From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 7-12     Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

 

 

 

 

            Christians are social beings—they live among and interact with the surrounding world.  Paul’s world was overwhelmingly polytheist with a dissident minority of monotheists in the Jewish and Christian communities.  How were you, then, to behave in a world that, even when not overtly hostile, regarded you and your kin as, at least, a little “odd?”  A world in which even fellow believers might not come to all the same conclusions as to proper rulers of societal engagement?

            Traditional Jews were also wracked with the problem and their behavior in the diaspora varied widely.  Based upon a survey of well known Jewish writings (Josephus and Philo in particular) as well as lesser known papyri, inscriptions, and even graffiti, Richard Liong-Seng Phua concludes that some form of “participation” in the polytheist cults was not uncommon though it is far from clear how much was superficial and minimalist and what it spiritually meant so far as many of the individuals’ intent,[1]

 

There are clearly different or varying degrees of participation but participation nonetheless.  It is necessary to clarify, at the outset, that by participation we do not mean that it always involves actual worship or the ritual of worship.  The participation in Gentile cults revealed by inscriptions and Jewish authors may involve visitation to Gentile temples without clear evidence of actual participation in the worship of the cults.  Or it may involve the use of juridical oath-formulae which invoke the Gentile deities.  Sometimes, participation in Gentile cults could involve conducting legal transactions at Gentile temples, with the Gentile gods acting as intermediaries.

Or it may involve serving as priests of the gods.  Or it may involve actual worship of the deities in terms of making offerings for various reasons or setting up shrines and dedicating them to the gods.  Some of these might overlap, that is, one aspect of participation such as the priestly service of the gods might at the same time involve the worship of the gods and certainly temple attendance. 

                           

            The key guideline Paul spells out in this chapter for involvement in what could be construed as idolatry, can be summed up in the ancient principle to guide physicians:  “do no harm.”  Here the question is specifically eating food sacrificed to idols.  In the abstract, all believers  understood that there are things that can be called “gods” that exist

 

 

[Page 66]  in the form of idols even though there is only one real God who exists. 

Understanding this principle is far different from merely affirming it, however.  Social activities of groups such as guilds were often held in the meeting rooms of pagan temples and a token piece of the meat was always offered up in honor of the god.  A weak believer seeing you at such a place—one thoroughly conditioned in polytheism rather than monotheism—could easily take your participation as expressing belief in an objective existence of that rival deity.  This would encourage him or her to do the same and because your knowledge is lacking in them, sin would be the needless result.  Hence, Paul warns, we should always be careful to avoid doing things that would actually be harmless but would cause others to imitate and violate their own moral principles.

            In much of the twentieth century, this text was widely abused to mean that we should avoid doing anything that would upset our spiritual brethren.  This was because the King James Version rendered the basis of the moral imperative governing our conduct as being to avoid “offend(ing)” (verse 13).  He doesn’t like it so we don’t do it. 

The problem is that the NKJV (and virtually every other modern translation) will word it along these lines, “Therefore, if food [in context, eats in a pagan temple] makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”   The point is not that it is sinful to annoy/offend someone (though it may well be discourteous); the point is that our behavior is to avoid encouraging them do what they regard as outright sin.      

 

 

 

 

 

How the Themes Are Developed  

 

 

 

 

 

 

A believer with an abstract knowledge of truth

about idols erred when the importance of love

in applying that knowledge was forgotten

(8:1-8:3)

 

 

            ATP text:  1Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we recognize that we all know something about the subject.  Yet knowledge can make us arrogant while it is love that builds us up spiritually.  2If any of you thinks that you know something on this subject, you actually know nothing yet as you should.  3Even so if you love God, you are accepted by Him.”

            Development of the argument:  The next question from the Corinthians concerned the propriety of eating meats sacrificed to idols.  This seems an extraordinarily

 

 

[Page 67]  strange custom from our twenty-first century perspective, but in the first century Roman world it was a pervasive practice.

            All Christians had “knowledge” of the truth about idols (8:1a):  they were nothing but images of imaginary beings.[2]  Yet that knowledge could “puff up” a person and one needed to apply that understanding within a context of love (8:1b).  In other words, they needed to “edify” themselves (8:1b), “build up” themselves through their love—utilizing a term often used in the early centuries of literal construction[3] but here and in various other New Testament texts of spiritual and group self-improvement.  To Paul, if you will, their Christianity was a “work in progress” and not yet completely constructed. 

            Here Paul uses “knowledge” (gnosis) not of some heretical system of doctrine but, in light of the contrast with edifying, of a mind frame embodying arrogance and conceit and the looking down upon others as inferior in insight and learning:  Gnosis makes fine distinctions that others can barely perceive; it claims to grasp esoteric truths that others have missed.[4]  At this stage it may be viewed as more silliness than dangerous.  Yet the mind frame may well become heretical in the very search for yet more “missed truths” that others have not yet understood or recognized; then it becomes an abuse of real knowledge and an advocate of “knowledge” that is, at best, speculation rather than fact-based reality.  Truth becomes “truth” because we can imagine it in our minds; not because God has actually revealed it.

So far as Paul was concerned, the intellectual side alone was not adequate.  In other words, knowledge was useful—even important and vital—but love was even more so.  Love is what makes knowledge worth having for it provides us the opportunity to show it in our relationships with others and service to God. 

Acknowledgment by God (being “known” by Him) grows out of the love we manifest (8:3).  The Corinthians—or at least many of them—thought it grew out of having the right knowledge.  Knowledge can become egocentric rather than God centered; it transfers the emphasis to the “me” and away from the One being served (hence the reference to “knowledge puffs up,” [8:1]).  

            Paul lays the groundwork for them resolving their conflicting ideas toward idols by stressing not what they know but how much they love.  Indeed, by stressing the pivotal role of not doing what will cause others to stumble into what they regard as sin, he effectively applies the admonition to love God to loving our fellow disciple as well—without ever actually using the word in that context!  It becomes a matter of not what we “know” is right but the avoiding of doing inadvertent harm to others.  In short, as in chapter 13, love as manifested in actions rather than claims.   

 

 

 

 

 

Idols were mere images and Christians recognized

that fact; however, loosely the term “god” was

used, in reality there was only One (8:4-8:6)

 

[Page 68]         ATP text:  4Therefore concerning the eating of food offered to idols, we know that none of them has any real existence and that there is actually no genuine God but one.  5Many things in heaven and on earth are called gods and lords, but none of them are genuinely such.  6Yet for us there is only one God, the Father, who created all things and we live to serve Him.  Likewise one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom everything was created and we live because of Him.”

            Development of the argument:  Idols are real and the food that is offered to them is real.  On the other hand, the supposed “gods” and “lords” that are either embodied in the images or which they represent are purely mythical (8:4).  The fact that there are multitudes of such images doesn’t change that fact one iota (8:5).  For believers there is the recognition that--so far as they are concerned--there is only one God the Father and one Lord Christ (8:6).  To even implicitly honor anyone or anything else equally would be to betray what they have done for us (8:6).     

            In one sense Paul is agreeing with those who ate the idol food:  since idols don’t represent anything objectively real, “no food offered to idols is inherently tainted.”[5]  That does not prove one may automatically eat it; only that there is nothing automatically ruling it out.  As Paul develops his argument, he shifts the discussion from the origin of the food to its impact on one’s spiritual comrades.  Eating the meat becomes wrong when it inflicts spiritual injury.  

         

 

 

 

 

Care had to be taken in applying this recognition

lest their knowledge cause other believers

to stumble into transgression (8:7-8:11)

 

            ATP text:  7However not everyone adequately understands this knowledge.  Some, being accustomed to idol worship throughout their life, eat food as if it were rightly sacrificed to an image that has real life and their weak conscience is contaminated by their act.  8Food does not win us God’s praise:  we are not the better if we eat it nor are we the worse if we do not.  9Beware lest your freedom of action concerning idols make those who are weak in faith stumble into sin.  10For if someone sees you who have this knowledge dining in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of the weak onlooker be encouraged to also eat things sacrificed to images?  11In that case, because of your knowledge, this weak comrade is ruined, one for whom Christ also died!”

            Development of the argument:  The right frame of mind was lacking in many who ate meat sacrificed to an idol, that is, those who did so participated with a feeling that they were somehow recognizing the validity of the pagan god or giving it special honor (8:7).  The sin was not in what one did (eating the idol food) as in why one did it, i.e., thinking that one is giving religious honor to the idol and what it represents--i.e., crossing the line into overt idolatry.[6]     

            The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter to God whether we eat such food

 

 

[Page 69]  or not (8:8).  On the other hand, we must avoid exercising that freedom in a way that it will be not become a “stumbling block” to the spiritually weak (8:9) by inadvertently encouraging them to partake of such food when it would violate their conscience (8:10). 

            Paul likely specifically has in mind eating such meat at one of the social halls that pagan temples usually had (cf. 8:10, “if anyone sees you . . . in an idol’s temple”).  Of course, the “temple” aspect could be encountered in a number of additional societal contexts.  Guilds or other organizations might easily be holding a feast at the temple, but one might equally well be invited to a marriage or funeral where such “dedicated” foods would be served.[7] 

Bought in the market, one could consciously overlook the meat’s likely dedication to the gods.  Partaking of it in a fellowship room in a pagan temple--where the idol could be visible--could be a much more difficult situation both because of the location and how it clearly put the emphasis on the “idol” part of the “idol food” equation.  By putting the mater in this particular context, Paul places it where the “strong” will be able to easiest recognize why the “weak” would have reservations and be unable to dismiss them out of hand.   

Even so, there are two fascinating paradoxes in Paul’s analysis.  The first is that it is the strong who are to voluntarily rein in their own behavior—even though they have not sinned.  The term isn’t actually used until chapter 10 but the opposite of weak would be “the strong.”  Perhaps it is not used here because Paul is far more at ease with eating pagan meats in general rather than in this particular social context.  Be that as it may, the reservations of the “weak” are to limit their behavior even though it is the former who are “overscrupulous or oversensitive” and they themselves would not otherwise be doing wrong.[8]     

Today we would probably describe them as individuals who add “thou shalt nots” to those that scripture enjoin.  They aren’t in the right with their needless prohibitions; they are actually in the wrong.  Not that they are doing wrong, but that they have wrongly judged or perceived the matter and that misjudgment has so gripped them that for them to exercise their liberty would be for them to feel guilt-ridden and sinful.  Hence to provide them a way to avoid sin, those who understand truth and reality better, are to avoid behavior that would cause them to violate their conscience.  We do it not for our own sake but for theirs.[9]  This is practical (not theoretical) love in action.

Unstated is another reality:  They have the misguided scruples in the present case, but in a different matter—well, might it not be we ourselves and they become the ones who have to yield to protect our spiritual well being?  These matters are “two way streets” and not “one way.”

The second paradox in this chapter is that the “weak” are not ordered, requested or in any way instructed to modify their own behavior.  Joel Delobel looks at this and goes so far as to call it “somewhat irritating” when it is the other side that has the “correct theology on their side.”[10]  Our remarks above that Paul is describing “practical (not theoretical) love in action” is quite germane here.  Christian ethics involve more than just right and wrong; its heart involves others not being hurt by our decisions.

Delobel goes on to argue that taking that approach any further than a momentary reaction is really an over-reaction of our own.  Paul, actually, does provide evidence that might ultimately modify the “conservative’s” caution.   The apostle implicitly views the

 

[Page 70]  role of inherited culture, practice, and societal expectations as creating a burden that merely intellectually learning it doesn’t matter,  is inadequate to overcome.  In a sense we become prisoners of our own heritage.  This is certainly not a blind endorsement of restraint when it is not really needed.

Secondly, in 10:25-27, Paul does explicitly enjoin them to eat what was sold in the meat markets without questioning whether it had been offered to idols.  (Perhaps this was the easiest bridge for them to cross?).  In an idol context, it might be beyond them, but surely not within this one where the entire emphasis is on purchasing the food as a financial transaction rather than an act with religious overtones.

Finally, they had the entire written text of the chapters in the congregation where they could have the opportunity to read—or have it read to them.  Hence the full three chapters context was always available for their further meditation and study.[11]  He had provided them the argumentation that might modify or remove their reservations.  Short of “riding over top of them” and demanding a change that would result in them branding themselves sinners, what more could he do?     
  

 

 

 

 

In that type of situation they made themselves

sinners as well (8:12-8:13)

 

 

             

ATP text:  12When you thus sin against your spiritual comrades and wound their weak convictions, you are also sinning against Christ.  13Therefore, if food causes my comrade to stumble, I will never eat such meat again, lest I be responsible for my comrade stumbling.”

            Development of the argument:  One must be careful lest one’s greater “knowledge” (of truth/spiritual insight) in such matters results in a weaker brother or sister violating their conscience (8:12) and falling into overt sin and “perish[ing]” (8:11).  When that danger was present, Paul was determined never to eat such meat rather than expose brethren to jeopardy (8:13).  In other words, one must avoid doing what is objectively right when someone with excessive scruples is likely to use our example to justify doing the same thing—but an action which, for him or her, would be self-interpreted as a sin. 

            Paul is not describing here merely a situation in which a person disagrees with what you are doing.  (Then you will be dismissed as the “sinner” and your behavior would automatically be rejected as an example.)  Rather he is describing a person who is so weak that our example will be sufficient to cause him to imitate it even when it flies in the face of his own principles. 

In regard to many matters, this implies that we have a close enough relationship with that person that we can calculate (1) whether he understands the objective truth on the subject and (2) whether he will be swayed by our doing something different.  This carries with it an intimacy of knowledge and relationship that is often lacking in modern

 

 

[Page 71]  congregations.  In such contexts, we may inadvertently wreck great harm without even knowing it.

On the other hand, there would be issues of behavior where even a modest comprehension of how many people think, would permit an intelligent educated guess that there would be such individuals in the congregation.  This could be confirmed of specific individuals through extended contact and conversation and seeing how they handle other matters.  This was the case in regard to eating in an idol’s temple:  if a person gave indication of being spiritually weak, it would be far from unexpected if they used our participation as spiritual salve for ignoring the dictates of their own conscience.  The weak want to fit in and we’ve provided them a ready made excuse in a culture that routinely embraced such behavior.  

But, again, for us to recognize this we must understand our environment and the background of those we worship with sufficiently to judge where and when there will be a problem.  A mere cheery “hello” and handshake at church will never be adequate for us to establish such knowledge.  

 

 

 

 

 

Invoking of Explicit Old Testament

Quotations to Justify His Teaching:

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Old Testament Concepts Are

Repeatedly Introduced and Woven

into the Heart of His Argument

 

 

 

 

 

 

8:1:  “Knowledge” as encouraging destructive pride.  In Isaiah 47:10, the prophet warns that “your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you.”  It had made them totally self-centered and unconcerned with anyone else, “I am and there is no one

 

 

[Page 72]  else besides me.”  Furthermore, they were convinced that they had successfully hidden their “wickedness; you have said, ‘No one sees me.’ ”  In this case the “feedback” for their self-delusion was to be personal disaster (47:11).

            Paul does not deny that people can be very smart in regard to book learning, reasoning, and philosophy; neither does Isaiah.  What is the concern of both is how what should be a positive good can actually work against the individual who possesses it.  In Isaiah 5:21 such “wise” people are rebuked because they had reversed God’s moral laws and given approval to what was really blatant transgression (5:20).  Such people are so “smart” that nothing will ever convince them to change their minds (Proverbs 26:12).

 

 

            8:3:  God knows our love for Him.  Perhaps it comes from the various warnings in both testaments that there are no secrets from God, that we tend to think only in terms that we can’t hide our sin from Him.  This text stresses that, in a similar vein, we can’t hide our virtues either, “If anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (“Even so if you love God, you are accepted by Him, ATP.”)

            In the common translation of Numbers 16:5 there is no direct correlation with this language in the warning to Korah and his supporters, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him.  That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to him.”  The readers of the Septuagint would quickly see the relevance of the text, however, for it is rendered, “The Lord knows those whom are His.”[12]

            Nahum gave words of comfort to those who feared they might be destroyed by Yahweh’s vengeance upon the rebellious (1:8).  “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble;” and then he immediately adds, “and He knows those who trust in Him” (1:7).  There is never the need to fear that He will confuse the two categories.

            To be “known” by God becomes a sign of acceptance, approval, and friendship.  In the case of Moses, Yahweh is quoted as making such a link in these words, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17).

            The Psalmist could speak with confidence that he also enjoyed such a relationship of “knowing” acceptable with the Divine, “You have searched me and known me” (Psalms 139:1).

 

 

            8:4:  An “idol is [really] nothing in the world” (“none of them has any real existence,” ATP) since there is only one true God.  In Deuteronomy 6:4 the Torah lays down the fundamental principle of monotheism, “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Not one of many nor manifested in many different forms—but one.

In  a piece of (gentle?) mockery, Yahweh is quoted in Isaiah 41:21-24 as challenging the idols and gods of the people and comes to the same conclusion Paul does,

 

                        “Present your case,” says the Lord.  “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.  “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let     them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and       know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come.  Show the things that

 

 

[Page 73] 

            are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do            evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.   Indeed, you are nothing, and      your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination.”  

 

            The Psalmist develops the argument at greater length and comes to the conclusion that those who worship idols are just as empty and useless as the idols they serve,

 

                        But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.  Their idols are           silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.  They have mouths, but they do not          speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear;      noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle;             feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat.           Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them (Psalms    115:3-8).

 

            The same conclusion is implied in those various texts that stress the demand for strict monotheism and which insist that there is only one true God, for example, Deuteronomy 4:39; 32:39; Isaiah 37:16, 20; 44:6, 8; 45:5; Jeremiah 10:10.

 

 

            8:5:  The pervasiveness of idolatry.  Paul alludes to this reality by referring to how there were “many” “so-called gods” and “lords” in his world.  We are so far removed from that society that we easily forget that idolatry was everywhere, it was prevalent, it was pervasive and there was no living out of its sight--at least in Gentile cities. 

            During those periods when idolatry was popular in Israel itself, idolatry was similarly present in every cranny and obscure place in the kingdom.  Jeremiah touches on this when he writes, “For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal” (11:13). 

            Idols could be made of anything and everything, according to the wealth that the purchaser had to spend upon it.  Of Babylon it was said, in language applicable to every other city in the polytheistic world, “They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5:4).   

           

 

            8:7:  Things sacrificed to idols.  Formal worship involved such activities as bowing down before the image to show respect, reverence, and honor--and implicitly acknowledge the power of either of the image or the god it represented (Numbers 25:2).  Such veneration also involved sacrifice, which is the element Paul is immediately concerned with.  These sacrifices could come in the shape of various forms of drink offerings (Isaiah 57:6; 65:11) and of burnt offerings (1 Kings 18:25-26), some of which were for the specific purpose of securing “peace,” presumably with the deity (Exodus 32:6).  In some cults, even children were offered as sacrifice (Isaiah 57:5)

            Idolatry involved not just what was done as formal worship but the activities

 

 

[Page 74]  associated with it as well.  A meal of good food and drink might be associated with the worship fete (Numbers 25:2; Judges 9:27; Amos 2:8) an well as sexual activity with other worshippers (Numbers 25:1; cf. the ominous “rose up to play” of the idolatry in Exodus 32:6)  Except for the sexual indulgence, we find an eerie parallel in the practice of the Corinthians of turning the Lord’s Supper into an overindulgent feast (1 Corinthians 11:21, 27).

 

 

            8:11:  Becoming a stumblingblock that causes others to do what they are convinced is sin.  This was prohibited, in a literal sense, in the forbidding of one getting a laugh by putting “a stumbling block before the blind” so that they might fall (Leviticus 19:14).  It was also used in the figurative sense of either encouraging a person to do wrong or doing something that would strongly encourage that person to violate the norms of Torah conduct.  Hence idolatry (Isaiah 57:13) was a “stumbling block” that needed to be taken out “of the way of My people” (57:14).

            In extreme cases, individuals did and thought things that they knew were going to cause them to violate the demands Yahweh had imposed upon His people.  Again, of idolatry we read of the person “who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity” (Ezekiel 14:4; cf. the similar remark in verse 3).  They had become internally attracted to idols (“in his heart”) and then had erected actual ones.  To avoid practicing idolatry when compromise was already internalized was an impossibility.

            The individual who actually carried out the idolatrous rites is also described in terms of causing others to “fall” (= stumble) into idolatry (Ezekiel 44:12).  Their example encouraged and endorsed the behavior.  Those who respected them would naturally be inclined to walk in a similar manner. 

            The concept (though not the term) of being a stumblingblock is found in the story of Abraham passing off his wife (a half-sister) as if they were not married (Genesis 20:1-18).  The result was that Abimlech had taken Sarah to his court to be a wife or concubine of his.  The deceived king protested to Yahweh that he had not intended to do harm to anyone (20:13). 

            In his effort to protect his own life (20:11), Abraham had put the monarch in a position of committing adultery.  Abimelech rebuked the patriarch by demanding, “What have you done to us?  How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?  You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done” (20:9).  Abraham had become a stumbling block to a ruler who was attempting to do the right thing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Allusions to the

                                    Old Testament:  None

 

[Page 75] 

 

 

 

Problem Texts

 

 

           

 

 

            8:1:  Under what circumstances would Christians be likely to eat “things offered to idols”?  The Jerusalem Council of c. 50 A.D. had laid down a few core guidelines for the behavior of Gentile converts.  The first mention of the short list of demands is found in the oral discussions at the meeting and it involved “to abstain from things polluted by idols” (Acts 15:24), a demand that is made more specific in the written epistle by the words to “abstain from things offered to idols” (15:29).  Years later it was described in Jerusalem as a demand to “keep themselves from things offered to idols” (21:25).[13]

            Did this mean avoiding sacrificing to idols (a narrow reading of the meaning and making it equivalent to “not practicing idolatry”)[14] or did it mean avoiding anything that at some point had been offered to idols?[15]  In the later camp is Pheme Perkins who argues that it is “difficult to see how . . . the conflict over eating idol meat in 1 Corinthians 8 could have arisen”[16] if that standard were already known and recognized. 

Another maximalist reading insists, “They had to refrain from feasts in honor of the gods and from foods sacrificed to idols in the course of being butchered and sold, although the devotion of animals to one god or another was common practice in the Hellenistic world.”[17]  (Wouldn’t that be tantamount to “pack your bags and move to Israel”?—an utterly unrealistic approach in the “real world” of the first century?)  But that wasn’t exactly what the letter said, however; it is significantly more ambiguous than that (hostile?) interpretation.    

At some point the ambiguity would have to be clarified and doing this came to the fore in the correspondence with Corinth.  Paul opts for a rather “narrow” reading of the Jerusalem Decree—yes to meats offered to idols but no to meats where you know that is the case and when it involves eating them in a pagan temple.    

The practicality of his remarks for life in a polytheist community makes it probable that those involved in the original decision would have acted more or less similarly if called upon to render their own judgment on the issues.  They might not have liked to do so, but they would have known full well that most people did not live in a society like theirs where monotheists were the majority.

Although the opinion is not exactly unknown that Paul’s advice blatantly flies in the face of the earlier Jerusalem consensus, if that were the case one would anticipate some type of justification of the deviation by the apostle.  After all, it is hard to imagine the edict not being known to at least some of the locals; internal church foes would surely have grasped at it as a tool to use against him, just as their compatriots today would. 

Not surprisingly, some flip the entire argument over and contend that since Paul

 

 

[Page 76]  presents the matter as if a new issue among believers, the Jerusalem Decree must be regarded as unhistorical in nature.  There is a profound difference, however, between being “new to Corinth” and being “new” period.  Today various “new” religious controversies arise but it is not uncommon to discover they are variants of older ideas, generally abandoned, that have been rediscovered by a new generation.  They may be “new” to a specific time and location but nothing more. 

An older explanation for the possible tension between the two sets of teachings is that, “[it] was merely a temporary decree, intended for the converted Gentiles of ‘Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia,’ as the title of the decree expresses it; and if this decree was, for some time after, observed in distant Churches, it was done, not as a matter of strict necessity, but from a feeling of reverence for the Apostles; just as the Mosaic rites were observed for some time by the converted Jews. . . .”[18]

This is not without technical merit--the three named areas are geographically rather close to Palestine; whatever the Jerusalem church’s feeling on former pagans’ practices in general, this proximity would have made these particular places the ones of highest concern to them.  On the other hand, one would anticipate that, having set the precedent for Gentile converts in one area, that this standard would remain in force in all other places as well.  Furthermore, between the Jerusalem Council and First Corinthians lies only about eight years.  Would we really expect any dramatic change in that rather narrow time frame that would encourage a major shift in policy and practice?  .     

Hence one would appear to be on far stronger ground to argue that Paul had come face to face with the need to resolve how narrowly or broadly the preexisting apostolic consensus was to be applied.  He wasn’t out to create anything new nor to reject established policy; he intended to clarify the guidelines that had already been established.   

            In addition to the specific type of case here in mind--of being within a temple (see the discussion on 8:10 below)--there were many additional situations in which Christians would encounter such food.  Indeed, one would only exaggerate mildly by saying that the presence of idol-dedicated food was “pervasive.”  It was the norm to find such food served in such (to us) unexpected places as athletic competitions, gymnasiums, and theaters.[19]

Much or most of the meat to be purchased in the market[20] had been, at least tokenly, sacrificed to idols (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:25-26):  a small part of it being offered and the remainder being moved on for public sale.  The offering might be performed either at a temple or by the slaughterers themselves at their work location.[21] 

Some of the best meat was usually raised by businesses operated as arms of one or another polytheistic sect.[22]  The Corinthians (as a culture) had a reputation of wanting the best available merchandise and since the highest quality meat was normally that raised in connection with religious organizations, the seeker of the “best” would be attracted to “god” devoted stock.[23]  For such people, in “real world” terms, there were few or no alternatives.  

Furthermore much meat that was theoretically designated entirely for deity sacrifice landed up for public sale.  Even though it was raised or purchased with that specific purpose in mind, actual sacrifice ritual, however, typically utilized only part of the animal.  The remainder was sometimes eaten by either the priests of the cult or those participating in the worship.[24]  When this was not the case (and it often was not), the priests felt free to sell the remainder to the butchers.[25] 

 

 

[Page 77]         Many sacrifices were government sponsored, to show respect for the pagan deities and to invoke their good-will and protection.  In those cases what was left over was also offered for sale in the market.[26]  It is often overlooked that the many civic sponsored sacrifices of that age represented, cumulatively, a very great expense.  If the sponsors could gain back part of the cost it was naturally considered a positive good and not something to be embarrassed by.  

            The second situation where it was common to eat foods offered to idols was when in the home of an unbeliever for dinner.[27]  This is discussed in 1 Corinthians 10:27-31, where the point shifts from weakening the faith of a fellow believer to creating a needless obstacle to faith in the heart of the unbeliever.  Many such occasions might be avoidable, through the discrete use of appropriate excuses and apologies. 

            On the other hand, family ties remained and one’s presence would be expected--demanded--upon appropriate occasions of family importance.[28]  What excuse would possibly be acceptable for missing a family wedding?[29]  Or, for that matter, how many times could one postpone accepting a friend’s invitation without leaving them feeling insulted and rejected?[30]  Hence the issue inevitably developed heavy emotional overtones for many, as it brought them into conflict with loved ones and respected friends.[31]

            Furthermore there was the matter of one’s own sociable instincts:  there was a tradition in Roman culture (doubtless widespread) that the only truly enjoyable meal was one shared with others.  Plutarch put it this way, “The Romans . . . are fond of quoting a witty and sociable person who said, after a solitary meal, ‘I have eaten, but not dined today,’ implying that a dinner always requires friendly sociability for seasoning.”[32] 

            The host’s food may have been bought at the meat market, with the resulting probability of it being god-dedicated, as we have discussed.  Alternatively, it may have been so dedicated by the family itself.  When a private individual brought his or her sacrifice to the temple, it was quite proper procedure to offer a small amount of it to the deity, give a larger part to the priests, and take the bulk of the animal home for the eating pleasure of either the family or of the family and invited guests.[33]     

            Kin to private social gatherings in individual homes, were group social meetings (such as guild or guild equivalents) which often took place in buildings associated with pagan temples, where one had not only the problem of what was eaten, but also where it was eaten.  (See our discussion on this practice later in this chapter.)  Even if not taking place in a temple context, voluntary associations dedicated to just about any and every purpose were an extremely common phenomena of the time.[34]  These usually crossed “class” lines and had a rich patron at its head.[35]  There was something available to almost everyone.  And since polytheism was the established and “orthodox” theology of the era, the use of idol dedicated meat would be common due to its availability even when no special effort was made to obtain it in particular.  

            Yet another situation in which such meats would be commonly found were civic festivals, at which free food was provided.[36]  Since such fetes were typically in at least token honor of some deity--no matter how much the city leadership was more interested in encouraging civic loyalty and local patriotism--the pagan element always rested in the background even when it was not in the forefront.  

            New converts tend to think in starker black/white terms than those who are more spiritually developed.  (Not that the lines vanish but that one discovers that on some matters there will always be an ambiguity.)  Hence Gentile converts would feel the need

 

 

[Page 78]  to re-evaluate their entire relationship to their culture and, in the enthusiasm of the novice, be tempted to demand of oneself and others greater abstinence from the society than was required. 

            Because of the clean/unclean distinction among Jews, some have suggested that meats would have been a special concern of Jewish converts in Corinth.[37]  Although initially this sounds compelling, this is actually unlikely.  The Jewish concern was primarily (to use modern terms) between kosher and non-kosher.  That would have been worked out in their minds prior to their conversion.  Here the issue is different:   The animal might already be a ceremonially “clean” animal, but the question would remain of whether it stayed such after being offered to an image of worship.  Ethnic Jews, due to their traditional monotheism, would already have come to their own conclusions on the subject; Gentiles, due to their polytheistic background would be ones struggling with the issue.

To further complicate the situation, the proportion of food available in the public market that had not been consecrated to any deity may well have been larger than is often assumed; the relative proportion is uncertain though it seems that at least limited amounts of the non-consecrated foods commonly existed.[38]  In some Empire communities, it is known that a supply of non-hallowed meat was consciously arranged by the authorities for the benefit of the monotheist Jews and this might well have been the case in such a large city as Corinth.[39]  How much, how often available, and whether there was a significant price difference are matters that would obviously affect usage and popularity.

Furthermore, one should not forget the possibility that there would be at least some Jewish meat merchants (at least in communities with significant Jewish populations) and the inherent probability would be that they would much prefer handling non-consecrated meats for sale to their compatriots.[40] Corinth, being a huge city for its day, could be expected to have such individuals as well.[41]  Of course, if that shopkeeper were in partnership with a polytheist, even then one might not be absolutely certain.

For that matter, even for pagans the consecration was basically a form rather than a religious essential.  Unless their religious zeal was uncommonly deep, most would have had no particular reason to care one way or another.  Indeed, it appears that the very popular and widespread “cookshops” from which the bulk of the population could purchase a meal, routinely utilized not only lower quality meats but, along with that, unconsecrated ones as well.[42]  Other meat meals for the poorer classes--howbeit typically inferior in quality and modest in amount in any one serving—were found in food purchased in wine shops (abundant everywhere), from street vendors, and at public baths.[43]  The emphasis was on eatability and price, not its religious pedigree.

            It is often assumed that the bulk of meat was at least tokenly offered to idols before being sold because the temples and markets were so extremely close to each other.  C. K. Barrett argues that this is at least as often a matter of city design as of religious involvement:  such widely used public facilities were “almost inevitably grouped together in the middle of the city.”[44] 

Think in terms of the classical “business district” in twentieth century America prior to the suburbanization of society after World War Two:  the most important civic, cultural, political, and religious facilities were erected in at least relative proximity to each other.  Similarly, convenience of access and ease of locating would have encouraged such centralization of key facilities in the first century as well.       

 

 

[Page 79]          Furthermore entire carcasses of animals have been found in the ruins of some markets in other Roman cities, leading us to assume that at least some percentage of meat was sold unslaughtered.[45]  This makes inherent sense.  Buying a live animal assured its availability on a feast day as well as the freshness of the meat, which was extremely difficult to assure in that era without modern refrigeration.

            By the time the Talmud was compiled, there had developed a clear cut and general Jewish hostility to eating any meat that had been sacrificed to any polytheistic deity.[46]   One wonders how realistic this was in places such as Corinth and whether it was not more often ignored than observed.  Paul’s “don’t ask” policy was rooted in the social and practical realities of a monotheistic group living in communities where their beliefs were that of a minority.  The absolutist prohibition view did not share this realism and theories that are not viewed as realistic generally get abandoned by even the most “faithful,” howbeit sometimes more with silence and discretion rather than open rejection.

            Oddly enough, the Talmudic view accepted the propriety of selling meat to those who were going to offer it to their idols.  On the other hand, a Jewish merchant was forbidden to purchase what was left over for resale to the general community.[47]  The adherents of the Qumran community theology were more stringent, insisting that, “No man shall sell clean beasts or birds to the Gentiles lest they offer them in sacrifice.  He shall refuse, with all his power, to sell them anything from his granary or wine-press.”[48]

This guaranteed that the resources would not be diverted, even partially, to polytheistic religious use; it also guaranteed that those who followed the absolutist no-sale rule would be looked upon as extremists scorning even the normal minimal economic inter-dealing that one would expect in any community.  This also appears to be a policy far more adapted to a primarily monotheistic area than one where polytheists are in the vast majority. 

            Although not directly related to our subject, it would be useful to remember that individuals in the ancient world did not eat meat anywhere near as much as in modern Europe and, even more so, the United States.  Meat was the exception, the rarity, the special occasion.[49]  This was so even for soldiers in the Roman army.[50] 

            This was not a matter of aesthetics or theoretical bias against meat products.  It took many months (or longer) to raise an animal to maturity and during that same period,  the same space and effort could have raised enough grain to keep the stomachs of a larger  number of people full and for a longer time.  Hence the price of meat was far higher in proportion to other nutritional sources. 

In light of this, it is not surprising that food products came predominantly from other sources.  “As appears from literary and archeological sources, fish, bread, vegetables, cakes and fruit were the regular diet.”[51]  It is known that at Athens the most common food was fish and since Corinth was only miles from not one but two ports, it would be startling if fish did not provide the major food source in the diet of that city as well.[52] 

The most common types of meat were goat, pork, and lamb.[53]  Sometimes these were transformed into “sausage” style for the purchasers.[54]  In rural areas wild game was, of course, available, but practicality (distance and transportation, for example) ruled out it being extensively used in heavily urbanized areas.[55] 

Furthermore even when it was available, preserving meat for any length of time

 

 

[Page 80]  presented a major impediment to its large scale regular use.[56]  The underlying basic food for the population was bread, to the extent that “to break bread” became synonymous with partake of a meal.[57]  If one’s finances were ample, a major city could provide a variety of breads for one’s eating pleasure.[58]  Indeed, sometimes it was even served as a desert delicacy.[59]     

            Those most likely to have occasion to buy meat or to be invited to private social festivities where meat would be on the menu, were the well-to-do.[60]  Hence there was not only the issue of eating idol-sacrificed meats and eating the meat in social activities in idol temples, but also the tension between the lifestyle of the more prosperous (where meat would be periodically or regularly on the menu) and the poorer individuals (for whom meat would be a rarity).[61]  Furthermore, if one aspired to be fully accepted in such “higher” circles—which, primarily, meant that one already economically “belonged” in them—one would feel a not-so-subtle sense of obligation to attend regardless of one’s private preferences.[62]  To this would be added one’s perceived personal, social or political obligations to one’s equals or superiors.[63]  Most such private gatherings had at least a token religious ritual inserted somewhere during the gathering.[64] 

One can reasonably assume, however, that if the attendee had the respect of the one holding the get-together, that such would either be minimized, eliminated, or done in such a manner that one’s monotheistic guest would feel the least discomfort.  Polytheists were idolaters; that did not mean that they (any more than a monotheist) would normally go out of the way to be blatantly discourteous.

             

           

8:10:  Why and under what circumstances would a Christian be “eating in an idol’s temple”?  Being in an idol’s temple seems strange itself since the Corinthians are not accused of lapsing into polytheism, but eating a meal in one adds even further to the oddity of the situation.  From the modern standpoint.  Perhaps the best way to “translate” the situation into a rough modern equivalent is by pointing to the church “fellowship” and recreational facilities that most modern congregations have if their finances in any way permit.  These are commonly loaned out to socially beneficial local organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, the Red Cross, and such like.  Likewise, many places permit their members to utilize the facilities for reasons not pertaining directly to the church’s work—perhaps the most common example being for wedding receptions.

            In a similar vein most ancient temples had more modest eating rooms attached to the facility--smaller in size and holding fewer people than their modern parallel, but this still permitted several different groups to simultaneously utilize the facilities.[65]  The Asclepius temple in Corinth contained three such rooms for banquets,[66] with space for eleven participants in each of them.[67]  Whether this particular cult continued to use them during the time of Paul’s ministry is uncertain.[68]  Paul’s reference to the existence of cultic dining in Corinth certainly provides clear evidence that, if not, that others did use similar facilities and that the custom remained common in his day.[69]  Indeed, the absence of it would have been more surprising than its presence. 

Since the cult (as did others in the city) routinely offered/dedicated its meat to its god, it would have almost certainly been regarded as extremely odd and eccentric for food to have been utilized in its facilities other than that obtained through the sect itself.[70]  It was, after all, the “god’s dining room” and anything else would surely have been

 

 

[Page 81]  regarded as dubious and, possibly, downright insulting to the deity whose facility one was utilizing.      

The worship complex of the goddess Demeter[71] and Kore have also been found to have such facilities.[72]  Altogether, the combined sanctuary for these two deities had over forty such feasting rooms,[73] each of which could hold a small group of nine or ten people.[74]  These also had been destroyed before the time of Paul.[75]  Since cooking ware of the Roman period has survived,[76] this argues that open air and dining under temporary tent facilities had been substituted at these sites.[77]

            One of the ancient papyri found in Egypt actually preserves an invitation to such a meal, “Chairemon invites you to a meal at the table of the lord Serapis in the Serapeum, tomorrow the fifteenth from nine o’clock onwards.”[78]  In this and other cases, the normal course would have been for a part of an animal to be offered to the god and the remainder to be given to the dinner guests.[79]  (On the high likelihood of the purchase of the animal from the sect itself, see above.) 

Sometimes the meal was formally held in the deity’s honor; in other cases the god was believed to be an invisible spectator and, in some sense, a participant.[80]  It is highly questionable how seriously the more cynical took the latter theory.  If a fully ritual sacrifice were involved for the participants--rather than the meat merely being eaten after the animal had been “offered” earlier in the day--an elaborate procedure was required involving both the sanctifying of the animal for sacrifice, its slaughter, an offering of a token section to the god, and the preparation of the remainder for the partakers.[81]

            How seriously even pagans took the usually token “religious” aspects of such meetings seems to have varied widely, with the general inclination being toward cynicism and tokenism.  In other words, such religio-social activities were appropriate, socially acceptable, even socially expected, and one went through the rote forms with little or no meaning.

            In a case such as described earlier—when the unbeliever consciously and pointedly turns to you and tells you that the food being served was offered to idols—that religious element is clearly being put front and center and the Christian is forced to deal with it rather than quietly ignore it. 

            Far more serious than the religious element in such meetings was that of alcoholic and sexual excess that often accompanied such gatherings.   The second century A.D. Greek philosopher Athenaeus tells the story of such a gathering where the god-host becomes so outraged at the excesses that he abandons both the place and the entire city.[82]  This overindulgence was so common that he wrote of how, “The men of today pretend to sacrifice to the gods and call together their friends and intimates, curse their children, quarrel with their wives, and drive their slaves to tears and threaten the crowd.”[83]

            Socially prominent cult members might invite friends for dinner at such temple complexes.  In their role as civic leaders, the temples provided a convenient meeting place where one could call similarly minded citizens to discuss affairs of state while enjoying a good meal at the same time.[84]  If a person were well-to-do and active in the affairs of the community, it would be extraordinarily hard to fully participate without attending meetings at such a shrine.[85]

            Granting the assumption that Romans was written from Corinth we can even provide the name of one such individual:  Erastus, the treasurer of the city” (Romans 16:23).  The position argues wealth and/or social standing—and those two were almost

 

 

[Page 82]  irrevocably linked in that age.  This may be the same Erastus referred to in the famous inscription found at the Corinthian theater, “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.”[86]  (This was a normal quid quo pro relationship in that era:  large expenditures in return for the social recognition bestowed by appointment to an important position.)  The fact that Paul mentions him by community title argues, and in approving terms, that there was a way for an individual to honorably deal with the complexities of office holding in a pagan society that followed rival gods other than one’s own.  

Community groups would also utilize these facilities.  Guilds would hold activities there, for example.[87]  The god whose temple was used was typically the polytheistic equivalent of the “patron saint” of the organization.[88]

            The ability to participate fully (if at all) in whatever type of business guild members practiced, hinged upon continued acceptance by the organization.  At the minimum, expulsion would put a person in a competitive disadvantageous position compared to the collective power of the group.  Hence it would be virtually impossible to avoid all such temple meetings, especially if one held a leadership position.

            Furthermore, there were what we today would call “prestige events” that the socially significant were assumed to want to attend. Peter D. Gooch reminds us that in that culture “[m]eals and food are markers of social status.  In Greco-Roman society, you were what you are, and—more important—you were whom you ate with.  Elaborate feasts and rare, expensive food were the signs par excellence of wealth.”[89]  Lest we mock the phenomena, our own world is not without such events sponsored by individuals or organizations.  To give an extreme, few would miss a Presidential banquet today if they could manage to attend—even if they voted for the opposing candidate.  The banquet is social prestige incarnate.     

One particular event was certain to occur on a pre-scheduled basis:  the Isthmian Games.  At that time a series of banquets would be held.  The elected “President” of the Games was legally obligated to fulfill his promises made when standing for office.  And one of the surest ways to gain support was by offering ever more elaborate and generous feasts.  Originally celebrated in Corinth itself, by 51 A.D. (possibly a little later), these had been transferred to Isthmia at the Poseidon temple buildings, which was part of the broader multiplex area at which the contests took place.  All with Roman citizenship were eligible to participate.[90]  These feasts were officially held in honor of the god and were popularly regarded as religiously associated (rather than “secular”) feasts.[91]

            Hired female “escorts” were not uncommon at temple dinners for the upper class.  This carried with it the opportunity for highly-charged sexual overtones as well as outright sexual activity of one sort or another.[92]  Hired female musicians—such as harpists and flutists—often provided double duty as both aesthetic and sexual entertainment.[93]  Factor in the probability that sacred prostitution continued to exist in one or more of the contemporary cults (though unlikely on the scale of the thousand cult-prostitutes of Aphrodite in pre-Roman days) and excess could even be given a overt religious sanctity.[94]  Although such factors should not be over-emphasized, neither should they be over-looked.  Much would depend upon the known intent (and past conduct) of those holding the activities.

           

           

[Page 83] 

 

Notes

 

 



[1] Richard Liong-Seng Phua, Idolatry and Authority:  A Study of 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1 in the Light of the Jewish Diaspora (London:  T&T Clark International, 2005), page 116.

 

[2] Ciampa Rosner, 717, argue that Deuteronomy 6:4 and other idol-rejecting texts are being interpreted as meaning that since idol gods represent nothing truly real then there can be no harm in these various acts concerning food offered to idols or a presence in their temples.  They contend that rather than challenge this creative distortion, Paul shifts the theme to how actions must have a love basis rather than just a theoretical-theological basis. 

 

[3] For examples, see the citations in Lanci, 70.  

 

[4]Ceslaus Spicq, Agape in the New Testament; volume 2, Agape in the Epistles of St. Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of St. James, St. Peter, and St. Jude, translated by Marie A. McNamara and Mary H. Richter (St. Louis:  B. Herder Book Company, 1965), 133-134 develops this concept of Gnostics from the current text and suggests that the Pharisees’ “traditions” represented one first century manifestation of it.   

 

[5] Schreiner, 323.

 

[6] Sanders, E. P.  Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People.  [N.p.]:  Fortress Press, 1983, 110.

 

[7] Flanagan, 74.   

 

[8] Roy B. Zuck, “The Doctrine of the Conscience,” in Vital Theological Issues:  Examining Enduring Issues of Theology, edited by Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Kregel Resources, 1994), 68.

 

[9] Ibid., 69.

 

[10] Joel Delobel, “Coherence and Relevance of 1 Corinthians 8-10,” in The Corinthian Correspondence, edited by R. Bieringer (Leuven, Belgium:  Leuven University Press, 1996), 189.

 

[11] Ibid., 189-190.

 

[12] As quoted by Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 340.

 

[13] For a collection of post New Testament strictures about eating idol food, see the quotations collected in Peter D. Gooch, Dangerous Food:  1 Corinthians 8-10 in Its

 

 

[Page 84]  Context, in the series Studies in Christianity and Judaism (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada:  Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1993), 122-125.   

 

[14] Tenney, page 263.

 

[15] Those who take this as the intent of the apostolic decree include Schlatter, 179.  

 

[16] Pheme Perkins, Peter:  Apostle for the Whole Church ([N.p.:]  University of South Carolina Press, 2000), 118.  He raises the matter in a context of whether the Peter-Paul meeting discussed in Galatians 2 is synonymous with the Jerusalem Council or was an earlier event.

 

[17] Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul:  An Intellectual Biography ([N.p.:]  Image, 2005), 169.

 

[18] MacEvilly, 218.    

 

[19] Peder Borgen, “ ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ ‘How Far?:’  The Participation of Jews and Christians in Pagan Cults,” in Paul in His Hellenistic Context, edited by Troels Engberg-Pedersen (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 1995), 41-42.  

 

[20] Freed, 271; Gundry, 266; Hunter, 107; Lyons, 1007; Perrin, 103; Ernest F. Scott, 136.

            A Corinthian meat market has been excavated on the road between Corinth and Lechaeum.  (Actually both meat as well as broader categories of food were sold at such places.)  Some have speculated that this might have been the one Paul had in mind when he wrote the Corinthians.  For a discussion of the excavation and its possible significance, see Mare, 252-253.   

 

[21] Cf. Spivey and Smith, 319; Parry, xlviii.        

 

[22] Goodspeed, 44.

 

[23] Ibid.

 

[24] Connick, 277. 

 

[25] Bratcher, Guide, 73; Kugelman, 266; Parry, xliii; Thrall, 61.  

 

[26] Raymond Bryan Brown, 336; Connick, 278; MacGorman, 125.  For a discussion of the location of the market, see Newton, 89-91.   

 

[27] On the presence of women at private meals with friends and associates, see Dennis E. Smith, Social Obligation in the Context of Communal Meals:  A Study of the Christian Meal in 1 Corinthians in Comparison with Graeco-Roman Communal Meals (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1980), 33-35.  On how one’s perceived status affected where one was seated at such a gathering, see 35-38.        

 

[Page 85] 

 

[28] Kugelman, 266. 

 

[29] Raymond Bryan Brown, 336.       

 

[30] Glen, 108. 

 

[31] Doohan, Leadership, 94.   

 

[32] As quoted by Dennis E. Smith, 3.        

 

[33] Talbert, 56.  The fact that the priests would get their share is often overlooked and only the token offering and the bulk being taken home are mentioned.  For example, Bratcher, Guide, 73, and Raymond Bryan Brown, 336.        

 

[34] Chester, Conversion, 2003, 227.

 

[35] Ibid., 229.

 

[36] Freed, 271. 

 

[37] Cf. Getty, 1101, who also sees Jewish concerns as likely involved in chapter 11’s discussion of proper attire in the church assembly.  

 

[38] Alex T. Cheung, Idol Food in Corinth:  Jewish Background and Pauline Legacy, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement 176 (Sheffield, England:  Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 154-155, and, especially, the discussion in n. 230, 154-155 for direct evidence.   

 

[39] Winter, Corinth, 6-7.   

 

[40] Gundry, 266, and Tomson, Jewish Law, 190.        

 

[41] Wilfred L. Knox, n. 31, pp. 326.         

 

[42] See the discussion in Cheung, n. 231, 155.  For a very interesting detailed description of such establishments see Meggitt, 109-111.  

 

[43] Meggitt, 111.  

 

[44] C. K. Barrett, Essays on Paul (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1982), 47-48.     

 

[45] Ibid., 48, giving the example of Pompeii in particular.     

 

[46] Tractate Chullin 2.18, as quoted by Orr and Walther, 228.  For a wider ranging discussion of Jewish attitudes on the subject, see Newton, 183-185.   

 

[Page 86]    

 

[47] Rabbi Aqiba, as quoted by Orr and Walther, 228.  Cf. Tractate Chullin 2.20 on an aspect of the subject, as quoted by Orr and Walther, 228.     

 

[48] Damascus Covenant (4Qd) 12:9-11, as quoted by Cheung, 56.   

 

[49] Blazen, 71.  

 

[50] Blazen, 71.

 

[51] Tomson, Jewish Law, 189.        

 

[52] Barrett, Essays, 48.     

 

[53] Dennis E. Smith, 12. 

 

[54] Ibid., 12.        

 

[55] Cf. Ibid.        

 

[56] Tomlin, Jewish Law, 189, and Fritz Chenderlin, “Do This as My Memorial” (Rome:  Biblical Institute Press, 1982), 201.          

 

[57] Chenderlin, 201.   

 

[58] Athens enjoyed special fame for this (Dennis E. Smith, 12)        

 

[59] Of Athens in particular, Dennis E. Smith, n. 27, p. 12.        

 

[60] On ancient Jewish discussions as to whether it was right to eat with Gentiles—even if strictly ceremonially “clean” foods were offered—see the discussion in Borgen, 42-47.  

 

[61] For an analysis of eating habits of the era and how it varied according to economic class, see the interesting discussion of Gerd Theissen, Social Setting, 125-128.  On this theme of meat eating as a reflection of economic class also see Witherington, Conflict, 189-190.      

 

[62] Chow, 145-146.    

 

[63] For a detailed discussion of such factors, see Newton, 243-251.   

 

[64] For a major discussion of the religious component in private meals with guests, see Ibid., 251-255; 298-305; and 342-347.  For an emphasis on the possibility that such would not always occur, see Cheung, 33-34.   

 

[Page 87] 

 

[65] For a lengthy discussion of Corinthian polytheistic religions with dining facilities as part of their cult center or recognized appendices, see Cheung, 28-32, and Newton, 91-110, and 231-242.  

 

[66] Schnelle, 59.  For a diagram of the dining rooms, see Murphy-O’Connor, Corinth, 166.        

 

[67] Joop F. M. Smit, “About the Idol Offerings:”  Rhetoric, Social Context and Theology of Paul’s Discourse in First Corinthians 8:1-11:1, in the Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology series (Leuven:  Peeters, 2000), 51.     

 

[68] Ibid., 51.     

 

[69] Hence the archaeological evidence that only provides one example of a Hellenistic temple in Corinth retaining its dining facility in the Roman era should not be used to dismiss the commonness of the phenomena--as Chester, 307 argues—since the literary evidence (from Paul) implies that such situations were easily imaginable.

 

[70] Fotopoulos, 67-68.   

 

[71] Mare, 248.     

 

[72] Witherington, Conflict, 16-17. 

 

[73] Gooch, 3, and Smit, 51.  For diagrams of this and other Corinthian temples and their eating chambers, see Gooch, viii-xvi.   

 

[74] Gooch, 3.   

 

[75] Smit, 51.     

 

[76] Gooch, 3.   

 

[77] Ibid., and Smit, 51.  

 

[78] Oxrhynchus Papyrus CX, as quoted by in Raymond Bryan Brown, 336; Bruce, Corinthians, 81, and Mare, 251.

 

[79] MacGorman, 125. 

 

[80] Parry, xlii; Witherington, Conflict, 222.          

 

[81] For a good, detailed though concise description, see Smit, 71.     

 

[82] Deipnosophists 420c, as cited by Murphy-O’Connor, Keys, 118.

 

[Page 88] 

 

[83] Deipnosophists 363f-364b, as quoted by Ibid., 118.

 

[84] On the civic aspects of meals held there, see Luke T. Johnson, Writings, 281.  On the inevitable tie-in between being able to afford a banquet and being economically advantaged, see Witherington, Conflict, 28. 

 

[85] Luke T. Johnson, Writings, 281. 

 

[86] As quoted by Murphy-O’Connor, Keys, 119.

 

[87] Pregeant, 361.  For a discussion of trade guilds’ social gatherings see Witherington, Conflict, 243-244.  On the meals of Greek social clubs and other organizations, see Dennis E. Smith, 101-114.  On Roman ones (religious, burial societies, and guilds), see 115-136.  For how such groups evolved in the Roman period in areas further East, see 137-174.        

 

[88] Thrall, 61. 

 

[89] Gooch, 38.   

 

[90] Winter, Corinth, 93-94, 276-278.   

 

[91] Eugene LaVerdiere, The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church (Collegeville, Minnesota:  Liturgical Press, 1996), 35.  

 

[92] Witherington, Conflict, 13. 

 

[93] Fotopoulos, 171.   

 

[94] See Withington., n. 34, pp. 13-34, for a good discussion of the possibility that sacred prostitution continued to exist in the Roman period.