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TRINJ23NS (2002) 225-234

THE MEANING AND USES OF IN FIRST CENTURY NON-PAULINE LITERATURE AND 1 COR 8:1-11:1: TOWARD RESOLUTION OF THE DEBATE E. COYE STILL I. INTRODUCTION Traditionally is understood ter mean broadly food offered to idols. To be sure might be consumed in a pagan temple during a feast permeated with rituals of pagan worship, but one might also encounter in the macellum, a private home, or a largely social meal in temple dining facilities as a food item with a history of use in pagan rituals. Against the traditional view, Gordon Fee argues that throughout 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 (i.e., in 1 Cor 8:1, 4, 7, 10, and 10:19) means sacrificial food eaten at a cultic meal in the temple area.1 Ben Witherington argues that in the non-Pauline first century sources (as well as in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1) always means food sacrificed as a part of pagan worship and consumed in the temple precincts.2 For Fee and Witherington, therefore, the problem of in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 necessarily involves pagan rituals in the temples. Bruce Fisk, writing before publication of Witherington's study, responded to Fee's argument in defense of the traditional view.3 At stake in the debate is whether Paul could recognize an authentic right of the Corinthian knowers in regard to .4 If consumption of equals participation in idolatrous ritual, then we must conclude on a priori grounds and based on 1 Cor 10:21
*E. Coye Still III currently serves in South Asia as a representative of an evangelical missions organization. "Gordon Fee, " Once Again: An Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8-10/' Bib 61 (1980): 181-87. 2 Ben Witherington, "Not So Idle Thoughts About Eidolothuton," TynBul 44/2 (1993): 240. %ruce N. Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols: Corinthian Behavior and Pauline Response in 1 Corinthians 8-10 (A Response to Gordon Fee)/' T] 10 (1989): 49-70. 4 Whether Paul does affirm an authentic right is yet another question. In other words, one may essentially accept the traditional view on the meaning of , but argue that Paul does not acknowledge a right to consume it. See Alex T. Cheung, Idol Food in Connth: Jewish Background and Pauline Legacy (JSNTSup 176; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 296.



(cf. 1 Thess 1:9) that Paul abhors and will not tolerate it. Now is an appropriate time for an assessment of the evidence in light of the various arguments with a view toward resolution of the debate. IT. THE UNCERTAIN ORIGIN OF THE WORD The traditional view is that the word is of Jewish origin and is the polemical equivalent to the pagan .5 Ben Witherington disputes the claim of Jewish origin. He observes that "in the Greek sources that antedate . . . 1 Corinthians there are no examples whatsoever of the use of except possibly 4 Maccabees 5:2 or Sibylline Oracles 2:96."6 Witherington argues that both of these references post-date 1 Corinthians, that is of Jewish-Christian origin, and that the term was perhaps coined by Paul himself.7 He is probably correct about the date of one of the references, but not the other. Sib. Or. 2:96 seems likely to be dependent upon Pseudo-Phocylides 31 which in turn appears to be an interpolation based on Acts 15:29.8 Can we also assign a date later than 1 Corinthians to 4 Maccabees? Witherington insists on the possibility, but on quite inadequate grounds. He has misunderstood Anderson9 and disregarded Bickerman's plausible argument for a dating of 4 Maccabees between 18 and 55 A.D.10 There is no reason to postulate Christian interpolation in 4 Mace. 5:2. Thus, we may render no confident verdict on the question. The term first appears in literature of the first century and comes more frequently from the pens of Christians. Do James' (Luke's) and Paul's uses of the term pre- or post-date 4 Mace. 5:2? What is the pre-literary history of the term? Sufficient data for a conclusive judgment is lacking.

Friedrick Bchsel, "," TDNT 2:378. Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 238, bases this statement on an exhaustive search of the TLG. I searched the TLG and concur with his conclusion. 7 Cheung, Idol Food, 319, agrees with Witherington's theory of the JewishChristian origin of the term, but not with the remainder of Witherington's thesis. 8 P. W. van der Horst, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides: Introduction, Translation and Commentary (SVTP 4; Leiden: Brill, 1978), 135-36; id., "Pseudo-Phocylides: A New Translation and Introduction," in OTP, 2:575 n. d; and John J. Collins, "Sibylline Oracles," in OTP, 1:346-47. Witherington, "Eidolothuton" 238-39n. 5, cites H. Anderson, "4 Maccabees," in OTP, 2:533-34, as admitting that "a date after the Hadrianic persecutions is quite possible." Anderson actually says, however, "it is barely conceivable that . . . 4 Maccabees could have been written after the Hadrianic persecution." 10 Elias J. Bickerman, "The Date of Fourth Maccabees," in Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volume, English Section (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1945), 105-12. "Anderson, "4 Maccabees," 532; Cheung, Idol Food, 47 n. 18.



///. IN NON-PAULINE FIRST CENTURY LITERATURE is a compound word composed of (idol) and -s (offered) from (to offer in sacrifice or kill). As suggested above, primarily at issue in the debate over meaning is the setting in which might be encountered. Witherington argues that in all first century A.D. occurrences the word means "an animal sacrificed in the presence of an idol and eaten in the temple precincts"12 Fisk, on the other hand, argues that "normally carries the general sense "meat offered to idols/"13 We shall assess all of the non-Pauline first century uses of the word: Acts 15:29; 21:25; Rev 2:14, 20; Sib. Or. 2:96; and, 4 Mace. 5:2.14 We shall also consider Did. 6:3 which, although perhaps a second century document, is sometimes dated in the first century and contains the only occurrence of in the Apostolic Fathers.15 Acts 15:29 and 21:25 are respectively the heart of the Apostolic Decree developed in the Jerusalem Council and the restatement of the Decree by James and the Jerusalem elders. Acts 15:29 is closely related to Acts 15:20James' judgment regarding resolution of the crisis over what to require of Gentile converts. In Acts 15:20 the phrase is used instead of (Acts 15:29). Perhaps the two are, as Witherington implies, synonyms for Luke, but if so, then synonyms for what? Are they synonyms for food consumed in the temple setting as a part of the sacrificial ritual or simply food with a sacrificial history? Witherington argues that refers to the blood and gore of slaughtering and the aroma of sacrifice and, therefore, implies a temple setting for the consumption of the meat.16 Thus, for Witherington the Decree prohibits temple meal participation. The concept of meat coming forth from the temple (i.e., after its use in sacrifice) with defiling pollution is, however, familiar
Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 240. Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 58, responding, we should again note, to Fee, although a number of his arguments may be helpfully juxtaposed with Witherington's. We note that Peter D. Gooch, Dangerous Food: 1 Corinthians 8-10 In Its Context (Studies in Christianity and Judaism 5; Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1993), 53-55, maintains that may not have been meat at all. It does appear, however, from Paul's use of in 1 Cor 8:13 that we do not err in the present discussion by referring specifically to "meat" associated with pagan sacrifice. Gooch's observation is a reminder of the variety of foods used in pagan worship, but the question I am seeking to answer has less to do with whether the food is grain, fruit, or flesh than with where and in what circumstances the food might be encountered. 14 The TLG yields no other occurrences of the word prior to the second century. 15 J. B. lightfoot. The Apostolic Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker 1956), 121-22, states the traditional argument for early dating of the Didache. 16 Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 248, argues based on the fourth century citation from Gregory of Nyssa, Vita Greg. Thaumaturg PG 46:944.
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to Judaism: "Flesh that is entering in unto an idol is permitted, but what comes forth is forbidden" (m. xAbod. Zar. 2.3).17 James' statement in Acts 15:20 does not, therefore, demand that be understood in Acts 15:29 as a reference to temple meal participation.18 Even if Acts 15:20 is a reference to temple attendance (as Witherington argues), then the change to (Acts 15:29) may indicate the council's desire to broaden a restriction which seems too narrow to accomplish its purpose. The pressing question when the council proceedings have reached Acts 15:20 is unhindered fellowship between Jew and Gentile.19 Participation in cultic feasts would certainly be offensive to Jews, but so would consumption of meat previously sacrificed to an idol (m. lAbod. Zar. 2.3). Wishing to remove both barriers to fellowship, the council may have progressed from (Acts 15:20) to (Acts 15:29) to communicate: "We prohibit not only temple meal participation, but also consumption of food which has been used in temple ritual." In other words, the expressions may not be synonymous in Luke's usage. Thus, the evidence in Acts 15 does not call for interpretation of narrowly as a prohibition of temple meal attendance.20 Rather, it seems more prudent to take the reference in the broader sense as to food with a history of sacrifice to idols. In Rev 2:14,20 does appear to refer to eating food as a part of idolatrous worship per se, if the details of the OT background are considered decisive for interpretation. Revelation 2:14 charges that some in the church in Pergamum hold to the teaching of Balaam. The relevant OT passages are Num 25:1-18 and 31:16. In Num 31:16 Balaam is revealed as the advisor who instructed the Moabite women in how to turn away the Israelites from YHWH. The actions of the Israelite men included indulgence in sexual immorality with the Moabite women, attendance at sacrifices to the Moabite gods, and eating and bowing down before the gods (Num 25:1-2). Use of the Balaam motif in Rev 2:14 indicates that the infraction in Pergamum was of utmost gravity and probably included participation in sacrificial feasts.21 A similar line of reasoning may reasonably be taken with Rev 2:20 and its OT

Translation by Herbert Danby, The Mishnah (London: Oxford, 1954), 438. Gregory of Nyssa may have described what pollutes food without meaning that the pollutions of idols are only encountered at the slaughter site or in the company of the idol. Gregory of Nyssa's reference certainly does not establish that Luke (James) used the phrase in reference to food encountered only in the temple setting. 19 See John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 330; and, Mark Seifrid, "Jesus and the Law in Acts," ]SNT 30 (1987): 47. 20 The same reasoning applies to the interpretation of Acts 21:25 ? . . . . 21 George R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1974), 86.




background (1 Kgs 16:31; 21:20-26; 2 Kgs 9:22, 30-37).22 Thus, we have a case with Rev 2:14, 20 in which is probably used to refer to food consumed as a part of pagan worship in the temple area.23 In turning to non-canonical sources I first take up Sib. Or. 2:96: "Do not eat blood. Abstain from what is sacrificed to idols."24 Witherington believes that The specific prohibition of "eating blood" coupled with the term makes it quite probable that the author has the image of eating in the temple in mind, where the blood might be poured out and consumed.2* Walter Burkert, however, emphasizes that "the communal drinking of blood" was a very uncommon thing in typical Hellenistic religion.26 The relationship of Sib. Or. 2:96 to Acts 15:29 has been emphasized above. In the case of Acts 15:29 it is probably correct to view the instruction to abstain from blood against the background of Lev 7:26-27 and 1710-14.27 The same is probably true for Sib. Or. 2:96. There is no indication in Sib. Or. 2:96 or its immediate context that refers narrowly to participation in pagan sacrifices and meals at shrines of idols. The case of 4 Mace. 5:2 is more difficult. The verse is a part of the introduction to the torture and martyrdom of Eleazar by Antiochus: And so the tyrant Antiochus took his seat with his counselors on a certain high place, with his fully armed troops mustered around him, and he ordered his guards to drag along every single one of the Hebrews and compel them to eat swine's flesh and food sacrificed to idols []. Whoever refused to eat the defiled food was to be tortured and put to death.28 Fisk argues that the association of with swine's flesh makes clear that the attempt by Antiochus is to secure violation of Jewish food laws.29 Witherington, on the other hand, emphasizes that Antiochus chose "a certain high place" for the attempt to coerce the Jews and proposes an OT background in the word nan for the 4
George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 52. ^Possibly, however, from the perspective reflected in Revelation, eating food previously offered to idols is such a serious infraction as to be likened to the Baal-Peor and Jezebel events. 24 Collins, "Sybylline Oracles," 347. ^Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 241. 26 Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (trans. John Raffan; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 60, maintains that the practice was "generally attributed to barbarians or else to extreme groups at the edge of society." 27 See Seifrid, "Jesus and the Law in Acts," 48; and, Polhill, Acts, 332. ^4 Mace. 5:1-3. Translation by H. Anderson, "4 Maccabees," 548. 29 Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 57.



Mace. 5:1 reference.30 "A certain high place" (4 Mace. 5:2) translates . Tivo may indeed be intended to call to mind the idea of pagan worship sites.31 It seems telling, however, that there is no mention in the text of any of the rituals typically associated with pagan sacrifice.32 More telling still is the dialogue between Antiochus and Eleazar. Antiochus attempts to coax Eleazar to eat based on the excellence of the meat and nature's bestowal of it (4 Mace. 5:8-9). Eleazar's response suggests the action in view would be a violation of food laws and nothing more: ". . . you must not regard it as a minor sin for us to eat unclean food; minor sins are just as weighty as great sins" (4 Mace. 5:19-20). Could the author of 4 Maccabees have placed the words "minor sin" on Eleazar's lips in reference to a fuUy idolatrous act? Nothing is said which suggests an on the spot sacrifice, unless means meat eaten at the site of the sacrificial ritual as a part of the worship event. That is, of course, the question before us. The phrase "a certain high place" may be taken to support Witherington's argument. Against it are the absence of a description of a sacrificial act and the dialogue between Antiochus and Eleazar. I cautiously take 4 Mace. 5:2 as evidence for the broader definition of . The final non-Pauline passage to consider is Did. 6:3: "And concerning food, bear what you can, but keep strictly from that which is offered to idols [], for it is the worship of dead gods." Fisk observes that the reference is introduced with an "unadorned 'And concerning food'" and that there is no mention of temples or meals.33 Witherington throws the emphasis onto the in . : it is the worship of dead gods.34 He concludes that "the issue, then, is not merely food as in the first half of the exhortation but specifically food eaten in a context where it entails and is an expression of the worship of dead godsi.e., in a pagan temple."35 It seems at least as likely, however, that "it is the worship of dead gods" discloses the Didache's disposition toward food previously offered to idolsit is fully identified with the idol worship for which it has been used. In this case refers to a class of food from which abstinence is absolutely required rather than a location in which it is impermissible to eat. To summarize this analysis of the non-Pauline first century occurrences of , I recall that only in the case of Rev 2:14 and 20 have we determined that the word probably refers to meat
Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 240. The word niaa is rendered using ? by the LXX frequently (e.g., 3 ' Kgs 12:28-33; 4 Kgs 17:9,11; 2 Chr 21:11; 31:1; Ezek 6:3), but not uniformly (e.g., Num 33:52; Isa 15:2; 16:12; Ezek 16:24; 16:25, 31; Hos 10:8; Jer 48:35; Amos 7:9). Although I disagree with Witherington's argument regarding 4 Mace. 5:2, I think it has more merit than Cheung, Idol Food, 320, acknowledges. 32 See Burkert, Greek Religion, 54-66,fora description of such rituals. 33 Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 58. ^Witherington, "Eidolothuton," 242. ^Ibid.
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sacrificed in the presence of an idol and eaten in the temple precincts. The indication thus far is that means broadly "things sacrificed to idols" and may refer to food which is offered to an idol and consumed in the context of a cultic meal. It is necessary now to consider Paul's own uses of the word in 1 Cor 8:1-11:1. IV. IN 1 COR 8:1-11:1 occurs in 1 Cor 8:1, 4, 7, 10; and 10:19. Also occurs in 1 Cor 10:14. As indicated above, Fee argues that throughout 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 refers to sacrificial food eaten in a cultic worship meal in the temple area.36 Fee begins his argument on this point by observing that "in 10:19 [] refers to sacrificial food that is partaken in the idol temple."371 agree, based on signals from the context: the subject at hand is (1 Cor 10:14); temple imagery immediately precedes the reference (1 Cor 10:18); and, as Gill maintains, the reference to is most applicable to the temple setting.38 Based upon this accurate observation about 1 Cor 10:19, however, Fee makes an unjustified assertion: "since eating the food in the temple is surely the meaning here, the question is whether should carry another meaning in chap. 8."39 Fisk objects that Fee has, for all practical purposes, narrowed the semantic range of to "meat sacrificed to an idol and eaten in the temple area" and now demands that something from the context indicate a broader meaning in 1 Corinthians 8.40 Our survey of the non-Pauline occurrences of the word suggests just the oppositethe word may refer to food offered in sacrifice and consumed as part of a temple meal, but means simply food with a sacrificial history. Of course, we cannot count out immediately the possibility that Paul always uses the word in the narrower sense, but, it is methodologically backwards, given the indications of our survey, to assume the narrow sense unless context demands otherwise. Fee offers reasons that should not be taken in the broad sense in 1 Corinthians 8.41 First, Gentile converts would almost certainly have had no difficulty with marketplace food, but are defiled as they consume the of 1 Cor 8:7. Thus, it is more likely that the food in question is consumed in the temple. Fisk points out, however, that "acquired conservatism" on the part of Gentile converts is not problematic.42 It seems quite reasonable that some Gentile converts became quite scrupulous after their exit from
Fee, "," 181-87. Ibid.,181. ^David Gill, "Trapezomata: A Neglected Aspect of Greek Sacrifice," HTR 67 (1974): 118. % e e , "," 181. 40 Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 55-56. 41 Fee, "," 182-87. 42 Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 52 n. 8.
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idolatry. Second, Fee argues that meals eaten in the presence of deities in temples were commonplace in pagan antiquity. The point is granted. Fee then infers that
It is the commonness of such meals in a city like Corinth, with its abundance of shrines to the "gods many and lords many," over against the lack of "Jewishness" in the text of 1 Corinthians 8-10, that argues strongly for temple attendance as the real concern in 43 this passage.

The point is unconvincing. Although the commonness of the meals implies opportunity for participation, it would also insure a large supply of sacrificial meat for sale in the market (1 Cor 10:25) by priests whose remunerative portions exceeded personal needs.44 Could such meat be purchased? Could it be served or consumed in a private dinner party? This situation would perhaps be problematic for the scrupulous, both Gentile and Jewish. The commonness of temple meals, therefore, does not establish that temple meals are the real issue in view in 1 Cor 8:1-10:22. Third, Fee argues that the idolatry of 1 Cor 10:7-8 is associated with eating and .45 Fee observes that and are also together in Acts 15:29 and Rev 2:14, 20. He maintains that in all of these texts sacred meals and sexual immorality at the temples are at issue.46 I have argued above that Acts 15:29 does not have the temple setting in view, but that Rev 2:14, 20 probably does. Although temple meal participation is a prominent issue in the Pauline argument (see 1 Cor 8:10; 10:1-22), Fee's contention that throughout 1 Cor 8:1-10:22 Paul has in view only temple meals (which are idolatrous in character) is less than persuasive. Two observations support the judgment that the references in 1 Cor 8:1-7 are not to the narrow meaningfood eaten in cult meals in the temples. First, Paul's reasoning in 1 Cor 8:7 seems to require that he has something different from the idolatry of 1 Cor 10:14-22 in mind. The consciences of the weak Christians are defiled because they . As Fisk observes, the point seems to depend on the capacity of some to eat , that is
Fee, "," 185. A remark from Pliny to Trajan supports this: " . . . people have begun to throng the temples which had been almost entirely deserted for a long time; the sacred rites which had been allowed to lapse are being performed again, and the flesh of sacrificial victims is on sale everywhere" (Ep. 96.10). The increase in temple activity was in this case due to persecution of Christians, but aflourishingtemple meal business in any period would probably mean a surplus of meat for the priests that could be sold to retailers. See Guy Bertniaume, Les Roles du Mgeiros. tude sur la boucherie, la cuisine et le sacrifice dans la Grce ancienne (MnemosyneSup 70; Leiden: Brill, 1982), 88-89. 4 %ee also Witherington, "Eidolothuton" 249 n. 27. 46 Fee, "," 186. In his later commentary, however. Fee makes inconsistent statements on Acts 15:29. He comments that Acts 15:29 "probably refers to market place food" (First Corinthians, 357 n. 3). Later he argues that Acts 15:29, Rev 2:14, 20, and Num 25:1-2 all refer to the combination of and in paganrituals(First Corinthians, 455).
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without defilement.47 Participation with demons by taking part in the table of demons (=idols) is objectively defiling (1 Cor 10:20-21). Thus it seems highly unlikely that Paul is dealing with the same behaviors in 1 Cor 8-9 and 10:1-22. Second and similarly, Paul's use of the term (1 Cor 8:9) appears to be an affirmation of an authentic right possessed by the knowers.48 If this is so, then whatever is happening in the temple in 1 Cor 8:10 is not inherently sinful (as is the cult meal participation of 1 Cor 10:14-22), but becomes sinful when it results in the destruction of a brother. Hence, Paul's argument assumes two tiers of temple meals: 1) those not inherently idolatrous and objectively defiling (1 Cor 8:10); and 2) those inherently idolatrous and objectively defiling (1 Cor 10:20-21).49 V. CONCLUSION In my opinion the traditional view that means broadly food sacrificed to idols and may, of course, refer to food consumed in a cultic meal in the temple, must be maintained and Witherington's and Fee's arguments rejected. This conclusion does not, however, settle the issue of precisely what Paul intends for the Corinthian knowers to do in regard to . It simply makes meaningful the question, "What does Paul intend for the Corinthian knowers to do?" The long standing consensus has been that Paul urges the knowers to use carefully their right to consume food offered to idols. Alex Chueng agrees that should be taken in its broader sense, but argues that "Paul considers conscious consumption of idol food a denial of the Corinthians' allegiance to Christ and urges them to avoid idol food."50 Thus Cheung denies that Paul acknowledges an authentic
Fisk, "Eating Meat Offered to Idols," 60. See my "The Rationale Behind the Pauline Instructions on Food Offered to Idols: A Study of the Relationship between 1 Corinthians 4:6-21 and 8:1-11:1" (Ph.D. diss.. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2000), 107-10; and, "Paul's Aims Regarding : A New Proposal For Interpreting 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1," forthcoming in NovT. 49 For the strongly social character of some meals which took place in temple dining facilities see, Wendell Willis, Idol Meat in Corinth: The Pauline Argument in 1 Corinthians 8-10 (SBLDS 68; Chico: Scholars, 1985); Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (GNS 6; Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1983), 165; and Richard E. Oster, "Use, Misuse and Neglect of Archeological Evidence in Some Modern Works on 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 7,1-5; 8,10; 11,2-16; 12,14-26)," ZNW83: 66-67. Acknowledging two tiers does not imply that we must search for precisely what distinguishes one tier from the other in Paul's estimation. The distinction need not finally be made at all in the context of Paul's argument because his practical aim is to persuade the Corinthian knowers toward complete non-use of their right in food offered to idols. This non-use of a right will include never eating in the idol temple whatever the character of the meal. If the meal is not idolatrous in character, then the potential exists to destroy the weaker brother, therefore, all temple meals are practically excluded for the Corinthians compliant with Paul's instructions. See Still, "Rationale," 114-20; 190-93. 50 Cheung, Idol Food, 296.
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right for the knowers to consume food offered to idols. I have argued that Paul does acknowledge the knowers' authentic right to consume food offered to idols, even in some temple meals (see 1 Cor 8:10), but calls for complete non-use of the rightabstinence from all temple meals and all food identified as having been offered to idols.51 Of course, since I have entered the list of participants, I shall have to leave to someone else the article judging the debate over what Paul intends the knowers of Corinth to do regarding food offered to idols in the temples and elsewhere.


Still, "Rationale," 114-20.

^ s
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