1 Corinthians 8:4

1 Corinthians 8:4  Stephanus Textus Receptus 1550

Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς ἕτερος εἰ μὴ εἷς

"... because there is no other god except a unity of some Gods."

Question of our interest:

Does this text mean that in the set of God there is only one element?

Observations and interpretations:

Context – It is about idols, gods, and lords triggered about the concern if it is appropriate for Christian to eat food that have been offered as sacrifices to idols.  Paul was saying that it was fine if in the conscience of the consumer was the knowledge that idols are not elements of the set of God.  They were idols representing only so called gods and lords only – they were not truly Gods and Lords only.

Words of interest to our question in 8:4 and its immediate context:

1. 1 Corinthians 7:40 pneuma theou, literally means “spirit of a god”, could be treated as a complex proper double noun phrase and translated as “Pneuma Theos”.

2. Verse 3 tov theon, literally means “the god”, could be translated as “Theos”, a proper name of a true God.

3. Verse 4 odeis theos, literally means “no god”, could be translated as “no god” where the word for god is a common noun.

4. Verse 4 ei me heis, literally means “if not one”, could be translated as “except one”.  Here this normative adjective heis could be one as a counting number one or could mean some according to KJV Lexicon:

       or unity according to NAS Exhaustive Concordance :

5. Verse 5 legomenoi theoi, literally means “called gods” where the word for gods is a common noun.

6. Verse 5 theoi polloi kai kyrioi polloi, literally means “many gods and many lords” where the words for gods and lords are common nouns.  Here gods and lords were treated as synonymes.

7. Verse 6 heis theos ho pater … kai heis kyrios yesous Christos, literally means “one god the Father … and one lord Jesus Christ” where the word for god and the word for lord are common nouns.   Here heis is a counting number.  It could be translated as one as in one entity.

8. Verse 8 to theo, literally means “to the god”, where the word for god could be a common noun then it refers to the Father of verse 6, or could be a proper noun then it refers to Theos who is the Father.  So either way it is referring to a god.

Conclusion and Application:

In the immediate context, we have observed that the proper names of three elements of the set of God were mentioned, namely Pnuema Theos, Theos or Pater, and Jesus Christ.  Therefore the word “eis” should be translated as “some” or “a unity”.  So the translation dictated by the context, the translation of the last part of 1 Corinthians 8:4 is “… because there is no other god except a unity of some Gods.”  I have to conclude that this verse does not mean that there is only one element in the set of God, but three.

1st version on October 31, 2017