1 Corinthians: Introduction

The epistle from St. Paul the Apostle, to the Church in Corinth, is believed to have been written between 52 and 55 A.D.

I am studying 1 Corinthians because it covers a lot of interesting ground for modern readers (namely myself) and it addresses a familiar audience – one that is ethnically diverse, known for its sexual immorality, and its wealth. The author, Paul, represents a point of conflict himself, with some who advocate that Paul’s teachings strayed far from those of Jesus. Paul’s letter covers topics such as daily life, doctrine, divisions and in-fighting within the Church, sexual immorality, lawsuits among believers, marriage and singleness, freedom in Christ, the significance of the Lord’s Supper, order in worship, the right use of spiritual gifts, the love chapter, the role of women in the Church, and the resurrection.

In my experience, a lot of the topics covered by this epistle are considered controversial today so I will endeavor to see if a thorough study (historical and exegetical) helps to bring some clarity.

I am likely to veer off course when the study allows and that will hopefully be fun or entertaining. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:26 is quoted by the Harry Potter franchise. I will likely provide a thorough side-tangent on that when we get there.

I want to address a couple of things in the introduction before getting into the study in the next post:


The authorship of Paul is widely accepted by scholars. 1 Corinthians is among the New Testament documents with archaeological dating as early as the second century (Papyrus P46.) See HERE and HERE. The mostly non-Canonical First Epistle of Clement, dated to the end of the first century, seems to refer to this epistle when making its own appeal to the Church in Corinth. Link HERE.

1Clem 47:1
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle.

1Clem 47:2
What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the Gospel?

1Clem 47:3
Of a truth he charged you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas
and Apollos, because that even then ye had made parties.

1Clem 47:4
Yet that making of parties brought less sin upon you; for ye were
partisans of Apostles that were highly reputed, and of a man approved
in their sight.

Archaeologically, and based on the well-known surrounding historical context, Paul appears to have authored this letter.

Corinth in the 1st Century:

Strabo (c. 63 BC-c. 24 AD), describing Corinth in Paul’s day, said it was a wealthy port city not only because of its fortunate trade location on the isthmus connecting Asia and Italy but:

“…(its) temple of Aphrodite (goddess of love) was so rich that it owned more than 1,000 temple slaves, courtesans, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was also on account of these women (temple prostitutes) that the city was crowded with people and grew rich; for instance, the ship captains freely squandered their money (in the temple brothels) and hence the common proverb: ‘Not for every man is the voyage to Corinth.’” Geography 8.6.20

The reputation of the city was such that a Greek word for “fornication” was korinthiazomai.

  1. (literally) to act like a person from the city-state of Corinth
  2. (vulgar) to consort with prostitutes, since Corinth was famous in antiquity for its prostitutes

Many of the early Corinthian converts were Jewish. The best evidence of that is Paul’s appeals to them, within the letter, using the Old Testament. He expected them to understand the references. However, the local population was also – as mentioned above – heavily influenced by worship of Greek deities, Aphrodite in particular. We will see how that might provide some context to Paul’s letter as we progress through the study.

Overall, my approach to this study will be to go through it, verse by verse, and to lean on Bible Commentaries and other outside sources (general sources like Wikipedia and scholarly articles of various stripes) for help in understanding the material.

I hope that anyone who reads my posts on 1 Corinthians gets something beneficial out of it.

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