Ancient Corinthian Community

Discussion in 'Graeco-Roman' started by Palaestrio, Aug 10, 2008.

  1. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello,

    I am interested in the Corinthian Community at the turn of the century, as viewed through Paul's epistles and other extant evidence. Particularly, what type of group formed? Did the group form out of an existing group? What practices (rituals) were in place and/or developed into Christ-confessing practices?

    Some background: I wrote a paper which argued that 1 Cor. 12:3a was Paul's reference to the ancient practice of grave cursing where the ancient Corinthian community was using Jesus (perceived as some sort of underworld deity) to ward (protect) their graves. Thus, it was a "Jesus Curse" a curse which was laid as a trap to keep people (grave-robbers or others looking to bury their dead) away from the Corinthian communities' graves. (I should mention that Paul in the rest of the verse would rather the Corinthians focus their practices around "Lord Jesus" which is what 1 Cor. 12:3b mentions; however, my interest lies with the ancient Corinthians and not Paul's views).

    I was wondering if there are other people interested in studying the Ancient Corinthian Community from a non-confessional perspective, and if there are any thoughts on the type of community that may have been pre-existing before they became a Christ-confessing community.
     
  2. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Hi there. I thought Corinth was gone and its past gone except for scraps and archaeological diggings. It became a Roman city, and the ancient Roman historians say that Rome was very flexible about its history. Like, Rome didn't mind making things up. You're asking for information about ancient Corinth, but are you asking for what light Paul sheds on its pre-Christian community or are you more interested in non-Paul information? To get anything out of Paul you've first got to triangulate his positions, ideologically. You've got to know what color he is in order to filter him out of the picture and see the background. That means you'll be writing to one school of thought or another -- not a best seller situation but its possible to get your doctorate with it. What is your view of Paul?
     
  3. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello Dream,

    Yes, the ancient Greek city of Corinth was destroyed and then some time later was rebuilt by the Romans as a Roman city (i.e., on a typical Roman grid).

    I think that I would like to start with "non-Paul" information something like S.C. Barton and GHR Horley's "A Hellenistic Cult Group and the New Testament Churches," Jahrbuch fur Antike und Christentum 24 (1981): 7-41 or archaeological digs such as Ronald Stroud's "The Santuary of Demeter on Acrocorinth in the Roman Period," The Corinthia in the Roman Period Supplementary Series Number 8, Journal of Archaeology, 1993, 65-77. I have looked at D. Schowalter and S. Friesen's collection of essays, Urban Religion in Roman CorinthHarvard University Press,2005, and think that material is helpful. However, I am looking for other sources as well.

    For the most part (and I say this with some reservation) I am not interested in Paul. My hopes are to look through the letter and study the community, albeit I will have to "filter" the Pauline rhetoric, but I do not want to focus on the person of Paul or on Pauline Christianity.

    To answer your question, my view of Paul is a typical academic view following someone like EP Sanders Paul and Palestinian Judaism Fortress Press, 1977.
     
  4. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Welcome to CR, Palaestrio! Make yourself at home and enjoy your stay!

    I don't know that many among us are quite that versed in detailed historical archeology of any specific place of that time. My knowledge is a bit more broad based and generalized, focused primarily on the development of Christianity from its roots in Judaism.

    I think I understand where you are coming from in general terms, but I have nothing specific to offer. I am an armchair student with no sheepskin to chase.

    Might Josephus offer anything of substance for your pursuit? Then again, Brian hosts a list of apocryphal works from about the period you are speaking of, perhaps there may be something there that might offer some peripheral substance.

    When it comes to the specifics of the Pagan practices of a specific place, I am not well versed. Most of what I understand is gleaned from sources like "the Golden Bough." Even Wiki is pretty general about Roman and Greek practices of that time and area. I just kinda presumed that Corinth followed suit.

    Don't know how much it might help, but I recently went through a series of resources for the thread "Rome in transition" on this same board, with links to Josephus and others that might be of assistance to you. Just a thought.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Sorry about the late response. I went through I Corinthians to see if I could recognize anything that might be helpful. All of the cultural items that are mentioned are things that I've heard of in Roman cities. There is brief mention of marriage arrangements, idols, sexual practices, marathon sports, and that's all I noticed. I & II Corinthians is probably a cold trail. One resource that you didn't mention having is Graeco-Roman Marriage Papyri Which has translated copies of Roman marriage documents available for study, online I think.
     
  6. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello juantoo 3 and Dream,

    juantoo 3: I have not read the thread "Rome in Transition" and will do so looking for resources. Thank you for that suggestion. My first hunch is that Josephus will not be much help; however, I should probably go through "The Jewish Wars" and "The History of the Jews" again in order to be thorough. Thanks.

    Dream: The Graeco-Roman Marriage Papyri at a quick glance is exactly the type of sources that I am looking for - thank you very much! I will definitely go through them to see if their are any comparisons with Paul's letters.

    Based on the little research that I have done so far, my thoughts are that the early Corinthian community may have been a funerary cult. This comes from a reading Charles Kennedy’s "The Cult of the Dead in Corinth" which looks at funeral meals, and Richard DeMaris’s "Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29): Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology" which looks at baptism for the dead (as the title indicates). This would also fit with the practice of cursing (warding) graves which I suspect 1 Cor.12:3a may be referring to as well. Following this line of thinking, then, Paul (may have) been in contact with a funerary cult and they liked the idea of Jesus Christ as a deity that acted as an underworld deity (in a Greco-Roman sense) as well as had the ability to translocate between the different worlds (I am following Jonathan Z. Smith, "Re: Corinthians" in the last part of this sentence) - something like Hermes, but rooted in history. Further, (and this is a stretch) as Jesus died on a crucifix, the ancient Greco-Roman concept for cursing held that a person who died a horrible dead could be invoked to power the curse (which was more efficacious). I have made some broad strokes here which should be spelt out, but I hope this gives you both the basic direction that I am going. As such, some of the comparisons could be made with Greco-Roman religious groups, as well as other associations in the ancient world.

    Thank you both again. I will look through the sources mentioned and see if they are helpful. Comments/suggestions on the above paragraph would be appreciated.
     
  7. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I suppose this is a possibility, I haven't had the time to look into it. Roman superstitions included a number of different practices we now think strange.

    One I learned a while back is called "sowing the basil." Apparently in Roman times it was believed for whatever reason that basil (the primary herb that flavors spaghetti) would not grow well unless it was sown with curses. So as the typical Roman housewife was planting her Basil seed in the garden she and her husband would curse and swear up a storm. Doesn't make much sense to us today (frankly the reasons are lost on me). But according to at least one source I read many years ago this was a traditional customary superstition.

    My jury is still out, but if you read the Rome in transition thread you will get a good overview of some of the historical issues I am trying to square with the mythical image of Jesus. At first blush I would say you are on a similar track with this, although I am inclined to see the mythical Jesus more in line with the Greco-Roman Zeus; in part for the linguistic connection between the names (Jesus was not the man's birth given name, scholarship is quite clear on this, but there is a distinct linguistic translational progression from Zeus-Iesus-Jesus), and in part because the hero-god myth of Zeus includes a hero elevated to a god-man status (part god-divine and part human, or god-in-human).

    Not quite specific to Corinth, but I think this idea of invoking the spirit of those who died a horrible death extends throughout various pagan traditions. One example that comes quickly to mind is the sacrificial subject pirates would slay at the site of where they "buried" or kept their treasure, so the spirit would keep watch over and guard it.

    Another is the tradition of cracking a bottle of "spirits" over the bow of a brand new ship at launch. In former times a person was sacrificed (the Norse Vikings were famous for this), so their spirit would be imparted to the vessel to protect it. I am certain there are other examples, but these are the first to come readily to mind.

    Actually I did just think of another. I was recently made aware of several examples of "Bog bodies," the Druidic sacrifices found in various parts of Western Europe in bogs. It is pretty evident in a lot of examples that the sacrificial victims were tortured quite mercilessly before finally being executed and having their bodies staked down in the peat bogs.

    Again I wish you well. I don't know if I have been much help, but I haven't delved very deeply yet into making distinctions between the many and varied subsets of local pagan expressions.
     
  8. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello Juantoo 3,

    I think that the early Corinthian community during Paul's time would not necessarily understand Jesus as Zeus (or make connections to Zeus) because the Christology of Jesus is not fully developed to the extent that it is in later periods. That is, Paul was writing in the 50s and in this time period there is a low christology so the part human-part god concepts were not developed (which actually makes it difficult to connect Jesus to underworld deities as well - thank you for that). I'm not quite sure what that means yet. But, to spell it out (a little):

    1. We are dealing with a low Christology (not fully developed ideas of divine-human relations) because of the time-period,
    2. We are dealing with Pauline concepts (or partly formed concepts) of "In-Christ" Christology (not sure where this fits) - [looks like I am dealing with Pauline Christianity]
    3. We may be dealing with spirits that died terrible deaths and as such have efficacious power in curses (crucifixion reference)
    4. We are dealing with funeral meals (I still like this idea) following Kennedy
    5. We are dealing with baptism of the dead following DeMaris
    6. I think that we are dealing with a pre-formed community (i.e., this was not a group that Paul brought together, but a group that was already together and Paul "preached" to). It makes sense to me that groups that were already formed and took up/adapted Paul's concepts would be more likely than a group of strangers who came together.

    I am not sure what you are refering to when you mentioned, "Jesus was not the man's birth given name, scholarship is quite clear on this" - what scholarship are you referring to?

    Thanks
     
  9. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Linguistic scholarship.

    Jesus is a Latinization of the name...or a bit more precisely, a modern Latinization of the name. There was no "J" in any language until the English invention in 1555, AD. Previously (this is seen easily in the reprint of the 1611 KJV) "Jesus" was rendered "Iesus," which is the Latin.

    But Jesus wasn't Latin. He was Jewish, born and raised. The Jewish is Yashua, meaning "G-d saves" or "salvation is of G-d." The common tongue among Jews in that day and place was Aramaic, and Jesus' Aramaic rendition is Yeshua. Either way, a proper translation into modern English would be Joshua, not Jesus.

    Ginsberg is one source, there are others.

    I like your idea about Paul influencing established groups, although it is speculative. It might help account for some of the many variations in Christianity prior to consolidation at Nicea, but that would have to be established beyond speculation. What relationship did Corinth have with, say, the Gnostics?
     
  10. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Just interjecting thinking someone here could possibly be interested in this...

    I know the submission date has been moved to the end of this month...



    This call for papers is seeking scholarly submissions for the 1st Annual Meeting of the Lyceum at Unity Institute to be held on the campus of the Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, Missouri. The Department of Historical and Theological Studies at Unity Institute is the contact point for information about this conference.
    Submissions are encouraged for papers in all content areas related to religious studies, especially topics relevant to the study of spirituality, theology, pastoral studies, prayer, theological ethics, Church history. religion and contemporary society, ministry, and metaphysical Christianity. The generic nature of the conference theme is intended to stimulate the widest possible participation in this first annual meeting.
     
  11. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I took the liberty of copying your post to the News board wil, so it might get a bit more exposure.

    I took a look, but I am not a graduate student, and travel would be prohibitive for me right now. Besides, what would I write?
     
  12. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello Juantoo 3,

    "What relationship did Corinth have with, say, the Gnostics?"
    Gnosticism was later than the time period that we are talking about. I think it is closer to the Second or Third Century CE (I'd have to look that up to be sure). Although, I do think that Religious Groups like the Mystery Cults are a good source of comparison (i.e., Eleusinian Mysteries).

    Thanks Wil for the conference information. I will take a look at it.
     
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Sounds to me like you are pointed in the right general direction.

    The historical Jesus (or, if more acceptable in order not to confuse, the Jesus of history) is a rather elusive person. Corinth is but one of several "missions" founded by Paul. How that one might have made an impact would necessarily have to be contrasted with the impact of the other missions as well.

    Did you happen to look at Mr. Garaffa's article about the Pauline Conspiracy? It is quite lengthy, but he went to lengths to support his position. I have some reservations, which I took up with Mr. Garaffa. He has been a bit scarce since.

    Mr. Garaffa's article:
    http://www.comparative-religion.com/articles/pauline_conspiracy/

    My refutation:
    http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/refutation-of-pauline-controversy-5750.html
     
  14. Palaestrio

    Palaestrio New Member

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    Hello Juantoo 3,

    Thanks. I have not, but will look at Mr. Garaffa's article.
     

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