Study Guide

Corinthians

Corinthians Introduction

Fact: reading 1 and 2 Corinthians is better than a night out at the movies.

Okay, just hear us out.

Here you have two letters written by Paul of Tarsus. He's one of the superstars of the early church and the guy people think is responsible for almost a third of the writing in the New Testament. If Jesus is taking home the statute for Best Biblical Hero, then Paul definitely has a lock in the Best Supporting category. The guy is A-list all the way.

These two letters are just a couple of little theological blockbusters he wrote to the Christian church he founded in Corinth. 1 Corinthians is kind of like A New Hope or The Fellowship of the Ring. It's the first amazing installment in a can't-wait-to-see-how-it-ends series. This first letter's got everything a hit movie does: sex, love, marriage, divorce, conflict, betrayal, anger, and even an occasional discussion of penises. Don't worry, the rating is still G.

So if that was Paul's first box office hit, then 2 Corinthians is like the sequel that's even bigger and better than the original. Corinth: now with higher stakes, more expensive special effects, and bigger explosions (of apostolic anger)! This book also has a little bonus footage in it, because most scholars think that 2 Corinthians is actually two letters combined into one. It's what would happen if someone took Breaking Dawn: Part 1 and Part 2 and edited them into one movie. Corinthians would have fewer longing vampire glances, though.

The best part about both of these is that you don't have to wait years between letters to see how it ends. Want to know what happened after that cliffhanger at the end of 1 Corinthians? Just flip the page and find out (spoiler alert: things do not go well). It's kind of like how we'd feel if Peter Jackson had made The Hobbit into one movie instead of three. (Which, let's be honest, he should have: the book isn't that long, dude.)

So break out the popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and crack open your Bibles to the letters to the Corinthians. On second thought, maybe ditch the 3-D glasses. That might just make you dizzy.

What is Corinthians About and Why Should I Care?

"Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Shmoop may be quoting the Hulk (Bruce Banner), but we're also paraphrasing St. Paul the Apostle. What? Didn't think saints ever got mad? Well then, just take a peek at 1 and 2 Corinthians to have your world rocked.

He may be a follower of Jesus, but Paul has feelings, too, you know. In these letters, they're mainly anger, jealousy, and frustration. All that good stuff. See, even though he founded the church in Corinth, Paul can't quite keep things under control there. Not only are the Corinthians rebelling left and right, but people keep coming into town telling everyone that Paul is actually a giant green monster that can't be trusted in civilized society. Paul calls these guys the false apostles and, for him, they're worse than a radioactive lab experiment gone wrong.

But if the Hulk's super power is unstoppable strength, Paul's is sarcasm-laced letters and near-death experiences. While the false apostles spend most of their time bragging about how amazingly holy and spiritually-gifted they are, Paul puts pen to paper to record all his failures. He writes in his letters about being beaten, chained, tortured, imprisoned, starved, and almost beheaded. See, Paul thinks strength is actually found in weakness. We'd say Christianity has found its anti-hero.

So if you're looking for a guy from the Bible you can relate to—someone who occasionally gets mad and lashes out in letter form (as opposed to stomping buildings)—then, Paul is your biblical superhero. But remember, if make him angry with your unbelieving ways—PAUL SMASH!

Corinthians Resources

Websites

St. Paul's Cathedral
You think the Bible is Paul's big claim to fame? Try having the place where Charles and Diana got married named after you. Now that's success.

The Word
Actually, scratch that. TV Tropes is the ultimate success.

Sport Club Corinthians Paulista
What do you think. Would Paul have been an athlete?

Movie or TV Productions

Peter and Paul
Anthony Hopkins takes his turn as Paul, getting all rough-and-tumble with his fellow apostle, Peter.

Saint Paul
Paul's life from A to Z. Don't worry, it's still "mini."

Paul
To the stage! In this 2005 play, Paul is tricked by Peter and Mary Magdalene into thinking he sees Jesus on his way to Damascus. Hilarity does not ensue.

Historical Documents

Numero Uno
Check out the entire text of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

The Sequel
The thrilling conclusion!

Video

Smart Guys Talk First Corinthians
Scholars from Yale Divinity School give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of The First Epistle to the Corinthians in the first of eight videos on the subject. Sadly, 2 Corinthians didn't make the cut here.

Jesus vs. Paul
The Last Temptation of Christ shows Jesus surviving the crucifixion and then bumping into Paul a few years down the line. Awkward.

Inaugural Paul
In his 2009 inaugural address, President Barack Obama referred to America as a young nation and then quoted Paul: "in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Audio

The Messiah by George Frideric Handel
Part III of Handel's masterpiece was inspired by Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15.

Searching for Paul
Are you in search of Paul? So was Professor John Dominic Crossan, and here he talks about his whole book devoted to it.

Images

On the Road
Check out Paul's fave spots in the Roman Empire.

It's All Greek to Us
Here's a page from 2 Corinthians in the original Greek.

1 Corinthians 13
What would Paul's hymn to love look like if it were animated? If this comic is any indication, absolutely adorable!

Oh, Technology
Whoa. This facial composite of Paul looks kind of like our Uncle Humphrey.

Church of St. Paul in Tarsus
Located in his birthplace, which is now in modern day Turkey, this church dedicated to Paul hasn't held up quite as well as St. Paul's in London.