1 Corinthians : Christian Community Bible
Introduction to 1 Corinthians
Some persons praise the first Christians as if they had been models of all virtue. In fact, there were no more miracles then than now. Here as elsewhere, Paul addresses men and women living in a world as real as our own. Corinth had its own particular character among the Mediterranean cities. Situated on a tongue of land separating two gulfs, it had the best part of its privileged site. The two ports of the east and west had been joined by a kind of paved way on which boats were pulled by means of enormous wagons drawn by bullocks. This spared sailors having to detour to Greece by the south: a very long voyage at the time and very dangerous. Obviously it had to be paid for; this financially benefited the town; it also needed labor which meant many slaves. The city had a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of “love” for the Greeks, around which had developed (with the help of money) a prostitution that had nothing sacred about it other than its name. The prostitutes were counted in the thousands. Quite near Corinth, there was a sportive celebration—rather similar to the Olympic Games of our day—every two years. This drew large crowds of people. We notice in these two letters of Paul very clear allusions to these different aspects of Corinthian history: slavery, prostitution, stadium sports.
In Corinth, there existed a dynamic, though not well ordered Church, composed of Jews and Greeks converted by Paul. Many of them were in danger of returning to the vices of their former lives, once the enthusiasm of their first years as Christians had worn off. Those responsible in the Church apparently were not capable of dealing with many problems: internal divisions and doubts about faith. They therefore called upon Paul, who wrote the present letter, because he could not interrupt his work in Ephesus.
We notice the authority with which Paul, from afar, leads the Church in the name of Christ; also his manner of teaching: before answering any question, he reasserts the foundations of the faith.
The Corinthians, in the midst of a pagan world, were concerned about matters that are again relevant in our times:
NOTE: excerpted from the introductory material for this book.