NT Wright with Some Helpful Background on the Ancient World in 1 Corinthians 8

Ancient Temple at Corinth Engraving by William Miller

As you read chapter eight of 1 Corinthians, keep this short passage in mind. It is the opening two paragraphs from NT Wright’s commentary, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians. As usual, Wright opens with a short anecdote that relates to the passage, in this case about food that is sacrificed to idols and just how prevalent this practice would have been. It provides background on the ancient world that will be helpful for this week’s Bible reading:

There is a restaurant in Rome which is built around the ruins of an old temple. Two of the pillars are still visible. The restaurant makes a feature of them, and is proud of the ancient origins of the building where they now serve excellent pasta, great local cuisine, and fine Italian wines.

But what people don’t normally realize is that in the ancient world the temples normally were the restaurants. Each town or city had plenty of shrines to local gods and goddesses, to the great divinities like Apollo or Venus, and, in Paul’s day, more and more to the Roman emperor and members of his family. And what people mostly did there was to come with animals for sacrifice. When the animal was killed, it would be cooked, and the family (depending on what sort of ritual it was) might have a meal with the meat as the centrepiece. But there was usually more meat than the worshippers could eat, and so other people would come to the temple and share in the food which had been offered to the god.”