Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BSD Blogging: A Brief Intro to Corinth

This week our BSD groups begin studying Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth--which we learned in the lesson is the fourth known letter to these early Christians, with the first and third having been lost to us. We can better understand Paul's message if we put on those "three-dimensional" glasses to see what the city of Corinth and the church were like in Paul's day.

First of all, Corinth was really a new Roman city built on the ruins of the Greek city of Corinth which was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and resettled  by decree of Julius Caesar in 446 BC. Situated on a narrow isthmus of land, Corinth had two seaports: one leading to Italy and one to Asia. The city was a major commercial center and, like most successful port cities, attracted a very diverse population.  

That population included many Jewish refugees from Rome, who had been expelled by order of the emperor in 49 AD. Among these Roman Jews were Priscilla and Aquila, leaders in the early church in Corinth. 

Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth were read and shared by a number of house churches, not just one congregation. At this time the church was organized by households which in Roman culture (remember this is a Roman city and the Jews in Corinth were Roman Jews) which included more than the nuclear family. Slaves, freedmen, hired workers, tenants and skilled craftsmen were considered part of the household and were expected to follow the faith of the head of the household. They gathered for worship and a shared meal in private homes, not in synagogues or separate buildings. Some of these house churches were led by women who were independently wealthy either by inheritance or through their own business dealings.

Imagine Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians being read aloud in one of the early house churches and then being copied and passed along to the next Christian household! Many of those hearing his words were illiterate and could not have read it for themselves. We are going to spend the rest of our BSD study learning this letter that gives us a window into the early church in Corinth and Paul's sometimes strained but always loving relationship with it.

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