(Map 7:D3)A major city in Greece, mentioned in the Iliad and occupied throughout most of the first millennium BCE and until 521 CE. Located on the isthmus separating the harbor towns of Lechaeum on the Corinthian Gulf from Cenchreae (see Rom. 16.1) on the Saronic Gulf, Corinth owed much to its geography. Even though efforts to connect the two gulfs by a canal failed in antiquity, Corinth was still located at a crossroads of travel and commerce. Another important geographical factor was the citadel of the Acrocorinth (elevation ca. 550 m [1,800 ft]), situated directly south of Corinth.

Among important events in the city's history were its destruction by the Roman consul Mummius in 146 BCE and its reestablishment as a Roman colony in 44 BCE by Julius Caesar. Archaeological excavations have demonstrated that the traditional picture of Corinth as a city totally deserted during the period 146–44 BCE is inaccurate. Not only was the site populated, although sparsely, but several structures (e.g., stoas, archaic temple, Asclepieum, and the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore) were still in use after the defeat of the city in 146.

Certain aspects of Corinthian culture complement our understanding of nascent Christianity there. The city was apparently the provincial capital of the Roman province of Achaia and therefore the residence of the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18.12). This explains the importance of the city in Paul's ministry (Acts 18.1–17) and why a circular letter to “all the saints throughout Achaia” (2 Cor. 1.1) would be addressed to Corinth.

The problem of sexual immorality (incest and fornication) among Paul's converts in Corinth is noteworthy (1 Cor. 5.1–13; 6.9–20), as illustrated by the fact that one of the Greek verbs meaning “to practice fornication” was korinthiazomai, a derivative of the city's name. The city's reputation in this matter probably owed more to being adjacent to two bustling seaports than to its temple of Aphrodite.

The practice of certain Christian men at Corinth of wearing head coverings while praying and prophesying (1 Cor. 11.4) probably mirrors the widespread Roman custom of wearing devotional head coverings during worship. Another practice mentioned by Paul as having disruptive consequences was that “strong” Christians at Corinth would be participants at meals in an idol's temple (1 Cor. 8.10), thereby creating a scandal in the eyes of “weak” Christians. Numerous banquet halls attached to temples have been excavated at Corinth. The specific location, the physical size, and the social function of these banquet rooms associated with a “temple of an idol” shed light on Paul's discussion of the strong and weak consciences of his converts.

Against the backdrop of a plethora of cults, where claims of miracles, healings, ecstatic prophecies, interpretations of prophecies, and visions abounded, one understands how gentile Christians in Corinth could easily be ignorant and misinformed about their own spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12.1–14.40).

Although Acts 18 refers to a synagogue in Corinth, the famous synagogue lintel inscription found there (“Synagogue of the Hebrews”) cannot be dated precisely.

See also Corinthians, The Letters of Paul to the


Richard E. Oster, Jr.