I am blogging about John C. Hurd, Jr.’s old book, The Origin of 1Corinthians.
John Hurd asks what happened before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Well, of course, Paul founded the church at Corinth and then went away. But the account of that is in Acts. Paul does not have a narrative about the founding of the church, although he sometimes seems to refer to it.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians, gives us quite a lot of information about what happened before he wrote to Corinth.
First, he got information from Chloe’s people (1 Corinthians 1:11). “Chloe’s people” seems to mean members of Chloe’s household. So she was a female head of household. Paul seems to have associated with other such non-traditional households, so I usually assume that Chloe was a member of the church at Corinth and that her estate was the center of a house church there. I also jump to the conclusion that Chloe sent these people to Paul. But Hurd points out that “Chloe’s people” might mean servants or freedmen from a large household in Corinth, who happened to also belong to the church there. In that case, Chloe might not have even been a Christian. Most of what they told Paul seems to have been about discord and factionalism at Corinth.
Second, Paul has received a letter from Corinth. In 7:1 he begins, “Now with regard to the issues you wrote about.” He takes up a series of questions asked in the letter.
Third, Stephanus and two companions have arrived from Corinth (16:15-18). They have, no doubt, further updated Paul on the situation at Corinth. Perhaps they carried the letter. Paul trusts them and apparently sent his letter back to Corinth with them.
Fourth, at some time in the past, Paul wrote an earlier letter to Corinth. In 5:9, he says that he had written to them not to associate with pornois (promiscuous people, indecent people, whoremongers, or something like that). We do not have that letter of Paul.
From these past events, Hurd seeks to reconstruct the background of 1 Corinthians. He thinks that the Corinthians must have read Paul’s previous letter before they sent their own letter to Paul. His interpretation of the exchange is essentially this:
Paul to the Corinthians: Do not associate with people who do not abide by the Jewish standard of sexual morality.
The Corinthians to Paul: Do you mean we should avoid all people in the culture around us?
Paul to the Corinthians: I meant you should shun promiscuous Christians.
This opens the door to Hurd’s very interesting argument. In Acts 15 one of the requirements that James and the Jerusalem church put on Paul’s gentile churches is that they avoid sexual immorality (15:20). Acts says that Paul conveyed these requirements to his churches. Lots of critical scholars don’t see this in Galatians and think Acts is wrong and that Paul would never have submitted to the authority of Jerusalem like this.
You would think that Hurd, who has a very critical view of Acts, would be among them. But he looks at the evidence in 1 Corinthians and concludes that Acts 15, though not precisely accurate, got the gist of what happened right.
So, from this point of view, you would have to add the Jerusalem Conference to the the events that lead up to 1 Corinthians.