International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kor'-inth (Korinthos, "ornament"): A celebrated city of the Peloponnesus, capital of Corinthia, which lay North of Argolis, and with the isthmus joined the peninsula to the mainland. Corinth had three good harbors (Lechaeum, on the Corinthian, and Cenchrea and Schoenus on the Saronic Gulf), and thus commanded the traffic of both the eastern and the western seas. The larger ships could not be hauled across the isthmus (Acts 27:6,37); smaller vessels were taken over by means of a ship tramway with wooden rails. The Phoenicians, who settled here very early, left many traces of their civilization in the industrial arts, such as dyeing and weaving, as well as in their religion and mythology. The Corinthian cult of Aphrodite, of Melikertes (Melkart) and of Athene Phoenike are of Phoenician origin. Poseidon, too, and other sea deities were held in high esteem in the commercial city. Various arts were cultivated and the Corinthians, even in the earliest times, were famous for their cleverness, inventiveness and artistic sense, and they prided themselves on surpassing the other Greeks in the embellishment of their city and in the adornment of their temples. There were many celebrated painters in Corinth, and the city became famous for the Corinthian order of architecture: an order, which, by the way, though held in high esteem by the Romans, was very little used by the Greeks themselves. It was here, too, that the dithyramb (hymn to Dionysus) was first arranged artistically to be sung by a chorus; and the Isthmian games, held every two years, were celebrated just outside the city on the isthmus near the Saronic Gulf. But the commercial and materialistic spirit prevailed later. Not a single Corinthian distinguished himself in literature. Statesmen, however, there were in abundance: Periander, Phidon, Timoleon.
Harbors are few on the Corinthian Gulf. Hence, no other city could wrest the commerce of these waters from Corinth. According to Thucydides, the first ships of war were built here in 664 BC. In those early days Corinth held a leading position among the Greek cities; but in consequence of her great material prosperity she would not risk all as Athens did, and win eternal supremacy over men: she had too much to 1ose to jeopardize her material interests for principle, and she soon sank into the second class. But when Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Argos fell away, Corinth came to the front again as the wealthiest and most important city in Greece; and when it was destroyed by Mummius in 146 BC, the treasures of art carried to Rome were as great as those of Athens. Delos became the commercial center for a time; but when Julius Caesar restored Corinth a century later (46 BC), it grew so rapidly that the Roman colony soon became again one of the most prominent centers in Greece. When Paul visited Corinth, he found it the metropolis of the Peloponnesus. Jews flocked to this center of trade (Acts 18:1-18; Rom 16:21 ff; 1 Cor 9:20), the natural site for a great mart, and flourishing under the lavish hand of the Caesars; and this is one reason why Paul remained there so long (Acts 18:11) instead of sojourning in the old seats of aristocracy, such as Argos, Sparta and Athens. He found a strong Jewish nucleus to begin with; and it was in direct communication with Ephesus. But earthquake, malaria, and the harsh Turkish rule finally swept everything away except seven columns of one old Doric temple, the only object above ground left today to mark the site of the ancient city of wealth and luxury and immorality--the city of vice paragraph excellence in the Roman world. Near the temple have been excavated the ruins of the famous fount of Peirene, so celebrated in Greek literature. Directly South of the city is the high rock (over 1,800 ft.) Acrocorinthus, which formed an impregnable fortress. Traces of the old ship-canal across the isthmus (attempted by Nero in 66-67 AD) were to be seen before excavations were begun for the present canal. At this time the city was thoroughly Roman. Hence, the many Latin names in the New Testament: Lucius, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, Quartus (Rom 16:21-23), Crispus, Titus Justus (Acts 18:7,8), Fortunatus, Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17). According to the testimony of Dio Chrysostomus, Corinth had become in the 2nd century of our era the richest city in Greece. Its monuments and public buildings and art treasures are described in detail by Pausanias.
The church in Corinth consisted principally of non-Jews (1 Cor 12:2). Paul had no intention at first of making the city a base of operations (Acts 18:1; 16:9,10); for he wished to return to Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:17,18). His plans were changed by a revelation (Acts 18:9,10). The Lord commanded him to speak boldly, and he did so, remaining in the city eighteen months. Finding strong opposition in the synagogue he left the Jews and went to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). Nevertheless, Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue and his household were believers and baptisms were numerous (Acts 18:8); but no Corinthians were baptized by Paul himself except Crispus, Gaius and some of the household of Stephanas (1 Cor 1:14,16) "the firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Cor 16:15). One of these, Gaius, was Paul's host the next time he visited the city (Rom 16:23). Silas and Timothy, who had been left at Berea, came on to Corinth about 45 days after Paul's arrival. It was at this time that Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 3:6). During Gallio's administration the Jews accused Paul, but the proconsul refused to allow the case to be brought to trial. This decision must have been looked upon with favor by a large majority of the Corinthians, who had a great dislike for the Jews (Acts 18:17). Paul became acquainted also with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18,26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19), and later they accompanied him to Ephesus. Within a few years after Paul's first visit to Corinth the Christians had increased so rapidly that they made quite a large congregation, but it was composed mainly of the lower classes: they were neither `learned, influential, nor of noble birth' (1 Cor 1:26).
Paul probably left Corinth to attend the celebration of the feast at Jerusalem (Acts 18:21). Little is known of the history of the church in Corinth after his departure. Apollos came from Ephesus with a letter of recommendation to the brethren in Achaia (Acts 18:27; 2 Cor 3:1); and he exercised a powerful influence (Acts 18:27,28; 1 Cor 1:12); and Paul came down later from Macedonia. His first letter to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus. Both Titus and Timothy were sent to Corinth from Ephesus (2 Cor 7:13,15; 1 Cor 4:17), and Timothy returned by land, meeting Paul in Macedonia (2 Cor 1:1), who visited Greece again in 56-57 or 57-58.
Leake, Travels in the Morea, IlI, 229-304; Peloponnesiaca, 392 ff; Curtius, Peloponnesos, II, 514 ff; Clark, Peloponnesus, 42-61; Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles' of Paul, chapter xii; Ramsay, "Corinth" (in HDB); Holm, History of Greece, I, 286 ff; II, 142, and 306-16; III, 31-44, and 283; IV, 221, 251, 347 and 410-12.
J. E. Harry
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'CORINTH'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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