1 The sacraments of the Jews 6 are types of ours, 7 and their punishments, 11 examples for us.14 We must fly from idolatry. 21 We must not make the Lord’s table the table of devils: 24 and in things indifferent we must have regard of our brethren.
OREOVER, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
Douay Rheims Version
By the example of the Israelites, he shews that we are not to build too much upon favours received but to avoid their sins and fly from the service of idols and from things offered to idols.
OR I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud: and all passed through the sea.
24. Let no man seek his own, but that which is another's.
25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat: asking no question for conscience' sake.
29. Conscience I say, not thy own, but the other's. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience?
30. If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
From speaking of the contest, in which those who deny themselves and strive lawfully are rewarded, and in which the slothful and self-indulgent are condemned and put to confusion, of which the Apostle treated at the end of the preceding chapter, he goes on to the manners of the Hebrews of old, their lusts and vices, especially idolatry, its punishment and condemnation, that by such examples he may teach the Corinthians how vices and temptations, and especially idolatry, are to be guarded against.
Consequently, in ver. 18 he descends and returns to things offered to idols, and answers a question concerning them which had been broached in chapter viii. And—
i. He lays down that it is not lawful for them to eat of things in so far as they are offered to idols; for this would be to give consent to the sacrifice, and to profess idol worship.
ii. In ver. 22 he points out that it is not lawful to eat of them when the weaker brethren are offended at it. Hence in ver. 31 he recommends to the Corinthians edifying above everything, and bids them do everything to the glory of God and the salvation of their neighbours.
Ver. 1.—Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud. The particle for gives the cause of what was said at the end of the preceding chapter. He means, I have said that Christians must strive after baptism in their contest, lest they become reprobates and lose the prize, as the Hebrews, after their typical baptism and heavenly food, lost slothfully through their sins the land of promise, their prize, so that out of 600,000, Joshua and Caleb alone entered the Promised Land. So do you, O Corinthians, take care, lest, through your sloth, and a life out of harmony with your faith and baptism, you be excluded from heaven. So Chrysostom and Anselm. The argument is from the type or figure to the thing prefigured.
Our fathers, i.e., the fathers of the Jews, of whom I am one, as many of you are, O Corinthians.
Under the cloud. This cloud was the pillar which overshadowed the Hebrews in the daytime as a cloud, and shone at night as a fire, which led them for forty years through the wilderness, which settled over the ark and went before their camp, and protected them from the heat by spreading itself over the camp. Its mover and charioteer, so to speak, was an angel. See Exod. xiii.
And all passed through the sea. The Red Sea, and dry shod, because Moses smote the waters with his rod, and divided them.
Ver. 2.—And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. See Exod. xiv. The passage of the Red Sea is a type of baptism, in which we are reddened with the blood of Christ, and drown the Egyptians, viz., our sins. Moses is a type of Christ; the cloud is the Holy Spirit, who cools the heat of lust and gives us light. Theodoret says: “Those things were typical of ours. The sea stood for the font, the cloud for the grace of the Spirit, Moses for the priest, his rod for the cross. Israel signified those who were baptized; the persecuting Egyptians represented the devils, and Pharaoh himself was their chief.”
Unto Moses as the legislator signifies, according to some, that the Hebrews were initiated into the Mosaic law by a kind of baptism when they passed through the sea. So we are baptized into Christ or initiated and incorporated into Christ and Christianity, by baptism. Hence in Exod. xiv., after the account of the passage through the sea, it is added, “They believed the Lord and His servant Moses.”
But our baptism was not a type of the baptism of the Hebrews in the Red Sea, but , on the contrary, theirs was a type of ours. Moreover, in this passage the Hebrews were not initiated into the law of Moses, for they did not receive it till they reached Sinai.
I say, then, that since the Apostle frequently puts into for in, it is more simple to understand the phrase to mean through Moses, or under his leadership. So Ephrem, Chrysostom, Theophylact take it. The sense, then, is: all the Hebrews were baptized by Moses spiritually and typically, or bore the type of our baptism, in that, when they saw the sea divided by Moses, and Moses passing through it before, they, as Chrysostom says, also ventured to trust themselves to the sea, and that in the cloud, that is, under the guidance and protection of the cloud going before then, and in the sea, viz., in which the Egyptians were drowned, and through which they passed from Egyptian slavery to liberty and newness of life, just as we pass through the waters of baptism from the service of the devil to the Kingdom of Christ. So Anselm, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theophylact.
Notice, too, with Chrysostom, that the Scriptures give the name of the type to the antitype, and vice versâ. Here the passage through the Red Sea is called a baptism, because it was a type of one. Hence ver. 6 is explained, where he says, “These things were our examples.”
Ver. 3.—And did all eat the same spiritual meat. Not, as Calvin supposes, the same as we, as though Christians and Hebrews alike feed, not on the Real Body of Christ, but on the typical.
You will say, perhaps, that S. Augustine (tract. 25 in Johan.) and S. Thomas explain it to be the same as we eat. I reply: They understand “the same” by analogy, for the Hebrews received typically what we receive really. But this is beside the meaning of the Apostle, who understands the same to refer, not to us but to themselves. All the Hebrews, whether good or bad, ate the same food, that is the same manna. This is evident from the context, “But with many of them God was not well pleased,” that is to say, that though all ate the same manna, drank of the same water from the rock, yet all did mot please God. As, then, they had one baptism and one spiritual food, so too have we; and as, notwithstanding, they were not all saved, but many of them perished, so is it to be feared that many of us may perish, although we have the same sacraments common to us all. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm, and others. And notice with them that manna is here called “spiritual food,” or mystical, or typical, because the manna was a type of the Eucharist. So the water from the rock is called “spiritual drink,” because it was a type of the blood of Christ. Others take “spiritual” to mean miraculous, i.e., not produced by the powers of nature but of spirits, viz., God and the angels; for of this kind was manna, of which the Psalmist says, “So man did eat angels’ food” (Ps. lxxviii. 25).
1. Manna allegorically stood for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, as is evident from S. John vi. 49, 50. Especially did it represent the contained part, and the effect of the sacrament, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Cyril point out at length, in commenting in the passage of S. John just quoted. Hence the Apostle says here: “They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink.” Even Calvin takes this of the Holy Communion, and says that the manna was a type of the body of Christ. From this you may rightly infer that in the Blessed Sacrament the flesh of Christ is truly present, since manna was a symbol of a thing really existing, and not merely imagined; for some of us as well as of the Jews will eat the spiritual meat, i.e., the typical and symbolical flesh, and will not have more of the truth signified than the Jews, nay, much less; for manna was sweeter than our bread, and far more clearly than dry bread represented the body of Christ. A certain minister of this new flock has lately yielded this point as a clear consequence. But who does not see that it is at variance with Holy Scripture and with reason? For the New Law is more excellent than the Old, and therefore the sacraments of the New surpass those of the Old. Therefore the Apostle says: “These things were our examples.” But the thing figured is better than the figure, as a body is than its shadow, and a man than his likeness. Therefore the sacraments of the New Law, and especially the Eucharist, as a thing figured, must be more noble than the sacraments of the Old Law, and than the manna itself, which was but a type and figure of our Eucharist. Again, in S. John vi., Christ at some length puts His body in the Eucharist before the manna (vers, 48 and 59). The bread that He there speaks of is that which is Divine, consecrated and transubstantiated into the body of Christ. Who does not see that the manna was a better representation of the body of Christ than bread? It can be shown in many ways.
2. S. Paul has most fittingly compared manna to the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and has most beautifully shadowed it out: (a) the element in the Eucharist and the manna have the same colour; (b) it is not found except by those who have left the fleshpots of Egypt and the lusts of the flesh; (d) to the covetous and to infidels both turn to worms and bring condemnation; (e) the manna was not given till after the passing of the Red Sea—the Eucharist is not given till after baptism; (f) after the manna came, the Hebrews fought with Amalek, but before that God alone had fought for them against the Egyptians. They fought and conquered; so the obstacles and temptations which beset the heavenly life are allowed by God to trouble those only who are fortified against them, and they are overcome by the power of the Eucharist. (g) The manna was bread made by angels, without seed, or ploughing, or any human toil; so the body of Christ was formed of the Virgin alone by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. (h) Manna gave every kind of sweet taste to those who were good and devout. Hence Wisdom (xvi. 20) says of manna: “Thou feddest Thine own people with angels’ food, and didst give them bread from heaven prepared without labour, containing in itself all sweetness and every pleasant taste.” So Christ is milk to babes, oil to children, solid food to the perfect, as Gregory Nyssen says. (j) The manna was small: Christ is contained by a small Host; (k) the manna was beaten in a mortar: Christ was stripped of His mortality in the mortar of the Cross. (l) The faithful wonderingly exclaim, “Man-hu—What is this—that God should be with us!” (m) All collected an equal measure of manna, viz., one omer; so all alike receive whole Christ, though the species or the Host be greater of smaller, as Rupert says. (n) The manna was collected in the wilderness on the six week-days only; so in our eternal Sabbath and Promised Land the veil of the sacrament will be done away, and in perfect rest we shall enjoy the sight of Christ face to face. (o) The manna melted under the sun, so is the sacrament dissolved when the species are melted by heat. More will be found in the commentary on Exod. xxi.
Ver. 4.—For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them. The rock which gave water to the Hebrews was a type of Christ, who is the true Rock from which flowed the blood to quench the heat of our lust. But what is meant by saying that this rock followed the Hebrews?
1. The Hebrews reply that their tradition, and the Chaldean rendering of Num. xxi. 16, is that this rock miraculously followed the Jews everywhere in the wilderness till they came to Canaan, and supplied them with water. Hence Ephrem renders this, “They drank of the spiritual rock which same with them;” and Tertullian (de Baptismo, c. ix.) calls this rock their “companion.” He says: “This is the water which flowed from the rock which accompanied the people.” But farther on he interprets this rock of Christ, who in His Godhead accompanied and led the Hebrews through the wilderness. He says again (contra Marcion, lib. ii. c. 5): “He will understand that the rock which accompanied them to supply them with drink was Christ.” S. Ambrose, too (in Ps. xxxviii.) says: “There is a shadow in the rock which poured forth water and followed the people. Was not the water from the rock a shadow of the blood of Christ, who followed the people, though they fled from Him, that He might give them drink and quench their thirst, that they might be redeemed and not perish?” Again, S, Ambrose (de Sacramentis, lib. v. c. 1) takes the rock to be Christ. He says: “It was no motionless rock which followed the people. Drink, that Christ may follow Thee also.” But I should like to have better authorities for this tradition, for it is against it that after this water came from the rock (Num. xx. 11), the people murmured again because of the scarcity of water ver. 16).
2. Others soften down the passage and explain it thus: “The waters which burst forth from the rock flowed for a long time and rushed forth as a torrent, and this stream followed the Hebrews till they came to a place where there was plenty of water. For had it been a supply to last but for one day, the rock would have had to be struck on the next day, and the third, and the fourth, and so on, to get a supply of water.” And this explanation they support by pointing out that the manna is literal manna, and that therefore the rock or the drink spoken are material rock and material drink; but the objections to the first explanation are equally strong against this.
3. Photius supposes that the word for following simply means serving, and he would paraphrase the verse, “This rock satisfied the thirst of the Hebrews.” But the Greek cannot possibly bear this interpretation.
4. It is better, then, to understand this of the spiritual Rock signified, not the one signifying. The meaning is then: By the power of the Godhead of Christ, which was the spiritual Rock signified by the rock that gave water to the Hebrews, and which was their constant companion in the wilderness, water was given to them from the material rock. It is so explained by S. Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm, Ścumenius.
It may be said, By “spiritual meat” the Apostle meant manna, not the body of Christ, and by “spiritual drink” he means the water signifying the blood of Christ, not the blood itself; therefore, by parity of reasoning, the “spiritual rock” is the actual rock that typified Christ, not Christ Himself.
I deny the consequence, for the Apostle in speaking of the Rock inverts the phrase, and passes from the sign to the thing signified. This is evident from his saying in explanation of the Rock, “That Rock was Christ.” In other words, “When I speak of the spiritual Rock, I mean Christ.” What can be clearer? For it was not the material but the spiritual Rock which was Christ: one was type, the other antitype.
It may be urged again, that the phrase “They drank of the spiritual Rock,” means that they drank the spiritual or typical drink, for the rock giving this drink was spiritual or typical. This would give the connecting idea, and the reason for saying that “they drank the same spiritual drink,” for the rock was a type of Christ.
The answer to this objection is that the sequence of thought is clear enough. The particle for gives the efficient cause of so great a miracle; in other words, the Hebrews drank of water which served as a type, for Christ was foreshadowed by the rock which gave this water, and He miraculously gave them this typical water in order that they might know and worship Christ giving it; but this, as the sequel shows, very many of them did not do.
The rock that gave the water allegorically stood for Christ, because Christ, like a rock most firm, supports the Church, and was smitten, i.e., killed, by Moses, i.e., the Jews, with a rod; that is, the Cross poured forth waters, that is, most fruitful streams of grace, to the faithless of contradiction, to the faithful of sanctification. This is especially true of the waters of His blood in the Eucharist, with which He gives us drink in the desert of this life, that, strengthened by them, we may attain to our country in the heavens. See S. John vii. 37 and iv. 14. S. Augustine (contra Faustum, lib. xvi. c. 15).
It may be argued: Some Catholic writers, according to the first explanation given above, say that, as “that Rock was Christ” means that it was typical of Christ, so in the same way it can be said of the Eucharist, that “this is My body” means “this bread is a figure of My body.”
But add that the Apostle expressly says that he us speaking of the spiritual, not the material rock. “They drank of that spiritual Rock,” he says, and “that spiritual Rock was Christ.” It is called a spiritual Rock, or typical, because it was a type of Christ. But neither Christ nor S. Paul speak then of the Eucharist. S. Paul and all the Evangelists uniformly declare that Christ said, “This is My Body,” not, “This is My spiritual or typical Body.” Secondly, I answer that that explanation of some writers is not a very probable one; for that spiritual Rock, i.e., the One signified, was really Christ, not a type of Him. The words of S. Paul clearly say this.
Ver. 5.—For they were overthrown in the wilderness. All the Hebrews who left Egypt with Moses died for their sins in the wilderness, except Joshua and Caleb, who, with a new generation, entered the Promised Land (Num. xiv. 29).
Ver. 7.—Neither be ye idolaters . . . and rose up to play. Viz., when the Hebrews fashioned and worshipped the golden calf they closed their idolatrous festivities with a banquet. Thus they ate of the victims offered to their idol, that they might, after the manner of the Egyptians, celebrate the worship of this new food of theirs with a banquet and games, Hence it is said, “They rose up to play,” i.e., to dance and sing. For Moses (Exod. xxxii. 19), when he descended, a little time afterwards, from the mount, saw them dancing. This was the custom of the Gentiles after their sacrifices, and these games were frequently of a most obscene character. Hence the Rabbins and Tertullian (de Jej. contra Psychicos) interpret this play of the Jews of fornication and uncleannes. They celebrated, too, public games, which, Tertullian says, were forbidden to Christians, as being held in honour of idols, and on the same level, therefore, as things offered to idols (SeeTert. de Spectac.). But presently the wrath of God came on the people, as they were worshipping the calf and sporting, and 23,000 of them were slain by the Levites at the command of Moses. S. Paul impresses these thing on the Corinthians, because it was likely that they, before their Christianity, had engaged in such games and feasts, and had eaten of things offered to idols, in honour of their gods, and especially of Venus, to whom they daily offered a thousand maidens for prostitution. They were, too, much given to lust and impurity. Hence here, and in chap. vi. 9, he warns them against fornication. His meaning, then, is: See, O Corinthians, that you do not return to idols, nor eat of things offered to them, and so become partakers of idolatrous sacrifices; and do not give yourselves up to games, to lust, and self-indulgence; otherwise, like the Hebrews, you will be punished by God, as apostates and idolaters, as gluttons and drunkards.
Ver. 8.—As some of them committed. When they worshipped Baal-peor. i.e., Priapus, and in his honour committed fornication with the daughters of Moab (Num. xxv.).
And fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Chrysostom, Anselm, Cajetan, refer this to the plague which was sent because of the fornication with the daughters of Moab, and which is related in Num. xxv. But in ver. 9 of that chapter the number slain is given as 24,000, not 23,000. (1.) Some account for this by saying that on one day only 23,000 were slain, and 1000 on the day before. But this is pure conjecture, for Scripture says nothing of this. (2.) Cajetan explains it by an error of some scribe, who wrote 23,000 for 24,000. (3) Ścumenius says that some read 23,000 in Num. xxv. 9 as well as here. (4.) Others say that the Apostle is not wrong, because the greater number includes the less. But it is simpler and more natural to say that the Apostle is referring to Exod. xxxii. 28, where, according to the Roman Bible, 23,00 fell for worshipping the golden calf. S. Paul, if this be so, is not referring to the punishment inflicted on the fornicators of Num. xxv., but by a Hebrew custom he looks back to the idolaters of ver. 7. We must suppose that, having forgotten to mention the punishment inflicted on them, he now gives it as an after-thought: certainly in the sins he goes on to name he in each case adds the punishment. He does this to warn the Corinthians against such sins, and especially because the worship of the calf and the lust accompanying it were exactly parallel, both in punishment and guilt, to the worship and fornication in the matter of Baal-peor. S. Paul’s number agrees with the older rendering of the Greek in Exod. xxxii. 28. The LXX. now has 3000.
Ver. 9.—Neither let us tempt Christ by disbelieving His promises, as some of the Corinthians were doubting of the resurrection, as is seen in chap. xv. See 2 Pet. iii.4.
As some of them also tempted. The reference is to Num. xxi. 5. The words there, “against God,” S. Paul here applies to Christ; therefore Christ is God. Hence the Greek Fathers say that the angel who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and led the Hebrews out of Egypt, was a type of Christ to come in the flesh, i.e., of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
And were destroyed of serpents. See Num. xxi. 6. These fiery serpents are not so called because they were of a fiery nature, for this is repugnant to their true nature, but from the effect of their bite and the heat of their breath: these caused such a heat in those who were bitten that they seemed to be burning, These snakes are called by the Greeks by names (Praester and Canso), which denote burning, and are found in Libya and in Arabia, through which the Hebrews were then passing.
Ver. 10.—As some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer, i.e., the angel by whom God inflicted punishment on the Hebrews for murmuring, because Korah and his followers were swallowed up alive by the earth. Fourteen thousand seven hundred perished by fire (see Num. xvi. 30, 25, 40, 45; Wisd. xviii. 20; Anselm in loco). This angel seems to have been Michael, the leader of the people, the giver of the law on Sinai and its vindicator, and a type of Christ, as was said just now (see Exod. xxiii. 21). Others suppose that this “destroyer” was an evil angel or a devil, and refer to Ps. lxxviii. 49. But the Psalmist is speaking of the plague sent on the Egyptians, but Paul of those that God inflicted on the Hebrews. Besides, it is truer to say that the plagues were inflicted on the Egyptians by good angels, not by evil ones; for, as S. Augustine says, when commenting in Ps. lxxviii. 49, it is well known that it was by good angels that Moses turned the water into blood, and produced frogs and lice; for it was by these miraculous punishments that Moses and the good angels strove against the magicians of Pharaoh and the devils: hence at the third miracle of the lice they exclaimed, “This is the finger of God.” The good angels are called, in Ps. lxxviii. 49, “evil,” as inflicters of evil.
The Hebrews murmured very often in the wilderness, and nearly always were punished by God. He thus wished to show that murmuring and rebellion are worse than other sins in His sight. So, in Num. xi., He slew those who murmured through fleshly lust, and the place was therefore called “the graves of lusts.” In the same way all who murmured because of the report of the spies, who said that Canaan was a land strongly fortressed, were excluded from it, and perished in the wilderness; and of 600,000, Joshua and Caleb alone entered it (Num. xiv. 29). So were Korah and his followers punished clearly and severely.
Ver. 11.—Now all these things happened unto them for types. Viz., all those here mentioned. We are not to imagine that everything that is related in the Old Testament is merely typical, as though it contained nothing which did not figuratively represent something in the New Testament. S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. xvii. c. 5) says truly: “They seem to me to make a great mistake who think that the things recorded in the Old Testament have no meaning beyond the events themselves, just as much as those people are very venturesome who contend that everything without exception in it contains allegorical meanings.”
Gabriel Vasquez (p. 1, qu. i. art. 10, disp. 14, c. 6) rightly points out that the word “figure” or “type” used here, does not mean so much an allegorical sense, or a mystical one, as an example which may be well applied for the purpose of persuasion. Thence S. Paul adds, “they are written for our admonition.” In other words, God punished the Hebrews that they might be an example to us, and teach us wisdom.
Upon whom the ends of the world are come. That is, the last age of the world. The Prophets call the time of the Messiah: the last time,” (See 2 S. John ii. 18.) Ambrose and Chrysostom add that the Apostle often speaks in this way, as though the end of the world was at hand, that he may keep every one in expectation and in fear of it, that so each one may be taught to prepare for it diligently.
Ver. 12.—Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. S. Augustine (de Bono Persev. cviii.) says: “It is good for all, or nearly all, not to know what they will be, that each one, from not knowing that he will persevere in good, may humbly and anxiously pray for the grace of God, and with it do all he can to watch against falling and to persevere in grace.”
Ver. 13.—There hath no temptation taken you. The Vulgate reads the verb in the imperative—“let no temptation take you.” His meaning is: Be it, O Corinthians, that you are tempted to schisms, lawsuits, lust, idolatry, yet remain constant, for these temptations which take you are common to man, and therefore you can easily overcome them if you like.
If you take the Roman reading, the meaning is, When, as is often the case, any temptation of those which I have mentioned, or any other, attacks your minds, do not take it in and foster it, so as to let it grow imperceptibly in power, and to become at last unconquerable: for it is impossible to exclude altogether human and light temptations so as to never feel them. Anselm says: “To be overcome by malignant temptation and to sin from malice is devilish: not to feel its power is angelic; to feel it and overcome it is human.” See also S. Gregory (Pastoral. i. cxi.).
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able. If God does not suffer us to be tempted beyond our strength, therefore much less, or rather in no way does God impel us to sin, as Calvin thinks.
2. Nor does God enjoin impossibilities, as Luther thinks, not foes He even permit them.
3. It follows from this that we can be so strongly tempted by the devil and the flesh as to be unable to resist if the grace of God does not succour us, as Chrysostom and Anselm say.
4. As a matter of fact there is no temptation so great but that it can be overcome by the grace of God.
5. The best remedy, therefore, against temptation is prayer, by which we call down the help of God from distrust of our own strength (S. Matt. xxvi 41).
6. This grace is promised here and elsewhere, not inly to the elect, but to all who duly call on God. See also decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. xxiv. can. 9, and Sess. vi. can. 11). For the Apostle is speaking to the Christians at Corinth, many of whom were not elect, but some contentious, causing offence, and drunken (chap. xi. 21). What is more, none of them knew that they were elected, so as to be able to apply this consolation to themselves exclusively.
7. It is in the power of each Christian to obtain sufficient help to overcome all temptations and all sins; for God pledges His word to them to this, and He is One to be trusted, as the Apostle says here. His meaning is: no temptation can take you, except on your own side and by your own negligence; for on God’s side I pledge myself that God, who is faithful, will perform what He has promised, and will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, i.e., will not allow you to be tempted, except by human temptation. Understand, however, that this is if you seek His grace and help, as is right, and co-operate with Him. “God,” as S. Augustine says (de Nat. et. Gratia, c. 43), and following him, the Council of Trent (Sess. vi. can. ii.), “God does not order impossibilities when He orders us to resist every temptation; but when He orders, it is to bid us to so what we can, to seek help for what we cannot, and then He lends the strength.” See S. Matt. xi. 30 and 1 S. John v. 3.
S. Ephrem beautifully illustrates this saying of the Apostle as follows: “If men,” he says, “do not put upon their beasts more weight than they can bear, much less will God put on men more temptations than they can bear. Again, if the potter bakes his vessels in the fire until they are perfected, and does not remove them before they are properly baked and of the right consistency, and again does not leave them in too ling, lest they be burnt too much and so become useless: much more will God do the same with us, trying us with the fire of temptations until we are purified and perfected; but beyond that point He will not suffer us to be scorched and consumed with temptation.” (de Patientiâ)
But will with the temptation also make a way to escape. God, who suffers you to fall into temptation, will also make it turn out well, as Erasmus and Augustine (in Ps. lxii and Ep. 89) understand it. He makes it good for you and your salvation, and will enable you to come out of it without less, nay, rather victoriously and with glory, as Anselm says.
1. The word translated “way of escape.” according to Theophylact, Ścumenius, and the Greeks, means a happy end of the temptations, so that it turns out well and promotes the good of the tempted; for God will either bring the temptation to a speedy ending, or not permit it to go on to the fourth day, if He knows that we cannot bear it for more than three days, as S. Ambrose says; or if He gives it linger life He gives us the power of bearing it, as Ambrose and Anselm say.
2. It does not signify any way of escape, but such a way as when a soldier comes out victorious from a battle of a single combat, more renowned and even with increased strength and courage. So have the saints come out of temptation. The Greek word then also means a progress. Not only will God make the temptation no obstacle, but a means even of advancement, causing an increase of strength, virtue, grace, victory, and glory, a more certain walk in the way of virtue and in the road to heaven. So Photius.
That ye may be able to bear it. The Greek literally means, “to more than bear it,” i.e., so to bear it that strength remains over and above to bear something farther. God hives such help that any one can overcome temptation with flying colours, Hence the Fathers often remark that men advance in virtue through temptations chiefly; the reason is, that no one can resist them, except by putting forth contrary acts of virtue strongly and intensely, and where temptation brings out such acts it strengthens and intensifies their habits.
3. The righteous wins merit by such acts; he seeks and receives from God an increased infusion of grace and all virtues.
Ver. 14.—Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. Not only avoid the worship which is given in sacrificing to and calling on idols, but also abstain from eating things offered to idols from any feeling of their sanctity, as the heathen eat them when the sacrifice is completed, either at the altars of in the temples. So you would share in their sacrifices, and would be thought to approve of them, and even to offer them. The Apostle is now going on to speak of the eating of things offered to idols. Chapter ix. was a long digression about a paid or unpaid ministry, about the Christian contest, the prize, and the competitors; the earlier part of chap. x. has been about the sins and punishments of the Hebrews; and now, after this long digression, he returns to the subject of things offered to idols, which was begun in chap, viii. The “wherefore” signifies, then, that he had written all that precedes for the purpose of warning them against idolatry and idol-offerings.
Ver. 16.—The cup of blessing which we bless. (1.) That is the wine in the chalice which is blessed by the priest, and hence the chalice itself, containing this consecrated wine, does it not communicate to us the blood of Christ? (2.) It may be called the cup of blessing, because it blesses us and loads us with grace, as Anselm and Chrysostom say. (3.) More accurately, it is called “the cup of blessing,” because Christ blessed it before consecration, i.e., called down the power of God to afterwards effect a change both in the bread and in the cup (S. Matt. xxvi. 26).
1. We see from the accounts of the Last Supper in S. Matt. xxvi., S. Luke xxii., and here and in chap. xi., that Christ, before consecration of the Eucharist, gave thanks to God thee Father, and, as He was wont, lifted up his eyes to heaven, as is enjoined in the Roman Canon of the Mass and in the Liturgy of S. James. Hence this sacrament is called the Eucharist, or Thanksgiving, because it is the greatest act of grace, and consequently is to be received with the greatest thanksgiving.
2. Christ blessed the bead and wine, not, as heretics say, His Father. And so Paul says expressly, “The cup which we bless.” Christ blessed the bread and the cup, i.e., invoked the blessing and power of God on the bread and wine, that it might be present, both then and at all future consecrations, to change the bread into the body, and the wine of the chalice into the blood of Christ, when ever the words of consecration should be duly pronounced. Of the same kind was the blessing of the bread in S. Luke ix. 16. This blessing, then, was not the consecration, though S. Thomas thinks that it was (pt. iii. qu. 78, art. i. ad 1). Hence in the Liturgies of S. James and S, Basil, and in the Roman, after Christ’s example, God is prayed to bless the gifts, that the Divine power may descend upon the bread and the cup to complete the consecration; and it is thence that we have “the cup of blessing,“ i.e., the cup blessed by Christ.
Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? 1. The communion, or communication, of the body and blood of Christ not only signifies that we receive the same body and the same blood of Christ, but also, as is said in ver. 17, we become one body and one blood. Therefore, the sacrament is not a type of the blood, as Calvin thinks, but it is the very blood of Christ itself, and is given to us in the Eucharistic chalice. If I were to say, “I give you a golden one,” you would rightly understand that I did not mean a painted one. If I were to invite you to dinner, and a feast on the hare or stag caught in the chase, and instead of the hare or stag were to put before you on a dish a picture of animals, should I not be acting ridiculously?—should I not hear myself called an impostor? Are not then the Protestants who transform the blood and flesh of Christ, which He declares that He gives, into a figure of that blood and flesh, acting ridiculously? Are they not making Christ an impostor?
2. If this cup is only a figure of the blood, as the Protestants think, then we have not more, but less, in the Eucharist than the Jews had in the manna and the water miraculously provided for their drink. The apostle, too, should have said that we eat the spiritual body and drink the spiritual blood of Christ, that is that which represents them, just as he said that the Jews ate the spiritual meat—the manna, and drank the spiritual drink—the water from the rock. But as a fact he contrasts the blood and the flesh of Christ in the Eucharist, as the reality and the thing signified, with the manna and water, as the figure and spiritual type, signifying the flesh and blood of Christ. Moreover, he calls the manna spiritual meat, i.e., typical, and the water, spiritual drink; but he calls the body of Christ in the Eucharist the body, and the blood the blood. Who, then, can doubt that, as the manna was truly a type and shadow, so in the Eucharist there is really the blood, flesh, and body of Christ?
3. Theodoret, Theophylact, Anselm, S. Thomas expressly explain this passage in this way. Theophylact says: “He does not say the ‘participation,’ but the ‘communion,’ because he wished to indicate something more excellent, viz., the closest possible union. What he really says is this: What is in the chalice flowed from the side of Christ; and when we receive it, we have communion with, or are united to Christ. Are you not then ashamed, O Corinthians, to have recourse to the cup of idols, and to leave this cup which sets us free from idols?”
S. Chrysostom most plainly dwells on this thought (in Hom. 24, Moral.), where, exhorting Christians to mutual charity through Holy Communion, he says: “If, then, dearly beloved, we understand these things, let us also strive to maintain unity among ourselves; for this dreadful and wonderful sacrifice leads us to this: it bids us approach one another with concord and perfect charity, and, like the eagles that Christians have been made in this life, let us fly to heaven itself, or rather above the heavens.” And again a little further on he thus explains what the body of Christ in the Eucharist is like: “If no one would lightly lay hold of another man’s clothing, how can we receive with insults the pure and immaculate body of the Lord, which is a partaker of the Divine Nature, through which we are and live, which burst open the gated of hell and opened heaven? This is the body which was pierced by nails, scourged, unconquered by death; this is the body at the sight of which the sun hid his rays; through which the veil of the Temple was rent, and the rocks and the whole earth quaked; this is the body which was suffused with blood, pierced by the spear, and which poured forth streams of blood and water to regenerate the wwole world.” And a little further on he says that the body of Christ in the Eucharist is the same as was in the manger: “This body in the manger the Magi adored, and with great fear and trembling worshipped. But thou seest Him not in a manger, but on the altar. It is not a woman holding Him in her arms that you see, but a priest is before you, and the spirit shed abundantly upon the sacrament spread forth. Let us, therefore, be stirred up and fear, and show greater devotion than ever those barbarians did.” And after some other remarks he asserts mist clearly that in the Eucharist we touch and feed on God Himself, and receive from Him all good thing, saying: “This table is the strength of our soul, the vigour of our mind, the bond of mutual trust, our foundation, hope, and salvation, our light and our life, If we depart fortified by this sacrifice, we shall with the greatest confidence climb the sacred hill which leads to heaven’s gate. But why speak of the future? For even while we are here in this life, this mystery makes earth heaven: for the body of the King is set before our eyes, on earth, as it is in heaven. I show you, not angels or archangels, not heaven or the heaven of heavens, but the Lord of them all. Nor do you merely gaze on Him: you touch Him, you feed on Him: you receive not a child of man, even though of kingly birth, but the Only-Begotten Son of God. Why, then, do you not shudder at such Presence, and cast away the love of all worldly things?”
A new preacher of a new word of God has lately answered these words by saying that S. Chrysostom spoke rhetorically. But this evasion is as silly as futile; for S. Chrysostom is, I admit, an orator, but he is also a teacher of Christian truth. Hence in his commentary itself, he days that he is treating of the literal meaning of the Apostle. It is true that in the application of his sermon he does enlarge on that meaning, but not so as to exceed or to deny the truth, as, i.e., if he were to say that wood is stone, that a man is a brute, that bread is flesh; else he would not be an orator, but a lying impostor, and that in matters of faith. For an orator would be false and foolish who should say that the water of baptism was the very same blood of Christ that flowed from His side, when the Jews pierced His body with nails, and smote it with scourges; if he were to say that it was the God and Lord of all, he would no doubt mean that the water of baptism is a type of the blood of Christ, who applied it to us to wash away our sins. In the same way he is false and foolish who says that the bread and wine are the very blood, the very body of Christ, which was adored by the Magi in the manger, nailed to the Cross, scourged, and crucified by the Jews, nay, that it is the very Lord of all things, and the Only-Begotten Son of God, as S. Chrysostom says. I appeal to you, reader, to read these words of his candidly and impartially, or to say whether they are true of the manna, of the Paschal lamb, or of any such type. Would S. Chrysostom have spoken of them thus? Would Calvin, or Viretus, or Zwinglius, or any of their following, no matter how eloquent an orator he might be, speak of their supper in this way? If it is lawful t sublimate and invert the meanings of authors and the words of the Fathers in this way, it will be lawful to invert all faith, all history, all the opinions of these men, and to twist them to a totally different sense, all this will better appear in the following verses.
The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The sense is, The communication to us, or the eating of the bread which we break, communicates to us also the very body of Christ, so that each one actually partakes of it in the Eucharist.
It may be said: The Eucharist is here called the bread, therefore it is not the flesh of Christ.
I reply that bread, by a Hebraism, stands for any food (2 Kings ii. 22). So Christ is called manna (S. John vi. 31), and bread (Ibid. ci. 41). The reason is that bread is the common and necessary food of all. Moreover, S. Paul does not say “bread” simply, but “the bread which we break,” i.e., the Eucharistic or transubstantiated bread, which is the body of Christ, and yet retains the species and power of bread. In this agree all the Fathers and orthodox doctors. Christ, on other occasions as well as in the Last Supper, is said to have broken and distributed the bread, according to the Hebrew custom by which the head of the house was wont to break the bread and divide the food among the guests sitting at table. For the Easterns did not have loaves shaped like ours, which need a knife to cut them up, but they used to make their bread into wide and thin cakes, as, amongst others, Stuckius has noticed (Convival. lib. ii. c. 3). Hence “to break bread” signifies in Scripture “to feast,” and breaking bread signifies any feast, dinner, or meal. In the New Testament it is appropriated to the Eucharist; therefore “to break bread” is a sacramental and ecclesiastical term. Hence S. Paul calls here the Eucharist “the bread which we break,” meaning the species of the body of Christ which we break and consume in the sacrament. See further on c. xi. 24.
Ver. 17.—For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. As one loaf is made out of many grains of wheat, so of many faithful is made one holy and living bread, the one mystical body of Christ, the Church. Not only generally and mystically, but properly and substantially, because all are really united to the body of Christ, and become one with it, in the Eucharist, just as food becomes one with him that eats it. Hence it may be rightly argued against Protestants that we all eat really the same body of Christ. They, however, say that in the Eucharist all Christians become one, because they eat the same sacramental bread, which is a type of the body of Christ. But who share in it one, merely because they sit at the same table and eat of the same bread? It would be a statement at once untrue and foolish. It is, however, true when applied t the body of Christ, because we all feed on what is numerically one, especially because this holy bread, as S. Augustine says, when eaten, is not changed into our substance, but rather changed us into its own, and unites us to itself and makes us like it, which ordinary bread does not do. Here Cyril of Alexandria (in Joan. lib. iv. c. 17) says: “As wax is incorporated into wax, and leaven permeated through bread, so do we become fused into the body of Christ.” And Cyril of Jerusalem (Catachesis, 4) says: “In Holy Communion we become, not only bearers of Christ, but also sharers of the same body and the same blood as He.” This is because we become one with Christ and Christ with us, because we are really blended with the flesh of Christ, and therefore with his Person, His 244 Godhead, and His omnipotence. Irenæus says the same (lib. iv. c. 34), and Hilary (de Trin. lib. viii.).
It is for this reason that the Eucharist is called Communion by the Fathers: it really unites us to the body of Christ, so that all become one in Him and with Him. “Communion,” then, is the common union of the faithful, who, by feeding on the same true body of Christ in the Eucharist, are made one mystical body, the Church. So says Bede, following S. Augustine. Hence, too, the Council of Trent (sess. xii. c. 8) says: “This sacrament is the sign of unity, the bond of charity, the symbol of peace and concord,” no doubt because, in a wonderful way, it signifies and perfects the unity of the body of Christ, i.e., of the faithful of the Church. For this reason, too, the Eucharist was formerly given to infants after their baptism, that they might be perfectly incorporated into Christ (vide S. John vi. 55). Again for the same reason the Eucharist was called by S. Dionysius, Synaxis, i.e., “congregation,” because the faithful were in the habit of assembling in the church to receive the Eucharist. Tertullian even says (de Oratione, cap. ult.) that prayer should end when the body of the Lord has been received. The Apostle too, in the next chapter (ver. 20), says: “When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.” For although the Church becomes the body of Christ through faith and baptism, yet this is done more truly and properly in the Eucharist.
Heretics raise the objection that therefore only the good and righteous are parts and members of the Church, for the Apostle says, “We are all one bread;” but bread, they say, is made from grains of wheat, not from chaff; therefore the Church is formed from the righteous, not from the wicked; for the righteous are the corn, the wicked are the chaff.
I reply (1.) that this does not follow, because a similitude is not bound to be in all points alike; (2.) that the major premiss is false, for often chaff, grains of sand, lentils are mingled with the wheat, and with it go to make up the bread. Hence S. Paul (c. xi. 29) says that even the wicked eat of this bread. But here he says that all who partake of this bread make up the one body of Christ, which id the Church: therefore the wicked, also, who eat of this bread are of the Church. Vide S. Cyprian (Ep. ad Magnum, lib. i.; Ep.6).
Ver. 18.—Behold Israel after the flesh . . . partakers of the alter? That is, of the victim offered on the altar, by metonymy. All this is meant to prove that things sacrificed to idols ought not to be partaken of; and the sense is: See, O Corinthians, Israel after the flesh: when they eat of the victims offered to God, are they not deemed to be partakers of the sacrifice offered on the altar to God, and to consummate the sacrifice, and in a sense therefore to sacrifice? In the same way that they who eat of the Eucharistic bread are sharers of the Eucharistic sacrifice, are they who eat of things offered to idols sharers of idolatrous sacrifices: they consummate them, and in a sense sacrifice to idols. He proves, from the example of the Jews, that they who eat of things sacrificed to idols give their consent to such sacrifices, and tacitly sacrifice to those idols.
Ver.19.—What say I then? that the idol is anything, &c. By no means: for the idol and that offered to it are nothing, have no influence or power. See viii. 4.
Vers. 20, 21.—But I say . . . Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils. The table is the altar, which is, as it were, God’s table at which He feasts with us, See Lev. i.; Mal. i. 12; Ambrose, Anselm, and the Council of Trent (sess. xxii. c. 1), where it lays down from this passage that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. For that the Apostle is dealing with the Eucharist and not with the sacrifice of the Cross appears plainly—1. Because the Victim of the Cross has passed away, and long ago creased; but the Apostle is here treating of a sacrifice of which the Corinthians were partakers daily.
2. From the phrase, “the Lord’s table,” i.e., the altar. Where there is an altar there is a priest and a sacrifice, for the three are correlative terms. If, then, the Corinthians had an altar, they had also a sacrifice, and that of course none other than the Eucharist.
3. “The cup of the Lord” can only be the cup offered to the Lord, for the cup of devils is none other than the one offered to them.
From the context, and the line of the Apostle’s argument, which is this: As the Jews, when they eat if their peace-offerings, share in and consent to the sacrifice of them that is made on God’s altar, so do those who eat of things sacrificed to idols share in and consent to the sacrifice of them that is made to idols; and so do Christians, when they receive the Eucharist, become partakers of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and sacrifice the Eucharist to God by the priest, It is consequently unseemly altogether that they should also sacrifice to a devil, which they do by partaking of things offered to idols, as a part of the idolatrous sacrifice; for no one can at once sacrifice to God and a devil. Cf. S. Augustine (contra Advers. Legis et Prophet. lib. i. c. xix). Chrysostom in loco, Anselm, Theophylact, Ścumenius, Ambrose, Theodoret say the same thing. S. Cyprian (de Lapsis) expressly teaches the same lesson, and confirms it by the numerous examples of those who, after eating of things offered to idols, came to the Eucharist, and were punished by God accordingly; and he adds: “An earthly commander will not suffer any one of his soldiers to fly to the camp of his enemies and there to work; how much less can God suffer His followers to take part in the banquets of devils?”
Notice (1.) that when the sacrifice was completed, the flesh which had been offered on the idol’s altar was removed from it to a table, near the altar or temple, in order that they who had offered it might, with the friends they had invited, eat of it there; for sacrifices and religious feasts were generally concluded with such a sacred banquet. Cf. the sacrifice offered by Evander and Æneas in Virgil (Æneid, viii. 179-183). So, too, the Jews were in the habit of eating in the porch before the Temple of the sacrifices which they had offered (1 Sam. ix.13). So, too, Christ concluded the concluded the Eucharistic sacrifice with a banquet in it, and a distribution of it to the Apostles. Hence, too, in the primitive Church, all the faithful communicated at the Mass, that they might be partakers of the sacrifice, and conclude it with such a banquet. Again, the heathen, who sacrificed victims to their idols, used, after the sacrifice, to carry home with them portions of it to give to those in their house, and to send to their friends, that so the absent might be partakers of the sacrifice, as Giraldus (de Diis Gentium) points out from Herodotus and others, Similarly, the Christians in the time of persecution used to carry home the Eucharist , and even sent it to the absent, as a mark of love and communion, and to enable them to be partakers of the sacrifice. Cf. Eusebius, Hist. lib. v. c. 24 and 29.
Notice (2.) that the Apostle gives a plain answer to the question whether it was lawful to eat of things offered to idols. He says that it never had been, nor was then, lawful to eat of things offered to idols, as such, or as being sacred to idols. He who so eats of them tacitly admits by the very act that the idol is sacred, has some Divine influence, and that, because of the idol, the flesh offered is sacred, because offered to a Divine being, which is idolatry. This takes place whenever such food is partaken of in such a place, in such a way, and under such circumstances, as that the eater is morally thought to eat it out of honour to the idol, as when the offerers sent portions to their friends with the intention of showing worship to the idol, when their friends received and ate them. Again, the case is still more clear, if you eat directly after the sacrifice, near the altar of the temple, together with those that offer the sacrifice, in presence of idolaters; for then you are rightly judged to eat it to the honour of the idol. It is otherwise if afterwards you feed on it alone, and from hunger of greediness, whither it be at home of at the temple, because in that case you are not thought to feed on it as being sacred to the idol, but you are seen to be merely gratifying your hunger or appetite. It may be said, S. Augustine (Ep. 154, and de Bono Conj. c. xvi., and contra Faustum, lib, xxxii. c. 13) asks whether a Christian, when travelling and pressed by hunger, may, if he can find nothing but some food offered to an idol, and if no one is present, eat of it, or whether it is better for him t die; and he answers, It may be said that it is either known to have been offered to the idol or not; if it is known, it is better for it to be rejected by Christian virtue; if it is not known, it may be taken for his necessity without any scruple of conscience.” Otherwise, as I have said, it is better to reject it, lest the eater should seem to have communicated with idols. He ought then to abstain from things offered to idols, if they are known to be such.
I reply that S. Augustine does not say that he must abstain from it, if he knows that it has been so offered. He says “it is better for it to be rejected by Christian virtue,” implying pretty plainly that it is lawful to eat of it, but that it would be better and more noble if he abstained from it and preferred death. There is a parallel case in the Carthusian rule. One in extreme weakness is allowed to eat flesh to save his life; but he will do what is better and more holy if he follow his profession and abstain and so die. Cf. Victoria (Relect. de Temperant. num. 8), Azorius (Morals, lib. v. c. 6), and others. For he is not bound to save his life at all costs, but he may rank it below his vow, or rather the holiness of his profession, so as to give as example of virtue to others, and to hallow the discipline and rigour of his order. The Carthusians do not take a formal vow of abstinence from flesh, but merely have it enjoined on them by the constitution of their order.
Ver. 22.—Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? I.e., to anger. Do we set up a rival to the Lord? De we leave Him, our Bride-groom, and cling to a devil, and the things offered to him, or at all events wish to serve both, and yoke together God and the devil? So Chrysostom, Anselm, Theophylact. S. Paul is alluding to Deut. xxxii. 21. S. Jerome, commenting of Habakkuk ii., rightly says the unclean spirits preside over all idols, and answer those who call on the idols, and give oracular replies, and lend them help.
Are we stronger than He? By no means; therefore our provoking God to anger will not go unpunished by Him.
Ver. 23.—All things are lawful for me. Viz., all things that are not essentials, such as to eat of things offered to idols, not as sacred, or as things sacrificed, but as common food. So far Paul has treated of things offered to idols as such, and has forbidden the use of them. Hence, in ver. 14, he bids the Corinthians fly from idolatry, i.e., the meats of ver. 20. But in this verse he passes on to the second case, when meat that has been offered to idols is partaken of, not formally as such, but materially, as mere food or flesh; and with regard to this he says, “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient,” Because all things do not edify. Materially, you may eat of things offered to idols considered in themselves, but if there is attached to such action the giving of offence, then you may not; see vers. 27, 28, 33. Clement (Stromata) well said: “They who do whatsoever is lawful will easily sink into doing what is unlawful.” Theophylact explains this verse differently, but his explanation is beside the drift of the context.
Ver. 24.—Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Let no one seek or buy flesh which, e.g., has been offered too idols, and which is useful and pleasant to himself, just because it is of a low price; but in such matters let each one seek his neighbour’s edification, and not to buy it or eat it, so as o cause him offence or spiritual loss. So Theophylact.
Ver. 25.—Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question. Eat indifferently everything, whether offered to idols or not. Asking no question, i.e., making no difference, or according to S. Ambrose, making no inquiry; according to Theophylact, without hesitation.
Herodotus tells us, as well as S. Augustine in the commentary he commenced on the Epistle to the Romans (c. 78), that the heathen custom was to send t the shambles whatever remained over of the sacrificed meats after the feast, and to give the priests the proceeds. In the shambles, therefore, they were looked upon as any other meats, as having returned to secular and common use. S. Augustine says: “Some weaker brethren at that time abstained from flesh and wine, lest they should unknowingly partake of things offered to idols; for all kinds of sacrificial flesh were offered for sale in the shambles, and the heathens used to pour out libations of wine to their images, and even to offer sacrifices at their wine-presses.” Hence the Apostle dispels this scruple, and bids them buy and eat freely whatever was sold in the shambles, making no distinction between meats, nor asking where they same from, as if it were a matter of conscience, or as though the flesh needed cleansing, if it came from an idol’s temple. The Christians of Antioch followed this teaching of the Apostles, when Julian the Apostate endeavoured to force them into idolatry through idol meats. Theodoret (lib. i. c. xiv.) thus describes the incident: “Julian first polluted the water-spring with victims offered to idols, so that every one who drank of the water was infected. He then polluted in the same way whatever was offered for sale in the market; for bread, flesh, fruits, vegetables, and all other eatables were sprinkled with this water; but when the Christians saw this, though they could not but grieve and detest the wickedness, still they ate of such things, in obedience to the injunction to the Apostle: “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles that eat, asking no question.”
For conscience sake, as though you were bound to ask whether the meat which they wish to sell has been offered to idols, it being not lawful for you to buy and eat such. So Anselm, Ambrose, Theodoret. It is evident from this that Paul is not speaking of the fasts of the Church, or saying that on any day, even a fast day, it is lawful to eat meat which is exposed for sale in the shambles. For these fasts do not belong to the class of non-essentials, but are precepts of the Church. Therefore S. Paul, in Acts xv., xvi., ordered the decree concerning abstinence from things strangled and from blood to be observed, though it was a mere positive precept enjoined by the Apostles alone.
Ver. 26.—For the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Every creature, because it is the Lord’s, is good and clean; so, too, things offered to idols are not unclean, as you suppose, because they have been offered to a devil, but are clean, because created by the Lord. So Chrysostom, Theophylact,, Anselm. Theophylact gives another meaning as well: “Abstain from all food sacrificed to idols, for the whole earth is the Lord’s, and you can be abundantly satisfied from other sources.” But this meaning is not suited to the context, especially, to the injunction, “Eat whatever is sold in the shambles.”
Ver. 27.—If any of them believe not . . . for conscience sake. “Do not seem,” says Theophylact, “to be afraid of idols with too anxious scrupulousness, or excessive curiosity, but keep your conscience free and uninjured.” For if you ask and are told that it has been offered to idols, your conscience will be bound, and will not allow you to rat of it, Hence he goes on to say—
Ver. 28.—But if any man say unto you . . . for his sake that showed it. If any unbeliever who has invited you to dinner, or any other idolater tell you that the meat in the table has been offered to idols, and is therefore sacred and to be religiously eaten, you cannot then eat it, for he will think that you are a partaker of his idolatry. Or if a Christian whose conscience is scrupulous point it out, thinking it unlawful to eat it because polluted by idolatry, do not then eat it, lest you cause him to offend. But if no offence could be caused, either to the faithful or unbelievers, it is lawful to eat of things offered to idols, even if they are pointed out and known as such.
For conscience sake. Lest you wound the conscience of your brother that is weak in the faith, who is sitting at table with you, by inducing him to follow your example and eat meats offered to idols, when his conscience forbids it.
Ver. 29.—Why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? Why should I use my liberty in such a way as gives offence and incurs condemnation by another man’s conscience? For since he is weak and untaught, he thinks that I do a thing to be condemned if I eat of idol-meats. But this I ought not to do. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 30.—If I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Although it is lawful for me to eat of things offered to idols, through the grace of Gospel liberty, and give thanks to God for them, yet why should I expose myself to the reproaches of others, that they should speak of me as an idolater or polluted by communion with idols? From this verse it would seem to have been the custom of the ancients to ask a blessing before means, and to give thanks afterwards. Cf. 1. Tim. iv. 4, 5.
Ver. 31.—Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1. This is a matter of counsel, not of precept, for we are not bound in every act not in every virtue to seek the glory of God, though to do so is very meritorious. In the same way he says in chap. xv. 14: “Let all your things be done with charity.” 2. If any one, with Anselm, Ambrose, and Cajetan, thinks that it is a precept, he must explain it to mean that all our works must be of such a character that they are likely to promote the glory of God, such that God may be glorified because of them, no one be offended, and the glory of God not injured, but all edified, and the glory of God therefore spread abroad. This second meaning is more suitable here, as appears from what has gone before, where S. Paul has been dealing with the duty of avoiding giving offence, and also from what follows in the next verse. For S. Paul is opposing the glory of God to the glory of devils, who are served by those who eat things offered to idols, in their honour, or when offence is caused to our neighbour; on the other hand, they serve the glory of God who abstain from idols, and eat of such things and do such things, as help to promote the honour and worship of God and the salvation of their neighbours.
S. Thomas (iii. qu. c. art. 10 ad 2) explains it differently; he says that it is a precept bidding us always refer ourselves and everything in general to the glory of God as their final cause. But the Apostle is speaking here, not of this or that act, but of that which we ought to do continuously.
3. The sense will be more comprehensive if the verse is explained in this way: Study to promote the glory of God (which is a matter of counsel) in all things so carefully that you keep strict watch against doing anything which may be against God’s glory, against giving in anything cause of offence, as, e.g., in eating of things offered to idols, lest God be reproached: this last is a matter of precept. For although this saying and counsel of the Apostle’s is positive, it nevertheless includes a negative precept. Hence it does not follow from this that all the works of unbelievers are sinful because they do not do them to the glory of God, of whom they know nothing; for, as I have said, to do all our works, and to refer them in act to the glory of God, is a matter of counsel, not of precept.
Tertullian (de Coronâ) and S. Jerome (ad Eustochium) gather from this the explanation of the custom of the Christians of that time, to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross at the beginning of every work, which was as good as saying: “Let this work be done to the glory of God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” S. Basil (in Regul. Brev. Reg.196) asks, “How does a man eat and drink to the glory of God;” and his answer is, that this is done when a man is mindful of the benefits bestowed on him by God, when he is so well-disposed as not to eat at all carelessly, but with the recollection that God searches him out; when he makes it his purpose not to eat merely for the pleasure of satisfying his appetite, but as God’s workman, that he may have strength to serve Him better, and to perform the commands of Christ. This surely would become not only religious, but all Christians and true worshippers of God. S. Basil again (Hom. in Julittam Mart.), quoting this verse, says beautifully: “When you sit at table, pray; when you eat your bread, give thanks to the Giver; when you drink wine, think of Him who gave it to you to gladden you, and to strengthen your weakness; when you put on your coat, give thanks to the kindly Giver; when you look up at the heavens and see the beauty of the stars, fall down before God and worship Him, who by His wisdom made all these things. Similarly, when the sum rises and sets, whether in sleeping or waking, give thanks to God, who created and ordained all these things for your good, that you might know, love, and praise the Creator.”
Ver. 33.—Even as I please all men in all things. I do all I can to please them, that I may edify them and give no offence to any one, even though I may actually displease some who are ignorant, or jealous, or perverse. I please means here the desire of pleasing, the inchoate act; and the Apostle therefore adds, “not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”