The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
IN the eighteenth chapter of The Acts of the Apostles an account is given of the founding by Paul of the Church of Corinth. At that time Corinth was a great seaport, with a cosmopolitan population and an apparently well-deserved reputation for immorality. Not long after Pauls departure, it appears that some members of the Church fell back into the evil ways of the place, and their brethren wrote to Paul for advice. Pauls reply, now lost, seems to have been misunderstood; and their answer, along with oral reports which had reached the apostle, called forth the first of the two extant epistles. This was written at Ephesus, probably in 54 A. D., though some scholars date it three or four years later.
Our second epistle was sent from Macedonia, after Paul had been forced to flee from Ephesus, a few months after the date of the first. Like the first, it deals with scandals and divisions in the Corinthian Church, but rejoices over some matters on which its founder could offer congratulations. The more painful part of the letter, chapters X to XIII, is supposed by some to be part of an epistle coming between the first and the second.
The two letters give a very vivid picture of the perils through which the infant church struggled in the midst of a vicious pagan society, before its fundamental principles were firmly grasped, and while opportunities abounded to be led astray by rival teachers. Paul addresses himself to the unpleasant task of discipline with straightforwardness and courage, yet with much tenderness; and in holding up to his converts the gospel as he conceived it, he rises to a pitch of sublime eloquence.