1st Corinthians – Introduction

October 11, 2008

An industrial hub and commercial center on an Isthmus, the city of Corinth contained many merchants and working-class types; many Roman army veterans retired to Corinth after their tour of duty. A conglomeration of Latins, Greeks, Syrians and Jews, it was the capital of the entire Roman province of the Achaia, roughly the boundary of the modern Greek state. Archaeological excavations have revealed entire streets of bars and brothels in the city. Corinth was notorious for its perverse sexual immorality.

Among all Churches recorded in the New Testament, the church at Corinth most parallels the state of the modern Church in America: it contained a diverse group of individuals living in tumult: Jewish and Gentile converts with legalistic leanings, a more liberal contingent and charismatic groups on both ends of the spectrum. Among the believers arose sex scandals, debates over the place of women in worship and intense discussions regarding loyalty to the Apostolic tradition. So embittered were the factions that existed in the Church towards another group that when a representative of one group would start to address the congregation, a member of another party would begin speaking in tongues to drown them out.

While Paul was staying in Ephesus, several prominent men of the Corinthian community sought out Paul’s response on several matters. Obliging their request, Paul writes the First Epistle to the Corinthians in late spring of A.D. 55. A young Timothy most likely delivered Paul’s letter to this first Century church in A.D. 55-57. Though they had received catechetical instruction from Paul himself over the course of 18 months, the Corinthians received neither Timothy nor the Epistle with high regard. Their tepid response raises questions as to how Christian the Corinthians actually were, and their turmoil speaks to the fact that they had not fully reformed their bawdy ways. Many members of the Corinthian church simply did not respect Paul as one who carried Apostolic authority.

Music: Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischutz, J. 277 performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. www.musopen.com

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