1 Corinthians

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Books of the Bible

The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, also First Corinthians, was a letter from Paul of Tarsus to the Christians in Corinth, Greece.



Most scholars agree that Paul of Tarsus is the actual author of the letter.

The letter itself names Paul (Saul) of Tarsus as its author, a claim that has never been seriously questioned, other than a few passages which differ in style from the rest of the work. According to the Bible, Paul was born into the tribe of Benjamin in Tarsus, the capital city of the Asia Minor province of Cilicia, later traveling to Jerusalem to become a rabbi of the sect of Judaism known as the Pharisees. He was most likely a member of the Sanhedrin. Though an Israelite, Paul was considered by the Roman Empire to be a free man and Roman citizen, as Tarsus was designated by the Romans as a "free city".

Having been trained as a rabbi, Paul was much more theological in his writings than many of the Biblical authors. He is considered by Christians to be one of the foremost Biblical authorities on Jesus, though, according to his own writings, he never even met Jesus. Paul supposedly converted to Christianity (not in the traditional sense, since at the time Christianity was considered a sect within Judaism) after being temporarily blinded by a flash of light that he claims was a vision he received of the resurrected Jesus while traveling the road to Damascus. His writings show that he was often in opposition to the ideas and teachings of the apostles who actually knew and learned from Jesus. At one point, he is said to have opposed the apostle Peter "to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong (Galatians 2:11)" on some dogmatic teachings.

Hair Length

1 Corinthians Chapter 11 contains a list of instructions regarding how men and women should present themselves in regards to head coverings and hair length.1 Corinthians 11:14-15 Bible-icon.png says

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Some more conservative Christians interpret this as applying to all Christian men, while most Christians view it as being wrong in the culture of that particular place and time. None propose an answer to the question of how exactly nature teaches us that it is a shame for men to have long hair. For instance, male lions have long manes while lionesses do not.

Women Must be Silent

1 Corinthians Chapter 14 verses 34-35 read

women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

This text is very problematic within Christian churches. It is used to bolster the thought that women shouldn't be allowed to preach, do work within the church, or speak at all (if read literally). However, more issues arise with the text from a perspective of biblical criticism.

First off, many manuscripts have these verses after verse 40 within 1 Corinthians 14. Although not many, there are also very early manuscripts that have these verses on the margins. Furthermore, these verses completely disrupt the train of argumentation that Paul is bringing forward, this is very uncharacteristic of Paul. Not to mention that these verses are in contradiction with what Paul had stated earlier in the letter (namely that women should pray and prophesy in the assembly cf. 1 Cor 11:5). Due to all these issues with the text, many scholars hold this text, then, to be an interpolation, added later than Paul and thus not part of Paul's original argumentation thus not authoritative.

Bibliography/Further Reading

D.A. Carson: Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987)

G. Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982)

G.D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987)

M.E. Thrall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on 2 Corinthians, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994, 1998)

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