Survey of the Bible - I Corinthians

Text: I Corinthians 1:18-31


I.         This letter of Paul shows us the difficulty of living a Christian life in a society that given over to idolatry and immorality.

            A.        This letter, like the other letters of Paul are found in the codex P46, which is commonly dated to 200 A.D., though one scholar argues the date should be 90 A.D.

“This codex of the letters of Paul was made out of one single quire. That is to say, 52 papyrus leaves were put on top of each other and then folded in the middle; thus forming 104 leaves holding 208 pages of text. 

If a codex is made out of one quire, the scribe must carefully calculate how much text the book will have to hold before he starts to write. Once he is past the middle page there is no way to correct a mistake, for any sheet of papyrus added at the end of the codex will give an empty first page. 

You can imagine how difficult the calculation was. Consider, for example, the problem of the inner leaves. When you fold a heap of paper in the middle, the inner leaves will stick out and you will want to cut them so the book looks nicer. This is what was done to p46 before the scribe started writing. Now if you do that you should be aware that the inner pages are smaller than the outer ones and hold less text. 

For some reason, the scribe of p46 made a mistake when he calculated the amount of paper he needed. After he had filled more than half of the book, he realized there would not be enough room for all the text he planned to copy. He started to write more characters in each line and gradually increased the 26 lines per page in the first half of the codex to 28, then to 30 and in the end to 32 lines per page. 

Although the manuscript is in fairly good condition, the outer pages did not survive. The text starts with Rom 5:17, then runs through Hebrews 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Ephesians Galatians Philippians Colossians and ends in 1 Thess 5:28. Because many pages still provide their original page numbers it is easy to see that the seven missing outer leaves holding 14 pages of text at the beginning left room for 14 corresponding pages at the end. There is no way to get the rest of 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon on 14 pages of the size used by p46. A fair estimate lies somewhere close to 23 more pages necessary to hold all of the expected text. What the scribe decided to do, we do not know. 

It is not necessary to assume that some of the missing letters were unknown to the scribe, although it could of course be possible. But the scribe evidently had difficulties with the length of the text. Two fragments of papyri codices contemporary to p46 have been found in the sands of Egypt, one of them, p32, preserving text from Titus, the other, p87, with text from Philemon, thus proving that these letters were known at the time and in the region, where p46 was produced. 

What caused the unusual sequence of letters? Why is Hebrews put between Romans and 1 Corinthians and why does Ephesians precede Galatians? 

I think the solution is very simple. It was crucial to a scribe properly to calculate the length of the text before he started to write a codex consisting of a single quire. Facing this situation it probably is a good idea to arrange the different parts according to the length of the text before you start to copy the text. For if you start out with the longest letters and end with the shorter ones, the chances are good you can finish the codex with the end of a letter even if your calculation was wrong. In this case all the scribe would need to do is produce an extra volume out of some additional leaves holding the missing letters. But if you start out with the short letters and end with the long ones the chances are much higher that you are right in the middle of a letter when you hit the last page. And who would want to use a book that ends in the middle of the text?

              [David Trobisch, “The Oldest Extant Editions of the Letters of Paul”]

II.        Background

            A.        Corinth

                        1.         Situated on a narrow band of land between Achaia and Greece.

                        2.         Population of about 400,000. The fourth largest city in the Roman Empire

                        3.         Boats were dragged about 3 miles on sledges to save days and 200 miles of sea travel and to avoid the winter winds

                        4.         Being a sea port, it was known for the immoral services available to sailors

                                    a.         One of the Greek verbs for “fornicate and debauchery” is korinthiazomai (to act like a Corinthian).

                                    b.         A temple to Aphrodites, the Greek goddess of love, which Strabo, a Greek writer, claimed to have 1,000 prostitutes working for it.

                                    c.         Corinth was “sin city.” Gambling, thieves, and vagrants were common.

            B.        The church

                        1.         Started by Paul during his second journey.

                                    a.         After Macedonia, Paul stopped in Athens and then continued to Corinth - Acts 1:1

                                    b.         It would about A.D. 52-53

                        2.         It was here Paul met Aquila and Priscilla - Acts 18:2-3

                                    a.         They worked together to teach the gospel to the Jews - Acts 18:4

                        3.         A bit later Silas and Timothy joined them from Macedonia - Acts 17:14-15; 18:5

                        4.         The Jews rejected the gospel and Paul began focusing on the Gentiles - Acts 18:6

                                    a.         Paul also moved out of Aquila and Priscilla’s house into the home of Justus, next door to the synagogue - Acts 18:7

                                    b.         Eventually Paul converted Crispus and others - Acts 18:8

                        5.         Paul continued teaching in Corinth for 18 months - Acts 18:9-11

                                    a.         The Jews, under the new synagogue leader, Sosthenes, tried to take Paul to court, but the case was thrown out - Acts 18:12-16

                                    b.         Sosthenes was beaten by the angered Gentiles - Acts 18:17

            C.        Paul left with Aquila and Priscilla for Syria, then Cenchrea and then eventually stopping in Ephesus - Acts 18:18-21

                        1.         Paul continued on, but left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus.

                        2.         There they met and converted Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria in Egypt - Acts 18:24-26

                        3.         Apollos was eager to preach in Achai and went to Corinth - Acts 18:27-28

            D.        The occasion for the letter

                        1.         Paul returned to Ephesus - Acts 19:1

                        2.         Chloe’s household came and told Paul about the problems in Corinth - I Corinthians 1:11

                        3.         Timothy was sent to remind them how to behave and had since left - I Corinthians 4:17

                                    a.         Paul planned on sending him back - I Corinthians 16:17

                        4.         Gloomy reports frm Corinth caused Paul to wonder if he needed to come and scold the Corinthians severely - I Corinthians 4:21

                                    a.         It appears that Corinth had sent three members to Paul with questions for him - I Corinthians 16:17-18

            E.        The letter is written by Paul with Sosthenes as a co-writer

                        1.         Sosthenes is only mention elsewhere in Acts 18:17

                                    a.         It appears Sosthenes was later converted and is now in Ephesus with Paul.

III.       Outline

            A.        Greetings (I Corinthians 1:1-3)

            B.        Paul’s Thankfulness (I Corinthians 1:4-9)

            C.        Paul’s Concerns Addressed (I Corinthians 1:10-6:20)

                        1.         Who do we follow (I Corinthians 1:10-3:23)

                                    a.         Division over leaders (I Corinthians 1:11-17)

                                    b.         Wisdom of God’s plan (I Corinthians 1:18-2:16)

                                    c.         A true view of God’s laborers (I Corinthians 3:1-23)

                        2.         Judging (I Corinthians 4:1-6:8)

                                    a.         Judging Paul (I Corinthians 4:1-17)

                                    b.         Paul’s Judgment - Immorality in the church (I Corinthians 4:18-5:8)

                                    c.         Judging Christians (I Corinthians 5:9-6:8)

                        3.         Immorality (I Corinthians 6:9-20)

            D.        Answering the Corinthians’s Concerns (I Corinthians 7:1-16:4)

                        1.         Marriage (I Corinthians 7:1-40)

                                    a.         Getting married (I Corinthians 7:1-9)

                                    b.         Staying married (I Corinthians 7:10-16)

                                    c.         Staying the course (I Corinthians 7:17-24)

                                    d.         Staying unmarried (I Corinthians 7:25-40)

                        2.         Liberty versus Conscience (I Corinthians 8:1-11:1)

                                    a.         Eating Things Sacrificed to Idols - A brother’s conscience (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

                                    b.         Paul’s Apostleship - His restraint in using his liberty (I Corinthians 9:1-27)

                                    c.         Immorality - Forbidden Territory (I Corinthians 10:1-14)

                                    d.         Sharing (I Corinthians 10:15-11:1)

                        3.         Authority (I Corinthians 11:2-16)

                        4.         The Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:17-34)

                        5.         Spiritual Gifts / Edification (I Corinthians 12:1-14:40)

                                    a.         Many different, yet one (I Corinthians 12:1-31)

                                    b.         Love is the greatest gift (I Corinthians 13:1-13)

                                    c.         Prophecy is better than tongues (I Corinthians 14:1-22)

                                    d.         Worship is for edification (I Corinthians 14:23-40)

                        6.         The Resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-58)

                        7.         The Collection (I Corinthians 16:1-4)

            E.        Plans (I Corinthians 16:5-12)

            F.        Salutations (I Corinthians 16:13-24)

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