1 Corinthians 8:5 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 8:5, NIV: For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'),

1 Corinthians 8:5, ESV: For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—

1 Corinthians 8:5, KJV: For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

1 Corinthians 8:5, NASB: For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,

1 Corinthians 8:5, NLT: There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords.

1 Corinthians 8:5, CSB: For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth--as there are many "gods" and many "lords"--

What does 1 Corinthians 8:5 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is responding to the Corinthians' statements that the idols saturating their city have no real existence. God is the only true God. Paul agrees that there are many "so-called gods" in heaven and on earth, as well as many false "gods" and "lords." He has no disagreement with their premise that false gods and idols are powerless and lack substance (1 Corinthians 8:4).

The reference to "so-called gods" connects directly to the mention of "many gods" and "many lords." Paul agrees that there are many imaginary beings worshipped in pagan cities such as Corinth. A second-century Greek geographer, Pausanias, cataloged some of the gods and idols worshiped in Corinth. Among others, this list included Aphrodite, Artemis, Isis, Dionysus, Fortune, Zeus, Bunaea, Chronos, Poseidon, the Sun, the Sea, the Calm, and even a tree.

Though Paul agrees none of these have real existence, he will not conclude they are harmless. Paul described some believers in Galatia as having been enslaved to the gods who "are not gods" before coming to faith in Christ (Galatians 4:8). Later, he will show that any power or influence behind these fictional beings comes from demons, which definitely do exist (1 Corinthians 10:20–21).