Pauline Epistles
1 Corinthians

Temple of Apollo at Corinth

This letter was probably written from Ephesus in the middle 50's. But are we entitled to speak of a letter? Many have suggest that it may be more than one document, and it may be involved in a similar uncertainty which is more widely agreed to exist with 2 Corinthians. Separately, many passages in 1 Cor have been challenged as possibly interpolated. It will be obvious that a passage from an earlier letter, if carelessly interpolated in a later letter, will show signs of interpolation in that later letter. We here take up these difficulties step by step.

Earlier Letter. This suggestion arises in several ways, of which the most obvious is the mention of an earlier letter in 5:9, a letter which Paul claims was misunderstood and proceeds to correct. The latter part of 1 Cor (and in this, it is unique among the Pauline letters) is that its last half is devoted to answering questions received from the Corinthians, on various points of doctrine as applied to conduct. If passages do survive from this (or any other) earlier letter, they may have been interpolated, not in 1 Cor, but in 2 Cor. Previous suggestions for untangling the Corinthian correspondence have in fact run in this direction; or the five outlined in Schnelle 63 for "Letter A" (the first Corinthian latter), two (Johannes Weiss and Wolfgang Schenk) included passages from 2 Cor as well as from 1 Cor. The logical first step is to locate seeming interpolations, whatever their origin, in 1 Cor. This is a useful beginning point, because it is somewhat protected against subjective preferences: an interpolation requires objective evidence of discontinuity or thematic dissonance.

Interpolations. Next to Romans, and possibly Galatians, 1 Corinthians is theologically the most important of Paul's letters. Like them, it was thus a natural target for theological additions and updates, whether editorial or other. William Walker 18-19 lists many proposed interpolations, of which (in that book or later articles) he proceeds to find convincing. The list of proposals is the following (the Walker six are marked with W). All but one appear to the present writer (who has added a few others) to be convincing, The most likely interpolator in Paul will have been the first editor of the Corpus. Colossians is often thought to be among the earliest postPauline letters, and may well have been written by the Corpus editor, to introduce Paul's letters and perhaps also to update them at some points. Thematic links with Colossians are mentioned in the following list.

Thematic Groups. The above proposals form two groups: those paralleled in Colossians (and possibly reflecting a new agenda of the editor of the Pauline Corpus), and the rest, which may instead be genuine letter fragments editorially rearranged. The later agenda seems to consist of such items as the Haustafeln, or rules of civic conduct, designed to make the Jesus community less at odds with those outside, and the love doctrine, as applied within the community to give it solidarity apart from doctrinal differences. There are also some seeming editorial corrections and explanations (like the OT gloss in 15:56), or assertions of the editorial position on the Epistles themselves, which is that they are for all Christians.

To see the conflation possibility more clearly, we may first remove those interpolations which look like editorial improvements. The result may be found on the 1 Corinthians A page. What there appears is that one of the probable editorial additions (1 Cor 13) has been inserted into one of the probable editorial rearrangements. The implication is that the letter material was first rearranged by the editor, and then improved by the addition of material suitable to the editor's own time and future concerns. For that argument, see the bottom of the A page. If we wish to see what the text looks like when both types of material is removed, the result may be found on the 1 Corinthians B page.f

The Text of the letter minus the above interpolations may be found on the 1 Corinthians A page, where it is further emended for formal reasons to 1 Cor B:



Summary. [To be supplied].

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26 April 2012 / Contact The Project / Exit to Alpha Home Page