The Main Stages of Paul's Interactions with the Christians in Corinth
0) The Edict of Claudius: Roman Emperor Claudius expels the Jews from the city of Rome (probably ca. AD 49):
This decree is mentioned in Acts 18:2 as the reason why "a Jew named Aquila... and his wife Priscilla" had recently come to Corinth from Italy.
The expulsion probably happened shortly before Paul first came to Corinth; it is also mentioned briefly by the Roman historian Suetonius.
Suetonius says that the expulsion happened as a result of some disturbances "at the instigation of Chrestos," i.e. probably due to some Jewish-Christian missionaries encountering opposition from other Jews in Rome when they preached that "Jesus is the Christ."
See below for the Latin text, an English translation, and some further comments about this Edict of Claudius.
1) The Initial Mission of Paul, Silvanus/Silas, and Timothy in Corinth
(ca. AD 50-52):
Paul, Silvanus (a.k.a. Silas) and Timothy work together at the beginning of their mission in Corinth (see Acts 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19; Silas is not
mentioned later in Acts, since he probably left Paul and became a missionary associate of Peter - cf. 1 Peter 5:12).
They meet Aquila and Prisca/Priscilla, Jewish "tentmakers" (a married couple?) who came to Corinth from Rome (Acts 18:2; cf. Rom 16:3-4).
Paul and his associates stay in Corinth over 1½ years (Acts 18:11, 18), building up a small Christian community that includes some wealthier people and even some religious and civil officials (Acts 18:7, 8, 17; 1 Cor 1:26; Rom 16:23).
During this time (or maybe later) they also establish Christian communities in nearby towns, such as Cenchreae (Rom 16:1).
From Corinth, Paul also sends letters and messengers back to the churches in Macedonia (1 Thess 2:173:10; 2 Thess 2:2, 15).
Paul is put on trial in Corinth before the proconsul Gallio in AD 51, but the case is dismissed and Paul is released (Acts 18:12-17).
Some time later, Paul and several associates depart Corinth and go to Ephesus (Acts 18:18).
2A) While living in Ephesus, Paul maintains regular contact with the Christian community in Corinth (ca. AD 53-57):
Paul sends a series of letters and representatives back to Corinth, and also receives letters and visitors from Corinth.
In one letter, now lost (but mentioned in 1 Cor 5:9), Paul tells them not to associate with immoral people (bad Christians, that is!).
Other Christian missionaries also visit and preach in Corinth, especially Apollos (1 Cor 1:12; 3:4-6, 22; 4:6; Acts 18:2419:1), and possibly also Peter (a.k.a. Cephas; 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5) and Barnabas (9:6), or at least some of their associates.
Paul sends Timothy to visit (see 1 Cor 16:10-11); Timothy is already on the way when Paul writes 1 Cor, but he expects this letter to arrive before Timothy does, so evidently Timothy is taking the longer land-route over Macedonia.
Paul receives an oral report from Chloe's people about disunity in Corinth (1 Cor 1:11); these are not necessarily full-blown factions yet,
but at least groups with allegiances to different teachers.
Paul receives a letter from the Corinthians containing various practical and theological questions (1 Cor 7:1ff); this letter is probably delivered to
him by Sosthenes (1 Cor 1:1), or possibly by Stephanas (1 Cor 16:15-18).
3) After leaving Ephesus, Paul visits Corinth one last time (ca. AD 58):
Paul spends three more months in "Greece" (Acts 20:2-3), almost certainly staying in Corinth for most of this time.
From Corinth, Paul writes his longest and most theologically developed letter to the Christians living in Rome (cf. Rom 16).
X) After Paul’s death (ca. AD 64-64), the Christian community in Corinth continues to flourish:
Some of Paul's associates remain influential in the church at Corinth (see 2 Tim 4:20).
Paul's influence on the Christian Church in Corinth is well known and honored in the early 2nd century (see 1 Clement).
See also my page on Pauline Chronology.
A Summary of the Correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians:
Different scholars have advanced a variety of proposals about the total number of letters written between Paul and the Christians in Corinth, from as few as four
to as many as seven different letters. The following is only one possible suggestion:
Cor A = a previous letter, now missing (mentioned in 1 Cor 5:9)
Letter from the Corinthians to Paul (mentioned in 1 Cor 7:1)
Cor B = most of 1 Cor (Paul responds to oral and written reports from Corinth; see 1Cor 1:11; 7:1; 16:17)
Cor C = 2 Cor 2:14—6:13; 7:2-4 (Paul defends his apostleship against various unnamed opponents)
Cor D = 2 Cor 10:1—13:10 (the so-called "Letter of Tears"? - as mentioned in 2 Cor 2:3-4; 7:5, 12)
Cor E = 2 Cor 1:1—2:13; 7:5-16; 13:11-13 (a "Letter of Reconciliation")
Cor F = 2 Cor 8 (instructions for how to organize the collection for the poor in Jerusalem)
Cor G = 2 Cor 9 (more instructions for the Jerusalem collection)
1–4 - Unity within Diversity; Worldly Wisdom vs. Foolishness of the Cross; Paul as "Father" of the Christians in Corinth 5 - Christian Freedom is not the same as licentiousness (example: case of the man with his stepmother) 6 - Lawsuits & Prostitutes (vs. bodies for the Lord) 7 - Questions on Marriage and Celibacy; main principle: the time is short (7:29a), the present world passing away (7:31b)! 8–11 - Food offered to Idols; Practice of the Lord's Supper (ch. 11); rare quote of the "words of Jesus" 12–14 - Spiritual Gifts; esp. Love (ch. 13); Community Worship; One Body / Many Members 15 - Resurrection: "tradition" handed down (15:3-11); analogy of the seeds (15:35-44) 16 - Collection, Travel Plans & Greetings
The Edict of Claudius
Near the middle of his biography of the Emperor Claudius (reigned AD 41-54), the Roman historian Suetonius (ca. AD 120) makes very brief mention of an incident involving the Jews of Rome, probably around the year AD 49:
Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit (G. Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum 5.25.4).
"Since the Jews were constantly causing disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome" (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, Claudius 5.25.4).
"Chrestus" is possibly a variant spelling for "Christus" or "Christ."
Most scholars agree that this statement does not refer directly to "Christ" or to an individual named "Chrestus," but most likely refers to early "Christian" preachers who caused a disturbance by proclaiming that "Jesus is the Christ."
It is debated how many "Jews" would have been expelled from the city of Rome as a result of this edict: (a) all Jews and Christians; (b) all Jews, including Jewish Christians but not Gentile Christians; (c) only those Jewish-Christian preachers and/or other Jewish leaders involved in the public disturbance.
In any case, the edict would have gone out of effect at the death of Claudius in AD 54; since the following emperor (Nero) did not renew the edict, those expelled
could have returned to Rome after AD 54.