This place was destroyed in 146 BC and refounded by Rome in 44 BC being repopulated by its freedeom. It was a commercial, military, and cultural crossroad between East and West. To be called a _____ meant that you were an immoral person. It's about 50 miles west of Athens and 55 miles south-east of Delphi. Paul was sent here during Gallio's proconsulship. He remained here for about 18 months in 51-53 AD. Citizens were seeking honor, status and public recognition. They were entrepreneurs; highly competitive, valuing image and presentation in rhetoric and debate. Their culture was a mix of Roman order and Eastern ecstacy. Sexual immorality and perversion (from a Biblical grid) was the order of the day. The temple on the mountain above the city (which later housed a Crusader fort) contained 1,000 cult prostitutes (see Strabo, 24 AD) who would come down into the city at night and offer their services. This “platonic” dualism separated the material from the spiritual, the body from the soul, with a negative view of the body – thus their problem with the resurrection of the body Hellenism’s ethical responses could either be libertinism or asceticism. This dualism lies behind the major issues of this letter. Orators would compete, ridicule each other and offer “wisdom” before public crowds. “Such competition in sophoi logoi [‘wise words’] sometimes became quite divisive…. The group following a particular teacher could be so strong that they could be described as a secta, a ‘sect’ or ‘party.’ (See Seneca the Elder, Controversies 10.15, cited in David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp.557-558. Prevalent values were appearance, eloquence, status and strength.)
Occasion and Purpose:
Paul writes to challenge the results of Hellenistic Dualism because they were undermining his "foolish" message of the cross. He challenges a false "spirituality" and excesses in the use of the gift of tongues. He re-establishes his role as the "father" of the church and seeks to heal divisions centered in a bad theology and false leadership claims. He challenges the quest for "wisdom" in ecstacy, promising spirit given wisdom for the mature. He corrects specific moral failures. Gordon Fee writes that the real conflict is between Paul and a few key leaders.
The background material, occasion, and purpose for 1 Corinthians.