1 Corinthians 8:1-13 - Understanding food sacrificed to idols

Updated: Mar 7

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.


It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.


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Note: Before reading this, be warned that understanding Brother Paul requires some effort. I have made an effort to help others realize the deeper meaning of this reading, in a modern context. If you are afraid of 'blogs' that are 4,000 words long, then leave now. I have actually skipped through the majority of this reading (verses 3-13), leaving the meaning that I have skimmed over for the true seeker to delve into later. Only the true seekers will take the time to see how deep Paul's words are.


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This is the Epistle selection for reading in Episcopal churches on the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. It is accompanied with the Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and the Gospel reading from Mark 1:21-28. All will be read aloud on Sunday, January 31, 2021. Because all writings of Paul are so rich with hidden meaning, so deep that understanding requires the reader be a true Christian and not someone void of the Holy Spirit, it is important to faintly grasp the meaning of these 305 words above, by knowing the theme of all the readings of this Sunday. In the season of Epiphany, one should be read Paul's words from centering on the duality of: being a prophet of God; or, being an unclean spirit. A Saint knows both, but an ordinary human being has no knowledge of God’s voice.


That needs to be determined, because Paul starts this chapter off by talking about “food sacrificed to idols” (from the Greek “eidōlothytōn”). That Greek word is a combined form word, as “eidolon” (“an idol, false god) and “thuó” (“I sacrifice, generally an animal; hence: I kill). (Strong’s) This usage then becomes a statement about the pagan practices of eating the food generated by animal sacrifices to pagan gods, of which the Greeks were said to have many. By seeing that, there can be no misunderstanding the sacrifice of animals in the Temple of Jerusalem as being the direct reference here.



The issue here goes all the way back to Adam. While nothing is written about it, Adam was the first human on earth that was a priest. He was a priest to the One God – YHWH – and Adam was made for the same purpose as was Jesus: Both came to earth in mortal flesh to teach the ignorant masses about the One God. Before God sent Adam, the world was only inhabited by a Man that knew nothing of the One God; and, Man also knew nothing of other gods. Therefore, after Adam broke God’s rule and fell from grace, he was tasked with performing rituals that would be the first ever practiced by anyone. A couple of those ritual practices were altar building and animal sacrifice.


While that is not written about Adam, it can be assumed from the story of Cain and Abel. It is the role of a father to teach the children what to do and how to do it. That means the priest Adam raised his sons Cain and Abel to be priests as well. Because the ‘business’ of priesthood was new on the earth, Cain had not been taught God was only pleased with animal sacrifices. Cain’s sacrifice of grains and fruits did not please Yahweh because God cannot receive the physical, only the spiritual. The soul released by animal sacrifice is what pleases Yahweh. The burning of plants pleases the goddess we call Mother Earth. Mother Earth is not a living god, but a reflection of fertility on earth. The Greeks erected idols [altars inside temples] in the names of gods and goddesses; and, the Greeks had several masculine and feminine names for other gods. Many had Mother Earth qualities.


The story of Cain’s banishment should be seen as parallel to Adam’s banishment, but on two different levels. Adam was made pure, who sinned making him impure. Adam thus was placed into the realm where impurity is allowed. God spoke to Adam and guided him to do priestly acts that atoned for his sin. Cain was born of the world and took to the world as a grower of plants. His plant sacrifice was not pleasing to Yahweh, thus Cain was not told his sacrifice was welcome, like Abel’s sacrifice of a living creature. That led Cain to murder, which is an act only possible in the worldly realm, where life is temporal. [Adam could not have murdered in Eden, as all creatures in Eden were immortal.] That worldly sin led to Cain being banished from the priesthood that served the One God, causing him to be come the first priest that served the voice of the serpent, who likewise had been cast forever into the earth. Therefore, all religions that came to be in the world of human beings, which were not honoring the One God, were created by Cain. The lineage from Adam [those not banished] is that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


Certainly, God told Moses to have the Israelites [each family] kill a yearling lamb and spread its blood around the doorposts of their homes, then burn the flesh and consume it all before the next morning. The Passover of God meant death to all who did not know that ritual. Once the Israelites had escaped the passing of death [mortality], the ritual of Passover became a commanded [forevermore]. Thus, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was for the purpose of sacrificing lambs to God, with the Jews consuming the meat. Still, that symbolic act did not please God, since God only received the life spirit [souls] of sacrificed animals, able to smell the smoke that was representative of the combustible fats [et al] that were transformed in burning to a gaseous state. The charred meat was of no use to God [just like He had no use for burned vegetables], so the priests and the Jews ate that meat.


God had actually told the Israelites he no longer wanted them to make animal sacrifices to Him, because God did not want the souls of animals sacrificed to prevent death. God wants human souls sacrificed to Him, so a figurative death makes eternal life the reward [not simply continued life on earth]. Here is some evidence of that.


  1. Isaiah 1:11-14 (NIV)

“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. I have more

than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no

pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before

me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless

offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—

I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed

festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of

bearing them.”


2. Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt

offerings.”


3. Psalm 40:6-8 (NIV)

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened— burnt

offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it

is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my

heart.”


4. Psalm 51:16-17 (NIV)

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt

offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God,

will not despise.”


All of this has to be grasped firmly, simply from Paul beginning this chapter of his letter to the Christians in Corinth by stating, “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols.”


The modern Christians will immediately turn his or her head off, simply because of the fact they do not recognize any form of animal sacrifice to idols as being relevant in modern times. They cannot see the sacrifice of a turkey in honor of the idol that is Thanksgiving in America – thanks that the natives did not kill us or let us starve to death in the winter. They cannot see the sacrifice of a lamb so one can buy meat to roast for Easter dinner. They cannot see the sacrifice of a hog, so they can glaze a ham [or buy one from Honey Baked Hams] to honor New Year’s Day. They cannot see the sacrifice of a bull, so they can roast a prime rib for Christmas dinner. Therefore, it is important to realize Americans still do what Paul warned the Corinthians to be alert for.


Paul then immediately seemed to spin the table around, changing direction from food sacrificed to idols to knowledge, writing “we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” [Notice the quotation marks around “all of us possess knowledge”.] Paul did not place marks around his words, which means the Greek translation here needs investigation. After all, what does food sacrificed to idols have to do with knowledge?


The Greek written here is “oidamen hoti pantes gnōsin echomen,” which literally translates to say, “we know that all doctrine we have.” The first word, “oidamen,” speaks of knowledge, because it says “we know.” The word “hoti” (as “that”) is then a reference to what is known, which is “that” referenced about sacrificing animals. The word “pantes” (as “all things” or “every kind”) becomes a statement saying “that sacrifice to idols” is the same as what Jews do at festivals. The word “gnōsin” is made out to be a duplication of “knowledge” (thus causing someone to see a need to quote the repeated word”), but the word also means “wisdom” or “doctrine,” which is the reasoning behind sacrificing animals on altars. Their wisdom was: “Because God said do it.” Thus, Paul began this chapter by plainly stating what pagans do is then a variation of sacrificing to idols, which is the same as what the Jews possess (“echomen” means “we have”).


This understanding allows one to take liberties with the Greek text written and translate it into English that modern Christians can more easily understand, as: “Now let us address the issue of thinking eating a certain meat for a holiday [notice how this relates to a holy day] is important to Yahweh, because everyone has an opinion about this.”


Can you see how that was the intent of Paul? Can you see how that main theme statement for this chapter makes everything else that follows make more sense?


Following this clarification of “gnōsin” as not meaning “knowledge,” but “doctrine,” it is easier to see the verse continuing by stating “ gnosis physioi,” where this states “this” [pointing back to “doctrine we have”] is “doctrine” that “puffs up.” The word “physioi” does mean “puffed up,” but makes more sense as “inflates, makes arrogant,” or “becomes a source of pride.” This is then saying the Jews defend their sacrifice of animals as not being to idols, but to God Himself. That “doctrine” makes Jews think they are better than all the pagan [Gentile] religions that also sacrifice animals and then eat the cooked meat.


Following that is a comma mark, with the word “” repeated, which means “this,” referencing to “doctrine we have” [Jews]. So then, a comma marks a point of separation, with “” being a reference back to “inflated ideas,” which are then said to be relative to “love” (“agapē”).


The Greek word “agapē” is defined by Strong’s Concordance as meaning “love, goodwill.” In use, the word implies “love, benevolence, good will, esteem,” and in the plural number, “love-feasts.” This means the Jews find “benefit” from maintaining their doctrine, which has them be God’s chosen people, special in the world, thus able to make lots of money and give credit to God. Such a “love” has been “inflated” into love of an idol – Mammon / moolah – and not a “love” of God. It is important to catch that nuisance.


This is why Paul then said “love builds up,” from the Greek word “oikodomei.” That word is another of those combined form words, where the words “oíkos” [“a house”] and “domeō” [“to build”] are joined to yield a meaning that says “edify.” Still, the “benefit” gained by Jews is seen in the grandiosity of Herod’s Temple [then still standing]. This says the “love” that Jews have is not for God, but for themselves having inflated their relationship with Yahweh. That "love" has brought them enough “good will” to have the Romans allow them to spend tons of money on themselves [a temple], rather than have to give all that money to Rome.


By not correctly grasping the use of “agapé,” the confusion mounts when verse two is translated to state: “Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge.” The Greek is better translated literally as: “if anyone thinks to have known anything , not yet does he know as it is necessary to know” [“ei tis dokei egnōkenai ti , oupō egnō kathōs dei gnōnai”].


In that two-part statement, the words “egnōkenai” and “gnōnai” are continuing the theme of a duality between “to have knowledge” and “necessary perception” from “doctrine.” This is where Paul is speaking from personal experience, having been a Jew with puffed up self-worth and then a Christian in possession of the knowledge of God enlightening his soul.


Paul then stated that personal experience of “necessary knowledge” that makes the dogma of doctrine truly inflate, when he added: “but anyone who loves God is known by him.”


Here, verse three’s use of “agapa” is different that the use of “agapé” in verse one, such that “agapa” (a form of “agapaó”) means “to love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for,” which is the way human brains think when they hear the English word “love.” Still, the use by Paul can also mean “the love of reason” and “esteem,” which is not about how one benefits from a “doctrine,” but how one is emotionally uplifted by knowing why the doctrine is and one “loves” how doctrine makes one feel. That feeling comes from a deep-seated relationship with God, where being “known by God” means “personal experience” or “first-hand acquaintance” [HELPS Word-studies], in the Biblical sense “knowing,” as that of marriage or union with God.


It is from this personal experience with God, through a love that makes Paul’s soul be one with Yahweh, that he states assuredly (as truth) that there are no gods [those to whom idols are erected] in the world. There is only the one God, who not one of the lesser gods can claim to be. When Paul then said there are many gods and many lords, those are the imaginary gods that human beings worship: money, beauty, power, influence, and self-worth, et al. All are nothing but false idols that souls in the flesh take a knee before, whether or not any animals are sacrificed and their cooked meat eaten in celebration.


When Paul referred to God as “the Father” (separated by comma marks), this was making a statement that he had become the Son of God, due to Jesus Christ having been resurrected within Paul’s body [the one that previously was named Saul]. It is that intimacy that allowed Paul and the true Christians of Corinth to know God through love. This is why Jesus referred to his relatives through marriage – Mary, Lazarus, John, Martha – as those who he loved. Paul was married to God and had given birth to God’s Son, becoming in the name of Jesus Christ. That made God able to be called “the Father” of Paul; and, it is the truth of the statement “Jesus Christ , through whom this the whole” [“Iēsous Christos , di’ hou ta panta”] and [“kai”] “we through him” [“hēmeis di’ autou”]. ONLY true Christians can call God "the Father," excluding all pagans and Gentiles [all who are not in the name of Jesus Christ].


Paul clearly stated that this level of higher knowledge, from which the truth of doctrine comes, is not common to all people of all religions. In fact, it is uncommon to all. When Paul wrote, “Some people are still so accustomed to idols,” this reflects the common element in religions. A better choice for translation than “accustomed” is “habit” or “practice” (from “synētheia”). When one has reached that level of ritual adherence to doctrine, they have ceased all thought processes and simply plod along through memorized steps. One of those steps (from time to time) is ritually eating the cooked flesh of sacrificial animals.


When Paul wrote of those habitual followers of doctrine, “their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” There, the use of “syneidēsis” as “conscience” [it can also translate as “consciousness”] says the people are as mindless as sheep, followers in a flock that just meanders through life, grazing here and grazing there. Grazing is for self-preservation and only benefits each grazing sheep. That is well and fine for sheep, but it says human beings of that nature are displaying weakness. As such, the weak need a good shepherd to guide them; and, for the meek to inherit the earth, they must raise their consciousness level to that of Paul’s and the true Christians to whom he wrote in Corinth.


Paul then went into telling how the actions of one will be mimicked by others, especially if some think, “That guy or that gal is smart and they are doing these things, so it is okay for me to do them. I will win God’s love by acting like someone else grazing in the temple at the altar after animal sacrifices." Paul said the weak love doing the easy things that do not require them thinking about anything. Thus, he asked: “For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?” That question is how modern Americans say, "Monkey see, monkey do," with monkeys a reflection of mindlessness [thus the word "ape" means to mimic].


When Paul answered his question by stating, “So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed,” he said the way you act, relative to doctrine, destroys any chance others will be led to be reborn as Jesus Christ, when you have not been, but still call yourself “Christian.” The same way Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah back in Paul’s day is the same rejection that exists in the churches of Christianity today, where the doctrines of denominational worship act like Jesus is a newfound god, so they destroy worship to God and adherence to His Commandments.


Paul explained that in this way: “When you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” In that, one needs to understand that “Christ” is not Jesus. While Jesus was the Christ, the Christ is the Holy Spirit of God. As such, “Christ” means “God,” as the way God connects to human beings – souls in bodies of flesh. Saul was a soul in a body of flesh, who received the Holy Spirit of God and became Jesus, as the “Christ” reborn within his flesh, making his soul be married to God, giving birth to Paul’s flesh as the new flesh of Jesus. The Latin word "paulos" means "little, small," which became the moniker for the soul who had taken on a new name, that of Jesus, because of God's Christ Mind replacing the brain of Saul. Saul-Paul thus becomes a reflection of all would-be Christians today. His writings here point out the duality of knowledge: You are either Jesus reborn and the “Christ” in the flesh; or, you are not Jesus reborn because you reject that notion, thereby destroying all chance of eliminating sins in your life by becoming Jesus Christ reborn.


When Paul then ended this reading by stating, “if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall,” that is less a promise to be vegan or only eat plants and more a commitment to lead others to become Jesus Christ reborn. To do that, Paul will cease making the ignorant mistakes that the weak of beliefs make, which includes everything ritual that has absolutely no bearing on one’s soul being married to God Almighty.


Give a man a wafer on Sunday and he'll be back for more later; but teach a man to be a wafer of God and he'll feed the world His truth.

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The thing that needs to be taken out of this reading, as it does nothing but confuse modern Christians, is the element of food, sacrifices of animals and idols. That must be re-read as what a Christian consumes, as far as dogma and ritual is concerned. If one worships a church, a denomination, a priest-pastor-minister-preacher, then one is eating at the all-you-can-eat buffet of that idol. You become the sacrificial animal, because you bow down and pray to some false god that is dead, not alive as God’s wife.


No church, no religion, no leader [and I say this in the wake of Martin Luther King worship Day] can ever be a surrogate for personal weakness in conscience. YOU are the only one who can save you from eternal damnation [or reincarnation]; and, saints like Paul are trying to get you to ask God to tell you the meaning of his words, which flow through him from God and the Christ Mind. If Paul was to come stand next to you right now and tell you everything he meant, that would not save your soul, because your soul has to commit to God and only God. YOU have to be the one that leads others to God, having already died of self, with the blood of Jesus painted on your doorpost [flesh].


As a purposeful selection on the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, accompanied by the readings from Deuteronomy 18 and Mark 1, where God has promised to send prophets like Moses and leaders of synagogues [and churches] were filled with an unclean spirit, YOU have to have a “come to Jesus” epiphany and stop being lazy about the doctrines you practice (lazily). You will not find your soul going to heaven when you die, if you do nothing now to transform your idol-worshiping self into an Apostle that stops doing everything for self-benefit and starts doing everything for God’s benefit.


You have to be like the man in the synagogue who convulsed wildly when his unclean spirit left him. Saul went through three days being blind as his unclean spirit left him. The Israelites would repeatedly backslide over twenty years, only to find death was not far from their front doors, before they begged God to send them a prophet like Moses to save them. Who are you going to pray to now?


Will you cook a turkey and pretend giving thanks to God will save you?


Please see the food you consume at an altar rail as what Paul was referring to in this reading. In the same vein of thought that a piece of charred lamb does nothing to make one closer to God, so too does eating a thin wafer and washing it down with a sip of wine do nothing to promote the "agapa" one has for God . Believing that does anything to one’s soul is having a weak consciousness. You see the priest and believe he or she has some magic power to bless wafers and wine, so you allow them to destroy your chances of becoming God’s Christ.


YOU have to make this reading from Paul fit you perfectly. Otherwise, you have no knowledge coming from God; and, all other knowledge is just brain farts and worthless.


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