Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.8:1-11:1.] On the partaking of meats offered to idols, and assisting at feasts held in honour of idols.
Chap. 8:1-13.] Though (vv. 1-6) for those who are strong in the faith, an idol having no existence, the question has no importance, this is not so with all (ver. 7); and the infirmities of the weak must in such a matter be regarded in our conduct (vv. 8-13).
1.] δέ, transitional, as in ch. 7:1, al. fr.
As regards the construction, we may observe, that περὶ δ. τῶν εἰδ., is again taken up ver. 4, περὶ τῆς βρώς. οὖν τῷν εἰδ., after a parenthesis. We may also observe that in the latter case οἴδαμεν ὅτι is restated, bearing therefore, it is reasonable to suppose, the same meaning as before, viz. we know, that. This to my mind is decisive against beginning the parenthesis with ὅτι, and rendering ὅτι ‘for,’ as Luther, Bengel, Valckn., al.:—‘we know (for we all have knowledge),’ &c. Are we then to begin it with πάντες, leaving περὶ … οἴδαμεν ὅτι broken off, corresponding to the words resumed in ver. 4? We should thus leave within the parenthesis a very broken and harsh sentence: πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν (what γνῶσις? if γν. about the εἰδωλοθ., it should be joined with the preceding; if γν. in general, it should be τὴν γνῶσιν, see ch. 13:2, which would be absurd; if some γν. on some subjects, as σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις, James 2:18, it would here be irrelevant), ἡ γν. φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγ. κ.τ.λ. The first logical break in the sense is where the concrete γνῶσις, that περὶ τῶν εἰδ., is forsaken, and the abstract ἡ γνῶσις treated of. Here therefore, with Chrys., &c., Beza, Grot., Calv., Est., al., De Wette, and Meyer, I begin the parenthesis,—… we are aware that we all (see below) have knowledge; knowledge, &c.; not however placing it in brackets, for it is already provided for in the construction by the resumption of περὶ … οὖν below; and is not a grammatical but only a logical parenthesis.
The εἰδωλόθυτα were those portions of the animals offered in sacrifice which were not laid on the altar, and which belonged partly to the priests, partly to those who had offered them. These remnants were sometimes eaten at feasts holden in the temples (see ver. 10), or in private houses (ch. 10:27, f.), sometimes sold in the markets, by the priests, or by the poor, or by the niggardly. Theophrastus, Charact. xviii., describes it as characteristic of the ἀνελεύθερος,—ἐκδιδοὺς αὑτοῦ θυγατέρα, τοῦ μὲν ἱερείου, πλὴν τῶν ἱερῶν, τὰ κρέα ἀποδίδοσθαι. They were sometimes also reserved for future use: Theophr. mentions it as belonging to the ἀναίσχυντος,—θύσας τοῖς θεοῖς αὐτὸς μὲν δειπνεῖν παρʼ ἑτέρῳ, τὰ δὲ κρέα ἀποτιθέναι ἁλσὶ πάσας. Christians were thus in continual danger of meeting with such remnants. Partaking of them was an abomination among the Jews: see Numbers 25:2; Psalm 106:28; Revelation 2:14; Tobit 1:10-12; and was forbidden by the Apostles and elders assembled at Jerusalem, Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25. That Paul in the whole of this passage makes no allusion to that decree, but deals with the question on its own merits, probably is to be traced to his wish to establish his position as an independent Apostle, endowed with God’s Holy Spirit sufficiently himself to regulate such matters. But it also shews, how little such decisions were at that time regarded as lastingly binding on the whole church: and how fully competent it was, even during the lifetime of the Apostles, to Christians to open and question, on its own merits, a matter which they had, for a special purpose, once already decided.
There should be a comma at εἰδωλοθύτων, as the resumed sentence (ver. 4) shews.
πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν] Who are πάντες? Meyer says, Paul himself and the enlightened among the Corinthians: Estius, al., these latter alone; and some think it said ironically, some concessively, of them: Grot., “pars maxima nostrum, ut Romans 3:12.” But it is manifest from vv. 4-6, which is said in the widest possible reference to the faith of all Christians, that all Christians must be intended here also: and so Chrys., Theophyl., Œcum., Calov., al., and De Wette. But then, ver. 7, he says, οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις [obviously pointing at the weak Christian brother]: and how are the two to be reconciled? By taking, I believe, the common-sense view of two such statements, which would be, in ordinary preaching or writing, 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.’
γνῶσιν, scil. περὶ αὐτῶν.
From ἡ γν. to end of ver. 3 (see above) is a logical parenthesis.
ἡ γνῶσις, knowledge, abstract,—scil. when alone, or improperly predominant: it is the attribute of ἡ γνῶσις, ‘barely’ [to puff up].
ἡ ἀγάπη] viz. ‘towards the brethren,’ see Romans 14:15, and ch. 10:23.
οἰκοδ.] helps to build up (God’s spiritual temple), ch. 3:9.
2, 3.] The general deductions, (1) from a profession of knowledge, and (2) from the presence of love, in a man:—expressed sententiously and without connecting particles, more, as Meyer observes, after the manner of St. John in his Epistles.
On the text, see var. readd.
The case supposed is the only one which can occur where love is absent and conceit present: a man can then only think he knows,—no real knowledge being accessible without humility and love. Such a man knows not yet, as he ought to know: has had no real practice in the art of knowing.
But if a man loves God (which is the highest and noblest kind of love, the source of brotherly love, 1John 5:2), this man (and not the wise in his own conceit) is known by Him. The explanation of this latter somewhat difficult expression is to be found in ref. Gal., νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ. So that here we may fairly assume that he chooses the expression ἔγνωσται ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ in preference to that which would have been, had any object of knowledge but the Supreme been treated of, the natural one, viz. οὗτος ἔγνω αὐτόν. We cannot be said to know God, in any full sense (as here) of the word to know. But those who become acquainted with God by love, are known by Him: are the especial objects of the divine Knowledge,—their being is pervaded by the Spirit of God, and the wisdom of God is shed abroad in them. So in ref. 2 Tim., ἔγνω κύριος τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ. See also Psalm 1:6. “Cognitionem passivam sequitur cognitio activa c. xiii. 12. Egregia metalepsis: cognitus est, adeoque cognovit.” Bengel. γινώσκω does not seem, any more than יָדַע in Psalm 1:6, Psalm 37:18, for which the LXX have γινώσκω, to signify to approve, any further than personal knowledge of an intimate kind necessarily involves approval.
4.] The subject is resumed, and further specified by the insertion of τῆς βρώσεως.
οὖν resumes a broken thread of discourse: so Plato, Apol. p. 29, ὥστε οὐδʼ εἴ με ἀφίετε … εἴ μοι πρὸς ταῦτα εἴποιτε, &c.… εἰ οὖν με, ὅπερ εἶπον, ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀφίοιτε … See Hartung, Partikellehre, ii. 22.
We know that there is no idol in the world, i.e. that the εἴδωλα of the heathen (meaning not strictly the images, but the persons represented by them) have no existence in the world. That they who worship idols, worship devils, the Apostle himself asserts ch. 10:20; but that is no contradiction to the present sentence, which asserts that the deities imagined by them, Jupiter, Apollo, &c., have absolutely no existence. Of that subtle Power which, under the guise of these, deluded the nations, he here says nothing. The rendering of Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl. Œcum., Vulg., E. V., Luther, Beza, Grot., Est., al. (‘an idol is nothing in the world,’ ch. 10:19; Jeremiah 10:3. Sanhedr. 63. 2 (Wetst.), “noverant utique Israelitæ idolum nihil esse”), is certainly wrong here, on account of the parallel οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς which follows.
And that there is no god, but One: the insertion of ἕτερος has probably been occasioned by the first commandment, οὐκ ἔσονταί σοι θεοὶ ἕτεροι πλὴν ἐμοῦ.
5, 6.] Further explanation and confirmation of ver. 4.
5.] For even supposing that (εἴπερ makes an hypothesis, so that “in incerto relinquitur, jure an injuria sumatur,” Herm. ad Viger., p. 834. See also Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 343, who gives many examples.
καὶ γὰρ εἰ, as Eur. Med. 450, καὶ γὰρ εἰ σύ με στυγεῖς, οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην σοὶ κακῶς φρονεῖν ποτε; see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 140 f.) beings named gods (not those who are named gods, οἱ λεγ. θ., i. esset, all who are so named) exist (the chief emphasis is on εἰσίν, on which the hypothesis turns), whether in heaven, whether upon earth, as (we know that) there are (viz. as being spoken of, Deuteronomy 10:17, ὁ γὰρ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν, οὗτος θεὸς τῶν θεῶν καὶ κύριος τῶν κυρίων, see also Psalm 135:2, Psalm 135:3) gods many, and lords many (the ὥσπερ brings in an acknowledged fact, on which the possibility of the hypothesis rests—‘Even if some of the many gods and many lords whom we know to exist, be actually identical with the heathen idols …’ The Apostle does not concede this, but only puts it). This exegesis, which is Meyer’s, is denied by De Wette, who takes εἴπερ as concessive, ‘even though,’ and understands εἰσίν both times as only ‘are,’—in the meaning of the heathen,—imagining it impossible that Paul should have seriously said in an objective sense, ‘there are gods many.’ But in the sense in which he uses θεοί (see above) there is no unlikelihood that he should assert this.
Chrys. gives the following explanation: καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶ λεγόμενοι θεοί, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ εἰσίν, οὐχ ἁπλῶς εἰσίν, ἀλλά, λεγόμενοι, οὐκ ἐν πράγματι, ἀλλʼ ἐν ῥήματι τοῦτο ἔχοντες· εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ, εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς· ἐν οὐρανῷ τὸν ἥλιον λέγων κ. τὴν σελήνην κ. τὸν λοιπὸν τῶν ἄστρων χορόν· καὶ γὰρ καὶ ταῦτα προσεκύνησαν Ἕλληνες· ἐπὶ γῆς δὲ δαίμονας, καὶ τοὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων θεοποιηθέντας ἅπαντας. Hom. xx. p. 172. And similarly Theodoret, Theophyl., Œcum., Calv., Beza, Calov., Estius, Schrader, al. See the various minor differences of interpretation, in Pool’s Synopsis and De Wette: and a beautiful note in Stanley.
There is a sentence in Herodotus (9:27) singularly resembling this in its structure: ἡμῖν δέ, εἰ μηδὲν ἄλλο ἐστὶ ἀποδεδεγμένον, ὥσπερ ἐστὶ πολλά τε καὶ εὖ ἔχοντα, … ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐν Μαραθῶνι ἔργου ἄξιοί ἐσμεν, κ.τ.λ. Cf. also Hom. Il. α. 81 f.; φ. 576 f.
6.] Yet (see reff. just given, and ch. 4:15) to us (emphatic: however that matter may be, we hold) there is one God, the Father (ὁ πατήρ answers to Ἰησοῦς χριστός in the parallel clause below, and serves to specify what God—viz. the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ), of Whom (as their Source of being) are all things, and we unto (i.e. for) Him (His purposes—to serve His will); and one Lord Jesus Christ (notice the εἷς θεός opposed to θεοὶ πολλοί, and εἷς κύριος to κύριοι πολλοί), by Whom (as Him by whom the Father made the worlds, John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2) are all things, and we (but here secondly, we as his spiritual people, in the new creation) by Him. The inference from the foregoing is that, per se, the eating of meat offered to idols is a thing indifferent, and therefore allowed. The limitation of this licence now follows.
7.] But (sondern) not in all is the knowledge (of which we have been speaking: i.e. see above, is not in them in their individual apprehension, though it is by their profession as Christians): but (aber) some through their consciousness (or, according to the other reading, habituation) to this day, of the (particular) idol (i.e. through their having an apprehension to this day of the reality of the idol, and so being conscientiously afraid of the meat offered, as belonging to him: not wishing to be connected with him. τῇ συνειδήσει ἕως ἄρτι is not = τῇ ἕως ἄρτι συν., but ἕως ἄρτι stands separate, as above: so διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, Philippians 1:26) eat it as offered to an idol, and their conscience, in that it is weak, is defiled. By ἕως ἄρτι, it is shewn that these ἀσθενεῖς must have belonged to the Gentile part of the Corinthian church: to those who had once, before their conversion, held these idols to be veritable gods. Had they been Jewish converts, it would not have been συνείδησις τοῦ εἰδώλου which would have troubled them, but apparent violation of the Mosaic law.
8.] Reason why we should accommodate ourselves to the prejudices of the weak in this matter: because it is not one in which any spiritual advantage is to be gained, but one perfectly indifferent: not, with Calv., al., an objection of the strong among the Corinthians: no such assumption must be made, without a plain indication in words that the saying of another is being cited: see Romans 9:19; Romans 11:19; and as Meyer well remarks, if the eaters had said this, they would have expressed it, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν περισς., οὔτε ἐὰν φάγ., ὑστερ., as it has actually been corrected (see var. readd.) in some mss., and adopted by Lachm. in his last edn.
The δέ carries on the argument.
Bengel remarks (against the ordinary rendering, which takes παρίστημι = συνίστημι, ‘commendo,’ which meaning it will not bear) that παραστήσει is a verbum μέσον, after which may follow a good or a bad predicate:—will not affect our (future) standing before God;—and to this indifferent meaning of παραστήσει answers the antithetic alternative which follows.
9.] δέ—q. d. “I acknowledge this indifference—this licence to eat or not to eat; but it is on that very account, because it is a matter indifferent, that ye must take heed,” &c.
The particular πρόσκομμα in this case would be, the tempting them to act against their conscience:—a practice above all others dangerous to a Christian, see below, ver. 11.
10.] Explanation how the πρόσκομμα may arise.
τίς, scil. (see below) ἀσθενὴς ὤν.
τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν seems to imply that the weak brother is aware of this, and looks up to thee as such.
ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατ.] See on εἰδωλοθ., ver. 1.
εἰδωλεῖον, as Ποσειδεῖον, Ἀπολλωνεῖον, Ἰσεῖον, &c.
“οἰκοδομηθήσεται is not a vox media, as Le Clerc, Elsner, Wolf, al., nor is it impelletur, as Castal., Bengel, Kypke, al., nor confirmabitur, as Syr., Grot., Billroth, al.” (Mey.), but as Meyer and De Wette, ædificabitur, not without a certain irony, seeing it is accompanied by ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος,—for thus the building up would be without solid foundation—a ruinosa ædificatio, as Calv.
11.] … and (thus) the weak perishes (hereafter: see the parallel, ref. Rom. and note) in (as the element in which,—he entering into it as his own, which it is not) thy knowledge,—the brother, in whose behalf Christ died? See again Rom. as above.
12.] οὕτως, viz. as in vv. 10, 11. καί fixes and explains what is meant by ἁμαρτ. εἰς τ. ἀδ.
τύπτοντες] smiting: τί γὰρ ἀπηνέστερον ἀνθρώπου γένοιτʼ ἂν τὸν νοσοῦντα τύπτοντος; Chrys. p. 176
13.] Fervid expression of his own resolution consequent on these considerations, by way of an example to them.
βρῶμα, food, i.e. any article of food, as ver. 8; purposely indefinite here; ‘if such a matter as food.…,’ but presently particularized.
οὐ μὴ φάγω, strong future, I surely will not eat; ‘there is no chance that I eat.’
κρέα] ‘Quo certius vitarem carnem idolo immolatam, toto genere carnium abstinerem.’ Bengel.
σκανδαλίσω] be the means of offending; “commutatur persona: modo dixit si cibus offendit.” Bengel. “Non autem hoc dicit quod hoc aliquo casu opus sit, sed ut ostendat multo graviora quam de quibus hic agitur sustinenda pro proximorum salute.” Grot.