Idol Meat? That is the question

by TheListener 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • TheListener

    Could gentile christians eat idol meat or what?

    Acts 15 says avoid things polluted by idols.

    1 Cor. 8 says it's ok but for the sake of others forego it.

    1 Cor. 10 says anything sold in a market is ok, don't sweat it.

    Romans 14 repeats the 1 cor. 8 argument. It's ok but don't do it for the sake of your brothers

    Could this same argument be made for pagan origins of the holidays? As long as you realize where they (holidays or practices) came from but they mean nothing to you, and if you do so in a way that won't stumble weak conscienced brothers (meaning hidden I guess), wouldn't it be ok to celebrate the holidays? And if you don't know where a tradition came from perhaps not inquiring is ok. Do the custom in good conscience.


  • skyman

    You bitcha. I guess you could reason this way.

  • AuldSoul

    And Romans 14 ADDS a discussion specifically about observing days, and not to be judging each other about it.

    I think the argument is not only sustainable, but is rock solid.


  • M.J.

    Another interesting thing about that passage about the meat is that blood is prohibited in conjunction with it, being the reason JWs abstain from [eating touching profaning transfusing] blood. Interestingly, the meat prohibition is flexible in light of the context of the situation, your conscience, the conscience of others, and your heart condition. Why then is the mention of blood here treated as a life and death proposition?

    It seems to me that this passage was all about a practical solution for getting the church through a particular situation (getting the Jewish & Gentile Christians to get along)--not another stone tablet written by God.

  • Leolaia

    M.J....The connection with the prohibition on blood is even closer, in that food sacrificed to idols, primarily "meat" (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13), also contained blood since the sacrifice was not bled as per Jewish dietary practices. It is thus striking that Paul objects to eating food sacrificed to idols only on the grounds of stumbling one's brother and not on the grounds of the prohibition on blood or on eating sacrifices. If stumbling weren't an issue, Paul says that the "freedom" they have in Christ would allow them to eat whatever they wished. Paul's position does however shift in ch. 10. This is what I wrote in the NT Gateway blog on this issue:

    The late David Flusser relates the Pauline discussion on EIDWLOQUTON to the brief passage in Did. 6:3, which advises neophytes to "be on your guard against food sacrified to idols (EIDWLOQUTOU), for it is the worship of dead gods (LATREIA GAR ESTI QEWN NEKRWN)." Not only does this verse begin with similar wording as 1 Cor. 8:4-6 ("as to the eating of food sacrificed to idols"), but it shares the same perspective that "gods" do not exist.

    In my opinion, Paul probably draws on Deutero-Isaiah's satire on idolatry (Isa. 44), and states that "there is no idol in the world and there is no God but one" (= Isa. 44:8, "Is there any other God besides me? [[There is no Rock, I know of none]]"); the use of EIDWLON to refer false QEOI or LEGOMENOI QEOI has a precedent in the use of QEOS to refer to idols in Isa. 44: "Whoever fashions a god (PLASSONTES QEON)" (v. 10), "and with the remainder he makes gods (EIRGASANTO QEOUS)" (v. 15), and especially "with the rest he makes his carved god (EPOIHSAN EIS QEON GLUPTON)" (v. 17), so if Paul was influenced by Isa. 44, he would have found an equation between "idols" and so-called "gods".

    Flusser argues that Did. 6:3 makes the same argument that "idols are nothing" and other gods do not exist by referring to the intended recipients of sacrifices as "dead gods" (dead gods = gods that are not in existence). In this case, the OT allusion is to Num. 25:1-3 and Ps. 106:28 ("they attached themselves to Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices of the dead"), which in subsequent interpretation became "sacrifices to the dead" (cf. Jub. 22:17, m. 'Abodah Zarah 2:3), and OT references to idols as inanimate and lacking senses (cf. Deut. 4:28, Jer. 10:3-5).

    So one possible solution is to understand that (in light of Isa. 44) Paul uses EIDWLON as a metaphor for LEGOMENOI QEOI, since a "carved god" (which the carver calls "my god", Isa. 44:17) is an "idol". Thus, Paul could say that idols have no existence. Similarly, gods have no real existence. This "knowledge" (1 Cor. 8:7) then becomes the underlying premise for Paul's counsel on not "stumbling" other brothers in v. 7-13, for not all brothers share the same "knowledge" (i.e. understand that "so-called gods" do not exist). Then, after the digression in ch. 9, Paul returns to the subject of sacrifices because some in the church have fallen into idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7), and like the Israelites in the wilderness this has brought divine displeasure (compare 10:8-11 with v. 22 and the situation in 11:29-32). It is when the topic is resumed again that Paul mentions the existence of demons, and the fact that demons are the true recipients of the sacrifices (10:20-21). This notion is especially suggested by Ps. 106:37, in conjunction with 106:28, the text likely alluded to in Did. 6:3. The existence of demons do not mean that "the idol is real" (10:19), i.e. that so-called gods are real, because demons are not gods (v. 20, an allusion to Deut. 32:17). They do not have godhood as the Father alone has (8:6). Paul is not saying that demons do not exist (rather, it is the "god" veneer that is "nothing"). Paul thus saw the situation in the Christian church in terms of Israel's encounters with idolatry in the wilderness.

    There still seems to be rub with Paul's "knowledge" premise: Paul presents the partaking of EIDWLOQUTON in ch. 10 in a black-and-white "cup of demons" vs. "cup of the Lord" fashion with no middle ground, yet there is a middle ground in ch. 8 which acknowledges that hypothetically a Christian who has the "knowledge" can eat with "freedom" without committing idolatry because of the "knowledge" that "so-called gods" are fake would block such eating as being considered worship. But in ch. 10, the implication seems to be that any eating of EIDWLOQUTON is idolatry. Thus it is striking in ch. 8 that idolatry is mentioned only as occurring when brothers with weak consciences partake of sacrificed food. So it looks like Paul's argument does shift between the digression, unless of course there is a better explanation!

    (My reference to Flusser, btw, is to chapter 7 of The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. by van de Sandt & Flusser (2002), pp. 260-265).

  • TD

    Yes, the Bible only thinly disguises the fact that Paul and James didn't seem to get along at all.

    A ccording to Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome, James the Just was a life-long Nazirite. Eusebius quotes Hegesippus (Who knew him) as saying:

    "He drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat. No razor came near his head, nor did he anoint himself with oil, and he did not go to the baths."

    If this can be taken at face value, a number of Paul's statements can only be viewed as barbs aimed directly at James. For example, James was evidently a vegetarian --and not for health reasons. Paul comes right out and labels this as "weakness."

    Welcome the [man] having weaknesses in [his] faith, but not to make decisions on inward questionings. 2 One [man] has faith to eat everything, but the [man] who is weak eats vegetables.

    No Jew would ever have eaten meat once it had been defiled by an idol. It would not have mattered even a little bit if it was later sold at a meat market. Yet Paul said:

    Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; 26 for "to Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.

    Paul didn't seem to hold with long hair on a man (which James had) either:

    Does not nature itself teach YOU that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him; 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? Because her hair is given her instead of a headdress. 16 However, if any man seems to dispute for some other custom, we have no other, neither do the congregations of God.

    Circumcision may see like a relatively minor issue to us today, but in the first century the Jews were absolutely rabid on this subject. They even taught that the Angels were circumcised:

    "...all the angels of the presence and of the Glorification have been so, from the day of their creation and God's anger will be kindled against the children of the covenant if they make the members of their body appear like those of the Gentiles and they will be expelled and exterminated from the earth." (Book of Jubilees)

    In view of this attitude among the Jews it would be naive to ignore the fact that those of the circumcision faction --James included-- would find both the Greek games and Pauls reference to them as horribly offensive:

    Do YOU not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that YOU may attain it. 25 Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one

    Comparing the Christian course to an event where the uncircumcised contestants ran in the nude, can only be a not-so-subtle insult aimed directly at the circumcision faction.

    And if that was not enough.....

    As for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? Then, indeed, the stumbling block of the torture stake has been abolished. 12 I wish the men who are trying to overturn YOU would even get themselves emasculated.
  • jgnat

    Total hijack, but I couldn't resist...

    "He drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat. No razor came near his head, nor did he anoint himself with oil, and he did not go to the baths." If this can be taken at face value

    If this can be taken at face value, James was stinky and shaggy.

  • Shazard

    In acts 15 ALLWAYS everybody misses 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." See here is REASON why such orders were given at the council of Jerusalem. And this is just the same reason, avoid these things as it can harm jew christians and jews, they will judge you for what is not wrong, and they will sin because you make them sin in their hearts. Actually we do this every day, if we are polite we do not abuse others with our freedom, because we are free, we restrict ourselves. That is what council of Jerusalem and later St. Paul teaches - because you are free, you should restrict yourself for sake of those who are not!

  • Leolaia

    The barbs against Paul (and/or Pauline Christians) in the literature of the Torah-observant followers of James and Peter are just as strong. The Ascents of James blames a thinly-veiled Paul for James' murder. The Epistula Petri refers to Paul as Peter's "enemy" and complains about Paul's misrepresentations of his position on the Law. The gospel of Matthew warns against false prophets who confess Jesus as "Lord, Lord" but do not do the "will of God" (who will be judged with punishment when Jesus comes), and specifically states that he who "teaches" others to relax the commandments of the Law will be "least in the kingdom of heaven", while those who observe the entirety of the Law will be "greatest" in the kingdom.

  • Shazard

    But there is NO contradiction between Paul and James. Contradiction is only on surface, but when you undestand what Pauls is talking about, then you understand what James is talking about. They are not talking about the same topics. Paul teaches how christian is being made righteous, James talks about "what and how to do next". That's the whole point... that WHEN you became "born from above" then is question... what next. Coz you don't die, you have to live your new life and the Kingdom of Heaven starsts heere on earth. And James is just talking about this practical part... Christianity is very transcendental and at the same time very practical religion. If you remove one or other part you get legalism or gnosticism.

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