III. The Place, Date and Occasion of the Writing of the Epistle
1. The Place
This was Ephesus. Near the close of the letter Paul writes: "I am staying on for the present at Ephesus until Pentecost" (i Cor. 16:8),
2. The Date
Owing to the insufficiency of the data of the New Testament for constructing a precise chronology of the life and letters of Paul there is some variation in the chronological schemes of different scholars. This letter has thus been dated by each year from 53 to 57 a.d. An inscription was discovered at Delphi which throws some light upon the problem. This inscription contains part of a letter written by the Roman Emperor Claudius to the city seemingly confirming some of its privileges, and in it he mentions Gallio as "his friend and proconsul of Achaia." It is the dating of the inscription which helps us to the time of the proconsulship. The date is the twenty-sixth acclatnatio imferatoria, i.e., the twenty-sixth public approbation given to the Emperor for some great accomplishment. By comparing this with two other inscriptions — one found in the Carian city of Cys and the other in Rome, commemorating the completion of the Qaudian Aqueduct, we are able to get the year of the twenty-sixth acclamation. The time of the dedication of the Arch of the Aqueduct was August i, 52. The twenty-seventh acclamation was just before this date. As the proconsul took office on July i, a.d. 52, this was in the time of the twenty-sixth acclamation. It was probably soon after Gallio's arrival in Corinth that the Jews brought Paul before him. He had already been at work in the city about a year. After his release he remained some time and then started for Syria (Acts 18:18). It is not needful to give here the stages in the journey which brought him via Jerusalem, Antioch and Galatia around to Ephesus. The journey was somewhat protracted and Paul was in Ephesus three years, near the close of which period this was written — probably in the spring of 56 a.d.
3. The Occasion of the Epistle
Two equally important reasons impelled Paul to write I Corinthians.
One was the disturbed condition of the church reported to him by "Chloe's people" (i Cor. II :i) and by others coming from Corinth. Contentions had arisen and the church was split up into cliques asserting adherence respectively to Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ. Apollos, a brilliant Alexandrian, was contrasted with plain and unassuming Paul. Cephas was extolled by those who were mainly inspired by a strong prejudice against the broad teaching of Paul, and along with these came the party of Christ who tried to repudiate all party names and yet after all made the name of Christ a badge of their destructive position. These parties had not come to an open breach, but they were on the way to it. Discord and confusion were fast becoming the atmosphere of the church. The same factious spirit was also manifest in their resort to heathen courts for the settlement of their dilutes. Furthermore, the sin of impurity had manifested itself in a desperate form among them and had not received the stem treatment it deserved. He had already written to them upon this general subject (see i Cor. 5:9). How could they go on in "windy pride" and with no sign of grief over the matter? There were disorders connected with worship and denials of the resurrection of the dead. All these called for earnest, searching words from Paul and gave him ample reason to write.
But another reason called for the use of his pen, and that was a letter sent by the Corinthians to Paul requesting instruction upon several matters which were perplexing the church and causing anxiety. This letter is referred to in 7:1. "Now about the questions in your letter." — In all likelihood Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus were the bearers of this letter as well as of other information not included in the letter. The questions in the Corinthian letter may be surmised from the recurring formula "Now concerning, etc.," which is found in 7:25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1, 16:12 — which marks the beginning of Paul's treatment of a given subject. Several ingenious reproductions of this letter have been made, but we have not space to give one here. The whole of I Corinthians, after the introduction, may be roughly divided into two parts: 1:10 — 6:20 based upon information brought by Chloe's people, and 7:1 — 16:24 based upon the letter of inquiry and the information of its bearers. The portion 7:1 — 11 is immediately concerned with the reply to the Corinthian letter. It is from these questions and problems arising out of the experience of the church and from Paul's answers rich in insight and comprehensive in grasp that this epistle has gained its practical character. In this respect no other epistle in the New Testament is quite like it.
From I Epistle to the Corinthians by professor James S. Riggs, Auburn Theological Seminary. Published by the MacMillan Company in 1922. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2013. This conversion is not completed.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Corinthians - J.S. Riggs
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.