The church picnic of Corinth

16 Sep

Meat is a thing indifferent, an adiaphoron. We have this as clear apostolic pronouncement, and no Christian can claim otherwise. None of the Roman nor the Corinthian brethren, having read Paul’s letter, could afterward insist that eating meat (even if it was unclean or offered to idols) is sin.

Let us suppose, then, that the church at Corinth held a church picnic. (If the church at Corinth was a Baptist church, as some suggest, such a happening is certain). And let us further suppose that the bulletin announcement looked something like this:

If your last name begins with Α-Μ, bring a salad. If you last name begins with Ν-Ω, bring a dessert. The church will supply the meat.

Would Paul approve of purchasing the meat for the church picnic at the idol temple?


Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Worship


9 responses to “The church picnic of Corinth

  1. jon

    September 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Just don’t ask them where they got it:)

  2. Sam Hendrickson

    September 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    If Paul’s admonition is “No buying meat from the idol temple” then would it not be effective for individuals in the church or individuals in the church representing the church?

    • Michael Riley

      September 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but it seems to me that Paul forbids eating at the idol temple, rather than buying meat there. But let’s set that aside: if meat offered to idols was for sale in the market, should the church serve it at the picnic?

  3. Don Johnson

    September 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Meat offered to idols is not indifferent. Meat from any other source is indifferent. Paul would not have approved a church supplying meat from the idol temple. Absolutely not permitted.

    Have you read Gordon Fee on this? He has a lengthy and important discussion of it. Tom Constable gives a summary of Fee in his Notes (available from Galaxy Software if you have access to it).

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    • Michael Riley

      September 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Which part of Paul’s discussion suggests that meat offered to idols is, on its own merits, forbidden? It seems to me that Paul’s point in 8:4-12 is not that it is a sin to eat meat offered to idols, but that it is a sin to cause a brother to violate his conscience by eating such meat.

      If this is not so, what does 8:8 mean? “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Paul could not say this if, in fact, we are worse off if we eat.

  4. Don Johnson

    September 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    10.14-22 is the conclusion of the whole matter. The meat offered to idols is not, of course, inherently tainted, but if it is known that it is meat offered to idols then it is forbidden. 10.25 allows for buying any meat in the market place, as long as the source as an idol temple is not specifically attached to it. If the marketplace has a sign over the display saying “special today, fresh meat from the temple” it is forbidden. 10.28 makes the same distinction, as soon as it is known that the meat is in fact offered to idols, it is forbidden, it is not indifferent.

    The argument of chapter 8 is only the preliminary argument. Paul is conceding that the meat, per se, is just meat. But even there, he is forbidding to eat the meat offered to idols on the basis of a weaker conscience.

    The passage is a complete prohibition against eating meat offered to idols if it is known to be meat offered to idols. Three reasons: the weakness of the brother, the worth of the gospel (ch. 9), and the wickedness of the heart (ch. 10, ‘take heed lest he fall’). You don’t even have to pay me for that outline!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. jon

    September 19, 2011 at 10:00 am

    The conclusion (in 10:14-22) states the point specifically…flee idolatry! Eating temple meat (adiaphoron) was not idolatry (8:8; 10:25). Eating at the temple was (8:10-11). Meat was not sold at the temple (it was part of the worship there), but it was sold in the market (10:25).

    The prohibition of eating temple meat was for the benefit of the weaker brother who equated the two (8:9), and would be encouraged to return to his pagan idolatry (8:10-11). This would ruin the weak brother, and would be a sin against Christ (8:12). Because of the serious nature of the warning, Paul was willing to forgo meat indefinitely to ensure he would Never encourage a believer to return to idolatry (8:13)!

    The prohibition was also for the benefit of the unbeliever who may believe it was a problem for a believer (10:27-28). A believer was constrained by another’s conscience (whether believer or unbeliever) from eating temple meat even if the believer had an educated conscience (10:29).

    The command to eat anything sold in the market without asking the source was for plausible deniability (“I don’t know where it came from”), and thus protecting the sensitive consciences (10:25-26). The purpose was for the spread of the gospel (10:32-33).

    Thus, Paul commanded eat market meat (makellon) freely, but do not ask whether it was (adiaphoron) or not, simple for the sake of those with a sensitive conscience. But as Sam pointed out, getting it from the temple would be. So I guess as long as the person buying it did not have an issue with it, it would have been just fine:)

  6. Don Johnson

    September 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I think one has to view the passage holistically. You can’t isolate the arguments of chapter 8 and make that the conclusion that stands for the whole issue. It is a preliminary argument, and is made as a concession to the truth that meat is just meat. However, the issue is concluded by noting that if it is KNOWN that the meat is offered to an idol, it is verboten. One might suspect that meat sold in the shambles is idol meat, but as long as it is not known to be idol meat it is not tainted and is permissible. If they have a big sign in the shambles, “special – idol meat, big discount”, that is not permissible.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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