Phua, Liong Seng Richard
Idolatry and authority: a study of 1 Corinthians 8.1-11.1 in the light of the Jewish diaspora.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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1 Cor 8.1-11.1 concerns the subject of idolatry in first-century Christianity and ancient Judaism. Jews and Christians differ over what constitutes idolatry; and even within ancient Judaism and early Christianity, there was no consensus on what it meant. The NT passage concerns three parties, i.e. Paul, the ‘strong’, and the ‘weak’, who differed over idolatrous practices. Scholarly opinions concerning this particular passage differ significantly and one of the most important reasons for this state of affairs is the ambiguity of the definition of idolatry. In this thesis, a set of definitions are set up which are applied to the examination of the various relevant Diaspora Jewish literature, inscriptions and papyri, and finally the NT passage. And this reveals that while there is a package of definitions of idolatry, these definitions do not always operate as a package. Jews adopted different definitions and so carved out spaces for themselves. Some Jews adopted a blanket condemnation of anything related to Gentile religions and idols, e.g. Philo, Josephus, Joseph and Aseneth, and such like. Such Jews operated with strict definitions of idolatry and condemned everything related to idols and their makers. Other Jews operated with different definitions, although they still held the view that there was only one God. They did not condemn other religious traditions but held a concept that allowed the identification of the one true God with other people’s Gods, i.e. other people in fact worshipped the true God but called him by different names. These differences of opinion parallel those of the three parties in the NT passage under investigation. The ‘strong’ believed that there was only one God and that idols were nothing in the world. This view is held by both strict as well as accommodating Jews. But they differed over how this view might be applied. The ‘strong’ in Corinth applied this knowledge to justify their attendance at pagan temples and their consumption of idol-meat, and even possible participation in the pagan religious rituals.
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