Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22


Summary of 1 Cor 10:14-22~After the long digression begun with chapter 9 regarding the necessity of self- denial and vigilance as indispensable to salvation, St. Paul now returns to the subject of not eating meats offered to idols, and gives some practical rules. First, he says, it is entirely wrong, as being indirect idolatry, for the faithful to take part in the public sacrificial banquets of the pagans. It must be plain to all that through the Eucharistic sacrifice the Christians are intimately united to Christ, just as the unfaithful Jews were united to their altars by their sacrifices. Wherefore, those who take part in pagan sacrifices are similarly joined to the demons to whom those banquets are offered. How perverse this is, to wish to be united at the same time to Christ and to the demons, everyone can see.

1 Cor 10:14. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, fly from the service of idols.

Returning now to the theme from which, by way of illustration, he had digressed in the beginning of chapter 9, the Apostle draws the practical conclusion that the service of idols must be shunned. Since the Israelites, in spite of the divine favors they enjoyed, were visited with terrible calamities on account of their sins, the Corinthians, while not losing confidence in God’s goodness and abiding help, must be on their guard against exposing their souls to deadly peril.

1 Cor 10:15. I speak as to wise men: judge ye yourselves what I say.

The Apostle submits the matter of abstaining from pagan sacrifices to the judgment of the Corinthians, whose intelligence will surely see the reasonableness of what he has said and is about to prove.

1 Cor 10:16. The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?

This verse shows that Christians are united to the body and blood of Christ by partaking of the consecrated species of bread and wine. They are consequently “debarred from communion with any beings alien to Him; a communion into which, by the analogy of all sacrificial rites, we enter with the beings to whom such sacrifices are offered” (Lias).

The chalice of benediction, etc., i.e., the Eucharistic chalice, which we bless, i.e., which we as priests consecrate. If “we” here includes the body of the faithful, the meaning is that they, by their presence and assent, made the consecration pronounced by the priest their own; their assent was expressed by the response Amen. St. Paul speaks of the consecration as a blessing, because it was preceded by blessing, just as at the Last Supper (Matt 26:26). He could not mean, by mentioning only blessing, that there was no consecration, since he is speaking of a real banquet and a real sacrifice, against which he sets the heathen’s sacrifice.

The communion, i.e., the sharing in common (κοινωνια = koinōnia) of the blood of Christ, by which we become intimately united to Christ. “The fact of this Eucharistic feeding upon Christ is adduced as the strongest reason why Christians cannot lawfully take part in idolatrous rites. The sense here is that Christ feeds His people with His flesh and blood, and that they participate in the same” (Lias).

And the bread, which we break, i.e., the bread which has been consecrated and made the body of Christ, is it not the partaking, etc., i.e., is it not a sharing in the body of the Lord?

And (Vulg., et) is not in the Greek here.

“The breaking of the bread,” or “of bread” became, in consequence of our Lord’s action at the Last Supper (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24), a characteristic phrase to signify the Eucharistic celebration (Acts 2:42, 46; Acts 20:7, Acts 20:11; Didache XIV. etc.). If the chalice is mentioned first it is because the pagan rites, with which the Apostle is comparing the Christian rite, began with a libation (MacR.).

Since, therefore, the drinking of this consecrated chalice and the eating of this consecrated bread mean a partaking of and a sharing in the blood and the body of Christ, it is evident that Christ is really and substantially present in the Eucharist. Moreover, as the Apostle is contrasting table with table, i.e., altar with altar, and sacrifice with sacrifice, it is clear that he regarded the Eucharistic celebration as a true sacrifice (cf. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXII, cap. 1).

Of the Lord (Vulg., Domini) should be “of Christ” (Christi), as in the Greek.

1 Cor 10:17. For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.

As a result of the union which the partaking of the body and blood of the Lord established between Christ and Christians, the latter are intimately united among themselves; though individually many, they are all one in Christ.

There are two renderings of this verse: (a) “We, being many, are one bread, one body, for we all partake of the one bread”; or, “because (there is) one bread, we, though many, are one body, for we all,” etc. The first translation is more in conformity with the context and is preferable.

All that partake, etc., i.e., all we who eat of the one Eucharistic bread are one mystical bread and one mystical body; in other words, since Christ is really present in this Eucharistic bread all we who eat of it are spiritually transformed in Christ, and are thus intimately united to Him and to one another. This could not be, if what we eat were ordinary bread; for in that case it would be converted into our individual substances, instead of we being converted into it. Hence St. Augustine said, personifying this Eucharistic bread: “Nor shalt thou change Me into Thee, as thou dost the food of thy flesh: but thou shalt be changed into Me.” The real body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the food and consolidation of His mystical body, the Church (Eph 1:23; 5:20; Col 2:19; 1 Cor 6:15) (Rickaby).

The Apostle wishes to show the Corinthians that as the faithful, by partaking of the table of the Lord, are incorporated in Christ and closely united among one another, so those who partake of the table of idols and assist at idolatrous banquets become, to a certain extent, united to the idols and to those who
adore them.

The unity with Christ’s body which St. Paul makes characteristic of all those who eat the Eucharistic bread is a clear proof, not only of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but it is also a refutation of both consubstantiation and impanation; otherwise how could Christians in Ephesus, Corinth and elsewhere be said to partake of one bread while they were so far apart?

To the inspired St. Paul and to the Christians alike the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and transubstantiation are clearly truths accepted without question. This verse, however, does not prove transubstantiation, at least directly (against MacR.).

1 Cor 10:18. Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?

An illustration of the unity between a sacrifice or banquet and those who partake of it is now drawn from the sacrifices of the Jews.

Israel according to the flesh, i.e., the unconverted Jews who have descended from Abraham according to the flesh, but not according to the spirit (Rom 4:11; Gal 6:14-16).

They, that eat of the sacrifices, etc. The reference is to the victims offered by the Jews in sacrifice, a portion of which was burnt on the altar, and the rest eaten by the offerers, or by the priests (1 Kings 2:13-16; Lev 7). Those who thus partook of a part of the victim sacrificed were considered to be closely united with the sacrifice and with the altar of sacrifice.

It is to be noted that the Apostle does not say that these Jews, by participating in their sacrifices and banquets, became united with God, as those who partake of the Eucharist are united to and become one with Christ (verses 16, 17). Could there be a clearer demonstration of the Apostle’s belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and of his consequent appreciation of the superiority of the Eucharistic sacrifice over the Jewish sacrifices?

1 Cor 10:19. What then? Do I say, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols, is anything; or, that the idol is anything?

St. Paul answers a possible difficulty. Some of his readers might think from what he has just been saying about the unity that is established between a sacrifice and those who partake of it, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols is in some way changed, so as to become harmful to those who eat it; or that the idol is a real being, having a real existence. This would go against what he has already said in 8:4. But, as was stated there, the truth is that idols, such as Zeus, Aphrodite and the rest, do not, and never did exist; they are nothing, and so cannot affect for better or for worse the meats or other things offered to them.

1 Cor 10:20. But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils.
1 Cor 10:21. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils.

If the idol was nothing, and if the thing offered to it was in nowise affected by the non-existing idol, where was the wrong in the heathens’ sacrifices? It was this, (a) that their religious rites became so degrading and sinful that the evil spirits (δαιμόνιον = daimonion) made use of them to corrupt and lead to moral ruin the benighted pagans who indulged in such false worship; (b) that oftentimes the evil spirits, by causing false signs and wonders, seem to have taken an actual personal part in those pagan rites; (c) that the supreme worship which is due to God alone was transferred to a creature.

Thus unconsciously perhaps, for the most part, the heathens were really serving the interests and wishes of the demons by their sacrifices; and those Christians who took part with them were trying to assist at the table of the Lord, i.e., at the Eucharistic sacrifice, and at the table of devils, the mortal enemies of the Lord.

The word table (τράπεζα = trapeza) is used in the Old Testament (Mal 1:7, Mal 1:12; Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 44:16) to signify the altar of the true God, and also the altar of idols (Isa 45:1). Now this contrast of the table of the Lord with the table of devils would mean nothing, as Le Camus observes (L’Oeuvre des Apot., tom. III. p. 122), if the Eucharist, besides being a Sacrament, were not also a true sacrifice. Wherefore the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII. cap. 1, De Sacrif. Missae) has said that in these words the Apostle has not obscurely indicated that the celebration of the Eucharist is a true sacrifice.

1 Cor 10:22. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.

Do we provoke, etc., i.e., do we wish to excite the jealousy of the Lord by taking part in pagan sacrificial banquets?

Are we stronger than he, so that we need not fear His wrath? From these two questions the Corinthians should learn what terrible chastisements await them, if they cease not to offend Christ by their traffic with His enemies.

This whole passage (verses 15-22a) affords the clearest proof that the Eucharist is a true sacrifice. First of all, it is compared with the real sacrifices of the Jews and of the heathens, and secondly the whole force of the Apostle’s reasoning requires that it be a real and true sacrifice. His argument is that as the Christian sacrificial banquet unites Christians with Christ, and as the Jewish banquets unite the Jews with their altar, so the heathen sacrifices unite their votaries with the demons. The argument would be meaningless, and would have been regarded as such by the Corinthians, unless it was generally understood by the Christians that they had a real sacrifice in connection with their “chalice” and “bread” (Cornely, MacR.).

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2 Responses to Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

  1. Pingback: Commentaries and Resources for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ | stjoeofoblog

  2. Pingback: Monday Feb. 5, 2018~Mass Readings and Commentaries | stjoeofoblog

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