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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a celebrated city, the capital of Achaia, situated on the isthmus which separates the Peloponnesus from Attica. This city was one of the best peopled and most wealthy of Greece. Its situation between two seas drew thither the trade of both the east and west. Its riches produced pride, ostentation, effeminacy, and all vices, the consequences of abundance. For its insolence to the Roman legates, it was destroyed by L. Mummius. In the burning of it, so many statues of different metals were melted together, that they produced the famous Corinthian brass. It was afterward restored to its former splendour by Julius Caesar.

Christianity was first planted at Corinth by St. Paul, who resided here eighteen months, between the years 51 and 53; during which time he enjoyed the friendship of Aquila and his wife Priscilla, two Jewish Christians, who had been expelled from Italy, with other Jews, by an edict of Claudius. The church consisted both of Jews and of Gentiles; but St. Paul began, as usual, by preaching in the synagogue, until the Jews violently opposed him, and blasphemed the name of Christ; when the Apostle, shaking his garment, and declaring their blood to be upon their own heads, left them, and made use afterward of a house adjoining the synagogue, belonging to a man named Justus. The rage of the Jews, however, did not stop here; but, raising a tumult, they arrested Paul, and hurrying him before the tribunal of the pro-consul Gallio, the brother of the famous Seneca, accused him of persuading men to worship God contrary to the law. But Gallio, who was equally indifferent both to Judaism and Christianity, and finding that Paul had committed no breach of morality, or of the public peace, refused to hear their complaint, and drove them all from the judgment seat. The Jews being thus disappointed in their malicious designs, St. Paul was at liberty to remain some time longer at Corinth; and after his departure, Apollos, a zealous and eloquent Jewish convert of Alexandria, was made a powerful instrument in confirming the church, and in silencing the opposition of the Jews, Acts 18. How much it stood in need of such support, is evident from the Epistles of St. Paul; who cautions the Corinthians against divisions and party spirit; fornication, incest, partaking of meats offered to idols, thereby giving an occasion of scandal, and encouragement to idolatry; abusing the gifts of the Spirit, litigiousness, &c. The Corinthians, indeed, were in great danger: they lived at ease, free from every kind of persecution, and were exposed to much temptation. The manners of the citizens were particularly corrupt: they were, indeed, infamous to a proverb. In the centre of the city was a celebrated temple of Venus, a part of whose worship consisted in prostitution; for there a thousand priestesses of the goddess ministered to dissoluteness under the patronage of religion: an example which gave the Corinthians very lax ideas on the illicit intercourse of the sexes. Corinth also possessed numerous schools of philosophy and rhetoric; in which, as at Alexandria, the purity of the faith by an easy and natural process, became early corrupted.

There occurs a chronological difficulty in the visits of St. Paul to Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 , the Apostle expresses his design of visiting that city a third time; whereas only one visit before the date of the Second Epistle is noticed in the Acts 18:1 , about A.D. 51; and the next time that he visited Greece, Acts 20:2 , about A.D. 57, no mention is made of his going to Corinth. Mr. Horne observes on this subject, "It has been conjectured by Grotius, and Drs. Hammond and Paley, that his First Epistle virtually supplied the place of his presence; and that it is so represented by the Apostle in a corresponding passage, 1 Corinthians 5:3 . Admitting this solution to be probable, it is, however, far-fetched, and is not satisfactory as a matter of fact. Michaelis has produced another, more simple and natural; namely, that Paul, on his return from Crete, visited Corinth a second time before he went to winter at Nicopolis. This second visit is unnoticed in the Acts, because the voyage itself is unnoticed. The third visit, promised in 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 , was actually paid on the Apostle's second return to Rome, when he took Corinth in his way, 2 Timothy 4:20 . ‘Thus critically,' says. Dr. Hales, ‘does the book of the Acts harmonize, even in its omissions, with the epistles; and these with each other, in the minute incidental circumstances of the third visit.'"

About A.D. 268, the Heruli burned Corinth to ashes. In 525, it was again almost ruined by an earthquake. About 1180, Roger, king of Sicily, took and plundered it. Since 1458, it was till lately under the power of the Turks; and is so decayed, that its inhabitants amount to no more than about fifteen hundred, or two thousand; half Mohammedans, and half Christians. A late French writer, who visited this country, observes, "When the Caesars rebuilt the walls of Corinth, and the temples of the gods rose from their ruins more magnificent than ever, an obscure architect was rearing in silence an edifice which still remains standing amidst the ruins of Greece. This man, unknown to the great, despised by the multitude, rejected as the offscouring of the world, at first associated himself with only two companions, Crispus and Gaius, and with the family of Stephanas. These were the humble architects of an indestructible temple, and the first believers at Corinth. The traveller surveys the site of this celebrated city; he discovers not a vestige of the altars of Paganism, but perceives some Christian chapels rising from among the cottages of the Greeks. The Apostle might still, from his celestial abode, give the salutation of peace to his children, and address them in the words, "Paul to the church of God, which is at Corinth."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Corinth'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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