You are on page 1of 4

Page 1 of 4

Structure and Purpose of 1 Corinthians
Some Recent Key Players
Thiselton, Garland, Mitchell, Ciampa & Rosner, Murphy O’conner

Purpose
Paul tells the Corinthians that they are part of the fulfilment of the OT expectation of World Wide Worship of the God of Israel (Mal 1:11) and as God’s eschatological temple they must act in a manner appropriate to their holy status by shunning pagan vices (false wisdom, sexual immorality & idolatry) and glorifying God as they reflect on the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Structure
1:1-9 1:10-4 5-7 Letter opening True & False Wisdom & Corinthian Factionalism Greed & Sexual Immorality (‘Flee’ & ‘Glorify’) 5-6 Negative: ‘Flee Sexual Immorality’ 7 Positive: ‘Glorify God with you bodies’ Idolatry (‘Flee’ & ‘Glorify’) 8-11:1 Negative: ‘Flee Idolatry’ 11:2-14 Positive: ‘Glorify God’ in your worship Resurrection & Consummation Letter Closing

8-14

15 16

Alternative Purposes for 1 Corinthians
Unity
Margaret Mitchell and others suggests that the underlying problem Paul is addressing in the letter is that of disunity. The theme statement for the letter is seen as 1:10 (agree with one another). In 1:18-4:21 Paul opposes disunity in the church in general and in 5-16 he takes up specific issues that must be dealt with before unity can be achieved. Mitchell sees the material organised as it is presented in the written and oral reports. She also disputes that peri de always signals a reference to the letter Paul received. Pro Mitchell: Unit/disunity is a prominent theme that runs through the letter (factions in 1-4, suing each other in 6, pagan temple practises 8, disunity around the Lord's supper in 11). Contra Mitchell: Disunity is a theme that runs throughout the letter, but it is a product of their worldliness with multiple expressions. The overall purpose of 1 Cor is to take this worldly people and sanctify them in light of Christ's reign and the eschaton.

Page 2 of 4

Correction of Over-Realised Eschatology
Anthony Thiselton champions the view that Paul is writing to correct the Corinthian’s over-realised eschatology. It is based in what is thought to be the climax of the letter: 1 Corinthians 15, where it appears Paul is correcting the faulty eschatology of the Corinthians. This is then read back into the letter and found right throughout all the moral teaching (with the exception of the discussion of head coverings etc in chapter 11). Key Passages: 1 Cor 15, 1 Cor 4:8, 2 Tim 2. Reasons it doesn’t work: - Assumes that the Corinthians are unified in over-realised eschatology. - Reads back into 1 Corinthians an issue present in 2 Tim 2 – exegetical fault. - Paul’s eschatology is realised and 1 Corinthians emphasises this rather than to over-turn ORE. - Affirming the consequence and not the premise.

No direct purpose
Murphy-O’Connor suggests that in his letter to the Corinthians Paul is simply addressing issue which have come to him via the reports of Chloe and her people (1:11), a delegation that arrived with a letter from the Corinthians and the letter itself (16:17). He proposes the following structure: 1.4 Divisions within the community 5.6 The importance of the body 7 Problems of social status 8-10 Problems arising from the pagan environment 11-14 Problems arising in the liturgical assembly 15 The resurrection 16 Conclusion Main problem: Ignorant of the letter's themes and structure.

OT Fulfilment and 1 Corinthians
Two key Old Testament books (Deuteronomy and Isaiah) inform: 1. the origin of many of the specifics and 2. the general shape of Paul’s response to the problems in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 10:11 is a key verse - which links the OT anticipation with its fulfillment in the Corinthian church.

New Exodus - 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

New Passover - 1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

New Covenant - 1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new
covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Page 3 of 4

Deuteronomy and 1 Corinthians
1. We need to see look beyond quotations and allusions to the book. 2. Deuteronomy explains the nature of an obedient response to God’s grace. 3. The laws in 5 and 12-26 stipulate that a. the LORD is to be worshipped at the place and in the way that he chooses (cf., e.g., ch. 12) b. insist that nothing is to be done to defile the land (cf. 12:7) c. shun the idolatry (e.g., 12:1-6) and sexual immorality d. maintain justice and right relationships with each other. 4. Deuteronomy also anticipates the failure of the Israelites and the need for a new covenant. 5. Paul, like Moses, spells out the theological / ethical consequences of their exodus rescue. 6. In one sense, 1 Corinthians looks back to Deuteronomy. In another sense, Deuteronomy points forward to 1 Corinthians, inasmuch as it looks forward to the new covenant. The main material of Deuteronomy, namely its laws, and the most famous texts, including the Shema and the Song of Moses, are strongly represented. Paul found in Deuteronomy and Moses a typological model and sympathetic ally. Both were concerned to explain to God’s people an obedient response to God’s grace in the light of the (new) exodus and (new) Passover. Both have the basic goal of securing the holiness and purity of that people in distinction from the nations and to promote the glory of God in “the land,” in the case of Deuteronomy, or “in every place” (1 Cor. 1:2), as with 1 Corinthians.

Isaiah and 1 Corinthians
1. Paul refers to himself as the Isaianic prophetic herald with use of the verb euvaggeli,zomai. 2. Isaiah has a trajectory of existing world to new world order via demolition and reconstruction. 3. Two kinds of wisdom are apparent in Isaiah: both attempts to gain salvation, but only divine wisdom triumphs through the paradoxical suffering of the servant. 4. Isaiah 55:8 - your thoughts are not mine and vice versa. 5. The ultimate outcome of God’s salvation-historical plan in Isaiah is the glorification of God by the Gentiles through worship in a new temple, with the corresponding judgment of those who refuse to submit to God (Isa. 56:6-7, 60, 62:2,66:18-24). 6. Isaiah 66:18-21 is a key text for Paul’s description of his own Gentile mission. 7. Paul’s astonishing message is that the Suffering Servant and the Davidic Messiah King, who could be mistaken for two different figures in Isaiah, have both arrived in one and the same person: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a scandal for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:22-24). All the eschatological expectations of the prophets have come to fulfilment in this one man - in the suffering and exaltation of Christ, God’s glory is fully revealed (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20).

Four Key Themes
1. 2. 3. 4. The lordship of Christ World-wide worship The eschatological temple The glory of God

Holiness
Holiness is a notion of being set apart for particular use by God. They are sanctified in Christ and called to be holy (1:2). They are to sanctify themselves from the world's wisdom (1-4), from pagan sexuality (5-7), from idols (8-14). Holiness for 3 reasons 1. The past story of God as a warning, a type and a trajectory for God’s people now. 2. The present story of God - the work of the Spirit in God’s present temple to make his people holy. 3. The future story of God - the resurrection in the future, which also has ethical implications for us now.

Page 4 of 4

The Lordship of Christ
1. The Corinthian problems can be attributed to their cultural background. 2. Chapter 15 is climactic: the resurrection is the ultimate triumph of Christ over all adversaries and the final transformation of corruptible humanity into that which fully reflects God’s glory. 3. Paul’s various responses may be ascribed to the lordship of the crucified Christ over and against all human and spiritual powers. a. 1:10 unity in Christ's name b. 2:23-24 the power and wisdom of God c. 3:11 foundation of the church d. 5:7 church cleansed because of his sacrifice e. 6:15 relations with prostitute defiles Christ f. 8:11 avoiding idolatry for whom Christ died g. 11:3 Christ is head of every man h. 11:29 discern the body i. 12:27 gifts build up the body of Christ j. 15:3-23 resurrection is grounded in Christ k. 15:24-28 all things made subject to him l. 'Lord' occurs 66 times in 1 Cor out of 246 (25% of all references).

World-wide Worship
1. Those who call on the name of the Lord in every place picks up the Deuteronomic idea of proper worship in the place appointed by God (Jerusalem). 2. It echoes Malachi 1:11 which, in light of apathetic worship in Jerusalem promises a future time when Gentiles will worship God in every place. 3. Haggai 2:7 also anticipates a world-wide gathering to God in the temple: “all nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts”. 4. Paul's echoing of Malachi in 1:2 suggests he is helping them come to terms with their holy status as the eschatological people of God gathered in a new, world-wide temple to the glory of God. 5. Proper "worship" as a theme weaves throughout the letter.

The Eschatological Temple
Universal worship required a reconceptualizing of the nature and role of the temple, one which was already developing in Second Temple Judaism and which is reflected in rest of the New Testament as well. Paul’s understanding of the church as both the body of Christ (12:27: “you are the body of Christ”; cf. 12:12-27) and the temple of the Spirit (3:16: “you are the God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you”; cf. 3:17; 6:19) is central to the ecclesiology of 1 Corinthians. As the temple of God, Paul finds it imperative that the Corinthians glorify God. After all, “[t]he purpose of the OT temple … was to house and show forth God’s glory” and all four Old Testament ‘temples’ are filled with God’s glory. Temple theme in the letter Ch 3 Apostles are fellow workers for God's temple Ch 6-7 Bodies are the temple of the HS

The Glory of God
1. The glory of God is Paul's key motive for mission (see Romans 1:5, 2 Thess. 1:12, Phil. 1:9-11, Galatians 1:5, Ephesians 3:20-21, 2 Thessalonians 1:10). 2. The glory of God is woven through the letter in these ways a. paradoxically revealed in the weakness of the cross (1:18-23) b. their glorying was in men, not God (3:21) c. their sexuality is to be used for the glory of God (6:20) d. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (10:31), a theme verse that is at the heart of the section 8-14. e. their gender based relationships (11) f. the resurrection is from dishonour to glory (15)