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- 2 Corinthians
by Joseph Agar Beet
The aim and method of the present volume are similar to those pursued in my Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. I have endeavored, by careful grammatical study of St. Paul’s words, to trace the line of thought they were designed to convey; and to look, through his actual thoughts while writing, into his abiding conception of the Gospel and of Christ. The various elements of this conception, thus obtained, I have arranged in order along the course of my exposition; and have compared them, in the concluding dissertations, with the results gained in my volume on Romans. This orderly arrangement and comparison of the practical results of exposition give to this commentary a claim to be, like its predecessor, a contribution to Systematic Theology. And I hold firmly that the method here adopted is the only safe pathway to a correct and comprehensive and connected view of the truths which, through the lips of Christ and through the intelligence and the pen of His Apostles, God has made known to men.
The peculiar subject-matter of the Epistles to the Corinthians makes them to be also a record of St. Paul’s movements a reflection of his surroundings, and a revelation of his inmost spiritual life. All these, St. Paul’s movements, surroundings, and spiritual life, I have with the utmost care tried to reproduce and combine, in order thus to obtain a view, as full and correct as possible, of the great Apostle and of an apostolic church. Consequently, the present volume claims to be also a contribution to the Biography of St. Paul and to the Early History of the Christian Church.
A conspicuous feature of this volume, as of the last, is its direct reference, unique I believe among commentaries, to the Evidences of Christianity. At great length I have developed the proof that the Epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians came, practically as we have them now, from the pen of Paul. To those familiar with these epistles and with their literature, this proof may seem superfluous. For they know that no one calls it in question. But for my readers generally I thought it well thus to reveal the absolute strength of this first link in the historic chain which supports the Christian hope. And this example of absolute historic certainty, taking firm and visible hold of unquestionable matters of fact, is of great value as a standard with which to compare other historic evidence. The first great link of evidence here exposed to view receives its practical worth from the succeeding links unveiled in Dissertation I. of my volume on Romans, links sustaining our most deeply cherished hopes. To the great arguments there expounded, the argument of this volume is altogether subordinate.
The method I have adopted is the best approach to the credentials of Christianity. Many popular writers on this subject set themselves to prove that the Bible is all true. But whoever attempts this undertakes a task involving immense scholarship and very much which the general reader must take on trust; and exposes himself, and those who follow him, to attack along an extended line and from innumerable points. For every assault upon the historic correctness of a statement in the Bible, unless repelled, shakes his position. But against the line of argument pursued in these volumes such objections have no bearing whatever. For, without assuming or attempting to prove the Divine authority or historic truth of the Bible, and therefore without pledging ourselves to the correctness of all its statements, we have traced the Gospel, which we have stated in plain terms, by evidence tested according to the principles of ordinary historic credibility, to the lips of Christ; and have discovered reliable evidence that He claimed to be in a unique sense the Son of God, and that in proof of His claim God raised Him from the dead. In other words, the witnesses we have interrogated have led us into the presence of the Great Teacher, to the cross on which He died, and to His empty grave.
This line of investigation is also the best avenue to criticism of the date, authorship, and credibility of all other parts of the Old or New Testaments. For, from the point of view thus gained we can survey securely and calmly and clearly the entire domain of sacred scholarship. By reaching first, under guidance of numerous witnesses comparatively near to us, a firm ground for our faith, we are the better prepared to investigate matters further from our day or not attested by so abundant evidence.
But in every case the investigation must accord with the universal laws of human credibility. To attempt to withdraw the matters of fact stated in the Bible from this supreme court of appeal is as absurd as for a man to claim that because he is a Christian his conduct must not be tried by the laws of human morality. And, just as these laws of morality reveal the grandeur and the divine origin of that Gospel which both reveals a still higher morality and gives us power to realize it in our own lives, so the laws of human credibility reveal the absolute certainty of the Great Facts of Christianity and thus reveal in the drama of human history an historical Person infinitely higher than man.
Amid the infinite variety of opinion, even among professed Christians, about the Bible and its contents, opinions shading imperceptibly one into another along the whole line, two extreme groups are easily distinguished, those who deviate furthest from, and those who cling most tenaciously to, the traditional teaching of the churches. About each of these groups I have something to say.
To many writers who have denied the Great Facts for which in these volumes I have strenuously contended, Biblical Scholarship and the Church of Christ owe, by the kind Providence of God, an immense debt. Even the spiritual indifference with which some of them have handled sacred subjects has not been without advantage. For then it has left them free from the prejudice which has warped the judgment of so many earnest Christians. And their devotion to the philosophic study of the sacred languages and of the text and narratives and teaching of the Bible, looking at all these from a human point of view, has produced the best results. For, like the Personal Word, the Written Word is thoroughly human as well as divine. But, while cheerfully acknowledging this debt, I notice in many of their followers, of whom not a few are honest and earnest seekers after truth, a wonderful readiness to build up important theories on the scantiest foundation, and to accept with amazing confidence an hypothesis unheard of till yesterday. One is tempted to think that some of them make up for lack of faith by a large share of credulity.
On the other hand, very many who cling firmly to teaching which they and their fathers have proved to be a power of God to salvation betray an overweening satisfaction with even the details of their religious beliefs. All opinions new to them, they meet at once with hostility, and in proportion as these opinions differ from their own. And, to them, sacred scholarship seems to be of value chiefly as a weapon to defend their own views. But, surely, the most infatuated theologian cannot believe that, amid the infinite variety of religious opinions, his own system of doctrine is absolutely correct and all others in error in proportion as they deviate from it. And if, as we cannot deny, error and imperfection cling to all human conceptions of the divine, and all error conceals some truth and obscures the harmony of related truths and thus lessens the moral power of the Truth in our hearts, it should ever be our aim to correct our own mistakes and to obtain fuller and deeper knowledge. Only those who are willing and eager to be both taught and corrected can correct others. Again, I am compelled to say that many popular theological works on what may be called the conservative side betray, by ignoring important adverse evidence, a very imperfect acquaintance with the facts of the case, at which they seem unwilling or unable to look; and, frequently, an utter absence of original investigation of the matter in hand. The chief aim of some writers seems to be, not to elucidate the subject, but merely to overthrow an opponent’s argument. But it should never be forgotten that a reply which to persons unacquainted with the matter seems very clever may yet do nothing to prove the truth of the doctrine attacked; or even to remove objections to it. For, to those familiar with the whole case, many objections, like all good arguments, suggest much more than lies on the surface. Moreover, unless a man has positive teaching to offer he had better not write at all. For mere negations never satisfy.
Our only safeguard amid the Babel of opinions around us is a fuller and more accurate knowledge of Holy Scripture. This alone will enable us to distinguish, in teaching new to us, the true from the false. And it is not too much to hope that such fuller knowledge will not only preserve us from disquietude, but will reveal to us a nearer and clearer view of the Son of God, and thus work in our hearts and lives a richer likeness to Him. And this is the true aim of all Biblical Scholarship.
Throughout this work I have endeavored at every point and as far as possible to give proof of all I say, so as to make the fewest and least possible demands on the implicit confidence of my readers. Of this, my dissertation on the chronology of these epistles is a good example. And I think that this dissertation will prove that even for ordinary readers the details of the historic criticism of the New Testament, when clearly stated, have interest. For similar reasons I have discussed the date of the epistles to the Thessalonians, the authorship of the Book of Acts, and that of the Epistle of Clement. Necessarily, the validity of my proofs depends on the correctness of my quotations. But almost all these the English reader may test for himself in Clark’s Ante-Nicene Library. And by so doing he will gain an intelligent conviction such as can never be derived from mere quotations.
I have also endeavored to distinguish the different degrees of confidence which different proofs warrant. Sometimes we have evidence which outweighs all that can be said on the other side but is not such as to remove doubt. And again, there may be evidence which justifies a confidence hardly to be distinguished from certainty and yet is inferior to other evidence open to no question whatever. Of this last, the proof that St. Paul wrote these epistles is a specimen. Upon evidence of this kind rest all the Great Facts of the Gospel. A grade lower is the evidence that the Fourth Gospel is from the pen of the Apostle John. This various worth and importance of various evidence I have kept in view throughout the reasoning of these volumes.
All quotations have been carefully verified. Except two, where the source is mentioned, all have been taken from the original works. A few errors which unfortunately have crept into my pages are noted below.
Like most modern commentators, I have given a table of contents of each epistle. These are of great value as affording a connected view of the whole epistle and of the mutual relation of its parts. A special feature of this work is that the titles of my Sections, read consecutively, form an outline of the epistles: the titles of the Divisions form another and still shorter outline. These outlines, the student will do well to keep constantly before him.
In addition to the tables of contents, I have frequently and from various points taken a retrospect of the ground already passed over, and have summarized the results gained. This may expose me to the charge of repetition. And my deep conviction of the immense importance, for intelligent and thorough comprehension, of going again and again over the same ground, has made me the less reluctant to look back at the same objects from different points of view.
The extracts from the Epistle of Clement afford a most instructive comparison and contrast with the Epistles of Paul. The references to the words of Christ, and the quotations from the Old Testament, are specially interesting, as revealing the form in which these were current in the first century. The influence of St. Paul’s epistles, and the inferiority of the work of Clement, are conspicuous throughout.
Appendix B supplements Introd. iii. It marks out almost the whole area still open to doubt and of practical importance in these epistles; and will give the reader some idea of the frequent contradiction of the best documents and of the difficult task before the Textual Critic.
In addition to the commentaries mentioned in the preface to my volume on Romans, the work on these Epistles by the late lamented Dean Stanley has frequently and in various ways been useful to me. Of German writers, I have the able commentary of Osiander, and the very good and more recent one published by Kloepper. Of recent popular commentaries, the contribution of Dean Plumptre to Bishop Ellicot’s Commentary for English Readers is, like everything from his pen, excellent. Canon Evans’ work upon the First Epistle in the Speaker’s Commentary is of great value, especially in its frequent renderings of St. Paul’s words and in its first rate Greek scholarship. Occasionally, even in matters of grammar, I have ventured to dissent from the writer; but never without respectful consideration. I am also under obligations to Canon Evans’ papers in The Expositor, vol. iii. new series, on the Revised Version. Also very good is Mr. Waite’s contribution on the Second Epistle.
Of biographies of St. Paul, I have for many years owed much to the able and attractive work of Conybeare and Howson, which is by no means superseded now. Of equal value, especially for its abundant and well-chosen quotations from all sources and for its beautiful engravings, is the second edition of Lewin’s St. Paul. His Fasti Sacri has also been, as a collection of facts, of great use to me. But he frequently builds up conclusions on very insufficient data and bases arguments (e.g. on Acts 18:21 in F. S. p. lxiv. f; in p. lxxiii. on Acts 27:16) on readings indisputably spurious. Consequently, while his laborious collection of facts lays us under heavy obligation, his deductions from these facts must be received with great caution. These works, of which the value is chiefly in details, are supplemented by the living picture of the great Apostle, moving and speaking before us as a man among men, skilfully and beautifully painted in the great work of Canon Farrar. Of Neander’s Planting of the Christian Church I have spoken in my former volume.
Quite different from the above, and written from an altogether different point of view, a point of view far removed from my own, the more valuable perhaps because of this difference, are F. C. Baur’s scholarly and thoughtful work on Paul the Apostle and Renan’s attractive volumes. These and others of the same school I have had constantly in mind, especially while writing Dissertations I. and II., and Dissertation I. of my Romans; and have endeavored to disprove their chief conclusions. But it was needless to quote them.
A few words now about the remainder of this series, I purpose to publish next a small volume on the Epistle to the Galatians; thus completing the Epistles written during St. Paul’s third missionary journey. Then, if life and strength and opportunity be granted me will follow a volume on Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon; and another volume on Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus. These I hope to supplement by a volume discussing St. Paul’s teaching as a whole, and its relation to that of the other New Testament writers. These are my purposes. Their accomplishment is with God.
WARRINGTON, 1st September, 1882.
NOTES AND REPLIES
On page 106, Vol. 2. (2 Corinthians 8:24 ) My rendering of 2 Corinthians 8:24 rests upon a reading not noticed by the Revisers, but given by Lachmann, Tischendorf, in the test of the Tregalles, and in the margin of Wescott. The reading retained by the Revisers has preponderant documentary evidence; but looks very much like a simplification of the other more difficult reading. The difference is unimportant. In the one case Paul merely bids his readers show to the delegates a proof of their love remembering that they are observed by the various churches who sent them. In the latter case he reminds the Corinthians that proof of love shown to the delegates is shown really in the presence and under the eye of many churches.
On page 129, line 8 from below, Vol. 2. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Angel of light: cp. Luke 2:9, Matthew 28:3; Acts 1:10; Acts 10:30. The angels in Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1 evidently appeared as ordinary men.
INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS
SECTION 1. — RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT
1. In a former volume I attempted to show that we have abundant proof that the Epistle to the Romans came from the pen of Paul; and that it is fairly reproduced in the Authorized English Version and still more correctly in the Revised Version. We learned, by study of the epistle itself, that its entire argument rests upon five unproved but confident assertions or assumptions, viz: that God in undeserved favor accepts as righteous all who believe the Gospel; by means of the death of His Son; that He designs believers to be, by union with Christ, sharers of the life of Christ, a life devoted to God; that this design is accomplished in all who believe the gospel promises, so far as they believe. by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It was evident to us that Paul accepted these doctrines because they were taught by Jesus, that he accepted the authority of Jesus as decisive because he believed Him to be in a unique sense the Son of God, and that he believed this because he had what he thought sufficient proof that Jesus rose from the dead. We found also that in each of these matters Paul’s belief was shared by the many and various writers of the New Testament; of which nearly the whole was before A.D. 200 accepted as authentic by the entire Christian Church. For this unanimous belief of the early disciples of Jesus, and for its effect upon them, and through them upon the world, we could conceive no explanation or sufficient cause except that Jesus actually rose from the dead, actually claimed to be Son of God, and actually taught these great doctrines.
Throughout our inquiry we did not ascribe to any part of the Bible an infallible or special authority. We merely accepted the Epistle to the Romans as written by an honest and intelligent man. And, although we referred to other writings of the New Testament, we did not assume even their historical correctness; but simply accepted their unanimous testimony as proof that the above-mentioned belief of Paul was shared by other early Christian teachers. Owing to the number and variety of these witnesses, their testimony would remain unshaken even if it were proved that some of their statements contradict each other or contradict reliable contemporary history. For their unanimity can be explained only by the truth of that in which they agree.
2. In our study of the Epistles to the Corinthians we will adopt the same method. We shall find equally valid for them the documentary evidence already quoted for the genuineness of the Epistle to the Romans and for the correctness of our copies. And our study of the Epistles now before us and comparison of them with that to the Romans will afford internal evidence removing to an infinite distance from all possibility of doubt the genuineness of all three Epistles.
3. At the close of the former volume I pointed to a line of argument which if followed would lead, I confidently believe, to a full conviction that the extant writings of Paul are the authoritative voice of God. But this I do not wish to assume in the present volume. For the Epistles to the Corinthians contain in themselves so strong a confirmation of the reality and the truth of the facts and the teaching of the Gospel that I prefer, in order to feel the strength of this confirmation, to study them for the present without reference to their apostolic authority. We have no need to bring to Holy Scripture any opinion about its divine authority. This we shall learn best from the Scriptures themselves.
SECTION 2. ARE THE EPISTLES GENUINE?
1. The facts and arguments adduced to prove the genuineness of the Epistle to the Romans are equally valid for those to the Corinthians.
2. Both Epistles are found in all Greek MSS. of Paul’s Epistles; and in the Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, Gothic, Armenian, and Ethiopic Versions.
3. Tertullian (Against Heretics ch. 33) says: “Paul in his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians speaks of those who deny or doubt the resurrection.” So On Modesty ch. 13: “For they suppose that the Apostle Paul in the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians forgave the same fornicator whom in the 1st Epistle he commanded to be given to Satan for destruction of the flesh;” and then quotes in full 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. In chs. 13-16 he quotes expressly as Paul’s 1 Corinthians 1:14-15; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:7-9; 1 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 1 Corinthians 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 5:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:8-11; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 1 Corinthians 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:7-9; 1 Corinthians 7:26-29; 1 Corinthians 7:31-34; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 9:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 16:22: 2 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9; 2 Corinthians 12:21. In his work Against Marcion, bk. v. 5-12, he quotes as admitted by Marcion, whose teaching was nevertheless utterly opposed to that of these Epistles, 1 Corinthians 1:18-22; 1 Corinthians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 3:16-22; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Corinthians 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:29; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 : 2 Corinthians 3:13-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. These quotations are complete proof, not merely that both by Tertullian and Marcion the Epistles were accepted as genuine, but that in the main they existed then in the form we now possess.
So CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, Pedagogue bk. i. 6: Most clearly the blessed Paul has relieved us from the inquiry, writing in such a way as this in the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, Brothers, be not children in understanding, etc. “ So elsewhere abundantly.
So IRENÆUS in bk. iv. 27. 3: “That the Apostle showed this very clearly, saying in the Epistle to the Corinthians, I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, etc.,” quoting 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. This seems to be a quotation from the teacher referred to on p. 6 of my Romans. In ch. 27 he also quotes, as written by the Apostle, 1 Corinthians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; and, in ch.26, 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 7:2.
Innumerable quotations make us quite certain that the above writers were unconscious of any doubt about the genuineness of these Epistles.
The FRAGMENT OF MURATORI says: “The Epistles of Paul, from whatever place and for whatever cause they were drawn up, themselves declare to those who wish to understand. First of all to the Corinthians forbidding the division of sect, etc.”
In the Latin version which is all that remains of the latter part of POLYCARP’S letter to the Philippians (referred to in Irenaeus bk. iii. 3. 4) we read, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world, as Paul teaches?” IGNATIUS refers evidently, in ch. 2 of his Epistle to the Ephesians, to 1 Corinthians 1:10; and less clearly, in ch. 18 to 1 Corinthians 1:20.
Still more valuable proof of the genuineness of Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians is found in the letter of CLEMENT of ROME to the Corinthian church, of which I have given extracts in Appendix A. The express mention, in ch. 47, of the Epistle as Paul’s, and the clear reference to its subject matter, prove conclusively that about A.D. 100 it was accepted by the churches of Rome and Corinth as written by Paul.
We find, therefore, that the Epistles to the Corinthians, like that to the Romans, were well known and were accepted without a shadow of doubt both by friends and foes before A.D. 200 in places so far apart as Carthage, Egypt, and Gaul; and that the First Epistle was referred to by three writers born before A.D. 100, and was appealed to within the lifetime probably of some who had seen the Apostle in a public letter from the church at Rome to that at Corinth as having been written to the latter church by Paul. We have thus external evidence for the Second Epistle equal to, for the First Epistle much stronger than, that adduced for the Epistle to the Romans.
4. For the genuineness of the Epistles to the Corinthians, we have moreover other evidence peculiar and irresistible. Their contents are such as no forger would dare to write; and such as would certainly prevent their acceptance by the church at Corinth except on evidence which forbad all doubt. Each letter abounds in severest condemnation. Self-conceited men (1 Corinthians 4:18) evidently resisted the Apostle: and (1 Corinthians 5:2) the whole church, inflated with pride, tolerated a crime not found even among the heathen. Church-members insulted the church (1 Corinthians 6:1) by going to law against each other. Intercourse with harlots (1 Corinthians 6:18) needed to be seriously warned against; and connivance (1 Corinthians 10:14 ff) at idolatry. The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:21) was shamefully desecrated. And some church-members maintained a denial logically subversive of the whole Gospel. Bad men doing Satan’s work (2 Corinthians 11:13 ff) and bitterly hostile to the Apostle were tolerated (2 Corinthians 11:20) by the church. In spite of reproof (2 Corinthians 12:21 to 2 Corinthians 13:2) some church-members persisted in gross sensuality. And the Apostle was accused (2 Corinthians 1:17) of vacillation and weakness. Even if we suppose these descriptions of the church to have been true, no contemporary forger would dare to record them in a letter for which he sought acceptance as written by Paul: nor would any church accept, with careful scrutiny, so public a monument of its degradation. If at a later date the forgery were made, reverence for the earliest Christians at Corinth and for the Apostle would at once suggest a scrutiny which could not fail to detect the imposture.
That we have two condemnatory letters, increases the unlikeliness of forgery. For two letters would attract more attention than one. And two forgeries must necessarily be more difficult than one.
5. The above evidence, conclusive as it is, is yet by no means the whole. Our study of these Epistles, as embodied in Dissertations I. and II., will assure us that the Epistles to the Corinthians and the Romans came from the same author, from a man of vast mental power, of intense earnestness, and of the highest moral grandeur. Now the contents of the Epistles to the Corinthians are such as must be either genuine or written with an intent to deceive. Can we conceive a man able to write such letters as these three perpetrating a forgery in order to hide his own name in oblivion? Nay more: no man could do it. For the tone of reality throughout these Epistles is too clear to be simulated. The living picture here presented can be no other than a genuine reflection of actual life. And, that it is such, will be strongly confirmed by our comparison of the Book of Acts. So abundant and unquestionable is this various evidence that in all ages these three Epistles and that to the Galatians have been accepted as genuine both by those who share, and those who trample under foot, the earnest faith of the great Apostle. As Renan says, (Saint Paul, Introd. p. v.,) they are “incontestable and uncontested.”
SECTION 3. — ARE OUR COPIES AND VERSIONS CORRECT?
1. The proofs given in my Romans, Introd. 3, that our Authorized Version is, within narrow and specified limits, a correct reproduction of the words actually written by Paul are equally valid for the Epistles to the Corinthians. And they are strengthened immensely by the Revised Version. For, after a searching scrutiny during many years, by men of different theological opinions, the New Testament is presented to us in a form practically the same as the Old Version. It now remains to us only to note the principle changes in the Greek Text which the Critical Editors agree to propose, the principle variations of Text still open to doubt, and the extent to which the assured results of Textual Criticism in the Greek Text of these Epistles are adopted by the Revisers; and the Revisers’ rendering of this Text.
2. Out of 233 variations from the text underlying the Authorized Version of 1 Corinthians which Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles agree to propose, Westcott and Hort (see my Romans, Appendix A) accept without note 226: they place 4 more in their text with an alternative in the margin, and 3 more in their margin; and overlook none. In 2 Corinthians, out of 120 variations which the earlier editors agree to propose, Westcott and Hort accept 119, placing only one (2 Corinthians 1:8) in their margin. The only changes worthy of note proposed by them and not mentioned by the other editors are: —
1 Corinthians 2:1 : mystery for testimony which is put in their margin.
1 Corinthians 13:3 : that I may glory, for may be burned.
1 Corinthians 15:54 : this corruptible shall put on incorruption is removed to the margin.
2 Corinthians 1:22 : who marked as doubtful.
These Editors have carefully sifted for themselves the entire evidence on which rests the Text of the New Testament, using methods of research quite different from those of their predecessors. The remarkable agreement in results, noted above, is therefore a complete proof how solid is the basis of the Text which all recent Critical Editors agree to accept. And, by calling fresh attention to their reading of 1 Corinthians 2:1, Westcott and Hort have rendered special service.
3. Of readings (embodied or not embodied in the A.V.) materially affecting the sense, which the Critical Editors confidently agree to accept in the Epistles to the Corinthians, the Revisers accept every one without note; except that in 2 Corinthians 1:22 they omit one letter, questioned hitherto only by Westcott’s brackets, and in 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 11:24 they put notes against changes from the A.V. which are accepted without note by all the Editors. Out of 254 changes in 1 Corinthians given by the Revisers without note, 213 are found without note in all the Critical Editions; 17 more with another reading in the margin of one or more Editions: and only in 24 cases given by the Revisers without note do the Critical Texts differ. In the Second Epistle, of 143 such changes, 111 are accepted also without note by all the Editors; 3 more are accepted with an alternative in the margin: and only in 29 cases do the Critical Texts differ. Consequently, unless we question the united judgment of the Editors and the Revisers, the area open to doubt is limited to the 24 + 29 places just mentioned, and the 16 + 12 textual marginal notes.
4. List of more important corrections agreed to by Editors and Revisers.
1 Corinthians 1:15 : you were baptized for I baptized.
1 Corinthians 1:22 : signs for a sign.
1 Corinthians 1:23 : Gentiles for Greeks.
1 Corinthians 2:4 : of wisdom for of man’s wisdom.
1 Corinthians 2:13 : the Spirit for the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:3 : omit and divisions.
1 Corinthians 3:4 : men for carnal.
1 Corinthians 4:6 : omit to think.
1 Corinthians 5:1 : omit named.
1 Corinthians 5:3 : omit as.
1 Corinthians 5:7 : omit therefore and for us.
1 Corinthians 5:7 : omit therefore and for us.
1 Corinthians 7:3 : that which is due for due benevolence.
1 Corinthians 7:5 : omit and fasting.
1 Corinthians 7:17 : transpose God and the Lord.
1 Corinthians 8:2 : not yet learnt for knows nothing yet.
1 Corinthians 8:4 : no god for no other God.
1 Corinthians 8:7 : habitual intercourse with for conscience of.
1 Corinthians 8:11 : for for and; and read a brother for whom Christ died.
1 Corinthians 8:11 : for for and; and read a brother for whom Christ died.
1 Corinthians 9:1 : transpose apostle and free.
1 Corinthians 9:9 : the fruit for of the fruit.
1 Corinthians 9:10 : read he that thrashes, in hope of partaking.
1 Corinthians 9:15 : read or… no one shall make void.
1 Corinthians 9:20 : add not being myself under law.
1 Corinthians 9:23 : all things for this.
1 Corinthians 10:1 : for for moreover.
1 Corinthians 10:19 : transpose idol and idol-sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 10:23 : omit for me.
1 Corinthians 10:24 : omit every man.
1 Corinthians 10:28 : sacred-sacrifice for idol-sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 10:28 : omit for the earth… to end.
1 Corinthians 11:11 : transpose twice man and woman.
1 Corinthians 11:24 : omit take, eat.
1 Corinthians 11:26 : the cup for this cup.
1 Corinthians 11:27 : the bread for this bread.
1 Corinthians 11:29 : omit unworthily and of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 12:31 : greater for better. (A.V. best)
1 Corinthians 15:55 : transpose victory and sting.
1 Corinthians 15:55 : death for grave.
2 Corinthians 1:12 : holiness for simplicity.
2 Corinthians 1:20 : read for which cause also through Him.
2 Corinthians 2:1 : in sorrow following again.
2 Corinthians 2:16 : from death, from life for of death, of life.
2 Corinthians 3:1 : omit 2nd commendation.
2 Corinthians 5:12 : omit for.
2 Corinthians 5:14 : omit if.
2 Corinthians 5:17 : they instead of all things.
2 Corinthians 5:21 : omit for at the beginning.
2 Corinthians 7:13 : our instead of your; and rearrange the clauses.
2 Corinthians 8:4 : omit that we would receive.
2 Corinthians 8:19 : our readiness for your readiness.
2 Corinthians 9:5 : before-promised for before-announced.
2 Corinthians 9:10 : shall supply, shall multiply, shall increase.
2 Corinthians 10:7 : omit Christ’s at end.
2 Corinthians 11:6 : having made manifest for have been made manifest.
2 Corinthians 11:32 : omit desirous.
2 Corinthians 12:11 : omit in glorying.
2 Corinthians 12:19 : for a long time for again.
2 Corinthians 13:2 : omit I write.
The reading displaced in No. 18 is a very early and widespread error. In Nos. 24, 31, 39 the displaced reading is in the margin of Lachmann: a variation affecting a part of No. 57 is given in the margin of the R.V. and of Westcott. All the other changes are given without note by the Revisers and by all the Editors: and all may be accepted with perfect confidence.
5. Of the 24 + 29 changes (see p. 7) accepted without note by the Revisers but about which the Critical Texts differ, the only cases worthy of mention are 1 Corinthians 9:22; 2 Corinthians 12:7, where I follow the Revised Version; 2 Corinthians 11:4, open to doubt; 2 Corinthians 12:15, which I reject; and 1 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 1:22, where see notes. All the others are unimportant.
Only two variations from the Authorized Version of any moment, given without notes in any two Critical Editions, have the Revisers overlooked, viz.: —
1 Corinthians 10:20 : they for (A.V. and R.V.) the Gentiles
1 Corinthians 14:18 : with a tongue for (A.V. and R.V.) with tongues.
And the Revisers’ reading is supported by evidence in the former case I think decidedly, in the latter slightly, preponderant.
6. Of the Revisers’ Marginal Readings, the student will distinguish those said to be read by “many,” and those by “some, ancient authorities.” The former are: —
1 Corinthians 1:28 : omit and.
1 Corinthians 2:1 : testimony for mystery in text.
1 Corinthians 7:7 : for instead of yet.
1 Corinthians 7:15 : you for us.
1 Corinthians 7:33 : general rearrangement.
1 Corinthians 9:24 : insert broken.
1 Corinthians 13:3 : that I may glory for to be burned
1 Corinthians 14:38 : he is not known for let him be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 15:49 : let us bear for we shall bear.
1 Corinthians 15:54 : omit this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and
2 Corinthians 3:9 : to the ministration for the ministration.
2 Corinthians 13:4 : with him for in him.
Of these, in Nos. 3, 6 the R.V. text is given without note by all Editors, on evidence so decisive that the marginal note seems needless. In No. 12 the R.V. text is accepted by all Editors, on evidence slightly preponderant; with the other reading in the margin of all but Tischendorf who gives no marginal notes. In No. 10 the R.V. text is accepted without note by the other Editors, on what seems to be sufficient evidence; and is put in the margin by Westcott, with the R.V. margin in the text. In No. 7 the Revisers’ margin is given without note by Westcott, and in Lachmann’s smaller Edition: in all other Critical Editions the Revisers’ text is given, without note. In No. 2 the Revisers’ margin is given without note by the earlier Editors: the Revisers’ text, which I accept, is given in the text of Westcott. No. 5 does not perceptibly affect the sense. In No. 8 the Revisers’ margin is given, with preponderant documentary evidence, by all Editors except Tregelles who puts it in the margin: and the Revisers’ text is noted in Westcott’s margin. It is a very difficult, and unimportant variation. I prefer the Revisers’ margin to their text in Nos. 1, 11; and especially in No. 9, which is given by all Editors, Westcott alone noting in his margin the Revisers’ text.
Of marginal readings worthy of mention said to be found in “some ancient authorities,” in every case the Revisers’ text is preferred by all Editors; except that in 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:14; 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 7:7 Westcott and Hort prefer the Revisers’ margin. So far as I can judge, the Revisers’ text has in each case preponderant evidence. Possibly true are the unimportant marginal readings in 1 Corinthians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 1:14, especially the latter.
7. The above figures and lists prove that the assured results of modern Textual Criticism are embodied fairly and fully in the Revised Version. And they reveal how narrow, in the Epistles before us, is the area open to doubt. With the few and small exceptions noted above, the Revisers’ Greek Text may be accepted with reasonable confidence as recording the exact words of the great Apostle. A few readings subject to doubt or of special interest, I have discussed in Appendix B.
8. Much more open to question than the Greek Text they have adopted, is the Revisers’ Rendering of that Text into English. At this we need not wonder. For we can conceive a Greek Text presenting the exact words written by Paul; and therefore absolutely perfect. But no translation can possibly reproduce exactly and fully the sense of the original. In every translation something is lost in accuracy and force and beauty. And opinions will differ as to which elements, in any given phrase, can be sacrificed with least loss on the whole. Moreover, the task of the Revision Committee was complicated by the fact that they were set, not to make a new Version, but to revise one made centuries ago. Archaic diction enshrined in the hearts of millions had its claims upon them. And they were frequently compelled to decide between these claims and those of the modern English reader wishing to know as clearly and fully as possible the sense intended by the Sacred Writers.
In Appendix C I have noted, as samples of numberless others, some of the more important improvements of rendering given in the New Version; also some passages in which, as I think, unwisely the Revisers retain the old renderings; and a few in which I venture to think that they have needlessly or wrongly altered the Old Version.
9. It may seem strange that even after the appearance of the Revised Version I have ventured to give a new version of my own. I have done so because I was not able to accept in every case the readings and renderings of the Revisers as the actual words and true meaning of Paul; and because it seemed to me that independent value would attach to a translation made on the principles expounded in (iii. 17 of my Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, principles very different from those which different circumstances prescribed for the Westminster Revisers. They were bound to preserve as far as possible the familiar speech of the Old Version, and to use classic English suitable for public worship. I was absolutely free. My aim has been simply to reproduce as accurately and fully as I could, even sometimes by inelegant or uncouth grammatical forms or clumsy arrangement, the sense and emphasis of Paul’s Greek. My translation was completed before the Revised Version was published; but has been revised, and in some passages amended, by its welcome aid. A few points of importance in which I am unable to accept the Revisers’ judgment are discussed in my exposition.
SECTION 4 — THE CITY OF CORINTH
1. A moment’s survey of the map tells us that Greece consists of two clearly marked divisions, a peninsula called the Peloponnese and now sometimes the Morea, and a part of the mainland of South-Eastern Europe. These divisions are united by an irregular bridge of land some 25 miles long, and averaging rather less than 10 miles across from sea to sea. The greater part of it is mountainous and difficult to traverse. But, as we approach the Morea, the mountains sink into a level stony plain ten miles long reaching to the mountains of the peninsula; and the sea encroaches on either side leaving a low neck of land at one point only four miles across. This is the Isthmus of Corinth the famous Isthmus which has given its name to similar necks of land all over the world. The ground is so nearly level that formerly along a path called the Diolcus or Pulling-through ships were dragged from sea to sea. As a low-lying isthmus uniting a mountainous peninsula to a mountainous mainland, it may be compared to the almost level ground at Llandudno between the Great Orme’s Head and the mainland of North Wales.
2. Looking now from the narrowest part of the isthmus towards the Peloponnese, we notice that the receding shores of the sea leave a widening plain, blocked in, except a strip of rich soil along the Northern coast, but a range of hills which closes the entrance by land to the peninsula. In front of these, rising to the height of 1886 feet, is a very conspicuous, abrupt, steep, rocky mountain, perhaps the most gigantic natural fortress in Europe, the Acrocrinthus, or Citadel of Corinth. For its abruptness it has been compared to the rock of Dumbarton, which is however less than one-third its height. In height, a closer comparison is found in Penmaenmawr, opposite Llandudno. At the Northern base and in front of this mountain, on a broad level rock some 200 feet above the plain, in full view of the isthmus and the hills beyond it, and of the two seas which seem to lie submissive at its feet and to refrain from mingling their waves that their separation may enrich the city, on the site now occupied by a small modern town which bears the ancient name, once stood (Florus, ii. 16) “Corinth, head of Achaia, ornament of Greece, between two seas, Ionian and Aegean, as if exposed for public view.”
A mile and a half to the North, connected formerly with Corinth by walls, like the Piraeus with Athens, is the ancient port of Lechaeum on the gulf of Corinth, affording ready access to Italy and the West. Eight miles away east-south-east, on the Saronic gulf is the port of Cenchrae, affording access to Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. And eight miles east-north-east, near to the ancient port of Schoenus also on the Saronic gulf, are remains of the temple and enclosure of Poseidon around which were celebrated during long centuries the famous Isthmian athletic Festivals. Also discernible, and forming part of the sacred enclosure of Poseidon, are remains of an ancient fortified wall which reached from the bay of Schoenus across the Isthmus.
3. The summit of the Acrocorinthus, a space some half-mile square, is enclosed by a wall, in part double; which contained sixty years ago a small town, destroyed during the war of liberation and now completely in ruins except a barracks for thirty soldiers. In the old days of Greek freedom, the fortifications of the city, ten miles long, embraced the Acrocorinthus; with the long walls to Lechaeum making Corinth to be, as it was often called, the citadel of the Peloponnese and of Greece.
The view from the Acrocorinthus is one of the most beautiful and most interesting in the world. And it explains in a moment very much of the history of Corinth. At our feet lies the port of Lechaeum on the bay of Corinth opening out into the gulf of Corinth which stretches before us like a great lake of surpassing beauty bounded by the endless mountain ranges of north-western Greece. Across the bay and across the low-lying isthmus rise in varied outline the Geranian mountains, terminating at the west in the promontory which separates the bay of Corinth from that of Alcyon, these bays together forming the eastern end of the gulf of Corinth. Beyond and above these mountains, at a distance of 25 miles, is seen the mountain range of Cithaeron, famous in heroic story. Due north, across the bay of Corinth rises the still loftier range of Helicon. And to the north-west, 60 miles away, but distinctly visible, are the snowy heights (8186 ft.) of Parnassus. Looking now rather north of east, the port of Schoenus and the site of the Isthmian Festival seem close at hand. And, across the Saronic gulf and above Salamis, island of illustrious fame, at a distance of 45 miles, lit up by the rays of the setting sun and awakening a multitude of reminiscences, the Acropolis of Athens is clearly seen; guarded as it were on left and right by Mounts Pentelicus and Hymettus. And not unfrequently is seen also the whole southern coast-line of Attica as far as the famous and lovely promontory of Sunium, some 60 miles distant. To the south the view is limited by the mountains of Argolis. But to the south-west the landscape reaches across a great part of the Peloponnese. Thus from this Roman Capital was seen, spread out in gorgeous panorama, no small part of the Roman province of Achaia; including parts of the ancient states of Attica, Megaris, Beotia, Phocis, Achaia, Arcadia, and Argolis. And this city of Corinth, commanding both geographically and socially a view of the whole province, was Paul’s chosen center from which to hold forth to the eyes of Greece the light of the Gospel of the glory of God.
The geographical position of Corinth determined in great part its historical relations. Unlike Athens, whose relations were chiefly with the East, Corinth, while keeping her hand upon the East through her port of Cenchreae, turned her face towards the West, across the bay whose placid waters lay almost at her feet. Nearly all the early colonies of Corinth were westward: and doubtless its easier access from the West led the Romans to choose it as the metropolis through which to govern the province which included nearly all the soil of ancient Greece. We may therefore suppose that during his residence at Corinth for eighteen months Paul came into contact with the West as he had never done before; and that to his residence there we may attribute in great part his deeply cherished desire to carry to the nations of the West the good news of the blood shed for the whole world.
4. Corinth was famous in every age of Greek history. In the stories which have come down from the so-called heroic times it is mentioned in connection with Oedipus and with Jason. Homer (Illiad ii. 570: cp. xiii. 664) speaks of “wealthy Corinth.” Thucydides (bk. i. 13) tells us that the Corinthians were said to have been the earliest to undertake seamanship in a way similar to that of his own day; that the earliest large ships were built at Corinth; that 300 years before his time (i.e. in B.C. 700) four ships were built there for the Samians; and that the earliest known sea-fight was between the Corinthians and their colonists the Corcyrians. He also says that “the Corinthians, inhabiting the city of the Isthmus, always had a market: for the Greeks of old, rather by land than by sea, both those within and those without the Peloponnese, had intercourse with each other through their country. And the people were of great wealth: as has been made clear by the old poets; for they called the city wealthy.” Strabo (bk. viii. 6. 20) says it was called wealthy Corinth. He speaks of the wealth of the dynasty of the Bacchiadae who ruled in Corinth and made profit by its merchandise for 200 years; and of Cypselus, who overthrew them in B.C. 655, whose wealth was attested by a large statue of beaten gold presented by him to the temple at Olympia. Under his son Periander, Corinth was the most wealthy and prosperous of the commercial cities of Greece. For this wealth Strabo accounts by the preference of the traders between Asia and Italy to carry their goods across the Isthmus rather than risk the great perils of sailing round the Peloponnese; and by the position of the Isthmus as the only route for merchandise between the peninsula and the mainland of Greece. The Corinthians thus commanded two streams of traffic, on both which they were able to impose toll; and their city was the best residence for the merchants who conducted the traffic. Strabo mentions also the Isthmian Festivals as a source of profit by bringing strangers to the city.
See note under 1 Corinthians 9:27. As a proof, and means of increase, of the wealth of Corinth, he speaks of the temple of Aphrodite, which was served by a thousand sacred courtezans. This is sad proof that in Corinth abundance of material good had produced its frequent result of self-indulgence and gross sin. Strabo says that Corinth was also the chief home of painting and sculpture. We notice, however, that the wealth of Corinth, so conducive to the development of art, did little for intellectual development. Among the many great writers of ancient Greece, no Corinthian is found.
Although ever prominent among the commonwealths of Greece, Corinth never held the first place till the last days of Greek freedom. Its political importance and wealth at that time are attested by the fact that the final blow which crushed the independence of Greece was the destruction of Corinth in B.C. 146, by the Roman general Mummius; and also by the splendor of the triumph, a splendor unknown before, which the spoils of Corinth enabled the conqueror to celebrate at Rome.
The ruin was complete. Except the public buildings, all was destroyed. And the city lay in ruins for a hundred years. In B.C. 46 it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar, as a Roman colony; and became afterwards capital of the Roman province of Achaia, which was nearly coextensive with the modern kingdom of Greece before its recent enlargement.
5. This New Corinth, the city known to Paul, was in many respects very different from, and in many points similar to, the ancient city. Its geographical position was the same: and to its position Old Corinth owed its concourse of strangers, its wealth, and its consequent gross immorality.
All this the new city inherited as lineal descendant of the old one. But Strabo’s use of the past tense when speaking of the thousand priestesses of Aphrodite, and his simple mention of a small temple to her on the Acrocorinthus without any hint of the continuance of this gigantic service of sin, warns us not to infer that it existed in his day. But, if not exactly in this form, in other forms the new city emulated the sensuality of its predecessor. Moreover, Corinth was still in the midst of Greece: and the Greeks retained, in spite of the loss of independence, many of their ancient characteristics.
But very much was changed. New Corinth was, what the old city had never been, the acknowledged political capital of all Greece. But Greece was now the Roman province of Achaia: and Corinth was its capital as residence of a Roman governor. Seutonius (Claudius 25) tells us that the Emperor Claudius gave up Achaia to the senate. This would involve its being governed by a proconsul: and, by an interesting coincidence, this is the exact title given in Acts 18:12 to the ruler of Achaia resident at Corinth. Suetonius also says, in agreement with Acts 18:2, that Claudius “expelled from Rome the Jews, who at the instigation of Chrestus were constantly in tumult.”
Corinth was a Roman colony. This term denotes a sort of translation into other soil of a part of the city of Rome. By a decree of the senate, a number of Roman citizens went forth, under appointed leaders, with all the pomp of war, to plant in foreign soil an offshoot of the mother-city. The bounds of the new city were marked out with a plow: a territory was assigned to it: and a portion of land was given to each colonist. The colonists were ruled by their own magistrates, called praetors or generals; the title correctly given in Acts 16:20 to the magistrates of the colony of Philippi. Other Roman colonies were Antioch in Pisidia, and Troas.
We must therefore think of Corinth in Paul’s day, risen a hundred years ago from its ruins, as no longer a Greek city, but rather a city of foreigners in the midst of Greece. So Pausanias (bk. ii. 1) says: “none of the original inhabitants live still at Corinth, but strangers sent by the Romans.” And Strabo, bk. viii. 6. 23: “Corinth, having lain desert a long time was restored, because of its natural excellence, by the divine Caesar; who sent strangers, for the most part of the class of freedmen.” But doubtless, in the century which had elapsed since its restoration, the position of the city had attracted to it many of the inhabitants of the surrounding province. And we are not surprised to find, in so central and commercial a city, sufficient Jews to have a synagogue; nor to find (Acts 18:2) that some of the Jews banished from Rome took refuge at Corinth. Perhaps nowhere in the world was there a greater concourse and mixture of races than in this city. In short, in Corinth, a Roman colony and the capital of a Roman province, the political capital of Greece, having a Jewish synagogue, and seated on two seas as the center of the commerce of the eastern Mediterranean, we have an epitome of the civilized world in the days of Paul.
6. The city of Corinth has lingered to our times, and is now rising; or rather is being rebuilt nearer to the coast. It suffered greatly during the war of liberation. In A.D. 1851 Mr. Lewin counted only fifty houses. It is now a straggling, uncouth, and rather unhealthy town of 8,000 inhabitants.
The only remains now of the city known to Paul are seven massive Doric columns, each consisting of one gigantic stone some 21 ft. high and 6 ft. diameter, surmounted by portions of the architrave; which once formed the front, and part of the side, of a temple, and now present a strange contrast to the poor modern town. The architecture of these columns betrays their extreme age. On this massive temple, which even then had survived the changes of probably 700 years, the great Apostle must have often looked, a monument as old in his day as the oldest monuments in our own land now.
SECTION 5. — PAUL AND THE CHURCH OF CORINTH
1. All we know of the church at Corinth is gathered from these Epistles and the Book of Acts.
2. Paul claims (1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 12:14) to be himself alone the founder of the church. With this accords the authority which in these Epistles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:3 f) he assumes. So also Acts 18:1 ff, where we learn that while his companions Silas and Timothy were still in Macedonia Paul came apparently alone from Athens to Corinth, and where even his host Aquila is spoken of only as “a Jew,” and nothing is said of any Christians found by Paul at Corinth.
3. From Corinth probably Paul wrote his letters to the Thessalonican church. For evidently they were written soon after the founding of that church; but not earlier (1 Thessalonians 3:1) than Paul’s arrival at Athens and (1 Thessalonians 1:1) his reunion with Silas and Timothy, who (Acts 18:5) rejoined him at Corinth. When he made his oration on Mars’ Hill at Athens he was waiting (Acts 17:16) for them there in compliance with his request. This request was, it would seem, for reasons unknown to us but easily conceivable, complied with only by Timothy; whom apparently Paul sent back from Athens to Thessalonica to allay by further tidings his anxiety (1 Thessalonians 3:1) about the church there. Paul was thus “left at Athens alone.” That this intermediate journey of Timothy is not mentioned in the Book of Acts, is no presumption against it. And we may suppose that after sending Timothy northward Paul went to Corinth, where he was afterwards joined by Silas and Timothy, the latter bringing good news (1 Thessalonians 3:6) about the Thessalonican church. This good news prompted Paul’s first letter, in the beginning of which (1 Thessalonians 1:1) he joins with himself Silas and Timothy, who had been his helpers in founding the church and now at Corinth were with him again. That Paul stayed at Corinth eighteen months and then went away almost direct to Syria, suggests that also from Corinth 2 Thessalonians was written. These Epistles cast little light on Paul’s labors there or the state of the Corinthian church. But they will help us to understand (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:12 ff) some of the questions raised at Corinth.
4. As usual, Paul began his work at Corinth in the Jews’ synagogue, where each Sabbath he reasoned (Acts 18:4) with Jews and Greeks. When his companions from Macedonia arrived, he was specially occupied with Jews. But these soon, by their opposition, made it expedient for him to leave the synagogue. He found, however, a suitable place next door, in the house of Titus or Titus Justus, a Jewish proselyte. This does not imply that Paul left his first home (Acts 18:3) at the house of Aquila, but rather that the house of Justus was the place in which he preached.
Paul had marked success. The family of Stephanas, afterwards (1 Corinthians 16:15) most devoted to church work, were the first converts not only at Corinth but in the province of Achaia. Since this province included Athens, this family must have been converted earlier than were (Acts 17:34) Dionysius and Damaris. They may have heard Paul preach at Athens or elsewhere. But, when the First Epistle was written, they belonged to the church of Corinth: and they were an exception to Paul’s assertion that he baptized none of his readers. Doubtless Aquila and Prisca were early converts. We may also suppose that the conversion of the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, with his family, marked an era in the founding of the church: as did perhaps the conversion of Gaius, probably the same as Paul’s host (Romans 16:23) when writing to the Romans, at whose house room seems to have been found for the church assemblies. That those were special cases, is made likely by the exceptional fact that (1 Corinthians 1:14) of the baptism of them also at Paul’s hands. A vision of Christ foretelling great success at Corinth moved Paul to stay there more than (Acts 18:11; Acts 18:18) a year and a half. During the latter part of his sojourn, a united effort of the Jews brought him before the court of Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, on the charge that (Acts 18:13; Acts 18:15) although a Jew he taught a religion contrary to the Jewish Law. But this charge Gallio refused to consider; and did not prevent the mob, who were perhaps favorably disposed to Paul, from ill-treating even in the court of justice the leader of the Jews. After this incident Paul continued some time at Corinth; and then, apparently with external pressure bid adieu to the church, and sailed with Aquila and Prisca to Ephesus and then alone to Caesarea.
And now the curtain falls, hiding from our view for some years the church so auspiciously founded in the political metropolis of the most intelligent and enterprising nation of the ancient world; to be lifted only by the Epistles before us. From these, however, we shall gather some information about the state of the church in the interval. An unmentioned visit of Paul to Corinth, a lost letter, and the circumstances which prompted the existing letters, are discussed fully in the course of my Exposition and at the close of each Epistle. The results of this discussion are embodied in Dissertation IV. at the end of this volume.
To the Epistle to the Romans, the Epistles before us are a marked contrast; a contrast corresponding exactly to Paul’s different thoughts at the moment of writing. To a church he had never seen but hoped soon to visit, he gives a connected view of his general teaching, i.e. of the Gospel and of its relation to the Old Covenant. To the Corinthians Paul wrote under the influence, in one case of news about them recently received, in the other of his own wonderful escape from peril and of the tidings just brought by Titus. Consequently, the one Epistle is the most complete and systematic exposition of the Gospel which the Bible contains: the others give, both singly and still more combined, the most graphic picture we have of an apostolic church in which we see the Gospel molding the thought, and contending with the imperfections, of living men. And, since a man’s principles of action and his entire disposition are most clearly revealed in his treatment of the various details of life, these Epistles are our best reflection of the heart and inner life of Paul, and of the Gospel as permeating and ennobling the entire self and life of a richly endowed man.
Not less marked is the mutual contrast of these Epistles. The former is essentially matter-of-fact; and takes up one by one, and discusses calmly, a variety of topics. The second letter is from beginning to end a torrent of intense emotion. But each Epistle reflects Paul’s circumstances and feelings while writing it. The first was written from Ephesus at the close of a long period of (1 Corinthians 16:9) successful and promising labor, and in comparative security. The Second Epistle was written after an almost miraculous escape from what was perhaps the most deadly peril to which even Paul had been exposed, an escape from what seemed to be certain death. And the emotions aroused by his peril and by his deliverance, emotions most various, quiver in every line of the Epistle. Consequently, in no epistle so much as in this do we feel the beating of the great heart of the Apostle.
To the delightful study of these living pictures of one of the noblest of men, and of one of the most famous of the churches he founded, we now betake ourselves.
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28