A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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2.2 Literary Concerns

The Authorship, Authenticity, and Dating of I Corinthians

The fact that I Corinthians was written by Paul to the Christians at Corinth is beyond dispute. Barrett states, "No serious scholar questions it" (1968, 11). And Craig notes, "It has been denied only by fanciful scholars who have looked upon all the Pauline correspondence as falsifications from the second century. No letter has better external testimony than this one" (1953, 13). It is referred to by I Clement 37:5; 47:1-3; 49:5 (just 45 years after it was written); Ignatius to the Ephesians 16:1; 18:1; to the Romans 5:1; to the Philadelphians 3:3 (about A.D. 110); Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho 33); Athenagoras (On the Resurrection of the Dead 18); and numerous times by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria (Craig 1953, 13; and Feine, Behm, and Kümmel 1966, 202).

It is not possible to date exactly when I Corinthians was written, but it was probably within a couple of years of A.D. 55. Estimates vary between A.D. 53 and 57, with the most likely time being the spring of A.D. 54 or 55 (Guthrie 1970, 441; Feine, Behm, and Kümmel 1966, 205; Barrett, 1968, 5; Bruce 1971, 25; Craig 1953, 13; and Martin 1986, 175).

In the opening, Paul associates Sosthenes, a Christian brother, with himself. Some have connected him with the Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17 (Barrett 1968, 31). Bruce notes that he was probably "someone well known to the Corinthian church who was with Paul in Ephesus at the time of writing" (Bruce 1971, 30). But Conzelmann is right in noting that "the fellow-writer is not a fellow-author" (1975, 20). Paul uses the singular Greek pronoun for "I" eighty-six times in the letter (Aland 1978, 82).

The Unity of I Corinthians

Some have suggested that this letter was originally two or three letters that have been combined by an editor. Among them, Johannes Weiss has suggested the letter was originally in three parts, while Jean Héring has suggested two parts (Guthrie 1970, 439). Hurd (1983, 44-45) lists six scholars (Loisy, Couchoud, Goguel, de Zwaan, Schmithals, and Dinkler) who have with variations followed Weiss's division of the letter. But most scholars view the letter as a unity (Guthrie 1970, 439; Feine, Behm, and Kümmel 1966, 203-205; Barrett 1968, 12-17). Barrett notes that no partition theory is more probable than the unity of the letter (1968, 15). And after surveying the various scholarly theories that divide the letter into two or three letters of Paul, Hurd comments, "Even when simplified these theories appear radical and somewhat arbitrary" (1983, 46). And later he concludes about the division theories, "Most scholars and the present writer, while recognizing the above points, do not believe that this evidence is strong enough to support the burden of proof which this kind of theory must always bear" (1983, 47).

Therefore this study will assume that the work is a unity, composed at one time (but not necessarily at one sitting) in its present order, although it may contain differences between sections that have led some to think it was not. In chapter V of this study we will see that these differences are in fact stylistic differences which seem to be due to the differences in rhetorical situation between answering the Corinthians' letter and writing them about problems of which Paul had received oral reports.

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