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1 Corinthians

Length: 16 chapters (take two days to read each chapter, or read it through twice!)

Author: This is one of the seven undis-puted letters by the Apostle Paul

Recipients: The church at Corinth, the capitol city of the Roman province of Achaia. Paul himself founded the Christian church in Corinth during his missionary journeys. According to Acts 18:1-11, Paul stayed at Corinth for a year and a half after he started the new Christian church there.

Date: Paul likely wrote this letter between 53-56 CE from the city of Ephesus (see 16:8).

Even though it is referred to as 1 Corinthians, this was actually not the first letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. There is evidence (see 5:9) of an earlier letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthian community, as well as him having previously received a letter (see 7:1) and oral communication (see 11:1, 16:17) from the Corinthian community. This back and forth communication between Paul and the congregation in Corinth continues through what we know as 2 Corinthians.

This letter is one of our best first-hand looks into the day-to-day realities and struggles of the early church. In it we see confusion and conflict about the meaning of the gospel message between Corinthian members, such as:

 competing claims to wisdom, wealth spiritual gifts and power

disagreements about social practices and their ongoing relevance in light of the news of Christ’s expected return (marriage, distinctions between men and women, lawsuits, eating meat sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality)

After his usual introductory remarks (address, salutation, thanksgiving, see 1:1-9), Paul sets out the groundwork for “the message of the cross” (1:17-25) for dealing with divisions, disagreements, and disorders within the Corinthian community.

In 1 Corinthians we have the only example describing the institution of the Lord’s Supper outside of the gospels. (see 11:23-26).

Paul uses the metaphor of the church being one body with many different and unique members, all with important gifts and functions (12:12-31).

Probably the most well known quote from one of Paul’s letters, one which is often used in modern day marriage ceremonies is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. However sentimental it sounds, Paul was not writing this as marital advice, but rather as advice for how all Christians should treat one another as brothers and sisters.

Paul continues with comments about the meaning and significance of Christ’s resurrection (chpt. 15) to help underscore his theological point to the Corinthian community. Although clearly frustrated, Paul appears to remain hopeful about the future of this fledgling Christian community and closes with final words of benediction.