1 Corinthians


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

vii] Idolatry and Christianity


Having exposed the real danger present in attending meals in the idol temples by drawing on the example of Israel, v1-13, Paul now applies the example, stating that such attendance is incompatible with the Christian life, v14-22. There is an actual identification with idol worship by those who attend it. There may be no god in the idol, but there are powers of darkness there. "You cannot have a part with the Lord's table and the table of demons." Paul does not denounce eating as such; "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." The issue concerns associating with evil and so becoming one with it. "I do not want you to be participants with Demons."


i] Context: See 9:24-27.


ii] Background: See 8:1-13.


iii] Structure: Idolatry and Christianity:

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


A believer cannot participate in cultic celebrations

and also participate in the Lord's Supper.


A prohibition against idolatry, v14;

Supported by an appeal to the reader's good sense, v15.

Attendance at the Lord's Supper

entails a participation in

the substantial nature of the meal, v16-17;

Similarly so for Israel's cult, v18;

Paul is not suggesting "that an idol is anything", v19.

Participation in pagan cultic practice

entails association with demons, v20.


Cultic celebrations and the Lord's Supper

are mutually incompatible, v21.

A warning, v22.


iv] Interpretation:

This passage concludes Paul's words on the issue of participating in feasts at the local pagan temple, 8:1-10:22. Having examined the pros and cons he now gives a clear prohibition. As with the Lord's Supper, spiritual realities are associated with a meal at a pagan temple, so for a believer, participation in one negates participation in the other. Although the idol is not real, and knowledge may preclude the believer from full association with a pagan cult, there are demonic realities associated with idol worship.

As Fee puts it, the Corinthian libertines "were arguing for the right to attend pagan feasts and were trying to build up others by having them attend as well. Paul says No. Not only is the latter action totally unloving - Christian behavior is based on love, not knowledge - but the action itself is totally incompatible with life in Christ as it is celebrated at the Lord's Table. Thus he appeals, exhorts, and finally warns that such attendance is absolutely forbidden."


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

Text - 10:14

Idolatry and Christian faith, 10:14-22: i] In clear terms Paul gives his instructions regarding the Corinthians' association with idolatrous worship, v14-15. "Flee from idolatry."

dioper "therefore" - therefore, for this reason, so then. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion. Given that God's chosen people were not spared, but perished in the wilderness on account of their idolatry, "therefore" the Corinthians need to take the warning and "have nothing to do with idolatry", Barclay.

agaphtoi mou "my dear friends" - beloved of me. An affectionate address which is followed by a firm command.

feugete (feugw) pres. imp. "flee" - As of someone escaping a life-threatening situation. "Shun the worship of idols", RSV.

apo + gen. "from" - from [idolatry]. Here expressing separation, "away from", so reinforcing the "flight" as a physical moving away from a situation of great danger, a keeping away from celebrations, festivals and public occasions associated with pagan temple worship.


Having given an absolute prohibition, Paul now asks them to consider his instruction. As sensible people they should understand his concerns.

wJV "-" - [i say] as, like. Comparative. Is Paul being facetious? Most commentators think this is a straightforward appeal, "I appeal to your common sense", Thiselton, but possibly with a touch of irony, "I appeal as to the wise", taking "wise" to be a self-designation of the Corinthian libertines. They view themselves as "sensible", pragmatically wise, so "I am speaking as to sensible men (people)", Barrett.

fronimoiV dat. adj. "to sensible people" - to wise, thoughtful ones. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / direction.

krinate (krinw) aor. imp. "judge" - [you] judge [what i say]. "Decide for yourselves whether what I say is reasonable or not", Barclay.

uJmeiV pro. "for yourselves" - you. Redundant nominative, emphatic by use, so "you yourselves decide".


ii] Paul now supports his instruction by establishing that in worship there is a participation with the divine, v16-18. Such is true of the communion service, v16, and this for the whole church community, v17. Participation in sacred feasts, whether the Lord's Supper or idolatrous festivals, involves a real identification with the powers associated with the feast. Therefore, the two are mutually exclusive for a believer. When we share in the bread and wine we participate in Christ's redemptive sacrifice on our behalf. The eating and the drinking serves as a faith-remembering of Christ's offering of himself on our behalf, for which we give thanks.

ouci "[is] not" - This negation is used in a question expecting an affirmative answer.

to pothrion (on) "the cup" - Being neuter, "cup" may be classified as nominative, but as with the masculine "bread" it is likely to be accusative by attraction to the accusative relative pronoun o}, "which".

thV eulogiaV (a) gen. "of thanksgiving" - of the blessing. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "cup"; the cup over which a blessing / thanksgiving / grace is said, ie., an allusion to the third cup of the Passover ceremony. Paul's rather condensed words need expanding; "the cup of wine we share in the communion service, for which we give God thanks, does it not represent a participation in what Christ has done for us on the cross in the shedding of his blood?"

o} "for which" - which. Accusative direct object of the verb "we bless." "The cup of blessing, which we bless", Moffatt.

ulogoumen (eulogew) pres. "we give thanks" - we bless. Paul is actually amplifying the term "cup of thanksgiving", "namely the cup of wine over which we offer our thanksgiving to God." The thanksgiving / blessing / grace used in the Passover meal was "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine." These words were soon Christianized; "We give thee thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David they servant, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy Servant, thine be the glory for ever", Didache. So, the thanksgiving / blessing is Godward; "we offer a blessing", Thiselton.

koinwnia (a) "a participation" - a fellowship, participation. Predicate nominative. "Receives an interest in", Barrett. Barrett argues that a believer's participation is "in the benefits of Christ's passion", an identification with Christ's sacrifice - we die with Christ that we may rise with him. Thiselton argues that the stress is on a "communal participation" in the redemptive work of Christ, a "common participation", Barnett. Such is true (cf., v17), but not the point here.

tou aiJmatoV (a atoV) gen. "in the blood" - Genitive of direct object after the verbal noun "participation."

tou Cristou (oV) "of Christ" - The genitive "of Christ" is adjectival, possessive. "The redemptive sacrifice of Christ."

ton arton (oV) acc. "the bread" - [is not] the bread [which we break]. Properly nominative, but it has become accusative by attraction into the case of the relative pronoun o}n, Zerwick #19; see "the cup" above.

tou swmatoV (a atoV) gen. "in the body" - [a sharing, participation, fellowship] of the body [of christ]. Genitive of direct object after the partitive verbal noun "sharing", "a sharing in ...."; "the loaf of bread we break and share in the communion service, does it not represent a participation in what Christ has done for us on the cross in the offering of his body?" The word "represent" is not in the text and does, of course, encapsulate the Roman / Protestant divide.

From the Protestant perspective, Christ used both Passover elements, bread and wine, to represent his sacrifice for sin. In the Passover meal these elements serve to illustrate the meal before the passing over of the angel of death and Israel's subsequent escape from Egypt. Eating and drinking expresses identification with this redemptive event. A believer similarly participates in Christ's atoning sacrifice through faith, which, in the communion service, is expressed in the eating of the elements - a feeding on Christ. From the second century onward, as the Christian church became increasingly Gentile, there was a tendency to forget the Passover imagery which lay at the core of the eucharist and drift toward the idea that the elements themselves were the body and blood of Christ (later expressed in the doctrine of transubstantiation), rather than that they simply represented Christ's atoning sacrifice.


Paul goes on to interpret the broken bread as the Christian community - the body of Christ. This is a unique interpretation. The community together shares in Christ's redemptive sacrifice. Such communal solidarity with Christ forbids other religious (in this case demonic) associations.

oJti "because" - because [one bread, one body the many we are]. Introducing a causal clause, although it is unclear whether it points back (Thiselton) or forward (Barnett). Paul established in v16 that in the communion service there is participation with the divine. Now he establishes that this participation is communal. His intended implication is not obvious. Is Paul arguing that a similar communal participation occurs in pagan worship (although actually a participation with demons v21), or is he simply implying that attendance at pagan feasts etc., "fractures the unity" of the congregation, so Barnett? "Because there is one loaf, we, many as we are (although we are many), are one body", Goodspeed.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the many are one. Believers are in union one with another because / for they share together in the person and work of Christ. "For it is the one bread that we all share", Thiselton.

metecomen (metecw) pres. "partake / share" - [all] partake, consume. Somewhat more specific than just "eat" food, so "eat together = share", descriptive of "communal participation", Thiselton.

ek "of [the one loaf]" - out of, from [the one bread, loaf]. Semitic use, serving as a partitive genitive, as NIV, rather than expressing the sense "all eat from the one loaf", so Fee, cf., Zerwick #80.


"This verse brings a historical proof (but one extending into Paul's own day) by citing the practice of Israel", Conzelmann, namely, that in worship there is a participation with the divine. If Israel's worship was not an empty act then obviously attendance at idolatrous festivals is not an empty act, as some of the Corinthians have argued.

blepete (blepw) pres. imp. "consider" - look at. Metaphorically = "consider". "Look at actual Jewish practice and belief", Barclay.

kata + acc. "-" - [the israel] according to [flesh]. Reference / respect, "with respect to the flesh", ie., not spiritual Israel or eschatological Israel, but historic Israel.

ouc "[do] not" - [are] not. Used in a question expecting an affirmative answer.

oiJ esqionteV (esqiw) pres. part. "those who eat" - the ones eating. The participle serves as a substantive. By eating the sacrificial meat the worshippers "make a profession of (identify with) the same religion", Zerwick.

tou fusiasthriou (on) gen. "[participate] in the alter" - [the sacrifices partakers] of the alter. Genitive of direct object, as above. "By the alter Paul most likely means the Lord God of Israel himself to whom the sacrifice had been offered", Barnett.


iii] Paul now qualifies his argument, by providing a further explanation, indicating that he is not suggesting that it is possible to commune with real gods in pagan sacrifices and idol worship, but it is indeed possible to commune with Satan and his minions in pagan worship, v19-20. Thiselton argues that Paul "wants to prevent the church from entering the epistemological world within which (but only within which) these things do become real." From a postmodern perspective, it is possible to argue this way, but it is likely that pagan worship, for Paul, has no reality, psychologically, sociologically, ...... Paul's argument is that behind the froth and bubble there lies dark spiritual powers.

ti "[do I mean then]?" - what [therefore am i saying]? Introducing an interrogative clause. What, then, do I mean to assert?", Cassirer.

oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what he is not asserting.

eidwloquton (oV) "a sacrifice offered to an idol" - something offered to an idol. Nominative subject of the verb to-be.

ti "anything" - [is] a certain something. The REB draws out the thought nicely, although too specifically; "that meat consecrated to an idol is anything more than meat?"

eidwlon (on) "an idol" - [or that] an idol [is a certain something]? Nominative subject of the verb to-be. "Or that an idol itself has any real existence [other than being a lump of wood or stone]", Barclay.


iv] During Israel's wilderness wanderings they foolishly worshipped the Golden Calf, but it wasn't God they worshipped, rather a "mute" idol infused with demonic power, cf., Deut.32:17.

alla "No, but" - but. Here a strong adversative. "But what I do declare is", R&P.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what Paul is asserting, namely that "malignant spiritual forces are present when idolatrous acts are performed", Naylor.

a} quousin ta eqnh "the sacrifices of pagans" - the things which they sacrifice. The ta eqnh is usually regarded as a gloss which seeks to remove the misconception that the subject could be Jews at temple worship. The variant reading is also grammatically incorrect in that a plural neuter subject takes a singular verb, cf., Fitzmyer. Although the subject remains undefined, it is quite possible that "Israel", rather than "Pagans / Gentiles", is in Paul's mind. When Israel worshipped the Golden calf in the wilderness it was not God that they worshipped.

daimonioiV (on) dat. "[are offered] to demons" - [they sacrifice] to demons. Dative of indirect object. Paul only rarely mentions the supernatural powers of darkness, cf., 1Tim.4:1, 10:20.

qew/ (oV) dat. "[not] to God" - [and not] to god. Dative of indirect object. Possibly "and to a no god", R&P, alluding to Deut.32:17, although it is more likely Paul means "and not to God". "Israel may have thought that they were offering sacrifices to God with the golden calf as a festival to the Lord, but they were not", Garland, see above.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, the next step in the argument.

ginesqai (ginomai) pres. inf. "to be" - [i do not want you] to become. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "I do [not] will / wish you to be ...", or as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul wills, namely, "I do not wish that you be participants with demons."

koinwnouV (oV) "participants" - participants, sharers. Predicate accusative. The sense, as above, expresses something more than just "associating with", but rather "entering into union with / become sharers with"; "I do not want you to become partners of the demons", Fitzmyer.

twn daimoniwn (on) gen. "with demons" - of demons. Genitive of direct object, as above. The series of direct object genitives found in this and previous verses may be classified as verbal, objective, although it is classification which is overdone.


v] Conclusion. Paul restates the proposition. A believer can't "share / fellowship" (NIV "have a part") in the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

pinein (pinw) "[you cannot] drink" - [you are not able] to drink. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "you are [not] able".

kuriou (oV) gen. "of the Lord" - cup [of lord]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or attributive, idiomatic, "which brings you into fellowship with the Lord." Given the context, a reference to the Lord's Supper is probably intended with Paul's focus on "Christ's blood-shedding", Barrett. This we participate in as does an idol-worshipper participate in the libation poured out before the idol.

daimoniwn (on) gen. "demons" - [and cup] of demons. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the cup that belongs to the demons", attributive, "the demon cup", or idiomatic "the cup which brings you into fellowship with the demons", R&P. "You cannot drink from the cup of demons and still drink from the cup of the Lord", CEV.

metecein (metecw) pres. inf. "have a part in" - [you are not able] to partake. Complementary infinitive.

trapezhV (a hV) gen. "the table" - of a table [of lord and] of a table [of demons]. Genitive of direct object after the partitive verb metecw, "to partake, share." Again, a reference to the Lord's Supper is probably intended, "table" being used for "alter", Mal.1:7, 12, although without the implication that the Lord's Supper itself is an offering / sacrifice for sin. Yet, Paul may not have the communion service in mind, as both "cup" and "table" have cultic uses and this is quite possibly how Paul is using the words. A person "shares in / participates in" the substance of worship, whether pagan or Christian.


A warning. "Paul soberly cautions against provoking the jealousy of the Lord against those who worship the gods instead of him and who allow themselves thereby to become the haunt of demons. Do they think they are stronger than the Lord?", Barnett. "Are you going to do what I ask, or will you continue eating at both meals, and thus arouse the Lord's jealousy, as Israel did in the desert?", Fee. Those who think they are stronger than God, demanding their freedom to share in idolatrous meals, will face the folly of their actions.

h] "-" - or. Possibly introducing an alternative (disjunctive); "or (if you think that you can eat of Christ's table and of the table of demons) are we going to provoke His jealousy?", R&P, although in Greek rhetoric this conjunction should be translated in a way which reflects its rhetorical function, here as an exclamation, "Hey!", cf., Thiselton; "What! do we intend to rouse the Lord's jealousy?", Moffatt.

parazhloumen (parazhlow) pres. "are we trying to arouse [the Lord's] jealousy?" - do we make [the lord] jealous? The present tense is durative, although possibly a deliberative subjunctive. It is likely that Paul is quoting scripture, namely Deuteronomy 32:21 ("the Lord" = Yahweh, although Paul most likely has Christ in mind). "Do we mean to provoke the Lord to jealousy", Cassirer.

mh "-" - no. Used for a question expecting a negative answer. "Only if we are stronger than he could such an attempt be made with impunity; as it is, it is madness to act in such a way as deliberately to court the wrath of the Almighty", Bruce.

autou gen. pro. "than he" - [are we stronger] of = than he? The genitive is ablative, of comparison.


1 Corinthians Introduction



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