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Epistles to the Corinthians

(kohr - in' - thee - uhnz)

General Information

The two Epistles to the Corinthians in the New Testament were written by Saint Paul from Ephesus, probably in AD 57, to the church he founded at Corinth, a cosmopolitan commercial city in central Greece. They were part of a lively exchange (there are references to other correspondence in 1 Corinthians 5:9; 7:1; 2 Corinthians 2:4) in which Paul clarified his teachings, rebuked the Corinthians for erroneous practices, and instructed them in Christian living. In chapters 1 - 4 of Corinthians, Paul connects true wisdom to the cross of Jesus Christ in opposition to any other teaching the Corinthians may find attractive.

In chapters 5 - 6 he criticizes their handling of law suits and of a case of sexual immorality. Then in chapters 7 - 15 he answers questions sent to him concerning marriage, Resurrection of the body, eating meat offered to idols, charity, conduct at worship, and the role of spiritual gifts. The Corinthian community was unstructured compared to other Christian churches of the time, and its rapid growth forced Paul to apply Christian beliefs to a variety of problems.

The text of 2 Corinthians shows that relations between Paul and the Corinthians had deteriorated into open conflict. Most of chapters 1 - 7 reflect past conflict over the Corinthians' behavior, the rejection of Paul's apostolic authority by some, and subsequent reconciliation. Chapters 10 - 13 are an even more emotional defense of Paul's life and ministry against adversaries claiming to have authority above Paul's. Many scholars think that these chapters are another epistle, because they are so different from the preceding chapters. Likewise, chapters 8 and 9 are probably two distinct appeals for contributions to be given to the Jerusalem church. Paul's zeal, strength, closeness to Christ, and feelings for his communities are revealed in 2 Corinthians.

Anthony J Saldarini

H Betz, Second Corinthians 8 and 9 (1985); G D Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987); J Hering, The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1958).

Epistles to the Corinthians

Brief Outline

First Epistle to the Corinthians

  1. Factions in the Church (1-4)
  2. Incestuous marriage (5)
  3. Disputes of Christians brought before heathen courts (6)
  4. Phases of the subject of marriage (7)
  5. Meat offered to idols (8-10)
  6. Head coverings for women; proper observance of the Lord's Supper (11)
  7. Spiritual Gifts (12-14)
  8. Resurrection of the body (15)
  9. Collection for the poor of Jerusalem; closing remarks (16)

Second Epistle to the Corinthians

  1. Some thoughts on the crisis through which the Church had just passed (1-7)
  2. Collection for the poor (8-9)
  3. Defense of Paul's Ministry against the attacks of his enemies and a vindication of his apostleship. (10-13)


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