1 Corinthians - Introduction
THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
Corinth was already an old city some thousand years before Christ. The embellished Greek
city became the leader of opposition against Rome and was destroyed in 146 B.C. In 46-44 B.C. it was rebuilt as Colonia
Julia Corinthus by Julius Caesar who peopled it with Italian freedmen and dispossessed Greeks. Augustus added his own
name to its already complex title and made the city the capital of Achaia.
is situated on the narrow isthmus which joins the Peloponnesus with the mainland of Greece and separates the Gulf of Corinth
from the Gulf of Saron. This location made the city a natural trade center. The population of the city and its
ports at the time of St. Paul has been estimated at six hundred thousand of whom two-thirds were slaves. There were
many of the laboring class, but still enough men of leisure to maintain a certain excellence in rhetoric and philosophy.
This city of mixed stock retained much of Greek culture, but it was one of the few in Greece to import the Roman games.
The numerous temples to Greek, Roman, and Oriental gods did little to check the rampant immorality. Vice formed a part
of the popular worship shown to Aphrodite, the Greek Venus. "To live as a Corinthian" was to live in debauchery.
The Church. On his second missionary journey Paul was forced
by Jewish opposition to leave Thessalonica and Beroea (Acts 17, 1-15). He went by boat to Athens. After
his poor success there with idle speculators (Acts 17, 16-34), he passed at once to Corinth (Acts 18, 1).
There he was joined again by Silas and Timothy who had stayed in Macedonia (Acts 17, 14; 18, 5).
Encouraged by a vision of the Lord who told him "I have many people in this city," Paul labored at Corinth for about two years
(Acts 18, 9-11.18).
is scarcely any other ancient book the authenticity of which is so firmly established. About 95 A.D. St. Clement of
Rome wrote to the Corinthians, "Take up the Epistle of the Blessed Paul the Apostle . . . he wrote in the Spirit to you concerning
himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then you formed factions" (1 Clem. 47; cf. 1 Cor.
1, 12). In the first years of the second century St. Ignatius of Antioch refers so frequently to the contents
of this letter without directly quoting it that he seems to know the letter by heart. St. Polycarp, a disciple of St.
John the Apostle, writes, "Or do we not know that the saints will judge the world as Paul teaches" (Polycarp to the
Philippians 11, 2; cf. 1 Cor. 6, 2). St. Irenaeus in Gaul, a disciple of this Polycarp, quotes
the Epistle about sixty times, frequently giving Paul's name or his accepted title, "the Apostle." Also in the second
century Clement of Alexandria refers to its contents about 150 times and Tertullian of Carthage about four hundred times,
both mentioning Paul expressly as the author on more than one occasion.
and Purpose. On his third missionary journey Paul settled down for three years at Ephesus (Acts 20,
31). Excepting from November 10 to March 10 when the Mediterranean was generally considered closed because of stormy
weather, commercial relations between Corinth and Ephesus were frequent and passengers were often aboard the ships.
Members of the house of a lady named Chloe brought word to Ephesus of divisions in Corinth (1, 11). Apollos
who had continued Paul's preaching at Corinth (Acts 19, 1) was now back with Paul at Ephesus (16, 12).
Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (16, 17) had recently brought a letter in which the Corinthians submitted some
of their problems to Paul (7, 1; 8, 1). Paul now writes to correct abuses and to answer questions.
Place and Date. It is clear that St. Paul writes from Ephesus
for in 16, 8 we read, "I shall stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost." This also shows that it is towards the
end of a stay at Ephesus that he is writing. This would scarcely have been during the brief stay at Ephesus immediately
after leaving Corinth (Acts 18, 19-21) and therefore must refer to the three years' stay on his third missionary
journey (Acts 18, 23 -- 19, 40; 20, 31). Now Paul left Corinth shortly after Gallio became
proconsul of Achaia, which according to profane chronology was probably in the year 51/52 A.D. (Acts 18, 12-18).
Allowing about five years for the "some time longer" that Paul continued at Corinth (Acts 18, 18), the journey back
to Antioch (Acts 18, 18-22), the "some time" spent at Antioch (Acts 18, 23), the mission through Galatia
and Phrygia (Acts 18, 23), and the three years at Ephesus, it is about 57 A.D. when Paul now writes. The same
approximate date is reached if one calculates forwards from the time when Festus replaced Felix as procurator at Caesarea,
which was between 59 and 60 A.D., after Paul had been captive two years (Acts 24, 27).
Introduction 1, 1-9
I. Party Spirit 1, 10
-- 4, 21
II. Moral Disorders 5, 1 -- 6, 20
1. The Incestuous Man 5, 1-13
2. Lawsuits before Pagans 6, 1-11
3. The Evil of Immorality 6, 12-20
III. Answers to Questions 7, 1 -- 11, 1
1. Marriage and Celibacy 7, 1-40
2. Idol Offerings 8,
Paul's Right as an Apostle 9, 1-27
4. Against Overconfidence 10, 1-13
5. Discussion of Idol Offerings Resumed 10,
14 -- 11, 1
IV. Religious Gatherings 11,
1. The Headdress
of Women 11, 2-16.
2. The Eucharist 11, 17-34
The Spiritual Gifts 12, 1 -- 14, 40
1. Their Distribution 12, 1-31
2. A Digression on Charity 13, 1-13
3. The Gifts of Tongues and Prophecy 14, 1-40
VI. The Resurrection 15, 1-58
Conclusion 16, 1-24
FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
Corinth was a Roman colony built upon the remains
of an old Greek city. At the time of the Apostles it was materially prosperous and morally corrupt.
On his second missionary journey,
Paul preached about two years in Corinth, first to the Jews in the synagogue and then to the Gentiles in the house of Titus
Justus (Acts 18, 1-18). After his disappointment in the use of a philosophical approach to Christianity at
Athens (Acts 17, 15ff), Paul used at Corinth a simpler presentation of his doctrine. According to the
divine promise (Acts 18, 9f), he made many converts, but suffered much from the hostility of the Jews. He left
for Ephesus some time after Gallio became proconsul of Achaia, i.e., about 52 A.D.
It is quite probable that St. Paul wrote an Epistle
to the Corinthians prior to the two that we now possess (1 Cor. 5, 9). The Epistle called St. Paul's
First to the Corinthians was occasioned by the visit to Ephesus of members of the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1,
11; 16, 12. 17). St. Paul, who had meanwhile returned to Antioch and undertaken his third missionary journey,
learned from these messengers of certain disorders in the church at Corinth. Questions were also proposed by the neophytes
to their spiritual father for solution. To correct those disorders and to answer these questions, St. Paul wrote this
From 1 Cor. 16, 5-8 it is clear that the letter was written at Ephesus some time before Pentecost,
probably in the beginning of the year 57 A.D.