Speaking the truth with love – Thursday – 21st week in ordinary time – I Cor1:1-9

We begin today our study of St Paul’s letters the Corinthians. This letter is one of the most important documents of the New Testament and contains some of Paul’s most central teaching.

Corinth, a Greek city was situated on a plateau in the southern end of the isthmus and backed by the 1,750 feet Acrocorinth. The city was one of great wealth derived from the land and sea taxes it levied. The city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC but rebuilt in 44 BC by Julius Caesar. The new settlers were freedmen; former slaves now freed who hailed from Greece, Syria, Egypt and Judea.

Corinth did not only spring back from the ashes but it rose to become a formidable city. The Isthmus games, second in popularity to the Olympics which ceased to be organized after the destruction in 146 BC was revived within 40 years of its re-foundation. It was funded entirely by the merchants of the city; a testimony to the recovery and wealth of the city.

Corinth also had a reputation for sexual immorality; although scholars claim that it was exaggerated. Even though Corinth may have not been any worse than any Mediterranean city for its sexual immorality, it’s very name became a byword in the Greco-Roman world for vice. In the theatre, a Corinthian was the stereotype for a drunkard and to “live like a Corinthian” was a slang term from debauchery.

To many men, this city might seem a most unlikely place to preach the Gospel, but Paul was challenged by the mighty metropolis. Paul stayed here for 18 months, longer than anywhere except Ephesus, and even there he kept in touch with the Corinthian community and guided its development. Acts 18 gives us details of Paul’s sojourn in the city and also details the opposition to his ministry. When the Jews opposed him, he left the synagogue to begin to work primarily among the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-7). However, Crispus, a leader of the synagogue became a believer, along with his family (Acts 18:8), so Paul did not turn his back on the Jews. It was the Jews who hauled him before Gallio the proconsul but to no avail. We are told the Jews having not got their pound of flesh vented their ire on Sosthenes the official of the synagogue. Paul left to go to Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Galatia (Acts 18:18-23).

While at Ephesus, around 54 AD Paul heard of the distressing moral laxity in the Corinthian Church. A delegation from the Church had come to him and a letter was sought from him concerning certain divisive matters. In answer to these disturbing reports obtained from several sources (1Cor 7:1 and 16:17), Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Among the other sources that contributed to the writing of this letter is a reference to ‘Chloe’s people ‘ (1Cor 1:11) who on their return from a business trip from Corinth to Ephesus recounted to Paul those aspects of the life of the Church that had surprised them but which apparently were not problematic for the Corinthians themselves. These observations revealed to Paul revolved around the understanding of the Christian community.

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