Thursday, June 4, 2020

Notes On The Authorship Of 1 And 2 Corinthians

Corinthians. First Epistle to the, was written by the Apostle St. Paul toward the close of his nearly three-year stay at Ephesus (Acts xix. 10, xx. 31), which, we learn from 1 Cor. xvi. 8, probably terminated with the Pentecost of a.d. 57 or 58. The bearers were probably (according to the common subscription) Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, who had been recently sent to the Apostle, and who, in the conclusion of this epistle (ch. xvi. 17), are especially commended to the honorable regard of the church of Corinth. This varied and highly characteristic letter was not addressed to any party, but to the whole body of the large (Acts xviii. 8, 10) Judaeo-Gentile (Acts xviii. 4) church of Corinth, and appears to have been called forth, 1st, by the information the Apostle had received from members of the household of Chloe (ch i. 11 ), of the divisions that were existing among them, which were of so grave a nature as to have already induced the Apostle to desire Timothy to visit Corinth (ch. iv. 17) after his journey to Macedonia (Acts xix. 22) ; 2dly, by the information he had received of a grievous case of incest (ch. v. 1), and of the defective state of the Corinthian converts, not only in regard of general habits (ch. vi. 1, sq.) and church discipline (eh. xi. 20, sq.), but, as it would also seem, of doctrine (ch. xv.); 3dly, by the inquiries that had been specially addressed to St. Paul by the church of Corinth on several matters relating to Christian practice. With regard to the genuineness and authenticity of this epistle no doubt has ever been entertained. The external evidences are extremely distinct, and the character of the composition such, that if any critic should hereafter be bold enough to question the correctness of the ascription, he must be prepare to extend it to all the epistles that bear the name of the great Apostle. Two special points deserve separate consideration : — 1 . The state of parties at Corinth at the time of the Apostle's writing. The few facts sup plied to us by the Acts of the Apostles, and the notices in the epistle, appear to be as follows : — The Corinthian church was planted by the Apostle himself (1 Cor. iii 6), in his second missionary journey (Acts xviii. 1, sq.). He abode in the city a year and a half (ch. xviii. 1) . A short time alter the Apostle had left the city the eloquent Jew of Alexandria, Apollos, went to Corinth (Acts xix. 1 ). This circumstance of the visit of Apollos appears to have formed the commencement of a gradual division into two parties, the followers of St. Paul, and the followers of Apollos (comp. ch. iv. 6). These divisions, however, were to be multiplied; for, as it would seem, shortly after the departure of Apollos, Judaizing teachers, supplied probably with letters of commendation (2 Cor. iii. 1) from the church of Jerusalem, appear to have come to Corinth and to have preached the Gospel in a spirit of direct antagonism to St. Paul personally. To this third party we may perhaps add a fourth, that, under the name of "the followers of Christ" (ch. i., 12), sought at first to separate themselves from the factious adherence to particular teachers, but eventually were driven to antagonism into positions equally sectarian and inimical to the unity of the church. At this momentous period, before parties had become consolidated, and had distinctly withdrawn from communion with one another, the Apostle writes ; and in the outset of the epistle (ch. i.-iv. 21) we have his noble and impassioned protest against this fourfold rending of the robe of Christ. — 2. The number of epistles written by St. Paul to the Corinthian church will probably remain a subject of controversy to the end of time. The well known words (ch. v. 9) do certainly seem to point to some former epistolary communication to the church of Corinth. The whole context seems in favor of this view, though the Greek commentators are of the contrary opinion, and no notice has been taken of the lost epistle by any writers of antiquity. The apocryphal letter of the church of Corinth to St. Paul, and St. Paul's answer, existing in Armenian, are worthless productions, that deserve no consideration.

Corinthians, Second Epistle to the, was written a few months subsequently to the first, in the same year, — and thus, if the dates assigned to the former epistle be correct, about the autumn of a d. 57 or 58, a short time previous to the Apostle's three months' stay in Achaia (Acts xx. 3). The place whence it was written was clearly not Ephesus (see ch. i. 8), but Macedonia (ch. vii. 5, viii. 1, ix. 2), whither the Apostle went by way of Troas (ch. ii. 12), after waiting a short time in the latter place for the return of Titus (ch. ii. 13). The Vatican MS., the bulk of later MSS., and the old Syr. version, assign Philippi as the exact place whence it was written; but for this assertion we have no certain grounds to rely on: that the bearers, however, were Titus and his associates (Luke?) is apparently substantiated by ch. viii. 23, ix. 3, 5. The epistle was occasioned by the information which the Apostle had received from Titus, and also, as it would certainly seem probable, from Timothy, of the reception of the first epistle. If it be desirable to hazard a conjecture on the mission of Titus, it would seem most natural to suppose that the return of Timothy and the intelligence he conveyed might have been such as to make the Apostle feel the necessity of at once dispatching to the contentious church one of his immediate followers, with instructions to support and strengthen the effect of the epistle, and to bring back the most recent tidings of the spirit that was prevailing at Corinth. These tidings, as it would seem from our present epistle, were mainly favorable; the better part of the church were returning to their spiritual allegiance to their founder (chap. i. 13, 14, vii. 9, 15, 16); but there was still a faction, possibly of the Judaizing members (comp. ch. xi. 22), that were sharpened into even a more keen animosity against the Apostle personally (ch. x. I, 10), and more strenuously denied his claim to Apostleship. The contents of this epistle are thus very varied, but may perhaps be roughly divided into three parts: — 1st, the Apostles account of the character of his spiritual labors, accompanied with notices of his affectionate feelings towards his converts (ch. i.-vii.); 2dly, directions about the collections (ch. viii., ix.); 3dly, defense of his own Apostolical character (ch. x.-xiii. 10). The genuineness and authenticity are supported by the most decided external testimony, and by internal evidence of such a kind that what has been said on this point in respect of the first epistle is here even still more applicable. The principal historical difficulty connected with the epistle relates to the number of visits made by the Apostle to the church of Corinth. The words of this epistle (ch. xii. 14, xiii. 1, 2) seem distinctly to imply that St. Paul had visited Corinth twice before the time at which he now writes. St. Luke, however, only mentions one visit prior to that time (Acts xviii. 1, sq.); for the visit recorded in Acts xx. 2, 3, is confessedly subsequent. We must assume that the Apostle made a visit to Corinth which St. Luke did not record, probably during the period of his three year residence at Ephesus.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 173-174

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