1 Corinthians 8 Commentary


In Corinth, as in other places, temples were not just religious centres but also popular eating places. This created problems for the Christians, because the food was usually first offered to idols and Christians were not sure whether they should eat it. A related problem concerned food they bought in the market, for it also may have been first offered to idols. These are the issues Paul now deals with, though they lead him to the more important issue of the exercise of Christian rights and freedom.

Different attitudes to idols (8:1-13)

The Corinthians boast that they have knowledge on the subject of idols. They know what is false and what is not. But, Paul answers, knowledge is not enough. It is never perfect and can lead to pride.

Christians must be guided in their behaviour by love, not merely by knowledge. Only in this way can they grow to full maturity (8:1-3).

Some Christians, claiming to have strong faith, have no hesitation in eating food offered to idols. To them an idol is only a piece of wood or stone. Paul agrees that an idol is a lifeless object (though he will explain the meaning of making offerings to these lifeless objects in 10:19-20). He knows also that, although there are countless gods and deities, there is only one God and only one Lord (4-6).

Not all Christians, however, feel that an idol is only a piece of wood or stone. Some have for many years worshipped idols as if they were real. Their consciences are easily affected by anything connected with idolatry, and they feel it would be wrong to eat what has been offered to idols (7).

Though the kind of food people eat may not be important (8), that is no reason for those of ‘strong’ faith to eat in the temple feasts. If people of ‘weak’ faith follow their example and eat also, they sin, through doing what their consciences tell them is wrong (9-10). God then holds the ‘strong’ Christians responsible for doing lasting damage to the lives of the ‘weak’. They sin against their fellow believers and against Christ (11-12). Paul’s own attitude in such matters is that he would rather not eat at all than eat and harm another (13).

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