« PreviousContinue »
compound which was so much celebrated as Corinthian brass. Others, however, with more probability, say that the Corinthian artists were accustomed to form a metal
, by a mixture of brass with small quantities of gold and silver, which was so brilliant as to cause the extraordinary estimate in which this metal was held. Corinth, however, was again rebuilt. In the time of Julius Cesar, it was colonized by his order, and soon again resumed something of its former magnificence. By the Romans the whole of Greece was divided into two provinces, Macedonia and Achaia. Of the latter, Corinth was the capital. This was its condition when it was visited by Paul. On regaining its ancient splendour, the city soon relapsed into its former dissipation and licentiousness; and when Paul visited it, it was perhaps as dissolute as it had ever been. The subsequent history of Corinth it is not necessary to trace. On the division of the Roman empire, it fell, of course, to the eastern empire, and when this empire was overthrown by the Turks, it came into their hands, and remained under their dominion until the recent revolution in Greece. It still retains its ancient name; but with nothing of its ancient grandeur. A single temple, itself dismantled, it is said, is all that remains, except the ruins, to mark the site of one of the most splendid cities of antiquity. For the authorities for these statements, see Travels of Anacharsis, vol. iii. pp. 369—388; Edin. Encyc., art. Corinth; Lemprière's Classical Dictionary, and Bayle's Dictionary, art. Corinth.
§ The establishment of the Church at Corinth. The apostle Paul first visited Corinth about A.D. 52. (Lardner.) See Acts xviii. 1. He was then on his way from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He had passed some time at Athens, where he had preached the gospel, but not with such success as to warrant him to remain, or to organize a church. See Notes on Acts xvii. He was alone at Athens, having expected to be joined there by Silas and Timothy, but in that he was disappointed. Acts xvii. 15. Comp. xviii. 5. He came to Corinth alone, but found Aquila and Priscilla there who had lately come from Rome, and with them he waited the arrival of Silas and Timothy. When they arrived, Paul entered on the great work of preaching the gospel in that splendid and dissipated city, first to the Jews, and when it was rejected by them then to the Greeks. Acts xviii. 5, 6. His feelings when he engaged in this work, he has himself stated in 1 Cor. i. 1.-4. See Note on that place. His embarrassments and discouragements were met by a gracious promise of the Lord that he would be with him, and would not leave him ; and that it was his purpose to collect a church there. See Note on Acts xviü. 9, 10. In the city, Paul remained eighteen months, Acts xviii. 11, preaching without molestation, until he was opposed by the Jews under Sosthenes their leader, and brought before Gallio. When Gallio refused to hear the cause, and Paul was discharged, it is said, that he remained there yet“ a good while,” Acts xviii. 18, and then sailed into Syria.
Of the size of the church that was first organized there, and of the general character of the converts, we have no other knowledye than that which is contained in the epistle. There is reason to think that Sosthenes, who was the principal agent of the Jews in arraiguing Paul before Gallio, was converted, 1 Cor. i. 1, and perhaps some other persons of distinction ; but it is evident that the church was chietly composed of those who were in the more humble walks of life. See Notes on 1 Cor. i. 26—29. It was a signal illustration of the grace of God, and the power of the gospel, that a church was organized in that city of gaiety, fashion, luxury, and licentiousness; and it shows that the gospel is adapted to meet and overcome all forms of wickedness, and to subdue all classes of people to itself. If a church was established in the gay
and dissolute capital of Achaia, then there is not now a city on earth so gay and so profligate that the gospel may not meet its corruptions, and subdue it to the cross of Christ. Paul subsequently visited Corinth about A.D. 58, or six years after the establishment of the church there. He passed the winter in Greece—doubtless in Corinth and its neighbourhood, on his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem, on the fifth of his visits to the latter city. During this stay at Corinth, he wrote the epistle to the Romans. See the Introduction to Romans.
§ 3. The time and place of writing the first epistle to the
Corinthians. It has been uniformly supposed that this epistle was written at Ephesus. The circumstances which are mentioned incidentally in the epistle itself, place this beyond a doubt. The epistle purports to have been written, not like that to the Romans, without having been at the place to which it was written, but after Paul had been at Corinth. Ch. ii. 1. It also purports to have been written when he was about to make another visit to that church. Ch. iv. 19; xvi. 5. Now the history in the Acts of the Apostles informs us that Paul did in fact visit Achaia, and doubtless Corinth twice. See Acts xviii. 1, &c. and xx. 1–3. The same history also informs us that it was from Ephesus that Paul went into Greece; and as the epistle purports to have been written a short time before that journey, it follows, to be consistent with the history, that the epistle must have been written while he was at Ephesus. The narrative in the Acts also informs us, that Paul
had passed two years in Ephesus before he set out on his second journey into Greece.
With this supposition, all the circumstances relating to the place where the apostle then was which are mentioned in this epistle agree. See ch. xv. 32. It is true, as Dr. Paley remarks, (Hore Pauline) that the apostle might refer to his conflict at Ephesus, wherever he was; but it was much more natural, and much more to the purpose to do so if he was at Ephesus at the time, and in the midst of those conflicts to which the expression l'elates. See ch. xvi. 19. It is evident from this allusion to the churches of Asia that Paul was near those churches, and that he liad intercourse with them. But Asia, throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and in the epistles of Paul, does not mean commonly the whole of Asia, nor the whole of Asia Minor, but a district in the interior of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See Note, Acts ii. 9, also Acts vi. 9; xvi. 6; xx. 16. See also ch. xvi. 19. Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus during the time in which I shall endeavour to show this epistle was written, Acts xviii. 26. It is evident, if this were so, that the epistle was written at Ephesus. See again ch. xvi. 8, which is almost an express declaration that he was at Ephesus when the epistle was written. In ch. xvi. 9, there is a statement which well agrees with the history, as may be seen by comparing the statement with the account in Acts, when Paul was at Ephesus, especially Acts xix. 20. That there were many adversaries," may be seen from the account of the same period in Acts xix. 9. Comp. Acts xix. 23—41. From these circumstances, it is put beyond controversy, that the epistle was written from Ephesus. These circumstantial, and undesigned coincidences, between a letter written by Paul and an independent history by Luke, is one of those strong evidences so common in genuine writings, which go to show that neither is a forgery. An impostor in forging a history like that of the Acts, and then writing an epistle, would not have thought of these coincidences, or introduced them in the manner in which they occur here. It is perfectly manifest that the notes of the time, and place, and circumstances in the history, and in the epistle, were not introduced to correspond with each other, but have every appearance of genuineness and truth. See Paley Hora Pauline on this epistle.
The circumstances which have been referred to in regard to the place where this epistle was written, serve also to fix the date of its composition. It is evident, from ch. xvi. 8, that Paul purposed to tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. But this must have been written and sent away before the riot which was raised by Demetrius, Acts xix. 23—41, for immediately after that Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia. Acts xx. 1, 2. The reason why Paul pur
posed to remain in Ephesus until Pentecost, was, the success which he had met with in preaching the gospel. Ch. xvi. 9. But after the riot excited by Demetrius, this hope was in a measure defeated, and he soon left the city. These circumstances serve to fix the time when this epistle was written to the interval which elapsed between what is recorded in Acts xix. 22 and 23. This occurred about A.D. 56 or 57. Pearson and Mill place the date in the year 57; Lardner, in the spring of the year 56.
It has never been doubted that Paul was the author of this epistle. It bears his name ; has internal evidence of having been written by him, and is ascribed to him by the unanimous voice of antiquity. It has been made a question, however, whether this was the first letter which Paul wrote to them ; or whether he had previously written an epistle to them which is now lost. This inquiry has been caused by what Paul says in ch. v. 9. Whether he there refers to another epistle, which he wrote to them before this, and which they disregarded; or whether to the previous chapters of this epistle ; or whether to a letter to some other church which they had been expected to read, has been made a question. This question will be considered in the note on that verse.
§ 4. The occasion on which this epistle was written. It is evident that this epistle was written in reply to one which had been addressed by the church at Corinth to Paul, ch. vii. 1. That letter had been sent to Paul while at Ephesus by the hands of Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who had come to consult him respecting the state of the church at Corinth. Ch. xvi. 17,18. In addition to this Paul had heard various reports of certain disorders which had been introduced into the church at Corinth, and which required his attention and correction. Those disorders, it seems, as was natural, had not been mentioned in the letter which they sent him, but he had heard of them incidentally by some members of the family of Chloe. Ch. i. 11. They pertained to the following subjects. 1. The divisions which had arisen in the church by the popularity of a teacher who had excited great disturbance. Ch. i. 12, 13. 'Probably this teacher was a Jew by birth, and not improbably of the sect of the Sadducees, 2 Cor. xi. 22,
and his teaching might have been the occasion why in the epistle Paul entered so largely into the proof of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, ch. xv. 2. The Corinthians, like all other Greeks, were greatly in danger of being deluded, and carried away by a subtle philosophy, and by a dazzling eloquence, and it is not improbable that the false teacher had taken advantage of this, and made it the occasion of exciting parties, and of creating a prejudice against Paul, and of undervaluing his authority because he had made no pretensions to these endowments. It was of importance, therefore, for Paul to show the true nature and value of their philosophy, and the spirit which should prevail in receiving the gospel. Ch. i. 18—31. ii. iii. 3. Paul's authority had been called in question, and not improbably by the false teacher, or teachers, that had originated the parties at Corinth. It became necessary, therefore, for him to vindicate his authority, and show by what right he had acted in organizing the church, and in the directions which he had given for its discipline and purity, ch. iv. ix. 4. A case of incest had occurred in the church which had not been made the subject of discipline, ch. v. This case was a flagrant violation of the gospel ; and yet it is not improbable that it had been palliated or vindicated by the false teachers; and it is certain that it excited no shame in the church itself. Such cases were not regarded by the dissolute Corinthians as criminal. In a city dedicated to Venus, the crimes of licentiousness had been openly indulged, and this was one of the sins to which the people were particularly exposed. It became necessary, therefore, for Paul to exert his apostolic authority, and to remove the offender in this case from the communion of the church, and to make him an example of the severity of christian discipline. The Corinthians had evinced a litigious spirit, a fondness for going to law, and for bringing their causes before heathen tribunals, to the great scandal of religion, instead of endeavouring to settle their difficulties among themselves. Of this the apostle had been informed, and this called also for his authoritative interposition, ch. vi. 148. 6. Erroneous views and practices had arisen, perhaps, under the influence of the false teachers, on the subject of temperance, chastity, &c. To the vices of intemperance, licentiousness, and gluttony, the Corinthian Christians, from their former habits, and from the customs of their countrymen, were particularly exposed. Those vices had been judged harmless, and had been freely indulged in, and it is not improbable that the views of the apostle had been ridiculed as unnecessarily stern, and severe, and rigid. It became necessary, therefore, to correct their views, and to state the true nature of the christian requirements, ch. vi. 8–20. 7. The apostle having thus discussed those things of which he had incidentally heard, proceeds to notice particularly the things respecting which they had consulted him by letter. Those were, a. Marriage, and the duties in regard to it in their circumstances, ch. vii. b. The eating of things offered to idols, ch. viii. In order to enforce his views of what he had said on the duty of abstaining from the use of certain food, if it was the occasion of giving offence, he shows them, ch. ix., that it was the great principle on which he had acted in his ministry; that he was not imposing on them any thing which he did not observe himself; that though he had full authority as an apostle to insist on a support in preaching, yet for the sake of peace and the prosperity of the church he had voluntarily