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EXPLANATORY AND PRACTICAL,
FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL
SABBATH-SCHOOL TEACHERS AND BIBLE CLASSES.
REV. ALBERT BARNES.
CAREFULLY REVISED BY
REV. SAMUEL GREEN,
AUTHOR OF THE "BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY."
$ 1. The situation of Corinth, and the character of its inhabitants.
CORINTH was properly a small state, or territory in Greece, bounded on the east by the gulf of Saron ; on the south by the kingdom of Argos; on the west by Sicyon and on the north by the kingdom of Megaris
, and upper part of the isthmus and bay of Corinth, the latter of which is now called the Golfo di Lepanto, or the gulf of Lepanto. This tract, or region, not large in size, possessed a few rich plains, but was in general uneven, and the soil but of poor quality. The city of Corinth was the capital of this region. It stood near the middle of the isthmus, which in the narrowest part was about six miles wide, though somewhat wider where Corinth stood. Here was the natural carrying place, or portage from the Ionian sea on the west, to the Ægean on the east. Many efforts were made by the Greeks, and afterwards by the Romans, to effect a communication between the Ægean and Adriatic seas by cutting across this isthmus; and traces still remain of these attempts. Means were even contrived for transporting vessels across. This isthmus was also particularly important as it was the key of the Peloponnesus, and attempts were often made to fortify it. The city had two harbours,-Lechæum on the gulf of Corinth, or sea of Crissa on the west, to which it was joined by a double wall, twelve stadia, or about a mile and a half in length; and Cenchrea on the sea of Saron on the east, distant about seventy stadia, or nearly nine miles. It was a situation therefore peculiarly favourable for commerce, and highly important in the defence of Greece.
The city is said to have been founded by Sisyphus, long before the siege of Troy, and was then called Ephyra. The time when it was founded is, however, unknown. The name Corinth, was supposed to have been given to it from Corinthus, who by different authors, is said to have been the son of Jupiter, or of Marathon, or of Pelops, who is said to have rebuilt and adorned the city.
The city of Corinth was built at the foot of a high hill, on the top of which stood a citadel. This hill, which stood on the south
of the city, was its defence in that quarter, as its sides were extremely steep. On the three other sides it was protected by strong and lofty ramparts. The circumference of the city proper was about forty stadia, or five miles. Its situation gave it great commercial advantages. As the whole of that region was mountainous and rather barren, and as the situation gave the city extraordinary commercial advantages, the inhabitants early turned their attention to commerce, and amassed great wealth. This fact was, to no inconsiderable extent, the foundation of the luxury, effeminacy, and vices for which the city afterwards became so much distinguished.
The merchandise of Italy, Sicily, and the western nations, was landed at Lechæum on the west ; and that of the islands of the Ægean sea, of Asia Minor, and of the Phænicians, and other oriental nations, at Cenchrea on the east. The city of Corinth thus became the mart of Asia and Europe ; covered the sea with its ships, and formed a navy to protect its commerce. It was distinguished by building galleys and ships of a new and improved form; and its naval force procured it respect from other nations. Its population and its wealth were thus increased by the influx of foreigners. It became a city rather distinguished by its wealth, and naval force, and commerce, than by its military achievements, though it produced a few of the most valiant and distinguished leaders in the armies of Greece.
Its population was increased and its character somewhat formed from another circumstance. In the neighbourhood of the city the Isthmian games, which attracted so much attention, and which drew so many strangers from distant parts of the world, were celebrated. To those games, the apostle Paul not infrequently refers, when recommending christian energy and activity. See Note,
, 1 Cor. ix. 24, 26, 27. Comp. Heb. xii. 1.
From these causes, the city of Corinth became eminent among all ancient cities for wealth, and luxury, and dissipation. It was the mart of the world. Wealth flowed into it from all quarters. Luxury, amusement, and dissipation, were the natural consequents, until it became the most gay and dissolute city of its times,—the Paris of antiquity.
There was another cause which contributed to its character of dissoluteness and corruption. I refer to its religion. The principal deity worshipped in the city was Venus ; as Diana was the principal deity worshipped at Ephesus ; Minerva at Athens, &c. Ancient cities were devoted usually to some particular god or goddess, and were supposed to be under their peculiar protection. See Note, Acts xiv. 13. Corinth was devoted, or dedicated thus to the goddess of love, or licentious passion: and the effect may be easily conceived. The temple of Venus was erected on the north side or slope of the Acrocorinthus, a mountain about half a
mile in height, on the south of the city, and from the summit of which a magnificent prospect opened on the rorth to Parnassus and Helicon, on the east to the island of Ægina and the citadel of Athens, and on the west to the rich and beautiful plains of Sicyon. This mountain was covered with temples and splendid houses ; but was especially devoted to Venus, and was the place of her worship. Her shrine appeared above those of the other gods; and it was enjoined by law, that one thousand beautifui females should officiate as courtezans or public prostitutes, before the altar of the goddess of love. In a time of pub.ic calamity and imminent danger, these women attended at the sacrifices, ard walked with the other citizens singing sacred hymns. When Xerxes invaded Greece, recourse was had to their intercession to avert the impending calamity. They were supported chiefly by foreigners ; and from
the avails of their vice a copious revenue was derived to the city. Individuals, in order to ensure success in their undertakings, vowed to present to Venus a certain number of courtezans, whom they obtained by sending to distant countries. Foreign merchants were attracted in this way to Corinth ; and in a few days would be stripped of all their property. It thus became a proverb, “ It is not for every one to go to Corinth,”—(óv mavros ανδρός εις Κόρινθον εστίν ο πλόυς.) The effect of this on the morals of the city can be easily understood. It became the most gay, dissipated, corrupt and ultimately the most effeminate and feeble portion of Greece. It is necessary to make these statements because they go to show the exceeding grace of God in collecting a church in such a city, the power of the gospel in overcoming the strongest and most polluted passions of our nature; and because no small part of the irregularities which arose in the church at Corinth, and gave occasion to this epistle, were produced by this prevailing licentiousness of the people; and by the fact, that gross and licentious passions had received the countenance of law and the patronage of public opinion. See ch. v. vii. See article Lais in Biographical Dictionaries.
Though Corinth was thus dissipated and licentious, yet it was also distinguished for its refinement and learning. Every part of literature was cultivated there, so that before its destruction by the Romans, Cicero (Orat. pro lege Man. cap. v.) scrupled not to call it totius Græciæ lumen—the light of all Greece.
Corinth was, of course, exposed to all the changes and disasters which occurred to the other cities of Greece. After a variety of revolutions in its government, which it is not necessary here to repeat, it was taken by the Roman consul L. Mummius, 147 years before Christ. The riches which were found in the city were immense. During the conflagration, it is said that all the metals which were there were melted and run together, and formed that valuable