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Society of Christian Ethics

Accommodating the Other's Conscience: Saint Paul's Approach to Religious Tolerance

Author(s): Joyce S. Shin
Source: Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring / Summer 2008),
pp. 3-23
Published by: Society of Christian Ethics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23562833
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Accommodating the Other's Conscience:
Saint Paul's Approach to Religious Tolerance

Joyce S. Shin

Religious tolerance is a sociopolitical necessity. Social and political pressures

alone cannot be expected to nurture a genuine attitude of religious tolerance;
in the West, secular and religious documents rely on the concept of conscience
for this nurture. In this essay I ask what claims people make on each other as
they attempt to live in accordance with what they believe to be true and good.
To answer this question, I examine the Pauline concept of conscience and ar
gue that Paul interpreted conscience through an ethic and theology of accom

to be true, especially at the point of her ultimate concern? This is the

How canbasica person tolerate
question of religious tolerance.the failurewhatofclaimsothers
Put differently, do to accept what she holds
people make on each other as they attempt to live in accordance with what they
believe to be true and good?
Today in many parts of the world people from different cultures and reli
gious traditions are increasingly interacting with one another. The rise of a
global information technology, a world economy, and a shared ecosystem re
quire interactions among persons whose traditional views and values may be
incompatible. Furthermore, the need to respond to global challenges mounts
pressure on persons of all religious and cultural traditions to be able to work
together in solving problems and in ensuring a good future. Addressing this
situation, the member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific,
and Cultural Organization met in Paris at the twenty-eighth session of the Gen
eral Conference in the autumn of 1995. There, they drew up the Declaration
of Principles on Tolerance. Article 3 describes the "social dimensions" of the
current situation: "In the modern world, tolerance is more essential than ever
before. It is an age marked by the globalization of the economy and by rapidly
increasing mobility, communication, integration and interdependence, large
scale migrations and displacement of populations, urbanization and changing
social patterns. Since every part of the world is characterized by diversity,

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, 28,1 (2008): 1-23

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4 • Joyce S. Shin

escalating intolerance and strife potentially menaces every region. It is not

confined to any country, but is a global threat."1 On so many fronts, it is im
possible to ignore the importance of tolerance. Tolerance has become a sociopo
litical necessity.
Social and political pressures alone, however, cannot be expected to nurture
a genuine attitude of religious tolerance. Kaisa Puhakka has argued that reli
gious tolerance, taken as a social necessity alone, would threaten to impoverish
and dissolve the very religious traditions in accordance with which people are
trying to live: "As long as the call for tolerance of alien beliefs remains a mere
moral exhortation or is simply forced upon people by socio-political circum
stances, it is less likely to enlighten individuals and enrich their traditions than
produce confusion, fragmentation, and even dissolution of these traditions."2
If religious tolerance is to be a genuine subjective attitude, it must arise out of
one's most profound beliefs, including religious ones. Recognizing this attitude,
public officials and religious representatives have begun to turn to religious tra
ditions as resources for religious tolerance. They hope that a genuine attitude of
tolerance toward others, arising out of persons' most profound religious beliefs,
will inform national foreign policies and domestic constitutional laws.
In the West discourse on religious tolerance has found a resource for reli
gious tolerance in the concept of conscience. Both secular and religious docu
ments uphold the inviolable right to an autonomous conscience. Article 18 of
the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intoler
ance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief states: "Everyone has the
right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include
freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom,
either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to
manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.
No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of
persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief."3
The language of this secular document resembles that of the Declaration
on Religious Freedom promulgated by the Second Vatican Council: "This Vat
ican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.
This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part
of individuals, of social groups or of any human power, in such wise that in re
ligious matters no one should be forced to act against his conscience or re
strained from acting according to this conscience."4
Attempts to ground religious tolerance on the autonomy of conscience as
sumes one, and sometimes both, of the following notions: the notion that each
person possesses knowledge of his or her duty to divine and/or moral law and
that it is this inherent sense of duty that gives his or her beliefs about the di
vine, truth, or the good binding force, and/or the belief that every conscience is
fallible, including one's own, and that therefore persons ought to be tolerant.

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 5

Arguments in favor of religious tolerance that are based on the autonomy

of conscience, however, can be problematic in that they can be used to con
done attitudes of social indifference. Neither of the two assumptions about the
conscience protect against social indifference. In Tolerance between Intolerance
and the Intolerable, Paul Ricoeur raised these questions: "And if liberty implies
a right to error, how avoid pouring intolerance into indifference, and how pre
vent indifference from transforming itself into a tolerance towards the wrong
done to others, in particular to the most fragile."5 What is lacking is a serious
consideration of the question raised at the outset of this essay: WTiat claims do
people make on each other as they attempt to live in accordance with what they
believe to be true and good? Taking this question seriously requires a formu
lation of how the conscience functions socially.
In this essay I examine Paul's understanding of conscience as reflected in his
letters. Given that Paul was the first to establish the concept of conscience in
Christianity, an account of how conscience functioned in his thought can en
rich Christian perspectives on the relationship between conscience and religious
tolerance.6 In particular, Paul's distinctively social usage of conscience offers an
approach to religious tolerance unlike those modern approaches grounded in
the autonomy of conscience.
New Testament scholars have extensively studied the ancient concept of
conscience. In the first section of this essay, I provide a brief overview of the
meaning of conscience as it evolved in the ancient world and as Paul received
it. I then summarize a wide spectrum of theories concerning Paul's contribu
tion to the concept of conscience. For the most part, I conclude, New Testa
ment scholars investigating Paul's concept of conscience have emphasized the
autonomy of conscience in their interpretations. In the second section of this
essay, I examine Paul's usage of conscience in social situations. Interpreted
within a context of social relationships, a new understanding of conscience
emerges that challenges earlier emphases on the autonomy of conscience in
Paul's thought. I suggest an interpretation of conscience informed by the con
cern of one person for the well-being of another. In my analysis, this concern
takes the particular form of an ethic of accommodation. In the third section,
I focus on accommodation as a model or pattern for social relationships in the
Hellenistic world. At the end of the third section and into the fourth section,
I interpret Paul's understanding of conscience within the context of his the
ology, in particular his eschatology and soteriology. Within Paul's eschatol
ogy, conscience lacked salvific power. Challenging those who sought salvation
through knowledge, Paul preached that God accommodated Godself to hu
man capacity through the event of Jesus Christ for the sake of humanity's
salvation. I argue that Paul's moral exhortation to accommodate the other
person's conscience arose out of Paul's most profound beliefs about God's sal
vation of humanity.

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6 • Joyce S. Shin

The Concept of Conscience

The Greek term for conscience issyneidesis. Paul used this term in Romans 2:15,
9:1, and 13:5; in 1 Corinthians 8:7, 8:12,10:25, and 10:27-29; and in 2 Corinthi
ans 1:12, 4:2, and 5:11. In none of these occurrences did Paul offer a defini
tion. Attempting to specify the meaning of conscience in Paul's letters, New
Testament scholars have turned to Jewish, Greek, and Hellenistic texts as pos
sible sources for Paul's thinking. They have looked for traces of Judaism, Pla
tonism, Stoicism, Hellenistic Judaism, and popular Greek philosophy in Paul's
usage of "conscience."
There is no word for conscience in Hebrew. C. Maurer offered the follow
ing explanation for the absence of this term: "It is an astonishing fact that the
OT [Old Testament] did not develop any word for conscience. This is con
nected with its specific anthropology. Man is basically governed by his relation
to the God of revelation, Yahweh. ... If it is asked where this knowledge of
self comes from, the reply is to be sought, not in a reference to man, but in a
reference to the God who speaks and who reveals Himself in His Word. . . .
In the OT the reflection of the I about itself is thus obedient listening to
Although there is no Hebrew word for conscience, there is a notion expres
sive of, and perhaps related to, the concept of conscience. Expressing an idea
similar to syneidesis is the Hebrew word for heart, Z~[ (lev). In his book An
thropologie des Alten Testaments, Hans Walter Wolff suggests the same: "Da im
Herzen die Kriterien der Plane und des Handelns zu bedenken sind, kommt
es dazu, dass leb die Bedeutung 'Gewissen' annimmt."8
The term syneidesis originated in the ancient Greek world. Derived from the
reflexive verb synoida emauto ("I am aware"), which appeared as early as the sev
enth century BCE, syneidesis began to appear occasionally from the fifth to the
third centuries BCE.9 It was not until near the beginning of the Christian era
that the term appeared more prominently.10 Originally the term meant aware
ness, or consciousness, and it applied without distinction to both moral and
nonmoral issues.11 Only later did a specifically moral connotation emerge,
though never becoming the sole meaning of the term. In the Hellenistic pe
riod, the ethical connotation became associated with developing notions of
personal responsibility, self-determination, and the acceptance of individual
By the time Paul was writing, it seems that conscience had already become
a popular notion in the Greco-Roman world. This conclusion is supported by
studies of non-Pauline Hellenistic texts in which syneidesis appears.13 Given
that the term appears in these texts without technical definition or analysis, it
can be assumed that Hellenistic writers, such as Philo, Josephus, and Stoic au
thors, were drawing upon a term in common parlance.14 That Paul neither de

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 7

fined nor explained the term supports the conclusion that he was appropriat
ing a ready-made notion of conscience from his Hellenistic environment.15 It
is not surprising, then, that his rhetoric made reference to what was probably
a contemporary idiom in the Corinthian community when he exhorted the
Corinthians to act, in this case to abstain from eating meats, dia ten syneidesin
("for the sake of conscience").
Just what the popular Hellenistic concept of conscience was is difficult to
determine. Part of the difficulty is due to the fact that different writers appro
priated the notion of conscience into their distinctive religious and/or philo
sophical frameworks, thereby developing the meaning of conscience along sig
nificantly different trajectories. For example, within a religious framework of
God's uprightness in relation to human sin, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher
Philo drew out a moral and legalistic notion of conscience.16 He depicted the
nature of conscience with metaphors of the court of law.17 The conscience
played roles involved in the whole legal process: that of judge,18 witness,19 ac
cuser,20 and punisher. Distinctive to Philo's usage of conscience was its frequent
association with the term elenchos, meaning "conviction."21
The attempt to define the popular notion of conscience is complicated even
further by the fact that, as we find in Paul's writings and other Hellenistic lit
erature, the meaning of the term "conscience" depended on varying contexts.
In some cases, conscience was associated with past deeds. The following is a
Pythagorean formula used commonly during the Hellenistic period as a daily
exercise of self-examination: "Thou shalt not take sleep to thy gentle eyes un
til thou hast considered each of the day's acts: Where did I fall? What was a
right act? What was left undone? Begin with the first, go through them, and
finally when thou hast done wrong rebuke thyself and when thou hast done
good rejoice."22 As this passage attests, conscience dealt with both bad and good
past actions.
In other contexts, it seems that the conscience guided future action. Epicu
rus, Cicero, and Seneca spoke of the good conscience as directing a person to
ward happiness in life. For Philo, too, the conscience not only convicted and
judged past actions but also functioned as a guide for future actions. Similarly,
late Stoics, such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, spoke of the guardian dae
mon that closely resembled the idea of a guiding conscience.23
In a study of the koine usage of conscience, C. A. Pierce concluded that in
moral contexts conscience was "the pain felt when man oversteps the moral
standard which he himself accepts."24 He argued that in such contexts this pain
was thought to be sufficient punishment for a past action. According to Pierce,
conscience functioned as an inner counterpart for the principle of retribution
inherent in a moral universe.
It is likely that Paul absorbed the various definitions of conscience current
in the Hellenistic world. The occurrences of the word "conscience" in his

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8 • Joyce S. Shin

letters reflect the forensic role of conscience as witness (Rom. 2:15, 9:1; 2 Cor.
1:12), the notion of a painful awareness of transgression (1 Cor. 10:25, 27, 28;
Rom. 13:5), as well as a gnostic definition of conscience as the agent of knowl
edge (1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12)."
This is not to say, however, that Paul did not contribute to the evolving
meaning of conscience. New Testament scholars have offered various propos
als about what his contributions were.26 At the end of the nineteenth century
Martin Kahler provided an analysis asserting that Paul was the first to attribute
autonomy to the individual's conscience. He wrote: "Die Erôterung des engen
Gewissens fiihrt den Apostel aber ferner zu der wichtigen und durchaus neuen
ausdriicklichen Anerkennung der Individualitât des Gewissens, in welcher mit
dem Rechte auf Eigenart und Selbststàndigkeit seines Urteiles auch die Pflicht
zu deren Behauptung gegeben ist."27 Kahler's conclusion has continued to res
onate in later scholarship on Paul's understanding of conscience.
Scholars have offered, however, different explanations regarding how Paul
grounded the autonomy of conscience. For W. Gutbrod and J. Stelzenberger,
Paul's main contribution to the popular Hellenistic usage of conscience was his
theological grounding of the autonomy of conscience.28 Understood within a
theological framework, conscience was knowledge of one's conduct with respect
to the transcendent demands of God. Perhaps Rudolf Bultmann best repre
sented this view. Bultmann defined Pauline conscience as "a man's knowledge
('consciousness') of his conduct as his own" "in respect to a requirement which
exists in relation to that conduct."29 According to this view, the individual took
responsibility for his or her own conduct subject to the demands of God.30 That
the demand originated in the divine will obligated the individual to obey his or
her conscience; its divine origin rendered the individual's conscience inviolable.
Against this view stood the views of Kahler in the nineteenth century and
Spicq, Bornkamm, Maurer, and Jewett more recently.31 They argued that for
Paul conscience was a thoroughly human concept. Robert Jewett wrote: "But
it is one of the most striking facts about Paul's use of syneidesis that he never
refers to it as God's voice or as having been instilled by God.... Thus the fact
that Paul considers the conscience of the individual to be inviolable will have
to be explained in another way."32
Paul, according to Jewett, rejected the belief that conscience was identical
with the pneumatic self and therefore had salvific significance. Rather, the au
tonomy of the individual's conscience was derived from Paul's eschatological
perspective, according to which God alone judged and elected those with weak
consciences. From this perspective, the conscience was subject to neither ed
ucation nor judicial review, including self-examination. Jewett wrote: "Sub
jecting persons to cross-examination with the intent of judging them is acting
pro kairou (1 Cor. 4:5); it is a usurpation of the coming last judgment when the
Lord alone will reward each according to his deeds."33 Other than its eschato

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 9

logical grounding, Paul provided another reason for the autonomy of the in
dividual conscience, according to Jewett. For Paul, the conscience guaranteed
the integrity of the individual. Forcing enlightenment upon another whose
conscience was weak would risk disrupting this integrity. For the sake of pro
tecting the inner unity of the person, Paul held the autonomous conscience to
be inviolable.34
Despite the differences among their theories, Pauline scholars have come
to a general consensus: Paul's primary contribution to the popular Flellenistic
concept of conscience was the autonomy of conscience. In the rest of this es
say I reexamine this conclusion. Without denying that Paul desired the con
science of each person to be respected or that he was concerned about the in
tegrity of the individual person, as Jewett argued, I argue that the emphasis on
the autonomy of conscience has resulted in a false portrayal of Paul's ethic as
an individualistic ethic, an ethic concerned solely with the individual's right to
act according to what he or she knows to be true and good.

Conscience in the Light of Accommodation

As a missionary Paul encountered a great diversity of beliefs. Jewish and Gen

tile Christians lived among Jews and pagans. Paul recognized that conflicts could
arise when persons whose consciences told them different things interacted. Of
central importance to his work was the cultivation of social relationships among
persons whose beliefs and knowledge differed. Paul had to take seriously the
question of religious tolerance: What claims do people make on each other as
they attempt to live in accordance with what they know to be true and good?
The issue of religious tolerance is nowhere more clearly presented in the
New Testament than in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, specifically 1
Corinthians 8:7-13 and 10:27-29. It is not surprising that in an urban environ
ment, such as Corinth, people who held different religious beliefs about what
was true and right would interact with one another, or even share meals to
gether. It is clear from Paul's letter that the issue of food had caused conflicts
among the Corinthians. From the Corinthians' perspective, the issue was
whether or not it was proper for a Christian to eat food that had been offered
sacrificially to a pagan idol. The Corinthian church consisted of former Jews
and former pagans, whose religious practices concerning food opposed one an
other.35 Jewish Christians had been taught in accordance with Jewish food laws
to abstain from food that had been either improperly slaughtered or offered as
a sacrifice in the worship of idols. Gentile Christians were used to participat
ing in pagan rituals involving the sacrifice of foods to idols.
Written sources provide evidence that food regulations for the early church
were strict. The Apostolic Decree, recorded in Acts 15:29, stated: "that you

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10 • Joyce S. Shin

abstain from what have been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what
have been strangled and from fornication." Food regulations appearing in the
Didache (6:3) also prohibited the eating of foods sacrificed to idols: "And con
cerning food, endure what you can, but keep strictly away from the food sac
rificed to an idol, for it is worship of dead gods." Though the author of the Di
dache seems to have acknowledged the difficulty in abiding by all the food
regulations, he nevertheless stated clearly that no exceptions were to be made
when it came to abstaining from foods sacrificed to idols.
Paul himself wrote: "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). This verse expresses his vigilant opposition to idolatry, which
he stated more clearly in 1 Corinthians 8:4: "We know that an idol has no real
existence," and that "there is no God but one."
Compared with his concrete exhortations concerning eating meats sacrificed
to idols, a contradiction in Paul's thought becomes apparent. In 1 Corinthians
10:25 he advised Jewish Christians, who had been taught to inquire carefully
into the religious history and preparation of meats, "Eat whatever is sold in the
meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience." In 1
Corinthians 10:27 he wrote, "If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are
disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on
the ground of conscience." Pauline scholars have tried in various ways to ex
plain the apparent contradiction between his opposition to idolatry and his con
doning the eating of meats sacrificed to idols. C. K. Barrett argued that Paul
never required abstinence from eating foods sacrificed to idols: "At no point in
1 Cor. viii, ix, x does he admit the view that a Christian must never eat what
has been sacrificed to an idol, still less that he must never eat meat that has not
been slaughtered in conformity with the Jewish regulations. On the contrary,
he specifically states that sacrificial food may be eaten."36
Interpreting 1 Corinthians 10:21 as referring to actual participation in the
worship of idols, Barrett concluded that Paul distinguished the eating of sac
rificial food, which he permitted, from direct participation in the worship of
idols, which he did not permit.37 As Barrett convincingly argued, Paul con
cerned himself with preventing Christians from isolating themselves from so
ciety at large. "The question of the place of the Christian in ordinary life was
raised, and Paul decisively took the view that the Christian (though his rela
tion to the world is governed by the coç fir/ of 1 Cor. vii. 29 ff.) must not sep
arate himself from it. There is to be no Christian ghetto."38 Whether buying
meats sold in the market or being a guest at a non-Christian's home, the Chris
tian could eat foods sacrificed to idols because there was no such thing as an

To be sure, Paul's approach to social boundaries and mealtime fellowship be

tween Christians and non-Christians was controversial. As Barrett pointed out,

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 11

Paul's advice was "nowhere more un-Jewish."39 Yet it would be a mistake to see
Paul's response as having been motivated by dogma alone. From his perspec
tive, the conflict over food was not a dogmatic issue of whether or not it was
proper for a Christian to eat sacrificial food. On the contrary, his concern was
pastoral, taking into consideration the appropriateness of his teaching for mem
bers whose ideas about what was true, false, right, and wrong differed. He re
ferred rhetorically to those who thought they had the proper knowledge as the
"strong" and to those who were insecure in their knowledge as the "weak."
There is no doubt that he agreed with and affirmed the doctrine known by the
strong, that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no God but
one" (1 Cor. 8:4). These were the well-known teachings of Christianity that he
quoted to the Corinthians. These were the teachings that permitted the knowl
edgeable, "strong," Christian to share meals with non-Christians and to eat
meats sacrificed to idols without defiling his or her conscience. Nevertheless,
Paul concerned himself more with those whose knowledge was less secure than
with protecting the liberty of persons to act according to what they knew to be
true or right. If it simply had been the case that everyone was acting according
to his or her conscience, eating or abstaining from sacrificial foods accordingly,
there would have been no problem. After all, Paul considered what one ate a
matter of indifference. The problem was not that the weak thought it necessary
to abstain from eating meats sacrificed to idols, while the strong knew that, be
cause idols were nothing, what they ate would make no difference. Rather, the
problem arose when the weak, observing the strong eating meats either in the
temple of an idol (in which case the meat had been sacrificed to idols)40 or in
the home of a pagan host (in which case the nature of the meat was unknown)41
and influenced by their example, would also eat sacrificial meats against what
they themselves knew to be right, thereby defiling their consciences.
Whereas the Corinthians perceived the conflict to be between having and
not having proper knowledge,42 Paul understood the conflict to be between two
different ethics: a gnostic ethic, by which individuals are primarily concerned
with acting according to what they know to be true and right, and a social ethic,
by which people acknowledge the claims that others make on them as they try
to live according to what they know to be true and right. The latter, I suggest,
is an ethic of accommodation.
Paul's rhetorical usage of the concept of conscience testifies to his concern.
We can assume from his rhetoric in 1 Corinthians 10:28-29a that the common
saying of his day was something like, "Act for the sake of conscience" (dia ten
syneidesin). Paul, however, writes: "But if someone says to you, 'This has been
offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who
informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I mean the other's conscience, not your
own." Rhetorically turning the ordinary Hellenistic notion of conscience on its
head, Paul challenged the gnostic tendency of some who thought that their only

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12 • Joyce S. Shin

and most important duty was to behave according to what they knew to be true.
In cases when he and others disagreed with the content of the standard by which
someone else's conscience judges and guides, he exhorted the Corinthians not
merely to respect the other person's conscience but more radically to act for
the sake of the other person's conscience, to not scandalize the weak. For Paul,
the role of conscience cannot be understood independendy from a social ethic
of accommodation. Accommodating the other person's conscience, rather than
stressing the autonomy of conscience, was Paul's significant contribution to the
role of conscience in ethical reflection.

An Ethic of Accommodation

Accommodation is a motif that runs throughout much of Paul's thought. It un

derlies Paul's missionary strategy. It is at work when Paul establishes or defends
his authority as an apostle. It is the fundamental pattern shaping Paul's ethics.
According to Troels Engberg-Pedersen, the motif of accommodation is the key
to bringing coherence to Paul's ideas.43
What is accommodation? Perhaps Paul's clearest expression of accommo
dation appears in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Defending his missionary strategy,
Paul wrote: "For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a
slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became a Jew, in
order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the
law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not
free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those out
side the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have
become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all
for the sake of the Gospel, so that I may share in its blessing" (New Revised
Standard Version).
Facing the specific problem of factionalism in the Corinthian church, Paul
tried to adapt himself to all persons. Certainly, this must have been an ex
tremely helpful strategy for bringing persons of different religious backgrounds
into the church. Paul justified his strategy by arguing that he did it for the sake
of saving as many as he could.
Paul was not unique in his attempts to "become all things to all people."
Adaptability was highly regarded in Hellenistic society. In a work titled Paul
and Philodemus: Adaptability in Epicurean and Early Christian Psychagogy, Clarence
E. Glad wrote: "The need to adapt to different audiences, segments of audi
ences, times and locations was a commonly valued principle among philoso
phers, moralists, and orators, as well as some of Paul's Jewish contemporaries
and predecessors."44

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 13

Locating Paul in the "complex admixtures of Hellenism and Judaism," Mar

garet Mitchell showed the prevalence of this motif in Paul's day by examining
the commentaries on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 by Origen, Clement, and John
Chrysostom.45 "Although the patristic interpreters do not necessarily preserve
Paul's own intention, because they are closer to his cultural milieu than we are,
their readings are significant, and propose a promising hypothesis which de
serves to be tested for Paul."46 Noteworthy is the prevalence of the language
of accommodation (.sumperiphora/sumperipherein) and condescension (sunkata
basis) in these commentaries. By examining the use of accommodation in the
patristic commentaries on Paul's letters, we can gain insight into the notion of
accommodation that he may have employed in his letters.
Clement described Paul's missionary strategy, writing: "'[Paul], accommodat
ing himself to Jews, became a Jew that he might gain all.' He then, condescend
ing to the point of accommodation for the sake of the salvation of his neighbors
(that is, only for the sake of the salvation of those on account of whom he ac
commodates himself), not partaking in any hypocrisy because of the danger
hanging over the just from those who are jealous, was in no way being forced to
do this. But he will do certain things for the sole benefit of his neighbors which
would not have been done by him at first, if he didn't do them for their sake."47
Clement highlighted the meaning of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 9:22,
"I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some."
Properly understood, accommodation was not merely an act of descent or
adaptation to one's audience; rather, accommodation was the act of condescen
sion for the sake of the salvation of others.
In the light of this criterion, not all apparently tolerant actions were con
sidered morally acceptable. Genuine accommodation excluded flattery, self
serving opportunism, and actions springing from a lack of resolve—all of which
were some form of hypocrisy. Defending Paul from accusations of hypocrisy
and weakness, John Chrysostom differentiated accommodation from falling
down: "For this is not to fall down but to descend. For the one who fell down
lies there hardly rising back up. But the one who descended will also rise up,
with great gain, just as also Paul descended alone, but rose up with the world,
not just play acting. For he would not have sought the gain of those who were
being saved if he were just playing a role. For the hypocrite seeks destruction,
and he plays a role in order to take, not give. But Paul was not like this. But
just like a doctor, like a teacher, like a father, the one to a sick patient, the other
to a student and the latter to a child, he condescends for correction, not for
harm. In just such a way did Paul act, also."48
A hypocrite, lacking resolve and pretending, would fall down for the sake
of gaining something for himself or herself. In contrast, Paul condescended for
the sake of benefiting others. Chrysostom compared Paul to a doctor, teacher,
and parent. In the same way that it would make no sense for a doctor to treat

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14 • Joyce S. Shin

all patients alike, regardless of their individual sicknesses, it would make no

sense for Paul to interact with all persons in the same way, regardless of their
religious or cultural backgrounds. The variability required in practicing med
icine, teaching, and parenting was analogous to the variability in Paul's attitudes
toward different persons.
In addition to the doctor-patient, teacher-student, and parent-child
metaphors of accommodation, the friend-friend relationship expressed similar
relational values. Differentiated from a flatterer, who was willing to tolerate any
thing, a true friend was candid even about the faults of the other person for the
sake of the other person's edification. Friendship required both censure and
praise, and a good friend considered the situation and disposition of the other
person before determining the appropriate action to take. Remarkably less hi
erarchical than the other relational metaphors, the image of friendship never
theless showed that even in a relationship of equal regard, there could be mo
ments of asymmetry. Clarence Glad described the rotational character of these
asymmetrical moments in a friendship: Though on some occasions one person
was in the position to admonish his or her friend, on other occasions the lat
ter was in the position to admonish the former. In light of Glad's description,
friendship, I suggest, had the character of mutual accommodation.
Thinking of accommodation in terms of asymmetrical moments rather than
asymmetrical relationships helps to ease the tension between the hierarchical
language Paul used when he spoke of the "strong" and the "weak" and the egal
itarian brotherly love that he held up as a communal ideal. Addressing this ten
sion in Paul's writings, Glad wrote: "Which relationship is accentuated depends
on the use of authority; when the slumbering authority is activated, particu
larly in corrective psychogogy, a symmetrical relationship becomes asymmet
rical. ... Thus when a 'brother' corrects and admonishes another 'brother,' the
egalitarian relationship recedes into the background and a hierarchical relation
ship comes into the foreground. This is true even in the case when equals crit
icize and correct each other as equals, knowing their positions can always be

Glad understood genuine social accommodation as an asymmetrical moment

in the service of a relationship of equal regard. Given the fact that Paul typi
cally addressed the Corinthian Christians as "brothers and sisters," it makes
sense to interpret his use of the asymmetrical metaphor of "strong and weak"
as a temporary moment in the service of brotherly and sisterly fellowship. He
highlighted the asymmetry between the strong and the weak to exhort the
strong to accommodate the weak. By humbling themselves for the sake of el
evating others, the strong could transform hierarchical relationships into rela
tionships of equal regard.
The kind of fellowship Paul had in mind could not be established on gnostic
grounds. The problem was not only that knowledge puffed persons up (1 Cor.

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 15

8:1), making deeper social divisions between those with knowledge and those
without knowledge, but also that knowledge lacked the power to save humanity.
Fundamental to Paul's soteriology was the belief that God alone could save hu
manity. Sin had so penetrated humanity that human beings were incapable of
saving themselves. It is helpful here to turn to Paul's Letter to the Romans, in
which we find his description of the human condition (Rom. 1:18-3:20). It is
within the context of this description that he spoke about the limits of con
science (Rom. 2:12-16): "All who have sinned apart from the law will also per
ish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by
the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but
the doers of the law who are justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the
law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are
a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their
hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting
thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my
gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all."
The recognition that those apart from the law acted, in many cases, as the
law required must have raised the question of whether or not the law was nec
essary for salvation. Paul acknowledged that in many cases pagans and Jews
shared the same morals. Knowing or not knowing the law, however, was not
the primary issue for Paul. Fitzmyer recognized that "Paul seeks to explain how
it will be that Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic law will yet be judged as
if they had some sort of law. They have, indeed, a law: if not written precepts,
at least the law of conscience, and by such a law they will be judged when the
living and the dead stand before God's tribunal."50 On the basis of either the
Mosaic law or the law of conscience, each person was to be held accountable
at the time of God's judgment.
Given this situation, no one had reason to boast. Apart from Jesus Christ,
everyone—Jew or Gentile—was a sinner deserving of God's condemnation.
Therefore, Paul was suspicious of tendencies to puff persons up by knowledge,
as if persons could attain salvation by acting according to their human knowl
edge. Interpreting the role of conscience in the light of Paul's eschatology and
soteriology helps us to make sense of his statement in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Tes
tifying to his apostolic authority, he wrote: "Think of us in this way, as servants
of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I
should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself.
I am not aware [emauto sunoida] of anything against myself, but I am not thereby
acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judg
ment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things
now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each
one will receive commendation from God." Acknowledging the impotence of

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16 • Joyce S. Shin

conscience to save humanity, Paul refused to rely on the judgment of human

beings, including his own judgment. For him, the Lord, not the conscience,
was the only trustworthy judge.
Only when the Holy Spirit confirmed his conscience did Paul allow him
self to rely on, and even boast about, the testimony of his conscience, as in Ro
mans 9:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:12: "Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of
our conscience: We have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sin
cerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more to
ward you. For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also un
derstand; I hope you will understand until the end—as you have already
understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even
as you are our boast" (2 Cor. 1:12-14).
Boasting about and edifying others, rather than themselves, was the mark
of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God. It was the criterion by
which one could judge whether one was behaving in an accommodating way.
That he wrote nothing other than what his audience could understand was the
proof of Paul's trustworthiness.

A Divine Accommodation

For the most part, Paul's letters were situational. This is not to say, however,
that these situationally oriented letters lacked theological content. On the con
trary, we are able to discern Paul's theology and soteriology in his practical ex
hortations. On this point, Barrett considered that " 1 Corinthians is anything
but a work of systematic theology. It is a practical letter ... aimed at telling its
readers not so much what they ought to think as what they ought to do—or
ought not to do. The practical advice, however, is consciously grounded in the
ological principles which can usually be detected."51
First Corinthians 8 and 10 present Paul's advice about eating foods sacri
ficed to idols. Interpreting these passages, so far we have detected an ethical
principle of accommodation. As Barrett pointed out, however, one can also de
tect the theological principles grounding Paul's practical advice. In this section,
I hope to show that what Paul wrote about eating foods sacrificed to idols and
acting for the sake of the other person's conscience was consistent with and
rooted in his most profound beliefs about God's relationship with and salva
tion of humanity.
In Paul's world, the idea of divine accommodation was popular among Jew
ish and Greek thinkers. Philo, a Hellenistic Jew and contemporary of Paul, em
ployed the idea of accommodation as an interpretive device to explain anthro
pomorphisms of God in scripture. An instance of this occurs in his commentary
on Genesis 11:5. Philo wrote: "The lawgiver talks thus in human terms about

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 17

God, even though he is not a human being, for the advantage of us who are
being educated, as I have often said in other passages."52 Here we find the el
ements of divine condescension for the benefit of human beings.
Margaret Mitchell examined the notion of divine accommodation in the writ
ings of Philo and Philo's student Origen.53 In these texts divine accommodation
found expression in the terms of condescension, katabainein/sugkatabainein. In
one Philonic passage, God "came down" (katabainein) as the divine Word: "Up
and down throughout its whole extent are moving incessantly the 'words' of
God, drawing it up with them when they ascend and disconnecting it with what
is mortal, and exhibiting to it the spectacle of the only objects worthy of our gaze;
and when they descend not casting it down, for neither does God nor does a di
vine Word cause harm, but condescending [sugkatabainontes] out of love for man
and compassion for our race, to be helpers and comrades."54
For Philo the descent of God in the form of the Word was not physical but
rather a mode of communication. According to Mitchell the notion of the con
descending Logos eventually found its way into Christian incarnational Chris
tology.55 She wrote: "Such thinking, and its expression in the term sugkatabainein,
becomes very important for early Christian incarnational Christology, which ap
plies this logic to the Logos, Christ. The roots for this Christological reflection
are clearly to be found in Philo's theology, which is itself (as are so many of his
creations) a curious admixture of Jewish theological presuppositions and Greek
philosophical and literary notions."56
In particular, Origen and Clement of Alexandria translated the idea of the
condescending Logos into the notion of Incarnation.57 Interpreting even non
Pauline texts, Origen used Pauline language in treating the Incarnation as an
instance of the "condescension" of the Logos. In a commentary on John, he
wrote: "Therefore the Savior, in a more divine fashion than Paul, has become
'all things to all people,' so that he might either 'gain' or perfect 'all things,'
and clearly he has become a human being to human beings and an angel to an
gels."58 It is obvious from this passage that Origen interpreted Paul's mission
ary strategy as an imitation of Christ's condescension.
Paul himself regarded Christ as the model to be imitated: "So, whether you
eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no
offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please every
one in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that
they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:32-11:1).
As an apostle of Christ, Paul modeled himself after Christ and called oth
ers to do the same. The motif of accommodation running throughout Paul's
thought—his missionary strategy, his self-defense as a trustworthy and author
itative apostle, and his ethical exhortations—found its perfect expression in
the Gospel he preached: in the good news that God accommodated God
self to human capacity through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of

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18 * Joyce S. Shin

Jesus Christ for the sake of saving humanity. For Paul, Christ was the ultimate
event of divine accommodation.


In this essay I have addressed the issue of religious tolerance beginning with
the concept of conscience and ending with the motif of accommodation as they
appear in Paul's letters. I have argued that a correct understanding of conscience
in his thought requires an interpretation of the role of conscience in the light
of a principle of accommodation. For the most part, New Testament scholars
studying conscience have concentrated on determining its conceptual mean
ing. They have come to the general consensus that Paul's main contribution to
the evolving concept of conscience was his recognition of the autonomy of the
individual's conscience. Interpreting conscience in the light of accommodation,
however, challenges this consensus. From this perspective, the exhortation to
act for the sake of the other person's conscience supersedes the duty to act for
the sake of one's own conscience.
The notion of accommodation, however, is not without its dangers. In his
book Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought,
Stephen Benin traced the various usages of divine accommodation from the first
to the sixteenth centuries. As his historical overview showed, religious writers
have employed accommodation to justify both religious tolerance and religious
intolerance. Using accommodation as a hermeneutical device, for example,
early Christian apologists interpreted the history of salvation in their own fa
vor and against Jews, pagans, and schismatics. Benin attributed accommoda
tion's wide range of applicability to its flexible nature: "What occurs within early
Christianity is the phenomenon which accommodation exhibits repeatedly,
namely, its resilient and supple nature. It was a pliable and potent weapon that
would be wielded deftly by disparate groups."59
As I have argued in this essay, Paul used accommodation for an inclusive,
rather than a divisive, end. For him, accommodation was not a neutral strat
egy or device that could be wielded for any end. Its end was clearly the edifi
cation and salvation of others. Accommodation found expression in metaphors
of doctor-patient, teacher-student, parent-child, and friend-friend relation
ships. These relationships nurture the physical and spiritual well-being of other
persons. Within the context of these kinds of intimate relationships, accom
modation is an intuitively familiar experience. The question remains, however,
whether accommodation is a viable approach to religious tolerance among re
ligiously disparate parties. I would like to propose that it is.
Paul's formulation, within the context of his eschatology and soteriology, I
would assert, can contribute to contemporary discourse on religious tolerance

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 19

in the following ways. First, for Paul, conscience is fallible, and it is powerless
to justify persons before God. His view of human nature as sinful and his es
chatological perspective, in which God, not the conscience, is the only trust
worthy judge of persons, calls for a self-critical humility whenever persons as
sert a belief on the basis of conscience. Second, although conscience is not
salvific, it plays an important role in genuine relationships of accommodation.
The conscience of another person functions as a starting point and guidepost
in social interactions and dialogue, informing one person about another per
son's religious background and present state. In his letter to the Corinthians,
Paul admonishes people to take seriously the conscience of others, even to the
point of acting for the sake of their conscience. Third, an ethic of accommo
dation encourages an active concern for the well-being of others. Acting for
the well-being of others is a critical criterion whereby Paul distinguishes ac
commodation primarily from hypocrisy. In addition to his primary concern, the
active concern for the well-being of others is significant because it overcomes
the problem of indifference into which religious tolerance can easily slide.
Fourth, Paul provides an approach to religious tolerance that is coherent within
his understanding of salvation, thereby grounding religious tolerance in his
most profound religious beliefs. He interpreted the way God saves humanity
in the event of Jesus Christ as a divine act of accommodation to be imitated
whenever people interact with others whose beliefs about what is true and
good differ from their own. For Christians, Paul's formulation of the role of
conscience in the light of a theology of accommodation provides a resource for
shaping a genuine subjective attitude of religious tolerance that can arise out
of core Christian beliefs. Finally, insofar as the Christ event makes apparent
the radical transformation that the divine underwent in accommodating human
capacity, it can serve as a model for the potential transformation that Chris
tians may need to undergo when they engage in dialogue with persons of other
religious traditions.


1. Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization,
"The Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, 1995," in Tolerance between Intolerance and
the Intolerable, Diogenes, no. 176, ed. Paul Ricoeur (Providence: Berghahn Books, 1996),

2. Kaisa Puhakka, "The Roots of Religious Tolerance in Hinduism and Buddhism," Temenos
2 (1976): 51.
3. Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intol
erance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief was adopted in 1981 and adapted
from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. See David Little, "Religious Tolerance
and the Challenge of Peace," Church and Society 88 (March/April 1998): 60.

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20 • Joyce S. Shin

4. Second Vatican Council, The Declaration on Religious Freedom, I, 2.

5. Ricoeur, Tolerance between Intolerance and the Intolerable, 1.

6. The term "conscience," or "syneidesis," appears in the New Testament thirty-one times:
once in John 8:9; fourteen times in Pauline letters; and sixteen times in post-Pauline let
ters. Given this, as C. Maurer writes: "One may assume that it was Paul who first estab
lished the word in the Christian Church." C. Maurer, "tjvvoiôa, ameiâtjaiç," in Theologi
cal Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 914. Cf. W.
David Stacey, The Pauline View of Man: In Relation to Its Judaic and Hellenistic Background
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1956), 206. Jewett and Pierce argue that the Corinthians,
not Paul, were responsible for introducing the concept of conscience into Christian the
ology. Robert Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms: A Study of Their Use in Conflict Settings,
(Leiden: Brill, 1971), 436-37; C. A. Pierce, Conscience in the New Testament, Studies in Bib
lical Theology 15 (London: SCM, 1955).
7. Maurer, "avvoiôa, avveiSt]aiç," 908.

8. Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropologie des Alten Testaments (Giitersloh: Kaiser, 1994), 85.
9. Maurer, "ovvotSa, oweiât/mç," 902: The oldest example of "syneidesis" comes from the
fifth century B.C.E., appearing in Democritus, Fragment 297, Doxograpbi Graeci, ed. H.
Diels (Berlin: Weidmann, 1879), 2.206.19ff. In that context conscience seems to mean "a
moral awareness of one's own bad deeds."

10. Maurer, "avvoiôa, avveiSr/oig," 898-907. Cf. W. D. Davies, "Conscience," in The Inter
preter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1, ed. George Arthur Buttrick (New York: Abingdon
Press, 1962), 671-74; Robert W. Wall, "Conscience," Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 1, ed.
David Noel Freeman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1128-30.
11. Henry Chadwick, "Gewissen," in Reallexikon fiir Antike und Christentum, vol. 10, ed.
Theodor Klauser (Leipzig: K. W. Hiersemann, 1978), 1025.
12. Ibid., 1027: "Im griech. Denken und Schreiben entwickelt sich die Vorstellung vom Gewis
sen gemeinsam mit der Ausbildung der persônlichen Verantwortlichkeit im Sinne von
Selbstbestimmung und Annahme individueller Schuld."

13. Don E. Marietta, "Conscience in Greek Stoicism," Numen 17, no. 3 (1970): 186. Mari
etta argues that since Philo and Saint Paul held views similar to the Stoics, conscience must
have been a commonly held notion during the Hellenistic period. "Syneidesis" seems to
have been part of the syncretistic religious and ethical thought that permeated the Graeco
Roman world.
14. Ibid.

15. Holding this view are J. Stelzenberger, Syneidesis im Neuen Testament (Paderborn: Schdn
ingh, 1961), 94; Stacey, Pauline View, 210; C. Spicq, "La Conscience dans le Nouveau Tes
tament," Revue Biblique 47 (1938): 51-55; Günther Bornkamm, "Gesetz und Natur: Rom
2:14-16," in Studien zur Antike und Urchristentum (Munich: Kaiser, 1959), 112-13; Joseph
A. Fitzmyer, Romans, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 128; Jewett, Paul's
Anthropological Terms, 436-38; Davies, "Conscience," 674-75.

16. Maurer, "ctvvoiSa, avvst5r¡aiQ," 911: Maurer considers Philo to be "the first to think through
theologically a doctrine of conscience." Cf. Richard T. Wallis, "The Idea of Conscience
in Philo of Alexandria," Studia Philonica 3 (1974-75): 27-40. Wallis intends to demonstrate
that Philo's extant writings, without presenting a coherent metaphysics of conscience, do,
nevertheless, suggest that conscience in the moral life originates in a transcendent source.

17. See Philo, In Flaccum, 7; Philo, De opificio mundi, 128; Philo, Quod Deussit immutabilis, 128;
and Philo, De decálogo, 87.

18. See Philo, Decal., 87; Philo, Opif, 128; and Philo, Quod Deus, 128, 182-83.

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience • 21

19. Cf. Josephus Against Apion, 2.218; and Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 4.286.
20. See Philo, Decaí., 87; and Philo, Quod Deus, 128; cf. Josephus, Jew. Ant., 2. 25.
21. Philo, Quod deteriuspotiori insidari soleat, 22-23, provides the fullest description of eleg
chos. Cf. Philo, Quod Det., 146; Philo, Quod Deus, 182-83; Philo, De ebrietate, 125; Philo,
De confusione linguarum, 121; and Philo, De specialibus legibus, 3.54. For a discussion on
Philo's association of syneidesis and elegchos, see Wallis, "Idea of Conscience in Philo,"
35; and Maurer, "cwvoiôa, auvstStjaiç," 911-13.
22.Maurer, "avvoiôa, auveihrjaiç," 906.
23. See Wallis, "Idea of Conscience in Philo," 34-35.
24. Pierce, Conscience, 108.

25. Here and in the pages to come, I use the adjective "gnostic" to mean having to do with
the primacy of knowledge for one's salvation. I do not use the term "gnostic" to refer to
a group of people associated with writings from the second century CE that have a partic
ular mythology about the heavenly world and the origins of the physical world.
26. Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms, 402-60; Jewett provides an overview of the history of
New Testament research on Paul's usage of conscience.
27. Martin Kahler, "Das Gewissen," in Realencyklopddie furprotestantische Theologie und Kirche,
vol. 6, ed. J. J. Herzog, Albert Hauck, and Herman Caselmann (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs,
1899), 648.
28. Walter Gutbrod, Paulinische Anthropologie (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1934), 67: "Die au
veiôrjaiç kann deswegen ein Urteil iiber die Entsprechung des Menschlichen Tuns mit der
Wahrheit und dem Willen Gottes abgeben, weil sie es ist, durch die der Mensch um Gott
als seinen Herrn und Schôpfer weiss." Cf. Stelzenberger, Syneidesis, who theologically
grounded one of the six different definitions of conscience that he discerned in Paul's writ
ings: In Rom. 9:1 and 2 Cor. 1:12, conscience is "Bewusstheit als Zeuge," a consciousness
of a religious connection with God, which can affirm the correctness of one's decisions
(Stelzenberger, Syneidesis, 52). For Stelzenberger, the theological use of conscience was
Paul's main contribution: "Meist wird eine kontinuierliche Verbindung mit der Antike
angenommen.... Es ergibt sich jedoch bald, dass das Neue Testament den Terminus nicht
einfach übernimmt. . . . Die Htilse ist antik, der Inhalt aber neu. Er hat eine vollig neue
theologische Note" (Stelzenberger, Syneidesis, 94).
29. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, vol. I (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1951), 216-17.
30. Ibid., 220: "Conscience means the selfs knowledge of itself (the conduct that is demanded
of it, or its conduct subject to the Judge's verdict) in responsibility to the transcendent
power (of God)."
31. Bornkamm, "Gesetz und Natur," 116: "Der Gewissensbegriff ist darum bei Paulus, weil
fur ihn der innere Gerichtshof des Menschen und das gottliche Gericht nicht zusammen
fallen, ein rein menschlicher Begriff. Niemals kônnte der Apostel von der auvaôrjaiç wie
Philo sage, sie Gottes eigener 'Logos.'"
32. Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms, 410.

33. Ibid., 432.

34. Ibid., 438: Jewett argued that Paul's eschatological grounding of the autonomous con
science was connected with the role of conscience as the guarantor of individual integrity
by Paul's understanding of spirit "as a divine gift which retains its connection with God
and thus its autonomy from the individual, but which nonetheless can become the center
of the individual person."

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22 • Joyce S. Shin

35. C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper's New Testament Commentaries
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 2: "No doubt there were Greeks among them, but it
is impossible to think of the Corinth of Paul's day as in any way distinctively Greek. That
there were Jews in Corinth is shown by an inscription consisting of the broken words
'[Syn]agogue of the Hebr[ews],' and probably part of the lintel of the door of the syna
36. C. K. Barrett, "Things Sacrificed to Idols," New Testament Studies 11 (1964—65): 143.
37. Ibid., 237; "Only it is not the eating of sacrificial food (which Paul permits) but direct par
ticipation in idolatry that will separate the Christian from Christ...." Cf. Richard B. Hays,
First Corinthians, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching
(Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997), 159. Hays explained the apparent contradiction by
arguing that Paul was involved in a balancing act. On the one hand, concerned about the
weaker members of the church who might be influenced by the strong to eat idol meats,
Paul condoned the eating of sacrificial food as generally harmless (chap. 8). On the other
hand, concerned that casual participation in idolatrous practices would put Christ to the
test and provoke the Lord to jealousy, Paul admonished them to "flee from the worship
of idols" (1 Cor. 10:14).
38. Barrett, "Things Sacrificed," 147.
39. Ibid., 146.
40. See 1 Cor. 8:10, where Paul wrote, "For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating
in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to
the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?"
41. See 1 Cor. 10:27-28, where Paul wrote, "If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you
are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the
ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then
do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you."
42. Barrett, "Things Sacrificed," 150-51.
43. Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox Press,
2000), 1.
44. Clarence E. Glad, Paul and Philodemus: Adaptability in Epicurean and Early Christian Psych
agogy (New York: E. J. Brill, 1995), 7.
45. Margaret Mitchell, "Pauline Accommodation and 'Condescension' (avyKaza/Iaaiç): 1 Cor.
9:19-23 and the History of Influence," in Paul beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide, ed.
Troels Engberg-Pedersen (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox Press, 2001), 5.
46. Ibid., 18.
47. Stromata 7.9, Die griechische christliche Schriftsteller der ersten [drei] Jahrhunderte,
Clemens Alexandrinus 3.39, ed. Otto Stáhlin and L. Fruchtel. I am citing Mitchell's trans
lation of this text, 9.

48. John Chrysostom, Horn, in 1 Cor. 22.3, Patrología graeca 61.185, ed. J.-P. Migne. I am cit
ing Mitchell's translation of this text, 16-17.
49. Glad, Paul and Philodemus, 208-9.
50. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 312.
51. C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper's New Testament Commentaries
(New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 17.
52. Philo, De confusione linguarum, 135, cited by Ford Lewis Battles, "God Was Accommo
dating Himself to Human Capacity," Interpretation 31, no. 1 (1977): 23.
53. Mitchell, "Pauline Accommodation," 10-17.

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Accommodating the Other's Conscience * 23

54. Philo, Desomniis, 1.147 (Colson and Whitaker), cited by Mitchell, "Pauline Accommoda
tion," 11.
5 5. See also Samuel Vollenweider, Freiheit als neue Schopfung: Eine Untersuchung zur Eleuthe
ria bei Paulus und in seiner Umwelt, Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und
Neuen Testaments, vol. 147 (Gôttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), 218: "Im Blick
auf das jiidische Theologumenon der Selbsterneidrigung Gottes einerseits, auf hellenis
tiche kosmologische Formeln anderseits ware diese Môglichkeit immerhin zu erwàgen.
Jedenfalls hat die altkirchliche Theologie in 1 Kor 9,22 eine fundaméntale christologis
che Dimension wahrgenommen und gibt dazu Anlass, sich die Aufmerksamkeit fiir die
christologiefáhige Sprache, zu welcher sich der Apostel in seiner Rechenschaft iiber sein
missionarisches Verhalten aufschwingt, schàrfen zu lassen." Cited in Mitchell, "Pauline Ac
commodation," 35.
56. Mitchell, "Pauline Accommodation," 11-12.
57. Ibid., 13.
58. Origen, Commentarii in evangelium Joannis 1.217 (Sources chrétiennes 120.166). I am cit
ing a translation by Mitchell, "Pauline Accommodation," 15.
59. Stephen D. Benin, The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian
Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), xvi-xvii.

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