Ist Corinthians Essay

First Corinthians is a single, whole document written by Paul in the early 50’s C.E. The letter was written in Ephesus, and intended for the members of a church that had been newly built in Corinth, Greece. Paul focused the correspondences, to the church, on some issues that were plaguing the citizens of Corinth. The issues included sex, Christian unity, behavior in the church, and resurrection. Through each correspondence, Paul gives rules and directions for the people of Corinth to follow. Paul’s letters to Corinth were the most extensive correspondences to any one church or city in the entire New Testament.
Paul converted to Christianity from Judaism because of a revelation of Jesus Christ. Now, Paul was traveling around northern Greece to churches in Phillipi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. Paul briefly stopped in Athens before taking a trip to Corinth. The fact that Paul was able to make this long trip shows the strength, stamina, and the deeply felt beliefs that carried Paul along the way. Paul stayed in the city of Corinth for about a year and a half, before sailing to Ephesus. It is from this city that Paul wrote the letters to the church in Corinth.

The people of Corinth were by no means saints or angels. The Emperor, Augustus, made the city of Corinth the most luxurious and richest city in all of Greece, as well as the most inhabited. In fact, the city was the Greek capital in 27 C.E. By the time Paul arrived in 50 C.E., the city had a reputation for prosperity, trade and materialism. Corinth was also a large and very busy seaport that had many sailors, which would visit from all across Europe. These sailors were notorious for hanging around the legions of prostitutes that inhabited the city. The patron goddess was Aphrodite, and it was no surprise that many citizens of Corinth were engaging in sexual acts that they should not. It is for this very reason that Paul wrote two letters, setting forth the principles of sexual ethics that the people should follow. Also, the first letter to Corinth shows that early Christians were from different backgrounds, both rich and poor, not just the poor. It is this socioeconomic diversity that promotes different views and practices in the church. These different views and practices are what threatened the unity of the church in Corinth. This city was in dire need of the letters from Paul, to help show them the correct way to live their lives.

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The first thing that Paul wanted to do, was to end all the rivalries and problems among the Corinthians that were causing a division among the masses. As stated in 1 Corinthians 8-10, he wanted the people of Corinth to work together in a cooperative way that would be mutually beneficial to all. Now there were not that many in the congregation, maybe 50 or 100, but the group was divide into several cliques. It was the cliques that Paul wished to end. Differences in social, economic, and educational backgrounds were a big part of the reason why there was any division at all. These differences led to a competitive nature because of some groups thinking they were better, and more superior to other groups. Paul’s belief was this, there was no difference if you were black, white, Greek or Roman, and each person is one in Jesus Christ. He was trying to show the people of Corinth that in the new faith, there was no place for either competitiveness or individual pride. In fact it was the pride, or boastfulness that Paul aimed at the most. Paul knew that some of the citizens in Corinth thought themselves to be able to have a deeper understanding of things, than that of their fellow Christians. Paul wanted to put every citizen of Corinth on the same playing field intellectually. In fact, he let it be known to the citizens that they did not find Christ, Christ revealed himself to them, on his own accord. Paul also, in this first correspondence, tried to define the limits of a Christian’s freedom. Paul wanted the people of Corinth to not even worry about Torah. Basically, the citizens were free from Torah’s restraints. Some of the followers decided that this meant not to pay attention to any ethical principles. The people of Corinth also began to bring lawsuits against one another. Because of this, Paul had to impose limits on the freedom that the Christians possessed, and he ordered that the Christian community and not the courts must handle these type disputes.

In chapters seven through fifteen Paul responds to some questions brought up by the people of Corinth. The first is that of sexual behavior. Paul clearly prefers a life of no involvement with a woman and would prefer that every Christian stay in whatever state that they are in. Paul does not personally want to marry, but he does not place any restrictions on any of the citizens that wish to. Paul does however lay down a few guidelines for married folk. Paul believes that husbands and wives both entitled to the sexual love of the other. Paul was trying to tell the people of Corinth that it was a husband or wife’s duty to fulfill the sexual desire of the other spouse. And that the only reason for not fulfilling the sexual desire was that of prayer, not I have a headache or I do not feel like it tonight. The second question was that of divorce. Paul was totally aware of Jesus having already forbid divorce at all, but Paul stated that if a non-Christian husband/wife wishes to leave the marriage then it was ok. But, if a wife were to separate from the husband, then that wife must stay unmarried from then on. Christians, in Paul’s view, were not obligated to stay wed to a non-believer because god wanted each Christian to live in peace, and how could that Christian live in peace wondering if the spouse that they were married was going to be saved.

Another part of the correspondence to Corinth that came from Paul, was that of behavior in church. Paul’s first suggestion to Corinthians is that men not cover their heads while in prayer. This is because the head of man is that of Christ, and to cover the head would have disgraced Christ. On that same note, Paul said for women to cove their heads while in prayer. Paul states that for a woman to uncover the head would be like shaving all the hair off of it, a total disgrace to the head. In saying these things, Paul created a sexual hierarchy; Christ before man, and man before women. Finally, to seal his argument of the sexual hierarchy Paul simply states that woman was made for man, and not the other way around.
The next pat of the correspondence deals with gifts of the spirit and love. The people of Corinth were each different, with regards to the spiritual gift that each citizen possessed. This difference among the mass led to rivalries among the possessors of gifts. Paul reminded the congregation at Corinth that one spirit, Christ, gives all these gifts and that Christ is indivisible. Paul proves his point by saying that the spiritual gifts, like human body parts, are to be used for the mass or body as a whole. In the midst of this whole definition of gifts and how they are to be used, Paul breaks out with a whole speech on love. Paul believed that without love none of the spiritual gifts would be alive, and that in the perfect world to come only three of the gifts would make it. The three gifts were faith, hope and love; with love being the strongest gift of all. It is the strongest for these reasons: it never quits, it can never be withdrawn, it is patient, kind and does not boast or envy.

The last and most important topic that Paul talked about was the issue of resurrection. The people in Corinth at this time had different views of the afterlife; some believed that they already had achieved eternal life at baptism, while other citizens believed the Greek approach of future life being that of a spiritual nature. To some people of Corinth, the fact that Paul believed that the body of resurrection was actual flesh was sickening. Paul believes that the body, which is sown or planted like a seed, is perishable and that body will eventually be raised imperishable. Basically, Paul is saying that the spirit needs a vessel into the next life. Paul proves this point in chapter fifteen, verse three through eight. The verses describe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and that more than 500 people witnessed it. In Paul’s last thoughts to the Corinthians, the disciple tells the citizens that they are to give money every Sunday and help the Jerusalem church. Paul ends the letter with an invocation of a hasty return to earth by Jesus.

This continuing correspondence with the Corinthians is the longest correspondence with nay group in the entire New Testament. Paul provides a background of the people the letter was written for and why the letter was written. This of course was not he only letter written to the Corinthians, but it is the first that scholars have found. There is believed to be another before it, but it has yet to be found. The writer of this report believes that Paul got his point across and helped to change the lifestyles that the Corinthians were living at this time.

1. Harris, Stephen L. The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction, 3rd ed.

Mayfield Publishing, Mountain View, California, 1999.

2. Paul, The New Testament: First Corinthians, The NIV

4. Plummer, Alfred and A. Robertson, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 3rd ed.

T. ; T. Clark, Edinburgh
5. Ruef, John, Paul’s First Letter to Corinth,
Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1977
5. Vine, W.E., One Corinthians


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