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If you don't know that it has been sacrificed to idols, then it is okay, 1 Corinthians 10:

25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Don't ask. Just eat.

26For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Again, don't ask.

28But 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—

If you know that it has been sacrificed to idols, then don't eat it in front of them.

29I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

What if you know that it has been sacrificed to idols and no one else is around, is it okay to eat?

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  • I wonder if the NT injunction against this type of food referred to vegetables as well as animal sacrifices. I used to religious freedom work, and I've eaten in Buddhist and Krishna temples where the food is offered to their deities but these were vegetarian meals. Jan 31, 2023 at 19:03
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    @Dan, the Greek word translated as "meat market" doesn't necessarily mean only animal products. Where I live there is even a store that used to be called "Central Meat Market", which does have a large butcher section, but otherwise is just a normal supermarket. Jan 31, 2023 at 19:23
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    @DanFefferman - many Buddhist temples offer veggie meal for revenue. You are not supposed to get food from the altar. Jan 31, 2023 at 21:43

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First, this section of scripture first appeared nearly 2,000 years ago, and was written to Christians who were surrounded by pagans who had a practice of presenting (offering) meat to their idols before taking it to the market to be sold as food. Therefore, when you ask, "Should we eat food sacrificed to idols?" you have jumped nearly 2,000 years to this day and age, I presume. I take it that you are asking Christians in the Year of our Lord 2023 whether to eat food sacrificed to idols, or not.

Second, where I live, I have no awareness of any food being presented before idols prior to being made available to anyone to buy. If you know of such practices, it would be helpful to either state a case (as an example of the pertinence of this question today) or to give a list of modern-day countries where this happens.

Third, the simple answer to your question (irrespective of any time from the middle of the first century A.D. until today) is "No, Christians should not." The matter is known to God, even if no other human knows you have eaten food that had been offered before an idol. Once you know, you are culpable, and God knows. Christians are to do everything (including their eating and drinking) for the glory of God. But, as the passage shows, there's no need to first hold an inquisition about it, asking questions, ferreting out individuals who might be suspected of the pagan practice and checking if a particular piece of food had been handled by them.

That section of scripture, however, has more to say on the matter than just that bit about food presented before an idol. It speaks of not eating meat that has not first been bled. But you do not ask about that, so I will end my answer here.

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TL;DR: There is no reason we should care whether our food has been sacrificed to idols.

The underlying idea here is whether one is committing idolatry, which is the belief that anything, other than God or his agents, has any supernatural power or attribute.

Believing that a rabbit's foot provides good luck is a form of idolatry, but so is believing that food that has been sacrificed to an idol is somehow different from food that hasn't. Neither the rabbit's foot nor the food have any supernatural attributes.

To avoid something because it is reputed to have a non-existent attribute is equivalent to admitting that it does have that attribute.

For you, it shouldn't matter at all whether the food was sacrificed, any more than you should care what the phase of the Moon is today, or what constellation was in the sky at your birth.

But, if someone gives you something and explicitly or implicitly tells you it has supernatural attributes, then you should refuse it. Not because it makes any difference to you, but because it makes a difference to the other person. By taking it, you are implicitly endorsing and encouraging false beliefs, rather than providing the good example that every Christian should be.

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 — I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?

Here "conscience" means:

as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending the one, condemning the other

Rejecting the offered food shows the other person that you are condemning the act of sacrificing to idols.


Consider a non-religious analogy.

You are visiting Bavaria and when the waiter pours your coffee he proudly tells you that the pot he is holding was used by Hitler himself when he visited the inn in 1942.

What message does it send if you smile, say danke schön, and proceed to drink it?
What message does it send if you refuse the coffee?

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  • +1 What if you know that the food has been sacrificed to idols and no one else is around, is it okay for you to eat with no one watching?
    – user35953
    Jan 31, 2023 at 18:38
  • @TonyChan, If you are worried about whether it is okay, the answer is no, it's not okay, because you will be committing idolatry whether you eat it or not. Paul's point is that it shouldn't matter to you, so don't even think about it, just eat. If a black cat walks in front of you, it's as wrong to go out of your way to deliberately cross its path as it is to avoid its path; either way you are altering your behaviour because of a superstition. But, if someone with you blatantly avoids it, you should deliberately cross it to give a message to them. Jan 31, 2023 at 18:51
  • But Paul also makes the point that if it bothers your fellow Christian you should not do it. Jan 31, 2023 at 19:07
  • "To avoid something because it is reputed to have a non-existent attribute is equivalent to admitting that it does have that attribute." Excellent answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jan 31, 2023 at 19:59
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The rationale for Paul's advice comes from the principle in v21; "You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and [also] of the table of demons".

This follows on from vv 18-20. Israel were "partners in the altar" (v18, RSV) when they sacrificed, in that God and the worshippers both had their own shares in most of the sacrificed animals. Conversely, those who shared in the communal sacrificial meals of other gods were "partners with demons" (v20). It was necessary to choose. The same choice remains for Christians in that we now share in the "Lord's Supper", at the table over which the Lord presides. We must choose one or the other. The point is that we must avoid sharing in the worship of other gods, by participating in the their communal meals, and we must also avoid giving other people the impression that we are particpating indirectly.

If nobody else is involved, it seems to me that the deciding factor is what you yourself think you are doing if you get hold of meat which was previously "dedicated" to some other god. If you think you are participating in the original sacrificial meal, you are in the position of ch8 v7; "Some... eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled."

But if you are giving thanks to God for your food (ch10 v30) and are confident that its previous history doesn't affect its value in the sight of God, then you are in the position of "liberty" in ch8 v8; "Food will not commend us to God". The dictum of ch10 v25, "Eat whatever is sold", can still apply even if we have asked the question anyway. In other words, it makes no difference one way or the other, unless we think it makes a difference. See the principle that runs through Galatians; we are living in liberty, not under law.

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Underlying the OP question is an issue of reconciling the attitude of Acts (and Revelation) with that of Paul. Acts and Revelation forbid eating food offered to idols. For Paul, the pagan deities are not real, and their idols have no power. So he says:

As to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence and that there is no God but one... We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. (1 Cor. 8:4,7)

But Acts is quite clear that for Christians, abstaining from such for is a requirement:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. (Acts 15:28-29)

And the Book of Revelation condemns eating such foods in no uncertain terms:

You tolerate the woman Jez′ebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. (Rev. 2:20)

Paul's solution to the problem was although no food is forbidden, a person should also respect the sensitivities of believers who think the pagan deities have real power. So he says:

Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to 'eat food offered to idols?' And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall. (1 Cor. 8:9-13)

Photo of a Buddhist service with food on a table along with a statue of Buddha

In the first century, Christians had to decide whether to follow the letter of the rule given in Acts or to accept Paul's teaching that since idols have no power, we are free to eat foods offered to idols unless a fellow Christian's faith is threatened by such a thing. Today, the issue is generally moot. But when a fellow believer might be offended if I were to eat food offered to Krishna or Buddha, I need to decide whether it is a greater sin to turn down the food my host presents or to, in Paul's words, "tempt" fellow Christian to eat a supposedly forbidden food and thereby compromise his faith.

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  • +1 What if you know that it has been sacrificed to idols and no one else is around, is it okay to eat?
    – user35953
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:00
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    If you follow Paul's teaching, it is OK because the idol is just an inanimate object and the god it represents does not exist. If you follow Acts 15 you should refrain. If uncertain, consult your pastor and/or your conscience ;-) Feb 2, 2023 at 2:56
  • Great answer :)
    – user35953
    Feb 2, 2023 at 16:52

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