Judith L. Kovacs

in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199204540
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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One of the earliest surviving Christian writings, Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians provides a fascinating picture of the life of one early Christian community and the challenges its members faced as they attempted to live out the gospel as a tiny minority in the midst of a pagan world. It also gives a first-hand glimpse of Paul's work as missionary and teacher. Written to a church Paul founded (Acts 18:1–17) and knows especially well, in response to a letter from the Corinthians asking him for guidance (7:1), the letter gives advice on healing factions in the community (chs. 1–4), sexual morality (chs. 5–7), how to relate to the civil and religious institutions of the pagan world (6:1–11; chs. 8–10), and various aspects of Christian worship (chs. 11–14). This article shows how 1 Corinthians is interpreted by a biblical scholar in the 21st century, drawing on a tradition of historical-critical study of the Bible that reaches back to the Enlightenment. It also provides a few glimpses into the long and rich reception history of the letter.

Keywords: Paul; Corinthians; sexual morality; paganism; Enlightenment

Article.  6137 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity ; History of Religion

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