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§ 1. The Situation of Corinth, and the Character of its Inhabitants.
Corinth was properly a small dynasty, or territory in Greece, bounded on the east by the gulf of Saron ; on the south by the kingdom of Argos ; on the west by Sicyon ; and on the north by the kingdom of Megaris, and upper part of the isthmus and bay of Corinth, the latter of which is now called the Golfo de Lepanto, or the gulf of Lepanto. This tract, or region, not large in size, possessed a few rich plains, but was in general uneven, and the soil of an indifferent quality. The city of Corinth was the capital of this region. It stood near the middle of the isthmus, which in the narrowest part was about six miles wide, though somewhat wider where Corinth stood. Here was the natural carrying place, or portage from the Ionian sea on the west, to the Egean on the east. Many efforts were made by the Greeks, and afterwards by the Romans, to effect a communication between the Ægcan and Adriatic seas by cutting across this isthmus; and traces still remain of these attempts. Means were even contrived for transporting vessels across. This isthmus was also particularly important as it was the key of the Peloponnesus, and attempts were often made to fortify it. The city had two harbours,-Lechæum on the gulf of Corinth, or sea of Crissa on the west, to which it was joined by a double wall, twelve stadia, or about a mile and a half in length ; and Cenchrea, or the sea of Saron on the east, distant about seventy stadia, or nearly nine miles. It was a situation therefore peculiarly favourable for commerce, and highly important in the defence of Greece.
The city is said to liave been founded by Sisyphus, long before the siege of Troy, and was then called Ephyra. The time when it was founded is, however, unknown. The name Corinthi, was supposed to have been given to it from Corinthus, who, by different authors, is said to have been the son of Jupiter, oi of Marathon, or of Pelops, who is said to have rebuilt and adorned the city.
The city of Corinth was built at the foot of a high hill, on the top of which stood a citadel. This hill, which stood on the south of the city, was its defence in that quarter, as its sides were extremely steep. On the three other sides it was protected by strong and lofty ramparts. The circumference of the city proper was about forty stadia, or five miles. Its situation gave it great commercial advantages. As the whole of that region was mountainous and rather barren, and as the situation gave the city extraordinary commercial advantages, the inhabitants early turned their attention to commerce, and amassed great wealth. This fact was, to no inconsiderable extent, the foundation of the luxury, effeminacy, and' vices for which the city afterwards became so much listinguished.
The merchandise of Italy, Sicily, and the western nations, was landed at Lechæum on the west, and that of the islands of the Egean sea, of Asia Minor, and of the Phænicians, and other oriental nations, at Cenchrea on the east. The city of Corinth thus became the mart of Asia and Europe ; covered the sea with its ships, and formed a navy to protect its commerce. It was distinguished by building galleys and ships of a new and improved form; and its naval force procured it respect from other nations. Its population and its wealth was thus increased by the influx of foreigners. It became a city rather distinguished by its wealth, and naval force, and commerce, than by its military achievements, though it produced a few of the most valiant and distinguished leaders in the armies of Greece.
Its population was increased and its character somewhat formed from another circumstance. In the neighbourhood of the city the Isthmian games were celebrated, which attracted so much attention, and which drew so many strangers from distant parts of the world. To those games, the apostle Paul not infrequently refers, when recommending Christian energy and activity. See Note, 1 Čor. ix. 24, 26, 27; comp. Heb. xii. 1.
From these causes, the city of Corinth became eminent among all ancient cities for wealth, and luxury, and dissipation. It was the mart of the world. Wealth flowed into it from all qnarters. "Luxury, amusement, and dissipation, were the natural consequents, until it became the most gay and dissolute city of its times, --the Puris of antiquity.
There was another cause which contributed to its character of dissoluteness and corruption. I refer to its religion. The principal deity worshipped in the city was Venus ; as Diana was the principal deity worshipped at Ephesus; Minerva at Athens, &c. Ancient cities were devoted usually to some particular god or goddess, and were supposed to be under their peculiar protection. See Note, Acts xiv. 13. Corinth was devoted, or dedicated thus to the goddess of love, or licentious passion ; and the effect may be easily conceived. The temple of Venus was erected on the north side or slope of the Acrocorinthus, a mountain about half a mile in height on the south of the city, and from the summit of which a magnificent prospect opened on the north to Parnassus and Helicon, to the eastward the island of Ægina and the citadel of Athens, and to the west the rich and beautiful plains of Sicyon. This mountain was covered with temples and splendid houses ; but was especially devoted to Venus, and was the place of her worship. Her shrine appeared above those of the other gods; and it was enjoined by law, that one thousand beautiful females should officiate as courtesans, or public prostitutes, before the altar of the goddess of love. In a time of public calamity and imminent danger, tliese women attended at the sacrifices, and walked with the other citizens singing sacred hymns. When Xerxes invaded Greece, recourse was had to their intercession to avert the impending calamity. They were supported chiefly by foreigners; and from the avails of their vice a copious revenue was derived to the city. Individuals, in order to ensure success in their undertakings, vowed to present to Venus a certain number of courtesans, which they obtained by sending to distant countries. Foreign merchants were attracted in this way to Corinth ; and in a few days would be stripped of all their property. It thus became a proverb, “ It is not for every one to go to Corinthi," -- (o savrès drogos tis Kógov for socis i lov.) The effect of this on the morals of the city can be easily understood. It became the most gay, dissipatel, corrupt, and ultimately the most effeminate and feeble portion of Greece. It is necessary to make these statements, because they go to show the exceeding grace of God in collecting a church in such a city, the power of the gospel in overcoming the strongest and most polluted passions of our nature; and because no small part of the irregularities which arose in the church at Corinth, and which gave the apostle occasion to write this epistle, were produced by this prevailing licentiousness of the people; and by the fact, that gross and licentious passions had receiver the counte.
nance of law and the patronage of public opinion. See chap. v. vii. See article Lais in the Biographical Dictionaries.
Though Corinth was thus dissipated and licentious in its character, yet it was also distinguished for its refinement and learning. Every part of literature was cultivated there, so that before its destruction by the Romans, Cicero (pro lege Man, cap. v.) scrupled not to call it totius Græciæ lumen—the light of all Greece.
Corinth was, of course, exposed to all the changes and disasters which occurred to the other cities of Greece. After a variety of revolutions in its government, which it is not necessary here to repeat, it was taken by the Roman consul I. Mummius, 147 years before Christ. The riches which were found in the city were immense. During the conflagration, it is said that all the metals which were there were melted and run together, and formed that valuable compound which was so much celebrated as Corinthian brass. Others, however, with more probability, say that the Corinthian artists were accustomed to form a metal, by a mixture of brass with small quantities of gold and silver, which was so brilliant as to cause the extraordinary estimate in which this metal was held. Corinthi, however, was again rebuilt. In the time of Julius Cesar, it was colonised by his order, and soon again resumed something of its former magnificence. By the Romans the whole of Greece was divided into two provinces, Macedonia and Achaia. Of the latter Corinth was the capital ; and this was its condition when it was visited by Paul. With its ancient splendour, it also soon relapsed into its former dissipation and licentiousness ; and when Paul visited it, it was perhaps as dissolute as at any former period of its history. The subsequent history of Cor. inth it is not necessary to trace. On the division of the Roman empire, it fell, of course, to the eastern empire, and when this was overthrown by the Turks, it came into their hands, and it remained under their dominion until the recent revolution in Greece. It still retains its ancient name ; but with nothing of its ancient grandeur. A single temple, itself dismantled, it is said, is all that remains, except the ruins, to mark the site of one of the most splendid cities of antiquity. For the authorities of these statements, see Travels of Anacharsis, vol. iii. pp. 369 --388 ; Edin. Ency. art. Corinth ; Lemprière's Classical Dictionary, and Bayle's Dictionary, art. Corinth.
$ 2. The Establishment of the Church at Corinth.
The apostle Paul first visited Corinth about A. D. 52. (Lardner.) See Acts xviii. 1. He was then on his way from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He had passed some time at Athens, where he had preached the gospel, but not with such success as to warrant him to remain, or to organize a church; see Notes on Acts xvii. lle was alone at Athens, having expected to have been joined there by Silas and Timothy, but in that he was disappointed ; Acts xvii. 15; comp. xviii. 5. He came to Corinth alone, but found Aquila and Priscilla there, who had lately come from Rome, and with them he waited the arrival of Silas and Timothy. When they arrived, Paul entered on the great work of preaching the gospel in that splendid and dissipated city, first to the Jews, and when it was rejected by them, then to the Greeks ; Acts xviii. 5, 6. His feelings when he engaged in this work, he has himself stated in 1 Cor. xvi. 2–5. (see Note on that place.) His embarrassments and discouragements were met by a gracious proinise of the Lord that he would be with him, and would not leave him ; and that it was his purpose to collect a church there ; see Note on Acts xviii. 9, 10. In the city, Paul remained eighteen months, (Acts xviii. 11,) preaching without mo lestation, until he was opposed by the Jews under Sosthenes their leader, and brought before Gallio. When Gallio refused to hear the cause, and Paul was discharged, it is said, that he remained there yet “a good while,” (Acts xviii. 18.) and then sailed into Syria.
of the size of the church that was first organised there, and of the general character of the converts, we have no other knowledge than that which is con
tained in the epistle. There is reason to think that Sosthenes, who was the principal agent of the Jews in arraigning Paul before Gallio, was converted, (see 1 Cor. i. 1.) and perhaps some other persons of distinction ; but it is evident that the church was chiefly composed of those who were in the more humble walks of life ; see Notes on 1 Cor. i. 26–29. It was a signal illustration of the grace of God, and the power of the gospel, that a church was organized in that city of gayety, fashion, luxury, and licentiousness ; and it shows that the gospel is adapted to meet and overcome all forms of wickedness, and to subdue all classes of people to itself. If a church was established in the gay and dissolute capital of Achaia, then there is not now a city on earth so gay and so profligate that the same gospel may not meet its corruptions, and subdue it to the cross of Christ. Paul subsequently visited Corinth about A. D. 58, or six years after the establishiment of the church there. He passed the winter in Greece-doubtless in Corinth and its neiglıbourhood, on his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem, tlie fifth time in which he visited the latter city. During this stay at Corinth lie wrote the epistle to the Romans. See the introduction to the Epistle to the Romans.
§ 3. The time and place of writing the first Epistle to the Corinthians.
I'r has been uniformly supposed that this epistle was written at Ephesus. The circumstances which are mentioned incidently in the cpistle itself, place this beyond a doubt. The epistle purports to have been written, not like that to the Romans, without having been at the place to which it was written, but after Paul had been at Corinth. “I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech," &c. chap. ii. 1. It also purports to have been written when he was about to make another visit to that church ; chap. iv. 19, “ But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will.” Chap. xvi. 5, “ Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia, for I do pass through Macedonia." Now the
I history in the Acts of the Apostles informs us, that Paul did in fact visit Achaia, and doubtless Corinth twice; see Acts xviii. 1, &c. ; xx. 1-3. The same history also informs us that it was from Ephesus that Paul went into Greece ; and as the epistle purports to have been written a short time before that journey, it follows, to be consistent with the history, that the epistle must have been written while he was at Ephesus. The narrative in the Acts also informs us, that Paul had passed two years in Ephesus before he set out on his second journey into Greece.
With this supposition, all the circumstances relating to the place where the apostle then was which are mentioned in this epistle agree. "If after the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?” chap. xv. 32. It is true, as Dr. Paley remarks, (Hore Pauline,) that the apostle might say this wherever he was ; but it was much more natural, and much more to the purpose to say it, if he was at Ephesus at the time, and in the midst of those conflicts to which the expression relates. “ The churches of Asia salute you," chap. xvi. 19. It is evident from this, that Paul was near those churches, and that he had intercourse with them. But Asia, throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and in the epistles of Paul, does not mean commonly the whole of Asia, nor the whole of Asia Minor, but a district in the interior of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital ; see Note, Acts ii. 9 ; vi. 9 ; xvi. 6 ; xx. 16.' “ Aquila and Priscilla salute you," chap. xvi. 19. Aquila and 'Priscilla were at Ephesus during the time in which I shall endeavour to show this epistle was written, Acts xviii. 26. It is evident, if this were so, that the epistle was written at' Ephesus. “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost," chap. xvi. 8. This is almost an express declaration that he was at Ephesus when tlie epistle was written. A great and effectual door is opened to me, and there are many adversaries," chap. xvi. 9. How well this agrees with the history, may be seen by comparing it with the account in Acts, when Paul was at Ephesus. Acts xix. 20, " So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” That there
many adversaries," may be seen from the account of the same period in Acts xix. 9, “But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil