Following on from the discussion of whether Paul includes Jesus in the divine identity in 1 Corinthians 8:6, let’s consider the claim that Paul identifies Jesus with YHWH when he says, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy (parazēloumen)? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Cor. 10:22).
Given the context, the first question looks like an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:21. The Lord saw his people make sacrifices “to demons and not to God, to gods they did not know,” therefore he was “jealous and was provoked” (ezēlōsen kai parōxynthē) and was made “jealous (parezēlōsan) with what is no god” (Deut. 32:17-21 LXX; cf. 1 Kgs. 14:22; Ps. 77:58).
Jesus is clearly kyrios in the preceding verse: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21; cf. 11:27). Bauckham argues, therefore, that “this must be one of those quite frequent occasions on which Paul interprets the kurios of an Old Testament YHWH text as Jesus.”1
1. In verse 26 Paul quotes Psalm 24:1: ‘For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”’ Paul has said that God is the one “from whom are all things”; Jesus is the one “through whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6). Capes argues, however:
Since Paul’s revised Shema extols Jesus the kyrios as an agent of creation and redemption, it is likely the same idea should be carried through to the kyrios of Ps. 24:1.2
But why emphasise Jesus as Lord, who is the agent of creation, rather than God as Lord, who is the source of creation? If the “all things” is a reference to creation (I’m not sure it is), then surely “the earth is the Lord’s” corresponds more closely to the “from whom” statement than the “through whom” statement. It is the source of creation who possesses the earth, not the instrument of creation.
The quotation is embedded in an argument about “conscience,” which evokes the idea of behaviour in the sight of God (cf. Acts 23:1; 24:16; Rom. 2:15; 13:5; 1 Cor. 8:7-8; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 5:11; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:3). Significantly, in 1 Corinthians 8:8 Paul says that food “will not commend us to God.”
The argument concludes with an exhortation to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31); Ps. 24 concludes with the affirmation, “The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” (Ps. 24:10). Therefore, Paul’s encouragement to eat from the fullness of the earth, which belongs to the Lord, for the sake of the glory of God parallels the thought of the psalm.
So we have, in the immediate vicinity, a reference to the “Lord” who is God in the context of an Old Testament quotation.
2. In verse 22 “cup of the Lord” (potērion kyriou) and “table of the Lord” (trapezēs kyriou) are indefinite expressions, whereas it is “the Lord” (ton kyrion) who is provoked to jealousy. It is always difficult to decide whether or in what way the presence or absence of the article is significant, but in this case it may be that it signals the change of reference. In 1 Corinthians 11:26-27, where there is no risk of ambiguity, we have a consistent use of the article: “the death of the Lord” (ton thanaton tou kyriou), “the cup of the Lord” (to potērion tou kyriou), “the body and blood of the Lord” (tou sōmatos kai tou haimatos tou kyriou).
3. Paul’s statement “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20) is also taken from the Old Testament passage: “They sacrificed to demons and not to God” (Deut. 32:17 LXX). Since here the Lord who is provoked to jealousy is the God to whom Israel should have made sacrifices, we have very strong grounds for thinking that Paul intended “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” to be understood in the same way. The “Lord” of verse 22 is the “God” of verse 20.
ISRAEL → PARTICIPATION IN THE ALTAR → GOD
PAGANS → IDOL OFFERINGS → DEMONS, NOT GOD
BELIEVERS → PARTICIPATION IN LORD’S TABLE → GOD
Sharing in the bread and cup is a participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), but it is not an offering to Christ. It constitutes a participation in Jesus’ sufferings, or in Jesus himself, offered to God, at least for the purposes of the analogy that Paul is developing here (cf. Rom. 12:1). Therefore, it is God who is provoked to jealousy if the integrity of the Lord’s meal is compromised.
4. In the similar argument food in Romans 14 it is God who welcomes both the weak and the strong (3), receives thanks (6), who judges (10-12), who accepts those who serve Christ (18), whose work is destroyed by their quarrelling (20), who assesses the conscientious actions of believers (22). Whatever they do is done in the Lord Jesus and in honour of the risen Lord Jesus (Rom. 14:6-9), who will one day rule over the nations in place of the old gods, but it is done for God.
The same “logic” holds in 1 Corinthians 10:14-33. By sharing in the bread and cup the Corinthians identify with the resurrected Jesus, who has been given all authority to judge and rule, and proclaim the significance of his death “until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). But they must do this in a way that does not provoke the Lord God to jealousy but rather brings glory to the one God in thoroughly polytheistic Corinth.