1 Cor 8:1-10:33

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Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 8-10
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III. Meat Sacrificed to Idols (Chapters 8-10)
• Topic 5: "Now as touching things offered unto idols ..." (8:1)

• sacrificed meats and pagan feasts (8:1-13)
• Paul's example of apostolic freedom and slavery (9:1-23)
• examples of Paul and Israel (9:24-10:13)
• pagan feasts and sacrificed meats (10:14-33)


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Chapter 8[edit]

  • 1 Cor 8. 1 Corinthians 8 repeats many of the same ideas Paul preached in Romans 14, with a few important clarifications. The gist of his argument in Romans 14 was that it was OK to eat meat, but it was also OK not to eat it, if you felt personally that it was wrong. The Corinthians apparently knew that it was OK to eat meat offered unto idols. This is the "knowledge" Paul refers to in verses 1 and 2. However, there were abuses of this knowledge among the Corinthians. Because they knew it was OK, they seem to have made a big show of it, eating in front of other Christians who were more conservative in their habits, and who were likely offended.
In this chapter, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they must not eat in front of these more conservative members, for to offend them is a far greater abuse than their freedom to eat warrants.
  • 1 Cor 8:2. According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, the earliest manuscripts use two different Greek versions of the word "knowledge." "Knowledge" used in verse 1 is the mere knowledge of a fact. "Knoweth" in verse 2 is an experimental acquaintance, stronger than the mere awareness implied in the first verse.
  • 1 Cor 8:1-3. The concepts of knowledge and love are linked in these verses. Knowledge, in it's highest form, is related to love. General fact-based knowledge can lead to pride. Having this general knowledge is dangerous if it leads us to believe that we have achieved a perfect understand of something. In order to truly understand, our knowledge must be mingled with love. This is why the Corinthians failed in their knowledge. They used it to offend their brethren, rather than tempering their knowledge with love, by refraining from eating in front of them.
Tempering knowledge with love is essential in healthy communication with others. Sometimes we might know of a truth or a fact that could hurt, offend, or embarrass someone else. In our self-righteousness, we might feel obligated to share this fact, to the detriment of others feelings. We must be very careful. Before sharing something that could hurt someone, let us first ask ourselves if we are acting out of love, or out of pride.
  • 1 Cor 8:5. "Gods many, and lords many." There are three possible interpretations of this verse. First: Paul is alluding to the plurality of gods which LDS people believe in. Second: he is referring to the idol gods of verse 4. Third: he is referring to men who are sometimes referred to as gods, as in Psalm 82:6. There is no clear consensus or proof of any one interpretation in the various translations or biblical commentaries, and Joseph Smith made no clarifying additions in the JST. However, it is clear that regardless of any of these interpretations, Paul is simply trying to clarify that "to us, there is but one God."
  • 1 Cor 8:7. Paul speaks of those who have the "conscience of the idol." This could be read as those who are "conscious" that this is an idol, and that it is an abomination in the site of God. Anxious to avoid the appearance of evil, these people will naturally want to avoid being associated in any way with idol worship.
Our "conscience" is very important to God, and betraying it will leave us "defiled" as Paul notes. This is not because what we did was wrong in all cases to all people, but because what we did betrayed our personal "conscience," our individual beliefs in what is right or wrong.
Paul does not believe that there are always universal ideals of right and wrong on issues like these. Not all rules apply to all people. Individual conscience and belief can vary from person to person, culture to culture. Just because these beliefs are sometimes different does not mean that one of them must be wrong. God respects our personal beliefs and expects us to honor them. What may be a sin for one man, may not be a sin for another.
Paul's advice to the Corinthians has a number of modern day applications. In LDS practice and culture there are a number of minor rules that are not agreed upon universally by all Mormons. A rather benign example is cola-drinks.
The official policy of the church on colas is:
"...the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided."
Some members will argue that colas contain these "harmful ingredients" and that "advising" us to "avoid them" constitutes a commandment. Others will argue that this does not constitute a commandment, and that if it doesn't result in acquiring a habit, then it is OK. On and on, people will disagree over the issue.
Paul's advice to the Corinthians can apply to issues such as these. He passionately admonishes us to respect each others consciences. Verse 13: "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth."

Chapter 9[edit]

  • 1 Cor 9. This chapter can be interpreted as a continuation of arguments from the previous chapter on not eating meat offered to idols. Paul's main point is that we should sometimes deny ourselves of our liberties for the sake of the gospel and our weaker brethren. He argues that as a hard-working apostle, he has the right to take recompense for his labors, just as any other laborer does. But he doesn't take advantage of this right, because it might "hinder the gospel of Christ." Likewise, the Corinthians should also restrict their own rights for the sake of the gospel and their weaker brethren.
  • 1 Cor 9:5. The translation of this verse is confusing. It seems to say "don't I have power to lead about a sister, a wife, or other apostles?" Other translations clarify the meaning. Paul is saying "Other apostles and brothers take sisters and wives with them. Don't I have the power to do the same?"
This scripture gives evidence that Paul differed from the other apostles in his attitudes towards marriage and missionary work. The other apostles took their wives with them on their journeys. Paul restricts this liberty for the sake of the gospel. See 1 Cor 7:1 for more commentary on Paul's attitudes towards marriage.
  • 1 Cor 9:17: Dispensation of the gospel. The Greek word oikonomia (translated "dispensation of the gospel" here) means "household management" and has the same root as the Greek word for steward. Also, the Greek root word for "committed" here, pisteuo, has the meaning "trust" or "have faith in," which suggests a close relationship the phrase "household of faith" in Gal 6:10 and D&C 121:45 (cf. 1 Tim 1:4).
  • 1 Cor 9:18. Paul explains why he does not take recompense for preaching, even when he has every right to do so: "That I may make the gospel of Christ without charge.
Paul's approach to the issue of "priestcraft" is similar to his approach on many other issues of right and wrong. Instead of coming out and saying "priestcraft is wrong," he says in effect, "I have every right to take money for my preaching, but I don't do it, for the greater good."
This type of argument reflects Paul's unique views on "the law." Paul believes that as a Christian, the law is dead to him, and that he has attained complete freedom through Christ. This freedom allows him to do whatever he wants, but he doesn't do it because he is alive in Christ, and would never do anything that didn't reflect the reality of that relationship. It's a complicated way of getting around "the law," and in the end, Paul obeys laws and commandments, same as everyone else. However, the motivations for obedience are different. Paul's motivation for avoiding priestcraft was not because he thought it was wrong, and would be punished. His motivation came the heart, a pure desire, springing from his union with Christ and his love for his fellow men: "that I might gain more" converts, that he might not "hinder the gospel of Christ."
  • 1 Cor 9:21. In the original Greek, the words "under the law to Christ" are more accurately translated "within the law in Christ." This phrase is different than the Greek rendering of "under the law" from verse 20. Paul contrasts the Jews being "under the law" of Moses and Christians being "within the law in Christ," effectively softening the meaning of "the law" for Christians. [[1]]

Chapter 10[edit]

  • 1 Cor 10. In this chapter Paul continues to argue against eating meat offered unto idols. He speaks about the dangers of idolatry and related temptations such as fornication. He compares the false pagan feasts to the truth of the Lord's sacrament. In the end, he suggests that the Corinthians follow a "don't ask don't tell" policy with regard to eating meat. Don't ask where it came from, and eat it. If someone tells you it was offered to an idol, don't eat it.
  • 1 Cor 10:1-5. As a preface to his arguments against idolatry, Paul compares the Corinthian Christians to the children of Israel during the Exodus. Like the Corinthians, the Children of Israel also had issues with idol worship and fornication.
Paul has spent much of his missionary career tearing down the Law of Moses, so that he can introduce Christ to the Gentiles. However, in these verses, Paul notes that even during the days of Moses, Christ was present symbolically.
Traditionally, the "cloud" is interpreted as symbolic of the Holy Ghost. The parting of the Red Sea is symbolic of baptism, which itself is a symbol of the burial of Christ (see Romans 6). The "spiritual meat" refers to the manna from heaven, and is symbolic of the bread of the sacrament. The "spiritual drink" refers to the rock Moses struck with his rod, out of which came water, symbolic of the water or wine of the sacrament. These are also symbols for three of our most important ordinances in the LDS church: baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 10:7. Refers to the incident of the golden calf in Ex 32:6. "Rose up to play" is translated variously as "to dance in pagan revelry," "lascivious dancing," "orgy." [2]
  • 1 Cor 10:13. This scripture may not apply to cases in which we have unwisely placed ourselves in vulnerable situations. If we have started down a path towards embracing sin by toying with evil influences, then we may find ourselves eventually trapped in addictive behavior. These kinds of compulsive addictions cannot be immediately overcome through self-discipline.
However, there is "a way to escape" as Paul notes. The path to freedom may sometimes be long and difficult. It will require the healing power of Christ and a sincere change of heart. We may also need to seek special help from a priesthood leader or a support group. The Lord expects us to do all within our power to overcome our weaknesses, but this often is not enough. Christ wants us to realize our dependence on Him. It is only through His divine power that we can truly become free from our sins.
We should be careful not to use this scripture to dismiss addicts as simply laking self-will. Likewise, we should not try to believe that we can overcome all of our temptations by ourselves. The "way to escape" and "the way to bear it" is not by self-discipline alone. It is only through Christ.
  • 1 Cor 10:23. Paul repeats a phrase he used in 1 Cor 6:12. See commentary on that page for a discussion of Paul vrs. Joseph Smith's views on the law.
  • 1 Cor 10:27-30. The syntax of the verses is somewhat confusing. For alternative translations see: [3]
  • 1 Cor 10:27. "For conscience sake" seems to refer to the concience of the guest eating the food. Other translations render it, "without letting your conscience trouble you."
  • 1 Cor 10:28. About half the available translations leave out the phrase "for the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." This phrase seems to obscure the flow of Paul's ideas.
  • 1 Cor 10:29. Explains that the "conscience" of vrs. 28 is "not thine own," but the conscience of host who offers the food, or perhaps another Christian observer, who might dissapprove of eating the meat.
  • 1 Cor 10:29-30. Paul asks a rhetorical question, "Why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?" This question is confusing because it seems to contradict Paul's main point. It is unclear what Paul's response to the question is, because he jumps to a seemingly unrelated admonition in vrs. 31. Most likely, the answer is found in verse 32. The reason why we allow our liberty to be held in check by the judgements of others, is so that we don't offend them, that perhaps they might be saved.

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