THE FIRST LETTER
TO THE CORINTHIANS


 

1. Who wrote the First Letter to the Corinthians?

1.1. What does 1 Cor 1:1 indicate about the author of 1 Corinthians?

It indicates that the author of 1 Corinthians was Paul, along with Sosthenes.

1.2. Although Paul mentions him as a co-author, there is no indication from 1 Corinthians that Sosthenes made any substantial contribution to the composition of 1 Corinthians. Paul uses the first person singular throughout the letter implying that he is its real author; the nature of Sosthenes' ancillary contribution is impossible to reconstruct. This Sosthenes may be the man from Corinth mentioned in Acts 18:17, who is said to be the synagogue ruler, presumably appointed as the successor to Crispus (In Acts 18:8, Crispus is said to be the synagogue ruler [see 1 Cor 1:14]). If so, then Sosthenes must have become a believer after the incident described in Acts 18:17, whereupon he left Corinth and traveled to where Paul was when he wrote 1 Corinthians. Paul's inclusion of him as a co-author may have been motivated by the support that such a prominent Corinthian believer would lend to his letter. If so, then this suggests that Paul may have had some questions about how much authority he still had among the Corinthians (see 1 Cor 4:18).


2. To whom was the First Letter to the Corinthians written?

2.1. Intended Readers

2.1.1. What does 1 Cor 1:2a indicate about the intended readers of 1 Corinthians?

It indicates that the intended readers of 1 Corinthians were the members of  "the church of God in Corinth."

2.1.2. Although Paul also includes as his intended readers "together with all those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place" (1:2b), it is obvious from the contents of the letter that the primary intended readers were the Corinthians. In other words, 1 Corinthians is not a circular letter intended for a general readership.

2.1.3. Corinth was a city situated on the Isthmus of Corinth, about 32 km long and 6-12 km wide, which joined the Peloponnesus to mainland Greece. The port to the north was called Lechaion, and that to the south was Cenchreae. In 146 BCE, because of its rebellion against Rome, the Roman general L. Mummius completely destroyed the city, leveling it. The site remained uninhabited for a century, when the city was re-founded as a Roman colony in 46 BCE by Julius Caesar. The name of the city was Laus Iulia Corinthus ("Corinth, the praise of Julius") (see Appian, 8.136). The new population consisted of veterans from Caesar's legions and Italian freedmen (Strabo, Geog. 8.6.23). These were later joined by Greeks and other peoples, including Jews (Philo names Corinth as a city in which Jews were to be found [Leg. ad. Gaium, 281, 282]). Corinth became a major center of commerce in the Roman province of Achaia, being situated on the trade route from east to west. Strabo explains the commercial advantage of the city, "Corinth is called 'wealthy' because of its commerce, since it is situated on the isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each other" (Geog. 8.6.20). Rather than sailing around the treacherous Cape Malea, sailors would land at one port and then transport their ships and cargoes across the isthmus by means of the diolkos to the other port. In 29 BCE, Corinth was chosen as the administrative capital of the senatorial province of Achaia, which explains why the Corinthians were able to drag Paul before the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12). The city also controlled the Isthmian Games, which drew large crowds to the city.

2.1.4. Paul's unflattering but necessary observation in 1 Cor 1:26 that among the members of the church there were "not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many noble," implies that most of the Corinthian believers were from the bottom rungs of the Corinthian social ladder. Yet, 1 Cor 1:26 also implies that some of the earliest believers in the city were from the upper class ("not many" means that some are), which is confirmed by the fact that Paul refers to the wealthy (i.e., the opposite of the "have-nots" [11:22]) at the Corinthian celebration of the Lord's Supper, who function as hosts for the church's meetings (1 Cor 11:17-33). (One of these wealthy Corinthians in whose house the church meets is identified as Gaius, "who shows hospitality to me and the whole church" [Rom 16:23]). In addition, it is clear from what Paul writes that most of the Corinthian believers are gentiles—for the problems that he addresses are largely problems that gentile converts would have—yet there are some Jewish believers (Acts 18:4, 8; see 1 Cor 7:18).

2.5. History of Relationship between Paul and the Corinthian Church

2.5.1. Based on Acts 18:1-18, write a brief account of the founding of the church in Corinth.

A. Acts 18:1-3

Paul traveled to Corinth from Athens during his second missionary journey. He lived with Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them as a tentmaker.

B. Acts 18:4-5

On Sabbath days, Paul spoke in the synagogue trying to convince Jews and gentiles that Jesus was the Messiah. When Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth, Paul devoted himself full time to preaching to Jews, presumably because they brought him support from the churches in Macedonia. The implication of Acts 18:1-5 is that Paul alone was the founder of the church in Corinth, because neither Timothy nor Silvanus (Silas) was with him when he began to preach the good news in the city.

C. Acts 18:6-7

Generally, the Jews in the synagogue in Corinth resisted Paul, so that he decided to turn his attention to the gentiles, using the house of Titius Justus, next door to the synagogue, for this purpose.

D. Acts 18:8

Crispus, the synagogue ruler, believed along with his household. Other Corinthians also believed the good news about Jesus.

E. Acts 18:9-11

At one time during his stay in Corinth, Paul received a vision, encouraging him not to be afraid, but to continue speaking, because no one would attack or harm him. Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months.

F. Acts 18:12-17

At one point some Jews dragged him before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia in the city; he was accused of inducing the people to worship God in a way that went contrary to the law. Gallio dismissed the accusation against Paul as being merely a religious dispute among Jews. Paul left Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, after having taken a Nazarite vow.

2.5.2. In various places in 1 Corinthians, Paul describes his central role in the founding the church in Corinth. In 1 Cor 1:14-17; 2:1-5; 3:10; 4:12-13a; 9:12-18; 16:15, what does he say about his experience in Corinth as the founder of the church?

Paul describes his work in Corinth as that of one who lays a foundation upon which other would build; his aim, in other words, was to found a church and then move on, leaving the church in the hands of others (3:10). He concedes that he came to Corinth "in weakness and in fear and in much trembling," which implies that he lacked sufficient self-confidence for the task before him and that this was evident to those who heard him. In addition, his preaching was not impressive by standards of ancient rhetoric: "not with the eloquence of superior wisdom." Nevertheless, his message came to them "in a demonstration of the Spirit and with power." This probably means, not only that the Spirit was at work among his hearers convincing them that his words were the word of God, but also that that signs accompanied Paul's preaching (2:1-5). In 9:12-18, Paul says that while in Corinth he made a decision to take no financial support from the fledgling church; rather he says that he worked hard with his own hands (4:12). The first converts in Achaia, by which Paul probably means Corinth, were those of the household of Stephanus (16:15), whom Paul also baptized (1:16). He also mentions that he baptized Crispus and Gaius (1:14-15). Paul adds, however, that he did not baptize too many of his Corinthian converts, because he saw his task to be that of preaching the good news (1:17).

2.5.3. Based on some clues from 1 Corinthians, it is clear that Paul's relationship with the Corinthians has deteriorated since he founded the church. How do 1 Cor 1:12; 4:3, 6, 18-20; 9:1-11; 10:29-30; 14:37 indicate that some of the Corinthians are ambivalent towards or even somewhat hostile to Paul?

Paul's statements in 1 Cor 1:12 "Each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ" " and 4:6 "In order that no one of you will become proud on behalf of one against the other," indicate that some of the Corinthians have given their adherence to Christian leaders other than Paul. So it is possible that what is implied by someone saying that he or she is "of Apollos" etc. is a rejection of Paul and his authority. In 1 Cor 4:3, Paul's claim "To me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court" could indicate that he is aware that his apostolic ministry has come under criticism by some of the Corinthians. In 1 Cor 4:18-20, Paul explicitly identifies some in the Corinthian church who have become arrogant towards him and are questioning his authority over them; they are saying that he is not coming back to the city, possibly because he is afraid of them: "Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you" (4:18). For this reason he warns, "I will come to you soon...and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power" (4:19). In 1 Cor 9:1-11, Paul sees the need to defend his rights as an apostle, presumably because these are in question: "My defense to those who examine me is this" (9:3). It is possible that Paul's question in 1 Cor 10:30 "If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?" indicates that some of the Corinthians were condemning him for his liberal policy of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Finally, when he says sarcastically, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment" (14:37), Paul could have in mind some of the Corinthians who, because they are supposed to be "spiritual," claim to have to have prophetic inspiration and thereby reject Paul's apostolic authority.


3. When was the First Letter to the Corinthians written?

3.1. From 1 Corinthians, a relative date for the composition of the letter can be determined. The following passages provide clues as to when during his apostolic ministry Paul wrote 1 Corinthians; these provide a historical context in which to situate the composition of the letter. What does each of the following passages indicate about the relative date of Paul's composition of 1 Corinthians?

3.1.1. 1 Cor 16:8

Paul identifies the city where he resides while writing 1 Corinthians as Ephesus. He explains that he plans to leave the city within the year, before Pentecost (late spring).

3.1.2. 1 Cor 5:9-11

Paul has sent a "previous" letter to the Corinthians. They misinterpreted his directives, and he has somehow become aware of this failure of communication. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after this "previous" letter for the purpose of correcting their misinterpretation.

3.1.3. 1 Cor 16:17

Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus have arrived in Ephesus presumably from Corinth. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after the arrival of these three men in the city.

3.1.4. 1 Cor 16:12

Apollos has arrived in Ephesus, and Paul has strongly urged him to go to Corinth "with the brothers." But Apollos is unwilling to go at this time. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after the arrival of Apollos and his failed attempt to convince him to return to Corinth.

3.1.5 1 Cor 1:11

Some people identified only as "those from Chloe" have arrived in Ephesus and have told Paul that there were divisions among the Corinthians, as well as other unflattering things about the Corinthians. (Chloe is a woman.) Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after he had heard this information about the Corinthians from "those from Chloe."

3.1.6. 1 Cor 4:18; 11:34; 16:3, 5-7

Paul has made plans to visit Corinth again after an unspecified period of absence. He hopes to go from Ephesus to Macedonia and then to Corinth, where he plans to spend the winter. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after he made plans to revisit Corinth but before he was able to carry out these plans.

3.1.7. 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10

In the near future, Paul plans to send Timothy to Corinth from Ephesus. He expects that Timothy will arrive in Corinth before he does, later that year. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after he had made plans to send Timothy to Corinth but before he actually sent him.

3.2. The task now is to situate the events mentioned in 1 Corinthians into the framework of Paul's life provided by the Book of Acts and then affix a probable absolute date to the composition of 1 Corinthians.

3.2.1. In Acts 18:24-19:1-22; 20:31, Luke provides a brief account of Paul's time in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. It is probably during this period of time that he writes 1 Corinthians, since this is the only time that Paul is in Ephesus long enough to write a series of letters to the Corinthians. According to Acts 19:1, on his third missionary journey, Paul comes to Ephesus, where he remains for three years (Acts 20:31). Before Paul arrives in the city, however, Apollos comes to Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla explain to him "the way of God" more fully, which he willingly accepts (Acts 18:24-28). Apollos then goes to Corinth (Acts 18:27; 19:1). Luke describes several events that occur during Paul's time in Ephesus. Upon his arrival, he encounters twelve disciples who have not yet received the Holy Spirit, but had only undergone John's baptism; Paul lays his hands on them and the Holy Spirit comes upon them, with the result that they speak in tongues and prophesy (19:1-7). Paul speaks for three months "concerning the Kingdom of God" in the synagogue in Ephesus, but, on account of Jewish resistance, is then forced to relocate with his disciples (from the synagogue) to the lecture hall called Tyrannus, where he daily holds discussions for two years (Acts 19:8-10). Paul is known to have done miracles in the city (healings and exorcisms) (19:11-12). During his time in Ephesus some Jewish exorcists, seven sons of a man named Sceva, invoke "the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches" in an exorcism; the demonized man overpowers them, not recognizing their authority. When this story becomes known, the Ephesians are seized with fear (19:13-17). Many practitioners of sorcery in Ephesus believe and publicly burn their scrolls relating to their magical practices (19:19-20).

3.2.2. On the assumption that Paul writes 1 Corinthians during his time, correlate the brief account of Paul's time in Ephesus during his third missionary journey based on Acts 18:24-19:1-22; 20:31 with the data from 1 Corinthians concerning the relative date of the composition of 1 Corinthians. Be careful to note what is supplemental to Luke's account in the Book of Acts.

Based on what he says in 1 Cor 16:8, it seems that in the third and last year of his stay in Ephesus, Paul writes 1 Corinthians. Before he sends 1 Corinthians, however, Paul sends a "previous" letter to the Corinthians, which the Corinthians misinterpret (1 Cor 5:9-11). Luke provides no details at all about Paul's correspondence with the church at Corinth, either the "previous" letter or 1 Corinthians. Paul plans to leave the city for Macedonia later that year, after Pentecost, and, after visiting Macedonia, eventually make his way to Corinth where he hopes to spend the winter (1 Cor 4:18; 11:34; 16:3, 5-7). It seems that Apollos returns to Ephesus at some point during the three-year period of Paul's sojourn there, because he is with Paul when he is writing 1 Corinthians. Paul wants him to return to Corinth, but Apollos is unwilling to return at the moment (1 Cor 16:12). Luke omits any reference to Apollos's return to Ephesus in his account in Acts 19. While he is in Ephesus, three men—Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus—arrive from Corinth (1 Cor 16:17) as do "those from Chloe" (1 Cor 1:11); these people give Paul information about the Corinthian church. Both of these arrivals, however, Luke also leaves out of his account in Acts 19. Luke says that Paul sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, which seems to be the fulfillment of Paul's pledge to send Timothy to Corinth made in 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10 (Acts 19:22). Whether Timothy (and Erastus) ever makes it to Corinth is not stated in the Book of Acts, but presumably after traveling to Macedonia, Timothy, at least, does visit the church in Corinth, but sometime after 1 Corinthians arrives, as Paul expects (1 Cor 16:10).

3.2.3. From all the above data and a knowledge of Pauline chronology, provide an absolute date or at least a range of dates for Paul's composition and sending of 1 Corinthians (see, in particular, Acts 18:11, 22-23; 19:1; 20:31; 1 Cor 16:8). Remember that the dating 1 Corinthians must fall between the two known dates proximate to this event: the founding of the church at Corinth between 50 and 52 and Paul's arrest in Jerusalem between 55 and 58.

According to the Book of Acts, Paul visits Corinth during his second missionary journey and establishes a church there; as already indicated, this can be dated between 50-52. After a total of eighteen months (Acts 18:11), Paul leaves for Antioch in Syria (Acts 18:22). After spending some time in Antioch, Paul sets out on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23). He travels to Ephesus, where he remains for three years (Acts 19:1; 20:31). Paul writes 1 Corinthians during the last year of his three-year stay in Ephesus. This means that he is writing c. 54-57, between four or five years after founding the Corinthian church sometime between 50 and 52, but, obviously, before his arrest in Jerusalem between 55 and 58. Paul indicates that he plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (late Spring) (1 Cor 16:8), which suggests that he is writing near but before that time of the year in whichever year he is writing.


4. Where was the First Letter to the Corinthians written?

Based on 1 Cor 16:5-8, 19 where was Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians?

Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote 1 Corinthians. This explains why he sends greetings from "the churches in Asia."
 

5. What is the First Letter to the Corinthians?

Outline of 1 Corinthians

A. 1:1-9

This represents the introduction of the letter.

1. 1:1-3

This represents the salutation of the letter.

2. 1:4-9

Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians.

B. 1:10-15:58

This represents the main body of the letter.

1. 1:10-6:20

In the first part of the letter, Paul deals with the problems in the church reported to him by "those from Chloe."

a. 1:10-4:21

The first problem is that of divisiveness. The Corinthians were aligning themselves with different leaders in the church, in antagonism to and in competition with other groups.

i. 1:10-17

Paul appeals to the Corinthians to be united, and not to quarrel with one another. They tend towards disunity because of their divisiveness resulting from their identification with various leaders in the church.

ii. 1:18-2:5

In order to counter the divisiveness of the Corinthians, Paul explains that the good news is actually foolishness and that God's purpose was to overturn the pride associated with human wisdom with the foolishness of the good news. The implication is the Corinthians have misunderstood the good news as form of wisdom and their leaders as teachers of wisdom. But when the Corinthians correctly understand the nature of the good news as foolishness, their boasting and divisiveness will cease. Paul explains that he did not preach the good news with eloquence or the appearance of wisdom, in order that their faith may rest upon God's power.

iii. 2:6-16

Paul explains further the nature of the good news. He says that it is in fact a message of wisdom, but only to the mature, among which the Corinthians are not to be counted. It is a hidden wisdom, revealed now by God to whomever He wills by means of the Spirit.

iv. 3:1-23

Paul reprimands the Corinthians for still being immature, proof of which is their divisiveness. He explains that the leaders in the church are nothing more than servants of God and are not objects of allegiance or boasting. He also warns that all work in the church will be judged as to its quality and that the church is the Temple of God, which God will protect against those who seek to destroy it. Finally, he encourages the Corinthians paradoxically to become foolish in order to become wise.

v. 4:1-21

Paul says that the Corinthians ought to regard their leaders as servants of Christ, to whom are entrusted the hidden things of God.  The Corinthians should also stop judging their leaders with respect to their relative worth—including and especially Paul—because only God has this right. God will judge only at the appointed time.  Paul attempts to deflate the Corinthians, because they view themselves so highly in relation to the apostles, and as a result have become proud and insubordinate towards Paul. He promises to send Timothy and warns that when he himself comes he will not spare those who oppose him.

b. 5:1-13

Paul deals with the problem of a man in the Corinthian church who is having sexual relations with his father's wife. What makes matters worse is that the rest of the church boasts about this, presumably because it is supposed to be an expression of Christian freedom. Paul passes judgment on this man, handing him over to Satan for his physical destruction. He tells the Corinthians not to associate with any Christian who is immoral.

c. 6:1-11

Paul deals with the problem of the Corinthians' taking one another to court. Paul reprimands them for this and tells them to settle all such matters within the church.

d. 6:12-20

Paul deals with another type of sexual immorality. Claiming the right of Christian freedom, some of the Corinthian men are making use of prostitutes, arguing that this is a natural use of the body. Paul considers it incompatible for a man who is a part of the body of Christ to unite himself with a prostitute. Since his body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and he has been bought with a price, a Christian man ought to honor God with his body.

2. 7:1-15:58

In the second half of his letter, Paul answers questions posed to him in a letter by the Corinthians. It is difficult to reconstruct the exact questions posed by the Corinthians, but likely there is a tone of defiance in their questions.

a. 7:1-40

The Corinthians ask whether it is good for a man not to marry. Paul agrees that it is better not to marry, but qualifies this by saying that not all are able to remain unmarried because of the possibility of sexual immorality. This is also why a husband and wife should have regular sexual relations. Paul also deals with the question of marriages between a believer and an unbeliever: he lays down the principle that if the unbeliever is willing to remain in the marriage the believer should not seek to be released. Paul adds that it is better to remain in the condition that a person was in when God called him or her.

b. 8:1-11:1

The Corinthians ask Paul about food sacrificed to idols. It seems that they were asking for his agreement that eating meat sacrificed to idols was not only harmless but actually an exercise of a freedom grounded in superior knowledge. Paul agrees with them that they possess knowledge that idols are really nothing, but qualifies this by saying that knowledge puffs up whereas love builds up. He instructs them to forego the exercise of their freedom for the sake of the one whose conscience is weak and does not know that idols are nothing. He uses himself as an example for them to follow: he has certain rights as an apostle, but refuses to exercise these rights for the sake of being a more effective apostle. Using the example of Israel in the wilderness, he then warns the Corinthians not to eat food sacrificed to idols in pagan temples, because this is idolatry, a communion with demons.

c. 11:2-34

In this section, Paul does not answer a question, but deals with another problem in the church: disorders in public worship. First, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for allowing certain women to violate standards of decency with respect to dress. Second, he criticizes the Corinthians for celebrating the Lord's Supper in such a way that the poor are humiliated by not having enough to eat. He explains that the illness and death of some of those in the Corinthian church is God's judgment.

 d. 12:1-14:40

The Corinthians ask Paul about spiritual gifts; what exactly is hard to determine. Paul explains that there are many spiritual gifts, but one Spirit, many parts but one body, with Christ as the head. He lists some of the spiritual gifts distributed to the church. He then explains that love must be the principle upon which everything must be done, in particular the use of the spiritual gifts. Finally, Paul instructs the Corinthians to prefer prophecy to speaking in tongues in their public meetings, since the former edifies all, whereas the latter, unless interpreted, edifies only the one who speaks in tongues. He also gives them instruction on how the gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues should be exercised.

e. 15:1-58

The Corinthians probably asked Paul something about the resurrection. It seemed that some in the church were denying the resurrection. Paul explains the centrality of the resurrection to his preaching and their faith. He says metaphorically that Christ is the first fruits of those who have died, so that just as Christ has been raised, so will all believers. He also seems to answer their question about the nature of the resurrection body: it is a spiritual body, unlike all other bodies. God has ordained that in the eschatological future death will be destroyed.

C. 16:1-24

This represents the conclusion of the letter. Paul speaks about the money that he is collecting for God' people, gives some information about his itinerary and possible visits by others, and sends greetings.
 

6. Why was the First Letter to the Corinthians written?

6.1. General Purpose of 1 Corinthians

6.1.1. What does Paul's pointed comment in 1 Cor 4:18-19 "Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power" indicate about his general attitude towards the Corinthians and the Corinthians' attitude towards him at the time of writing? Based on this how would you interpret Paul's general purpose in writing his letter?

Paul's comment indicates that he believes that the Corinthians or at least some of them are resistant to him and for this reason are not likely to be open to what he has to say in his letter. One should interpret what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians on the assumption that he believes that his readership is hostile to him personally. For this reason, Paul would see his general purpose as overcoming the hostility that has developed since he was last in Corinth.

6.1.2. Why would Paul find it necessary to instruct the Corinthians to treat Timothy with respect if he should come to Corinth: "Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord's work, as I also am. So let no one despise him" (1 Cor 16:10-11)? What does this imply about Paul's relationship with the Corinthian church and his general purpose in writing his letter?

The fact that Paul feels it necessary to tell the Corinthians to treat Timothy with respect implies that he thinks that there are some Corinthians who might not, presumably because of Timothy's connection with Paul. This is evidence that the relationship between Paul and the church at Corinth is strained at this time. So, in writing his letter, Paul's general purpose would be to overcome the hostility towards from him that has developed among the Corinthians believers. 

6.2. Specific Purposes of 1 Corinthians

6.2.1. What does 1 Cor 5:9-12 indicate about Paul’s purpose for writing 1 Corinthians?

Paul wrote to correct a misinterpretation of his directives contained in his "previous" letter. He told them not to associate with immoral, meaning immoral people in the church, but they took him to mean all immoral people. He probably heard of the Corinthians' possibly intentional misunderstanding from "those from Chloe," Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus, or even Apollos.

6.2.2. What do 1 Cor 1:11; 5:1; 11:18 indicate about Paul’s reason for writing 1 Corinthians? Based on the outline of 1 Corinthians, what were the negative reports that Paul heard about the Corinthians (see 1:10-4:21; 5:1-13; 6:1-11; 6:12-20; 11:2-34)?

Paul wrote to correct problems in the church about which he had heard from "those from Chloe" and probably others who had come from Corinth to Ephesus, such as Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus, not to mention Apollos. He had heard that the Corinthians were divisive, aligning themselves with different leaders in the church in competition with other factions (1:10-4:21). He also heard that there was a man in the church who was having sexual relations with his father's wife, and the Corinthian believers approved of this (5:1-13). According to Paul's sources, the Corinthians were also taking one another to court (6:1-11). They were also making use of prostitutes, arguing perversely that this was the natural use of the body (6:12-20). Finally, Paul heard that women in the Corinthian church were being disruptive during the meetings, violating standards of decency in their dress, and that the wealthy were humiliating the poor during the Lord's Supper by eating more than their share of food (11:2-34).

6.2.3. What do 1 Cor 7:1; 8:1; 12:1 indicate about Paul’s reason for writing 1 Corinthians (see 1 Cor 16:17-18)? What were the questions that the Corinthians asked Paul in their letter to him (see 7:1-40; 8:1-11:1; 12:1-14:40; 15:1-58)?

Paul wrote to answer questions put to him by the Corinthians in a letter. This letter may have been brought to Paul by Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus, who visited Paul when he was still in Ephesus (1 Cor 16:17-18). From what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, the Corinthians asked him whether it is good for a man not to marry (7:1-40). They seem also to have asked him, perhaps defiantly, whether it is permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols (8:1-11:1). The Corinthians asked Paul something about spiritual gifts and perhaps speaking in tongues in particular (12:1-14:40). Finally, they asked him about the resurrection (15:1-58).

 

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