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4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

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4. Concerning, therefore, the eating of those things He now returns to the statement with which he had set out, and speaks more plainly in reference to the pretext made use of by the Corinthians. For as the whole of the evil took its rise from this root — that they were pleased with themselves, and despised others, he condemns, in general, that contemptuous knowledge which is not seasoned with love. Now, however, he explains particularly, what is the kind of knowledge on which they valued themselves — that an idol is an empty figment of the human brain, and must therefore be reckoned as nothing; and accordingly, that the consecration, that is gone through in name of the idol, is a foolish imagination, and of no importance, and that a Christian man, therefore, is not polluted, who, without reverence for the idol, eats of things offered to idols. This is the sum of the excuse, and it is not set aside by Paul as false, (for it contains excellent doctrine,) but because they abused it, in opposition to love

As to the words, Erasmus reads thus — “An idol has no existence.” I prefer the rendering of the old translation — An idol is nothing. For the argument is this — that an idol is nothing, inasmuch as there is but one God; for it follows admirably — “If there is no other God besides our God, then an idol is an empty dream, and mere vanity.” When he says — and there is none other God but one, I understand the conjunction and as meaning because. For the reason why an idol is nothing is, that it must be estimated according to the thing that it represents. Now it is appointed for the purpose of representing God: nay more, for the purpose of representing false gods, inasmuch as there is but one God, who is invisible and incomprehensible. The reason, too, must be carefully observed — An idol is nothing because there is no God but one; for he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by a visible sign, so as to be worshipped through means of it. Whether, therefore, idols are erected to represent the true God, or false gods, it is in all cases a perverse contrivance. Hence Habakkuk calls idols teachers of lies, (Habakkuk 2:18,) because they deal falsely in pretending to give a figure or image of God, and deceive men under a false title. Hence οὐδεν (nothing) refers not to essence, but to quality — for an idol is made of some substance — either silver, or wood, or stone; but as God does not choose to be represented in this way, it is vanity and nothing as to meaning and use.

5. For though there be that are called “They have,” says he, “the name, but the reality is wanting.” He uses the word called here, to mean — renowned in the estimation of men He has also made use of a general division, when he says in heaven or on earth The gods that are made mention of as being in heaven, are the heavenly hosts, as the Scripture terms the sun, moon, and the other stars. How very far they are, however, from being entitled to divine honors, Moses shows from this, that they were created for our use. The sun is our servant; the moon is our handmaid. How absurd, therefore, it is to render to them divine honors! By the gods that are on earth, are properly meant, in my opinion, men and women for whom religious worship has been appointed. 463463     “Ausquels on a attribue diuinite, et en leur honneur dresse quelque senrice diuin;” — “To whom they have ascribed divinity, and have appointed some divine service in honor of them.” For, as Pliny observes, those who had deserved well of mankind had their memory consecrated by religion, so as to be worshipped as deities — Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury, and Apollo, who were mortal men, but were, after death, exalted to the rank of deities; and, more recently, Hercules, Romulus, and at length the Caesars — as if it were in the power of mankind to make deities at their pleasure, while they cannot give to themselves either life or immortality. There are also other gods that are terrestrial, taken either from cattle or from brute creatures, as, for example, among the Egyptians, the ox, the serpent, the cat, the onion, the garlic; and, among the Romans, the boundary-stone, 464464     The allusion is to Terminus, the god of boundaries, of whom mention is made by Livy (1. 10, and 5. 54.) — Ed. and the stone Vesta. They are gods, then, only in name; but Paul says that he does not stop to notice deifications of this sort. 465465     “Telles consecrations faites a l’appetit des hommes;” — “Such consecrations made according to the humor of men.”

6. But to us there is but one God, the Father Though Paul says these things by anticipation, he repeats the excuse made by the Corinthians, in such a way as at the same time to convey instruction. For, from what is more especially peculiar to God, he proves that there is but one God: “Whatever has its origin from what is foreign to itself, is not eternal, and, consequently, is not God. All things have their origin from one Being: he alone, therefore, is God.” Again — “He is assuredly God who gives existence to all, and from whom all things flow, as from the supreme source; but there is only One, from whom all things flow, and hence there is but one God.” When he adds — and we in him, (εἰς αὐτόν,) he means, that we subsist in God, as it was by him that we were once created. For this clause might, indeed, seem to have another signification — that as we have our beginning from him, so we ought to devote our life to him as its end; and it is used in this sense in Romans 11:39. Here, however, it is taken for ἐν αὐτῷ, which is commonly made use of by the Apostles. His meaning, therefore, is, that as we were once created by God, so it is by his power that we are preserved in our present condition. That this is its meaning, is evident from what he affirms respecting Christ immediately afterwards — that we are by him For he designed to ascribe the same operation to the Father and to the Son, adding, however, the distinction which was suitable to the Persons. He says, then, that we subsist in the Father, and that it is by the Son, because the Father is indeed the foundation of all existence; but, as it is by the Son that we are united to him, so he communicates to us through him the reality of existence.

One Lord These things are affirmed respecting Christ relatively, that is, in relationship to the Father. For all things that are God’s are assuredly applicable to Christ, when no mention is made of persons; but as the person of the Father is here brought into comparison with the person of the Son, it is with good reason that the Apostle distinguishes what is peculiar to them.

Now the Son of God, after having been manifested in the flesh, received from the Father dominion and power over all things, that he might reign alone in heaven and on earth, and that the Father might exercise his authority through his hands. For this reason our Lord is spoken of as one. 466466     “Pour ceste raison quand il est parle de nostre Seigneur, il est dit que nous n’en auons qu’vn, assauoir Christ;” — “For this reason, when mention is made of our Lord, it is declared that we have only one, namely, Christ.” But in respect of dominion being ascribed to him alone, this is not to be taken as meaning that worldly distinctions 467467     “Les degrez, estats, et gouuernemens du monde;” — “Ranks, conditions, and governments of the world.” are abolished. For Paul speaks here of spiritual dominion, while the governments of the world are political; as when he said a little before — there are many that are called lords — (1 Corinthians 8:5) — he meant that, not of kings, or of others who excel in rank and dignity, but of idols or demons, to whom foolish men ascribe superiority and rule. While, therefore, our religion acknowledges but one Lord, this is no hindrance in the way of civil governments having many lords, to whom honor and respect are due in that one Lord