Recently, I started rereading Paulâ€™s First Epistle to the Corinthians. Itâ€™s been a long time since I have read Paul, and the last time I really read him, IÂ spiritualized him. By that, I mean that I made Paulâ€™s words the words of an Anglo-Saxon Puritan. Coming from a Protestant (Reformed) background, it is really easy to see Paulâ€™s talk of election in the meaning Calvinists give to it, and it is easy to see Paul as some modern German theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther. I was easily able to look at the material, political, and societal implications of Jesusâ€™ teachings, but Paul was harder for me, due to that connection with Reformed Protestantism.
Going into First Corinthians anew, I learned that Paulâ€™s epistle was written to a very special community of believers. Corinth was a deeply Roman and deeply cosmopolitan city. It was really the entire Greco-Roman world present in one place. This means that the Corinthian church was diverse, and part of that diversity involved Paul having converted both rich and poor, elite and common. The division of rich and poor in the Corinthian church was one of the reasons Paul wrote the letter. For example, inÂ 11:17-34 we see Paul rebuking those were were treating the poor unfairly in communion. A passage that is particularly important in discussion these class relationships isÂ 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5: (more…)