As Paul tells it ...
Paul and Corinth (1)

Home Search Bibliography About the Author

We are able to reconstruct Paul’s relationships with his churches in varying detail, but we have the most abundant material for doing so in the case of his relationships with Corinth, the material being supplied of course by our canonical 1 and 2 Corinthians. In order to assist us in managing this considerable amount of material, this writer has resorted to a chart for mapping the details.*

  *The present page and the following one utilize much of the material which originally appeared as “Paul and Corinth: A Study in Sequences,” Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 6 (1986) 40-56.

This undertaking is not a matter of toying with trivia but of marshalling the data for assembling a plausible scenario of Paul’s complicated and sometimes troubled relationships with the Corinthian congregation. 

It is the findings here presented which provide further elucidation and support of the positions taken in Ephesian Headquarters (1) - (7) and in Closing Months (1) - (3)—click on Home for a convenient display of topics. For a full discussion of the methodology employed in this article, refer to Letters Based Chronology (1) - (4).

Paul’s Work Previous to the Founding Mission at Corinth

First Jerusalem Visit (Galatians 1:18)     

Travel to the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21) 

(Probable) Founding visit to GALATIA     

Founding visit at PHILIPPI, where Paul suffers persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:2), before moving on to . . . 

Founding visit at THESSALONICA, likely accompanied by Silvanus and Timothy; receives aid from Philippi, though self-supporting     

(Possible) visit to Illyricum     

Paul visits ATHENS

» With Timothy, and probably Silvanus
» There is no evidence of a successful mission in Athens; see 1 Corinthians 16:15
» Paul sends Timothy to Thessalonica from Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 5)

Founding Mission at Corinth

Founding stage of work at CORINTH (1 Corinthians 1:14, 16; 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 1:19)

» First converts in Achaia: the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15)
» Timothy rejoins Paul (and Silvanus) with news from Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6); namely, the success of the Thessalonian mission, and some problems which need to be addressed. This information comes back to Paul, “in all our distress and affliction” (1 Thessalonians 3:7)
» Paul’s fellow-workers at Corinth during this period: Silvanus and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:19)
» Paul’s kerygma, or gospel proclamation: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; esp. the preaching of the cross, 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2:2     

Paul writes 1 Thessalonians, with Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1)      

Though self-supporting (2 Corinthians 11:7-12; cp. 1 Corinthians 9), he was obliged to accept aid from Macedonia, when in need, rather than accept help from the Corinthians      

Departure (probably for second Jerusalem visit, Galatians 2:1)     

The Interval Between the Founding Visit and Letter P


» Accompanied by Barnabas and Titus
» Approval of Paul’s gentile mission
» Agreement on the collection project

The Antioch Episode (Galatians 2:11-14)

(Possible) “Latter” Visit to GALATIA (cp. Galatians 4:13, 16)

» In this case, Paul mentions the collection to the Galatians, and provides directions for giving (cp. 1 Corinthians 16:1)
» Possible disclosure of other results of Jerusalem conference; click on Jerusalem Conference (1)

Founding Visit to EPHESUS (if not earlier)

» In the meantime, Apollos has arrived in Corinth
» His work in Ephesus thrives, in spite of opposition (1 Corinthians 16:8, 9, 19)

The Interval Between Letter P and Letter L

Paul writes the “Previous Letter” (Letter P) to Corinth, probably from Ephesus 

» The letter is referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9, though now is lost
» Among other things, it counseled that they not “associate with sexually immoral persons” (5:9)
» It probably also mentioned the collection, though was silent on detailed directions for giving
» It may have announced other results of the Jerusalem conference, such as approval of Paul’s gentile mission, and the dual mission to Jews and gentiles
» The letter was probably delivered by Titus, who elsewhere is identified as beginning the collection (2 Corinthians 8:6), and who is accompanied by an unnamed brother (2 Corinthians 12:18)
» Compare the discussion of P in Ephesian Headquarters (2)

Communications to Paul, from Corinth–some written, some oral (order uncertain)

     Oral: from Chloe’s people, who report divisions (1 Corinthians 1:11); from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaiacus (1 Corinthians 16:17); possibly from Apollos, who apparently arrives in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:12); and possibly from Titus; these report:
» Factions (1 Corinthians 1:11)
» The incestuous man (1 Corinthians 5:1)
» Divisions and disorderly conduct at meals (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
» Misinterpretation of Letter P (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) and
» Litigation between members (1 Corinthians 6:1)
» Dress, etc. (1 Corinthians 11:2-16)
» The resurrection of believers (1 Corinthians 15)
» “About the other things I will give instructions when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:34)

     Written: a letter from Corinth to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12), with request for:
» Advice about the unmarried
» Advice about food offered to idols
» Advice about charismata (spiritual gifts)
» Directions on organization of the collection, and
» Information on the return of Apollos

“Fighting with wild animals in Ephesus” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

» Whatever precisely is meant by this, we have to take account of some sort of crisis, prior to the composition of 1 Corinthians (Letter L): fierce engagement with opponents? physical danger? Click on Fighting with Beasts.

Timothy has been sent to Corinth (from, or via, Macedonia?), by the time 1 Corinthians (Letter L) is written

» Paul expects him back soon, with the brothers (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11)

The Interval Extending from Letter L to Intermediate Visit

Paul writes 1 Corinthians (Letter L = the “Laundry List of Problems” Letter)

» Written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19)
» Current travel plan: Ephesus –> Macedonia –> Corinth –> Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3-8)
» Refer to Ephesian Headquarters (1) to (3) for further details on the letter

Word reaches Paul of a major crisis in Corinth, perhaps by way of Timothy


» Click on Intermediate Visit, for a detailed discussion of the evidence.
» This visit entails a change of travel plans, now involving a double visit to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:15-16): Ephesus –> Corinth –> Macedonia –> Corinth –> Judea
» The reasons for the urgency of this visit, which leads to a change of travel plans:

     Internal Reasons (problems within the community): 
» Disorder and immorality (2 Corinthians 12:20 – 13:2)
» Derogatory opinions about Paul’s bodily presence and his speech (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6)
» Rumors concerning possible misappropriation of funds in connection with the collection project (2 Corinthians 12:16-18)

     External Reasons (the incursion of rival teachers from outside):
» These “super-apostles” or “false apostles” make extravagant claims, and threaten Paul’s apostolic jurisdiction.

The Painful Epiode: Paul is grievously wronged by a member of the community

» This was perhaps some act of defiance against Paul’s leadership in favor of rival leaders
» There was perhaps also the accusation that Paul wished to enrich himself by the collection
» The situation was made worse by the people’s failure to rally to Paul’s side

Paul’s Humiliating Retreat to Ephesus

» Thus, yet another change of travel plans, in which he abandons the double visit
» By the time of his departure from Corinth, it would have been evident that he was headed out of town, not for Macedonia and a return visit to Corinth, but for Ephesus
» Paul was undoubtedly criticized for this change of plans, as his defensive posture in a later letter reflects (2 Corinthians 1:15-20)
» The reason for abandoning this double visit arrangement is also made clear:  to prevent another painful visit (2 Corinthians 1:23–2:4)
» With lapse of work on the collection (see below), the main purpose of the return leg of the double visit would have disappeared
» Paul would surely have intimated in some way before his departure from Corinth that the community needed to discipline the offender

Lapse of Work on the Collection

» With bad feelings between Paul and Corinth, work on the collection for Jerusalem could not succeed, and was suspended


The Interval Extending from Intermediate Visit to Letter R

Paul writes Letter H (the Harsh Letter; 2 Corinthians 10–13)

» Paul is probably back in Ephesus, when he dictates this make-or-break letter
» In the letter, he
  .. boasts of his apostolic credentials
    .. unmasks the rival apostles
      .. establishes “due process” for disciplinary action, to avoid another painful visit
        .. pleads for a return to obedience, reinforced by an implied threat if and when he does visit (13:2), and at the same time (!)
          .. assures them of his continuing love
» In place then of the second leg of the double visit, Paul sends this letter, thus avoiding another painful visit (2 Corinthians 2:1-4).
» For further discussion of Letter H, click on Ephesian Headquarters (6)

Paul dispatches the letter in care of Titus, who is making his second visit to Corinth

» Paul sends Titus off with encouraging words about the Corinthians
» Travel plans are revised again; this time, a modified version of the first plan (1 Corinthians 16:3-8): Titus, Ephesus –> Corinth –> Troas; Paul, Ephesus –> Troas (for meeting with Titus) –> Macedonia –> Corinth –> Judea (if Titus is bearing good news from Corinth)

Crisis in Asia (Ephesus?); Paul, in mortal danger (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

» After the departure of Titus, but probably before leaving Ephesus, Paul undergoes an ordeal, otherwise unspecified: trial on a capital crime? a beating of the kind mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:23-25? a personal or pastoral problem of unmanageable proportions? We do not know. 

Paul travels to Troas, and then on to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:5)

» Abandons promising work in Troas when Titus does not return
» Travels on to Macedonia, perhaps because sea travel was not safe after October
» Experiences “disputes without and fears within”

The arrival of Titus from Corinth, with good news of the congregation’s reconciliation 

The completion of the collection in Macedonia (Philippi and Thessalonica)

The Interval Extending from Letter R to Final Visit

Paul writes Letter R (the Letter of Reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 1–9)

» For the extent of Letter R, click on What’s in Letter R?
» For further discussion of Letter R, click on Closing Months (1)
» R, written from Macedonia
» Delivered by Titus, visit #3
» Titus expresses willingness to resume work on the collection, 2 Corinthians 8:17
» Titus is sent, in company of the two brothers, 2 Corinthians 8:6, 16-23, to resuscitate work on the collection and supervise its administration

Paul makes his third visit to Corinth

Completion of the collection in Corinth (Romans 15:26-28)

Paul writes Romans

Paul’s third visit to Jerusalem, to deliver the collection (planned)



For further discussion of the chart,  click on Next, for Paul and Corinth (2)

Previous Home Next


Copyright © 2000-2005 by J. Peter Bercovitz. All rights reserved.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Articles (as noted) used by permission of
Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies. Materials on this site may be downloaded for personal study and research, but quotations of this material should be appropriately acknowledged.

Send mail about this site to