1 Corinthians


6. Eating food offered to idols, 8:1-11:1

viii] Be imitators of Christ


Having exposed the real danger present in attending meals in the idol temples by drawing on the example of Israel, v1-13 and by stating that such attendance is incompatible with the Christian life due to an identification with the powers associated with the idol, v14-22, Paul now deals with the practical issue of eating meat from the market place, meat which would most likely have been offered to idols. Paul does not condemn the Corinthian libertines for their affirmation of Christian freedom, "I have the right to do anything", but instead provides a principle which stands over and above that of freedom, namely, brotherly love. Rather than demanding our own freedom, our own rights, we should strive to bring glory to God by considering the best interests of others.


i] Context: See 9:24-27. Paul's concluding words on the issue of participating in feasts at the local pagan temple.


ii] Background: See 8:1-13.


iii] Structure: Be imitators of Christ:

The final step in Paul's argument against eating idol-food:


For the sake of the gospel,

a believer should share the condition of their fellows.

Argument: Fee, Hayes, Garland, ... suggest a chiastic structure:


A. Criterion: the good of others, v23-24.

B. Personal freedom with regard to meat, v25-27.

C. Freedom curtailed for the sake of others, v28-29a.

B1. Personal freedom defended, v29b-30.

A1.Criterion generalized: that all may be saved, v31-11:1.


iv] Interpretation:

In summing up his argument, Paul states that the principle "what is helpful, what builds up" is better aligned to the Christian faith then the libertines' maxim "all things are permissible." Attending cultic festivals and feasting on sacrificed foods is clearly out of the question, but what about buying meat at the local market, most of which would have been sourced from the local pagan temple? Paul's approach is a pragmatic one, eat without questioning the source, but if someone makes an issue out of it, don't eat out of regard for the conscience of the weaker brother.

Paul's argument becomes somewhat complex in his first recapitulation of the maxim "all things are permissible", v29b-30. The passage has prompted numerous interpretations, eg., is this Paul expressing his own personal frustration at having his freedom questioned by his legalist friends? Barnett. It seems better to understand this passage as a recapitulation-statement within deliberative rhetoric, cf., Duane Watson 1Cor.10:23-11:1 in Light of Greco-Roman Rhetoric. So, it is likely that this is the view of the person who asserts their Christian freedom over and above the sensibilities of another.

Paul is restating their all things are permissible view; "You say, why is my freedom being subjected to another person's conscience? If I take part in a meal with thankfulness, why should my character be defamed over something I thank God for?" In response Paul will go on to restate the principle that what is helpful, what builds up better reflects the mind of God - "do all to the glory of God", v31; "do not cause anyone to stumble", v32, act for "the good of the many, so that they may be saved", v33, "be imitators of me as I am of Christ", 11:1.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 10:23

Be imitators of Christ - practical advice for a believer in a secular situation faced with the issue of eating, or not eating, food / meat originally offered to a pagan idol, v23-11:1: i] Principles: Paul sets the groundwork for his argument by stating that what is helpful, what builds up, is a better understanding of the mind of God than the principle adopted by the Corinthian libertines, namely, all things are permissible, v23-24. The lack of a coordinating conjunction (asyndeton) indicates a major step in the argument.

all (alla) "but" - [you say that all things are right, lawful] but [I say to you not all things are]. Strong adversative, as NIV; "I quite agree with you that we are free to do anything - but that is not to say that everything is to our good", Barclay.

sumferei (sumferw) pres. "is beneficial" - bring together = to confer a benefit = beneficial, helpful, useful, profitable, a good thing, advantageous; "everything is not useful", Phillips.

oikodomei (oikodomew) pres. "is constructive" - [you say that all things are lawful but I say to you not all things] build up, edify. "It is perfectly true that we are free to do anything - but it is not everything that strengthens life and character for ourselves and for others", Barclay.


"We should think about others and not about ourselves", CEV.

to eJautou gen. ref. pro. "their own good" - [let no one seek] that which is one's own good. The genitive pronoun is adjectival, possessive, nominalized by the neuter article to, so forming an abstract noun. "Good" is assumed, other possibilities are "interests", "ends", "advantage", ...

alla "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

to tou eJterou gen. adj. "the good of others" - that which is of the other's good. The adjective serves as a substantive, with the genitive being adjectival, possessive, nominalized by the neuter article to. Instead of "one's own interests" we should consider "the other's interests." "The other" remains unclear: a believer, a nonbeliever, the host / guest at a dinner, v27, and their "good" is presumably their ultimate salvation, v33. The principle obviously applies to the "weak" brother, 8:11.


ii] Practical advice: When it comes to meat sold in the meat market, there is no need to make ethical judgments about its spiritual purity since "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." So, if invited to a meal, don't raise ethical issues over the religious purity of the food that is offered you, v25-27.

pwloumenon (pwlew) pres. pas. part. "[anything] sold" - [everything] being sold. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective pan, "everything", "which is sold."

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing space.

makellw/ (on) "meat market" - a meat market. Excavations in Corinth have exposed a butcher-shop with the Latin inscription Makellum, indicating the word was transliterated into Greek.

mhden anakrinonteV (anakrinw) pres. part. "without raising questions" - [eat] without asking questions, making enquiry, examining. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative "eat", "and do not investigate" = "buy" = "buy and eat", or adverbial, modal, expressing manner, as NIV.

dia + acc. "of" - because of, on account of. Causal, leaning toward benefit; "out of regard for." The prepositional construction "on account of conscience" seemingly modifies the participle rather than the imperative "eat".

thn suneidhsin (iV ewV) acc. "conscience" - Possible meanings: "conscience", Thrall; "self-awareness", Thiselton; "consciousness", Horrell. Barnett suggests Paul is referring to a believer's theological understanding as it issues in ethical living. As to whose conscience is in mind, it is likely that it is the person buying and eating rather than a weak brother who may be observing. Paul's point is that believers "should buy and eat whatever they like and can afford", Garland, and "take it home and eat it", Barnett.


Psalm 24:1.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause consisting of a text of scripture explaining why a believer may buy and eat meat from a secular butcher without going into the whys and wherefores.

kuriou (oV) "is the Lord's" - of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, emphatic by position.

authV gen. pro. "[everything] in it" - [is the earth and the fullness] of it. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, although often taken as verbal, subjective; "the earth and its fullness are the Lord's", Berkeley. The earth and every part of it belongs to the Lord.


ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause 1st. class where the condition is assumed to be true for argument sake, "if, as is the case (for argument sake), ..... then ....."

twn apistwn gen. adj. "an unbeliever" - [anyone] of the unbelievers. The articular adjective serves as a substantive with the genitive being adjectival, partitive; "one of the unbelievers", ESV.

kalei (kalew) pres. "invites you to a meal" - calls = invites [you].

poreuesqai (poreuomai) pres. inf. "to go" - [and you want] to go. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will, want, wish."

to paratiqemenon (paratiqhmi) pres. pas. part. "[whatever] is put before" - [eat all, every] the thing being put before. The participle may be taken as substantival, or if the adjective pan is read as a substantive, "everything", then the participle is read as adjectival, attributive.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to set before."

mhden anakrinonteV dia thn suneidhsin "without raising questions of conscience" - See v25. Presumably again it is the invited person who is not to bother going into the theological / ethical whys and wherefores of the issue. It is interesting to note that Paul's advice seems to be in conflict with the instructions of the Jerusalem Council, cf., Acts 15:29. Paul's conflict with Peter recorded in Galatians shows a similar disregard for the Council's religious proclivities.

dia + acc. "-" - because of [conscience]. Causal.


iii] Paul introduces a qualification - All things are permissible works perfectly well when the only thing at issue is our own ethical / theological understanding settled in the knowledge that "the earth and its fullness belongs to the Lord." This may not be the case when someone elses ethical / theological understanding is at play, particularly where their thinking is messed up with pagan gods, idols and sacrifices. In their case, what is helpful, what builds up is more important, and for that reason, Paul's advice is, don't eat if they make a point of telling you that the meat was sacrificed to idols, v28-29a.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a qualification; "on the other hand ".

ean + subj. "if ..... then" - if [anyone may say]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then ....."

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - to you [this is offered in sacrifice]. Dative of indirect object.

mh esqiete (esqiw) pres. imp. "do not eat it" - do not eat. The aorist would be expected and so the durative present indicates "make a practice of not eating it", Thiselton, certainly in the presence of that person (until they know better????).

di (dia) + acc. "for the sake of" - because of. As v25, causal or grounds / basis, but leaning toward benefit; "out of regard for", Thiselton.

ton mhnusanta (mhnuw) aor. part. "[the one] who told you" - this one [having revealed]. Taking the pronoun ekeinon, "this one", as a substantive, the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "this one." It is unclear whether this is the host or someone else at the dinner party. It is likely another guest, so R&P; "the person who informed you."

kai "and" - and [because of conscience]. Coordinative; "out of regard for the person who told you and out of regard for their conscience." The concern is for their ethical / theological understanding of the issue. Paul makes this clear in v29a.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, introducing a clarification.

thn tou eJterou gen. adj. "the other person's" - [i say not the conscience of himself, but] the conscience of the other man. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, nominalized by the article thn, as NIV.

ouci thn eJautou reflex. pro. "not yours" - not the [conscience] of himself . The genitive of the reflexive pronoun is adjectival, attributive, limiting "conscience", "the one's own conscience."


iv] Recapitulation - restatement of the opposing maxim, all things are permissible, v29b-30. Paul at this point employs what we call today responsive listening; it's where you restate another person's point of view so that they know that you have understood what they are saying. Paul does understand the point of view of those Corinthians who affirm their freedom under Christ, that all things are permissible, but he will go on to argue that what is helpful, what builds up better reflects the mind of God. "You say, why is my freedom being subjected to another person's conscience? If I take part in a meal with thankfulness, why should my character be defamed over something I thank God for?"

inati gar "for why" - because why [the freedom of me is judged]. Moule suggests that inati = iJna ti genhtai, "what is the reason", Fee, better than advantage, "what good end will be served", Findlay + gar = "for what reason" = "why". "But, you say, 'why should my liberty have to submit to the judgment of another man's conscience?'" Barclay.

uJpo + gen. "by" - Expressing agency.

allhV gen. adj. "another's [conscience]" - [conscience] of another. The genitive is possessive.


ei + ind. "if" - if, as is the case, [i with thanksgiving partake in a meal, then why am i blamed for what i give thanks for]? Introducing a conditional clause 1st. class where the proposed condition is assumed to be true.

cariti (iV ewV) dat. "with thanksgiving" - The dative is adverbial, of manner. The sense "grace" is unlikely, but possibly "with gratitude to God."

blasfhmoumai (blasfhmew) pres. pas. "[why] am I denounced" - [why] am I blasphemed, abused, vilified. "To suffer defamation of character", BAGD.

uJper + gen. "because" - A causal sense is unlikely; most likely reference / respect, "with respect to something of which I give thanks" = "for which I give thanks", ESV. "Something", toutou, is assumed; uJper toutou ou|, "for something which."

egw "I" - Emphatic by use; "for something which I at least give thanks."


v] Recapitulation - restatement of Paul's principle, what is helpful, what builds up, best exhibits the mind of God, v31-11:1. Paul understands the point of view held by the libertines, but what is more important for a believer is that they act in a way which brings glory to God. God is not glorified if our actions have negative consequences.

oun "So" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

eite .... eite .... eite ... "whether ... or .... or [whatever]" - whether [you eat] or [you drink] or [whatever you do]. A correlative disjunctive construction.

eiV + acc. "for [the glory]" - [do all things] to [glory of god]. Here expressing purpose, as NIV. "God is honored neither by slavish obedience to legalistic rules, nor by license. The whole of life is to be a liturgy of praise, a service of God and one's fellowmen", Pfitzner. "Your every action must be for the glory of God", Barclay.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive probably verbal, objective; the action being for the purpose of the glorification of God.


Paul's advice to his readers is that they don't "cause anyone to stumble" - that they don't place a barrier before someone which makes it difficult for them to hear and respond to the gospel, nor that they don't trip a believer up, leading them to renounce their faith.

aproskopoi adj. + dat. "[do] not [cause] anyone to stumble" - [be] blameless = without offense. Predicate adjective. "Avoid doing damage", Thiselton.

kai .... kai ... "both .... and" - Correlative construction, as NIV.

IoudaioiV (oV) dat. "Jews" - to jews [and to greeks and]. As with "Gentiles", and "the church", dative complement of the adjective "giving no offense." "This applies to Jewish believers who feel bound to submit to the Law, to free-wheeling Gentiles who see themselves apart from the Law of Moses, and it applies to all those who gather week by week to meet with the Lord Jesus."

th/ ekklhsia/ (a) dat. "the church" - to the assembly. The church, the people of God, often identified as the new Israel, but better newly reconstituted Israel, is made up now of both Jew and Gentile.

tou qeou (oV) "of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, the church being the construct and possession of God.


Rather than causing others to stumble, Paul sets out to "please" - not to hurt. He seeks to act in a way that is not so much profitable for himself, but rather profitable for others - for the many rather than the self. The ultimate end of his behavior is that the many might be saved.

kaqwV "even as" - as, like. Comparative.

kagw "I" - i also. Emphatic adjunctive; kai egw, "I also."

pasin dat. adj. "everyone" - [in all things please] all. The adjective serves as a substantive, "all men" = "everyone", dative of direct object after the verb "to strive to please" / interest, advantage.

panta acc. adj. "in every way" - all things. An accusative of reference / respect; "with respect to everything I do." "I on my part strive to take account of all the interests of everyone", Thiselton.

mh zhtwn (zhtew) pres. part. "for I am not seeking" - not seeking. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal, as NIV, but possibly modal, expressing manner; "for it is not my own good that I am out for", Barclay.

emautou gen. reflex. pro. "my own" - [the advantage] of my own. The genitive is possessive.

alla "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

to "the good" - The accusative article serves as a nominalizer turning the genitive twn pollwn, "of the many", into a substantival construction, accusative direct object of the participle "not seeking"; "not seeking ...... the advantage / benefit of the many." A restatement of Paul's principle what is helpful, what builds up.

twn pollown gen. adj. "of the many" - The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive / wholative; "the good of all", Barclay.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [they may be saved]. Serving to introduce a final clause expressing purpose / end-view. Best not expressed in a crude cause and effect manner / purpose which is surely not in Paul's mind, but more in the sense of end-view; "with a view to their salvation", Thiselton.


This, says Paul, is the way he acts, and it was the way Christ acts, so let it be our example.

mou gen. pro. "[follow] my [example]" - [become imitators] of me. The genitive here is usually treated as verbal, objective, Paul being the object of the imitation.

kaqwV "as" - as, like. Comparative.

Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - [i also am] of christ. Objective genitive, as above. Paul is inviting his readers to choose, as an authentically free person, to be a slave of others. "He points to the true and ultimate model who is not Paul, but Christ. Christ was the authentically free person who laid aside his liberty for others ..... Christ is a gracious and kindly self-giver for others", Barnett - the perfect example to follow.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]