First Epistle to the Corinthians
Overview
The first epistle of Paul the apostle to the Corinthians, often referred to as First Corinthians (and written as 1 Corinthians), is the seventh book of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 of the Bible. Paul and "Sosthenes
Sosthenes
Sosthenes was the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, who, according to the New Testament, was seized and beaten by the mob in the presence of Gallio, the Roman governor, when he refused to proceed against Paul at the instigation of the Jews...

 our brother" wrote this epistle to "the church of God which is at Corinth", in Greece.

This epistle contains some of the best-known phrases in the New Testament, including (depending on the translation) "all things to all men" (9:22), "without love, I am nothing" (13:2), "through a glass, darkly" (13:12), and "when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child" (13:11).
There is near consensus among historians and Christian theologians that Paul is the author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, typically classifying its authorship as "undisputed" (see Authorship of the Pauline Epistles
Authorship of the Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles are the fourteen books in the New Testament traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, although many dispute the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews as being a Pauline epistle....

).
Encyclopedia
The first epistle of Paul the apostle to the Corinthians, often referred to as First Corinthians (and written as 1 Corinthians), is the seventh book of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 of the Bible. Paul and "Sosthenes
Sosthenes
Sosthenes was the chief ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, who, according to the New Testament, was seized and beaten by the mob in the presence of Gallio, the Roman governor, when he refused to proceed against Paul at the instigation of the Jews...

 our brother" wrote this epistle to "the church of God which is at Corinth", in Greece.

This epistle contains some of the best-known phrases in the New Testament, including (depending on the translation) "all things to all men" (9:22), "without love, I am nothing" (13:2), "through a glass, darkly" (13:12), and "when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child" (13:11).

Authorship

There is near consensus among historians and Christian theologians that Paul is the author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, typically classifying its authorship as "undisputed" (see Authorship of the Pauline Epistles
Authorship of the Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles are the fourteen books in the New Testament traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, although many dispute the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews as being a Pauline epistle....

). The letter is quoted or mentioned by the earliest of sources, and is included in every ancient canon, including that of Marcion. However, two passages may have been inserted at a later stage. The first passage is 1 Cor 11:2-16 dealing with praying and prophesying with headcovering. The second passage is 1 Cor 14:34-35 which has been hotly debated. Part of the reason for doubt is that in some manuscripts, the verses come at the end of the chapter instead of at its present location. Furthermore, Paul is here appealing to the law which is uncharacteristic of him. Lastly, the verses come into conflict with 11:2-16 where women are allowed to preach.

Composition

The epistle was written from Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

 (16:8), a city on the west coast of today's Turkey, about 180 miles by sea from Corinth. According to Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

, Paul founded the church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-17), then spent approximately three years in Ephesus (Acts 19:8, 19:10, 20:31). The letter was written during this time in Ephesus, which is usually dated as being in the range of 53 to 57 AD.

The traditional subscription to the epistle, translated in the King James Bible, states that this epistle was written at Philippi
Philippi
Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest...

, perhaps arising from a misinterpretation of 16:5, "For I do pass through Macedonia," as meaning, "I am passing through Macedonia." In 16:8 Paul declares his intention of staying in Ephesus until Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

. This statement, in turn, is clearly reminiscent of Paul's Second Missionary Journey, when Paul travelled from Corinth to Ephesus, before going to Jerusalem for Pentecost (cf. Acts 18:22). Thus, it is possible that I Corinthians was written during Paul's first (brief) stay in Ephesus, at the end of his Second Journey, usually dated to early 54 AD. However, it is more likely that it was written during his extended stay in Ephesus, where he refers to sending Timothy to them (Acts 19:22, I Cor. 4:17). Also, his references to Apollos (1:12, 3:4, etc.) show that Apollos was known to Paul and the church at the time of writing, which would preclude the first recorded visit to Ephesus (See Acts 18:24-28).

Outline

The epistle may be divided into seven parts:
  1. Salutation (1:1-3)
    1. Paul addresses the issue regarding challenges to his apostleship and defends the issue by claiming that it was given to him through a revelation from Christ. The salutation (the first section of the letter) reinforces the legitimacy of Paul's apostolic claim.
  2. Thanksgiving (1:4-9)
    1. The thanksgiving part of the letter is typical of Hellenistic
      Hellenization
      Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

       letter writing. In a thanksgiving recitation the writer thanks God for health, a safe journey, deliverance from danger, or good fortune.
    2. In this letter, the thanksgiving “introduces charismata and gnosis, topics to which Paul will return and that he will discuss at greater length later in the letter” (Roetzel, 1999).
  3. Division in Corinth (1:10–4:21)
    1. Facts of division
    2. Causes of division
    3. Cure for division
  4. Immorality in Corinth (5:1–6:20)
    1. Discipline an Immoral Brother
    2. Resolving personal disputes
    3. Sexual purity
  5. Difficulties in Corinth (7:1–14:40)
    1. Marriage
    2. Christian liberty
    3. Worship
  6. Doctrine of Resurrection (15:1-58)
    1 Corinthians 15
    1 Corinthians: 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul the Apostle. The first eleven verses are the earliest account of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the New Testament. The rest of the chapter stresses the primacy of the resurrection for Christianity...

  7. Closing (16:1-24)
    1. Paul’s closing remarks in his letters usually contain his intentions and efforts to improve the community. He would first conclude with his paraenesis and wish them peace by including a prayer request, greet them with his name and his friends with a holy kiss, and offer final grace and benediction:

Content

Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul's first visit lasted nearly two years and his converts were mainly Greeks. Some time before 2 Corinthians was written he paid them a second visit (2 Cor. 12: 14; 2 Cor. 13: 1) to check some rising disorder (2 Cor. 2: 1; 2 Cor. 13: 2), and wrote them a letter, now lost (1 Cor. 5: 9). They had also been visited by Apollos (Acts 18: 27), perhaps by Peter (1 Cor. 1: 12), and by some Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians is a term which appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries....

 who brought with them letters of commendation from Jerusalem
Jerusalem in Christianity
For Christians, Jerusalem's place in the ministry of Jesus and the Apostolic Age gives it great importance, in addition to its place in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.-Jerusalem in the New Testament and early Christianity:...

 (1 Cor. 1: 12; 2 Cor. 3: 1; 2 Cor. 5: 16; 2 Cor. 11: 23).

Paul wrote this letter to correct what he saw as erroneous views in the Corinthian church. Several sources informed Paul of conflicts within the church at Corinth: Apollos
Apollos
Saint Apollos is an apostle who is also a 1st century Alexandrian Jewish Christian mentioned several times in the New Testament...

 (Acts 19:1), a letter from the Corinthians, the "household of Chloe," and finally Stephanas and his two friends who had visited Paul (1:11; 16:17). Paul then wrote this letter to the Corinthians, urging uniformity of belief ("that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you," 1:10) and expounding Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 doctrine. Titus and a brother whose name is not given were probably the bearers of the letter to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:13; 8:6, 16–18).

In general, divisions within the church at Corinth seem to be a problem, and Paul makes it a point to mention these conflicts in the beginning. Specifically, pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 roots still hold sway within their community. Paul wants to bring them back to what he sees as correct doctrine, stating that God has given him the opportunity to be a “skilled master builder” to lay the foundation and let others build upon it (1 Cor 3:10).

Later, Paul wrote about immorality in Corinth by discussing an immoral brother, how to resolve personal disputes, and sexual purity. Regarding marriage, Paul states that it is better for Christians to remain unmarried, but that it is better to marry than "burn" (πυροῦσθαι) which Christians have traditionally thought meant to burn with sinful desires. The Epistle may include marriage as an apostolic practice in 1 Corinthians 9:5, "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 and the brothers of the Lord
Desposyni
The term Desposyni refers to alleged blood relatives of Jesus. The term was coined by Sextus Julius Africanus, a writer of the early 3rd century. Some scholars argue that Jesus' relatives held positions of special honor in the Early Christian Church...

 and Cephas (Peter)?" However, the Greek word for 'wife' is the same word for 'woman.' The Early Church Fathers including Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

, and Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 state the Greek word is ambiguous and the women in 1 Corinthians 9:5 were women ministering to the Apostles as women ministered to Christ (cf Matthew 27:55, Luke 8:1-3), and were not wives, and assert they left their 'offices of marriage' to follow Christ and to preach.

Paul also argues unmarried people must please God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, just like married people must please their spouses. The letter is also notable for mentioning the role of women in church
Paul of Tarsus and women
The relationship between Paul the Apostle and women is an important element in the theological debate about Christianity and women because Paul was the first writer to give ecclesiastical directives about the role of women in the Church...

es, that for instance they must remain silent (1 Cor. 11:2-16, 14:34-35), and the role of prophecy and speaking tongues
Glossolalia
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. The significance of glossolalia has varied with time and place, with some considering it a part of a sacred language...

 in churches. After discussing his views on worshipping idols
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

, Paul finally ends with his views on resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

. He states that Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 died for our sins, and was buried, and rose on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). Paul then asks: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

?” (1 Cor. 15:12) and addresses the question of resurrection.

Throughout the letter, Paul presents issues that are troubling the community in Corinth and offers ways to fix them. Paul states that this letter is not meant to make them feel ashamed but to “admonish” them as beloved children. They are expected to become imitators of Jesus
Imitation of Christ
In Christian theology, the Imitation of Christ is the practice of following the example of Jesus. In Eastern Christianity the term Life in Christ is sometimes used for the same concept....

 and follow the ways in Christ as he, Paul, teaches in all his churches (1 Cor. 4:14-16).

According to a writer cited by the author of the Easton's Bible Dictionary, this epistle
Epistle
An epistle is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. The epistle genre of letter-writing was common in ancient Egypt as part of the scribal-school writing curriculum. The letters in the New Testament from Apostles to Christians...



"shows the powerful self-control of the apostle in spite of his physical weakness, his distressed circumstances, his incessant troubles, and his emotional nature. It was written, he tells us, in bitter anguish, 'out of much affliction and pressure of heart . . . and with streaming eyes' (2 Cor 2:4); yet he restrained the expression of his feelings, and wrote with a dignity and holy calm which he thought most calculated to win back his erring children. It gives a vivid picture of the early church... It entirely dissipates the dream that the apostolic church was in an exceptional condition of holiness of life or purity of doctrine."


The author of the Easton's article concludes, "Many Christians today still find this letter to speak to modern-day problems within church communities."

See also

  • 1 Corinthians 11
    1 Corinthians 11
    In the eleventh chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus writes on the conduct of Christians while worshiping together.-Vv 2-16 the Woman's Headcovering:Verses 2-16 have been the source of much confusion for interpreters...

     – on church order
  • 1 Corinthians 13
    1 Corinthians 13
    Chapter 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, written by Paul the apostle covers the subject of love, principally the love that Christians should have for everyone. In the original Greek, the word αγαπη agape is used throughout...

     – the tongues of men and angels verse
  • 1 Corinthians 15
    1 Corinthians 15
    1 Corinthians: 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul the Apostle. The first eleven verses are the earliest account of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the New Testament. The rest of the chapter stresses the primacy of the resurrection for Christianity...

     – on the Resurrection
  • Christian headcovering
    Christian Headcovering
    The Christian headcovering is a veiling worn by various Christian women from a variety of traditions. Some cover only in church or while praying; most never cover their heads all the time. They refer to 1 Corinthians 11, or to custom, as the basis for their practice...

  • Pauline privilege
    Pauline privilege
    The Pauline Privilege is a Christian concept drawn from the apostle Paul's instructions in theFirst Epistle to the Corinthians.-Origin:In Paul's epistle it states:...

  • Second Epistle to the Corinthians
    Second Epistle to the Corinthians
    The second epistle of Paul the apostle to the Corinthians, often referred to as Second Corinthians , is the eighth book of the New Testament of the Bible...

  • Textual variants in the First Epistle to the Corinthians
  • Third Epistle to the Corinthians
    Third Epistle to the Corinthians
    The Third Epistle to the Corinthians is believed to be a pseudepigraphical text under the name of Paul of Tarsus. It is also found in the Acts of Paul, and was framed as Paul's response to the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. The earliest extant copy is Bodmer Papyrus X.In the West it was not...


Further reading

  • Conzelmann, Hans Der erste Brief an die Korinther, KEK V, Göttingen 1969.
  • Robertson, A. and A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh 1961).
  • Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text NIGTC, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids 2000.
  • Yung Suk Kim
    Yung Suk Kim
    Yung Suk Kim is a Korean American New Testament scholar specializing in theories of biblical interpretation and early Christianity. Dr. Kim is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University in Richmond...

    . Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor (Fortress, 2008).

External links

Online translations of First Epistle to the Corinthians:

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