1 Corinthians Chapter 8:1-3, 9-13; 9:19-23; 10:23-24, 31-11:1 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, July 4, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1. BECNT: 1 Corinthians by David Garland

2. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig Keener

These notes dedicated to the memory of Mattie Lee Clement,  1921-2010.

Idol offerings were a standing problem for the early churches. (Acts 15:20, 29; Rev 2:14-17, 20)(Garland)

There are three issues addressed over chapters 8, 9, 10:

1.Eating food sacrificed to an idol in the idol’s temple. (8:7-13, 10:1-22)

2.Eating food from the market of unknown origin (10:23-27)

3.Eating food in the homes of unbelievers (10:28-31)(Garland)

Sacrifices were part of the social scene in Corinth. The imperial cult was strong in Corinth, the Isthamian games included sacrifices. Trade and religious clubs/guilds were common social gatherings among the like-minded or professionals, often based around patron deities. Also, because private home dining rooms only would hold about ten people and even the largest rooms in villas might accommodate thirty or forty people, large gatherings were routinely held in temple banquet halls, including weddings, election celebrations, funerals, and family gatherings. This created the problem for ancient Christians of how to separate these private parties with the idol temple they took place at. (Garland)

The traditional view of these chapters is that the Corinthians were split into the weak (we should not eat sacrificed meat) and the strong (we can eat sacrificed meat, because we know there is but one God). These two groups wanted Paul to referee between them. Paul supposedly agreed with the strong, but wished to protect the consciences of the weak. (10:24)

More likely, the Corinthians were engaged in a continuing argument with Paul to be allowed to eat sacrificed meat, because not eating the meat would severely damage the Corinthians’ business, political, and social participation with non-Christian majority of Corinth.

It also seems then that the argument was split by economic and educational status, for the only people who could afford to eat much meat at home would be the wealthy, who would also have more opportunities to go to public banquets.  These well-to-do Christians were the likely leaders of the church, not least because their status and education made them natural leaders and meant theirs were the homes where the church members met. Thus Paul can be seen here to be advising the church leaders here to consider the more numerous “weak” (poor, uneducated folk) in their actions.

Paul routinely denounced idol worship (1 Thess 1:9-10; Gal 4:8-9; 1 Cor 12:2), caused riots in Ephesus speaking against it (Acts 19:11-40), and said idolaters would not enter the kingdom of God(1 Cor 6:9). Paul, raised a devout Jews, would have no association with idols at all.

These three chapters likely represent the Corinthians’ attempt to cobble together bits of Paul’s teaching to allow themselves to eat sacrificed meat, and Paul’s multi-layered response continuing to forbid eating any sort of food that might be associated with idols. (Garland)

1 Cor 8:1-3
Paul likely opens this way because the Corinthians’ claimed that the knowledge that idols were not real allowed them the freedom to eat sacrificed meat. Paul disagrees with their conclusions, not the basic facts.(BBCNT)

1 Cor 8:1
About: Greek peri de, a phrase used to ID points raised in the letter the Corinthians sent to Paul, which our epistle here is a response to. (Garland)

food/things offered to idols: Greek eidolothuton. Probably a term coined from OT, as the usual Greek for sacrifices was heirothuton “things sacrificed to a deity”. (Garland)

Sacrifice was normal worship in the ancient world, and had common rites:

1.Kill animal

2.Ritual transferring animal from human to deity possession

3.Butcher animal and examine vital organs for signs of the deity’s acceptance of the sacrifice

4.Cooking and offering acceptable portions (vital organs) to the deity

5.Offering portion of animal to the sacrifice givers to eat in honor of the deity

6.Leftover sent to market for sale.(Garland)

Idol food could include fruit and vegetables as well as meat.

Paul is likely quoting the Corinthians with modifications here: Corinthians: we have knowledge, Paul: we all have knowledge.

“Knowledge” to the Corinthians refers to the knowledge that there is only one God and other gods don’t exist as such. “Knowledge” to Paul instead refers to gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul compares the two in knowledge that puffs up and love that builds up, similar to love and pride in gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 13:2. Knowledge from the Spirit is a gift given to all Christians, which aids and comforts the church and people in general. Knowledge that harms others or the church is not Christian knowledge. Paul here hints that the Corinthians sort of knowledge is the wrong sort of knowledge.(Garland)

1 Cor 8:2
That the Corinthians “think” (Greek dokein) they have knowledge in Paul hints they delude themselves (3:18, 10:12, 14:37; Col 6:3).

“As he ought to know” implies their knowledge is incomplete, giving a false impression of correctness (10:12) that allows them to neglect others’ needs (8:7-13)(Garland)

1Cor 8:3
Paul doesn’t specifically say the Corinthians’ problem is their lack of love for fellow Christians. Instad he says that those who love God are known by Him. That is, God has set them apart for His own (Ex 33:12,17; Jer 1:5; Amos 3:2). Being God’s chosen means the Corinthian church members cannot act the same as pagan Corinthians, psecifically that they cannot spend time in pagan temple to other gods. (Garland)

1 Cor 8:9
Ancient Jewish rabbis might believe themselves correct but still submit to a different majority opinion for the sake of peace. The rabbis considered that driving someone from God in some way was worse than killing them, because it removed the person driven away from life in the world to come. Ancient Greco-Roman philosophers felt “all things” belonged to them and thus they were free to do as they saw fit. Some like the Cynics went so far as to deliberately flout social convention. (BBCNT)

Right/liberty: Greek exousia “power or authority to do something”. This may be another Corinthian catchword or phrase. Paul uses it in a dismissive way. The prhasing doesn’t necessarily imply Paul agreed the Corinthians had the freedom to eat sacrificed food. It surely implies Paul’s dismissal of the “right” as a stumbling block (Greek proskomma, used of idolatry in Ex 23:33, 34:12-13) to others becoming or remaining part of the people of God. (Garland)

1 Cor 8:10-13
Paul advises against eating meat, because weak Christians might gather the wrong impression that Christianity allowed one to compromise with pagan beliefs, when that was not at all the actual case. (BBCNT)

1 Cor 8:10
Paul’s hypothetical situation has certain assumptions:

1.Particpation in idolatry is forbidden to Christians

2.A banquet on temple grounds is going to include sacrificed food, thus participation in idolatry.

3.Therefore participation in banquets on temple grounds is wrong.

Encouraged/emboldened is Greek oikodomethesetai “educated”. Paul is being ironic, suggesting the knwoledgeable Christian eating at a pagan temple will teach the weak/new Christian (mostly former pagans) that eating food of other gods is okay, leading the back to the very paganism they left, in some form of polytheism, with the Christian God just another in a host of gods to be honored.(Garland)

1 Cor 8:11
Ruined/perish is the Greek apollutai, which indicates ruin, destruction, and annihilation. Some people soften the meaning to “sin” or stunted Christian growth. But Paul always uses the verb apollusthai to refer to final destruction.(Garland)

Paul appeals to the knowledgeable to put others ahead of themselves, reminding them that Christ died for those others (and thus putting them ahead of His own rights as sovereign God). (Garland)

1 Cor 8:12
Wounding the weak’s conscience here is not just shocking him; the wounding shatters his moral compass and leads him back to idolatry. This is sin against Christ in two ways:

1. In His identification with his followers

2. In setting aside His salvific work.

1 Cor 8:13
Given the stated gravity of the sin that might come from eating sacrificed food, Paul says he thinks it better never to eat meat at all (implying not to eat any food sacrificed to idols) rather than risk such a sin. (Garland)

Paul emphasizes the familial bond by terming the weak “my brother” (twice). Fall/offend is the Greek skandalizein “cause offense” “lead into sin”. In the Greek OT the noun skandalon is used as a metaphor for being trapped into sinning, particularly in reference to idolatry (Judg 2:3, Josh 23:13, Ps 105:36, Deu 7:16) (Garland)

1 Cor 10:23-24
Again Paul advises that even though the Corinthians slogan “everything is permissible” was true, not everything was beneficial. The question to ask in determining whether to do something or not was how the action would affect others.(BBCNT)

1 Cor 10:23
This may be another Corinthian slogan, but it more likely Paul coined the phrase to express a common notion of freedom. Paul objects to the idea that individual conscience is a sure guide, not only because the mind is not pure, but also because it excludes consideration of how one’s acts affect others. Thus Paul adds, not all is helpful/profitable, not do they all buildu up/edify. Anything that might harm another, Paul continually implies and even says, should be considered forbidden. (Garland).

1 Cor 10:24
Paul substitutes another slogan/principle: Do not seek your own good, but that of others. This is the essence of Christian love (1 Cor 13:5) and has ample examples from Christ (Phil 2:4, 5, 20; Rom 15:2, 3) and Paul (1 Cor 8:13; 2 Cor 12:14)(Garland)

1 Cor 9:19-23
Ancient philosophers disliked those of their kind who tried to please the public; they deemed them “slaves” to public opnion, seeking to win over as many as possible rather than face reality and win only a few with strictness. (BBCNT)

Paul spends the first fourteen verses of chapter nine detailing his rights as an apostle. He spends verses fifteen through eighteen explaining that he deliberately does not exercise those rights. In nineteen through twenty-three he explains why he doesn’t exercise his rights.

1 Cor 9:19
Paul says he is free from all people, or all thins, depending on how you read the Greek ek panton. Yet he has made himself a slave. This surely refers to his work to win all kinds of people to Christ. It may also refer to his work as a manual laborer (in line with his earlier lines about having the right to be supported by the church,which he never asks). It also emphasizes the apostle as a slave to Christ, the Lord (8:6). Paul thus upends the normal notions of leadership in the church, the leaders being servants of both the church members and Christ. (Garland)

To win/gain: Greek kerdainein, is used five times in verses nineteen through twenty-one. It is used of conversion (1 Pet 3:1) and winning a faltering believer (Matt 18:15) but is also a business term for profit (Matt 25:16, 17, 20, 22; James 4:13) and thus can be related back to 1 Cor 9:17-18, where Paul speaks of his reward (Greek misthos). Paul’s profit/reward is the spread of the gospel. (garland)

1 Cor 9:20
Traditionally this verse is seen as Paul saying he adopted Jewish practices at times in order to mingle among Jews to convert them. Garland suggests instead that Paul remained in the Jewish community while maintaining his Christianity by subjecting himself to synagogue discipline (including thirty-nine lashes five times 2 Cor 11:24). This made him a bad Jew but kept him a member of the Jewish community who could still preach in synagogue, as the only alternative to this harsh discipline when he proclaimed his Christian beliefs would be to be formally cast out and lose his chances to convert his fellow Jews. Of course Paul viewed the Law differently than the normal Jew (Rom 2:17, 3:28; Gal 2:21, 3:11; 1 Cor 15:56; Gal 5:4)

1 Cor 9:21
Those outside the Law: Gentiles

One without the Law: What does this mean? Did Paul behave the same as whatever group he wished to convert? Did he simply drop Jewish food laws and ritual purity rules?

Garland suggests Paul had a personal meaning here, that he gave up living for the traditions of the Jewish fathers, and instead lived among both Jews and Gentiles as a third sort of person, a Christian. Paul lived a new law, the law of Christ, which is defined in 1 Cor 10:24 and 9:19.(Garland)

1 Cor 9:22
So who are the weak? Surely Paul isn’t saying he becomes weak in faith?
Garland suggests the order of 9:22 matches the order of 10:33:

9:20—Jews—Jews– 10:33

9:21– Outside the Law– Greeks—10:33

9:22—weak– church of God—10:33

Weak is thus Paul’s term for those Paul seeks to win for Christ, thus all potential Christians. (Rom 5:6)

All things to all people: This sounds either duplicitous or wishy washy. Instead Paul was saying he identified with and sympathized with all kinds of non-Christians in order to win them to Christ. This follows what Paul says Christ Himself did. (Rom 8:3-4, 2 Cor 5:21, 8:9; Gal 3:13, 4:4-5, Phil 2:6-8, Col 1:24-25).(Garland)

1 Cor 9:23
What does it mean to partner with the gospel? Is it a passive reception of the gospel’s benefits (Rom 11:17; Phil 1:7). Or is it a more active sense of spreading the gospel ( 2 Cor 8:23; Phil 1:5; Philm 17) “Gospel” as a noun with a verb implies preaching the gospel in Paul’s writings (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 9:14; 2 Cor 2:12, 10:14; gal 2:7; Phil 2:22, 4:15) (Garland)

1 Cor 10:31-11:1
Jewish teachers stressed that one should do everything to please God, based on passages like Deu 6:4-5, Ps 63:1. Paul applies this do his ways with others, in his attempts to win people to the gospel. He advises the Corinthians to follow his example, ancient teaching emphasizing the value of imitating of the teacher. (BBCNT)

1 Cor 10:31
Paul makes another maxim of his own, thus upending 9:23’s “all things are allowed” for “all things are done for God”. God’s glory is the measure of the appropriateness of any action. The link of 10:23’s “all are allowed” and 10:31’s “all for God’s glory” matches the flow of 1 Cor 6:12’s “all things are permitted” and 6:20’s “Glorify God in your body”.(Garland)

1 Cor 10:32
Give no offense: sounds mild: be nice and tactful. What it is really saying is to do nothing to hinder others coming to Christ, a much taller order that requires active care and genuine loving concern.(Garland)

The division between Jews, Greeks, and Christians here is made necessary by the different reactions each group would have to Christians’ conduct. (Garland)

1 Cor 10:33
“Please” might connotate being all things to all people, in a slimy way. But the Greek areskein is typically used of a slave working to satisfy his master. Thus again Paul says he sets his own self aside (not seeking my own profit ) to win many over to Christ. (Garland)

1 Cor 11:1
Paul repeats his oft-expressed desire that those of his churches follow his example (1 Cor 4:6, 7:7; Gal 4:12; Phil 3:17, 4:19; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:6-9) because he follows the greater example of Christ Himself (Phil 2:1-8)

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