Corinth was located along a major trade route of the ancient world. It was located on a small isthmus connecting the Greek mainland and the Peloponnesus. While Corinth controlled the E-W route, it also benefited from N-S movement as well; virtually all seafaring vessels preferred to portage the isthmus than risk disaster on the stormy seas of the southern Peloponnese. Corinth was known for its wealth and its debauchery from the time of Homer. As early as ca. 400 BC, Aristophanes coined the term korinthiazo" which meant to commit fornication (Strabo, 378; Athenaeus, 573). Much of Corinth's sexual promiscuity was related to its temple to Aphro"dite", the Greek goddess of love. In her temple, one thousand sacred prostitutes were made available to worshippers on a continual basis. Corinth continued as a prosperous, cosmopolitan, and licentious center until its destruction in 146 BC by the Roman consul Lucius Mummius Achaicus. The ruins of Greek Corinth laid dormant for a hundred years before the city was refounded in 44 BC by Julius Caesar.
Corinth's refounding was helped along by a large influx of Roman 'freedmen.' This group was one step above a slave in the eyes of the Roman citizenry and this group tended to be over-represented in Rome. Sending the freedmen to Corinth was one way of ridding Rome a potential problem and also spelled financial advantage to the freemen. However you look at it, Corinth was not made up of nobility, but former slaves. Nevertheless, the new Corinth worked hard to reestablish old-city values.
The city's importance in trade and commerce must have influenced the Apostle Paul in
his missionary endeavors. The city received people from all over the Empire and so a
message proclaimed in Corinth would inevitably end up being proclaimed all over the world.
The city of Corinth has been called: "the Empire in miniature;-the Empire reduced to
a single State" (Robertson & Plummer ICC, p. xiii). To have success in Corinth,
was to have evangelism across the Empire.
The evidence for Pauline authorship of 1Corinthians is so strong that this letter has
been declared genuine by serious scholarship. Clement of Rome, writing about AD 95, refers
the epistle to "the blessed Paul, the Apostle." This is the earliest instance of
the quotation of a New Testament writer identified by name (Robertson & Plummer, ICC,
p. xvii). There is plenty of other post-apostolic evidence; moreover, the internal
evidences-of style, vocabulary, and content are more than sufficient to harmonize with
what is known of both Paul and Corinth.
Paul wrote the letter from Ephesus (cf. 1Cor 16:8), not from Philippi, as the
KJV subscription has it. See commentaries for a full argument.
The date cannot be fixed with absolute certainty, but it seems probable that the
epistle was written during the latter part of Paul's prolonged stay at Ephesus (cf. Acts
19:1-20:1). That would put it about A.D. 55.
Before suggesting the occasion of the letter, it would be wise to outline the order of Paul's contacts and correspondence with the Corinthian assembly. Though almost all points in the outline are disputed, defense of them is not within the purpose of this brief introduction.
This introduction was primarily drawn from the following resources:
©1998 A. Brent Hudson