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The Apologists  Bible Commentary



1 Corinthians 8

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5 "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords



While idols have no reality in the world, Paul does not similarly dismiss the false or "so-called" gods of paganism.  They may, in some sense, possess a metaphysical reality and cannot simply be dismissed as morally irrelevant.  Paul elaborates in chapter 10, saying that those who sacrifice to idols are actually sacrificing to demons (10:19-21).  

Pagan religious meals apparently were thought by participants to include the presence of the god being honored - in fact, one early papyrus contains the text of an invitation to such a meal, written by the god Sarapis himself! (Horsley, "Invitations to the kline of Sarapis," in Horsley, ed., New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, 5-9).  This idea no doubt underlies Paul's admonition to avoid the "cup of demons" and the "table of demons" (10:20-21).

For Paul, however, these gods and lords many should in no sense be considered true Deity.  They are false gods, the "gods of the nations" in Old Testament terminology, standing in utter contrast to the One God and One Lord in the next verse.

The pantheon of the Greeks and Romans, not to mention the gods and lords of the mystery religions, were indeed numerous, but one God alone is real (Deut. 10:17) (BKC).

Grammatical Analysis legomenoi qeoi


So called gods

GAR is the post-positive conjunction facilitating the flow of context between verses 4 and 5.  It belongs up front in English and is commonly translated “for”. This verse mentions the “so-called [LEGOMENOI] gods” of the pagans, who are to be directly contrasted in the next verse. (Ray Goldsmith)

Other Views Considered

Jehovah's Witnesses


Please see 1 Corinthians 8:6

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