"What do I imply then?" - connecting 1 Cor 8 and 10

This is a continuation of Was It Always Idolatrous for Corinthian Christians to Eat εἰδωλόθυτα in an Idol’s Temple?

Here, I want to look at Paul's question in 1 Cor 10:19 and the answer in 10:20. 

ESV: 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No*, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

NASB: 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No*, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.

KJV: 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 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.

* "No" is added by some translations for sense.

As I study this passage again, I'm struck by these two verses. Paul, as he was finishing his case against eating in the temple in ch.10, recognized that his audience would object. And Paul expresses their objection: "What am I saying? That idol-meat is anything? Or that an idol is anything?" 

This objection is a re-assertion of the "knowledge" of ch.8. Therefore, Paul expects the eaters to object. The idea that "an idol is nothing" was a linchpin of their argument that they could eat in the temple. We read 10:1-22 and we are concerned that Paul was contradicting ch.8. But more importantly, Paul himself recognized that he was contradicting ch.8. Paul knew that by the time his readers got past v.18, they would see where he was going. And they would be thinking:

Wait a minute! Paul seems to be saying that an idol is something - I thought we all know that an idol is NOTHING.

I think this is very important. It shows:

  • Paul was aware of what he said in ch.8 when he wrote ch.10. They are connected by Paul's own prose. Therefore, we can discard the two-letters theory. 
  • Paul knew his readers would see a contradiction with ch.8. So if the solution was that ch.8 allowed a different area of the temple than ch.10 allowed, surely he would have said so. I also think we can discard the two-temple-locations theory.
  • Paul responds to the objection question by stating that there are sometimes demons behind idols - they are not nothing. This leaves us with the "gods"-vs-"demons" theory. Namely that Paul agreed that there were no false "gods." But he did not agree that there was nothing behind the idols. 
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RajeshG's picture

"Paul responds to the objection question by stating that there are sometimes demons behind idols - they are not nothing."

Neither verse 19 nor verse 20 qualifies what Paul says by saying that this is only true some of the time.

What basis then do you have for saying that Paul said demons are only sometimes behind idols?
 

Dan Miller's picture

I should probably have written “at least sometimes.” 

RajeshG's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

I should probably have written “at least sometimes.” 

The text is stating it as fact that this is what happens when the Gentiles sacrifice things to idols. There isn't any basis in the passage for saying that it happens sometimes or at least sometimes.

Dan Miller's picture

The point I’m making is that Paul expected a specific objection to his argument in 10:1-18. And that objection was that Ch.10 is countering the knowledge of ch.8. 

This means that ch.8 and 10:1-22 are discussions of the same question (can one eat in the temple?). 

Don Johnson's picture

We've had this discussion before, but I think each chapter is bearing on the same topic and building to the conclusion: Don't do it. Reason one: the weakness of the brother (potential for stumbling/relapse), Reason two, the worth of the gospel (Ch 9, testimony, prioritizing gospel concerns over personal indulgence), and Reason three, the wickedness of the heart (ch 10, the idols, though nothing in themselves, are the locus of demonic activity, don't be deceived, you are at risk).

Anyway, in my opinion, it is a layered argument moving from the most basic level to higher concerns and an ultimate conclusion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Don, You're right - we've discussed this before (perhaps an understatement).

I'm not necessarily trying to dredge up the whole conversation again. I'm mainly asking in this thread what 10:19 means near the end of Paul's argument against temple-eating. I have stated that 10:19 means that Paul knew he was contradicting the eaters. What do you think of that?

Don Johnson's picture

Yes, I agree with that. The point of ch 8 is a starting point, not the whole point.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RajeshG's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Don, You're right - we've discussed this before (perhaps an understatement).

I'm not necessarily trying to dredge up the whole conversation again. I'm mainly asking in this thread what 10:19 means near the end of Paul's argument against temple-eating. I have stated that 10:19 means that Paul knew he was contradicting the eaters. What do you think of that?

What exactly do you mean when you say that in 10:19 he was contradicting the eaters?

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

"Paul responds to the objection question by stating that there are sometimes demons behind idols - they are not nothing."

Neither verse 19 nor verse 20 qualifies what Paul says by saying that this is only true some of the time.

What basis then do you have for saying that Paul said demons are only sometimes behind idols?
 

What about Jeremiah 10:1-5? These idols don't seem to have demons behind them. They are only pieces of wood that have been adorned. Do you think an idol such as described in this passage would have a demon behind it?

10 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the Lord says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
    though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
    their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
    because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
    they can do no harm
    nor can they do any good.”

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

What about Jeremiah 10:1-5? These idols don't seem to have demons behind them. They are only pieces of wood that have been adorned. Do you think an idol such as described in this passage would have a demon behind it?

 

10 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2 This is what the Lord says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
    though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
    their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
    because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
    they can do no harm
    nor can they do any good.”

1 Corinthians 10:19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 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.

1 Cor. 10:20 is one of the most important verses in the Bible for understanding the demonic nature of idolatrous worship. Paul does not say that *sometimes* "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils." There is no qualification whatever in his statement.

This key NT verse reveals that "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils" is always the spiritual reality behind what takes place when humans engage in such practices.

The statements in Jeremiah 10:1-5 have no bearing on what we are to understand about the spiritual realities behind the idols when they are worshiped by humans. They are speaking of the idols as material objects in and of themselves and not about what happens when humans worship those objects by offering sacrifices to them.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

The statements in Jeremiah 10:1-5 have no bearing on what we are to understand about the spiritual realities behind the idols when they are worshiped by humans. They are speaking of the idols as material objects in and of themselves and not about what happens when humans worship those objects by offering sacrifices to them.

Isn't it significant that the material objects are spoken of in Jeremiah 10:5 with similar words to those used for food in I Cor. 8:8?

Jeremiah 10:5 - "They can do no harm, nor can they do any good.'

I Cor. 8:8 - "we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do."

Dan Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Dan miller: ... I'm mainly asking in this thread what 10:19 means near the end of Paul's argument against temple-eating. I have stated that 10:19 means that Paul knew he was contradicting the eaters. What do you think of that?

What exactly do you mean when you say that in 10:19 he was contradicting the eaters?

 

“eaters” = the group of brothers mentioned in ch8 who had knowledge and were eating in the temple.

Note, though, that I wasn’t saying that in 10:19 he was contradicting them. The eaters had reasoning for the right of theirs to eat in the temple. Paul expresses their reasoning in ch8. Then 10:1-22 is a long argument contradicting them. 

 10:19 confirms that Paul knows that 10:1-22 contradicts the eaters because in 10:19, Paul expresses an objection to what he’s saying (“~wait a minute, Paul, it sounds like you’re saying an idol is something!”) 

Dan Miller's picture

Kevin and Rajesh, I’m not sure it will be easy to resolve the question of whether idols sometimes or always have demons. But at least we can agree that it’s at least sometimes (and possibly always). That makes idols very dangerous and wrong.  Rajesh, I’m not trying to say you are wrong. But I hope we don’t get bogged down in that question.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

The statements in Jeremiah 10:1-5 have no bearing on what we are to understand about the spiritual realities behind the idols when they are worshiped by humans. They are speaking of the idols as material objects in and of themselves and not about what happens when humans worship those objects by offering sacrifices to them.

 

Isn't it significant that the material objects are spoken of in Jeremiah 10:5 with similar words to those used for food in I Cor. 8:8?

Jeremiah 10:5 - "They can do no harm, nor can they do any good.'

I Cor. 8:8 - "we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do."

No, it is not significant. The point in 1 Corinthians 10 is about what happens when humans engage in a wicked activity in relation to the idol--offering sacrifices to it. In the context of engaging in idolatrous worship in that manner, eating what is sacrificed on the altar makes you a partaker of the altar:

1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

BGT 1 Corinthians 10:18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν;

When things that have been sacrificed to an idol are eaten in a worship context, the eaters come into fellowship with demons:

1 Corinthians 10:20 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.

BGT 1 Corinthians 10:20 ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ [θύουσιν]· οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.

Eating in a worship context things that have been offered to an idol makes you a partaker of the altar and brings you into fellowship with demons. The idol itself is just a lifeless material object, but when you worship it by sacrificing to it and then eat what has been sacrificed to it, you come into fellowship with demons.

God does not want humans ever to have fellowship with demons!

 

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

No, it is not significant. The point in 1 Corinthians 10 is about what happens when humans engage in a wicked activity in relation to the idol--offering sacrifices to it. In the context of engaging in idolatrous worship in that manner, eating what is sacrificed on the altar makes you a partaker of the altar:

I'm not sure that the Christians who were eating the temple meat were themselves doing the sacrificing to idols. They were simply eating meat that had been previously sacrificed. The "Israel after the flesh" people were sacrificing, but that doesn't refer to Christians. The Gentiles were sacrificing, but that word Gentile wasn't being applied to Christians. Do you have any verse that says the Christians themselves were sacrificing to idols?

RajeshG's picture

Kevin,

Dan has already indicated that he does not want his thread to get bogged down in the discussion of these points. I do not want to hijack his thread so we will have to discontinue this discussion here. If you want to continue it privately, I'll be glad to do that with you. Or, you could start another thread to continue this discussion.

My final word concerning this point in this thread: I never said that the Christians were sacrificing to idols.

Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Yes, I agree with that. The point of ch 8 is a starting point, not the whole point.

Don, let's examine that "starting point." Paul says in ch8:

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple...

I seems we agree that Paul did not agree with the eaters one bit. So do you take "we know that 'an idol has no real existence,'" "right of yours" and "you who have knowledge" to be authentic in some sense or sarcastic or something else? 

Don Johnson's picture

Dan, I think if conscience and consideration of the weaker brother were the only issue with eating meat in the idol's temple (or in a context where the meat was clearly connected with idolatry), then 1 Cor 8 basically equals Rm 14.

So Paul's arguments in chapter 8 are concessive (somewhat) to the strong brother's arguments, but with the caveat that the weak brother's conscience is more important than the strong brother's conscience.

However, the argument doesn't stop there. Chapter 9 points out that the gospel is worth all kinds of sacrifice, including my rights. So my rights as a strong brother are on the table, and need to be conceded to the overriding importance of the gospel.

Finally, however, the point the strong brother isn't considering is the reality of the weak brother's point: idolatry is fellowship with demons.

Taking all those points together, Paul gives a strong prohibition, followed by some minor concessions in the case where meat is eaten in a context where it might be "idol meat" but isn't necessarily so and no one is mentioning it.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Didache 6.3 (Holmes):

Now concerning food, bear what you are able, but in any case keep strictly away from meat sacrificed to idols, for it involves the worship of dead gods

Didache 6.3 (Brannan):

And concerning food, you bear what you are able, but regarding food sacrificed to idols be scrupulously on your guard for it is worship of dead gods

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Dan Miller's picture

Tyler, thanks so much for posting the Didache quotes. The part you bolded is very interesting to this thread, because clearly the early church was still maintaining the rule not to eat idol-meat.

Also interesting is the phrase, "bear what you are able." It reads, "ὃ δύνασαι βάστασον."

  • ὃ = def article = "the things that"
  • δύνασαι = "are strong, able" (Present Indicative Middle 2nd Person Singular)
  • βάστασον ="bear"
  • I would translate "what you are strong(able), carry out."
Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Dan, I think if conscience and consideration of the weaker brother were the only issue with eating meat in the idol's temple (or in a context where the meat was clearly connected with idolatry), then 1 Cor 8 basically equals Rm 14.

So Paul's arguments in chapter 8 are concessive (somewhat) to the strong brother's arguments, but with the caveat that the weak brother's conscience is more important than the strong brother's conscience.

I like that word - concessive. And I appreciate the add-on (somewhat). But it still doesn't answer in what way Paul concedes their point. We agree, I think, that Paul is in some way conceding their point that they have a right to eat and do so out of knowledge. And I think we agree that ch.8-9 represent a passionate argument that one should voluntarily not exercise his rights out of love. But the question I'm driving at here is whether the "right" of the strong was legitimate.

Paul conceded that they did have the right to recline and eat. In what sense did he concede that?

Don Johnson wrote:
However, the argument doesn't stop there. Chapter 9 points out that the gospel is worth all kinds of sacrifice, including my rights. So my rights as a strong brother are on the table, and need to be conceded to the overriding importance of the gospel.

Finally, however, the point the strong brother isn't considering is the reality of the weak brother's point: idolatry is fellowship with demons.

Taking all those points together, Paul gives a strong prohibition, followed by some minor concessions in the case where meat is eaten in a context where it might be "idol meat" but isn't necessarily so and no one is mentioning it.

Ok - about what I underlined. The strong brother did consider the question that the weak brother's point answers. The question was, "Can we eat in the temple?" They concluded that they could go and eat because it was fellowship with nothing. And Paul seems to concede this point in ch.8 in some sense.

Don Johnson's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:
Dan, I think if conscience and consideration of the weaker brother were the only issue with eating meat in the idol's temple (or in a context where the meat was clearly connected with idolatry), then 1 Cor 8 basically equals Rm 14.

 

So Paul's arguments in chapter 8 are concessive (somewhat) to the strong brother's arguments, but with the caveat that the weak brother's conscience is more important than the strong brother's conscience.

 

I like that word - concessive. And I appreciate the add-on (somewhat). But it still doesn't answer in what way Paul concedes their point. We agree, I think, that Paul is in some way conceding their point that they have a right to eat and do so out of knowledge. And I think we agree that ch.8-9 represent a passionate argument that one should voluntarily not exercise his rights out of love. But the question I'm driving at here is whether the "right" of the strong was legitimate.

Paul conceded that they did have the right to recline and eat. In what sense did he concede that?

You're forcing me to actually go back and read the text! (not a bad thing)

These are preliminary thoughts, but isn't the concession of chapter 8 on the grounds of substance rather than location? The actual eating of idol meat is no big deal, vv. 4-6, but the issue in ch. 8 is where they are eating, the idol temple itself (v.10). Paul goes farther than that in v. 13, extending the "not making my brother stumble" principle to refusing all idol meat altogether, regardless of location.

Dan Miller wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:
However, the argument doesn't stop there. Chapter 9 points out that the gospel is worth all kinds of sacrifice, including my rights. So my rights as a strong brother are on the table, and need to be conceded to the overriding importance of the gospel.

 

Finally, however, the point the strong brother isn't considering is the reality of the weak brother's point: idolatry is fellowship with demons.

Taking all those points together, Paul gives a strong prohibition, followed by some minor concessions in the case where meat is eaten in a context where it might be "idol meat" but isn't necessarily so and no one is mentioning it.

 

Ok - about what I underlined. The strong brother did consider the question that the weak brother's point answers. The question was, "Can we eat in the temple?" They concluded that they could go and eat because it was fellowship with nothing. And Paul seems to concede this point in ch.8 in some sense.

You will notice in ch. 10 if the meat is unidentified as idol meat, it is permitted to eat (vv. 24-32). As soon as it is identified, it is prohibited for three reasons: conscience, gospel priorities, and fellowship with demons.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Quote:
These are preliminary thoughts, but isn't the concession of chapter 8 on the grounds of substance rather than location?

8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating [reclining] in an idol's temple...

Those two verses, connected by gar, apply “knowledge” and “right” to temple-eating.

Don Johnson's picture

V. 9 "this right of yours" refers to what precedes, so here is the context:

v. 4. We know there is no such thing as an idol

v. 5-6. though there are many so-called gods, there is only One God and one Lord Jesus Christ

v. 7 not all men have this knowledge, and eat idol meat as if it is sacrificed to a real thing, defiling their conscience

V. 8 but food (idol meat) makes no actual difference between us and God

So note here: eating the meat makes no difference in your standing with God, Paul agrees with that. However, some people eat as if it is offered to another god, which defiles their Christian conscience.

So verse 9 says you need to take care how this liberty (eating meat) will affect another's conscience.

So far I think he is speaking generally, eating the meat in a non-idol temple context.

Verse 10 is offered as a clear way of showing how the conscience is defiled: eating the meat in the idol temple. This makes it all the worse. Again, in chapter 10, he states in the last two illustrations that eating the meat itself is ok, as long as it isn't identified as idol meat.

Paul's concession is that the meat eaten without respect to the idol context is just meat. As soon as you add the idol context, it becomes a problem.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
...verse 9 says you need to take care how this liberty (eating meat) will affect another's conscience.

So far I think he is speaking generally, eating the meat in a non-idol temple context...

 

Well, I see it differently - v.9 says, "But take care that this right of yours." "This right" can only refer to the right so far claimed. So that connects back to the preceding argument. So whatever "right" is here in 9 is what has been claimed in 1-7. 

v.10 says, "For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged..." The phrase "have knowledge" certainly refers to the knowledge claim of 1-7. And the having of that knowledge means they eat in the idol's temple.

EDIT: And I should add that since gar connects v9 with v10, "right" in v.9 (and 1-7) refers to temple-meat

Don Johnson's picture

Well, you are taking "for" to be connected to "liberty" whereas I am taking it to be connected to "stumbling block"

"for" is not an "equals sign" - it is an explanation. If the eating of idol meat is something permissible in itself, how can it become a stumbling block? Verse 10 explains. In V. 10, the fact that it is idol's meat is crystal clear, and that is what Paul prohibits throughout.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

γαρ connects ideas, not individual words. So the whole phrase of v.9 is explained by the whole phase of v.10 

And yes, it's an explanation. The following phrase explains the preceding phrase. But in order for following to explain preceding, they must be the same thing.

Example:

If I tell my son he can play football and basketball but his friend's parents have told him not to play football, I might say to my son,

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to your friend. γαρ if anyone sees you who have permission playing football, will he not be encouraged, although his parents said no, to also play football?

Now my son has a bunch of "rights": football, basketball, many more. But my words "this right of yours" is referring only to football. 

Don Johnson's picture

But your example isn't exactly parallel. A new element is added in v. 10 which wasn't mentioned at all in the previous nine verses. It is the new element that is the issue. This leads Paul to the general prohbition, in spite of rights/knowledge that may exist

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dan Miller's picture

What I’m saying is that v10 connects to and explains v9. 

And the phrase “this right of yours” in v9 connects back to the whole chapter. 

So the whole chapter he’s talking about temple idol meat, even though he only specified that in v10. 

This is what causes the “apparent contradiction” with ch10. 

Don Johnson's picture

Of course it is temple idol meant. If it was from the local butcher shop, it wouldn't be idol meat at all.

So adding the detail of sitting down in the temple adds a new wrinkle to the problem. The strong were right, in a sense, outside of the context of the temple, the meat was just meat. That's the "right" and the "knowledge". But there is a danger that comes with this right and knowledge and Paul goes to the specifics of sitting down in the idol temple as first of all being harmful to the conscience of the weaker brother.

As I think about it, it seems to me that the argument was about the meat outside temple. The added information in v. 10 could be something that even the strong wouldn't do (I realize I am arguing here against something I've previously said). Perhaps what Paul is doing is adding that context to help the strong realize why the weak have a problem with eating the meat at all.

So technically they are right. The meat is just meat. But the association creates a conscience problem, so he prohibits it on that basis in ch. 8. He goes on to prohibit it for two other reasons in ch. 9 and 10.

Interesting that Tyler's quotes from the Didache indicate that the "no idol meat at all ever" became the default position of the early church.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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