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From temple to meat market in ancient Pompeii

“Now concerning food offered to idols…”

1 Corinthians 8:1

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. … But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience

1 Corinthians 10:25, 28

In our modern world, butchers are butchers. But in the ancient world where Paul wrote these words, the meat market was much more closely connected to idolatry and sacrifice. Hence eating meat was a much more fraught issue for Christians in an ancient Roman city than it is for us today. I took this video while visiting the excavated ruins of the Forum in Pompeii. See how close the meat market is to the temple: it’s basically just round the back.

This helps to explain why Paul needs to provide such a long and theologically nuanced explanation of what to do when it comes to meat in 1 Corinthians 8–10 (and see also Romans 14). It’s not just a matter of “do” or “don’t”. It’s a matter of theology, and of love for others.

Published in1 CorinthiansRomans

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

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