1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – On Eating Meat Offered to Idols


1 Corinthians 8:1-13


Paul counsels the Corinthians that their behavior should be guided not only by what they know to be true, namely that “no idol in the world really exists” (1 Corinthians 8:4), but also on the effect their behavior will have on brothers and sisters in Christ.


The issue of whether to eat meat that has been associated with idol worship occupies three chapters of this letter. The problem is that most if not all meat available in the Corinthian marketplace and at public social gatherings would have fallen into this category. Should Christians buy such meat? Should they eat it if it is served at someone else’s home? Should they participate in meals associated with pagan religious festivals?

Some in the community see nothing wrong with eating this meat because “no idol in the world really exists” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Paul agrees with this assessment of idols. Yet he argues that love is more important than knowledge, just as love is more important than the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues or prophesying (see 1 Corinthians 13). Paul answers the questions about idol meat not with a new teaching on idolatry but by urging the Corinthians to consider how their actions will affect others and to refrain from any action that will cause others to stumble.