Issues of Conscience

roast meat

The Bible describes with clarity many responsibilities of believers in the contexts of government and society. Still in some areas believers are not given specific instructions, and instead must rely on applying general biblical principles to contemporary challenges. For example, Paul mandates without compromise that the Roman believers should pay the taxes required of them (Rom. 13:7), but when it comes to eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul gives the Corinthians options (1 Cor. 8-10).

Pagan temples in first-century Corinth often included animal sacrifice. Even beyond the temples themselves, the marketplace was well represented with meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Consequently, the issue of whether a believer should eat such meat became an iconic cultural problem for the Corinthian church. Each era and context presents its own unique challenges. Every culture encounters, From time to time, moral issues so complex as to defy simple solutions. Still, in each and every instance, despite any level of complexity, these challenges can be answered appropriately by biblical principles. But before one can correctly apply a general principle to a specific situation, the person must understand the principle. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians is helpful, as he explains the principles and their grounding so that the believers at Corinth could apply them well, and in so doing could maintain clear consciences.

Paul recognizes that even though the meat issue was a cultural hot potato, essentially it really wasn’t a significant issue at all. Because there is no God but one (1 Cor. 8:4), and because through Christ all things have their existence (1 Cor. 8:6), Paul and the Corinthians could have certain knowledge that at its core, the sacrificed meat issue was no issue at all. Food would not commend them to God (1 Cor. 8:8). Nonetheless, Paul warns against pride, contrasting it with edification (1 Cor. 8:1). The moral issue in play was not about an essential wrongness of eating sacrificed meat. There simply was no essential wrongness. Rather, the issue to which the Corinthian believers needed to be attentive was that of edifying or building up brothers in Christ (1 Cor. 8:1, 9-13). Paul provides and illustrates in 1 Corinthians 10:23-32 several principles to that end.

First, “All things are lawful (or possible), but not all things are profitable” (1 Cor. 10:23). All things that are not restricted are permitted. Where there is no regulation given in Scripture, there is freedom for the believer. This is one reason Paul wants the Corinthians to “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). To place a heavier yoke on people than the Bible places on people results in pride—which is a tremendously destructive form of idolatry. Not only does pride tear down rather than build up, but ultimately, it is in conflict with God’s doxological purpose (His purpose of glorifying Himself—or expressing His own character).

Second, “All things are lawful (or possible), but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23). The Greek term (sumphero) translated here as profitable means to bring together, and the term translated edify (oikodomeo) means to house-build, or build up. The second term explains the scope of the first. In other words, what is profitable or bringing together is that which house-builds or builds up. In this context, what is profitable for believers is that which builds up.

Third, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24). The word good is not in the Greek text, rather it has been added by the translators to help clarify the meaning of the passage. I think the passage is better translated without the word (“Let no one seek his own, but that of his neighbor”), because it causes the reader to ask, ‘Let no one seek his own what?’ Rather than assuming the good without realizing its specific definition in this context, the reader should be drawn to the word edify. This is not referencing general good, as in saying we may not pursue good for ourselves, rather it is referencing specific good in terms of building up. Paul speaks in universal terms of all believers (“Let no one…”), and mandates that we should seek the building up of our neighbor. As Paul references the concept of building up elsewhere (e.g., 2 Cor. 10:8, 13:10; Eph. 4:12, 16), it is evident he is speaking in terms of spiritual growth.

We should be attentive to the spiritual needs of others, basing our decisions, where we have freedom, not on our own growth but on the growth of others. Paul restates this in 1 Corinthains 10:33, noting that he seeks not his own profit (sumphoron), but the profit of many. There are obviously many specific biblical directions regarding how we are to attend to our own spiritual growth, so we are certainly not to ignore our own spiritual growth and building up. But in cases where we have options, we should look for the benefit of others.

Next, Paul illustrates in 1 Corinthians 10:25-30 the above three principles in action, applying them to the specific situation at hand. Eat and don’t ask questions—it doesn’t matter if the meat is sacrificed or not. The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains (10:26)—all things belong to Him, even if an item has been misappropriated by one to whom it had been given. Further, even when interacting with unbelievers, there is still no issue. Only when it is made an issue by someone perceiving that there is an issue (10:28), the believer should act in consideration of that person. In other words, the believer—seeking the good of the other, rather than the good of his own—should be sensitive and attentive to the (spiritual, in this context) needs of others.

Finally, Paul announces the highest order principle: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). His words here accomplish two important purposes. First, by adding the phrase “or whatever you do,” he shows that the principles he is discussing are relevant for every area of life and not just for the occasion at hand. Believers are not at liberty to compartmentalize areas of our lives—employing one set of principles for our spiritual endeavors and a whole different set for our societal and political ones. Paul shows us here that all of our actions are to be governed by the same principles. Secondly—and most importantly—he reminds the reader of the ultimate purpose for every action in the believer’s life: God’s glory. The glory of God is God’s purpose, and it is to be ours as well. If our thoughts, words and deeds do not pass the doxological test, then they need to be changed.

We should seek not what is permissible, but what is profitable. What is profitable is that which builds up. That which builds up others rather than ourselves, on issues of conscience, is the focus of these principles. These principles are applicable not just to what we eat, but to every area of life. In every area of life our divinely mandated goal is to glorify God.

Where the Bible offers no specific direction, it still answers every situation we can possibly encounter, bidding us to apply these principles comprehensively and faithfully. If we are diligent to that end, we will not lack for confidence or be burdened with uncertainty in discerning whether or not our actions are appropriate for the occasion.

22446 reads

There are 62 Comments

Mike Harding's picture

I am essentially following the argumentation of Cranfield on Romans 14.  Cranfield does an excellent job laying out the options and settles on weak Jewish believers who had great difficulty making the transition from certain aspects of the Law which no longer applied--namely special days and dietary restrictions.  However, this was no small matter.  Mishandled, these matters could destroy their brethren and lead to apostasy.  Their weakness was in "the faith" not simply faith.  Eventually you want to lead those weak in the "the faith" to be strong in "the faith".  Essentially, Romans 14 is dealing with doctrinal matters.  1 Cor 8-10 is dealing with idolatry.  It is idol worship to eat meat sacrificed to idols while in the idol temples.  Violate this principle and it will lead to apostasy.  It is also wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols in private settings when it could cause a brother to sin or even violate the expectations of unbelievers.  The difference between meat and wine is that there are no inherent properities in the meat that could inebriate, cloud one's moral or spiritual judgment, or loosen one's natural inhibitions.  This is why Paul cautions "not beside wine" (paroinos) or "not much wine" or "do not drink water only, but a little wine for your stomach's sake".  The alcoholic content in fermented wine and beer is a mocker and raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.  Some prinicples regarding the meat issue may apply to the alcohol issue, but they are not the same issues overall.

Pastor Mike Harding

Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
...

I believe that part of the problem in understanding the passage is the connotations in English of 'strong' and 'weak'. We think of strong as noble, high, informed, courageous, and weak as doubtful, wavering, unflattering, unattractive. But that is not how the words are used by Paul in 1 Corinthians, or, indeed, in Romans. They refer to the conscience of the believer. The strong-conscience believer is not troubled by any scruples about the item in question, the weak-conscience believer is sensitive to the matter and is stricken by pangs of conscience when put in a situation where he might likely violate it.

Neither strong nor weak = more or less spiritual. In fact, I think the weak in 1 Cor are more spiritual and the strong in Romans are more spiritual, because of the differing issues in question.

Wow - we have so much agreement. I think that what you said here is vital to understanding both passages (1 Cor 8-10 and Rom 14-15). In both these passages, Paul is to some extent promoting weakness.
Don Johnson wrote:
...I also don't see 1 Cor 8 as being parallel at all with Romans 14. The issue in 1 Cor 8 is very specific, Rm 14 is talking about being a vegetarian vs. a carnivore (I vote carnivore!!!), and the keeping of days (possibly the Lord's day) in one way or another. The idolatry connection is not in view in Rm 14. The only similarity is the terms, strong and weak, but I think the meaning of the terms is quite different in each passage.
That there is a parallel with Romans 14 is, I think, obvious. Perhaps this question deserves a thread of its own. 

Terms and use:
Strong and weak - In both passages Paul uses these terms to refer to ability and inability to do certain things.
What things?
Both passages involve eating meat. Don sees a difference, though. R14 says the weak is vegetarian. 1Cor8 doesn't say he's a vegetarian - only that he avoids idol-meat. I still think both passages are talking about idol-meat, but for now I want to list things that are obviously parallel.
Both passages acknowledge that the "strong" has the right to partake.
R14:6,16
1Cor 8:9 "this liberty (ἐξουσία) of yours" 
The act of giving thanks validates one's position.
R14:6 "The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God"
1Cor10:30 "If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?"
(This also shows up in 1Tim4:1-5, which speaks of the conscience, marriage, and eating.)
The weak will tend to blaspheme the strong and their actions:
R14:"Let not then your good be evil spoken of (βλασφημείσθω)"
1Cor10:30 "why am I evil spoken of (βλασφημοῦμαι) for that for which I give thanks"
Both passages indicate risk of a fall into sin or apostasy on the part of the "weak."
R14:20-21 "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble."
1Cor8:11-13 "And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble."
There is a significant call to the strong to give up their rights to promote fellowship:
R14:17-22 "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God."
R15:1-2 "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."
1Cor (see the opening post article)

Don Johnson's picture

Well, it is true that there are parallels. I don't have time to go in depth on this right now, but I am preaching through Romans. This Sunday will finish up Rm 11, I left a few verses to "review" and get a running start into Rm 12 after our Christmas series in Isa 53. At the pace that I go, it will probably be eight months to a year before I get to Romans 14! ... although 12/13 are relatively short, so who knows.

That doesn't mean I won't chime in here, but I don't really have time to go into depth on it.

Let me say this, though. It is undeniable that there are parallels, but that makes the distinctions all the more important. Is Paul saying the same thing in both passages? I don't think so, because of the distinctions. It would seem odd to repeat himself, for one thing, and the two churches were quite different so the issues being addressed were different, even though there are similarities.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Lee's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

...Eventually you want to lead those weak in the "the faith" to be strong in "the faith".  ...

Couldn't disagree more.  The scripture is quite clear--"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."  Argumentation is an effort to change, and it could not be more clear: do not receive them with the idea of changing them (making them strong like me).  In this passage the weaker is NOT a lesser believer.  They are on par with the strong.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a believer following the dietary or feast laws of the OT if not for the purposes of salvation.  James makes that crystal clear in Acts 21:20 FF--"Thous seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:...Do therefore this that we say to thee...." Which Paul willingly complied with--the same Paul who unconditionally condemned those that would state keeping the law was necessary for salvation.

To determine that this person struggling with the status of diet, days, or whatever needs to become as "strong" as we  are is antithetic to the whole teaching of the passage.  It is pleasing ourselves.  "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." 

 

Lee

Dan Miller's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
I am essentially following the argumentation of Cranfield on Romans 14.  Cranfield does an excellent job laying out the options and settles on weak Jewish believers who had great difficulty making the transition from certain aspects of the Law which no longer applied--namely special days and dietary restrictions.  However, this was no small matter. 
...
The "weak" were Jews - I agree with Mike on that. The whole epistle to the Romans is dealing with Jew-Gentile difficulties. It should be expected, given the fact that this letter comes in a period after the return to Rome of the exiled Jews after the death of Claudius.

The examples given in R14 are meat and days. Are these Jewish? Certainly the Sabbath is a Jewish issue. But what about meat? Can we say with Mike Harding that "Jewish believers who had great difficulty making the transition from certain aspects of the Law which no longer applied" if the issue was vegetarianism? Did Kosher Law require vegetarianism? Well, no, not exactly. But if the meat was tainted by idolatry, then it was prohibited. 

Daniel 1:8-16 "But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. ... 11 Then Daniel said,... “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables."

Note that there is a problem for Mike Harding with this, though. IF R14 meat-abstinence in Jewish, THEN it is because of idolatry. IF it is related to idolatry, THEN it isn't simply about ham. Peter's vision (Acts 10-"Kill and eat") does nothing to free up the "weak" meat-avoider.

This isn't about dietary laws - it's about Shema and the 1st of the Decalogue. Those are not things that are part of "the transition from certain aspects of the Law which no longer applied."

Since the weak is vegetarian, he cannot be objecting on a Jewish basis unless his issue is idol-association. The issue in Rome was exactly the issue in Corinth. Idol-tainted meat.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Lee wrote:

 

Mike Harding wrote:

 

...Eventually you want to lead those weak in the "the faith" to be strong in "the faith".  ...

 

 

Couldn't disagree more.  The scripture is quite clear--"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."  Argumentation is an effort to change, and it could not be more clear: do not receive them with the idea of changing them (making them strong like me).  In this passage the weaker is NOT a lesser believer.  They are on par with the strong.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a believer following the dietary or feast laws of the OT if not for the purposes of salvation.  James makes that crystal clear in Acts 21:20 FF--"Thous seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:...Do therefore this that we say to thee...." Which Paul willingly complied with--the same Paul who unconditionally condemned those that would state keeping the law was necessary for salvation.

To determine that this person struggling with the status of diet, days, or whatever needs to become as "strong" as we  are is antithetic to the whole teaching of the passage.  It is pleasing ourselves.  "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." 

 

Lee,

It doesn't say not to argue or attempt to pursuade; it says not to quarrel. The topic of the quarrel is "doubtful disputations." These are disputable matters, literally quarrals about opinions (according to the Bible Knowledge Commentary) or underdeveloped thoughts (MacArthur). It's not that we cannot seek to purseude, but that we should not sit in judgement over trivia.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Lee's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

 

Lee wrote:

 

 

Mike Harding wrote:

 

...Eventually you want to lead those weak in the "the faith" to be strong in "the faith".  ...

 

 

Couldn't disagree more.  The scripture is quite clear--"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."  Argumentation is an effort to change, and it could not be more clear: do not receive them with the idea of changing them (making them strong like me).  In this passage the weaker is NOT a lesser believer.  They are on par with the strong.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a believer following the dietary or feast laws of the OT if not for the purposes of salvation.  James makes that crystal clear in Acts 21:20 FF--"Thous seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:...Do therefore this that we say to thee...." Which Paul willingly complied with--the same Paul who unconditionally condemned those that would state keeping the law was necessary for salvation.

To determine that this person struggling with the status of diet, days, or whatever needs to become as "strong" as we  are is antithetic to the whole teaching of the passage.  It is pleasing ourselves.  "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." 

 

 

Lee,

 

It doesn't say not to argue or attempt to pursuade; it says not to quarrel. The topic of the quarrel is "doubtful disputations." These are disputable matters, literally quarrals about opinions (according to the Bible Knowledge Commentary) or underdeveloped thoughts (MacArthur). It's not that we cannot seek to purseude, but that we should not sit in judgement over trivia.

Quarreling is an effort to change them to your opinion.  Not sure I'm seeing the difference.

Lee

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Since the weak is vegetarian, he cannot be objecting on a Jewish basis unless his issue is idol-association. The issue in Rome was exactly the issue in Corinth. Idol-tainted meat.

Between sentence 1 and sentence 2 in the quoted section.

Romans says nothing about idol-meat. You are reading that into the passage. It could be idol-meat, but it isn't specific, whereas the "vegetables only" is specific. And "vegetables only" is not the same as "no idol-meat".

I am also not certain that Romans is talking about Jew/Gentile issues in chapter 14. The terms aren't used. Paul isn't afraid of using the terms in the epistle, see chapter 11, for example, and throughout the book. Hence, I think the "Jewish factor" is read into chapter 14, not derived from it. We don't even know if the "days" that Rm 14 is talking about were Jewish days. The text doesn't say. It could be that they were, but it could also be that there was a dispute about how to keep Sunday, the Lord's day. The point is made generically, it can apply to any situation where people are disputing about days and despising those who hold the opposite view.

My argument is that we must approach the text with no assumptions and let the text inform us what it is talking about.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

The very term "weak" used by Paul in Romans 14 is not very complimentary.  "Weak" in regard to "the faith" is even less complimentary.  If these Jewish believers who were used to being under "the Law" had a difficult time understanding the new dispensation of grace and the church age, one would want them to come to a full understanding of that matter.  If they understood that issue as Paul did, then they would be strong in the faith whether or not they held on to some of the food restrictions or special days.  Paul was not pushing the weak to change their behavior, but hopefully by a full understanding of Romans and Galatians, they would have a better understanding of the new dispensation and realize that certain aspects of the Law were no longer necessary.  Paul did not want them to violate their religious conscience, but that does not infer that their consciences didn't need to be further educated.  Moo and Cranfield essentially argue this way as well as Snoeberger.  Though there are similarities between 1 Cor 8-10 and Romans 14, the basic problems are different.

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Lee's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

...Since the weak is vegetarian, he cannot be objecting on a Jewish basis unless his issue is idol-association. The issue in Rome was exactly the issue in Corinth. Idol-tainted meat.

Idolatry isn't even mentioned in Romans after what, chap 2?  So Paul just pulled idol meat and who-knows-what days out of thin air 12 chapters later after a lengthy discussion of justification by faith, the purpose and place of the law, the Jew and the Gentile, etc.? 

You want to understand Rom. 14 go to Acts 21 and chronicle how Paul, the strong, puts the tenets of Rom. 14 into practice.

 

Lee

Dan Miller's picture

Don, if the issue was Jew-gentile, then OT food laws are not enough.

That leaves two possibilities:

1) It was a Jew-gentile issue and it was idol-meat.

2) It wasn't a Jew-gentile issue - instead, it was something else - Hellenistic Asceticism or something else.

But it could not be simply OT food laws, newly abrogated by Peter's vision and Mark 7.

I do not think that reading the meat issue as idol meat is a leap, expecially with OT histories like Daniel showing us idol-motivated foreign city vegetarianism by Jews. Hellenistic Asceticisim is more of a leap.

Dan Miller's picture

Lee wrote:
Idolatry isn't even mentioned in Romans after what, chap 2?  So Paul just pulled idol meat and who-knows-what days out of thin air 12 chapters later after a lengthy discussion of justification by faith, the purpose and place of the law, the Jew and the Gentile, etc.?
Paul has been talking about all kinds of Jew-gentile issues through the book. In the last 3 chapters, he turns to outward practices and that means how the groups differ in how they think about things associated with idols. Theological...practical. I'm sorry, but I don't understand your "out of thin air" comment. You make it sound like a subject that is brought up without having been recently discussed is impossible.
My argument is that unclean meat (e.g., ham) is not enough to explain the vegetarianism in Romans 14. Moses did not require one to be vegetarian. All the meat is viewed as unclean by the weak brothers in Rome. That speaks of idol-association, which was a common reason for vegetarianism among Jews in foreign cities (e.g., Daniel). 
Lee wrote:
You want to understand Rom. 14 go to Acts 21 and chronicle how Paul, the strong, puts the tenets of Rom. 14 into practice.
YES! Especially since Paul wrote Romans during his stay at Corinth, which is in Acts 18, probably only weeks or months prior to the events of Acts 21.

Dan Miller's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
The very term "weak" used by Paul in Romans 14 is not very complimentary.  "Weak" in regard to "the faith" is even less complimentary.  If these Jewish believers who were used to being under "the Law" had a difficult time understanding the new dispensation of grace and the church age, one would want them to come to a full understanding of that matter.  If they understood that issue as Paul did, then they would be strong in the faith whether or not they held on to some of the food restrictions or special days.  Paul was not pushing the weak to change their behavior, but hopefully by a full understanding of Romans and Galatians, they would have a better understanding of the new dispensation and realize that certain aspects of the Law were no longer necessary.  Paul did not want them to violate their religious conscience, but that does not infer that their consciences didn't need to be further educated.  Moo and Cranfield essentially argue this way as well as Snoeberger.  Though there are similarities between 1 Cor 8-10 and Romans 14, the basic problems are different.
Since Mike brings up the phrase, "weak in faith," I believe that "in faith" (τῇ πίστει) should be read as a dative of means or instrument, thus: "As for the one who is weak by means of his faith…" 

I see his faith, and his understanding of the Law as educating his convictions regarding meat in Rome. In other words, I believe that the "weak" is right here, too.

I don't share Mike's view of weak as "not very complimentary." 

alex o.'s picture

Dan Miller, I believe, has the best understanding of the issue of vegetarianism in Romans. After all, sheep, goats, beef, and acceptable game were all possible for consumption in the Mosaic scheme. Perhaps there was a monopoly on all meat in Rome that it had to come through sacrifice to Jupiter. This is very plausible since the Roman State was very religious (false), especially in the captital (background reading will clearly show this to all who care).

Miller also refers to Dan.1 where the issue is also idols and not the type of meat or wine. This can be seen in the fact that there were no differentiation of wine in the Mosaic code as there was for animals (1. Daniel was allowed to use wine, but didn't. 2. the Hebrews probably bought wine from others during the wilderness years to fulfill the sacrifice schedule).

Often, many fundies will make a good argument for gun rights: "guns don't kill people, people kill people" Then, however, they come to the issue of use of alcohol, many will say: "alcohol ruined so and so's life". What is the difference? It is about responsibility not prohibition.

Fundamentalism can be best described as moralism from what I have witnessed during my time in its institutions. A "Catholic envy" almost existed organizationally. I have not heard about any repentance from institutional legalism in Fundamentalist circles. In reality the Bible speaks about the church as a spiritual organism known only to God and not primarily as a human organization.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Don, if the issue was Jew-gentile, then OT food laws are not enough.

That leaves two possibilities:

1) It was a Jew-gentile issue and it was idol-meat.

2) It wasn't a Jew-gentile issue - instead, it was something else - Hellenistic Asceticism or something else.

But it could not be simply OT food laws, newly abrogated by Peter's vision and Mark 7.

I do not think that reading the meat issue as idol meat is a leap, expecially with OT histories like Daniel showing us idol-motivated foreign city vegetarianism by Jews. Hellenistic Asceticisim is more of a leap.

I'm not quite sure I am following what you are saying in this one. To hopefully clarify my own point, when I say that it is a bit of a leap, what I mean is the assertion that "The issue in Rome was exactly the issue in Corinth. Idol-tainted meat." You don't know that for sure. There are other possibilities, the text is not clear on this point one way or another. It could be idol-tainted meat or it could be just meat of any kind.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

As I reflect on the argument I make from the Text, I should have said, "The issue in Rome was basically the issue in Corinth. Idol-tainted meat."

I can't argue that the Roman strong ate their idol-meat in the pagan temple. Perhaps that will give us more to agree on.

alex o. wrote:
...Perhaps there was a monopoly on all meat in Rome that it had to come through sacrifice to Jupiter...
My understanding is that fear of illness and superstition caused people to refuse meat that wasn't blessed by their gods. So finding non-idol-meat in the city would be tough.

Lee's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

...It could be idol-tainted meat or it could be just meat of any kind.

Here is where you and I differ, and here's why.

You have correctly concluded that I Cor. 6-10 is absolutely prohibiting the eating of idol meat or sitting in the idol temple once knowledge has been attained of its idolatrous connection.  It is careful to emphasize that the problem is not the meat but the idolatry, thus certifying that the idolatry of any given culture can (and does) profane/pollute very neutral things/actions.  The problem is idolatry, not meat or place, but the idolatry makes the meat or place profane.  "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils."

However, the conclusion in Rom. 14 is completely different. There is a world of difference between "...ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils..." and "...He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."  IOW, Romans 14 cannot be referencing the same meat issue as the conclusions are contradictory. To be referencing the same meat issue Paul, under inspiration, would be taking a position contrary to James, the elder of Jerusalem (Acts 15:19-20; Acts 21:25), to the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28), to the entire body of the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15:25-28), to himself (I Cor. 8-10), and to the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:14 & 20).  Didn't happen.   

Lee

Dan Miller's picture

Lee wrote:
...You [Don] have correctly concluded that I Cor. 6-10 is absolutely prohibiting the eating of idol meat or sitting in the idol temple once knowledge has been attained of its idolatrous connection.
Interested in what Don says about Lee's post, but I do not agree with the absolute part of the above. 

Don Johnson's picture

Lee wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

...It could be idol-tainted meat or it could be just meat of any kind.

 

Here is where you and I differ, and here's why.

...

However, the conclusion in Rom. 14 is completely different. There is a world of difference between "...ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils..." and "...He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks." 

I think you make a good point. In my defense, when I say "could/couldn't" I am strictly arguing from the meaning of the words in the text of Rm 14. I agree with you that there is an absolute prohibition in 1 Cor, as I stated above... somewhere... That would preclude idol meat in Romans, which I have always maintained simply based on the word "vegetables" - the two situations are completely different. I am not sure that it is the Jewish laws of cleanness and  uncleanness that is in view, however.

This discussion certainly makes me eager to get to Rm 14, but I have 35 verses in 12 and 13 to get through first!

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Lee's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

...

This discussion certainly makes me eager to get to Rm 14, but I have 35 verses in 12 and 13 to get through first!

 

Cheat!  Smile

Lee

alex o.'s picture

We live in an completely different era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods, the temples and their specific practices, the attitudes of the people during this time, etc. This is why we need to look at other histories, even basic ones such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its a time consuming task but indispensable for any accurate understanding.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Lee's picture

alex o. wrote:

We live in an completely different era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods, the temples and their specific practices, the attitudes of the people during this time, etc. This is why we need to look at other histories, even basic ones such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its a time consuming task but indispensable for any accurate understanding.

So what are you saying--that no accurate understanding and application can be made unless someone has the equivalent of a terminal degree in 1st century Greco-Roman cultural studies?

I suggest we simplify, since I really don't think times changing caught God by surprise when He inspired these passages.  Practically every culture/society has idolatries that define them.  The Romans/Greeks did not invent that concept nor did they hold a lock on it.  Identify the idolatry of any given culture and the accompanying idols and that which is profaned by that idolatry ("pollutions of idols") will become evident.  Then it is just a matter of being obedient--"abstain from pollutions of idols"

Three levels of obedience: Idolatry--"flee from" it (I Cor. 10); idols--"keep [guard] yourselves from" them (I Jn. 5:21); pollutions (meat offered to) of idols--"abstain from..."

The problem is idolatry.  That was the major external problem facing the church in the 1st century; it is the major external problem facing the church today.

Lee

alex o.'s picture

Lee wrote:

 

alex o. wrote:

 

We live in an completely different era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods, the temples and their specific practices, the attitudes of the people during this time, etc. This is why we need to look at other histories, even basic ones such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its a time consuming task but indispensable for any accurate understanding.

 

 

So what are you saying--that no accurate understanding and application can be made unless someone has the equivalent of a terminal degree in 1st century Greco-Roman cultural studies?

I suggest we simplify, since I really don't think times changing caught God by surprise when He inspired these passages.  Practically every culture/society has idolatries that define them.  The Romans/Greeks did not invent that concept nor did they hold a lock on it.  Identify the idolatry of any given culture and the accompanying idols and that which is profaned by that idolatry ("pollutions of idols") will become evident.  Then it is just a matter of being obedient--"abstain from pollutions of idols"

Three levels of obedience: Idolatry--"flee from" it (I Cor. 10); idols--"keep [guard] yourselves from" them (I Jn. 5:21); pollutions (meat offered to) of idols--"abstain from..."

The problem is idolatry.  That was the major external problem facing the church in the 1st century; it is the major external problem facing the church today.

 

Quite the leap Lee.

I don't want to be too sarcastic, but what you suggest is pure folly. This is anachronistic reading of the Bible defined. Do you really believe a simplistic reading and devising  a sort of formula like you propose is how God intended us to handle Scripture? Frankly, Lee, your advice is the scariest thing I have heard in quite some time. 

 

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Lee's picture

alex o. wrote:

 

 

Quite the leap Lee.

I don't want to be too sarcastic, but what you suggest is pure folly. This is anachronistic reading of the Bible defined. Do you really believe a simplistic reading and devising  a sort of formula like you propose is how God intended us to handle Scripture? Frankly, Lee, your advice is the scariest thing I have heard in quite some time. 

 

 

Help me then.  Because the way I'm reading you is that the passages have no meaning or application unless the worship of Jupiter, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Artemis rolls back into fashion, in which case we're prepared.

So let's work on where we agree. 

Do we agree that the major external problem facing the church today is idolatry?

Do we agree that idolatry defines most societies,cultures and sub-cultures including western societies?

Lee

alex o.'s picture

Lee wrote:

 

alex o. wrote:

 

 

 

Quite the leap Lee.

I don't want to be too sarcastic, but what you suggest is pure folly. This is anachronistic reading of the Bible defined. Do you really believe a simplistic reading and devising  a sort of formula like you propose is how God intended us to handle Scripture? Frankly, Lee, your advice is the scariest thing I have heard in quite some time. 

 

 

 

 

Help me then.  Because the way I'm reading you is that the passages have no meaning or application unless the worship of Jupiter, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Artemis rolls back into fashion, in which case we're prepared.

So let's work on where we agree. 

Do we agree that the major external problem facing the church today is idolatry?

Do we agree that idolatry defines most societies,cultures and sub-cultures including western societies?

You still seem to be long jumping. You are not reading me close enough. Why take these giant leaps?

Firstly, on my previous post, you thought I was saying someone needed a terminal degree, which I meant nothing of the sorts. Any formal training is supposed to equip the person for further study. Generally, the more formal training the better but it is also dependent on the institution, advisors and other mentors. After training it is up to the person to continue their development along the line of their gifts. I recommend formal study for yourself as the best advice I could give.

Second, how could you get that the text has no meaning unless Greek and Roman idolatry is reestablished from what I said? I was speaking of determining certain distinctions which is simply impossible from the text of Scripture alone without a background study of documents, which also, by God's general grace, have been preserved. 

Also, of course, yes, idolatry is rampant whether it takes the shape of self, society, things, etc. However, understanding it and overcoming it personally and how to proclaim Christ as King, Lawgiver, Judge, and Savior, I suspect we would do differently.

I recommend to you reading all the Bible systematically, extensively, and prayerfully before anything else without the lens of fundamentalist preachings. Most self-professed Fundamentalists are fairly ignorant of what the Bible actually says in a meaningful sense from my experience. The NIV, ESV, and other versions instead of the KJV, will better illumine the text in my opinion. 

 

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Lee's picture

alex o. wrote:

 

You still seem to be long jumping. You are not reading me close enough. Why take these giant leaps?

Let's call it exaggeration for emphasis sake Smile I think most people reading would have picked up on this relatively common rhetorical device

Quote:

Firstly, on my previous post, you thought I was saying someone needed a terminal degree, which I meant nothing of the sorts. Any formal training is supposed to equip the person for further study. Generally, the more formal training the better but it is also dependent on the institution, advisors and other mentors. After training it is up to the person to continue their development along the line of their gifts. I recommend formal study for yourself as the best advice I could give.

You said "We live in an...era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods...we need to look at other histories...such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its...indispensable for any accurate understanding." While "terminal degree in Greco-Roman cultural studies" may be hyperbole, it does come across that you are stating that there is some expertise in extra-biblical writings that is absolutely necessary to "rightly divide" this portion of the "word of truth." I'll admit, I do find that concept a little troubling in the whole completeness and authoritativeness of scripture idea.

Quote:
Second, how could you get that the text has no meaning unless Greek and Roman idolatry is reestablished from what I said? I was speaking of determining certain distinctions which is simply impossible from the text of Scripture alone without a background study of documents, which also, by God's general grace, have been preserved.

Short step, really.  If it has no determinable meaning without an expertise in understanding Greco-Roman idolatry/culture then it likely has no meaning without the Greco-Roman idolatry/culture. 

But that is beside the point.  The matter of meat offered to idols is not a Greco-Roman thing.  It was a problem long before, first introduced in the account of Balaam in Num. 25:1-3 --"And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel" --and it continued to be a problem even as the Scripture revelation was being concluded in Rev. 2.  Interesting that Christ, in His scathing reprimands of the idolatrous influence allowed into the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira, chose to ignore the common idolatry but illustrated with the meat issue preceding the establishment of His chosen in the promised land and under the rain of the kings.  Makes me think that the point of the passages in I Cor. 8-10 and Acts 15 might be able to be understood without as much inundation in Roman worship studies as you propose.   

 

 

Quote:
Also, of course, yes, idolatry is rampant whether it takes the shape of self, society, things, etc. However, understanding it and overcoming it personally and how to proclaim Christ as King, Lawgiver, Judge, and Savior, I suspect we would do differently.

Not talking of idolatry in the "anything can be an idol sense."  That is simply a ploy.  The NT passages on meat offered to idols are referencing identifiable idolatry that is definitive of an identifiable society, community, etc.  Corinth was a worshipper of Aphrodite; Ephesus Diana, etc.  It was the practices involved in this very identifiable worship that were being addressed.

Quote:
I recommend to you reading all the Bible systematically, extensively, and prayerfully before anything else without the lens of fundamentalist preachings. Most self-professed Fundamentalists are fairly ignorant of what the Bible actually says in a meaningful sense from my experience. The NIV, ESV, and other versions instead of the KJV, will better illumine the text in my opinion.

Glad you got a handle on that.  For some reason my mind immediately referenced Job 12:2.  If you want to take that as a mild rebuke, please consider it in the light it was given--"faithful are the wounds of a friend."

 

 

 

Lee

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Lee wrote:
You said "We live in an...era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods...we need to look at other histories...such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its...indispensable for any accurate understanding." While "terminal degree in Greco-Roman cultural studies" may be hyperbole, it does come across that you are stating that there is some expertise in extra-biblical writings that is absolutely necessary to "rightly divide" this portion of the "word of truth." I'll admit, I do find that concept a little troubling in the whole completeness and authoritativeness of scripture idea.
Lee,

I hear this kind of argument from time to time. I am sure it is usually well intentioned. It sounds good. But it doesn't hold up under scrutiny. No one is undermining the completeness or authority of scripture when they call for additional extra-biblical study in order to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." The fact is, we all recognize the need for extra-biblical study. At it's most basic level, there is an extra-biblical requirement that we learn how to read and understand the basic rules of grammar in order to study the Bible. These are absolutely necessary, extra-biblical studies. All Alex O. is suggesting is that they are not the only ones, particularly now that we are 2,000 years removed from the closing of the cannon. This is commonly understood to be the historical part of the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics - a generally accepted concept among conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Lee's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

 

Lee wrote:

You said "We live in an...era largely unconnected with the Greek and Roman gods...we need to look at other histories...such as Plutarch and Tacitus and not only focus on the text of the Bible about issues removed 2000 years from us. Its...indispensable for any accurate understanding." While "terminal degree in Greco-Roman cultural studies" may be hyperbole, it does come across that you are stating that there is some expertise in extra-biblical writings that is absolutely necessary to "rightly divide" this portion of the "word of truth." I'll admit, I do find that concept a little troubling in the whole completeness and authoritativeness of scripture idea.

Lee,

 

I hear this kind of argument from time to time. I am sure it is usually well intentioned. It sounds good. But it doesn't hold up under scrutiny. No one is undermining the completeness or authority of scripture when they call for additional extra-biblical study in order to "rightly divide the Word of Truth." The fact is, we all recognize the need for extra-biblical study. At it's most basic level, there is an extra-biblical requirement that we learn how to read and understand the basic rules of grammar in order to study the Bible. These are absolutely necessary, extra-biblical studies. All Alex O. is suggesting is that they are not the only ones, particularly now that we are 2,000 years removed from the closing of the cannon. This is commonly understood to be the historical part of the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics - a generally accepted concept among conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Not arguing the value of extra-biblical studies.  Practically all education is such, and I am a huge fan of education.  His point was that studying these pagan historian/philosophers was "indispensable", a term that connotes impossibility, as if Scripture is incapable of communicating itself by itself.  This I have an issue with.

For example, Gen. 1:16 says simply "he made the stars also."  While a study of astronomy illuminates the enormity of the statement, it is not "indispensable" to understand the truth of the inspired communication. 

In Scripture you have an inspired historical record of how being in proximity to idolatry led to participation in idolatrous observances which eventually led to practicing idol worship and its almost always accompanying immorality (Num. 25:2), a record referenced both by Paul (I Cor. 10) and Jesus Christ (Rev. 2) in their addresses of the matter of meat offered to idols.  What do Plutarch and Tacitus have to add to that inspired record that makes understanding them (and others) "indispensable" in understanding truth?

Lee

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Lee,

That was my point though, some extra-biblical studies are indispensable to rightly dividing the Word. As I noted and you agreed, basic skills in reading and grammar are indispensable to any investigation of scripture. Other studies, such as historical context or original language studies, are more or less indispensable depending on the passage being considered - for instance the lukewarm statement to the church in Laodicea.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Lee's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Lee,

That was my point though, some extra-biblical studies are indispensable to rightly dividing the Word. As I noted and you agreed, basic skills in reading and grammar are indispensable to any investigation of scripture. Other studies, such as historical context or original language studies, are more or less indispensable depending on the passage being considered - for instance the lukewarm statement to the church in Laodicea.

Still a long step from "you need to be able to read" to "you need to read Plutarch." 

Not sure why a geographical study of Laodicea is "indispensable" to understand that water that is not cold and not hot is undesirably lukewarm when cold or hot is the desired end.

Lee

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.