1 Corinthians — Introduction

Corinth was situated at the southern end of an isthmus where the waters of the Mediterranean Sea nearly cut Greece in two. It was a city with two harbors, one situated on the Gulf of Corinth to the west, and the other on the Gulf of Saron, to the east; both only a few miles from the city.

These harbors were by far the most important in the whole great peninsula between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. — Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, by C.R. Stam, page 17.

The religion of Corinth centered around the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek counterpart of the Roman Venus. She was the goddess of beauty and love, and more especially sensual love.

Aphrodite’s great temple dominated the city, and, with her lesser temples scattered about, employed more than a thousand temple prostitutes. In other words, the religion of Corinth centered around sex. And this greatly enriched the coffers of an already-rich city. — Stam, page 19.

The church at Corinth actually had its beginning in a Jewish synagogue — probably a large synagogue, for Corinth was a large city. Here Paul reasoned … every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks (Acts 18:4).

The majority of the Jews, however, were not receptive to the truth, for we read that when Silas and Timothy appeared on the scene, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified [Greed, diamarturomai, to protest solemnly] to the Jews that Jesus was Christ (v.5). Evidently they did not wish to believe.

Paul’s protest only made them more determined, however, for the next verse informs us that they opposed themselves, i.e. set themselves in opposition, and blashphemed. At this, Paul, shaking out his raiment against them said: Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles (v.6).

With this he took the believers to the home of a Greek, a Gentile, called Justus, doubtless one of the attendants who had received Paul’s message and had now invited him to hold services in his own home.

To some extent, at least, this action on Paul’s part had the desired effect, for presently, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house, with the further result that many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). And that was not all, for soon after this Sosthenes, the next chief ruler of the synagogue, received a sound beating right in Gallio’s court at the hands of the unbelieving Greeks, who hated the Jews anyway. The beating evidently did him good, spiritually, for in writing later to the Corinthian church, the apostle salutes them with Sosthenes our brother. —  Stam, pages 15-16.

Paul left Corinth because of his determination to keep the feast at Jerusalem (Acts 18:21). On his return from Jerusalem, he spent three years at Ephesus (Acts 20:31); but the latter part of his stay was disquieted by reports of disorders at Corinth. For it had been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions amont you (1 Corinthians 1:11).

There were other matters that were very unchristian in the assemboy, such as disorder in public worship, abuse of certain gifts — and it seems that some of the women had attempted to take over leadership in the church and monopolize time in the services.

The epistle itself answers the questions concerning the place and time of the writing. Chapter 16, verse 8 tells us that Paul was in Ephesus and intended remaining there until Pentecost. — The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, by Oliver B. Greene, pages 11-12.

The subject of disorders in the local assemblyl is primarily dealt with in chapters1:10 through 6, and in chapter 7 we have a series of replies to the subjects inquired about. It would have been very natural to expect that under ordinary conditions and circumstances Paul would in the very beginning after his introductory remarks have acknowledged the letter and answered the questions immediately. However, he did not. The evils, the ungodliness, the sinful practices among the saints in the notoriously wicked city of Corinth called for immediate discussion and treatment. The answers to their quesitons could be postponed to a later place in this important epistle.

However, even though the disorders among them must be dealt with, and dealt with only as God would have them dealt with, after the introduction of the first three verses Paul does not immediately go into the exhortation and commands that must of necessity follow. Everything in which Paul could find pleasure and cause for praise to the believers in Corinth preceded the rebuke. — Greene, pages 15-16.

The commentaries I’m using for this study (hereafter referred to only by the author’s last name) are:

  • The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, by Oliver B. Greene (1965)
  • 1 Corinthians, by W.E. Vine
  • Brief Notes on 1 and 2 Corinthians, by Harry Bultema (1986)
  • Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, by Cornelius R. Stam (1988)
  • Life Matters: A Devotional Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Roy L. Laurin (1950)
  • Studies in First Corinthians, by M.R. DeHaan (1956)

If you wonder why I generally use the New King James translation in these studies …

  1. I grew up memorizing the King James and am most familiar with it. When I need to look up a word or phrase in a concordance, it’s the King James words I’m looking for.
  2. Many of the commentaries I use were inherited from my father. Most of them use the King James.
  3. Some years ago I saved my money and bought a nice King James study Bible and I feel like I need to get some use out of it.
  4. I do my study in the King James, then post my notes in the New King James because it eliminates some of the more dated language and capitalizes pronouns that refer to God.

When I read Scripture, I sometimes read in the King James, sometimes in the NIV and sometimes in other versions.

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