Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians Overview























T HE translation of the present volume has been executed by Mr. Bannerman with great care and scholarly accuracy; and I cannot but specially acknowledge my obligations to him for the pains which he has bestowed upon the work. Having taken charge of it in its passage through the press, I am, of course, responsible for the form in which it appears; but under the circumstances my revision has addressed itself mainly to such modifications as seemed needful or desirable in the interest of securing throughout the series that uniformity of rendering, which from the nature of the work is peculiarly important, but which translators acting independently of each other could hardly be expected to attain.

The explanations given in previously issued volumes of the series apply to the present, and need not be here repeated. But I may be allowed perhaps to express my belief that, as the Epistles to the Corinthians are peculiarly fitted, alike by the presence of elements of deep historical and personal interest, and by the comparative absence of doctrinal discussions, to illustrate the application of the principles and methods of pure exegesis, this portion of Dr. Meyer’s Commentary—confessedly one of its best sections—will be found to furnish an invaluable discipline of initiation into exegetical study.

W. P. D.



A FTER having been mainly occupied of late years with the historical books of the New Testament, I have now to turn to the Epistles of Paul, and to devote renewed labour to their exposition. In the present sadly distracted age of the church I feel the deep gravity and responsibility of the task which I have to face all the more strongly, because I cannot but bear in mind that among all the sacred writings it was those very Epistles of Paul which were pre-eminently to the Reformers the conquering sword of the Spirit, and which exercised the most powerful influence in moulding the doctrinal system of our church. The characters of Paul and Luther form a historical parallel, to which nothing similar can be found in the whole series of God’s chosen instruments for the furtherance of evangelical truth. We possess the divine light which Paul bore through the world, and in whose radiance the Reformers did their work; the whole Scripture, with all its treasures, becomes day by day more richly opened up to us by the labours of science; but everywhere, from the extreme right to the extreme left, there is party-strife; and, amid the knowledge that puffeth up, the unity of the Spirit is broken, faith languishes, and love grows cold. It is, in truth, as though we were giving all diligence to afford the confirmation of increasing experience to the malicious assertion of the Romanists, that Protestantism is already in full course of decomposition.

Our wounds will not be healed, but only deepened and widened, by arrogant boasting about our Confessions, which are after all but the works of men. Much less will the end be attained by a wanton attenuating, explaining away, or setting aside of the positive teachings of the N. T., and of the miraculous facts in the history of redemption; for these have subdued the world, and must continue to subdue it. Only in that which is and remains the “norma normans” for all faith and all teaching, and for the Confessions themselves,—only in the living word of revelation resides the God-given power to heal, which will promote the restoration to health, and the union, of the body of the church with surer and more lasting effect, just in proportion as the word is more clearly and fully understood and more truly and energetically appropriated, and as, through such understanding and appropriation of it, the supremacy of the word and of its high moral forces becomes more absolute and all-controlling. To this sacred supremacy the church herself with her doctrine must bow as well as the individual. For in laying down her principle of appeal to Scripture, the church assumed not only the possibility and allowableness, but also the necessity of a further development and—where need should be shown—rectification of her doctrine in accordance with Scripture. In this way the Confession points to an authority transcending its own; and the church, built as she is immoveably upon the everlasting Rock, has placed herself under the law of growth, thereby giving augury of a future, which, according to the apostle’s promise (Ephesians 4:13 ff.), despite all the sorrows of the present, will not fail to be realized. To aid in preparing for this bright future, is what all exposition of Scripture should recognise as its appointed task, being mindful at the same time that the steps in the development of the divine kingdom are centuries, and that the ways of Him who rules over it are not our ways. If, therefore, a thorough and conscientious searching of the Scriptures should arrive, as regards this or that point of doctrine, at results which are at variance with confessional definitions, its duty, at the bidding of the exegetical conscience, is not in an un-Lutheran and unprincipled fashion to disguise such results or to cloak them with a misty phraseology, but, trusting to the sifting and conquering power of divine truth, openly and honestly to hand them over to the judgment of science and the church. To science and the church, I repeat; for it is one of the follies of the day to seek to set these at variance—to impose limits upon the former which are opposed to its essential nature, and to set aside its voice and relegate it to silence under an imaginary belief that a service is thereby rendered to the church. Such a piece of folly is unevangelical, and fit only for the Tridentinum and the Syllabus of the Bishop of Rome.

Now, if nothing save the pure word of God may or ought to prepare the way towards a better future for the church, then all expounders of that word have but one common aim placed before them,—namely, just to ascertain its pure contents, without addition or subtraction and with a renouncing of all invention of our own, with simplicity, truth, and clearness, without being prejudiced by, and independent of, dogmatic à priori postulates, with philological precision, and in strict objectivity as historical fact. Anything more than this they ought not as expositors to attempt; but in this—and it is much—it is required of them that they be found faithful. The plan of procedure adopted may vary; one may prefer the glossematic, another the inductive, method. I attach but little weight to this question of method in itself, although I cannot ignore the fact, attested by various works appearing at the present day in the region of Old and New Testament exegesis, that the inductive mode runs more risk of giving to subjective exegesis a free play which should be rigorously denied to it. One is very apt, under the influence of this method, to give something more or less, or other than, the pure contents of the sacred text. The ingenuity, which in this way has ampler room for manipulating the premisses—how often with the aid of refining sophistry!—and thinks itself justified in so doing, always miscarries in spite of all its plausibility and confidence, when it gives to the world expositions that offend against grammar and linguistic usage, or against the general and special connection, or against both. Often in such cases the doubtful recommendation of novelty(1) is purchased only by strange strainings of the text and other violent expedients, while clearness has not unfrequently to be sought for beneath the cloak of a laboriously involved phraseology, which itself in its turn seems to require a commentary.

In preparing this fifth edition, which was preceded by the fourth in 1861, I have not neglected to give due attention to what has since been done for the criticism and exposition of the apostolic Epistle.(2) While thus engaged, I have very frequently, to my regret, found myself unable to agree with von Hofmann’s work, Die heilige Schrift neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht.(3) I have nowhere sought this antagonism, but it was as little my duty to evade or conceal it. Our exegetical natures are very differently constituted; our paths diverge widely from each other, and the means which we have at our disposal, and which we deem it right to employ, are dissimilar. Possibly out of this very antagonism some advantage may accrue to the understanding of the New Testament.

HANNOVER, 30th November 1869.


[FOR commentaries and collections of notes embracing the whole New Testament, see Preface to the Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew; for those which treat of the Pauline or Apostolic Epistles generally, see Preface to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The following list includes only those which relate to the Epistles to the Corinthians (together or separately), or in which one of these Epistles holds the first place on the title-page. Works mainly of a popular and practical character have, with a few exceptions, been excluded, as, however valuable they may be in themselves, they have but little affinity with the strictly exegetical character of the present work. Monographs on chapters or sections are generally noticed by Meyer in loc(4) The editions quoted are usually the earliest; al. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reprinted; † marks the date of the author’s death; c. circa.]

AKERSLOOT (Theodorus), Reformed Minister in Holland: D’eerste Send-brief van Paulus aan die van Korinthen, kortelyk in haar t’samenhang uytgelegt. 4°, Lugd. Bat. 1707.

ALPHEN (Hieronymus Simon van), (5) 1742, Prof. Theol. at Utrecht: Ontleedende verklaaring van Paullus tweden brief aan die Corinther. 4°, Amst. 1708, al(6)


[Translated by William Lindsay Alexander, D.D., 2 vols. 12°, Edin. 1837–8.]

BURGER (Karl Heinrich August von), Oberconsistorialrath at Munich: Der erste [und der zweite] Brief Pauli an die Korinther deutsch ausgelegt, 2 Bände. 8°, Erlangen, 1859–60.

CRELL (Johann), (11) 1633, Socinian teacher at Racow: Commentarius in priorem Pauli ad Corinthios Epistolam [Opera]. 8°, Racov. 1635.

FLATT (Johann Friedrich von), (13) 1821, Prof. Theol. at Tübingen: Vorlesungen über die Briefe an die Corinther, herausgegeben von C. D. F. Hoffmann. 8°, Tübing. 1827.

GRATAMA (Janus Aafeo): Commentatio in Paulinae Epistolae prioris ad Corinthios caput vii. 8°, Groning, 1846.

HEYDENREICH (August Ludwig Christian), (15) c(16) 1856, Prof. at Herborn: Commentarius in priorem D. Pauli ad Corinthios Epistolam, 2 voll. 8°, Marb. 1825–7.

HODGE (Charles), D.D., Prof. Theol. at Princeton: An exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. 8°, Lond. 1857.

An exposition of the Second Epistle. 8°, Lond. 1860.

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), Prof. Theol. at Erlangen: Die Heilige Schrift Neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht (II. 2, 3 Briefe an die Korinther). 8°, Nördlingen, 1864–6, al(17)

JAEGER (C. F. Heinrich): Erklärung der beiden Briefe des Apostel Paulus nach Corinth, aus dem Gesichtspunkte der vier Partheien daselbst. 8°, Tübing. 1838.

KLING (Christian Friedrich), Dean of Marbach on the Neckar: Die Korintherbriefe theologisch—homiletisch bearbeitet [Lange’s Bibelwerk, Theil VII.]. 8°, Bielefeld, 1861, al(18)

KLÖPPER (Albrecht), Tutor at Königsberg: Exegetisch-kritische Untersuchungen über den zweiten Brief des Paulus an die Gemeinde zu Korinth. 8°, Götting. 1869.

Commentar über das zweite Sendschreiben. 8°, Berl. 1874.

LIGHTFOOT (John), D.D., Master of Catherine Hall, Cambridge: Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae in Epistolam priorem ad Corinthios. 4°, Cantab. 1664.

MAIER (Adalbert), R. C. Prof. Theol. at Freiburg: Commentar über den ersten Brief Pauli an die Korinther. 8°, Freiburg, 1857.

MAJOR [MAYER] (Georg), (22) 1574, Prof. Theol. at Wittenberg: Enarratio Epistolarum Pauli ad Corinthios. 8°, Viteb. 1558, al(23)

MARTYR (Peter) [VERMIGLI], (24) 1562, Prof. Theol. at Strassburg: In priorem D. Pauli ad Corinthios Epistolam commentarii. 2°, Tiguri, 1551, al(25)

MELANCHTHON (Philipp), (26) 1560, Reformer: Brevis et utilis commentarius in priorem Epistolam Pauli ad Corinthios et in aliquot capita secundae. 8°, Vitemb. 1561, al(27)

MOLDENHAUER (Johann Heinrich Daniel), (28) 1790, Pastor at Hamburg: Erster und zweiter Brief an die Corinther nach dem Grundtext übersetzt mit Erklärungen. 8°, Hamb. 1771–2.

MORUS (Samuel Friedrich Nathanael), (29) 1792, Prof. Theol. at Leipzig: Erklärung der beiden Briefe an die Corinther. 8°, Leip. 1794.

MOSHEIM (Johann Lorenz von), (30) 1755, Chancellor and Professor Theol. at Göttingen: Erklärung des ersten Briefes Pauli an die gemeine zu Corinthus. 4°, Altona, 1741.

Neue Ausgabe, nebst der Erklärung des zweiten Briefes herausgegeben von C. E. von Windheim, 2 Bände. 4°, Altona u. Flensburg, 1762.

MUSCULUS [MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), (31) 1563, Prof. Theol. at Bonn: Commentarius in utramque Epistolam ad Corinthios. 2°, Basil, 1559, al(32)

OSIANDER (J. Ernst), Dean at Göppingen in Würtemberg: Commentar über den ersten Brief Pauli an die Korinthier. 8°, Stuttgart, 1849.

Commentar über den zweiten Brief. 8°, Stuttg. 1858.

ROLLOCK (Robert), (35) 1598, Principal of University of Edinburgh: Commentarius in utramque Epistolam ad Corinthios, cum notis Jo. Piscatoris. 8°, Herborn. 1600, al(36)

SCHARLING (Carl Emil), Prof. Theol. at Copenhagen: Epistolam Pauli ad Corinthios posteriorem annotationibus in usum juvenum theolog. studiosorum illustravit C. E. Scharling. 8°, Kopenh. 1840.

SCHMID (Sebastian). See ROMANS.

SCHULZE (Johann Christoph Friedrich), (40) 1806, Prof. Theol. at Giessen: Pauli erster Brief an die Korinther herausgegeben und erklärt.

Zweiter Brief erklärt … 8°, Halle, 1784–5.

SCLATER (William), D.D., (41) 1626, Vicar of Pitminster: Utriusque Epistolae ad Corinthios explicatio analyticae, una cum scholiis. 4°, Oxon. 1633.

SEMLER (Johann Salomon), (42) 1791, Prof. Theol. at Halle: Paraphrasis in primam Pauli ad Corinthios Epistolam cum notis et Latinarum translationum excerptis. Et in secundam Epistolam … 12°, Hal. 1770–6.

STANLEY (Arthur Penrhyn), D.D., Dean of Westminster: The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians; with critical notes and dissertations. In two volumes. 8°, Lond. 1855, al(43)

STEVART (Peter), (44) 1621, Prof. Theol. at Ingolstadt: Commentaria in utramque Epistolam ad Corinthios. 4°, Ingolstad. 1608.

STORR (Gottlob Christian), (45) 1805, Consistorialrath at Stuttgart: Notitiae historicae Epistolarum Pauli ad Corinthios interpretationi servientes. 4°, Tübing. 1788.

VITRINGA (Kempe), (47) 1722, Prof. Theol. at Franeker: Exercitationes in difficiliora loca prioris Epistolae Pauli ad Corinthios. 4°, Franeq. 1784–9.

WINDHEIM (Christian Ernst von). See MOSHEIM (Johann Lorenz).

ZACHARIAE (Gotthilf Trangott), (48) 1777, Prof. Theol. at Kiel: Paraphrastische Erklärung der beiden Briefe an die Corinther, mit vielen Anmerkungen herausgegeben von J. K. Vollborth. 2 Bände. 8°, Götting. 1784–5.


al., et al. = and others; and other passages; and other editions.

ad or in loc., refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

comp. = compare. “Comp. on Matt. iii. 5” refers to Dr. Meyer’s own commentary on the passage. So also “See on Matth. iii. 5.”

codd. = codices or manuscripts. The uncial manuscripts are denoted by the usual letters, the Sinaitic by א.

min. = codices minusculi, manuscripts in cursive writing. Where these are individually quoted, they are marked by the usual Arabic numerals, as 33, 89.

Rec. or Recepta = Textus receptus, or lectio recepta (Elzevir).

l. c. = loco citato or laudato.

ver= verse, vers= verses.

f. ff. = and following. Ver. 16 f. means verses 16 and 17. Ver. 16 ff. means verses 16 and two or more following.

vss. = versions. These, when individually referred to, are marked by the usual abridged forms. E.g. Syr. = Peschito Syriac; Syr. p. = Philoxenian Syriac.

p. pp. = page, pages.

e. g. exempli gratia.

sc. = scilicet.

N. T. = New Testament. O. T. = Old Testament.

κ. τ. λ. = καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

The colon (:) is largely employed, as in the German, to mark the point at which a translation or paraphrase of a passage is introduced, or the transition to the statement of another’s opinions.

.… indicates that words are omitted.

The books of Scripture and of the Apocrypha are generally quoted by their usual English names and abbreviations. Ecclus. = Sirach 3 Ezra, 4 Esd. [or Esr.] = the books usually termed 1James, 2 d Esdras.

The classical authors are quoted in the usual abridged forms by book, chapter, etc. (as Xen. Anab. vi. 6, 12) or by the paging of the edition generally used for that purpose (as Plat. Pol. p. 291 B. of the edition of H. Stephanus). The names of the works quoted are printed in Italics. Roman numerals in small capitals are used to denote books or other internal divisions (as Thuc. iv.); Roman numerals in large capitals denote volumes (as Kühner, II).

The references to Winer’s or to Buttmann’s Grammar, given in brackets thus [E. T. 152], apply to the corresponding pages of Dr. Moulton’s and Professor Thayer’s English translations respectively.





I N Corinth (bimaris Corinthus), which, after its destruction by Mummius (146 B.C.), had been rebuilt by Julius Cæsar, made a Roman colony (Pausan. ii. 1. 2), and under the fostering care of the first emperors had been speedily restored to its ancient (see Hom. Il. ii. 570, and especially Pindar, Ol. xiii.) glory and voluptuous luxury (hence the expressions κορινθιάζεσθαι, κορινθιαστής, and κορινθία κόρη; see also Dissen, a(49) Pind. Fragm. p. 640 f.; Ast, a(50) Plat. Rep. p. 404 D),—in that great ἕλλαδος ἄστρον (Jacobs, a(51) Anthol. VI. p. 223), that rich commercial city, the seat of the Roman proconsulate, of the Isthmian games, of the fine arts, and of the learning of the Sophists, but also of the most shameless worship of Aphrodite carried on by a thousand consecrated courtesans,—the world-conquering faith of Christ had been planted by Paul himself (1 Corinthians 3:6). He came thither on his second missionary journey from Athens, and spent upwards of a year and a half there (see on Acts 18:1-17). He lodged with his fellow-craftsman Aquila, who was converted by him here (see on Acts 18:1-2), and subsequently with the proselyte Justus (Acts 18:2-7), after his friends Silas and Timotheus had arrived (Acts 18:5), and Jewish opposition had caused him to separate from the synagogue and turn to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6 ff.). This had he wholesome result of rendering the church, from the very first, a mixed (though with a majority of Gentile Christians, Acts 12:2) and a very numerous one (Acts 18:4; Acts 18:8; Acts 18:10), the most important in Greece, the mother-church of the province (1 Corinthians 1:2), although only a few of the upper and more cultivated classes (1 Corinthians 1:26 ff.) embraced the faith (such as, on the Jewish side, the president of the synagogue, Crispus; see Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:14),—a natural effect, not so much of the simplicity f Paul’s preaching(52) (for Apollos also failed to win over the higher classes), as of the intrinsic character of the gospel itself (1 Corinthians 1:22-23), which, with its preaching of the cross, did not suit the pretensions of the presumed higher culture among Jews and Gentiles, especially of their fancied philosophy and of their moral laxity.(53)

Some considerable time after the total failure of a public accusation brought by the Jews against Paul before the mild proconsul Gallio (see on Acts 18:12-17), the apostle departed from Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla (whom he left in Ephesus), and proceeded to Jerusalem, and thence through Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:18-23). While he, however, was traversing these countries, Apollos—an eloquent and fervid Jew of Alexandria, who, hitherto merely a disciple of John the Baptist, had completed his Christian training with Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus (Acts 18:24 ff., and the commentary thereon)—betook himself to Corinth (Acts 19:1), where he, as a Pauline Christian, preached no other than Pauline Christianity (1 Corinthians 3:6), yet presented it in a different form, deviating with the art of his Alexandrian eloquence and with his employment of Alexandrian (Philonian) speculation, from the simple manner of the apostle (1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2), probably also entering further than Paul had done (1 Corinthians 3:1) into several of the higher doctrines of Christianity. Now, it is easy to understand how this difference, although certainly not based upon any divergence in doctrine (1 Corinthians 3:5 f., 1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 16:12), nevertheless, from the variety of individual tendencies among the Corinthians, and from the personal respect and love with which men clung to the old or the new teacher respectively, came to have the hurtful result that some, amidst mutual jealousy, assigned the higher place to the former and some to the latter, and that it gradually became a point of partisanship with them to call themselves adherents of Paul or of Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12),—which was not carried out without engendering pride and irritation, to the prejudice of the two teachers in question.

But the matter did not end with this division into two parties. There arrived at Corinth—taking advantage, perhaps, of the very time of Apollos’ return to Ephesus

Judaizing teachers, Petrine Christians of anti-Pauline leanings, provided with letters of recommendation (2 Corinthians 3:1), perhaps from Peter himself among others, labouring to lower the authority of Paul (1 Corinthians 9:2), into whose field of work they intruded, and to exalt the authority of Peter (2 Corinthians 11:5). They seem, indeed, not to have come forward with any opposition to Paul’s doctrine, for otherwise the apostle would, as in his Epistle to the Galatians, have controverted their doctrinal errors; in particular, they did not insist upon circumcision. But it was natural that, with their Judaizing tendencies generally, with their legal prejudice regarding the use of meats, with their stringency as to the moral law, and with their exaltation of Peter at the expense of Paul, they should find acceptance with the Jewish-Christian part of the community, since they were not slack in vainglorious assertion of the national privileges (2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 11:22; 2 Corinthians 12:11), and that against the very man from whom the hereditary pride of the Jews had everywhere suffered blows which it felt most keenly. Equally natural was it that their appearance and operations should not induce a union between the two sections that professed Pauline Christianity,—the adherents of Paul and of Apollos,—seeing that they had to wage war only against Paul, and not against Apollos, in so far, namely, as apostolic authority was claimed for the former only, and not for the latter. The declared adherents, whom they met with, named as their head Peter, who, for that matter, had never himself been in Corinth; for the statement of Dionysius of Corinth in Euseb. ii. 25, is either to be referred to a much later period (Ewald, Gesch. der apost. Zeit. p. 609, 3d ed.), or, as is most probable, to be regarded simply as an erroneous inference drawn from 1 Corinthians 1:12. See Pott, Proleg. p. 20 f.; Baur in the Tübing. Zeitschr. 1831, 4, p. 152 ff.

The addition of a third party to the two already existing aroused a deeper feeling of the need for wholly disregarding that which had brought about and kept up all this division into parties,—the authority of men,—and for returning to Him alone who is the Master of all, namely, to Christ.(54)

We belong to Christ” became accordingly the watchword, unhappily, however, not of all, nor yet in its right sense and application, but, on the contrary, of a section only; and these followed out their idea,—which was in itself right, but which should have been combined with the recognition of the human instruments of Christ (Paul, etc.),—not in the way of themselves keeping clear of schismatic proceedings and acknowledging all as, like themselves, disciples of Christ, but in such a manner that in their professed sanctity and lofty abstinence from partisanship they became themselves a party (1 Corinthians 1:12), and instead of including the whole community—without prejudice to the estimation due to such servants of Christ as Paul and others—in their idea, they shut out from it the Pauline, Apollonian, and Petrine sections. The Christian community at Corinth, then, was in this state of fourfold division when Paul wrote to them our first Epistle; yet it is to be assumed, from 1 Corinthians 11:18, 1 Corinthians 14:23, that the evil had not reached such a height of schism that the church no longer assembled at one place (in opposition to Vitringa, Michaelis, Eichhorn, Ewald, and others; see on 1 Corinthians 1:2).

What further knowledge we have regarding the condition of the church at that time, especially as to the moral and ecclesiastical evils that prevailed, is derived from the contents of the Epistle itself. See § 2.

REMARK 1. For views differing from the above representation of the parties at Corinth, see on 1 Corinthians 1:12. To the more recent literature of the subject, besides the works on Introduction, belong the following: Neander, Kl. Schrift. p. 68 ff., and Gesch. d. Pflanzung, etc., I. p. 360 ff., 4th ed.; Baur in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1831, p. 61 ff., 1836, 4, p. 1 ff., and in his Paulus, I. p. 290 ff., 2d ed.; Scharling, De Paulo apost. ejusque adversariis, Kopenh. 1836; Jaeger, Erkl. d. Briefe P. nach Kor. aus d. Gesichtsp. d. vier Parth., Tüb. 1838; Schenkel, De eccles. Cor. primaeva factionibus turbata, Basil. 1838; Goldhorn in Illgen’s Zeitschr. f. histor. Theol. 1840, 2, p. 121 ff.; Dähne, d. Christus-parthei in d. apost. Kirche z. Kor., Halle 1842 (previously in the Journ. f. Pred. 1841); Kniewel, Ecclesiae Cor. vetustiss. dissensiones et turbae, Gedan. 1841; Becker, d. Partheiungen in d. Gem. z. Kor., Altona 1842; Räbiger, krit. Untersuchungen üb. d. Inhalt d. beid. Br. an d. Kor., Bresl. 1847; Lutterbeck, neutest. Lehrbegr. II. p. 45 ff.; Beyschlag in the Stud. u. Krit. 1865, p. 217 ff.; Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. 1865, p. 241 ff.; Holtzmann in Herzog’s Encykl. XIX. p. 730 ff.; comp also Ewald, Gesch. d. apost. Zeit. p. 505 ff., 3d ed. Among the latest commentaries, see especially those of Osiander, Stuttg. 1847, Introd. § 4; Ewald, p. 102 f.; Hofmann, 1864.


Care should be taken not to push the conception of this division into parties too far. As it had only recently arisen, it had not yet made itself felt to such an extent as to induce the church in their letter to Paul (see § 2) to write specifically about it (see 1 Corinthians 1:11). Nor can the dissensions have been of long continuance; at least in Clem. 1 Cor. 47, they appear as something long past and gone, with which Clement compares later quarrels as something worse.


Only the first part of our Epistle, down to 1 Corinthians 4:21, relates to the topic of the parties as such. Hence it is a very hazardous course, and one that requires great caution, to refer the further points discussed by Paul to the different parties respectively, and to characterize these accordingly, as Jaeger and Räbiger more especially, but also Baur, Hilgenfeld, Ewald, Beyschlag, and others have done to an extent which cannot be made good on historical grounds. It is purely and grossly arbitrary to trace all the evils combated in both Epistles to the existence of the party divisions, and to depict these, and more particularly the Christine section, accordingly. The latter is not once mentioned by Clement,—a circumstance which does not tell in favour of the hypothesis that lays so much mischief to its charge.

sec. 2.—occasion, object, and contents of the epistle

Before the date of our first Epistle there had been a letter—not now extant(56)—sent from the apostle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9); but when he wrote it, the party-divisions were not yet known to the apostle. He received tidings regarding them from “those of the household of Chloe” (1 Corinthians 1:11), and on this account commissioned Timothy to visit Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17), although our Epistle was to anticipate his arrival there (1 Corinthians 16:10), since he had first to journey through Macedonia with Erastus (Acts 19:22). That Apollos also (1 Corinthians 16:12) had brought Paul information about the divisions is—judging from 1 Corinthians 1:11—not to be assumed; on the contrary, it seems probable that they had not perceptibly developed themselves so long as Apollos himself remained in Corinth. Next to the vexatious party-divisions, however, what gave occasion for the apostle’s letter was the unchastity in the church, already spoken of by him in the lost Epistle, and which had now manifested itself even in a case of incest (1 Corinthians 5:1 ff.). Besides this and other evils that called for his intervention, there was quite a special and direct occasion for his writing in a letter of the church (1 Corinthians 7:1), brought to Paul by deputies from Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:17), and containing various questions (such as with respect to celibacy, 1 Corinthians 7:1 ff., and the eating of flesh offered in sacrifice, 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.), which demanded an answer from him,(57) so that he made the messengers

Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus—on their return the bearers of his own Epistle in reply (1 Corinthians 16:12; 1 Corinthians 16:17).

In accordance with these circumstances giving occasion to the letter, it was the aim of Paul, first, to counteract the party-divisions and uphold his apostolic authority; secondly, to remove the unchastity which had gained ground; thirdly, to give instruction upon the points regarding which queries had been put to him; and finally, to communicate various other instructions, which, in view of the state of things among the Corinthians which had come to his knowledge, and partly also in view of the express contents of their letter, seemed to him necessary and useful, such as with respect to disorder in the public assemblies, with respect to gifts of the Spirit, with respect to the resurrection, and with respect to a collection that was to be set on foot.(58)

The contents of the Epistle are accordingly very diversified. After salutation and exordium (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), the first main section enlarges upon and against the party-divisions, with a detailed justification of the apostle’s mode of teaching (1 Corinthians 1:10 to 1 Corinthians 4:21). Then Paul writes regarding the unchastity in the church (5), and regarding the bad habit of having their disputes decided before heathen tribunals, thereafter once more warning them against impurity (6). Next he replies to the questions about marriage which had been sent to him (7), and to the inquiry regarding meat used in sacrifice (8–11:1), making in connection with his instructions as to the latter point a digression regarding the unselfish way in which he had discharged his apostolic office (9). Then follow censure and admonition as to disorders in the assemblies of the church, partly with reference to the head-covering of the women, partly in regard of the love-feasts (11); then the detailed sections respecting spiritual gifts (12–14), with the magnificent eulogy on love (13), and respecting the resurrection of the dead (15). Lastly: injunctions about the collection for Jerusalem, miscellaneous remarks, and greetings (16).

It is manifest from the salutation, when rightly understood, that the Epistle was destined for the whole church at Corinth, without excepting any party whatsoever, but including the rest of the Christians of Achaia.


From 1 Corinthians 16:8; 1 Corinthians 16:19 it is certain that Paul wrote in Ephesus,(59) and that towards the end of his stay in that place, which did not last quite three years (see on Acts 19:10), after he had despatched (Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17) Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (the former to Corinth as well), and had already resolved to journey through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21; 1 Corinthians 16:3 ff.). The time at which he wrote may be gathered from 1 Corinthians 16:8 (some time before Pentecost) and 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, from which latter passage it may be with reason inferred that, when Paul was writing, the feast of the Passover was nigh at hand. Consequently: a little before Easter in the year 58 (see Introd. to Acts, § 4).

REMARK 1. The statement in the common subscription ἐγράφη ἀπὸ φιλίππων is an old (already in Syr(60)) and widespread error, arising from 1 Corinthians 16:5. In reply to the quite untenable grounds urged by Köhler (Abfassungszeit der epistol. Schriften, p. 74 ff.), who accepts it, and puts the date of composition after the (erroneously assumed) liberation from imprisonment at Rome, see Anger, temp. rat. p. 53 ff. Comp Rückert, p. 12 ff.; Wurm in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1838, I. p. 63 ff. The correct subscription is found in B**, Copt. Chrys. Euthal. Theodoret, al(62): πρὸς κορ. α ἐγράφη ἀπὸ ἐφέσου.

REMARK 2. The decision of the question, whether Paul, previous to the writing of our two Epistles, had been only once, or whether he had been twice, in Corinth (so rightly Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 614 ff., and in his Introduction; Schrader, I. p. 95 ff.; Neander, Billroth, Rückert, Anger, Credner, Schott, Wurm, Olshausen, Wieseler, Reuss, Ewald, and many others, following Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Baronius, et al(63)), as also whether we must assume a second visit between our first and second Epistles, depends on 2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2. See the particulars in the Introd. to 2 Cor. § 2.

As to the genuineness, there is no room for doubt in view of the external evidences (Polyc. ad Philipp. 11; Ignat. ad Ephesians 2; Clem. Rom. ad Cor. i. 47, 49, Epist. ad Diogn. 12

Justin M. c. Tryph. pp. 253, 258, 338, Apol. I. p. 29 are uncertain

Iren. Haer. iii. 11.9, iv. 27.3; Athenag. de resurr. p. 61, ed. Colon.; Clem. Al. paedag. p. 96, ed. Sylb.; Canon Murator.; Tertull. de praescrip. 33, al(64)), and from the whole character of the Epistle (see especially Paley, Horae Paulinae), which, with all the variety of its subject-matter, bears the most definite impress of the peculiar spirit and tact of Paul, and displays the full power, art, and subtlety of his eloquence. Bruno Bauer alone in his wanton fashion has sought to dispute it (Kritik der Paulin. Briefe, II., Berl. 1851).

παύλου πρὸς κορινθίους ἐπιστολὴ πρώτη

The simplest and probably oldest superscription is that of A B C D א, min(65): πρὸς κορινθίους πρώτη.

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Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.