Friday, June 13, 2014

Dangerous Food or Harmless Food? Question on Paul's Instructions in 1 Cor. 8-11

Here's something I've been wondering about (yes, I'm pleading ignorance which should be fine considering that even Peter the Apostle said Paul's writings were difficult to understand).

On the one hand, Paul makes it seem like idol food can't harm you and that you can eat "whatever is put before you" (1 Cor. 10:27)--in short, that such food is harmless;  but, on the other hand, he says that to eat such food is like taking communion with demons, that it provokes the L-rd to jealously--in short, that such food is dangerous.

So which is it?  Dangerous food or harmless food?

Any thoughts?


  1. It took years for me to gain some understanding on this issue. Years ago (2010) I posed the question of whether or not Halal meat is permissible as it relates to food sacrificed to idols in one of FFOZ's Torah Club Forums. All manner of interpretations were shared. One offered (from a pastor and occasional writer for FFOZ) is that Paul's attitude was akin to "don't ask, don't tell" policy (in other words, ignorance of whether or not food has been offered to idols is bliss). Another opinion offered (this time by one of the main teachers at FFOZ) is that since Judaism does not consider Allah to be a false god or idol that it's probably a moot point anyway. The topic generated a bit of discussion without bringing any type of valid solution to this issue.
    My current understanding is that it is wrong to eat meat sacrificed to an idol if it is done as a willing participant in an idolatrous ceremony. However, it is not a sin to purchase and consume meat that was once on a pagan altar if the purpose is for mere consumption as sustenance. Scripturally, this is based on the following:
    1. Paul teaches that an idol has no real existence since there is only one God (1 Cor. 8:4-6), but some believers are "weak" because of former idolatrous ways and may still believe idols have power (I Cor. 8:7). While a believer will not be judged for simply eating meat that was once on a pagan altar, he or she should be mindful of doing so around other believers who come from idolatrous backgrounds (1 Cor. 8:8-13). A former idolater could get the idea that you are honoring an idol and even be led astray back into it.
    2. In 1 Cor. 10:25-27, Paul states that believers can both purchase marketplace meat as well as eat it at an unbeliever's home without any moral concern. He does state in verses 28-29 that if you are notified by an individual that the meat was sacrificed to an idol that you should abstain but only for the other person's benefit. Paul makes clear that if he personally receives such food with thankfulness that he should not be condemned (verse 30).
    There is something about all of this that I've been wondering for quite some time. If it is permissible for believers to purchase and consume meat sold in a pagan market place (sacrificed to idols or not), it does raise a question or two as it pertains to the method of slaughter employed and the proper draining out of blood.

  2. You make a lot of interesting points. I would like to address one in particular:

    " it does raise a question or two as it pertains to the method of slaughter employed and the proper draining out of blood"

    There are several possibilities. It's possible that Paul was making an accommodation to unique circumstances at Corinth at that time.

    But the real take-away perhaps is that since Paul couldn't have expected all readers to understand the context at Corinth, Paul was not speaking categorically here. Or, to put it another way, he was laying down some temporary, casuistic instructions for Corinthian Believers.