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Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians Episcopal Church of the Resurrection April 26-May 17, 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians Episcopal Church of the Resurrection April 26-May 17, 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians Episcopal Church of the Resurrection April 26-May 17, 2012

2 New Testament Chronology Jesus: 4BC?-30AD? Paul: First decade AD-60sAD? Paul’s Letters: 50-58 – 50: 1-2 Thessalonians – 53: Ephesians? – 53: Galatians – 54: 1 Corinthians – 55: Philippians & Philemon – 55-56: 2 Corinthians – 57: Romans – 58 Colossians Roman/Jewish War: 66-70 Gospel of Mark: 68-73 Rome destroys Jerusalem temple: 70 Gospel of Matthew: 80-90 Luke/Acts: 80-90 Gospel of John: 80-110 (100) Revelation: 92-96 Other Epistles: 70-130 Didache: 100-150 Justin Martyr: Mid 2 nd Century Gospel of Thomas: Mid 3 rd Century

3 Possible Pauline Chronology 33 – Paul’s conversion 35 – First journey to Jerusalem 47-48 – Mission from Antioch to Asia 48 – Second journey to Jerusalem 49 – Macedonian mission 49-52 – Corinthian Mission 50 – 1-2 Thessalonoians written 53-56 – Ephesian mission 53 – Galatians written 54 – 1 Corinthians written 55 – Phillipians and Philemon written 55-56 – 2 Corinthians written 56 – Painful return to Corinth 57- Third visit to Corinth 57 – Romans written 57 – Third journey to Jerusalem 57-59 – Imprisonment and trial in Caesarea 58 – Colossians written 60-62 – Arrival and imprisonment in Rome

4 What did Paul write? Original to Paul (Circa 50s) – Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon – Radical Paul – Challenges many social conventions of ancient world Disputed (Circa 70-90) – Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians – Conservative Paul – Challenges and reinforces social conventions of ancient world Non-Pauline (Circa 100-120) – I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus – Reactionary Paul – Reinforces many social conventions of ancient world

5 Corinth Sat on Isthmus between two major ports on Ionian and Aegean seas. Trading center. 40 miles from Athens Rome completely destroyed it in 146 BC Julius Caesar refounded it as Roman colony in 44 BC Rome shifted excess population there. Corinth had reputation as place for social climbers. Presence of many sailors gave it “sin city” reputation Reputation for wealthy people who behaved selfishly

6 Corinth Many freed slaves lived there Corinth had colony status, highest status in empire outside of Rome itself. Roman laws operated, Latin was official language, Roman cult practiced Corinth a center of Imperial culture in Greece. Commercial and religious center Rather than travelling in open Mediterranean, ships portaged goods over the isthmus City included Greek, Roman, Egyptian temples and Jewish synagogues Jewish Corinthian community pre-dated Paul




10 Corinthian Christian Community Paul founded the community in Corinth maybe 5 years before he wrote, in 49 or 50, after establishing churches in Philippi and Thessalonica He spent perhaps 18 months there then moved on to found other churches Community is mostly Gentile, with some Jews. Paul mentions Greek, Roman and Jewish names. No indication of strife between Jews and Gentiles, as in Paul’s other letters

11 Corinthian Christian Community Christians represented range of social/economic classes, from wealthy to slaves. This was unusual and caused tension Strife seems to be between socio-economic classes “…no one disputes that the Corinthians are a contentious, carping bunch among themselves.” During Paul’s absence, serious divisions grew: – sexual morality, legal disputes, sharing Lord’s Supper, disagreements about res. of the dead, spiritual gifts, etc.

12 Corinthian Christian Community Paul says issues are serious enough that he’ll return for a long stay The letter seems to have been unsuccessful. By the time of 2 Corinthians, the situation has further deteriorated. Had no church. Met in homes of wealthy members. Probably a few different home gatherings

13 Who was Paul? Chronology of Paul’s life in Acts differs considerably from chronology in epistles Born first decade AD(?), died 60sAD(?) Paul grew up in Tarsus, Southern Turkey. He lived in the Diaspora, not in Israel. Diaspora Judaism was more insecure Tarsus was urban, cosmopolitan and well-educated (versus Galilee) Roman citizen? A tent-maker Pharisee

14 Who was Paul? Paul did not know the historical Jesus. Often he feels need to assert apostolic credentials – Seldom cites Jesus’ sayings – Focuses more on Jesus’ death/resurrection than life – Focuses more on relationship with Jesus than Jesus stories – Paul doesn’t seem familiar with most Gospel stories, except for Last Supper and some apocalyptic material. No parables, no relationships, etc Jewish Christ mystic? Epileptic? Malarial? Paul did not intend to start a new religion. He thought Christianity was fulfillment of Judaism

15 Was Paul a Mystic? Mystic: Someone who experiences union with God. Moved from believing to knowing God Did he have a mystical experience on the road to Damascus?

16 Paul is Important Augustine converted to Christianity after reading Romans 13:13-14 Luther founded his definition of grace on Paul Paul is central to John Calvin’s theology John Wesley, who went on to found the Methodists, was converted by Luther’s commentary on Romans Borg jokes that for Lutherans, Paul is more important than Jesus

17 1 Corinthians is a letter, not a story This letter responds to a lost letter from the Corinthian church Letters were considered to be group efforts, often written by scribes Paul wrote letters, not stories, like the Gospels, so they often leave out or assume knowledge of the Gospel, but don’t make it explicit Paul wrote letters to specific communities to address specific issues. If we don’t know much about the community or issue, it’s hard to understand the letter Concentric contexts: Individual communities/Jesus movement/Judaism/Hellenism/Roman empire

18 What Goes Into an Epistle? Greeting – Identifies sender(s), recipient(s) – “Grace and peace” – Claim of apostolic authority Sense of formality. Functions like a business card Thanksgiving for blessings and for recipients Body – Addresses difficulties that prompted the letter – Usually Paul defends or clarifies his mission – Appeals to scripture and Greco-Roman philosophy Benediction – Personal news, exhortation, advice, recap, signature, doxology Letters may/may not be in original form. Some editing took place

19 Major Pauline Themes Relationship of Jews and Gentiles before Christ Justifying oneself before the law/covenant Creating a community that treats all people equally

20 Many Problems in Paul Paul seems to endorse slavery, subordinate women, condemn homosexuality, affirm speaking in tongues Paul says humans should be subject to their rulers Paul also seems to say celibacy is better than marriage Did Paul change the message of Jesus into doctrines about Jesus? Often makes himself, not Jesus, the example, and seems self righteous

21 Paul’s letters are hard for us to read 1 Corinthians can’t be read narratively like a gospel. Themes come and go, circle one another, contradict each other, build and ebb. Sections blend together, end abruptly and pick up suddenly

22 Apostle to the Gentiles Paul seems to have believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection was the long-awaited event, so he re-imagined the way of viewing the story of Israel within the world Paul became “apostle to the Gentiles”. Thought that since God had fulfilled his purpose to Israel, and now it was time for Gentiles to come along Paul clearly expected Jesus to come back within his lifetime, and voices frustration that it has not happened

23 Cultural Patterns behind the Letter Pater Familias – Father was considered to be responsible for all members of the family, and was considered to be model for proper behavior – This helps explain the paternal tone that Paul takes with his followers and sense of “ownership” he projects (and which the readers probably accept)

24 Cultural Patterns behind the Letter Honor/Shame; Praise/Blame – Honor and shame were cultural currencies that the could be accumulated and leveraged – Society was ordered vertically. Lower people dependent on higher people, showered them with praise/honor – Seating/speaking order was hierarchical – Breaching propriety brought great shame

25 Cultural Patterns behind the Letter Patron/Client – Reflects hierarchical culture – Everyone had a “lord”, to whom they belonged, were indebted, responsible, etc. – Behavior was meant to please the people above – Patrons sought to collect clients. Clients sought to show proper honor to patrons – Indebtedness and obligation tied society together – People trying to seek status over others, instead of under Jesus, is persistent issue in letter – Seeing Jesus as Lord makes this very counter-cultural – upsets the whole social order

26 Cultural Patterns behind the Letter Stoics – Philosophy of stoicism was taken for granted – Saw orderly universe with distant god or Logos which pervades and sustains – Sense of laws of nature and duty. Universe is reasonable – Differentiates between things of importance and things that don’t matter much – Sense that God has allocated matters in a particular way – Wise man lives in accordance with laws/harmony of nature and divine reason

27 Cultural Patterns behind the Letter Rhetoric – Rhetoric, the art of persuasion, was the basic form of education and it was part of the fabric of discourse – All communication, written and spoken, was expected to be rhetorical – Today we are generally unfamiliar with this style, which makes the letter sound odd to us – Includes flattery, criticism and passive-aggressive tone

28 Paul’s Assumptions behind the letter Paul’s theology resides between 2 poles: – Jesus’ death and resurrection which have inaugurated a new creation – Jesus return and the conclusion and judgment Community. Paul cannot fathom faith outside of community – Faith applies to God, love applies to others, and they are inseperable – Caring for community is requirement – If choosing between individual needs and community, must choose community

29 Major Themes of the Letter Identity of Jesus – Initiator of new, apocalyptic age – Jesus’ self-sacrifice is pattern for community Apocalypticism – Jesus will be back soon. – “Already/not yet” sense of time. Body is important – Lots of talk of sex and food and resurrection of the body Love is primary – As opposed to knowledge and wisdom Transformation of power and status through cross

30 Outline of 1 Corinthians Opening: A community called by God: 1:1-9 – Salutation & Thanksgiving Call for Unity: 1:10-4:21 – Factions, Foolishness of cross, Wisdom for the mature, community belongs to God, confrontation with boasters Call for Discipline: 5:1-6:20 – Drive out wicked, legal disputes, glorify God in your body Contested Issues: 7:1-15:58 – Sex and marriage, idol meat, worship, resurrection of the body Conclusion: 16:1-24 – Collection, travel plans, farewell

31 Outline of this Class April 26 – Introduction May 3 – Preface: 1:1-9 – Unity in the community: 1:10-4:21 May 10 – Discipline in the community: 5:1-6:20 – Contested issues I: 7:1-11:1 May 17 – Contested issues II: 11:2-15:58 – Conclusion: 16:1-24

32 Sources Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, from “Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching” Robert Wall, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, from “The New Interpreters Bible”, Volume X J. Paul Sampley, The First Letter to the Corinthians: Introduction, Commentary, Reflections, from “The New Interpreters Bible”, Volume X Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, The First Paul

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