Did You Know?

Why does the Bible book of 1 Corinthians discuss meat that had been sacrificed to idols?

The apostle Paul wrote: “Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience.” (1 Corinthians 10:25) Where did such meat come from?

Animal sacrifice was the principal ceremony in Greek and Roman temples, but not all the meat from the sacrificial animals was eaten during the ceremony. Excess meat from pagan temples found its way into public meat markets. The book Idol Meat in Corinth states: “Cult officials . . . are called in other contexts cooks and/​or butchers. From their allotted portion for slaying the sacrificial animal, they sold meat in the market.”

Thus, not all the meat sold in the market was left over from religious ceremonies. Excavation in Pompeii’s meat market (Latin, macellum) revealed the presence of entire skeletons of sheep. This suggests, says scholar Henry J. Cadbury, that “the meat may have been sold on the hoof or slaughtered in the macellum as well as sold already butchered or sacrificed in a temple.”

Paul’s point was that, although Christians would not share in pagan worship, meat that had been sacrificed in a temple was not intrinsically contaminated.

Why did a breach exist between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day?

John 4:9 says that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” The roots of this separation seem to date back to when Jeroboam established idol worship in the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (1 Kings 12:26-30) Samaritans were from Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. When the ten tribes fell to the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E., the conquerors settled pagan foreigners in Samaria. Mixed marriages between these settlers and the local people evidently resulted in further corruption of the Samaritans’ worship.

Centuries later, the Samaritans opposed the efforts of Jewish returnees from the Babylonian exile to rebuild Jehovah’s temple and Jerusalem’s city walls. (Ezra 4:1-23; Nehemiah 4:1-8) Religious rivalry was heightened when the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim, likely in the fourth century B.C.E.

In Jesus’ day, the term “Samaritan” carried more of a religious than a geographic connotation and referred to an adherent of the sect that flourished in Samaria. The Samaritans still worshipped on Mount Gerizim, and the Jews had a scornful, disrespectful attitude toward them.​—John 4:20-22; 8:48.

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Ceramic platter depicting animal sacrifice, sixth century B.C.E.

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Musée du Louvre, Paris

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Jeroboam established idol worship