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Interpretation of 1 Corinthians: a Polemical Letter Attacking Paul, or a Polite Letter Seeking Apostolic Advice?

Garner, Gary O. (2003) Interpretation of 1 Corinthians: a Polemical Letter Attacking Paul, or a Polite Letter Seeking Apostolic Advice? (Unpublished)

Abstract

During a time which has become known as Paul's "Second Missionary Journey" (49-52 CE), the Apostle founded a church within the relatively large and populous commercial city-seaport of Corinth, located in the southern part of what is now modern day Greece. By all accounts this church caused him a good deal of trouble throughout its early establishment, and in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a wide range of issues in response to a letter sent from the church requesting Paul's counsel and advice. These issues primarily relate to, amongst other things, immorality, idolatry, in-fighting, misuse of spiritual gifts, and money.

1 Corinthians is one of thirteen epistles (or letters) which bear the name of the Apostle Paul . By way of comparison, it precedes 2 Corinthians (another, later letter addressed to the Church at Corinth ) which contains much stronger language and is in response to a different context than the earlier epistle. Similarly, the language used, the topics covered, and the forcefulness of Paul's position on various issues is invariably different - epistle by epistle - depending on the particular occasion for which he writes.

Context is therefore critical to understanding. It points towards the heart of the question being addressed in this essay, namely the issue of distinguishing overall or universal principles, as distinct from context or situation specific applications.

It is contended that an understanding of the emphasis given in 1 Corinthians (and indeed any other epistle) can only be made in the light of the context of the situation. Accordingly, there needs to be differences of interpretation, based on conclusions reached after reconstructing the occasion for which the epistle was written, even though in some instances differences between literal text, and its situation specific application (and the derived general principle), if any, are relatively slight and more a question of balance. On the other hand, without an understanding of historical or cultural context, there is great potential for hermeneutical error.

The writer concludes that the extent to which one might differ in their interpretation of 1 Corinthians, based on whether the Corinthians letter to Paul was polemical or polite, could be significant.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 7224
Item Type: Other
Keywords: Apostle, Paul’s "Second Missionary Journey", church, Corinth, Greece, 1 Corinthians, spiritual gifts, money, epistle, hermeneutical error, polemical
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS (220400) > Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History) (220401)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 Gary Garner
Deposited On: 27 Apr 2007
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 22:39

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