1st Corinthians – Origins of Corinthian Christianity

October 18, 2008

Acts 18 describes how Christianity came to Corinth. After a difficult
sojourn in Athens, Paul arrived in Corinth alone. Soon he met a Jew
named Aquilla and his wife Priscilla, with whom he shared the same
trade, and began persuading Jews and Greeks in the synagogues to
follow Christ. The Scriptures account that the Jews quickly "opposed and reviled” both Paul and his ministry (v 5-6). In response, he "shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’"
(v 6).

After
departing from the synagogue, he began a highly contentious form of
evangelization to the Gentiles and God-fearers, establishing his base
in the house "next door" to the synagogue (v 7). God
protected Paul’s oft-threatened ministry in Corinth, saying to him in
a night vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be
silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you;
for I have many people in this city" (v 9-11). After Gallio
became proconsul of Achaia (roughly modern Greece), the Jews unite to
accuse Paul of spreading an illicit religion (cf v 12-13). Gallio
refuses to be the judge of such debate, forcibly ejecting the Jews
from his court (cf v 14-15). Tension between Jews and Gentiles is
excruciatingly high in Corinth, as expressed by the small riot that
ensues (cf v 16-17).

Paul
later wrote an epistle to “the church of God which is at Corinth,"
(1 Cor 1:1-2). Here he stresses the presence of a universal (i.e.,
catholic) Church with local manifestations. In the Greek, "the
church of God which is at Corinth" does not refer to a local
assembly, but rather to a universal church which is represented in
Corinth. It is important to note that Christians derive the term for
church, ecclesia, from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), where
the entire Hebrew people is called the ecclesia of Israel, an
assembly of millions. Ecclesia never refers to just a local community
in the Septuagint.

Early
in the epistle, Paul links Jesus Christ to the grace which the Corinthians have received
(cf v 4). In spite of having received the sacraments of Baptism,
Confirmation and other spiritual gifts, however, Paul indicts them
for misusing these gifts to further theological causes in a
mean-spirited manner (cf v 5). The task of a Christian is to grow in
holiness, to love one another and to evangelize, never to be
contentious or self-seeking.

Music: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15, performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. www.musopen.com

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