Corinth was located at the end of a neck of land attaching the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece and having a port facing east (Cenchreae) and another with access to the west (Lechaion), Corinth was geographically predestined to be a corridor of commerce and a potpourri of cultures. Ships could be hauled across the isthmus on chariots on the 6km paved railroad-like diolkos, whose grooves can still be seen on a surviving strip. This saved mariners sailing 300km from Athens to the Adriatic, and 160km to Naples or Rome. It also spared them sailing around Cape Maleae, proverbially treacherous for seafaring.
Ships with cargo too heavy for the diolkos would unload at one port and either haul the empty boat over the diolkos or load the cargo into a different boat at the other port. For various reasons, much cargo passed through Corinth itself. Being able to excise duty on the shipping, and celebrated for its shipbuilding and its production of bronze, ceramics, and textiles, Corinth was a wealthy city. It was also one of the ancient world’s largest. Its 10km encircling wall locked into the Acrocorinth, a rocky hill rising to a height of 600m like an impregnable fortress.
It also had a reputation of being one of the most sensual cities of the ancient world.
Montague, First Corinthians (2011, p15).
Paul first went to Corinth as part of his second missionary journey, travelling there after an unsuccessful visit to the nearby city of Athens, arriving there around the year 50. Given the melting pot that Corinth was, having been re-established and re-built as a city by Julius Caesar in 44 BCE with people from all over the world, with the top of the Acrocorinth crowned by a temple dedicated to Aphrodite that was served by one thousand sacred temple prostitutes (known as Corinthian ladies) – it would not seem to be a natural setting for a thriving Christian community. Yet this becomes Paul’s home for the next eighteen months (Acts 18). It was not without its problems, which so much of this letter is dedicated to after Paul hears from Chloe about some of the problems that have unfolded.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (12 mins)
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