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.