Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 8:1 - 8:13

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 8:1 - 8:13

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A.—Not knowledge, but love the rule

1Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. 2Knowledge puffeth up, but charity [love] edifieth. And [om. And ] if any man think that he knoweth [has known ] anything, he knoweth [has known ] nothing yet as he ought to know. 3But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5For though there he that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there he gods many, and lords many,) 6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom 7are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8But meat commendeth [will not affect ] us not to [before] God: for [om. for ] neither, if we eat, are we the better 9[worse]; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse [better ]. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak. 10For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened [edified, ïἰêïäïìçèÞóåôáé ] to 11eat those things which are offered to idols; And [For] through thy knowledge shall [om. shall] the weak brother [om. brother ] perish, [perishes—the brother] for whom Christ died? 12But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.


The instructions and exhortations contained in this paragraph, relate to a still further question proposed to the Apostle in the letter from Corinth, and to the conflict which had arisen in consequence, between two parties in the Church. On the one side were those who, as they believed in the nothingness of idolatry, and were fully conscious of their Christian liberty in reference to all that which was not in conflict with the nature of their calling, maintained their perfect right to buy and eat the meat offered for sale in the market, which had been sacrificed to idols, and also to partake of that which was set before them at table in the houses of heathen—yea, even to participate at their sacrificial feasts, because, as they affirmed, this flesh was like all other flesh, and that in partaking of it they came into no injurious connection with idols, since idols were nothing in themselves, and so, incapable of harm. On the other side were those who utterly reprobated such conduct, and deemed it pollution; for they still believed idols to be veritable, active agents, that exerted a malign and defiling influence on those who in any way came in contact with them—as, for example, those seemed to, who ate of the flesh of beasts sacrificed to them. That the latter were heathen and not Jewish converts, is to be inferred from 1Co_8:7 th, where the expression: “unto this hour,” points to the continuance of an earlier state, and implies, that those spoken of had been heathen, and were still held captive by their old heathenish notions about the reality of idol gods whom they had come to regard as subject to the one supreme God. This inference cannot be disputed; although it must be conceded also that even by the Jews (Jewish converts) idols were regarded as demons, that were exerting a veritable power in heathendom, and exercised a baleful and defiling influence upon all those who in any way came in contact with heathen forms of life. [“To offer ‘polluted bread’ upon the altar of the Lord, or to eat the meat of idolatrous princes, had been condemned by the warning of Malachi (1Co_1:7-12), the good example of Daniel (1Co_1:8), and Tobit (1Co_1:10-11), and the evil example of Israel at Baalpeor (Num_25:2; Psa_106:28).” Stanley]. And this class also must be supposed to have felt a holy horror at the polluted meat, and shown no little solicitude as to the manner it was to be dealt with. The dispute which thus originated, we have no reason to believe had anything to do with the party divisions spoken of in chap. 1. There is no propriety, therefore, in supposing that the more stringent, scrupulous ones, belonged to the party calling themselves after Cephas or after Christ; although it were more plausible to regard the more liberal-minded as belonging rather to the Paulinists, or Apollinarians.

In his theoretic convictions Paul, as we shall see, sides with the liberals. But he rebukes their reckless application of these principles, and also that pride of knowledge which they manifested; and for the regulation of their conduct in this case, he enjoins the exercise of a self-denying love, that subordinated the use of its liberty, to a regard for weak brethren, and gladly renounced its rights in order to avoid all occasions for scandal. And in support of his injunction he points to his own example as set forth in his official labors, (chap. 9th).

[“The importance of the controversy which thus arose is obvious. Closely as the whole social life of the ancient world was interwoven with its religious worship, the decision of this question affected the whole relations of the Christian society with its heathen neighbors; and, in fact, involved all the similar, though more complicated questions, discussed in the first four centuries of the Christian Church, respecting the lawfulness of attending on the spectacles or receiving the honors of the Roman Empire. Accordingly, this, although the chief, is not the only passage in which the point is discussed. See Rom_14:2; Rom_14:21; Rev_2:14-15; Act_15:29.” Stanley].

1Co_8:1-6. Now concerning.—[Here we have the introduction of a new topic with ðåñὶ äὲ , just as in chap. 7],—idol sacrifices, åἰäùëïèýôùí . This is a topic which we see to have already been brought up in discussion, and a decision rendered upon it in the first council at Jerusalem (Act_15:29). To that decision it is remarkable that Paul makes no allusion. [“Probably this is to be traced to his wish to establish his position as an independent Apostle, endowed with the Holy Spirit sufficiently himself to regulate such matters.” Alford].—We know that we all have knowledge.—[Many commentators regard these words as quoted from the Epistle to the Corinthians, and assented to, at the start, in a general way, and in a conciliatory manner. They are not, therefore, to be interpreted strictly, nor is “all” to be emphasized. Kling questions this view (see below), but hardly on sufficient grounds. It is quite in the spirit of Paul]. From 1Co_8:1 to 1Co_8:3, there is a logical parenthesis, as may be seen from the resumption of these words in 1Co_8:4. Before the contents of the knowledge here alluded to are brought out, he introduces an observation respecting knowledge and love, designed to furnish a rule for the whole subject. This parenthesis some [Luther, Bengel, Griesb., Winer, Bloom., Olsh.], regard as beginning with the words: ὅôé ðÜíôåò , which is then construed as a casual sentence, and the meaning would be: “We know,—(because, or for, ( ὅôé ) we all have knowledge,” [—‘we as well as you’). Olsh.]. But, in such a case, the clause following ought to read: ἡäå ãíῶóéò , “but knowledge,” etc. It is also opposed by 1Co_8:4, where the ὅôé following ïἴäáìåí , we know, plainly means, as it does here, that. The parenthesis, then, must begin with the clause: “knowledge puffeth up”—a thought suggested by what just precedes. [So Chrys., Beza, Grot.,Calv., Meyer, Alford]. The ‘things offered to idols’ were the remnants of victims, whose bitter portions only had been offered in sacrifice, the rest falling partly to the priests, and partly to the offerer. These were sometimes sent to market for public sale, and sometimes appropriated to festivals, either at the temple, or in private houses. And it was about the propriety of Christians eating of these that the question arose. The knowledge Paul speaks of, must be understood to denote a practical insight into the real nature and effects of the things offered (1Co_8:4); from which, however, it by no means follows that ðåñß is grammatically dependent on ãíῶóéí ἕ÷ïìåí . And certainly it is remarkable that while claiming this knowledge for all in 1Co_8:1, he says precisely the opposite of this in 1Co_8:7 : “but all have not this knowledge.” By way of reconciling this contradiction, some suppose that these words, as also the clause beginning at 1Co_8:4 : “that an idol is nothing”—unto the end of 1Co_8:6, were taken from the letter of the Corinthian Church, and that Paul contradicts these in 1Co_8:7. But in this case Paul would not have introduced these words without some formula of citation; [but is this necessary when some sentiment of another is simply re-affirmed?] and he would have included the observation (1Co_8:1-3) in his counter statement; [not necessarily, for that was directly suggested by the word ãíῶóéò , and should follow upon it]. Others make a distinction between ãíῶóéò and ἡ ãíῶóéò , taking the former to mean a certain degree of knowledge in general, and the latter a definite insight into the relation between the form and the influence of idolatry. (Olsh.). But this is arbitrary, since ãíῶóéò , knowledge, is already defined as to its contents in 1Co_8:1; 1Co_8:4. Another supposition is, that the Apostle is speaking generally and theoretically in 1Co_8:1, and then in 1Co_8:7, with direct reference to the Corinthians (De Wette [Stanley, Hodge, Alford]). But with this the ðÜíôåò in 1Co_8:1, compared with 1Co_8:7, does not suit. [But why not? As Alford says: “The common sense view of two such statements would, in ordinary preaching or writing be, that the first was said of what is professed and confessed, the second of what is actually and practically apprehended by each man. Thus we may say of our people in the former sense, ‘all are Christians; all believe in Christ;’ but in the latter, ‘all are not Christians; all do not believe’ ”]. Still again, a fourth device is to apply ἐí ðᾶóéí , in all, to strangers coming to Corinth (Schrader); but of this the text gives no hint. Finally, the existence of the “knowledge in all,” is distinguished from the “having knowledge,” as being more thorough-going, while the latter is supposed to imply a more superficial knowledge; but this is arbitrary. The simplest solution of the difficulty is [?], that in 1Co_8:1 Paul is speaking of himself, together with the more liberal-minded; but in 1Co_8:7, where he speaks in the third person of all, he takes the word in a wider sense; so Theoph. and Meyer. In this case there would be no necessity for resorting to the supposition of an ironical statement (Grotius), which would be inconsistent with the general tenor of what is said in the following verse.

The disposition to pride oneself on this possessionof knowledge, he earnestly opposes, by condemning those aspects in which it showed itself, as among the liberals of the Corinthian Church.—Knowledge puffeth up.—[The parenthesis is introduced without any particle of connection. This abruptness of transition is characteristic of Paul, and indicates the rapid rush of his thought. It makes an impression of force, which must not be weakened by any attempt to supply the lack. “ Ἡ ãíῶóéò , knowledge, abstract,—scil, when alone, or improperly predominant, knowledge, barely.” Alford]. This higher insight so much prized—this knowledge which professes to rise superior to all manner of prejudices, wherever it prevails for its own sake alone, proves an element far removed from Christian perfection,—yea, injurious to it through the influence it exerts on the person possessing it. Its effect is to fill the mind with pride, and so to undermine the foundation of that perfection, and disqualify the possessor for furthering the same among others; since for this work there is required, above all things, condescension of spirit,—a disposition to enter humbly into the position and necessities of those whom we would instruct. This, however, is just what love ( ἀãÜðç ) begets,—but love edifieth.—In opposition to the self-exaltation, manifested by those who, with their higher insight, look down upon others as narrow and bigoted, love empties a person of self, and prompts him to enter into another’s condition, and makes him ready for every service, even to the offering up of his own for others’ benefit. Accordingly, while knowledge works injuriously and destructively upon the Christian life of others (comp. 1Co_8:9-12), love works edifyingly, building up that life either in the salvation of a brother, or in the well-being of the Church (comp. ïἰêïäïìåῖí , 1Co_14:24; Rom_14:19; Eph_4:12; and Osiander, in hoc loco). “The thought and expression in ïἰêïäïìåῖ , edifieth, is altogether peculiar to Paul’s mode of looking at and speaking of things. The whole Christian life is contemplated by him as a building, resting on the one foundation, Jesus Christ—a figure which finds a point of connection with our Lord’s statement concerning the house built on the rock and on the sand. The edification here meant combines the theoretical and practical elements, and comprises every thing which serves to advance the Christian life.” Neander. The contrast thus briefly indicated, ̀ now further expanded. While the “knowledge which puffs up” is stigmatized as something purely imaginary, as something which in its very effects shows itself to be wanting in the truth, love, on the other hand, is declared to possess the highest intelligence.—If any one thinks that he has known any thing.—In place of ãíῶóéò , he here puts, äïêåῖ åἰäÝíáé ( ἐãíùêÝíÜ ) ôé ; and to a person of this sort he denies any such knowledge of a thing as one ought to possess.—He as yet knows nothing as he ought to know it—( êáèὼò äåῖ ãíῶíáé ). By this he means that full, deep, penetrating, exhaustive, morally effective knowledge, which, as a moral necessity in the sphere of true religion, exists in Christianity, and to which Christianity, wherever it has its full moral effect, inevitably leads ( äåῖoportet). Some adopting the reading, ïὔðù ἔãíù , take êáèὼò äåῖ ãíῶíáé as the objective clause to ἔãíù : ‘he has not the substance of that knowledge which belongs to it;’ ‘he has not apprehended it;’ but this is contrary to the usage of êáèῶò . The full, entire morally effective knowledge, exists only where love is (comp 1Co_13:2). [Hodge’s comments on the profoundness of this seemingly incidental aphorism of Paul are excellent. He concludes: “The relation between the cognitive and emotional faculties, is one of the most difficult problems in philosophy. In many systems they are regarded as distinct. Paul here teaches that with regard to a large class of objects, knowledge without feeling is nothing; it supposes the most essential characteristics of the object to be unperceived. And in the following verse he teaches that love is the highest form of knowledge. To know God is to love him; and to love him is to know him. love is intelligent, and knowledge is emotional. Hence, the Apostle says, If a man thinketh that he knoweth any thing; that is, if he is proud or conceited, he is ignorant”]. From this we should now expect the statement to follow: ‘but if any one loves, he knows as he ought to know.’ But Paul at once mounts higher. Proceeding from the love of neighbor to its root in the love of God, and from human knowledge to its fountain-head, even Divine knowledge, he says:—But if any man loves God, the same is known by him.—Where love for God exists,—of which love his affection for his neighbor is the essential consequence and expression (comp. 1Jn_4:20),—there the individual is known by God. God has, in knowing him, taken him up into Himself, and by this he is translated into the sphere of the spiritual light and life of God, whence there streams into him the very light of knowledge. Thus the being known by God has intelligence for its essential results, even as the love of God begets in us the love of neighbor, (brotherly love). “The active knowledge of God follows the passive knowledge. He was known, and, therefore, he knoweth.” Bengel. (Comp. Osiander: “the assimilation of love and knowledge with their objects”). Without recognizing this inward connection, Meyer says, Ed. 1 Corinthians 3 : “This is a case of pregnant construction. Instead of saying in full:—‘such a person not simply has knowledge of the right sort, but is also himself known of God,’ Paul simply states the latter, the more important thing, from which the former is understood of itself. The fact of being known by God, exhibits the high worth of love, for if God knows a man, there is presupposed in this no indifferent and ineffective relation of God to man, but an activity of God which passes over upon the man, so that he, as the object of the Divine knowledge, experiences also the efficacy of that kindly feeling in which and with which God knows him, and hence becomes a partaker of His love, and of His kindly care, etc. The idea consequently is that of an effective knowledge on the part of God, which becomes an inward experience on the part of man, a knowledge which is causa salutis, so that God in knowing the man, carries out in him that salvation which had been decreed in His own counsels.” That the Divine knowledge includes in itself a loving participation and complacency, is clear also from other passages (Joh_10:14; 2Ti_2:19; Gal_4:9; Mat_7:23; Psa_1:6). This is all evacuated in the explanation: approbatus est (Grot. and others); and that given by Calvin: inter filios censeri, goes beyond the meaning of the word. But the Hophal construction: edoctus est, is taught by Him, adopted by Nössett and others [Augustine, Beza, Locke, Mackn., Hodge, Bloomf.], and also by the Church fathers, is directly contrary both to the usages of the New Testament and of the classic Greek. [Yet it was very natural to one accustomed to the Hebrew forms of thought and speech, as Paul was]. Billroth hits the truth more nearly when he translates the phrase: ‘God perceives Himself in him;’ but he puts it in a speculative, pantheistic form. The mystical view of Olshausen, that in ãéíþóêåóèáé , the bridal relation of the soul to God is indicated, goes both too far and not far enough—too far, in as much as the context alone affords the analogy; not far enough, in as much as the relation, not of the bride, but of the bridegroom is indicated by the word ãéíþóêåéí ,when taken in a sexual sense.

In 1Co_8:4. the Apostle turns to the exposition of the subject in hand, which is at once denned more particularly—concerning therefore the eating of things offered to idols.—[“The ïὑí , therefore is epanaleptic, and simply resumes the thread of discourse”].—And the thing known is,—that no idol exists in the world ( ὅôé ïὐäåí ἔéäùëïí ἐí êüóìῳ ).—Judging from the position of the words, and from the parallel clause, we can hardly separate ïὐäåí from the subject, and make it a predicate as if it were: ‘is nothing:’ [as in the E. V., comp. 1Co_10:19; Joh_21:24; Jer_10:3]. He means that there is no such thing as an idol in the whole world of realities. Of course it will be understood that by the word ‘idol,’ not the image, but the object represented by it—the idol god is meant. To this he denies all reality, within the sphere of existing things. But according to 1Co_8:5, and 1Co_10:20, this cannot be taken to mean the veritable non-existence of the objects of heathen worship, but only that they do not actually exist in the form conceived and honored by the heathen, e. g., in the forms of a Jupiter, Apollo, etc.,—that these as divinities dwelling in the images are but heathen fantasies, and that there is no god, but the One. The åἰ ìÞ is to be referred simply to ïὐäåßò .

This statement, that there is no other god but One, he at once proceeds to explain and confirm in 1Co_8:5-6.—For even supposing that. Åἴðåñ , which, when the main clause confirms and intensifies the hypothetical one, means, if indeed, if otherwise, if namely, in those instances where the latter is contrasted with the former, is to be translated, even if, or although indeed (Passow I., 2, 197).—there are.— Åἰóé from its antecedent position, carries the emphasis, and in both clauses denotes not merely ideal existence in the opinion of the heathen, but real existence as is evident from the subsequent confirmatory ὥóðåñ åἰóß .—those called gods.—By the epithet ‘called’ ( ëåãüìåíïé ) he here limits the seeming concession, and brings his statement into harmony with 1Co_8:4,—they are only called gods, and are not the Divine powers which the heathen imagine.—whether in heaven, or whether upon earth.—The terms embrace the whole sphere of pagan divinities, [who were scattered about, occupying distinct realms above and below, and thus stood in marked contrast with the Christian’s God, who filled all things]. This clause is not to be connected with the following, and so made to imply that by “gods” were meant the good angels resident in heaven, and by “lords” the demons precipitated to earth, as some suppose.—as there are gods many and lords many.—[There is a question as to the real import of this parenthesis. Does it concede the fact that there are supernatural powers that are entitled to the name of “gods” and “lords,” carrying the chief emphasis in the word “are?” or are we to supply the word ‘so called,’ and regard it as merely stating that the imaginary deities of the heathen were many in number? The latter is the more common view, adopted by de Wette, Stanley, Barnes, Scott, etc. But the former is best maintained as being most in accordance with the position of the words, and entirely in harmony with Scripture doctrine. Hodge referring to Deu_10:17; Jos_22:22; Dan_2:47, says: “These passages show that the words god and lord are applied in a wide sense to other beings than to the true God.” And while it must be affirmed that “the whole heathen mythology is a fable—there are demons in abundance, of various ranks and powers, called gods. The two things which the Apostle means to deny are: 1. The existence of such beings as the heathen conceived their gods to be. 2. The real divinity of those supernatural beings, who do really exist, and are called gods; they are mere creatures.” Such is essentially the interpretation of Meyer and Alford. But Kling says]: It might be inferred from 1Co_10:20, that the beings intended were demons, the êïóìïêñÜôïñåò of Eph_6:12; comp. 1Co_2:2. But it is by no means necessary in this verse to look for a declaration respecting the reality of the objects of heathen worship; since, as we have seen the words åἴðåñ åἰóὶ may also express a hypothetical putting of a case, where the speaker plants himself upon a position of doubt. Neander says: “ Åἰóß , are, expresses nothing but a subjective reality. The subjective stand-points of the religious consciousness are merely put into objective statement; q. d.: ‘with the heathen heaven and earth are peopled with divinities; we, however, recognize but one God and Lord;—in general there are many gods, but only for the heathen.’ ”—By not connecting the clause: “whether in heaven or earth,” with this, so as to carry the implication that the term gods referred to the good angels still found above, and the term lords to those who had been precipitated to earth and there become demons, we might be left at liberty to refer both these terms to the angels, who are called gods, on account of their participation in the Divine majesty and worth, as the types and representatives of the same, and lords on account of the influence they exerted in their own spheres and their active relations to each other (in their higher and lower orders), as well to mankind and subordinate creatures (Psa_109:4; Dan_10:13). Comp. Osiander, who at the most concedes “a secondary reference to the demons here, in so far as they had an original part with the good, and also a show of divinity with a certain degree of reality still cleaving to them.”

1Co_8:6 contains now the positive declaration, corresponding to the åἰ ìὴ åἶò . The connection is: ‘although so-called gods exist, yet they have nothing to do with us Christians; they stand in no relation to us, and exert therefore no influence upon us,—are for us, as if they were not.—But for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we unto him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, also we through him.—Since we in faith hold communion with the one God, the Father, who is the source of all things, and on whom all things depend,—yea even those “gods many” whom the heathen worship, and who is the goal of our existence,—for whose glory we live and in whose service we therefore stand; and since we hold communion with the one Lord who mediates the being and condition of all things,—yea, even of the lords many, whom the heathen fear, and who is the mediator of our existence, viz., of that by virtue of which, the one God the Father has become our end, and therefore of our new divinely consecrated life: therefore are we delivered from all the power and all the controlling influences of those gods and lords; and those things, which the heathen suppose to be related to them and to mediate their influence—such as the flesh offered in sacrifice,—have for us none of this significance; they belong to the ‘all things,’ which are from God and through Christ, and can inflict no injury upon our new life, which has God for its object, and is mediated through Christ. The ἀëëÜ as 1Co_4:15.

The expression “the Father,” indicates that which Christians have in God. “It brings out prominently the contrast between the standpoints of the heathen and the Christian; for the heathen have no father in this sense. God has become a Father to Christians only, by redemption.” Neander. From this proceeds their spiritual childhood; hence it was not necessary to add: ‘and we from Him’ and the statement: ‘we unto Him;’ has its foundation already. By the words, “from Him” ( ἐî ïὑ ) God is set forth as the creative principle; but these are to be no more construed according to the Pantheistic theory of emanation, than the words, “unto Him” ( åἰò áὐôüí ) can be taken to denote a corresponding absorption of all things in Him. But the “all things,” must in both clauses be alike understood, of the sum total of the universe, and be referred to the natural creation, whose mediator is the Son of God (comp. Col_1:16), just as much as He is the Mediator of the new spiritual creation, which is implied in “we through Him” (comp. Eph_2:10). In ἡìåῖò åἰò áὐôüí , as well as in ἡìåῖò äἰ áὐôïῦ , the phraseology turns into the demonstrative, as in 1Co_7:13. To take åἰò áὐôüí , unto Him, as equivalent to ἐí áὐôῳ , in Him, is by no means required by the relation of the two phrases, and is contrary to usage. It designates here the destination or tendency to communion with God, and with this to the recognition and the honor of God. But by “we” in this connection, we are to understand, not men in general, but believers.—And by the term “lord” as distinguished from “God,” he intends as little to deny the divine equality, or the essential divinity of Jesus, as he does by the phrase “through Him,” as distinguished from “from Him:” since the all-embracing character of His mediatorial work, far more than the title “Lord” (comp. 1Co_1:2.) points conclusively to this very thing (comp. Osiander h. l. and Gess. pp. 88 and 51). Among the Jews who spoke Greek, êýñéïò , Lord, was a designation of Jehovah himself. In this text the whole theistic, Christian consciousness is brought out. Billroth and Olshausen here find an exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity; Meyer disputes it. Certainly we do violence to the words if we insist on detecting here an intention to set forth this doctrine; its fundamental relations, however, are all here denoted. “God is the original ground of all existence, Christ is the mediating principle, and God again becomes the final cause of all through the operation of the Holy Spirit.” Neander. In what follows the apostle turns to consider the practical side of the question, in regard to refraining from eating for the sake of the weaker brethren.

1Co_8:7. From what has been said it is plain that the eating of sacrificial flesh has for Christians, by reason of their higher stand-point of faith, no religious significance whatever, and can be accordingly nothing defiling. But, he continues, this consciousness, this knowledge, is not in all. There are some whose Christian faith is not yet so emancipated from the religious convictions of their old heathen state, and who are still in the bonds of their former conscience, moulded by heathen ideas. This was in fact an infirmity of their new life, and of their Christian conscience,—yet an infirmity which was to be treated with mildness and consideration:—Howbeit there is not in all this knowledge.—In reference to the seeming contradiction between this and 1Co_8:1, compare what is said on 1Co_8:1. The article before ãíῶóéò , knowledge, indicates it as one which has just been spoken of, and is equivalent to this.—The antithetic positive statement is introduced by äÝ , and introduced in such a manner that the reason of the weakness of some, perhaps a small portion of the church, conspicuously appears.—But some in conscience of the idol even until now eat as a thing offered to an idol,—therefore, not as common flesh, which “as a creature of God is good ”(1Ti_4:4, comp. 1Co_10:26), but as something that would bring them into real connection with idolatry, (Osiander). According to the order in the received text, the words “until now” belong to the verb “eat;” but for critical reasons, these words ought to be placed before ôïῦ åἰäþëïõ , ‘the idol,’ and thus taken to qualify ôῆ óõíåéäÞóåé , in conscience, to which it is attached without the article, according to classic usage, and as in 2Co_11:23; Php_1:26. (comp. Meyer, [Hodge]).— Óõíåéäçóéò does not mean opinion in general, or judgment, or conviction, but, as uniformly in the New Testament, it means conscience, a person’s consciousness in its moral and religious aspect. ÓõíåéäÞóéò ôïõ åἰäëïõ , then, denotes this consciousness as having for its contents or object, an idol, and that too, according to the context, as a real influential power, just as in 1Pe_2:19, óõíåéÞóéò èåïῦ , means a conscience testifying of God. Here it denotes a conscience possessed with the idea that an idol is a real being; so that this idea influences his judgment in regard to his conduct: and in this case it stamps the eating of that flesh, as an immoral, sinful act, altering the whole religious state and relations of the Christian who eats, because it is the eating of something connected with a veritable idol, and therefore defiling in its nature.—and their conscience being weak.—The weakness is found in the fact that it cannot deliver itself from these false notions; nor assure the person of the entire nullification of his relations to idols and to all their defiling influences by his fellowship with Christ, or of the restoration of his true relations to God, and consequently also to the totality of all things, as dependent on God alone and belonging to Him ( ðßóôéòRom_14:23). By reason of this, its weakness, it—is defiledi.e., by eating. The defilement consists in a conviction of guilt, the conscience being troubled by a sense of the Divine displeasure pervading it. “Conscience—the moral sentiment of honor—the watchman of our moral purity, is itself pure so long as it remains true to its own determinations; hence ìïëýíåóèá , to be defiled, is a striking expression, denoting the desecration of that which according to its nature and intent is holy.” Osiander. If we take the reading óõíçäåßᾳ ,—which may be a correction for óõíåéäÞóåé on the ground that it was unsuitable, or else a gloss—the sense would be: ‘by their habitual wontedness to idols, i.e., because they had hitherto accustomed themselves to idols, had held intercourse with them, the idea of their presence, especially in the eating of the sacrificial flesh, was to them a common one.’ In any case the Dative shows the ground on which the defilement takes place.—After this exposition of the real facts in the case, he proceeds to exhort the Corinthians in reference to the conduct which the more liberal-minded among them, ought to adopt. And first of all he points to the utter indifference of the matter of eating or not eating in a religious point of view, and cuts off all pretext for their unwillingness to adapt themselves. to the weak.

1Co_8:8. But meat will not affect our relations to God; for neither if we eat are we the worse; neither if we eat not are we the better.—It is not to be assumed that Paul is here citing the language of the Corinthians themselves in vindication of their eating of idol sacrifices [Barnes], since there is no formula of citation. Nor does the supposition of Osiander, that he is here obviating the scruples of the narrow-minded agree with Osiander’s own exposition further onward. [Rather, he is laying down a broad principle, applicable to all parties, showing the weak the error of their scruples, and the strong why they ought to accommodate themselves to the weak, and not insist on their rights. This is shown in the selection of words, and in the more critically approved order of the two latter clauses]. The äÝ is not adversative, but progressive. By many ðáñáóôÞóåἵ is construed as precisely equivalent to óõíßóôçìé , to recommend (which also appears in the gloss óõíßóôçóé ); but this has no foundation in usage. The idea is not that of a presentment before God as a punitive judge (context), nor that of an offering in sacrifice (on account of the subject âñῶìá , if nothing else), nor yet that of a presentation of one’s self for service (for the sane reason); rather it is that of placing in specific relation, as vox media, so that the two following clauses may be subsumed under it. Accordingly, the meaning is: ‘meat will in no way affect our relations to God; neither so that we shall lose standing with Him in case we eat not, nor so that we shall be better in His sight in case we eat.’ [So Alford; though Olsh., Robinson, Hodge, Bloomf., keep to the common rendering. The one given above has, however, the decided advantage, as it suits with the following clauses alike]. This explanation of ðáñáóôÞóåé , however, may, perhaps, be too abstract, and we might underlay it with a conception of God as Judge, and regard the presentation as taking place before Him in that capacity; yet it must be in such a way as to anticipate alike a favorable as well as an unfavorable judgment. The sense would then be, that meat had no influence upon God’s judgment concerning us, to determine it in one direction or the other (akin to Rom_14:17). So Bengel: “neither to please him in judgment, nor yet to displease him.” “Paul reminds those who ate idol sacrifices out of opposition, in order to demonstrate their liberal-mindedness, that they by this means were not rendered purer and better.” Neander.

1Co_8:9-13. Here follows the warning itself against all reckless use of the liberty [above asserted], or of superior intelligence [in regard to it], grounded upon the injury which would thereby accrue to the weaker brethren, resulting in great coldness of affection, and in severe offences against Christ Himself.—But.—The äÝ is not merely transitional, but also adversative, q. d., ‘eating and not eating are, in themselves, morally indifferent, but,’ etc.—take heed lest your power. Ἐîïõóßá =power to do or let alone—liberty of choice springing from the indifferent character of any act in a religious point of view—become a stumbling-block to the weak. Ðñὀóêïììá , any thing over which a person stumbles and falls; here, an occasion to sin by awakening an inclination to imitate conduct that is in conflict with conscience,—[“a practice above all others dangerous to a Christian1.” Alford]. (Com. Rom_14:13; Rom_14:20). This he at once explains more fully.—For if any man,i.e., any one who is weak in the sense above mentioned.—see thee who hast knowledge (comp. 1Co_8:4) [“This seems to imply that the weak brother is aware of this, and looks up to thee as such,” Alf.].—sit at meat, [ êáôáêåἰìåíïí lit. recumbent, the usual posture at meals].—in an idol’s temple. Åἰäùëåῖïí , an idol temple, just as in 1Ma_1:50; 1Ma_10:83. [“This is a term used only by Jewish writers, apparently to avoid designating heathen temples by the sacred word íáüò , used to express the temple at Jerusalem. It is a kind of parody on the names of temples as derived from the divinities to which they are dedicated.” Stanley]. This extreme exercise of liberty he here touches upon only in reference to its prejudicial consequences. It is in 1Co_10:14 that he first comes to oppose it with earnest dissuasions, after he has cast light upon it from another side. Some expositors, for the sake of abating the scandal of such procedures, construe åἰäùëåῖïí with a local signification, making it mean only a feast furnished with idol sacrifices; but this is contrary to usage. Others (Osiander) take it to denote a sort of domestic chapel, where sacrificial feasts were held; which is not impossible, but very doubtful. As a rule, the sacrificial festivals were certainly observed in the temple. The consequences of beholding a Christian at such places, are introduced with an earnest interrogative.—Shall not the conscience of him who is weak be edified?—The verb ïἰêïäïìåῖóèáé is not equivalent to impelli, or confirmari, to be determined thereto, to be betrayed, or, to be strengthened, i.e., in the purpose to do something not allowable; but, as in the New Testament throughout, to be edified,—only that it is here used antiphrastically, in an ironic sense. [So Alf., Stan., Mey., de Wette. But Hodge, without good grounds, says the interpretation “is out of keeping with the whole tone of the passage”]. It is an ædificatio ruinosa, as Calvin expresses it, a being furthered to something which is destructive to a person that is weak in the faith (comp. 1Co_8:11)—a bad way of enlarging the spiritual edifice, inasmuch as it comes to the doing of something heretofore avoided, and that, too, without any conviction of its rectitude, but simply after the precedent of another who has no scruples in the matter, by reason of his superior insight, and in comparison with whom one is unwilling to seem contracted. Any conjectural change of reading is needless. Also the surrender of the interrogative form (on account of ïὐ÷é , and because then åἰò ôü should be equivalent to ἐí ôῳ is ungrammatical. The assumption that there is a play upon words in the Epistle to the Corinthians is gratuitous.

1Co_8:11, whether we read with the Rec. êáé ἀðïëåῖôáé , or êáὶ ἁðüëëõôáé , might be construed as continuing the question, [as in the E. V.]. But it would be more emphatic to suppose here a new affirmative sentence,—for there perishes.—But the most probable text is ἀðüëëõôáé ãÜñ , for there perishes. And since the for created difficulty, some put ïὖí , therefore, instead of it; others, since they found both ãÜñ and ïὖí in different manuscripts, rejected the one as well as the other, and wrote êáß before ἀðüëë . [so Lach. and Stanley]. The ãÜñ serves for the solving of the antiphrastic irony involved in ïἰêïäïìçèÞóåôáé , and that, too, in a fearfully emphatic way, q. d., ‘a fine way of edifying, indeed! for, instead of building up, this is a tumbling to utter ruin.’ The destruction ( ἀðþëåéá ) here meant is the same as in 1Co_1:18, viz., the forfeiture of salvation, that everlasting destruction which comes from acting without faith and against conscience; not, as Bengel says, the loss of faith itself; and still less, a gradual apostasy or moral depravation, or a loss of inward peace. If the word is taken passively, is ruined, the guilt of the person causing this ruin by the abuse of his liberty, will appear still more prominent—over this thy knowledge.—Whether we read ἐðὶ , or ἐí ôῇ óῇ ãíþóåé , the sense is the same. We have here the cause of the ruin. This is a reckless and unloving use of knowledge. Ôῇ óῇ , this thy, i. e., ‘which thou hast, and in which thou boastest.’ The guilt involved appears enhanced still further by three particulars, which stand out yet more distinctly in the proper collocation of words now critically verified ( ὁ ἀäåëöüò after ἐðὶ ôῇ óῃ ãíþóåé ).—the weak one,—the one who, of all others, ought to be treated with considerate forbearance, and from whom nothing should be exacted beyond his strength.—the brother,—a person bound to thee by the closest tie, and who ought to look to thee for assistance in the way of salvation, rather than for a stumbling-block over which to fall and perish. [“The isolated and final position thus given to ‘the brother’ gives a pathetic close to the whole sentence.” Stanley].—for whom Christ died.—And this is the most aggravating circumstance of all—‘thy conduct frustrates the purposes of Christ’s atoning death (comp. Romans 14), since thou, in behalf of him, for whom this great sacrifice was made, hast shown thyself unwilling to make the petty sacrifice of surrendering thine own right’ [(comp. Rom_15:1-3). There is a pathos and power in these words not to be overlooked. But mark the possibility implied—that persons, for whom Christ died, may perish. But whether they ever will or not, will be decided by each one according to the type of his theology]. The result of such conduct next follows.—In so sinning against the brethren.—He here passes over into plural, and gives them also to understand that he is now treating of no indifferent matter. [The manner in which they had used their liberty, had rendered the otherwise allowable act positively sinful]. As explanatory of this, he adds:—and wounding their weak consciences. Ôýðôïíôåò ,striking, and thereby painfully affecting, inasmuch as the conscience thereby is rendered evil and impure. [The word is used to exhibit more forcibly the meanness of the conduct in question; for what is meaner than to strike a thing that is weak]?—Ye sin against Christ.—Here is where the act culminates and exhibits its exceeding guiltiness. In what way this is done, is shown in the previous clauses. It thwarts the ends of the Saviour’s death. It is true that Christ, as the head of the body, suffers also in the affliction of his members; but this is not the thought here brought out, (is not even indicated in the words: “the brethren”). “As in the main clause, the third item mentioned in 1Co_8:11 is again taken up, so are the first two, in the participial clauses.” Osiander. This unloving use of liberty he shames to the very lowest, in expressing, as the result of these deliberations, his own purpose of self-denial.—Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend.—The verb óêáíäáëßæåéí , found in 2Co_11:29; Rom_14:21, and frequently in the Gospels, means literally, to cause a person to fall by laying a snare in his path; hence, to seduce or betray into sin, especially by bad example.—I will not eat flesh:— êñÝá , the particular food of which he is speaking.—for ever;— åἰò ôὸí áἰῶíá : “while the world standeth”—a strong hyperbole, intensifying the strong negative ïὐ ìÞ . “Here, in 1Co_8:13 the ethical principle for regulating the use of things indifferent, is shown to be love.” Neander. [“The whole argument closely resembles Rom_14:19-22, even to the particular phrases employed.” Stanley].


1. Knowledge and love are essentially identical. For all true knowledge implies, above all things, a going out from self, and all selfish aims and selfish isolation, and an entrance into something else, in order to apprehend it, and to unite it with ourselves, and ourselves with it; and to assimilate it to ourselves while we assimilate ourselves to it, or, in other words, penetrate into its essential idea, give ourselves up to it, and then recast it, as it were, within ourselves. This is an act of the Spirit, in which all rigidity of mind is subdued, in which the individual descends from the isolated heights of his own separate individuality, surrenders or annihilates all mere self-serving; and at the same time confesses that he is not sufficient for himself, but stands in need of another, and only in connection with that other can find true satisfaction and the fulfilment of his own destiny. Thus humility appears as an essential element of all true knowledge; and from this it follows, that where there is self-exaltation—where a person means to aggrandize himself by his knowledge, there true knowledge cannot exist. Aside from this also, experience teaches us that those, who have gone down into the profundities of knowledge, are always truly humble; that with them, in presence of the greatness of the object studied (which, the more it is explored, exhibits the more its inexhaustible fulness and depth), their own individuality gradually dwindles and is lost from sight.—But it is precisely in this also that love consists. In its exercises, self passes out of its exclusiveness, and enters into some other object; and for the sake of this, it opens all its inner treasures in order to impart them—to have them no more for itself alone, but to enjoy them in fellowship with it. And this, in the sphere of personal life, by reason of the reciprocity and communion implied in love, is followed by a supplementary action; since the person beloved loves in turn, and requites his lover with all he has. In such self-renunciation, humility is an essential element; it implies a readiness to be abased—a willingness to live for others, for their service and the furtherance of their welfare. And this is so even with the more gifted as well as with those less endowed; as is seen in the simplicity with which the latter accept, and the former impart gifts; and also in the readiness with which the former refuse to avail themselves of their superior insight and larger liberty in the enjoyment of things morally indifferent, and in the assurance which the latter feel that the others may be acting rightly even where they, contemplating the matter from their position, do not feel at liberty to consent to the same, and to imitate them.—Such humble love includes a sound reciprocal knowledge; as, on the other hand, sound knowledge involves such love. But the root of both lies in the knowledge and love of God. The soul that opens itself God ward, that apprehends God’s truth—His living creative thoughts, is thereby made able and willing to search for the imprint of these thoughts in the rational as well as in material creation, to pass out of self into them, to become absorbed in them, and by appropriating them to become itself enlarged, or to fill with them all forms of existence that, by virtue of their resemblance to God, carry in themselves the types of creaturely life.—And this is an activity in which the individual can no longer remain egotistical, self-seeking and self-satisfied. But in carrying it out, he must renounce himself more and more, losing himself, as it were, in the depths of God and His creation, yet by this very means becoming more truly great, and rich, and glorious.—But such an opening of the intelligence towards God is at the same time an opening of the loving heart towards Him, which carries with it an opening of the heart towards all creaturely life that is grounded in the life of God, and is loved and cherished by Him,—especially that personal life which bears God’s image, and was formed for communion with Him; and, consequently, it implies a personal devotion to it for the sake of communicating some good to it in humility and self-denial—But where there is such a love for God, there the person is known of God; and this involves a being loved by Him. And this is the primal source of all human knowing and loving. While God opens Himself lovingly toward the creature which He hath made out of sheer love—for an urgent desire to impart His own fulness to something needing it, He by this means draws it closely to Himself; and the more it follows this Divine attraction in hearty devotion, and thus loves God in return, the more is it recognized by Him as His—as belonging to Him by a voluntary determination, and taken up into the light of His Divine life, and illuminated by this light so that it becomes truly intelligent and knowing.

[“For the connection of knowledge and love, see 1Jn_4:7-8 : ‘Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; he that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.’—For the identification of God’s knowledge with His love, comp. Exo_33:17; ‘Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.” Also Joh_10:3 : “He calleth His own sheep by name.”—For the identification of God’s knowledge of man with man’s knowledge of God, comp. the similar blending of the spirit of man with the Spirit of God in Rom_8:15-16; 1Co_2:11; also Joh_10:15 : “As the Father knoweth me so know I the Father.”—And then for the general turn of the whole expression, as implying that every part of our redemption, but especially our knowledge of God, is more properly His act than ours, see 1Co_13:12 : “Then I shall know, even as also I am known;” Gal_4:9 : “Now having known God, or rather having been known by Him;” Php_3:12 : “If I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended by Christ.” Stanley].

2. Christian liberty, its nature and limitations. According to Luther’s spirite