Before the Great and Holy Week, I was sharing my thoughts and those of the Scripture scholar Marcus Borg about the Letters of St. Paul which were written much before the four Gospels and, it is believed, probably influenced the writers and compilers of the Gospels. The focus of the thoughts shared were about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
As I shared, the first part of the letter dealt with the complaints that Paul received from the community about some of the things that were happening. In part it dealt with the fact that the community was becoming fractionalized because of some of the distinctions that were being made between the more affluent members and the poorer members.
Portions of the rest of the letter responds to specific questions that the community directed to Paul.
The beginning of chapter 7 (it is suggested that as you read this you also open your New Testament to his first letter to the Corinthians), refers explicitly to this: Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. The verse then continues: It is well for a man not to touch a woman. Is this what Paul thought? No. That sentence is from a letter to Paul from the community in Corinth. Some were advocating total abstinence, and others wanted to know Paul’s teaching on the matter. The sentence functions as a section heading for Paul’s comments on marriage, conjugal relations and divorce which occupy the rest of the chapter (It is interesting that they ask a man who was not married about these things).
In the next chapter, Paul addresses the question of whether food sacrificed to idols, especially meat, can be eaten by Christians. In the urban Gentile world, most meat was from animals that had been sacrificed to various deities – idols from a Jewish and Christian point of view. So could Christ-followers eat it? Paul’s answer: yes.
It must be remembered that Paul was writing to Gentiles and Jews who were followers of Jesus and living in the Roman Empire. Roman religious ritual would sacrifice various animals and then offer the meat for sale to citizens. The Roman temples were what we would now call the community butcher shop. Paul answers yes because he reasoned that eating the meat did not imply worshipping a Roman god.
This was not an uncommon practice. Even Judaism at that time offered animal sacrifice to Yahweh. Some of the meat was eaten by worshippers while, on other occasions the animal was totally burned.
This approach to worship probably seems foreign to most modern people since our worship of God has become so abstract and symbolic. The reality is that we offer food in worship of God, which is symbolic of life, and consume it. Think about it. Krisztus feltámadt!