6. Eating food offered to idols, 8:1-11:1
v] Learn from Israel's experience in the wildernessArgument
Paul continues examining the issue of eating food offered to idols. He now warns the Corinthian believers of disqualification from the Christian faith. The people of Israel were disqualified, so beware! In 9:24-27 Paul pointed out that not all obtain the prize of eternity with Christ - we must run to gain the prize, ie., we must exercise self-control or else suffer loss. Israel did not exercise self control, but instead, continually flirted with idolatry and immorality. Due to this rebellion, the people of Israel suffered loss and died in the wilderness.
As far as Paul is concerned, his readers face a similar danger. The Corinthian believers are failing to exercise self-control through their willful determination to attend cultic meals, and so are associating with the demonic darkness attached to idol worship; they now faced all the dangers inherent in that association.
i] Context: See 9:24-27.
ii] Background: See 8:1-13.
iii] Structure: Learn from Israel's experience in the wilderness:
The fifth step in Paul's argument against eating idol food:
Participation in cultic celebrations is dangerous.
the special status possessed by the people of Israel
a blessed people who lost everything, v1-5.
Israel's situation is a warning to God's people today, v6.
imperatives based on four of Israel's failures, v7-10.
"be careful that you don't fall", v11-12.
unlike the normal run of temptations,
idolatry can destroy a believer's standing with Christ, v13.
This passage is significant when it comes to developing a methodology for the exposition and application of the Old Testament. We are prone to moralize, or spiritualize, our way through the Old Testament, but here Paul gives us a clue as to the use of type when interpreting Old Testament scripture.
Israel experienced the presence of God in the cloud that sheltered them from the Egyptians, guided them through the wilderness and hovered over Mount Sinai. They experienced the salvation of God in the Red Sea as it opened up to take them out of bondage and into freedom. These were all signs of God's mighty act of salvation, of freedom from bondage. For Israel, it was a release from the bondage of slavery. For us it is also a release from slavery, the bondage of sin and death. They too were baptized into Moses as we are into Christ. Under that cloud they were immersed (baptized) into the teachings of Moses, as revealed to him on the mountain. We too are immersed into the gospel of Jesus, into truth.
Paul's point, of course, is that Israel had what the Corinthian believers have, and when they went after idols they lost everything. Can the Corinthians expect less?
It is interesting to note how Paul treats these incidents from the Old Testament. In v6 and v11 he says that "these things occurred as examples." This may imply that he regards them as analogies useful for exhortation. Yet, it is more likely that he regards them as theological types. Israel's life in the kingdom is ours. What happened for Israel, happens for us, since the events are typical. So, the theological experience of Israel is also the experience of the new Israel, the new covenant people "on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come."
So, Paul warns the Corinthians not to get caught up in an Israel-type repeat performance. This is why the examples "were written down as warnings for us." Syncretism will always manifest itself and there will only ever be a remnant who will not bow the knee to Baal. So, rather than warning the Corinthians as if the potential can be averted, Paul's point is to warn them not to get caught up in it when it does occur, and occur it will. So, practice self-control, or else loose everything as Israel did long ago.
Paul's methodology is represented in the way he draws on four examples of Israel's rebellion which aligns well with the present rebellion of the Corinthian believers, and of course, rebellion which aligns with the church today:
a) The idolatry of the Golden Calf, Ex.32. The people ate in the presence of the Golden Calf and then they rose up in sexual play. For this rebellion 3,000 were slain and the people infected with plague.
b) The feast before Baal of Peor which was also associated with sexual immorality and which led to the death of 23,000, Num.25.
c) The incident of the Fiery Serpents where Israel argued with Moses and God because they were forced to eat manna rather than the rich foods of Egypt, Num.21. Again, chastisement follows.
d) The people fail to take hold of God's promised land and want to return to the safety of Egypt, Num.14:1-38.
So, in all four examples, Paul notes how Israel was sucked into the ethos of paganism. Similarly, the Corinthians are heading down the same road and therefore face the same end. We are just as vulnerable today, but of course, the trick is identifying where the syncretism is to be found. What does our Golden Calf look like?
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 10:1
By reference to the example of the history of Israel in the wilderness, Paul warns the Corinthian believers that their behavior has the potential of undermining their salvation, v1-13; i] Paul now draws on the principle that the redemptive experience of Israel in the wilderness serves as a type for a believers redemptive experience today. Paul first makes the point that although Israel experienced divine redemption (the sea, cloud, spiritual food and spiritual drink), in the end, God was not pleased with most of them such that "they were struck down in the wilderness, v1-5.
gar "-" - for. Possibly just functioning as a loose connective, but more likely explanatory, developing the argument already made in the previous verses. "They (the Corinthian believers) are to run as those intent on wining; that is, they must exercise self-control in all things lest they end up being disqualified", Fee.
ou qelw "I do not want" - i do not want [you]. A litotes - a negative construction used to make a positive statement.
agnoein (agnoew) pres. inf. "to be ignorant" - to be ignorant [brothers]. The infinitive is usually classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "I do [not] want/will", although, following a cognitive verb, as here, it may be classified as forming a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul does not want, namely, that "they never forget .....", Barclay.
oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception, hoping, expressing what Paul does not want the Corinthians to forget, namely, "never forget that ...."
oiJ patereV (h roV) "[our] forefathers" - the fathers [of us]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. To what degree Paul is including his Gentile audience in the "our" is unclear. Paul is quite happy separating Jew from Gentile with the pronouns "us" and "you", but at the same time he does recognize that "you" share with "us" in Christ. So, although the failure of Israel in the desert is a Jewish failure, this doesn't mean it is without implication for his Gentile readers.
h\san (eimi) imp. "were" - Standing in for a historic aorist.
panteV (paV ....) "all" - Paul stresses the collective nature of Israel's failure .
uJpo + acc. "under" - under [the cloud]. Spacial; "under, below." The imagery is interesting in that it leaves us unsure of what cloud where. Is this the cloud that went before Israel in the desert, Ex.13:21? In v2 the people are immersed "in" the cloud. It is likely that what we have here is the cloud of God's Shekinah glory, an evidence of his presence, the bright misty cloud that has enveloped his people and the great ones (eg. Moses) in past ages. In later midrash the cloud is spoken of as enveloping Israel.
dia + gen. "through" - [and all passed] through [the sea]. Here spacial, expressing movement through. The "sea" is obviously the Red / Reed sea.
Is Paul aligning the spiritual experience of believers in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper / Eucharist with the baptism in the "Reed Sea" and feeding upon "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink" of Israel during their wilderness wanderings? It is somewhat unclear whether such an analogy is intended, although the point of Paul's argument is clear enough: all Israel participated in God's redemptive event expedited through Moses, as the Corinthian believers do in the redemption wrought in Christ, yet "their bodies were scattered in the wilderness", v5, therefore ....."
ebaptisqhsan (baptizw) aor. pas. "they were [all] baptized" - [and all] were immersed. The constant use of the anglicized "baptize" for the Greek word meaning "immersed" in New Testament translations is unnecessary and confusing. In the New Testament the word baptizw "immerse", is used of: dunking / dipping in water as a sign of repentance and by implication, the reception of the Holy Spirit and incorporation into the Christian faith; the washing of the Spirit (empowering?); being overcome by suffering; being immersed in the Name (possibly with the sense: place under the authority of God; immersed into the person of God = immersed in the gospel).
eiV "into" - into [moses]. We should not make too much of this preposition as though it parallels "into Christ" = "united to Christ". As with the prepositions, uJpo "under the cloud", dia "through the sea", eiV probably expresses corporate "participation in, and identification with, those redemptive events", Thiselton. More specific meanings have been proposed: "baptized into loyalty to Moses", Moffatt, R&P, Garland, Barret; "into his leadership", Calvin; "into the name of Moses", as of "sharing the destiny of a leader", Schrage/Garland. "By being baptized the peoples of each covenant were joined in turn to their deliverers, Moses and Christ", Barnett.
en + dat. "in" - in [the cloud and] in [the sea]. Possibly expressing space/sphere, in the people's identification / participation in these historical events, or instrumental, agancy; baptized into Jesus by water = baptized into Moses with/by cloud and sea.
pneumatikon adj. "spiritual [food]" - [and ate the same] spiritual [food]. "Spiritual" in the sense of "supernatural", Moffatt. Clearly a reference to manna, but is their eating, and drinking in v4, an allusion to the Lord's Supper? As already noted, commentators are divided on whether some kind of analogy is intended. Whether or not an analogy is intended, Paul's point is that panteV "all" Israel participated in the Mosaic redemptive event and yet they perished in the wilderness, the implication being, don't think this can't happen to you!
panteV adj. "-" - [and] all. Again expressing corporate participation and again emphatic by position.
epion (pinw) aor. "drank" - The action is punctiliar / perfective aspect.
pneumatikon adj. "spiritual [drink]" - [the same] spiritual [drink]. As above, "supernatural", Moffatt.
gar "for" - More reason / explanatory than causal; "drank the same spiritual drink, which flowed from the spiritual rock that followed them", CEV.
epinon (pinw) imperf. "they drank" - they were drinking. The action is durative / imperfective aspect; "they were drinking all along."
ek + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin.
petraV "rock" - [a spiritual] rock. The water from the rock is probably that of the waters of Meribah, Numbers 20:1-13. The idea that the rock "accompanied", or better "followed" Israel during the wilderness journey, derives from a tradition that later developed in Judaism. It was understood that the rock was a well that followed Israel and supplied water for the journey. Water was supplied in the same way as Manna was supplied, supernaturally.
akolouqoushV (akolouqew) pres. part. "that accompanied them" - following, accompanying them. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting rock; "a rock which was following."
de "and" - but/and. Transitional, with a coordinative function, as NIV.
hJn (eimi) imperf. "[that rock] was [Christ]" - [the rock] was [christ]. The action is durative / imperfective aspect, indicating that Christ was active in the redemptive event of the Exodus prior to his incarnation; Christ was "the source of life for the people then", Barnett. The rock / well "was" Christ-like in the sense of miraculously supplying life to the people. It is not Christ, but like Christ as a source of life. So, Paul is not arguing for the preexistence of Christ, but rather that Christ was doing the providing; divine provision is the same for us as it was for them. So, the rock serves as a "type" for the divine provision of God's people, yesterday, today and tomorrow. "The principle is that the Israelites drank from the source from which the Corinthians also obtain their blessings", Naylor. "Christ is the source of all divine gifts and succor. Therefore, it is the same Christ, acting in saving history, who is behind both the old and new saving events", Garland, cf., Cullmann.
The punch-line: God was supernaturally supporting Israel in the wilderness, but they still turned from him and relied on other deities for their security, and so they died in the desert.
all (alla) "nevertheless" - but. A strong adversative; even though Israel had divine supernatural support, "God was not pleased ....."
ouk .... eudokhsen (eudokew) aor. "not pleased" - [god] was not well pleased. The negation has been brought forward for emphasis. Not used in the sense of emotion, but more in the sense of a determined will to act against faithlessness. "God did not spare them", Calvin.
en + dat. "with" - Here adverbial, expressing reference / respect; "with respect to, with reference to."
toiV pleiosin "most" - the majority. Given that Paul has used "all" up to this point, why the change? We know that only the children of that generation, along with Joshua and Caleb, entered the promised land.
autwn gen. pro. "of them" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
gar "-" - for. More reason / explanatory than causal; "God was not pleased with most of them, and the evidence for this is that their bodies were ......"
katestrwqhsan (katestrwnnumi) aor. pas. "were scattered" - they were scattered, spread about. "Laid low", Barrett, Conzelmann, although "scattered" is to be preferred.
en "in" - in [the desert, wilderness]. Local, expressing space.
ii] Warning: Paul points out that what happened to Israel in the wilderness serves as a prototype for us. So, don't get into idolatry like them, or fornication, or into testing God as they tested God, or grumbling against God as they grumbled. These are the reasons why "God was not pleased" with Israel and so judged them, cf., v5.
de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating the next step in the argument, as NIV.
tauta pro. "these things" - The Exodus redemptive events.
egenhqhsan (ginomai) aor. pas. "occurred" - became. "These things came about as pointers to the future", Cassirer.
tupoi (oV) "examples" - as patterns, examples. "Awful, warning example", Barrett, although better "prototype".
hJmwn gen. pro. "us" - of us = for us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; these things became our examples, but possibly "for us", ESV, genitive of advantage, or verbal, objective, "applied to us"; they occurred for them, and served as examples for us. Paul has included himself.
eiV to mh einai "to keep [us] from" - into = for [us] not to be. This preposition with the articular infinitive usually introduces a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to not ...."; "that we might not", ESV.
epiqumhtaV (hV) "setting our hearts on" - the ones who desires or crave after. Here the craving after immorality, which immorality / lustful conduct is defined in more detail in the following verses; "that we not be lustful persons."
kakwn gen. adj. "evil things" - evil. The adjective serves as a substantive, as NIV, the genitive being verbal, objective.
kaqwV "as" - as also [those ones craved]. Comparative; "as they also lusted."
iii] Four deadly sins: idolatry; fornication; trying the patience of the Lord; grumbling, v7-10. The redemptive events experienced by the Israelites under Moses' leadership, serve as a type with an inbuilt purpose "for us", namely "that we (believers) might not lust after evil things as they lusted ......"
mhde "[do] not" - neither [idolaters]. This negation is often coordinative, so "neither become ...." This negation is used for all of the four injunctions in v7-10
ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "do [not] be" - should you become. The first of four injunctions, this and the last being imperfect imperatives, with the second and third being subjunctives of prohibition / hortatory. All four are to be taken as durative, focusing on ongoing behavior rather than an individual sin; "You must not be idolaters", Moffatt.
eidwlolatrai (hV ou) "idolaters" - Predicate nominative. Giving the creation the status of divine.
kaqwV "as" - Comparative.
autwn gen. pro. "[some] of them were" - [some] of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
fagein (esqiw) aor. inf. "to eat" - [as it has been written, the people sat down] to eat. The infinitive, as with pein "to drink", is adverbial, introducing a purpose clause, "sat down in order to eat and drink, and got up in order to play."
paizein (paizw) pres. inf. "to indulge in pagan revelry" - [and drank and stood up] to dance, play. The infinitive as above. Possibly "amorous play", or used here in an illustrative way of idolatry. Calvin suggests the latter. Most likely describing the sexual revelry of cultic worship where the power of fertility is often a central feature of the cult. The quote comes from Exodus 32:6.
Numbers 25:1, 9. Note the disparity in the quoted number for the Baal of Peor incident, 23,000 for 24,000. Such lapses of memory remind us of the human dimension evident in the Bible. The divine message is communicated and recorded despite human frailty.
mhde porneuwmen (porneuw) pres. subj. "we should not commit sexual immorality" - neither let us commit fornication. Hortatory subjunctive.
kaqwV "as" - as [some of them committed fornication]. Comparative; introducing a comparative clause.
mia/ hJmera/ dat. "in one day" - [and fell] in one day [twenty-three thousand]. The dative is locative, temporal, as NIV.
mhde ekpeirazwmen (ekpeirazw) pres. subj. "we should not test" - neither let us tempt, test. Hortatory subjunctive. Note general "us". Paul's intended meaning is not altogether clear. He is possibly using the word "test" from the waters of Massah narrative, as the verb is not found in the narrative of the bronze snake, Numbers 21:4-7. So rather than "test", in the sense of stir up to anger, the word is possibly being used in the sense of stir up to jealousy. "Do we think that by flirting with other deities we will force the Lord to act more kindly toward us?" Note also the possible use of Psalm 78:18 as a source, and of Jesus' use of the idea in the temptation.
ton Criston "the Lord" - the lord [as some of them tempted]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to tempt / test." Due to a textual variant, the reference may be to "the Lord" or "Christ". If "Christ", again Jesus is linked with Israel's experience of the divine in their wilderness wanderings.
apwllunto (apwllumi) imperf. "were killed" - [and] were being destroyed. Imperfect implies a continuation of the dying, "were killed day-by-day."
uJpo + gen. "by [snakes]" - by [the serpents]. Expressing agency.
mhde gogguzete (gogguzw) pres. imp. "do not grumble" - neither grumble, murmur. As a second person plural, Paul is again directly addressing the Corinthians. Obviously, Paul is referring to Israel's complaining in the wilderness, possibly Numbers 14, or 16.
kaqaper "as" - evan as. Connecting particle used to form a comparative clause where similarities are being established. "Let us not grumble as they grumbled."
autwn gen. pro. "of them" - [some] of them [murmured]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
uJpo + gen. "by" - [and they were destroyed] by. Expressing agency.
tou oloqreutou (hV) "the destroying angel" - the destroyer. The presence of the definite article indicates that Paul is following the popular understanding of these passages in Numbers where a special destroyer, an angel of punishment, was active during times of Israel's rebellion. Some commentators suggest that the presence of the article indicates that Satan is intended.
iv] Exhortation - a warning to all the children of the covenant - "let him who thinks he stands watch out lest he falls", v11-12. Paul now completes the point he began to make in v6. He warns the Corinthians that they are in a similar situation to Israel. They are blessed, yet at the same time they are flirting with idolatry and so face judgment. It is dangerous to think that believers are beyond God's chastening hand; those who think they stand should be careful lest they fall.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional connective, next step in the argument; "now these things ....."
sunebainen (sumbainw) imperf. "happened" - [these things] happened. The imperfect is durative; "continued to happen to, befall."
ekeinoiV dat. pro. "to them" - to these ones. Dative of indirect object / reference, respect; "befell the Israelites."
tupikwV adv. "as examples" - by way of example, prototype, type. Hapax legomenon. This time the prototypes are negative and illustrate what will happen to "us" if we follow Israel's lead. Davidson in his book "Typology" calls these prototypes "advance-presentations." The events did not overtake Israel just to serve as an illustration for the Corinthian church, rather God's reign over the kingdom of God is constant, such that his dealings with Israel are the same as for the Corinthians, and are the same for the church today. If we toy with syncretism we can expect the same consequences that befell Israel in the wilderness.
de "and" - but/and . Transitional, possibly as an adversative; "God's punishment overtook Israel in the wilderness, but it was written down / recorded to warn us."
proV "as [warnings]" - [it was written] toward [an instruction]. Here expressing purpose; "for, for the purpose of, with a view toward"; "it (a record of the events) was written down with the view toward our instruction."
hJmwn gen. pro. "for us" - of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "it was written down for our instruction / admonition", or verbal, objective.
eiV ou}V "on whom" - into whom. Introducing a relative clause, with eiV being spacial, possibly "upon whom", Barnett.
twn aiwnwn (wn wnoV) gen. "[the fulfillment / culmination] of the ages" - [the ends] of the ages. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, or possessive, "the end which belongs to the end of the ages." The plural "ends" and "ages", does not imply a number of "ends" and a number of "ages". Note the "now / not yet", realized and inaugurated eschatology. All the prototypes point to an eternal reality which is both "now" and "not yet".
kathnthken (katantaw) perf. "has come" - has come upon, arrived, arrived at, reached, come to, ended up at. The ages "have followed a long and complex divine trajectory that has now arrived at a predetermined goal, the fullness of time, Gal.4:4", Garland. "We are living in the age to which all the ages have been leading up", Barclay.
wJste "so" - so then. This inferential conjunction is quite strong and in this verse may be paraphrased as: "so / accordingly the moral is", Moule IB p144.
oJ dokwn (dokew) pres. part. "if you think" - the one assuming, supposing, thinking. The participle serves as a substantive.
eJstanai (iJsthmi) perf. inf. "you are standing firm" - to have stood. The perfect with a present sense, "to be standing", "standing fast" in the sense of "be safe in the Christian faith and life", Lenski. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the participle "assuming", but also, following a cognitive verb / participle, it may be treated as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they may think; "let those who think that they stand." The NIV translation is rather tame. Paul is addressing those Corinthian believers who think that they are free to eat meat offered to idols irrespective of the damage they may do to a weaker brother and despite the fact that they are opening themselves to the satanic influences associated with the pagan cults. His warning is that such syncretic associations may well destroy them. "Let the person who is cocksure beware lest they fall."
blepetw pres. imp. "be careful" - see, take heed. "Let [the one .... / him] take heed"; gender inclusive, "let those who think they stand take care lest they fall."
mh pesh/ (piptw) aor. subj. "that you don't fall" - lest you should fall. The subjunctive is used to form a negated result clause, "lest as a result you fall", or purpose clause, "take care in order that you don't fall."
v] A word of encouragement, v13. This verse is somewhat problematic. If we give weight to the context, namely, the issue of idolatry, in particular, eating food offered to idols, ch.8-10, it is likely that Paul is drawing a dichotomy between temptations / trials which are "common" in the sense of not beyond human endurance / bearable / not impossible to handle, and temptations / tests / trials which are extremely dangerous, eg., idolatry. Believers have nothing to fear from the normal run of temptations / trials since our God provides the wherewithal for escape. Our loyalty to God can usually be maintained in the face of life's difficulties, but idolatry is like a whirlpool that sucks us into the abyss. From such temptations / trials we must flee, v14.
peirasmoV "temptation" - a temptation, test. Nominative subject of the verb "to take." Bruce, Fee, NRSV, NEB, ... opt for test / trial, a time of testing which may well lead to temptation. Conzelmann, as NIV, on the other hand, opts for "temptation". Given the context, namely, the issue of eating meat offered to idols (covered as one subject in chapters 8 to 10), and Israel's wilderness test, Paul most likely has in mind a test of loyalty to God, rather than a temptation to break a commandment.
eilhqen (lambanw) perf. "has overtaken [you]" - has taken [you]. The word "overtaken" seems to imply defeat, but Paul is speaking about being caught up in a test or trial, of being "involved in", Barclay.
ei mh "except" - Expressing a contrast by designating an exception, as NIV.
anqrwpinoV adj. "what is common to man" - that which is commonly human. It is likely that the tests Paul has in mind here are those which are humanly bearable, rather than "common"; "you have faced no trial beyond human endurance", REB.
de "and" - but/and [god is faithful]. Adversative is better; "but God is faithful, he will not permit ..."
peirasqhnai (peirazw) aor. pas. inf. "[he will not let you] be tempted" - [who will not allow you] to be tempted, tried, tested. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb easei, "allow, permit."
uJper + acc. "beyond" - beyond. Probably with a comparative sense here; "beyond, more than."
dunasqe (dunamai) "[what] you can bear" - [what] you are able. Paul here alludes to God's sovereign hand in Satan's tests. In the face of temptations / trials that are "common" to humanity, the Lord sees to it that they are not "beyond your powers", REB. "What you are able to resist", Zerwick.
alla "but" - Paul has set up a contrast between the two phrases, "will not let ....." and "will also provide...."
sun + dat. "when [you are tempted, he will also provide]" - [he will make] with [the test, temptation]. Expressing accompaniment / association. The NIV has read the phrase independent of the verb and formed a temporal clause. The natural reading is that along with the test the Lord provides / makes a way of escape. Either way, the meaning is the same. Note, it is "the test" as it is "the way of escape." The definite article should be read.
thn ekbasin (ekbasiV) "a way out" - [and = also] the way of escape, the way out. Yet, the word also means "end" or "result" and so the sense may be here of the Lord ending the test before it reaches a point beyond our endurance. The evil one does the testing, but the Lord keeps him in check, cf., Job.
tou dunasqai (dunamai) pres. pas. inf. "so that you can" - for you to be able. The infinitive with the genitive article tou usually forms a purpose or result clause; the NIV takes it as introducing a final clause, expressing purpose. God provides a way out of the test, by enabling us to endure it, rather than he provides a way out of the test "so that" we can endure it, cf. NEB.
uJpenegkein (uJpoferw) aor. inf. "stand under it / endure it" - to endure, beare. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "to be able."