Monday, October 3, 2011

The Corinthian Epistles

Introduction to 1 and 2 Corinthians

Written by George Goldman

“The Corinthian Correspondence,
A Church with Problems”

Paul visited Corinth for the first time on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). He remained there eighteen months and made his home with two exiled Jews from Rome, Priscilla and Aquilla. After being forbidden to preach in the synagogue, Paul made use of the house of Titus Justus. Many of the Corinthians, Jew and Gentile, believed and were baptized. Paul himself baptized Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue; Gaius; and the household of Stephanus (1 Cor. 1:14-16).

Often a city influences the church more than the church influences the city. This was certainly the case in Corinth. Corinth was about the size of Memphis, Tennessee, in population. It had a very bad reputation. In the stage plays people from Corinth were always depicted as drunkards. To live like a Corinthian was to live a life of fornication and drunkenness. The Corinthians worshiped Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Aphrodite’s temple there were more than a thousand priestesses of vice. Paul spoke out against this sin again and again (1 Cor. 5:10; 6:9; 10:7, 8; 2 Cor. 6:14; 7:1; 12:21). He wrote the book of Romans from this city that probably contributed to his terrible description of heathenism (Rom. 1:21-32).

First Corinthians was written to a church with problems. In the first four chapters the problem of divisiveness is discussed. In 97 A.D. Clement of Rome wrote another letter, which still survives today, and shows that divisions still existed at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians (5 – 6) Paul deals with the problem of moral lapses. Chapter 7 begins with “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote.” This formula denotes the questions the Corinthians had written to Paul. These questions concerned: marriage (1 Cor. 7), meats sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8 – 10); disorders in public worship (1 Cor. 11); spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12 – 14); the resurrection (1 Cor. 15); and the contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16).

In 2 Corinthians Paul elaborates further on the collection scheme (2 Cor. 8 – 9) and defends his apostleship.

Today if you visited ancient Corinth you could see the ruins of the ancient market place (1 Cor. 10:25) with its refrigeration system of cold water. Also you could touch the starting marks for the runners in the Isthmain games, which consisted of melted copper poured into stone. Among the ruins of the temple of Apollo you could drink from a foundation of running water. You could climb the 2,000-foot Arco-Corinthies where the temple of Aphrodite once stood. You could also visit the ruins of two ancient Greek theaters. At the entrance of one was found in inscription, “Erastus, city treasurer” (Acts 18:22; 2 Tim. 4:20).

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