This text is excerpted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, pages 18, 22-25.
How Paul Came to Corinth
During the year AD 50, Paul and his companion Silas (Σιλουανός, Silouanos) revisited the cities where he had proselyted during his first mission. He then decided to push further into Asia Minor. The Spirit prompted him not to head north, so he headed west instead. At Troas, the Lord opened a vision to Paul. In it, “there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul immediately made arrangements to pass over to Greece and began his work there. Within a year, he had established branches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. He then headed south to Athens.
If he thought the old capital of Achaia would produce a rich harvest, he was wrong. Athens had become a counterculture to Corinth. The once-vibrant community had stagnated. Indeed, it had become an old, decrepit, even sick city, no longer sustaining a productive and creative citizenry. Though once a bustling university town, its academic acumen had fallen, and such places as Paul’s home town of Tarsus and the up-and-coming Corinth had eclipsed it. Too staid and conservative to open its doors to new ideas, it was not a place where the Church could get any root. Little wonder Paul looked to Corinth as a more strategic center for the preaching of the gospel and as a European base for the new Church. An added value was that success in this city could give the Church a good deal of cachet. As one scholar has noted, “The bustling emporium was no place for the gullible or timid; only the tough survived. What better advertisement for the power of the gospel could there be than to make converts of the pre-occupied and skeptical inhabitants of such a materialistic environment.”
Here he was joined by his two companions, Silas and Timothy, and began his work.
Paul’s Social and Economic Status
Paul’s eighteen-month stay in Corinth began about March AD 50 and lasted until late September or early October AD 51. The length of his stay suggests that the work went very well. Of great assistance was the hospitality of Aquila and Priscilla, two Jews already converted to Christianity. They had been forced from their home in Rome by the edict of Claudius Caesar in AD 49 that banished all Jews from the city due to contentions between them and the Christians. It makes sense that these two would find their way to the Roman colony of Corinth where they once more set up shop. Though the KJV calls them “tentmakers,” the Greek word (σκηνοποιός, skēnopoios, Acts 18:3) denotes much more than tent making. It included labors dealing with animal hides and weaving hair and wool, but more particularly making leather products. Their goods could also include items for theaters and temples. Thus, there was an ever-ready market for products that people with such skills could produce, and these two Jews seem to have had no trouble setting up shop and hiring laborers. Being good at the trade and a fellow Christian, Paul was readily hired.
The job helped Paul promote missionary work. As people came into the shop to purchase items or have odd jobs done, the Apostle could readily engage them in conversation and turn the topic to religion. But there was a downside to his employment. Many of the prestige-conscious Corinthians would not have been drawn to one engaged in such a menial trade. Indeed, Paul condemned some Christians for feeling smugly superior to him. He complained that they felt honorable while despising Paul and others who “labour, working with our own hands.” He was quick to note the true Christian’s proper if humble response: “being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (4:12–13).
Some among the Christians would likely have preferred that Paul use his considerable skills as an orator to join the ranks of the ever-popular and highly respected sophists who generated a good deal of money and acclaim due to their speaking skills. Instead, he chose to be a day laborer and for good reason. He could not afford to cheapen the word of God for self- aggrandizement even if it meant that he would not draw as many hearers from the pagans or find more acceptance from the socially conscious Christians. He adopted instead “a communicative strategy entirely at odds with the confident self-promotion of the sophist or pragmatic rhetoricism who played to the gallery.” This may have forced him to spend more time making a living than he would have liked, but it served to foster the correct attitude about the gospel and its message. His hope in Christ, and, ideally, that of all other Christians, should not be in gaining status in the world but pleasing God. The gospel was not about fame or power but self-sacrifice and service. It was not about finding place in this transitory, capricious, and short-lived world but finding place with God in the eternal world to come. It was not about competition leading to self-accrued glory but assisting others to a higher quality of life both in this world and the next. Pride, or as Paul calls it, being “puffed up” (4:18–19), had no place in Christ’s kingdom. Rather, the Saint needed to generate that humility that looked after and cared for others as much as self.
As a result, the gospel did not attract many of the upper class. It would be wrong, however, to view the early Corinthian Church as entirely made up of peasants and slaves. Indeed, there seem to have been a number of men and women of means who were attracted to the gospel. Among these would have been Aquila, Priscilla, Erastus, Phoebe, Gaius, Stephanas, Crispus, and Quartus, all friends of Paul. Thus, the socioeconomic station of the Saints seems to have been rather mixed and produced some stratification between the “haves” and “have nots.” The wealthy and well-born would have had a disproportionate influence. Paul had to fight against this by reminding the Saints that “the body is not one member but many,” and, therefore, the foot is as valuable as the hand and the ear as valuable as the eye. Indeed, “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (12:13–16). He further admonished them to remember that they “are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (3:16).
Paul left Corinth having had much success. Indeed, the branches there were thriving and vibrant at the time, and the work was moving apace among all socioeconomic classes. The Apostle’s choice of Corinth as the strategic center of his missionary efforts to the west had proved well founded. Even so, the Church was young and still trying to find its way as it moved into pagan lands. Its primary task was to determine what it could accept and what it had to reject among the various societies in which it was growing. As a result, Paul continually kept track of happenings there and gave the Saints instructions through a series of letters. The one covered in this volume is the earlier of the two that have been preserved.
 Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 108–9.
 Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 109.
 The dating of Paul’s mission was greatly assisted by the discoveries of the Delphic letter of Claudius in relation to Lucius Junius Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia during Paul’s time at Corinth (see herein 18:12–17). The letter puts Gallio in Corinth not earlier than AD 51 or later than AD 53 with the earlier date being the better. See Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 16–21.
 Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4, notes that the edict led to the expulsion of the Jews impulsore chresto, “on account of Chresto,” likely contentions between Jews and Christians over a person Suetonius identified as Chresto. Most scholars believe the word refers to Jesus since due to iotacism, Χρηστός (Chrēstos) and Χριστός (Christos) would have been pronounced the same, Christos. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, 37. See also F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit (Exeter: Paternoster, 1977), 250–51, 381.
 BDAG, 928–29. Tents were made of cilicium (woven goat hair), the name coming from the province in which Tarsus, Paul’s home town, was found. Patristic writers used the word interchangeably with σκυτοτόμοι (scytotomoi), “leather workers.” See Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, 40.
 See Ronald F. Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry: Tentmaking and Apostleship (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980); and especially Ronald F. Hock, “The Workshop as a Social Setting for Paul’s Missionary Preaching,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41 (1979): 438–50.
 See Michael A. Bullmore, St. Paul’s Theology of Rhetorical Style: An Examination of 1 Cor. 2:1–5 in Light of First-Century Greco-Roman Rhetorical Culture (San Francisco: International Scholars Publication, 1995), 212–13.
 Thiselton, First Epistle, 22.
 Paul speaks of his hard work as a laborer (4:11–12; 9:6; 1 Thes. 2:9; 2 Thes. 3:7–8; 2 Cor. 11:27). There is little doubt that he did not live high but the idea put forth by Justin J. Meggitt, Paul, Poverty and Survival (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1998), 75–97, that Paul frequently labored under extreme and harsh conditions, destitute perhaps to near starvation, seems too strong. His life was not easy, but he had good skills and many friends who supported him in his work. See Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 117–18, 261–67, for counterbalance.
 This is the picture developed by Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. Lionel Strachan, rev. ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927), 144.
 Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth, trans. John H. Schütz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 69–75.