First Corinthians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

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This new translation of First Corinthians includes an introduction and extensive commentary that has been composed to explain the religious meaning of this Pauline epistle. Joseph Fitzmyer discusses all the usual introductory problems associated with the epistle, including issues of its authorship, time of composition, and purpose, and he also presents a complete outline.

The author analyzes the epistle, pericope by pericope, discussing the meaning of each one in a comment and explaining details in the notes. The book supplies a bibliography on the various passages and problems for readers who wish to investigate further, and useful indexes complete the volume. First Corinthians will be of interest to general readers who wish to learn more about the Pauline letters, and also to pastors, college and university teachers, graduate students studying the Bible, and professors of Biblical studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This is a measured, erudite work with all the hallmarks of a seasoned scholar drawing upon a lifetime of research and writing." —Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Theology Today - Roger Mohrlang

"This noteworthy addition to the Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries is destined to join the elite of scholarly commentaries on I Corinthians. It provides thorough analysis and well-researched, careful examination of virtually all issues. The entire work reflects the author's wide-ranging knowledge of classical, biblical, extrabiblical, and scholarly literature." —Roger Mohrlang, Theology Today
Restoration Quarterly - Wendell Willis

"This commentary will take its place as perhaps one of the best historical and literary works on 1 Corinthians and a worthy companion to the Anchor Bible commentary on 2 Corinthians."—Wendell Willis, Restoration Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300140446
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph A. Fitzmyer is a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus, Biblical Studies, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. He has edited and published numerous books on the New Testament, ancient Aramaic, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and he has served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Society for New Testament Study. He lives in Washington, DC.

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Read an Excerpt


A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2008 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-14044-6

Chapter One

Corinth: The City and Its History

* * *

The ancient city of Corinth lay just a short distance south of the narrow isthmus that joins the Peloponnesus to the central part of Greece. Its location thus enabled it to achieve an importance in ancient Greece that few other cities could have rivaled. Anyone traveling from Macedonia, Attica, or Athens to Arcadia, Argos, Achaia, or Sparta, would have had to travel across the isthmus of 5,950 meters and pass Corinth en route. Its strategic location also enabled it to dominate two important harbors, one on each side of the isthmus. Eight and a half kilometers to the east was Cenchreae (Kenchreai) on the Saronic Gulf, which gave access to ships traveling from Asia and the Aegean Sea (Apuleius, Metamorphoses 10.35); and two kilometers to the north was Lechaeum (Lechaion) on the Gulf of Corinth, which gave access to the Adriatic Sea and Italy. This ideal situation of Corinth was noted by the ancient geographer Strabo (Geogr. 8.6.20) and was known to Latin writers, who spoke of bimaris Corinthus, "Corinth on twoseas" (Horace, Carm. 1.7.2; Ovid, Heroides 12.27). Consequently, after classical Athens, Corinth was the second most important city in ancient Greece, but in the first century A.D. it would have been more important than Athens. Along with Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch on the Orontes (Syria), it would have been one of the four most important cities of the Mediterranean world.

Many springs in the area and the nearby rivers, Nemea and Longopotamus, made the coastal area about Corinth quite fertile and rich. The city of Corinth was built to the north of the base of a peak called Acrocorinth, which was 575 meters high, and from at least the fourth century B.C. it served as the citadel of Corinth. On the summit of Acrocorinth was a Temple of Aphrodite Hoplismene (with a statue of her bearing arms), the patroness of Corinth. Behind the temple was a spring, apparently fed by the same water as the Peirene fountain in the agora (forum) of Corinth (Pausanias, Descr. Graec. 2.3).

Both Acrocorinth and the city were enclosed within a walled area, more or less trapezoidal in shape, which was over four square kilometers in area. The circumference of the walls was over 10,000 meters. Two other parallel walls connected the enclosed city with the port of Lechaeum. Not all of that enclosed area was built up and populated, so there was considerable open space for parks and springs. Corinthia, the territory controled by the city-state, stretched well beyond the narrow isthmus and included to the north the promontory along the Halcyon Bay and to the south the area roughly up to Mount Onium.

The area of Corinthia had been settled already in Neolithic times, and early Helladic settlements were extensive there. The origins of the city of Corinth, however, are shrouded in legends. Apparently it was called at one time Ephyre, and Sisyphus, son of Aeolus, whom Homer called "the most crafty of men" (Iliad 6.152-54), was said to be the king of Ephyre.

The historical period of Corinth is divided into two eras. The earlier era begins with the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnesus in the tenth century B.C., when Temenos, one of the Heraclidae, conquered Argos. Around 850 B.C., the Dorian oligarchy of the Bacchiadae ruled in Corinth, named after Bacchis, king of Corinth. In this early period, about 733, the city spread its influence by establishing colonies at Corcyra (modern Korfu), off the coast of Epirus, at Syracuse in Sicily, and elsewhere. About 725, a renowned style of Greek pottery was developed that came to be known as Proto-Corinthian and Corinthian ware, which was widely used in the eastern Mediterranean world. Corinth was famous also for a fleet of triremes, which the historian Thucydides later praised (Hist. 1.13.2-4). Homer sang of "wealthy Corinth" (Iliad 2.570), and that was echoed by Strabo centuries later (Geogr. 8.6.20).

About 657, Cypselus overthrew the Bacchiadian oligarchy and set himself up as tyrannos of Corinth, under whom the city again thrived in prosperity, power, and colonization. Cypselus reigned until 625, when he was succeeded by his son Periander (625-585), who continued his father's policies. In the sixth century, Periander built the diolkos across the isthmus at its narrowest point, i.e., from Schoenus on the Saronic Gulf, not far from Cenchreae, to the opposite bank, a distance of 5950 meters (Strabo, Geogr. 8.2.1; 8.6.22). Diolkos means "hauling across," and it was the name given to a stone-paved road with channels constructed in it, which guided the wheels of a movable platform used to transfer small boats and their cargo across the isthmus from one gulf to the other. This was intended to be a shortcut for shipping freight from Asia to Italy, which would spare small craft from coping with the wind-swept and dangerous route around Cape Maleae and the other capes at the southern tip of the Peloponnesus. (The diolkos was a substitute for a canal, which many administrators of Corinth and elsewhere had hoped to construct throughout the centuries, e.g., Demetrius I Poliorcetes of Macedon [end of the fourth century B.C.]; Julius Caesar, Caligula, and Nero [in the first century B.C. and A.D.]. Only in 1881-93 was the Corinthian Canal finally cut through the isthmus by French engineers to connect the two gulfs.)

When Periander died, the rule passed to his nephew Psammetichus (Cypselus II), who was assassinated within a short time. Then a constitutional government was set up with eight probouloi (executive magistrates) and a council of 80 men to rule instead. In the early sixth century, the Isthmian Games were started, and they continued to be sponsored by the city of Corinth for centuries. In the sixth and fifth centuries, Corinth often sided with other Peloponnesian city-states and battled against other cities throughout Greece, especially Sparta, Athens, and Thebes. In the fifth century, in particular, it countered the influence of Athens, which sought to spread its dominion over Megara and other towns about the Corinthian Gulf. This led eventually to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). Corinth suffered greatly during the war, but in the end the Athenian fleet was defeated at Aegospotami in the Hellespont, after which Athens capitulated (404). Eventually, in 395 Corinth joined forces with Argos, Athens, and Boeotia to curb the spread of Sparta's domination, which led to the so-called Corinthian War. As a result of the war Corinth lost its independence and was united with Argos (395-386).

By this time the influence of Macedonia in northern Greece was spreading, and in 338 the battle of Chaeronea took place, when Philip II of Macedon conquered the Greek city-states and strove to unite Greece into one kingdom. That was also the beginning of the Hellenic League, which was proclaimed at Corinth by Philip, as he started his crusade against Persian interference in the land. In 280, the Achaean League was refounded, and it lasted until 146. In 243, a leading statesman of the League was Aratus of Sicyon, a neighboring city-state; he freed Acrocorinth and Corinth from Macedonian domination and its degrading influence; he adopted an explicit anti-Macedonian policy, which Corinth eventually also espoused.

Roman contact with Greek city-states began about 228 B.C., and Roman interference in the Peloponnesus became strong in 197, after the Second Macedonian War (200-197), when Roman officials sought to reorganize boundaries and alter civic governments. A few years later Corinth became the chief city-state of the Achaean League, which was then seeking to offset Roman interference. In 147, a Roman delegation arrived in Corinth, demanding the dissolution of the League. The result was the Achaean War. Then under the leadership of the Roman general, Lucius Mummius, Corinth was defeated in battle in 146; the city was sacked, burned, and razed to the ground. All the male citizens were killed, and the women and children sold into slavery (Pausanias, Descr. Graec. 1.20.4; Cicero, Verr. 2.55). "The Sicyonians obtained most of the Corinthian territory" (Strabo, Geogr. 8.6.23). Mummius, however, shipped most of the art treasures of Corinth to Rome (Cicero, De Officiis 3.11.46; Vitruvius, De archit. 5.5.8), and he was awarded the title "Achaicus," so that he is known in history as Lucius Mummius Achaicus (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 35.8.24; Arafat, Pausanias' Greece, 89-97). City-states such as Corinth, Euboea, Phokis, came under Roman domination, rule, and taxation. So ended the early era of Corinth.

Ancient writers report that for more than a century the site of Corinth was desolate and largely deserted. The chra, or site where the city had been, became ager publicus (Roman public property). Sometime between 79-77 B.C., the future Roman orator and statesman, M. Tullius Cicero (106-43), while still a student in Greece, visited the site of Corinth and wrote of it: Corinthi vestigium vix relictum est, "hardly a trace of Corinth has been left" (De lege agraria 2.32 87 [composed in 63]). Among Cicero's letters there is also one sent to him by S. Sulpicius Rufus, who speaks of Piraeus and Corinth as towns once most florishing, but now lying prostrate and demolished before one's very eyes (oppida quodam tempore florentissima, nunc prostrata et diruta ante oculos iacent [Ad Fam. 4.5.4]). See also Velleius Paterculus, Hist. Romae 1.13.1. However, elsewhere Cicero admits that as a youth he was in Peloponnesus and saw "Corinthians" living there, as he had seen Argives and Sicyonians (Tusc. Disp. 3.22.53 [composed in 45 B.C.]). For some natives continued to dwell in Corinth as squatters, as material archaeological evidence shows. Williams ("Corinth 1977," 21) reports: "Some evidence has been accumulating over the years of excavation, however, that reinforces the statement made by Cicero that persons did live among the ruins of the city in the interim period." He mentions stamped amphoras, coins from before the Roman refounding of Corinth, continuity of cult places, pottery, and glassware. So it appears that the destruction of ancient Corinth may have been far less extensive than is normally thought. Similarly, Wiseman reports, "The destruction of Corinth was far less extensive than scholars have preferred to believe.... At the South Stoa the monuments along the terrace were carried away, but the buiding itself was standing 'fairly intact' when the colony was established in 44 B.C." ("Corinth and Rome I," 494). See further Broneer, South Stoa, 100-155; Oster, "Use, Misuse," 54-55.

At any rate, the second era of ancient Corinth began in 44 B.C., when Julius Caesar, a short time before he was assassinated, issued a decree refounding Corinth as a Roman colony, Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis, "Corinthian Colony, to the honor of Julius" (Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. 43.50.3-5; cf. Pausanias, Descr, Graec. 2.1.2; 3.11.4; Broneer, "Colonia"). This second period is usually called Roman Corinth, which differed considerably from the older Greek city and its glorious past. As a Roman colony, its culture and laws were those of Rome; the Roman town was laid out in a grid of parallel streets according to Roman town-planning, with fine public buildings. The new town's forum was built about three feet higher than the old Greek agora and was expanded to the south. Some edifices of the pre-146 Corinth were rebuilt. The south stoa of the old city was reused, as was the archaic temple (of Apollo?), but they were rebuilt in italic architectural style. Temple E (see fig. 2, no. 19), dedicated to the imperial cult, at the west end of the forum, was built totally in Roman design and dominated the forum.

Some of the intrigues of J. Caesar, Brutus, Octavian, and M. Antony ensued on Grecian territory, especially the battle of Actium (31 B.C.) off the coast of Epirus. In time, Roman Corinth became the capital of the province of Achaia and the seat of the Roman governor, the center for assizes and the collection of taxes. Under Augustus, about 27 B.C., Achaia (roughly the equivalent of modern Greece, save for Thessaly, Macedonia, and Crete) was made a senatorial province. The strategic location of the capital, with Acrocorinth as a point of defense, and its character of a crossroad between East and West made it necessary for the Roman occupiers to rebuild the city. This they did, stressing discontinuity with the past (old Greek Corinth). Romanitas and a prolonged pax Romana reigned until Byzantine times.

About 7 B.C., Roman Corinth recovered the administration of the Isthmian Games, which ranked in importance just after the Olympics; they were held every other year. To these were added the Caesarean Games and the Imperial Contests, which were held every four years in honor of the emperor Tiberius. Because of later administrative difficulties, Tiberius attached Achaia to the imperial province of Moesia (A.D. 15 [Tacitus, Ann. 1.76]), but eventually, in A.D. 44, the emperor Claudius restored Achaia to the full status of a senatorial province. So Corinth continued to be the seat of the proconsul governing the Roman province of Achaia in the time when Paul first visited and evangelized the city.

After Paul's time, noteworthy events in Corinth included the fifteen-month visit of Nero to Greece in the years 66-67, when he granted the province of Achaia autonomy, libertas, and immunitas (which proved to be shortlived [Pausanias, Descr, Graec. 7.17.3-4]) and started the building of a canal across the isthmus, where the diolkos had been; but that project did not continue long. In the year 77, an earthquake struck the area and destroyed much of Roman Corinth, which was subsequently rebuilt. Under the Flavian emperors, the Latin name of the colony was sometimes given as Colonia Iulia Flavia Augusta Corinthiensis, "Julian, Flavian, Augustan, Corinthian Colony." So it appears at times on coins of the Flavian period, especially in the 80s. The earthquake and the rebuilding of Corinth must be kept in mind when one reads Pausanias's description of the Corinth that he knew. In the second century, Corinth retained its importance, as is evident from a remark of Apuleius (A.D. 123-?), calling it caput totius Achaiae provinciae, "head of the entire province of Achaia" (Metamorphoses 10.18).

Much can be learned about the shape of Roman Corinth, because details of its history and geography have been recorded by Strabo (64 B.C-A.D. 21) in his Geographia 1.3.11; 10.5.4.; 17.3.25; and esp. 8.6.20-23; and also by second-century Pausanias (fl. ca. A.D. 150) in his Descriptio Graeciae 2.1.1-2.5.5 (also 5.1.2; 7.16.7-10). Strabo visited Roman Corinth in 29 B.C. and completed his geographical work about 7 B.C., but revised it about A.D. 18, a few years before his death. Hence much of what Strabo records about ancient Corinth would be true of the Roman city that Paul knew. Pausanias, however, seems to have visited rebuilt Corinth sometime after A.D. 165; consequently, his elaborate description of Corinth sometimes includes things that would not have been seen when the apostle Paul was there. Yet his account, when read with care and in comparison with Strabo, is still valuable for our knowledge of first-century Corinth.


Excerpted from FIRST CORINTHIANS by JOSEPH A. FITZMYER Copyright © 2008 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Principal Abbreviations

Grammatical Abbreviations

Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Texts

Other Abbreviations

First Letter to the Corinthians: Translation 3


I Corinth: The City and its History 21

II The People of Corinth 30

III Paul's Relation to Corinth and Its Church 37

IV The First Letter to the Corinthians 48

V The Form of First Corinthians 54

VI The Greek Text of First Corinthians 60

VII Language and Style 64

VIII Pauline Teaching in First Corinthians 69

General Bibliography 97

Commentary and Notes

I Introduction (1:1-3) 121

II Scandals Reported Orally to Paul about the Corinthian Church (1:10-6:20) 136

III Answers to Queries about Moral and Liturgical Problems (7:1-14:40) 273

IV Instruction about the Kerygma, Gospel, and Resurrection of the Dead (15:1-58) 539

V Conclusion (16:1-24) 611

Index of Commentators and Modern Authors 635

Index of Subjects 654

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