1 Corinthians 8:4—If idols are nothing, why does God condemn idolatry?

Problem: Paul affirms here that “an idol is nothing in the world.” Yet the Bible repeatedly condemns idolatry (cf. Ex. 20:4), and even Paul said there are demons behind idols (1 Cor. 10:19). Is he then claiming that demons are nothing?

Solution: Paul does not deny the existence of idols, but simply their ability to affect mature believers who eat meat that has been offered to them (cf. 8:1). It is not the reality of idols, but their divinity which Paul denies. The devil does deceive idolaters (1 Cor. 10:19), but he cannot destroy the meat which God has created and pronounced good (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:4), even if someone else has offered it to an idol.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.