• When and Where
Borg writes: “According to Acts, Paul created a Christ-community in Corinth in southern Greece around the year 50. Corinth was a major city, seaport, and capital of the Roman province of Achaia, which included Athens” but at this time Corinth was the more important of the two. It was a multi-ethnic hub, mostly gentile but with a synagogue. Paul most likely wrote this letter while in Ephesus in 53-54. Note that what we have here is not actually his first letter to the Corinthians (see 5:9 and 7:1).
• Key Insights
Paul is responding to a letter he has been sent, part of an ongoing correspondence with a beloved and familiar, but divided community. Paul here proclaims his gospel – that he preaches only Christ, and him crucified! Crucifixion was the worst form of punishment the empire had. The claim that God became flesh is scandalous enough; for to him to die on a Roman cross? Unthinkable. And yet this, and the resulting resurrection, is at the heart of Paul’s faith and message. Paul finds and urges strength in Christ, even as he also begins to wrestle with finding unity in diversity, setting standards but realizing each follower has different gifts and calling.
• Big Picture
This is the 2nd longest of Paul’s letters, so in the standard canonical order, it comes after Romans. Here we see it is an early letter, and we’re “hearing” one side of an ongoing conversation. Paul is not writing a systemic theology, but engaged in conversation as he, and the Corinthians, sort out what it means to follow Christ in their time and place. In some ways their world is not so different from our own pluralistic society.
Blessings on your reading!
Tomorrow we’ll read the rest of 1st Corinthians, then take a break for Sunday worship. How are you doing so far? Remember to note “things I notice” and “questions I have” in a notebook.