Paul’s Concern with the Nature and Location of Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols in 1 Cor 8-10: A Response to Gordon Fee, Ben Witherington, Bruce Fisk, and David Horrell

In both his 1980 article on 1 Cor 8-10 and his 1987 commentary on 1 Corinthians, Gordon D. Fee argues that Paul prohibits eating sacrificial food in a pagan temple (1 Cor 8.1-7; 10.23-11.1), while allowing for the eating of marketplace food (1 Cor 10.23-11.1), a position that Ben Witherington also advances in several articles and in his 1995 commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. In this type of interpretation Paul is especially concerned with the location in which one eats (sacrificial) food. In his 1989 article on 1 Cor 8-10 Bruce Fisk challenges the argument of Fee, claiming that “Paul’s intent was not to declare all temple meal attendance off limits; the nature of the meal, not its location, was the issue” (69). Similarly, in explicit criticism of Ben Witherington, David Horrell’s 1997 article affirms Fisk’s claim that “the issue in 10.1-22 is neither what one eats (idol meat or other) nor where one eats it (temple, home, etc.). Rather Paul is concerned about the nature of the meal” (Fisk 63; Horrell 101). In this second type of interpretation then Paul’s concern is with the nature of eating rather than with its location. Building on Fisk’s perceptive suggestion that “both sides in the debate may have something to learn”, my paper argues that while Fisk and Horrell are right to claim that Paul’s central concern is with the nature of the eating in question, they do not do full justice to the importance of location in Paul’s argument, which is rightly perceived but wrongly assessed by Fee and Witherington. In other words, my paper aims to show that Paul is concerned with both the nature and location of eating meat (sacrificed to idols) and to provide a more precise account of the multi-faceted relation between the two.