or Jewish Christians. Paul's argument proceeds in five steps.

8.1–13 : Eating food offered to idols.

Paul begins his argument against eating idolfood in a temple, ending with a fundamental principle in v. 13 .

1–6 :

Paul first deals with the Corinthians' knowledge, in which their liberty is rooted, before directly addressing their liberty of eating idol‐food in 8.7–13 .

1 :

Food sacrificed to idols refers to food sacrificed in the presence of an idol and eaten in the temple precincts. He uses a different term, “sacred food,” “offered in sacrifice,” when discussing eating dinner at a friend's housein 10.27–28 . Paul cites with seeming approval a principle of the Corinthians: All of us possess knowledge. For some Hellenistic Jews “knowledge” was closely associated with wisdom, a virtual synonym for the content that heavenly Wisdom provided to her devotees, as in Wis 10.10 . But Paul immediately objects that Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up, presumably meaning the community.

2–3 :

The words something, God, and by him were missing in Paul's Greek text.

4 :

No idol and no God but one are particular principles of the Corinthians' knowledge, which again have their background in Hellenistic Jewish theology, as in Wis 7.17; 13.1; 15.2–3 .

5–6 :

In a long, awkward sentence, Paul first appears to agree with the Corinthian principle, setting up the statement of faith in v. 6 , but then bluntly asserts the reality of many gods and many lords.

6 :

These statements do not follow from v. 5 , fit poorly in context, and use formulaic language (cf. Rom 11.36 ) in connection with Christ that appears nowhere else in Paul, yet do appear in Hellenistic Jewish theological statements about heavenly Wisdom as the agent of creation and salvation (e.g., Wis 8.1,6; 9.10–18 ). Paul must be replacing Wisdom with Christ in formulas bor rowed from the Corinthian theological knowledge, just as he argued that the real wisdom of God is the crucified Christ in 1.24 .

7–13 :

Moving from a gentle observation in v. 7 to an ominous warning in v. 12 , Paul appeals to the enlightened Corinthians to cease eating food offered to idols.

7 :

Not everyonehas this knowledge counters what he ostensibly accepted in 8.1 . The Greek term translated conscience here and in 8.10,12; 10.25,27–29 , means something more like “consciousness,” which, when characterized as defiled because it is weak, makes more sense in this context. For the Corinthians, a “weak consciousness” stemmed from a lack of “knowledge.”

8 :

The whole verse is another quotation of Corinthian knowledge, and the second half would fit better with the first half if it were translated: “We are no better off if we do not eat and we are no worse off if we eat.”

9–12 :

The possible effect of the behavior of the enlightened Corinthians.

9 :

This liberty of yours, gained from possession of “knowledge” ( 8.1,4 ), is their personal ethical authority or freedom (cf. 6.12; 10.23 ) to engage in actions such as eating food sacrificed to idols, contrary to traditional (Jewish) prohibitions about idolatry. Paul uses the same Greek term, translated “right,” in 9.4–6,12,18 , and the near synonym “free/freedom” in 9.1,19; 10.29 .

10 :

You, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple …, this is what Paul sees as the concrete problem (as also in 10.19–21 ); at every level of the dominant society, from extended families and guilds to city celebrations and the imperial cult, sacrificial meals were instrumental in constituting the social structure.

13 :

To conclude this opening of his argument against eating food offered to idols, Paul formulates a general ethical principle (focused on eating) that the criterion of personal behavior is its effect on others in the assembly.

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