During this session, we considered Paul letters to the Corinthians.
Considering Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians
Between A.D. 54 and 56, Paul wrote at least five letters to a church he planted in Corinth.
- Corinth was a city on the isthmus linking the Peloponnese to the rest of Greece.
- Paul established the Corinthian church around A.D. 50.
- 1 Corinthians isn’t the first letter Paul wrote to the church. (1 Corinthians 5:9-12: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons—not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?)
- Between writing 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul visited Corinth, but the visit didn’t go well.
- After his painful visit, Paul may have written a letter that’s lost, one that was frank and blunt. (2 Corinthians 1:23: But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth.)
- This third letter may been successful, as reflected in the a fourth letter (2 Corinthians 1–9).
- Between the fourth letter and the fifth letter (2 Corinthians 10–13), things seem to have unraveled. They questioned him about his handling of money and his authority.
The different letters might be ordered as follows:
- First Letter (Lost)
- Second Letter (1 Corinthians)
- Third Letter (Lost)
- Fourth Letter (2 Corinthians 1-9 - fragments)
- Fifth Letter (2 Corinthians 10-13 - fragments)
The Corinthian Church faced divisions.
- Rich vs. Poor
- Greek vs. Latin vs. Jew
- Followers of Paul vs. the followers of Apollos
- Charismatics vs. Non-charismatics
- Platonists vs. Non-Platonists
Structurally, 1 Corinthians would appear to be one letter, divided into two parts:
- Theology (“what”) – 1:10–4:21
- Ethic (“so what”)
- Sexual immorality
- Taking Christians to court
- Questions related to sociosexual groups
- Eating meat offered to idols
- Worship practices
Structurally, 2 Corinthians would appear to be a collection of fragments.
- 2 Corinthians 1–9
- 2 Corinthians 10–13
In responding to the Corinthians, Paul will define some concepts important in his theology. They include the following:
- The application of the law
- Responsible Christian behavior
- The nature of the church and the role of the Holy Spirit
- The resurrection