Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 4.djvu/422

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CORINTHIANS


366


CORINTHIANS


with spiritual gifts, or charismata, boasted that they were above the others, as they were in direct commu- ni<'atiou witli t'lirist. Another explanation is that they had seen Christ in the flesh, or that they claimed to follow His example in their reverence for the Law of Moses. At any rate, the statement, " I am of Christ", seemed to make Christ a mere party name, and to im- ply that the others were not Christians in the genuine and perfect sense of the word.

St. Paul, hearing of this state of things, sent Tim- othy together with Erastiis (probably the " treasurer of the city" of Corinth — Rom., xvi, 23) round by Macedonia, to put things in order. Soon after they left, Stephanas and other delegates came with a letter from the Corinthians. This letter contained some self-glorification and requested the Apostle to give a solution to several serious difficulties which they pro- posed to him ; but it made no mention of their short- comings. By this time he had become fully aware of the grave state of affairs amongst them. Besides party strife, some made light of sins of impurity. One man had gone to the extent of marrying his step- mother, his father being still alive, a crime unheard of amongst the pagans. So far were they from showing horror that they treated him in a friendly manner and allowed him to be present at their meetings. As mat- ters were too pressing to wait for the arrival of Tim- othy, St. Paul at once wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians and sent it by Titus, about Easter A. d. 57.

Importance of the First Epistle. — This is generally regarded as the greatest of the writings of St. Paul by reason of the magnificence and beauty of its style and the variety and importance of its contents. So splendid is its style that it has given rise to the con- jecture that St. Paul took lessons in oratory at Ephe- sus; but this is highly improbable. St. Paul's was not the type of eloquence to be moulded by mechani- cal rules ; his was the kind of genius that produces lit- erature on which rules of rhetoric are based. If the Corinthians were impressed by the eloquence of Apollo, they could not help feeling, when they heard and read this Epistle, that here was an author capable of bearing comparison not only with Apollo, but with the best that they could boast in Greek literature, of which they were so justly proud. Scholars of all schools are loud in its praise. The striking similes, figures of speech, and telling sentences of the Epistle have passed into the literatures of the world. Plum- mer, in Smith's "Diet, of the Bible", says that chap- ters xiii and xv are among the most sublime passages, not only in the Bible, but in all literature.

But this Epistle is great not only for its style but also for the variety and importance of its doctrinal teaching. In no other Epistle does St. Paul treat of so many different subjects; and the doctrines which are touched upon (in many cases only incitlentally) are important as showing what he and Silvanus, a dis- ciple and trusted delegate of the older Apostles, taught the early Christians. In some of his letters he had to defend his Apostolate and the freedom of Christians from the Law of Moses against heretical teachers ; but he never had to defend himself against his bitterest enemies, the judaizers, for his teaching on Christ and the principal points of doctrine contained in these two Epistles, the obvious reason being that his teaching must have been in perfect harmony with that of Tlie Twelve. He distinctly states in ch. xv, 11, "For whether I, or they [The Twelve Apostles], so we preach, and so you have believed."

Divisions of the First Epistle. — Instead of giving a formal sununary of the contents of the Epistle, it may be more useful to give the teaching of the Apos- tle, in his own words, classified under various heads, following, in general, the order of the Creed. With regard to arrangement, it may be stated, in passing, that the Epistle is divided into two parts. In the first six chapters he rebukes them for their faults and cor-


rects abuses: (1) He shows the absurdity of their divisions and bickerings; (2) deals with the scandal- ous case of incest; (3) their lawsuits liefore pagans; and (4) the want of sufficient horror of impurity in some of them. In the second part (tlie remaining ten chapters) he solves the difficulties which they pro- posed to him and lays down various regulations for their conduct. He deals with questions relating to (1) marriage, (2) virginity, (3) the use of things offered to idols, (4) proper decorum in church and the cele- bration of the Eucharist, (5) spiritual gifts, or Charis- mata, (6) the Resurrection, (7) the collections for the poor of Jerusalem.

Its Teaching. — God the Father {passim). "Yet there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we by him" (viii, 6). Compare II Cor., xiii, 13: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of C!od, and the commu- nication of the Holy Ghost be with you all. " (Bengel, quoted by Bernard, calls this an egregium testimonium, to the Blessed Trinity.) — Jesus Christ. (1) "Grace to you and peace from Clod our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (i, 3). "You are called unto the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (i, 9). "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (i, 24). " We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which C!od ordained before the world, unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew ; for if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory" (ii, 7, 8). " But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God" (vi, 11 — see also i, 2, 4, 7, 9, 13; iii, 5, 11; vi, 11; xii, 4-6). (2) "The word of the cross to them that are saved is the power of God" (i, IS). " We preach Christ crucified, unto them that are called Christ the pow'er of God and the wisdom of God" (i, 23, 24). " Biit of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of Ciod is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification and redemption" (i, 30). "For I judged myself not to know any thing among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (ii, 3). "For Christ our pasch is sacrificed" (v, 7). "For you are bought with a great price" (vi, 20 — cf. i, 13, 17; vii; 23; viii. 11, 12.) (3) The following passage prob- ably contains fragments of an early creed : " The gospel which I preached to you, which also you have re- ceived. . . . For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: and that he teas buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven. Then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one bom out of due time" (xv, 1-S). "Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord?" (ix, 1). "And il Christ be not risen again, then is 3ur preaching vain and your faith is also vain" (xv, 14). "But nc Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of thai that sleep" (xv, 20— cf. vi, 14). (4) "Waiting foil the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (i, 7). "That the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesu; Christ" (v, 5). "He that judgeth me is the Lord Therefore judge not before the time; until the Lon come, who both will bring to light the hidden things o darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of th< hearts; and then shall every man have praLse fron God" (iv, 4, 5). — The Ilohj Ghost. "Now there an diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and then are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; anc; there arc diversities of operations, but the same God' (xii, 4-tl). "But to us God hath revealed them, b; his Spirit. Tlie Spirit scarcheth all things, yea, thi


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