Lectionary Year A
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2002
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - The first two lections in I Corinthians 1, reviewed the last two weeks, begin the Epistle as usual, with greetings, thanksgivings and praises. The second lesson introduces the divisions in the Corinthian Church and begins to advise for re-unification.

Post - In I Corinthians, chapter two, Paul identifies himself with the ordinary folk with whom he founded a church and to whom he now writes. Next, he explains that God's wisdom is a wisdom higher than human wisdom, it is not understood by worldly rulers, it remains hidden and even secret, yet it comes from God, from the Spirit of God which differs from the spirit of the world, received by the discerning spiritual believers, who have the mind of Christ.

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

(JFC) As noted in previous weeks, I Corinthians speaks to a Christian community in need of mentoring. After the initial Epistolary greeting (1:1-9), 1:10-6:20 recognizes and seeks to solve "divisions and disorders," as the NRSV Introduction to this Epistle calls them. Some scholars (e.g., Kenneth J. Foreman, LBC, as well as The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible) subdivide these chapters into 1:10-4:21 termed attempts to (re)unify the church in Corinth and 5:1-6:20 describing members' iniquity, legal actions and discipline needed there then. Chapter 7 answers questions the recipients have asked (7:1) about social issues such as marriage. Then, chapters 8-10 point out proper social, mostly, practices in a hostile/pagan environment. 11 through the 14th chapter depict women's place in the orders of the church, comments on the Lord's Supper, an acknowledged variety of spiritual gifts in Corinth, proper behavioral practices there, especially in worship, and outside thereof, how "love is a more excellent way" and the uses of "the gift of 'tongues'." Chapter 15 emphasizes Christ's resurrection and the hope of it for believers as well as discusses death and baptism. The final chapter projects Paul's future itineraries, more admonitions and plans for the Church there.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As earlier noted, "Acts 18:1-18 provides a brief narrative of the founding of the church in Corinth. So far as we know, Paul was the first Christian missionary to Corinth." So states James L. Price in the Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible. Commentaries agree that the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian correspondences. They were apparently written from Ephesus (I Cor. 16:8, Acts 19:1-40) and right before Romans, as 16:1 & II Cor. 9:1f allude to. Scholars think 55 CE is most likely the compositional date. Additionally, C. F. Burkitt lectured (published in 1924 ass Christian Beginnings, page 118), "The group of letters which we know as 1 and 2 Corinthians were written about 5 A. D., some five years after the Conference at Jerusalem, and the date we have assigned to Galatians. These years had witnessed great developments. The Gospel had been carried from Asia to Europe, wholly new classes of converts had been reached.. The numbers of Gentile Christians were now considerable: it is impossible to estimate the number in figures, but I suppose that whereas t the Conference at Jerusalem they may have been reckoned by dozens, at the time 1 Corinthian was being written they would have been reckoned by hundreds. In correspondence with this fact we notice that the position of the Gentiles is now assured. The only reference to circumcision in either Epistle is 1 Cor. Vii 18, 19 where it seems to be brought in less for its own sake than as affording an analogy for the question of marriage and celibacy."

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