AUTHOR: PAUL, the apostle (1:1; 16:21)
PLACE OF WRITING: EPHESUS (16:8)
TIME OF WRITING: Probably in the spring of 57 A.D., shortly before the Jewish feast of Pentecost (16:8), during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:1-41).
BACKGROUND OF THE CITY OF CORINTH: Corinth was situated on the Isthmus of Greece (called Achaia in the Bible) between the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea, above the Mediterranean Sea. About 50 miles to the east was the city of Athens.
The Corinth of Paul's day was relatively new. The old Corinth (which was famous and powerful in the days of the Peloponnesian War) was burned in 146 B.C. by the Roman proconsul, L. Mummius. Because it was a city devoted to the gods, a hundred years were required to pass before the city could be rebuilt. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar rebuilt the city, populated it with a colony of veterans and freedmen, and named it Julia Corinthus. It soon became a very important commercial center.
With a population of 400,000 and being a prominent center of commerce in the Mediterranean world, it was a place for all sorts of vice. An example of its immorality was found in the temple of Venus (Aphrodite), which hosted 1000 priestesses dedicated to prostitution in the name of religion. The city's close proximity to the city of Athens probably added the problem of intellectualism. As noticed in the epistle, such an environment had its effect upon the church in Corinth. It is amazing that a church existed at all in such a city.
BACKGROUND OF THE CHURCH AT CORINTH: The establishment of the church occurred during Paul's second missionary journey. It is recorded by Luke in Acts 18:1-18, which can be divided into three sections:
[Act 18:1-18 NKJV] 1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews [that] Jesus [is] the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook [his] garments and said to them, "Your blood [be] upon your [own] heads; I [am] clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain [man] named Justus, [one] who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. 9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city." 11 And he continued [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 saying, "This [fellow] persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." 14 And when Paul was about to open [his] mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. 15 "But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look [to it] yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such [matters]." 16 And he drove them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat [him] before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. 18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila [were] with him. He had [his] hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.
It appears from reading the epistle that the church was adversely affected by the immoral environment found in the city. Pride caused division in the church and disruption in the services (1 Co 1-4, 11). Immorality and immodesty found its way into the church, which gave it a bad reputation (1 Co 5). The brethren were taking their personal problems with each other before the heathen courts instead of working them out among themselves (1 Co 6). Other issues affecting the church included questions about marriage (1 Co 7), meats sacrificed to idols (1 Co 8-10), women praying and prophesying with heads uncovered (1 Co 11), the use of spiritual gifts (1 Co 12-14), the resurrection from the dead (1 Co 15), and the collection for the saints in Jerusalem (1 Co 16). Thus the church was one beset with problems and questions that needed to be answered.
PURPOSE OF WRITING: The bad news concerning the problems at Corinth had reached Paul in Ephesus. It seems that this news came from at least two sources: 1) the household of Chloe (1:11); and 2) a letter sent to him (7:1), possibly by the hands of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (16:17).
Therefore, in answer to these reports Paul writes:
TO CORRECT SINFUL PRACTICES AND REFUTE FALSE DOCTRINE
THEME: 1 Corinthians 1:10
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
(adapted from Dextor Sammons)
CONCLUDING REMARKS, INSTRUCTIONS, AND BENEDICTION (16:5-24)
The Corinthians, being Greek, would have been familiar with the Old Testament Septuagint and LXX Bible translations.