1 Corinthians in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

LITERATURE I. Authenticity of the Two Epistles. 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, all belong to the period of Paul's third missionary journey. They are the most remarkable of his writings, and are usually distinguished as the four great or principal epistles; a distinction which not only is a tribute to their high originality and intrinsic worth, but also indicates the extremely favorable opinion which critics of almost all schools have held regarding their authenticity. Throughout the centuries the tradition has remained practically unbroken, that they contain the very pectus Paulinum, the mind and heart of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and preserve to the church an impregnable defense of historical Christianity. What has to be said of their genuineness applies almost equally to both. 1. External Evidence: The two epistles have a conspicuous place in the most ancient lists of Pauline writings. In the Muratorian Fragment (circa 170) they stand at the head of the nine epistles addressed to churches, and are declared to have been written to forbid heretical schism (primum omnium Corinthiis schisma haeresis intredicens); and in Marcion's Apostolicon (circa 140) they stand second to Gal. They are also clearly attested in the most important writings of the subapostolic age, e.g. by Clement of Rome (circa 95), generally regarded as the friend of the apostle mentioned in Phil 4:3; Ignatius (Ad Ephes., chapter xviii, second decade of 2nd century); Polycarp (chapters ii, vi, xi, first half of 2nd century), a disciple of John; and Justin Martyr (born at close of let century); while the Gnostic Ophites (2nd century) were clearly familiar with both epistles (compare Westcott, Canon, passim, and Index II; also Charteris, Canonicity, 222-224, where most of the original passages are brought together). The witness of Clement is of the highest importance. Ere the close of the let century he himself wrote a letter to the Corinthians, in which (chapter xlvii, Lightfoot's edition, 144) he made a direct appeal to the authority of 1 Cor: "Take up the letter of Paul the blessed apostle; what did he write to you first in the beginning of the gospel? Verily he gave you spiritual direction regarding himself, Cephas, and Apollos, for even then you were dividing yourselves into parties." It would be impossible to desire more explicit external testimony. 2. Internal Evidence: Within themselves both epistles are replete with marks of genuineness. They are palpitating human documents, with the ring of reality from first to last. They admirably harmonize with the independent narrative of Acts; in the words of Schleiermacher (Einltg., 148), "The whole fits together and completes itself perfectly, and yet each of the documents follows its own course, and the data contained in the one cannot be borrowed from those of the other." Complex and difficult as the subjects and circumstances sometimes are, and varying as the moods of the writer are in dealing with them, there is a naturalness that compels assent to his good faith. The very difficulty created for a modern reader by the incomplete and allusive character of some of the references...

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