2 Corinthians Study: Some Preliminaries


Sunday, the only people who showed up for our 9 am young adults class were me, the co-teacher I alternate with, and an older gentleman who wasn’t too thrilled with the study in his other group. This sort of turnout is not uncommon for young adults, sadly. There’s not much incentive to get up and study the Bible an hour before church. But, that’s another story. It was a start, at least.

I want to start this study by giving a general idea of the city of Corinth so we can understand what life was like for the Corinthian Christians.

Map of the Roman Empire [Click “view image” for a larger version.]

Corinth was a rich port city in the province of Achaia. The isthmus of Corinth connected the land of Achaia, which made it difficult to pass goods through that area, yet it nonetheless was possible to take goods by land to the other side of the isthmus and then use boats to continue the shipment. So, despite that oddity, the city was a fairly rich port town with just the right location to be a hub for sailing to/from Rome.

In addition to the decadence that comes with wealth, there’s the vice that comes with sailors on shore leave: gambling, binge drinking, and prostitution. On that last note, there was a temple to Aphrodite on the Pinnacle of Corinth, a mountain just south of the city. One could easily hire out a sacred prostitute and “worship” the deity.

Surrounded by decadence, (sometimes) dishonest business practices, and sexual immorality, we could say that the Corinthians lived in what today we could call a mix between L.A. and Las Vegas.

Now that we’ve gotten a handle on what sort of city Corinth was, I want to do a brief overview of what an epistle normally looks like.

Introduction: The author states his name and the name of his scribe, then the intended recipients, followed by a greeting. Back in those days, the author dictated aloud what he wanted to be written, and his scribe would jot it down in shorthand. Then, they’d go over it together and make corrections as needed, double-checking both what the scribe thought he heard and what the author meant. Then the scribe would write a second draft in complete words which was to be sent.

Opening prayer: Sometimes a mere formality, the opening prayer was a way to show concern for the person you were writing to. It was a natural way to build a connection before moving to the body of the letter. For most authors, it held no more genuine meaning than the “Dear so-and-so” of our letter formatting does.

After this was the body of the letter, and then closing greetings. Since not everyone had the resources or time to write, someone might hear that you’re writing to so-and-so and say, “oh! Tell them I said hi!” And that was usually put at the end.

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