One of the most exciting of Paul’s letters, 1 Corinthians offers a vantage point from which modern readers can reflect on diverseness in Christian Churches today. In First Corinthians, Raymond Collins explores that vantage point as well as the challenge Paul posed to the people of his time—and continues to pose in ours—to allow the gospel message to engage them in their daily lives.
Paul introduces us to a flesh-and-blood community whose humanness was all too apparent. Sex, death, and money were among the issues they had to face. Social conflicts and tension within their Christian community were part of their daily lives. Paul uses all of his diplomacy, rhetorical skill, and authority to exhort the Corinthian community to be as one in Christ.
In examining Paul’s message and method, Collins approaches 1 Corinthians as a Hellenistic letter written to people dealing with real issues in the Hellenistic world. He cites existing Hellenistic letters to show that Paul was truly a letter writer of his own times. Collins makes frequent references to the writings of the philosophic moralists to help clarify the way in which Paul spoke to his beloved Corinthians. He also comments on some aspects of the social circumstances in which the Christians of Corinth actually lived.
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“A more common opinion is that the Corinthian women rejected the use of the veil, a symbol of woman’s subjection to man, because of their conviction that men and women were equal in Christ.” (Page 407)
“The Cross of Christ. Paul’s summary description of the kerygma as ‘the message of the cross’ is unique within the nt. Many passages in Paul’s letters refer to the death of Jesus, but those that use crucifixion language are relatively rare (Rom 6:6; 1 Cor 1:17, 18, 23; 2:2, 8; 2 Cor 13:4; Gal 2:19; 3:1 (13); 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil 2:8; 3:18). Paul obliquely referred to the crucifixion of Jesus in one of the rhetorical questions of 1:13, but it is only at 1:17 that he begins to write about the crucifixion. Only in vv. 17 and 18 does he actually mention the cross (stauros). Only in 1:17; Gal 6:12 (cf. Gal 6:14), and Phil 3:18 does he use the expression ‘the cross of Christ.’” (Page 91)
“suggest that ‘the traditions’ specifically refer to the Palestinian Jewish custom of women being veiled in public.” (Page 395)
“Paul’s words may appear to imply a distinction between knowledge and love, as if there were an antithetical relationship between the two, but it is preferable to read them as if they describe two kinds of knowledge, a purely intellectual knowledge and one that is accompanied by—and proceeds from—love.” (Page 310)
The distinctive feature of this commentary lies in Collins’ efforts to place 1 Corinthians within its cultural context. The author makes extensive reference to epistolary customs, rhetorical practices, and philosophical discussions of the ancient Greco-Roman world that parallel what is found in 1 Corinthians. . . . Collins consistently provides lucid, concise summaries of the pericope’s place within the context of the letter, of its internal structure, and of its key themes. Consequently, the reader can quickly gain an accurate orientation to any individual passage within the letter. This volume, therefore, will reward the interpreter who consults it as his or her first secondary source.
—James C. Miller, Daystar University, Nairobi, Kenya
Raymond Collins is a priest of the Diocese of Providence and is the dean of the School of Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America. He is the author of John and His Witness and Divorce in the New Testament.