J. J. (John James) Lias.

The first epistle to the Corinthians online

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Zijt Cami)ritrfle Bible for ^tjoxife.


To Tiii:


CTamfiritigc ;


C|)e CamijnlJcje MMt for ^tftool^f.

General Editor:— J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.
Dean of Peterborough.







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I. Introduction. pages

Chapter I. Corinth. Its Situation and History... 5^~9

Chapter II. The Corinthian Church 9 — 15

Chapter III. Date, Place of Writing, Character

and Genuineness of the Epistle 15 — 19

Chapter IV. Doctrine of the Resurrection 19 — 23

Chapter V. Analysis of the Epistle •23 — 30

II. Text and Notes 31 — 169

III. General Index 170, 171

IV. Index of Words and Phrases explained T71, 172

22 1 0777






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At the time of the Apostle's visit, Corinth was the most con-
siderable city in Greece. Its commercial importance had always
been great. Situated on a narrow neck of land between two
seas^ — tlie far-famed Isthmus — the temptations to prefer com-
merce to war, even in times when war was almost the business
of mankind, proved irresistible to its inhabitants. The com-
mand of the Isthmus was no doubt important in a military
point of view ; but at a time when navigation was difficult and
dangerous-, the commercial advantages of the position were
enormous. Merchants arriving either from the East or from
the West, from Italy or Asia Minor, could save themselves
the risk of a hazardous voyage round the Peloponnesus, and
found at Corinth both a ready market for their wares, and a
convenient means of transport. Corinth, therefore, had always
held a high position among the cities of Greece^, though the
military genius of Sparta and the intellectual and political
eminence of Athens secured to those two states the pre-emi-
nence in the best periods of Greek history. But in the decline
of Greece, when she had laid her independence at the feet of
Alexander the Great, the facilities for trade enjoyed by Corinth
gave it the first pla<ak Always devoted to the arts of peace,
in such a degree as to incur the contempt of the Lacedas-

^ Ovid (I\Ti't. v. 407) and Horace (Od. I. 7. •2) call it bimaris Corinthiis.

^ Cape Malea, now St Angelo, was "to the voyages of ancient times,
what the Cape of Good Hope is to our own." Conybeare and Howson.
Vol. I. ch. xii.

^ Corinth early founded colonies, of which the most famous were
Sjrracuse in Sicily, and Corcyra, known to the Italians as Corfu, but still
retaining in Greek its ancient name '^ipKvpa..


monians^, it wa." free, in the later times of the Greek re-
pubHcs, to devote itself undisturbed to those arts, under the
protection, for the /lost part, of the Macedonian monarchs.
During that period its rise in prosperity was remarkable. It
had always been famou.- for luxury, but now it possessed the
most sumptuous theatres, palaces, temples, in all Greece.
The most ornate of the styles of Greek architecture is known
as the Corint/iian. The city excelled in the manufacture of
a peculiarly fine kind of bronze known as Corinthian brass 2.
Destitute of the higher intellectual graces (it seems never,
since the mythic ages, to have produced a single man of
genius) it possessed in a high degree the refinements of
civilization and the elegancies of life. It was regarded as the
" eye ^," the "capital and grace*" of Greece. And when (B.C.
146) it was sacked by Mummius during the last expiring struggle
of Greece for independence, though it was devoted to the gods,
and not allowed to be rebuilt for a century, its ruins became
the " quarry from which the proud patricians who dwelt on
the Esquiline or at Baiae, adorned their villas with marbles,
paintings, and statues^"

The colony (Julia Corinthus) founded here by Julius Csesar
in B.C. 46 soon restored the city to its former greatness. The
site had lost none of its aptitude for commerce. The city rose
rapidly from its ruins. The Roman proconsul of Achaia fixed
his seat there (Acts xviii. 12). Merchants once more, as of old,
found the convenience of the spot for the transport or disposal

^ Plut. Apophth. Lac. Agis son of Archidamus, vi.

^ Some writers have supposed this aes Corinthiacum to have been
the gold, silver and brass melted down in the conflagration which
followed the taking of the city by Mummius. But this, which seems
intrinsically improbable, is refuted by the fact that the Corinthian brass
was well known before the destruction of Corinth. See note in Valpy's
Edition on the passage quoted below from Florus, and Smith's Dictionary
cf Antiqttities.

•* Cxc&xo pro Man. 5. ^ P'lorus II. 16. i.

s Stanley, Introduction to ist Corinthians, p. 1. Rome, says Strabo
(VIII. 6. 23), was filled with the spoils of the sepulchres of Greece, and
especially with the terra cotta vases which were found there. Every tomb,
he adds, was ransacked to obtain them.


of their wares, and in_the e^rl^ays of the Roman Empire
Corinth became, as of old, a bye-word for luxury and yice.
"Non-ctrrvis Ifomini contingit adire Corinthum^" has passed
into a proverb, which is also found in the Greek language 2,
and which at once points to Corinth as a wonder of the world,
and as a place which no man should dare to visit without an
ample command of money. The worship of Aphrodite, which
had given Corinth an infamous pre-eminence over other cities^,
waF restored*, and Corinth once more became a hotbed of
impurity. And though the names of many of its residents
indicate a Roman origin, there can be no doubt that the supple
and astute Greek, who had become a prominent feature of
Roman society^ven in the capital^, had re-occupied the city,
and gave the tone to the general character of its life. Greek
philosophy was then in its decHne, and it is to Greek philosophy
in its decline that we are introduced in the Epistles of St Paul.
Endless logomachies^, personalj vanity and j'ivalries'', a dispo-
sition to set mtellectual above moral considerations^, a general
laxity^Tmanners and morals ^ a preference of individual con-
venience to the general welfare^", a tendency to deny the idea
of a future life, and to give oneself up to unlimited enjoyment
in this^^ appear to have been the chief difficulties with which
St Paul had to contend in planting the Gospel at Corinth.
These were in part the characteristics of Roman society in
general ; but some of the features in the picture are peculiar to

1 Horace, Ep. I. 17. 36.

2 Strabo viii. 6. 20. The proverb was applied to Corinth both
before and after the sack by Mummius.

^ The word Cormthiait was synonymous with profligacy in ancient
times, as it afterwards, by a classical allusion, became in the days of
the Regency and of George IV. in our own country.

* A thousand priestesses dedicated to her licentious worship existed
at Corinth, and it was the custom to signalise special occasions of
triumph by setting apart fresh victims to this infamous superstition.

5 Juvenal, Sal. III. 76— 78. ^ i Cor. i. 17, ii. 13.

'' ch. iii. 21, iv. 6, 7, v. 6; 2 Cor. x. 12 (according to the received
t^xt), xi. 12.

^ I Cor. v. 2. " V. II, vi. 9, 10. ^^ ch. vi. — xiii.

^' ch. XV. ^'•' Especially the three first.


It was to such a city, the highway between Rome and the
East, that the Apostle bent his steps. It was about the close of
the year 51. The time was unusually favourable for his arrival.
Not only would he find the usual concourse of strangers from
all parts of the world, but there was an unusual number of
Jews there at that moment, in consequence of the decree of
Claudius that 'all Jews were to depart from Rome^.' We can
therefore imagine what feelings were in the Apostle's mind as
he entered the Saronic Gulf after his almost fruitless visit to
Athens. On a level piece of rock, 200 feet above the level
of the sea, stood the city itself ^ Above it the hill of Acro-
Corinthus, crowned by the walls of the Corinthian citadel, rose
to the height of 1886 feet^. The temples and public buildings
of the city, overlaid with gold, silver, and brass, according to the
custom of the ancient world, met his eye, and whether glittering
in the brilliancy of an Eastern sun, or less splendid in shade,
they had a tale to tell him of superstitions to be encountered,
and men to be turned from the power of Satan unto God. The
hope must have risen strong within him, and was soon to be
converted into certainty*, that God had much people in that
city. And as he landed, and beheld the luxury and pride, riches
in their selfishness, vice in its shameless effrontery, and poverty
in its degradation and neglect, as well as the people of various

■^ Acts xviii. 2. Cf. Suetonius, Claudius, 25. "Judaeos impulsore
Christo (or according to some editions, Chresto) assidue tumultuantes
Roma expulit," where the heathen writer, in his contempt for the Jews
and their sects, has not taken the trouble to ascertain the facts. Chris-
tianity for years afterwards (see Acts xxviii. 21, 22) had failed to create
any strong feeling among the Jews at Rome.

^ Acts xvii. 34. Corinth did not lie immediately on the sea, but a
little inland (see map). Its ports were Lechaeum and Cenchrea (Rom.
xvi. i), the former on the Western, the latter on the Eastern side of the
Isthmus. The former was connected with the city by the long walls, as
in the case of the Piraeus at Athens. Lechaeum was not more than a
mile and a half from the city ; Cenchrea was about nine miles distant.

^ "Neither the Acropolis of Athens, nor the Larissa of Argos, nor
any of the more celebrated mountain fortresses of Western Europe —
not even Gibraltar — can compare with this gigantic citadel." Col. Mure.
Statius {Thebaid vii. 106) speaks of it as protecting with its shadow
the two seas alternately.

* Acts xviii. 10.


nationalities who thronged the streets then, as they do still
in all great maritirrie cities, he must have felt that, though he
might stay there long — his visit lasted a year and a half — yet
that there was no time to be lost. He first preached the good
tidings to the chosen people, Jews and proselytes^, and was
'pressed in spirit-' as he thought of the unusual opportunity
which was here afforded him. And when, according to their
custom, the Jews reviled his doctrine and refused to listen to
it, he shook out his garment and said, 'Your blood be upon
your own heads. I am clean, from henceforth I will go to the
GentilesV And he kept his word. He was encouraged by an
influential secession from the Jewish community*, headed by
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, but he never entered the
synagogue again. In a house 'hard byV be ministered to the
Jews who had attached themselves to him, and to the Gentiles
who came to listen to his words. Under the protection of
Gallio, the proconsul®, who entertained a true Roman contempt
for the Jewish law and all questions arising out of it, he was
allowed to minister in peace for 'many days'".' And thus were
laid the foundations of the Corinthian Church^.


I. Its foundation. In the Acts of the Apostles we find that
the system adopted by St Paul^ in founding Christian Churches

' Or perhaps even heathens. Acts xviii. 4.

'■' V. 5. '■'^ V. d. •* V. 8. 5 z'. 7. * V. 14, 17.

^ V. 18. The Authorized Version has 'a good while.'

* For further information about Corinth, see Conybeare and Howson,
Life and Epistles of St Pant, Stanley, Inlroditction to ist Corinthians,
Smith's Dictionary of Geography, and Leake's Morea. There are few
remains of antiquity now to be seen at Corinth or the Isthmus. The
seven Doric cohimns figured in Conybeare and Howson's work are all
that_ are left at Corinth, while at the Isthmus, though (see notes on
ch. ix. 24) the outhiies of ancient remains may still be traced, it needs
an intimate topographical acquaintance with the spot to find them out.

* We have no acco nt of the method pursued by any other Apostle.


was as follows. Accompanied by one, and as the number of
converts increased, by more than one trustworthy colleague
or disciple, he traversed the particular district he desired to
evangelise, making as long a stay in each city as circumstances
permitted^ The length of his stay usually depended upon
the importance of the city, and its fitness as a centre whence the
influence of the Gospel might spread to distant parts. Thus
Antioch, the capital of Syria, Corinth, the resort, as has been
seen 2, of men of various nationalities, and Ephesus, the metro-
polis of Asia Minor, became successively the abode of St Paul
for a lengthened period. The smaller churches he left under
the care of elders, selected from his converts, no doubt on the
principle laid down in the Epistle to Timothy^, that they should
be men who had previously enjoyed a reputation for gravity
and sobriety of life. The condition laid down in the same
Epistle, that they should not have been newly converted'*,
was of course impossible in this early stage of the history of
the community. The more important Churches enjoyed the
Apostle's superintendence for a longer period ; but it was im-
possible, when leaving them, to avoid placing them under the
care of men whose Christian profession was immature. Many
evils thus naturally arose in communities to which the principles
of Christianity were so new. The manner in which these evils
were met by the Apostle is worthy of remark. He gradually
gathered round him a band of men who were familiar with his
teaching and principles of action. When any scandals or diffi-
culties arose, and it was impossible to deal with them in person,
he despatched some of his companions to the place where their
presence was required ^ He gave them instructions how to
deal with the cases that had arisen®, and further enjoined
them to return to him as speedily as possible with a report
of their success or failure''. St Paul followed the same course

■'■ He was frequently driven awav by the turbulent conduct of the
Jews, Acts xiii. 8, 50, xiv. 2, 5, xvii. 5, 13, xviii. .'2. ^ Ch. I.

3 I Tim. iii. 7. •* i Tim. iii. 6.

" I Cor. iv. 17; 1 Cor. viii. 6, 16, 17, ix. 5.
* I Tim. i. 3; 2 Tim. iv. i, 2; Tit. i. 5. '2 Cor. vii. 6, 13.


in Corinth as elsewhere. For a year and a half he stayed
there, and endeavoured to gain for Christianity a hearing
among those who resorted to Corinth from all quarters of the
world. He enjoyed unusual opportunities ; for the protection
of Gallio, and the unpopularity of the Jews with the hetero-
geneous mob of Corinth^, prevented the Jews from raising their
usual disturbances. As we have already seen, a number of
Jews adhered to his teaching, but the majority (ch. xii. i ; cf.
also ch. viii. 7, note) of the members of the Church were
Gentiles, and by far the greater number (ch. i. 26) persons of
inferior rank and small intellectual attainments. Among these,
as the proportion of Roman names shews (see i Cor. i. 14, 16,
xvi. 17 ; Rom. xvi. 21 — 23; Acts xviii. 8, 17), a majority were
of Roman origin, while a smaller number were of Greek

2. Condition of the Corinthian Church. St Paul left Corinth
in consequence of a determination he had formed to spend the
approaching feast at Jerusalem''^, a determination which possibly
had some connection with the vow under the stress of which
he left Corinth ^ In consequence of the earnest entreaty of
the Ephesians"* that he would give them the benefit of his
presence, he spent three years among them on his return from
Jerusalem ^ But the latter part of his stay was disquieted
by reports of disorders at Corinth^. Certain teachers had
arrived at Corinth, imbued _ wiihJVwishMeani^ who had

_braught,^Jettei-5_of_X£CQmmendation with them from other
Churches*, and who set themselves to undermine the credit

■■■Hlld~"apostolic authority of St PauP, and even, as some have

1 According to the received text, it was the GreeJcs who beat the ruler
of the synagogue. It is quite possible that the word has been omitted
from some of the best MSS. in Acts xviii. 17, from an idea that the
Sosthenes mentioned there was the companion of St Paul, and that, if
he were so, he must have been already converted. See note on ch. i. i.
For the opposite view consult Paley, Horae Paidiiiae, ist Ep. to the
Corinthians, No. 8, note.

^ Acts xviii. 21. The feast Avas probably that of Pentecost.

^ Acts xviii. 18. ■* Acts xviii. 20. ^ Acts xx. 31.

^ I Cor. i. II. ^2 Cor. xi. 22. ^ 2 Cor. iii. i.

^ I Cor. ix. I — 5; 2 Cor. xii. 12, xiii. 3.


gathered from 2 Cor. x. 5, 6, to persuade the Corinthian
Christians to set him at nought altogether. He was a man
of no eloquence, they said^ He was ignorant of the rules of
rhetoric*. He had not even the physique of the orator^. And,
besides this, he was no true Apostle. He had not been among
the disciples of Jesus Himself''. And his conduct conclusively
shewed that he and his companion Barnabas did not possess
an authority co-ordinate with that of the twelve ^ His doctrine,
too, was irreconcilable with theirs. He was a renegade Jew.
He had thrown off the yoke of the Jewish law, whereas it
was well known that the original Apostles of the Lord regarded
it as binding^. Such intelligence as this was alarming enough
in itself Teachers like these had already alienated from St
Paul the members of one Church which he had founded''. But
the effect at Corinth was infinitely more mischievous. The
whole community had become disorganised. A tendency had
arisen to estimate men by their personal gifts rather than by
their spiritual powers or their Divine commission. Those who
adhered to St Paul's teaching were tempted to throw off their
allegiance to his person, and to transfer it to Apollos, the gifted
Alexandrian teacher, who had visited Corinth after St Paul's
departure^. Some declared that they followed St Peter, who
was placed by our Lord Himself at the head of the Apostolic
band*. Others protested that they followed no human teacher,
but built their faith on the words of Christ Himself, inter-
preted, most probably, just as suited themselves i". A general
relaxation of discipline followed these dissensions. In their

^ I Cor. i. 17, ii. 4, 5, 13 ; cf. iv. 3, 19.

- ldi.<^Tr]s T(f5 \6ycj}, 2 Cor. xi. 6.

^ 2 Cor. X. 10. * I Cor. ix. i. ' i Cor. ix. 5, 6.

^ Gal. ii. 7 — 13. ^ Gal. i. 6, 7, iii. i, iv. 16.

^ See note on ch. i. 12. * ch. i. 12.

^^ Some German writers have endeavoured to shew that the Corinthian
Church was divided into four distinct and clearly defined parties, owning
respectively as their head, St Paul, Apollos, St Peter and Christ.
Some have gone so far as to describe precisely the views of these several
pirties. But even if such defined parties had existed — and this is
rendered very doubtful by 1 Cor. iv. 6 — we have not sufficient inform-
ation at our disposal to decide what were the exact tenets of each


intellectual exaltation the Corinthians had passed over a grave
social scandal in their body without noticed The Holy Com-
munion, by its institution the Feast of Love, had degenerated
into a disorderly general meal, in which the prevalent per-
sonal and social antagonism was manifested in an unseemly
manner^, in which the poor were altogether neglected^, and
in which even drunkenness was allowed to pass unrebuked*.
The women threw off their veils in the Christian congregation,
and gave indications of a determination to carry their new-
found liberty so far as to be destructive of womanly modesty
and submissiveness^ Beside this, the spiritual gifts which
God had bestowed upon His Church had been shamefully
misused®. They had become occasions of envy and strife.
Those who had received them considered themselves justified
in looking down upon those common-place Christians who had
them not. And as is invariably the case, pride on the one
hand begat bitterness and jealousy on the other. The misuse, too,
of the spiritual gifts had intruded itself into the congregation.
Men who had received such manifest proofs of the Divine
favour regarded themselves as released from all obligations to
control the exercise of the powers with which they were en-
dowed. They interrupted each other, they exercised their gifts
at improper times, till the aspect of a Christian congregation
was sometimes more suggestive of lunacy than of the sober
self-restraint Christianity was intended to produce''. So far
had the evil of division proceeded that there were not wanting
those who assailed the great cardinal principle of the resurrec-
tion of the dead, and were thus opening the door to the most
grievous excesses^. Such a condition of a community might
well disturb the mind of its founder. St Paul could not leave
Ephesus at present, for a 'great door and effectual' had been
opened to him there ^. But the occasion was urgent and could
not wait for his personal presence. He had already despatched
one of his disciples with instructions to proceed to Corinth

'' ch. V. I, 1. 2 j.jj_ xi. i8, 19. ^ V. 22.

* V. 11. 5 j,_ g, 6 ch. xii., xiv. ^ ch. xiv. 23.

^ ch. XV. 32 — 34. " ch. xvi. y.

1. COK. 2


as soon as he had transacted some necessary business in
Macedonia^. But, probably after Timothy's departure, tidings
arrived — if indeed it were not the pressure of his own over-
powering anxiety — which induced the Apostle not to wait for
Timothy's arrival thither'^, but to send messengers at once.
Titus, and with him a brother whose name is not given, were
therefore sent direct to Corinth^, most probably in charge of
the Epistle with which we are now concerned*. Another
reason weighed with St Paul in his determination to write.
Some members of the Corinthian Church had sought informa-
tion from him on certain points^ ({a) The Platonic philosophy,
which had recently invaded the Jewish Church, had placed an
exaggerated value on celibacy, and there were many at Corinth
who were still sincerely attached to St Paul, and desired to
have his opinion^. ;((5)' Another difficulty had also arisen. St
Paul was everywhere impressing on his converts the doctrine of
their freedom from the obhgations of the Jewish law. He
went so far as to declare that the Christian was bound by no
external law whatever^. There was nothing, in fact, which in
itsel f was u nlawful to the Christian®. The lawfulness or un-
lawfulness of an act was to be determined by the circumstances
of the case. And the tribunal by which these nice points were
to be decided was the conscience of the individual. Such large
principles as these were likely to be misapplied, and, in fact,
they were misapplied. TSome Christians considered themselves
absolved from all obligations whatever. Strong in their con-
tempt for idolatry and idols, they claimed a right to sit at an
idol feast, in the very precincts of the temple itself^. That such
conduct was highly offensive or dangerous to others was to
them a matter of no moment. If those who were scrupulous

^ Acts xix. 22; I Cor. iv. 17, xvi. 10. ^ See note on ch. xvi. 10.

^ 2 Cor. ii. 13, viii. 6, 16 — 18, 22, 23, xii. 18.

■* See 2 Cor. vii. 6 — 15, where the arrival of the first Epistle is con-
nected with that of Titus" The obedience and fear and trembling with
which he was received is not only closely connected with the effect pro-
duced by the Epistle, but is scarcely intelligible without it.

^ ch. vii. I. s ch. vii. ^ Rom. vi. 14, vii. 14, iv. 6, viii. 2.

•* ch. vi. 12, X. 23. ^ ch. viii. 10.


about eating meats offered to idols shunned their company as
that of men guilty of gross and open apostacy, they ridiculed
their narrow-mindedness. If others were tempted by the license

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Online LibraryJ. J. (John James) LiasThe first epistle to the Corinthians → online text (page 1 of 23)