Today’s reading: 1 Cor 8
Paul next addresses what was a fairly big controversy in the first century. As the faith spread out from Jewish to Gentile areas and the conversion of Gentiles became a greater focus the question of what to do with meat sacrificed to idols became a recurring issue. Assuming, that sacrifices in pagan temples worked in practice similar to the sacrifices at the temple, in particular, that the person offering the sacrifice got back the carcass after the sacrifice was made it is not surprising that idol sacrificed meat was common. The problem was common enough in that the Council of Jerusalem addressed in the first letter from a council (Acts 15).
The council prohibited the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul seems to take a slightly less rigorous stance finding nothing wrong with eating the meat per se but counseling caution on how it might appear to others. While Paul’s thinking on the matter might appear at first look to be in conflict with the Council of Jerusalem, I don’t think that it is. Paul is saying that while there is nothing wrong physically with meat sacrificed to idols the appearances are all wrong. Paul emphasizes that a brother, strong in the faith, knows that meat is meat and it having been sacrificed to an idol doesn’t alter it in any way. It is the appearance that is wrong because to a new convert it appears that the Christian, who believes in “One God” is honoring a different God. Paul counsels that to strengthen the faith of the new brothers eating meat tainted with idol sacrifice should be avoided. This is almost precisely the same logic as employed by the Council of Jerusalem. They found no obligation on the convert to comply with Jewish ceremonial law regarding circumcision. However, they decided that to facilitate good relations between the Jewish and Gentile converts and to strengthen the Jewish converts who were disturbed by the eating of meat sacrificed to idols that Gentiles should keep up appearances and not eat meat sacrificed to idols.
Tomorrow: 1 Cor 8