Courses

The Book of 1 Corinthians

I. Title

       The title of the book comes from the name of the city of Corinth, in Greece, where the church the letter was addressed to was located. It is the first of two letters that were written to the church by Paul.

II. Author and Setting

A. Author

       The authors of the letter are Paul and Sosthenes; this is based on the statement in 1 Corinthians 1:1-2a:

       Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
       To the church of God in Corinth...
B. Setting

       Corinth was located on the isthmus between Attica to the northeast and the Greek Peloponnesus to the south; it controlled access to two seas, the Aegean to the east and the Ionian on the west. Its eastern port was called Cenchrea and was located on the Saronic Gulf. Its western harbor was at Lechaeum on the Corinthian Gulf. Because of its setting, Corinth was important both commercially and strategically. It received shipping from all over the Roman Empire; not surprising, it was considered to be a prosperous city.
       It is estimated that at the peak of its prosperity, it had a free population of about two hundred thousand, with another half million slaves in its navy and its colonies.
       The worship of Aphrodite (the counterpart of the Near Eastern Astarte) was important in Corinth; such worship involved spending time with the sacred prostitutes who inhabited her temple. The city became notorious for its sexual immorality, to such an extent that the city's name was used as an adjective to describe a "loose" person.

C. Date

       Obviously, the letter was written some time after he had first visited the city (as recorded in Acts 18). Leaving Corinth in the fall of AD 51, Paul went from Cenchrea toward Syria, by way of Ephesus. Reaching Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem, then went back to his home church in Antioch (Acts 18:18- 23).
       After spending some time in Antioch, he departed on his third missionary journey and visited Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23). From there, he finally went to Ephesus where he taught for about three years (Acts 19:1- 20:31). According to 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, 20, it is clear that he wrote the letter while he was in Ephesus. Based on the long time he spent there, and the fact that it followed his time in Corinth, it is assumed that it was during the stay in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19-20 that he wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church. Therefore, Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was probably written about AD 55.

III. An Outline of 1 Corinthians

I. Greetings 1:1-3
II. Thanksgiving 1:4-9
III. Divisions 1:10-17
IV. The Wisdom of God 1:18-2:26
V. Servants of Christ 3:1-4:21
VI. Problems in the Church 5:1-6:20
VII. Questions from the Church 7:1-14:40
VIII. The Resurrection of Christ and the Christian 15:1-58
IX. Final Concluding Matters 16:1-24

IV. Questions on 1 Corinthians

1. When was the first letter to the Corinthians written?
2. Discuss what true love is.
3. What were the problems facing the church in Corinth? (consider the problems discussed in chapters 3, 5 and 6 especially). Explain.
4. What did Paul have to say regarding spiritual gifts and their exercise? What is their purpose?
5. What does Paul have to say regarding the resurrection?