the major city of Corinth. Like Philippi it was a Romanised city and colony, the provincial capital of Achaea, a major commercial and trading centre with dual ports allowing transport from the Aegean to the Ionian and beyond.58 Paul later reports how he 'planted' the gospel there, in the process apparently forming a number of house churches,59 such as that hosted by Gaius (Rom 16:23), which would also periodically come together 'in one place' for the Lord's Supper and worship (1 Cor 14:23; cf. 11:20). The earliest Corinthian converts were predominantly Gentiles (1 Cor 12:2; Acts 18:7: God-fearers), and also someJew-ish believers, for after Paul's departure there were serious disputes over issues such as meat sacrificed to idols (see 1 Cor 8 and 10). Gentiles would have eaten this food all their lives (when they could afford it),60 but for those born Jews its consumption involved idolatry. Rather than debating points of halachah (legal interpretation), or training his full attention on the philosophical defence of monotheism (but see 1 Cor 8:4-7; cf. 10:20), Paul seeks a practical solution vis-a-vis the consumption of this food that urges compromise for the sake of the church's unity.61 In Corinth Paul's Gentile mission again comes into direct conflict with other missionaries: Cephas (Peter) and Apollos (1 Cor 1:12; 3:5, 22), and unnamed figures who bring 'another Jesus' (2 Cor 11:4) from outside, as well as local antagonists from within the ekklesia itself (such as the unnamed figure in 2 Cor 10:10; cf. 2:5-8; 7:12).

Paul's extant correspondence with the Corinthian church comprises as many as six letters revealing a dramatic history of conflict and, ultimately, reconciliation - among the Corinthians themselves, and between them and the apostle.62 Because he sees the Corinthians as crucial allies (see 1 Cor 9:2), these controversies were particularly intense.63 The initial conflict arose out of success: as the number of Christian converts expanded, divisions and subgroups formed which (from Paul's point of view) threatened the unity in Christ which he proclaimed. Paul responded to that situation (from Ephesus) with 1 Corinthians, a carefully composed argument in which he addresses the series of issues dividing them (marriage and sexual practices, eating of idol meat, behaviour in worship, the resurrection of believers) by urging concord

58 Grant, Paul in the Roman world, 13-20.

59 Klauck, Hausgemeinde; Balch and Osiek, Families.

60 Theissen, Social setting, 69-119,145-74.

61 Note that Paul terms it a matter of'custom' (synetheia) rather than commandment (8:7; but see 10:14: 'Flee from idolatry!').

62 See Mitchell, 'Paul's letters to Corinth', and 'The Corinthian correspondence and the birth of Pauline hermeneutics'. Differently Young and Ford, Meaning and truth.

63 Strangely, Luke has not a word to say of them!

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