Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians;
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – September 22, 2020 – Session 1 “The Argument”
How to Study the Holy Scriptures:
1. Purchase a quality Bible. I personally recommend the Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) but many quality translations exist. In choosing a translation, you should pay close attention to WHO is the publisher or sponsor. Since there is ALWAYS something lost in translation, how an edition chooses to handle “difficult” words will affect the theology presented. (REF 2 Thess 2.15)
Original Greek Ἀρα ουν, αδελφοί, στήκετε και κρατείτε τας παραδόσεις
NKJ Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions
NIV So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings
BBE So then, brothers, be strong in purpose, and keep the teaching
NLT With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on everything we taught you
GNB So then, our friends, stand firm and hold on to those truths
AB So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions and instructions
There are several FREE online bibles which easily switch among a variety of translations.
www.BibleGateway.com(includes FREE APP)
www.eBible.com(includes FREE APP)
You can purchase the OSB at St Nicholas Cathedral Bookstore or online for Kindle or on GooglePlay
2. Purchase a bilingual Bible. Anyone serious with studying the Holy Scriptures will want an edition that has the original and their own language. Nestle/Aland has become the “standard” Greek-English edition for “lay-scholarship” and is what I use. I also have a Greek-Greek edition with the original AND modern Greek. I have found it helps to see how the Greek scholars have translated their own original since there is “less lost” in cultural nuances etc. SJC in his homily “On the Obscurity of the Old Testament” also spoke of the difficulty inherent in translations, so this is not a new struggle in understanding the Holy Scriptures.
3. Read on a regular basis. You should find a good time during which you can sit and read long enough to “absorb” something, but not so long that you don’t want to do it. Daily is always better. There are two ways to read: for content and for context. When reading for CONTEXT do not stop to analyze words and phrases. Just read to absorb the story. When reading for CONTENT stop, take notes, write down questions, flip back and forth etc. BOTH are needed for quality study.
4. Notes/Highlights/References. Some write so much you can’t see the actual text, while others would ‘NEVER’ write in their Bible. I keep two Bibles: one for CONTEXT reading and one for CONTENT reading. I make notes, highlights, questions etc in the CONTENT edition. This way, when I am reading just for context, I don’t get ‘confused’ by all my previous notes. As you grow, your comments will grow/change with you. While the meaning of the Holy Scriptures doesn’t change, the application in YOUR life will always change. The new “e-books” editions are a great solution for this. You can highlight/add notes/ without having them clutter your text.
How will we proceed? This study will be based upon the homilies of St John Chrysostom which were preached while Chrysostom was a priest in Antioch, somewhere between 386-397 CE. In preparation for our weekly study, I suggest the following:
1. Read First Corinthians in its entirety every week. It will accomplish two main objectives.
a. You will begin to see the “whole picture” and better understand the connections Saint Paul makes throughout.
b. You will begin to internalize the Scriptures so you can recall its contents for life applications. If you can’t remember where something resides, you can’t call upon its wisdom.
2. Read the Homilies of SJC on First Corinthians. Each week will focus on a different homily. (44 homilies = 45 sessions including our introduction). I will be quoting from the edition originally published in 1889 as translated by Philip Schaff. “Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers – First Series, Volume 12”. This translation is now public domain. Each study guide will include a link to the homily text. You can find the sermons free online at:
a. New Advent Fathers www.newadvent.org
b. Amazon Kindle (for purchase)
Author and Date: Written by St Paul most likely when he was in Ephesus c. 55 CE. SJC felt it relevant to understand why Paul would speak differently on similar subjects. Not only were the audiences different needing different emphasis, but each letter was written at a different time also revealing Paul’s experience. This means we will benefit differently from each book of Scripture. Paul wrote to Corinthians more than any other city.
First Century Corinth:
- A city of many factions and very cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic.
- It was the capital city of the Achaia region – a very Roman city
- Church comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish members – mostly lower to middle class
- Had a reputation for sexual license
- According to SJC the citizens were “low class wealth”
Liturgical Use of First Corinthians:
Read in the Lectionary
- weekdays from Sixth Tuesday after Pentecost through Tenth Sunday
- Sundays from Eighth Sunday through Thirteenth Sunday
- Saturdays from Eleventh Saturday through Nineteenth Saturday
Structure and Themes of First Corinthians:
- Introduction – First Corinthians 1.1-9 – Homilies 1&2
- Response to Reports Received – First Corinthians 1.10-6.20 – Homilies 3-18
- Response to Questions Asked – First Corinthians 7.1-15.58 – Homilies 19-42
- Conclusion – First Corinthians 16.1-24 – Homilies 43&44
Life Application: Why First Corinthians? Why Chrysostom? (see The Argument)
- Wealth and success divides people which is monopolized by the Devil “The devil, therefore, seeing that a great and populous city had laid hold of the truth, a city admired for wealth and wisdom, and the head of Greece; (for Athens and Lacedaemon were then and since in a miserable state, the dominion having long ago fallen away from them;) and seeing that with great readiness they had received the word of God; what does he do? He divides the men. For he knew that even the strongest kingdom of all, divided against itself, shall not stand.” 
- Division leads to false teachers and false leaders “Hence certain men, having made parties of their own, and having become self-elected made themselves leaders of the people, and some sided with these, and some with those; with one sort, as being rich; with another, as wise and able to teach something out of the common. Who on their part, receiving them, set themselves up forsooth to teach more than the Apostle did” 
- Early Church ASKED about important issues “They had written accordingly to him by the hand of Fortunatus and Stephanas and Achaicus, by whom also he himself writes; and this he has indicated in the end of the Epistle: not however upon all these subjects, but about marriage and virginity; wherefore also he said, (ch. vii. 1.) “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote” etc. And he proceeds to give injunctions, both on the points about which they had written, and those about which they had not written; having learnt with accuracy all their failings.” 
- Teachings are reinforced with witnesses (like the Church Fathers)“Timothy, too, he sends with the letters, knowing that letters indeed have great force, yet that not a little would be added to them by the presence of the disciple also.”