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The First Epistle to the Corinthians.
pp. 3 - 7
The Corinthian letters are the most personal of Paul's inspired writings. In none of
them do we see Paul the man more clearly. This was probably due to the close and
personal contact the Apostle had with the church at Corinth. Corinth, at this time, was
the chief city of Achaia, situated on the narrow isthmus that connected the mainland of
Greece and the Peloponnesus. It was on the main trade route from east to west and north
to south, being the chief centre of commerce, and so had a continual stream of traffickers,
and a mixed population of Roman colonists, Greeks and Jews. It was a strategic centre,
and its importance must have influenced the Apostle Paul in his missionary activities.
Corinth's history was in two parts. The original city was destroyed by the Romans in
B.C.146. In B.C.46 it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar and given the status of a Roman
colony. The old city contained the infamous temple of Aphrodite with its prostitution
and the morals of the new one were no better. The Greek word korinthiagomai, meaning
literally "to act as a Corinthian", was synonymous with immorality. Paul reached
Corinth on his second missionary journey as recorded in Acts 18: 1-17. How
unlikely, yet how encouraging it must have been to the Apostle to receive the Lord's
words "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace . . . . . for I have much people in
this city" (Acts 18: 9, 10), which only goes to show that no one is too bad or depraved
to respond to the gospel of God's love and grace.
Among the first converts were Aquila and Priscilla, who were not Corinthians, but
were living there. Paul resided with them and began his ministry in the synagogue,
which lasted over eighteen months with the result that many believed (18: 8). And so
the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus reached Corinth within twenty years of the
Crucifixion. Some notable people responded to the gospel, including Crispus, who was
no less than the "chief ruler of the synagogue" (18: 8). Not only did he believe, but all
his house. Then there was Sosthenes (I Cor. 1: 1) also described as the "chief ruler of the
synagogue", possibly succeeding Crispus (Acts 18: 7). This must have been a great
blow to Judaism and at the same time an impetus to Paul's witness.
The Authorship, Date and Place of writing
and the background of the epistle.
Both external and internal evidences point strongly to the Pauline authorship of the
letter. Clement of Rome wrote an epistle to the church at Corinth about 95A.D. and
refers I Corinthians to "the blessed Paul, the Apostle". This is the earliest instance of
the quotation of a N.T. writer identified by name. Other external evidence is provided by
Ignatius and Polycarp. The characteristics of style, vocabulary and content harmonize
with what is known of Paul and Corinth.