On 1 & 2 Corinthians…

Paul wrote first Corinthians around 53 to 54 A.D. to the church at Corinth regarding “practical issues such as schisms in the church, lawsuits in local courts, the exercise of church discipline, questions related to idolatry, Christian marriage, the ordinances, spiritual gifts, and theological issues such as the nature of salvation and the doctrine of resurrection.”

Paul wrote second Corinthians around 54 to 55 A.D. to the church at Corinth regarding a defense of his apostolic authority, to challenge those who falsely called themselves apostles, to detail the basics of the new covenant, and to promote sacrificial giving to help others in need.

Paul received word that the church of Corinth was struggling with sexual immorality during his visit in Ephesus. Paul’s response was for those in the faith to avoid self-proclaimed Christians that participated in the sexual immorality. Other issues transpired, such as the division into groups, an incestuous relationship, and confusion over pagan rituals that required Paul to reply further. Paul received his information from two primary sources.

The first source was a group of people that identified with Chloe’s household in the church, who reported the different groups and divisions. The second source was three officials from the church, Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who delivered a letter and verbal reports to Paul that suggested great concern of the spiritual state of the church in Corinth.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul systematically addresses the issues at hand after the introduction and customary prayer of thanksgiving. This literary plan was quite simple and to the point, effectively covering each problem using the peri de method However, it is difficult to ascertain a literary plan for 2 Corinthians due to widely varying “theories of interpolation that regard 2 Corinthians as a composite of several different letters rather than a single literary document.”

Since the structure of the letter changes drastically, theologians have not been able to give one single classification or analysis to support a sole document theory. Given that Paul addressed the concerns of the church of Corinth in several communications, it would come as no surprise that 2 Corinthians could, in fact, be several different letters collected and merged into one.

How have 1 & 2 Corinthians inspired you?

Köstenberger, Andreas, L. Scott Kellum and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross,and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009.