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Literature / Book of Corinthians

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This page discusses the books of Corinthians from The New Testament.

1 Corinthians: The first epistle to Corinth. Paul writes this letter to the Corinthians to correct the views of the Corinthian church.

2 Corinthians: The second epistle to Corinth. Paul writes this letter to the Corinthians to reassure that they won't have another troubling visit but to reassure his love for them and shares them the importance of being a person of Christ.

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These books are two of the seven "Pauline epistles" which latter-day scholars believe were actually written by Paul the Apostle. The other five are First Thessalonians, Galatians, Phillipians, Philemon, and Romans. Scholarship is divided on two more Pauline epistles, Colossians and Second Thessalonians, with the other four epistles bearing Paul's name—Ephesians, First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus—generally regarded as not being actually written by Paul.


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Tropes:

  • All Crimes Are Equal: Averted in 1st Corinthians 6:18 when Paul tells the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality, for he says that all other sins are committed outside one's own body, but sexual immorality is committed against one's own body, which is to give glory and honor to the Lord since it is considered a temple of the Lord, and thus to be regarded as holy.
  • Allegory: Paul in 2nd Corinthians speaks about Moses putting a veil over his face because he was radiating the glory of God, using it as an allegory to compare the former glory that was in the Old Testament to the greater glory that comes from turning to Jesus Christ, as Moses' radiating the glory of God was a temporary thing while Jesus radiating the full glory of God is an eternal thing.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: According to some Bible students, Paul was referring to himself in a third-person sort of way when talking about "a man" he knew years ago who was caught up to "the third heaven" and Paradise in 2nd Corinthians 12:1-4. Of course, with verse 5 he makes a zig-zagged denial by saying "I will boast about such a man, but of myself I will not boast except in my infirmities."
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  • As the Good Book Says...: Plenty of Old Testament Scriptures are being used by Paul in these books.
  • Badass Boast: In 2nd Corinthians chapter 11, Paul gives a sort of badass boast, in order to humor the people that he is writing to:
    2 Corinthians 11:24-33, KJV "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Paul mentions hypothetically fighting "wild beasts" at Ephesus in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 to drive home the point that if there is no actual resurrection of the dead, his preaching the Gospel is pointless, and they might as well say "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die".
  • Came Back Strong: Paul points out in 2nd Corinthians that Jesus in His resurrected form now has power. He tells the Corinthians in his first letter that their resurrected forms will also have power, as the saying will be fulfilled that "death is swallowed up in victory".
  • Celibate Hero: Paul encouraged celibacy because you could focus better to God, but if you truly cannot live without sex, you should better marry. Paul himself mentions he is celibate.
  • Chronic Villainy: Paul in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 writes that he fears that when he returns, he would have to mourn all over if he finds the Corinthians returning to the same immoral practices they were supposed to repent of as believers.
  • Circumcision Angst: Paul tells the Corinthians that those who are circumcised should not seek to be uncircumcised and those who are uncircumcised should not seek to be circumcised, because neither of them counts for anything, but rather "keeping the commandments of God" does.
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: Satan is described as this in 2 Corinthians 11:14 as part of Paul's warning about false apostles who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As bad as Paul the apostle makes what the Gentiles do out to be, there's some lines they won't cross when it comes to sexual relations, as mentioned in 1st Corinthians chapter 5:
    "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife!"note 
  • Extreme Omnivore: Paul states in 1 Corinthians 8 that it's perfectly OK to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols, another big no-no under Jewish law, with the caveat that it shouldn't be done in front of someone for whom it would cause a problem, and that partaking in a feast inside an idol's temple is strictly forbidden. This is part of his general theme that Christians are no longer bound by rules but by conscience.
  • Forgiveness: While in his first letter Paul stresses strict discipline for the believer who is dabbling in sexual sin with his stepmother and excluding him from the fellowship, his second letter stresses forgiveness from the believers toward the one who obviously suffered his just reward and made a Heel–Face Turn to repentance so that Satan won't outwit them.
  • The Four Loves: 1 Corinthians 13 gives a famous exposition of the meaning of agape, spiritual love. Also, 1 Corinthians 7 goes into some details on sexual love (eros) in marriage.
  • God Is Good: Stated in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
    "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
  • Good People Have Good Sex: 1 Corinthians 7 provides more details about what makes a good love, according to apostle Paul, it is recommended to have sexual relationship only within marriage, and a relationship should last for the entire life because Love Redeems. The other option is to become a Celibate Hero.
    "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband."
  • Heel Realization: Paul in 2nd Corinthians chapter 7 tells the Corinthians that he rejoices in that, though his previous letter had made them sorrowful and he regretted having to write it, he does not regret the fact that it made them sorrowful in a good way in that it led them to repentance so that they would suffer loss in nothing. "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2nd Corinthians 7:10)
  • Holy Is Not Safe:
    • In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul tells the Corinthians that their bodies are temples of the Lord, and thus are holy, so if they were to defile their own bodies, God will also destroy them.
    • In 1 Corinthians 11:26-30, he warns that Communion is not safe for those lacking reverence and holiness. While it gives life to those who have been prepared to approach the Table of the Lord, for those who are not prepared, it brings curses, illness, and can even kill you.
  • Inane Blabbering: What "speaking in an unknown tongue" (whether this is talking about "tongues of angels" or another human language) sounds like to an uninformed person coming into a church assembly, according to Paul, and why he says he would rather speak five clear words of instruction to teach others than ten thousand words in an "unknown tongue". He goes on to say that if a whole church does this in front of people who are uninformed about this, they will say that "you are crazy."
  • Listing The Forms Of Degenerates: A well-known example is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
    • Then he turns it around in the next verse: "And such were some of you — but you have been washed, sanctified, and justified" due to belief. In other words, none of the aforementioned sins are enough to keep you from salvation.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Paul insists that a woman should keep her hair long since it serves as a covering for her, while he says that it's a disgrace for a man to have long hair.
  • Lost Episode: 1 Corinthians 5:9 mentions another letter which Paul wrote previously to the Corinthian church. Said letter was not included in the canon of Scripture and is presumably lost to history. note 
  • Lysistrata Gambit: In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul both defies and deconstructs the trope, telling the Christian couples in regards to sex, "Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
  • The Magic Goes Away: Paul's comment in 1st Corinthians 13:9-10 — "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect comes, then that which is imperfect shall pass away." — is usually interpreted by certain Christians as the miracles, prophecies, and supernatural gifts ceasing to happen with believers when the complete revelation of God through New Testament Scripture is finished, often referred to as cessationism. Others interpret this passage as those partial things ceasing when the Second Coming takes place.
  • Marriage to a God: Paul the apostle in his second epistle to the Corinthians equates the relationship between the believers and Jesus Christ to a marriage, saying that he has godly jealousy for the Corinthians, for he has "betrothed them to one husband," referring to Christ.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul chides the Corinthians that since they seem to prefer to listen to foolish teachers, maybe he should talk like a fool so they will listen to him.
    "I speak as if insane..." —2 Corinthians 11:23
  • Platonic Kissing: 2 Corinthians 13:12 tells the members of the church, "Greet one another with a holy kiss." This would have been perfectly natural to original recipients in Ancient Greece, but usually isn't taken quite so literally in cultures where this isn't the norm. A few modern Bible translations go so far as to Bowdlerize it, for instance the New Living Translation's rendition, "Greet each other with Christian love." (J.B. Phillip's British paraphrase dodges the issue even more: "A handshake all round, please!")
  • The Power of Love: Best described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, that talks about the divine love, or Agape that is God's love towards His children, and the love of His children between each other. You'll probably recognize it; the verse is now a stock reading at weddings.
    "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
  • Romancing the Widow: This is permitted only if the spouse was deceased.
  • Rule of Three:
    • In 1st Corinthians chapter 14, when laying the ground rules for how to use spiritual gifts, Paul tells the church to have no more than three people speak in tongues and to have no more than three people prophesying.
    • In 2nd Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul calls out to the Lord three times to help him deal with a "thorn in the flesh" (whatever form this happened to take), and the Lord responds with, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
  • Sarcasm Mode: Paul sometimes lays it on thick when it comes to the self-righteousness of the Corinthians and the false teachers, mockingly agreeing with them:
    1 Corinthians 4:8-10: You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us — and indeed I wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!
    2 Corinthians 11:19-21: For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if [a false teacher] brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. To our shame I say that we were too weak for that!
  • Second Coming: 1st Corinthians chapter 15, which is spent talking about Christ's resurrection and that of the believers, mentions that those that are His will be resurrected at His Second Coming, and then will come "the end when He will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power" (verse 24). A little later on, Paul mentions that the dead in Christ will be raised "at the last trumpet" (verse 52), which certain Bible students end up tying with the Seventh Trumpet Judgment from the Book of Revelation to support the mid-Tribulation Rapture teaching.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Paul the apostle in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 answers those who say that there is no resurrection of the dead by saying that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn't risen, and if Christ hasn't risen, then those who have died in Christ have perished, and there's really no hope for anybody, since those who have given their lives for Christ have died for no reason and are found to be false witnesses.
  • Shout-Out: That "Bad company corrupts good character" line Paul borrowed either from the Thaïs of Menander, or else an unidentified play by Euripides.
  • Silly Reason for War: The Corinthian church was divided over, among other things, which apostle was more awesome (Paul's answer: they all serve Christ), whether or not to be single (Paul's answer: if you think you can handle being single, do it and stick to it, otherwise get married and stay faithful to your spouse), what foods to eat (Paul's answer: be considerate of other people's consciences), which gifts were better (Paul's answer: each has their role in serving the church—and often it's actually the less flashy gifts that are more important), etcetera and so forth.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: 2 Corinthians 12:3-4.
    "And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak."
  • Twinkle in the Eye: Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:51-52 describes how fast those who are resurrected will be changed into their new incorruptible bodies with this:
    Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
  • Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: God's instruction to the believers as spoken through Paul in 2nd Corinthians 6:17-18:
    “Come out from among them
    and be separate,
    says the Lord.
    Do not touch what is unclean,
    and I will receive you.”
    “I will be a Father to you,
    and you shall be My sons and daughters,
    says the Lord Almighty.”
  • Vice City: The seaport of Corinth was known as this. Which is why "Corinthian" now is a synonym for "hedonist."
  • We ARE Struggling Together: There was apparently a lot of infighting between various factions in the Corinthian church. Paul was frustrated about this and wrote to correct them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Corinthian church was apparently a mess, as both letters are full of Paul expressing his exasperation at their patently un-Christian behavior. He even may have written a third letter (since lost forever) in between the two we have in the Bible where he more or less reamed them a new one and got them to finally clean up their act a little.
    • One of the reasons for the second letter, it seems, was that the first letter was too effective: They got told to throw out a particularly unrepentant sinner, so they did, but when he turned his life around they then refused to let him come back. The second letter aims to correct this over-correction.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds." (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
  • You Are in Command Now: Paul the apostle says in 1st Corinthians 15:28 that once God the Father has subjected all things to Jesus Christ, including death (as mentioned in verse 26), then Jesus Himself will be subject to the Father who has subjected all things under Jesus so that "God will be all in all".
  • You Need to Get Laid: Paul the apostle describes in 1st Corinthians 7:9 that "it is better to marry than to burn with passion", implying most people really are not meant for celibacy (even though Paul believed that, all else being equal, celibacy was superior because it allowed one to focus on following the Lord and not on pleasing a spouse).
  • You're Insane!: "Suppose the whole church meets together and you all speak in different languages. If some people come in who are without understanding or don’t believe, they will say you are crazy." (1st Corinthians 14:23, Easy-to-Read Version)

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