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Religion Essay 1Corinthians

I will be doing an analysis of a letter from Paul. The letter I have chosen is 1 Corinthians.
Where Paul has written a letter to the church of Corinth answering some questions they had for
Paul. The structure of my essay will talk about the geographical context of the letter, discussing
what type of area Corinth was. Next, the relational context of the letter, where I will discuss what
Paul’s relationship is with the Corinth church. I will then discuss the structure of the letter,
identifying the features and if there are any unusual features in the letter itself. Finally, I will be
discussing the literary context of the letter itself; the occasion of the letter, the main section of
the letter, the problem of the letter, and does the passage I choose solve or relate to the problem
of the letter. After all that I will give my final thoughts and what I’ve learned in the conclusion.
To understand the conditions of the letter that Paul sent we must know the geographical
context of the letter. In 1 Corinthians, the location where the letter was sent to was the city of
Corinth. Corinth is located in Greece and was known as the great crossroads of the ancient
world1. Due to the ruling class’s excellent management at that time which was anticipating
versus opposing change, Corinth became a booming city2. Now Corinth was always rich and had
high productivity, being known for their ceramics, textiles, shipbuilding, and architecture3. Also
due to Corinth being by the water they had control of not one but two ports, one at Acrocorinth
and another at Cenchrea4. They also held control of the land bridge that connected them to the
mainland. While Corinth is known for all these great things, one thing that helped their economy
but somewhat also gave them a terrible reputation, was that because it was a huge port city many
J Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinth,” ABD 1:1135.
Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinth,” 1:1135.
Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinth,” 1:1135.
Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinth,” 1:1135.
sailors came to shore to release pent up “stress”. Which led to Corinth being known as the place
where commercialized love was prominent5.
Now I will be talking about that relational context that Paul had with the Corinth church.
Paul had “planted” the church in Corinth (3:6), claiming himself to be the founder of it6. Paul had
generally good relations with the church of Corinth but we see in 1 Cor 5:9,11 that the first letter
sent to the Corinthians is now lost. We also see that in 1 Cor 1:11, 7:1 Paul had an oral report
received from Chloe’s people and written questions from the Corinthians. Through all this we
ultimately find out that 1 Cor is actually the second letter sent to the Corinthians. Though it is not
part of letter 2 Cor does include Paul’s second visit to Corinth and is most likely thought of as a
copy, paste job with possibly part of the now mostly lost first letter to the Corinthians.
I will now discuss the Pauline letter structure of the 1 Corinthians letter and it’s features.
First off we have the prescript (1:1-3). In the prescript we have the senders: Paul & Sosthenes
(1:1). Then we have the recipients, which is the church of Corinth (1:2). Lastly, the grace wish
(1:3). After that we have the Thanksgiving summary (1:4-9). Next we have the body
(1:10-16:12). Followed by the paraenesis (16:13-18). Lastly we have the closing (16:19-24)
which includes the secondary greeting (16:19-20), a holy kiss (16:20), an autograph (16:21), and
the grace blessing (16:23). Now there is an unusual feature that appears in this letter. In which
the body of the letter contains two different but similar sections where Paul has responded to an
oral report from Chloe's people (1:10-6:20) and also a response from written questions that the
Corinthians had sent to him (7:1-16:12).
Now I will talk about the literary context of 1 Corinthians. I will first talk about the
occasion of the letter. Within the letter we find out that 1 Cor is actually the second letter that
Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinth,” 1:1135.
Hans Dieter Betz, “Corinthians, First Epistle To The,” 1:1139(s).
Paul had written to the Corinthians and that the first letter is most probably lost or a fragment is
seen in 2 Cor7. Continuing on, Paul writes in 1 Cor to the Corinthians answering what he had
received from the oral report from a member of Chloe’s people and questions that the
Corinthians had written to him.
If you trace down a tree diagram of how the letter of 1 Cor breaks down. We can see that
the main section where you can find this is under the body of the letter (1:10-16:12) in the
section where Paul responds to oral report from Chloe’s people (1:10-6:20). In which Paul
discusses and answers the dispute over leadership that the Corinthians are arguing about
I will now discuss the problem of the section of my letter, giving first a general idea then
adding more information to understand more clearly. The problem in the section I am dealing
with in 1 Cor 3:5-9, is that the Corinthians are fighting over between Paul and Apollos, who to
follow in leadership8. It is shown in the passage that Paul used a question leading up to a
discussion, with a way of checking shallow conceit and probing the idea9. Now I had discussed
earlier that the section of the passage I am dealing with falls under the dispute of leadership and
it was not just between Paul and Apollos. But for this passage it mainly concerned Paul and
Apollos, since both were the most prominent and remembered in Corinth. Now also within this
section Paul tells the Corinthians that he is not writing this section for them to be ashamed but
just to warn them as if they were his own children (4:14).
Now dealing with the solution to the section/passage, it is made to think of the false idea
of the role of preachers. But Paul describes and answers that both him and Apollos are similar
Dieter Betz, “Corinthians, First Epistle,” 1:1139(s).
Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, First Corinthians, AB (Yale: Yale University, 2008), 193.
Archibald Robertson, The First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,
year), 56.
but different at the same time10. In which it connects that both him and Apollos are both fellow
workers and that while they gain no merit from this, one can hope for a reward 11. We can also
add that Paul did not see Apollos a rival but more as a coworker, servant, and a fellow steward to
the same high being that is God12. So to answer the problem that led to the dispute Paul answered
that it did not matter which leader one followed and that the thing the Corinthians should do is
not owe allegiance to those who are simply messengers of God.
To conclude this analysis of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Corinth was a place where it
was rich in terms of economy but was filled with many problems that needed help. Paul founding
a church there now had a way to help them and preach his teachings. In the passage I had
analyzed the Corinthians were having a dispute over leadership that Paul had received as an oral
report. Paul had then answered that it did not matter which leader the corinthians were to follow
and that their purposes were one and the same, which was to be a messenger of God. Though
with all of this information, if I had a time machine I would want to visit Corinth so I could
experience firsthand what led them to this dispute.
Hans Conzelman. 1 Corinthians. Hermenia. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1975), 73
Conzelman 1 Cor, 74
LastName, Abbreviated Title, page(s)
Murphy-O’Connor, J. “Corinth.” Pages 1134-1139 in vol. 1 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary.
Edited by D.N. Freedman. 6 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
Dieter Betz, Hans. “Corinthians, The First Epistle To The.” Pages 1139-1148 in vol. 1 of The
Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Edited by D.N. Freedman. 6 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press,
Conzelman, Hans. 1 Corinthians. Hermenia- A Critical and Historical Commentary on
the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1975.
Fitmeyer, Joseph A. 1 Corinthians. AB- A New Translation with introduction and
commentary. Yale: Yale University 2008
Robertson, Archibald. First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians.