Food Offered To Idols In 1 Corinthians 8-10 -- By: Derek Newton

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: Food Offered To Idols In 1 Corinthians 8-10
Author: Derek Newton


Food Offered To Idols
In 1 Corinthians 8-101

Derek Newton

This thesis investigates the conflict which existed in Corinth around the mid-first century C.E. concerning Christian involvement in cultic meals. Scholarly attention has focused either on detailed exegesis of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 8-10 or on Greco-Oriental cultic meal evidence from Classical and Hellenistic times. Little attention has been paid to the nature and dynamics of the sacrificial food issue itself, or to the available evidence of Imperial Cult which so dominated Roman Corinth in the early Christian era. Scholarship has paid insufficient attention to the conflicting viewpoints of the Corinthians themselves concerning food offered to idols.

Fundamentally, the sacrificial food issue was a missionary problem which forced Paul into cross-cultural communication in an attempt to define the actual nature of idolatry, worship and Christianity in Corinth. Those entering Christianity from a so-called ‘pagan’ religion would not have done so with a clean break from previous religious convictions. The believers’ religious background is crucial in any attempt to unravel the reasons why the problem of sacrificial food was so intractable at Corinth. (Chapter 2 identifies a contemporary case-study of cultic meals among the Torajanese people of South Sulawesi in Indonesia.)

The bulk of this thesis is concerned with the immediate context into which Paul addressed his first Corinthian epistle. Consideration of the archaeological evidence (chapter 3) shows that it is impossible to confirm that the cults of Demeter/Kore, Asclepius, Isis/Sarapis and the cults of the dead operated dining facilities at the

time that Paul wrote the epistle. Whilst these cults must not be ignored, this thesis argues that serious attention ought to be given to Roman Imperial Cult as a context for the issues dealt with in the Corinthian Correspondence.

Chapters 4 and 5 present detailed primary source materials concerning images, sacrifices and communal meals, the evidence being derived mostly from literary sources, inscriptions and papyri. The main focus of Chapter 4 concerns the nature and perceived significance of images. The term εἴδωλον is consistently translated as ‘idol’ by the RSV, yet it is used in the New Testament to refer to varying practices. It is suggested that some Corinthians, because of their different backgrounds, understood εἴδωλον and similar terms in ways different from those in which Paul himself understood and co...

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