Monday, 5 November 2012

The Book of Corinth

1) Introduction
2) The City Of Corinth
3)  Geographic Conditions
4) Ethnic Conditions
5) Economic Conditions
6) Religious Conditions
7) The Ministry Of Paul At Corinth.

After preaching at Athens, the apostle Paul traveled to Corinth  Corinth was the most important city Paul had visited since he left Antioch of Syria, and, with the exception of ,  he stayed at Corinth longer than any other city we know of. Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, two Jewish tentmakers from , while at Corinth). According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 A.D., because "the Jews were in a state of constant tumult at the instigation of one Chrestus" (i.e., Christ).
Although the "golden age" of Corinth was five centuries before Paul's visit, Corinth had enjoyed a return to prominence during the 1st century A.D. The biennial Isthmian Games, second in importance to the Olympics, were held in honor of Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth. Recent discoveries include the starting gate for the races, and it is possible that Paul was present at one of these events. The victor's crown at the Isthmian Games was made of wilted celery, and maybe Paul had this in mind when he spoke of the "corruptible crown" given to victorious athletes Corinth was a large seaport city. It was the commercial meeting place of the East and the West. On one side of the city there was a port to the Ionian Sea, on the other side a port to the Aegean Sea. As Athens was the intellectual center of the ancient Greek world, Corinth was the economic center. It was famous for its spectacular bronze and infamous for its sensuality. In the temple of Venus at Corinth there were over 1000 prostitutes to be hired by the many travelers who passed through the city. It was to this materialistic, idolatrous, perverse city that Paul came preaching the gospel of Christ. Timothy and Silas were still in Macedonia. Paul came to Corinth alone. He had no companion, but his Heavenly Companion. He had no friend with him, but the Friend of Sinners whom he had come to proclaim. In these eleven verses the Spirit of God teaches us six very important lessons. 
The City Of Corinth
Corinth is located in southern Greece about 50 miles from Athens, and about two miles south of the narrow isthmus that forms a land bridge between the main landmass of Greece and the Peloponnesus. The isthmus is less than four miles wide. Corinth controlled the two major harbors and thus command of the trade routes between Asia and Rome. In ancient days small ships were dragged across the isthmus on a paved road; larger ships unloaded their cargo, which was then carried across the isthmus and then reloaded onto other ships."One of the most important factors drawing Paul to Corinth was its strategic location on the narrow isthmus connecting central Greece to the southern land mass of the Peloponnese. Even more important than the land travel north and south, however, was the sea travel cast and west through the Sardonic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth, lapping the eastern and western shores of the isthmus respectively. The Roman poet Horace wrote in praise of 'twin-sea’s Corinth.' Ship captains plying the northern Mediterranean sea route between Europe and the Aegean Sea much preferred to bring their vessels through the sheltered waters of these two gulfs rather than to add over 200 miles to their sea journey and to risk the more exposed seas off the southern coast of the Peloponnese. Corinth stood, therefore, at a heavily traveled crossroads of the Roman empire. The idea for a canal had emerged as early as the 7th century B.C Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Caligula all considered making a . In 67 A.D., 15 years after Paul came here, Nero came to Corinth to turn over a spiteful of soil in a groundbreaking ceremony for a canal to be dug by Jewish prisoners, but the project was abandoned. French engineers completed a canal in 1881-93.The city flourished from the 8th to the 5th centuries B.C. Because of the leading role it had played against them as a member of the Achaean League, the Roman consul Lucius Mummius burned and destroyed the city in 146 B.C., and left her a heap of ruins. All that remains of the old Greek city is a part of the old marketplace, the seven colums of the temple of Apollo, and a fountain which was preserved by the Romans Julius Caesar rebuilt Corinth around 46-44 B.C. as a Roman colony and renamed it Colonia Laus Julia Corinthiensis, "Corinth the praise of Julius."The majority of the population was Greek, but a large number of Roman military veterans lived there as well, with a sprinkling of Phoenicians and Phrygians. The Roman character of the city is reflected by the many Latin names associated with it in the New Testament: Aquila, Priscilla Crispus, Lucius, Gaius, Tertius, Erastus, Quartus, Fortunatus, Achaicus.Corinth became the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. In Roman Corinth, old temples were restored and enlarged, new shops and markets built, new water supplies developed, and many public buildings added (including three governmental buildings and an amphitheater seating over 14,000). In the 1st century Corinth's public marketplace (agora, forum) was larger than any in Rome. By 50 A.D., when Paul visited Corinth, it was the most beautiful, modern, and industrious city of its size in Greece. Corinth had a Jewish synagogue Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue  was baptized by Paul himself. Apparently Silas and Timothy baptized the other converts at Corinth
I. Geographic Conditions
     The city of Corinth was located just north of Greece on the four-mile-wide isthmus between the Ionian and the Aegean seas. This placed it in the extremely lucrative path of cargo ships trying to avoid the dangerous voyage around Greece. The original city was destroyed by Mummius (a Roman general) in 146 B.C. The city was later rebuilt by Julius Caesar, which greatly contributed to its gaining status as a Roman colony in 46 B.C. Because of their excellent geographic position and their status as a Roman colony, Corinth was acclaimed as the hub of the Roman Empire’s commerce
II. Ethnic Conditions
     Being a trade city, Corinth was a hotbed for almost any nationality. During Paul’s day, the estimated population was about 500,000. The majority of Corinth was made up of Romans, Greeks, and Orientals. There was a fairly large population of Jews there as well. The population varied constantly because of the large  number of people that had mobile occupations. (i.e. sailors, soldiers, fishermen, and businessmen.)
III. Economic Conditions
     The economic conditions of Corinth were extremely good. Not only did the city act as a transport station for imports, but it also manufactured some products of its own, including fine pottery and brass. Corinth was a vast storehouse of wealth and prosperity. This could be seen in the prosperous businesses, beautiful architecture, and the treasures of their temple. Because of its great wealth, it was a place in which the study of the arts and sciences flourished. Irving Jenson, in Jensen's Survey of the New Testament, stated that “there were studios of language and schools of philosophy.” Luxury was the most common goal of all who lived in  Corinth was prosperous enough to be named as one of the three economic centers of Greece by Plutarch, a writer of the second century. The historian  wrote, "Corinth is called 'wealthy' because of its commerce, since it is situated on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each other."The Corinthian economy was more wide-ranging than that of many other Roman colonies. In addition to agriculture, Corinth was known for manufacturing and trade, especially of bronze, and the Isthmian games. Not surprisingly the city derived income from its control of the isthmus. A charge was imposed for boats or cargo hauled on a platform across the isthmus on the  were a big event. They were held every two years on the isthmus in honor of Greek god Poseidon, god of water and sea, horses and earthquakes. When Paul was in Corinth, however, the games may have been held in the city (the games moved back to the isthmus about 50-60 C.E.). Both men and women competed in these popular pan-Hellenic games. For those more interested in the arts or who wanted a mix of physical and intellectual competition, musical and oratorical contests were held at the same time in a . The Christians of Corinth were economically diverse.  included a cross section of society-- rich people, trades people, slaves, former slaves.... Although some Christians were wealthy, they did not have high status; they were like the "new rich" of our day.
V. Religious Conditions
     Sadly, the most notable thing about Corinth was the massive temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. This temple was the epitome of vile debauchery. The size of the temple was incomparable with anything outside of Rome. It was a place where 1,000+ consecrated “virgins” (prostitutes) made themselves available to anyone willing to walk into the temple. Sex orgies were usual practice, and the most depraved immorality was a common occurrence. However, this was not the only religion active in the city of Corinth. A pantheon of gods were worshipped and a variety of cults were prevalent. Judaism was present, and the Jews there built a synagogue. Upon his arrival in Corinth, the synagogue was the place where Paul spent the majority of his time preaching.(See Acts 18:1-4) When he preached to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, “they opposed themselves and blasphemed”.(See Acts 18:6) Upon this reaction, Paul turned his ministry to the Gentiles. The local church at Corinth began as a small nucleus of believers, most of whom were Gentiles, though some were Jews. While there, Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, two of the beginning church members. The church began to grow under the leadership of Paul, who was there for a year and six months according to Acts 18:11. After Paul left Corinth, he returned to Antioch to give the report of his missionary journey to the church there. While Paul was in Ephesus, he heard of some of the problems that were occurring in the church. The church at Corinth had not separated entirely from the world, therefore the world began to seep into the church. Quarreling among the membership had begun, and the church was not dealing with the matter of fornication. The members of the church were living the liberal lifestyle that most Christians live today, and Paul rebuked them for it. Paul wrote the book of I Corinthians from Ephesus as a letter of correction to solve these problems. After the letter from Ephesus, Paul visited the church at Corinth for about three months and ministered to them. Paul wrote a final letter to the church at Corinth from Macedonia. II Corinthians was a letter given mainly for instruction in   doctrine and contained practical exhortation to the members of the church. At the end of this letter, Paul told them to prepare for his visit, but we have no record that he was able to visit again. We know very little about the church of Corinth once Paul’s letters ceased, but we do know that the church stayed in existence for a great amount of time. Today, Corinth has been degraded to a minute village with no significance to the world. The great Corinth, home of the mammoth temple to Aphrodite, lies in ruin. Its ruins remain as living proof that the broad path of the world leads to destruction. From luxury to rubble. Such is the case with any nation who denies God.
The Ministry Of Paul At Corinth.
The Ministry paul we can see the Book Of Acts Of Apostle chapter 18 onwards A typical visitor to the ancient city of Corinth would have approached the city along the paved stones of the Lech ion Road. On the right stood the great Temple of Apollo, built in the 6th century BCE; seven of its Doric columns still stand silhouetted against the Aegean sun. Only a few steps from the temple were the sacred springs of the Pierenne, where pilgrims had worshipped for centuries. Towering over the entire metropolis was the Acrocorinth, an immense outcropping that sheltered shrines sacred to the goddesses Aphrodite and Demeter. Sitting astride an isthmus, Corinth served two harbors: Lechaion to the north and Cenchreae to the East. Along the shipping lanes and through the bustling warehouses passed luxury goods -- leather, linen, wine, oils and fine marble -- that appealed to the tastes of the city's wealthy residents. Religious practice followed trade routes. Besides Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, and Asclepius, the residents of Corinth paid homage to foreign as well as civic deities. It was to this sophisticated metropolis that the apostle Paul brought his message of "Jesus Christ and him crucified." Tradition claims that Paul was a tent maker, and that he first carried his message to other engaged in the same trade, including the couple identified in his letters as Prisca and Aquila.
But Paul's' letters also indicate that he made early converts further up the social scale. Their names, both men and women, are recorded in his correspondence: Chloe, Stephanus, Gaius, Crispus, and Erastus. An inscription from Corinth mentions a city treasurer by that name. Was he a Christian from one of Paul's churches? All that we know for certain is that these early converts were incredibly diverse. They met together as small communities in the larger homes of the wealthier members. These meeting places eventually evolved into "house churches."Once Paul had established a group of these Christian churches, Paul moved on to Ephesus. But internal squabbles threatened to tear his house churches apart. There were conflicts over immoral behavior, spiritual gifts, and dining with pagans. Sometimes Paul tried to mediate these conflicts by sending an emissary; other times, he responded with letters. Two of the letters now contained in the New Testament were addressed to Paul's house churches in Corinth, and express an idea central to his preaching: those who become Christians agree to set aside differences of gender, ethnicity, and class, and join together into one community: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE NOT HIRELINGS (vv. 1-4). Though trained as a scholar at the feet of Gamaliel, and though he was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, when Paul came to Corinth to preach the gospel he earned his living by making tents. Aquila and Priscilla were Jewish believers who were also tent makers. They received Paul into their home and into their business. Tent making at the time was a common trade. Yet, it was a noble trade. As Matthew Henry wrote, "An honest trade, by which a man may get his bread, is not to be looked upon by any with contempt."Why did Paul work as a tent maker? Many point to Paul as an excuse for being stingy with God's servants, suggesting that those who preach the gospel should not live by the gospel. Such an attitude is contrary to the plain teachings of the New Testament. God has ordained that every man who faithfully labors in the work of the gospel ministry should live by the gospel (I Cor. 9:6-14; Gal. 6:6; I Tim. 5:17). Individual believers, deacons, and local churches should make it their business to see to it that those men who faithfully preach the gospel (pastors, missionaries, evangelists) lack for nothing materially. Those who give themselves to the work of the ministry are worthy of financial support. They should never have to ask for anything. In a local church deacons should make certain that the pastor has no earthly, material concern, so that he may give himself entirely to study, prayer, and preaching (Acts 6:2-4). Paul made tents at Corinth because there was no church established among the Corinthians to maintain him. The churches at Jerusalem and Antioch should have assumed that responsibility, but for some reason did not; and Paul refused to ask for help. Being the servant of God, he would not stoop to begging for the help of men! And rather than give the appearance of greed, the Apostle chose to labor with his hands while he preached the gospel to the unbelieving (II Cor. 11:7-8; II Thess. 3:8-9). However, once they were converted, Paul clearly taught the Corinthian believers to generously support those who preached the gospel (I Cor. 9; II Cor. 8 and 9).Though he labored with his hands through the week, Paul preached the gospel freely to the Jews every Sabbath day. He reasoned with them from the Old Testament Scriptures, showing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (vv. 4-5; Gen. 49:10; Deut. 18:15; Psa. 132:11; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; 53:1-12; Jer. 23:5-6).
Paul had more trouble with the church at Corinth than any other. From Paul's letters to the Corinthians we learn that transformation of life is possible by loving obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought not to underestimate what Paul is asking of the Corinthians. He is asking them to make the kind of decision we find so difficult—for or against public lotteries, for or against comprehensive education, decisions which are complicated by prevailing trends and attitudes. He is asking them to make the sort of decision the ancient Israelites had to make when they witnessed the battle between Hananiah and Jeremiah, to decide between two prophets both acting in character and one of whom must be disastrously wrong if only they could see which it was and what a wrong decision might mean. That was the kind of decision which Paul was asking of them. Like those who listened to Jeremiah, those who listened to Paul in Corinth had to take up a challenge to realistic responsibility for one another.
Like those who watched Jeremiah, those who had watched Paul had little to go on except that this man took his suffering for God seriously and responsibly, and had no doubt that this was what faith was about. But there was a further element in the total context in which their decision had to be made. Paul was addressing the community to whom it could be said by way of conclusion: “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and fellowship in the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (13:13).[1]

 1) Biblical Archaeology Review vol. 14, #3 (1988): 14-27.  Though there is no discussion of Gallio, Conzelmann, Hans. Acts of the Apostles. Herminie. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.
2) Deissmann, Adolf. St. Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History, Trans by Lionel R. M. Strachan.  New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912. 
3) Luedemann, Gerd. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology,
4) Trans by E. Stanley  Jones.  Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.  The title says it.  An extensive work forged on the anvil of  Biblical chronology
5) Murphy-O’Connor, JeromeSt. Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, Good News Studies, vol 6.  Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1987. 
6) Jewett, Robert.  A Chronology of Paul’s Life. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979. 
7) John Hargreaves. A guide to Corinthians, ISPCK Delhi 1993
8) Ralph. P.Marbin. word Biblical Themes. Word publishers Dallas 1971
9) Martin, Ralph P., Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 40: 2 Corinthians, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998.

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