Friday, 8 January 2016

Notes on I Corinthians

Codex Amiatinus, c8th

The Matins readings for the first week after Epiphany are from 1 Corinthians, so once again I thought I'd provide some brief notes by way of an introduction.

At the moment the Breviary is following the order of the Bible: I Corinthians comes immediately after Romans (and next week's readings are from 2 Corinthians).  Like Romans it has sixteen chapters, so the Matins readings represent only a taster.

Context of I Corinthians

The community of Corinth had been evangelized by St Paul in 51-52 AD, but various divisions had arisen in the community.  According to the letter, St Paul had been alerted to these by various members of the community, and so is writing to try and resolve some of the problems and get the community back on the right path.

The problems in the fledgling community seem to have included deep divisions between its members, serious immorality, and doctrinal doubts.  Accordingly, St Paul offers advice on some specific questions about morality, practice, and doctrine.  Among the key themes are how a Christian should act differently to a non-believer, and the need for unity and order in the Church.

1 Corinthians contains many particularly memorable verses, and some whose meaning has been hotly disputed.

The letter was written from Ephesus (about 180 miles from Corinth by sea) somewhere between 53 and 57 AD.


The overall structure of 1 Corinthians is:

1.  Greeting and giving of thanks (1:1-9)

2.  A rather brutally honest description of, and set of remedies for, the causes of disunity and immorality that had arisen in the community (1:10-6:30).

3.  Answers to specific questions (7 – 15) – especially marriage and celibacy, food offered to idols, proprietary at the liturgy, gifts and graces, resurrection of the dead.

4. Epilogue (ch 16).


Good commentaries on 1 Corinthians available online include:

You might also want to take a look at the other resources linked to over at The Divine Lamp blog.

Other liturgical uses

Readings from I Corinthians are used in the lectionary for the Mass (in the Extraordinary Form) as follows:

1:4-8 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
4:1-5 - Fourth Sunday of Advent
5:7-8 - Easter Sunday
9:24-27; 10:1-5a - Septuagesima Sunday
10:6-13  - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
11:20-32 - Holy Thursday - The Lord's Supper
11:23-29 - Corpus Christi
12:2-11 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
13:1-13 - Quinquagesima Sunday
15:1-10 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

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