Introduction to the letters of Paul to the Corinthians

Corinth was always destined to be a city of great wealth as it sat in the centre of the great trade routes, not only east and west, but south and north. It was a cosmopolitan city, traders from distant lands called it their home, retired Roman officers settled there and a large Jewish diaspora was formed. It was also home to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, with its thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes. They plied their trade in the city and Corinth became known not just for its wealth, but also for its drunkenness and debauchery. Paul stayed longer in Corinth than any other city he visited, apart from Ephesus, remaining there for eighteen months. He lived with Aquila and Priscilla and preached in the synagogue with great success, being instrumental in the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, becoming a Christian believer. Paul wrote these letters around AD55, so before any of the Gospels had been written. As it is very likely that Paul's letters to Corinth have been collected 35 years after he wrote them, one of the key things to understand is the sequence of the letters we are going to study, as there are in fact FOUR letters to the church at Corinth: FIRST: what is termed 'the previous letter' contained in 2 Corinthians 6 v 14- 7 v1 SECOND: Paul receives a letter from the Church there. THIRD: 1 Corinthians is written in reply to that letter. FOURTH: The situation gets worse and Paul pays a personal visit. FIFTH: the 'severe letter' is written, contained in 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13, and dispatched with Titus who reads it to the church. SIXTH: Paul meets Titus in Macedonia, hears that everything is much better and writes 2 Corinthians chapters 1-9. As we study 1 and 2 Corinthians, we will understand that this works well with the material, and we can be thankful to patient Biblical scholarship for working through Paul's writings and unthreading them.

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