1 Corinthians - Background

Corinth (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)

  • Before Christ:

    • Prosperous commercial cross roads city.

      • Hosted Isthmian Games, an athletics festival that rivaled the Olympics.

      • Destroyed by Rome, and rebuilt

    • A growing, upwardly mobile city re-colonized by Rome within a couple generations of Paul’s visit.

    • Laws of Corinth were particularly favorable to upward mobility (e.g. Freedmen could have important roles in government)

    • Housed a large Temple to Athena (goddess of wisdom)

  • Paul (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)

    • Left city in 51 CE.

    • Established church in Gentile community, included slaves, freedmen and some rich merchants.  

    • Letter probably written 53-55 CE.

    • Received a report from “Chloe’s people” about divisions (1:11).

    • Received a letter from the Corinthians seeking guidance (7:1f).

    • Paul “sees the members of the Corinthian church as standing… at a moment of crisis and testing. Will they heed Paul’s words and recover… Or will their community disintegrate” (p 6)

For more background and overview on 1 Corinthians see Enter the Bible