Polycarp and Socrates in Corinth

The martyrdom of Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, celebrated yesterday in both eastern and western churches, is remarkable in many respects.  It is not often that old men got martyred for religious beliefs in antiquity, let alone 86 year old men, and the account itself is among the earliest surviving martyr accounts in early Christian literature recording a martyrdom in the 150s or 160s AD.

The story also is interesting and shows certain parallels with the death of Jesus: the bishop is pursued by the police into the country where he is arrested, allowed to pray for everyone he ever knew for two hours, brought into the city via donkey, and tried by the proconsul.  Ordered to revile Christ he responds “I’m 86 years old and still I am serving him, and he has never wronged me.”  Threatened with death in the amphitheater, he invites both beast and fire.  Ordered to shout “away with the atheists” to the other Christians, he directs the accusation  instead to the roaring crowds.  And he is protected from death: the flames intended to consume him actually refine him (like precious metal) and give off a sweet smell of perfume.  Eventually the executioner thrusts a sword into his side, which releases a dove and so much blood that the fire is extinguished.  These are extraordinary events.

It is the subsequent history of the martyrdom that takes us to Corinth.  The account itself assumes the form of a letter from the church in Smyrna to the church in Philomelium and all sojourners everywhere.  A man named Marcion seems to the be the source of information (20) which was written down by a scribe named Evaristus.  The church of Smyrna encourages the letter to be circulated to Christians elsewhere.

The account comes to an end in 20 or 21, but then an epilogue (22) is tacked on noting the history of the transcription and copies.  The  letter evidently finds its way to Irenaeus, the famous bishop in Gaul who was (as Eusebius later notes) a student of Polycarp.  A man named Gaius, who lived in the same city as Irenaeus copied out the document from his version.  And then (shifting to the first person), “I Socrates in Corinth wrote it out from the copies of Gaius.  Grace  be with all.  And I, Pionius, again wrote out a copy seeking these things from the aforementioned one.”  Pionius notes that he gathered the papers which were worn from old age and made a copy so that the Lord Jesus Christ would remember him with his elect in the kingdom.

There is nothing surprising about these sorts of connections in the movement of texts in the Mediterranean but  not often do we have the recorded path of transcription, in this case between Smyrna — the west (Gaul? Rome?) — Corinth — ??  Interesting that Corinth, situated between east and west, would be a critical link here and that the text discovered by Pionius was the old Corinthian copy (did Pionius find it in Corinth or elsewhere?). This Socrates is an otherwise anonymous Christian living in the city of Corinth in the later 2nd or 3rd century who gained access to a copy of the account transcribed by Gaius.  It is at least curious that a Christian named after a philosopher sentenced to die in old age (and with charges of atheism) would be interested in preserving the story of an old bishop sentenced to die in old age (and with charges of atheism).   Not only does he write himself into the margins: “I Socrates in Corinth” but he also adds his own little salutation: “Grace be with all.”  Here in a postscript of one of the most significant martyr accounts of the early church we find an educated but anonymous Corinthian Christian, or individual residing in Corinth, who has inserted himself into the story and greeted the reader.

A couple of other blogs on yesterday’s feast day: the daily office and cyber brethren.  The entire account can be found here.

Corinthian Scholarship (Winter 2011)

Google Scholar has a very useful alert feature for staying up on research although one has to filter to remove all the junk for words like Corinth.  Some recent and forthcoming papers and publications related to things Corinthian


Some interesting Corinthiaka (Corinthian Matters) for this Wednesday morning:

  • Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner, authors of a new commentary on 1 Corinthians, talk about St. Paul and Roman sexual ethics in the Corinthian community in a two part video here and here.  Michael Bird’s brief review of their commentary can be found here.
  • A couple of summer conferences related to geology, archaeology, and Early Christianity in the Corinthia.  The theme of the latter is  “Archaeology and Identity in Roman Achaia.”  Looks fantastic.
  • A 17th century Spanish vessel sails through the Corinth canal.
  • The American School of Classical Studies excavations at Corinth featured in a new television series 1821.
  • If you’re an undergraduate interested in a field school in Kenchreai this summer, there are a couple of fellowship opportunities available for member institutions of the Center for Hellenic Studies.
  • Phoebe’s feast day was recently celebrated in the Lutheran and Episcopal church calendar.  A nice piece on Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe.
  • So also, in the Orthodox calendar, the 16th century fruitseller and martyr Nicholas of Ichthys of the Corinthia was celebrated on Feb. 14.  An interesting story from the Great Synaxarion of  Christian-Turkish relations in the Ottoman period rediscovered in the early 20th century.  

Three new papers on the Roman Corinthia and Isthmus

A new book on Hellenistic to Roman Corinth called Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality is now in the works.  The volume is edited by Friesen, James, and Schowalter and is based on the conference in Austin in early October which brought together archaeologists, historians, and New Testament scholars to discuss the topic of inequality and contrast in the ancient city.  Two earlier posts about the conference can be found  here and here.

If you’re interested in the Roman Corinthia or Isthmus, three working papers have been posted online.  These are drafts that will undoubtedly change as the papers are reviewed and edited, but they provide a sense of how the Isthmus fits well within a discussion of inequality and contrast.  Agriculture and land use, commerce and transit, and imperial monuments.  That about sums up the common conceptions of the isthmus in antiquity.

Guy Sander’s piece, “Landlords and Tenants: Sharecroppers and Subsistence Farming in Corinthian Historical Context,”  examines documentary evidence for peasant farming, land use, sharecropping, and land and taxes in the Peloponnese in recent centuries (16th-19th) and makes comparisons to the growing Roman colony of the first century.

Bill Caraher’s chapter, “The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth: The Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City,” examines the theme of resistance to imperial action evident in the landscape of the Corinthia in the 6th century AD, and discusses the early Christian basilicas of territory, settlement patterns (from the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey), the Hexamilion fortification wall, and Corinthian theology.

My piece, “The Diolkos and the Emporium: How a Land Bridge Framed the Commercial Economy of Roman Corinth,” examines ancient conceptions for how the Isthmus shaped the economy of the city.  I argue that the diolkos played almost no role in ancient conception while the emporium in the harbors of Kenchreai and Lechaion were central to the ancient image of the economy of the city.  The piece can be downloaded here, and I’ve embedded it in the document below.

Pauline and Early Christian Corinth: Recent Publications

Some very interesting scholarship from 2010 related to St. Paul’s Christian community, including the social and political context of Roman Corinth and individuals within the Pauline community.  A dissertation on Apollos and some three articles on Erastus. Margaret Mitchell’s Paul, the Corinthians, and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics looks excellent.  Her first chapter caught my eye: “The Corinthian diolkos: Passageway to Early Christian biblical interpretation.”  Nice image.

I conclude this overview of 2010 with bibliography on 2 Corinthians, Pauline and Early Christian Corinth, and Reading the Corinthians.  Thanks again to Tara Anderson for help in creating these lists.

1 Corinthians – 2010 Publications

Keeping up with the scholarship on 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians must require a lot of work.  The following list is not comprehensive but it does give a sense of some of the currents in scholarship on 1 Corinthians in the last year.  I include academic publications (books, articles, dissertations, and master’s theses) that relate to 1 Corinthians.  I will post separately on 2010 publications in 2 Corinthians and the Pauline context.  If you produced an academic publication  in 2010 that can be added to the following list, feel free to send it my way.  The updated list will live permanently here.

Thanks to Messiah College history student Tara Anderson for help in putting this list together.

1 Corinthians: Commentaries and Studies

Carter, C.L., The Great Sermon Tradition as a Fiscal Framework in 1 Corinthians: Towards a Pauline Theology of Material Possessions (T & T Clark)

Ciampa, R.E. and B.S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

Lockwood, G.J., 1 Corinthians (Concordia Popular Commentary)

Zeller, D. Der erste Brief an die Korinther, (Vandenhoeck + Ruprecht Gm)

1 Corinthians: Studies of Particular Passages / Subjects

Collier, C.P. “Proclaiming the Lord’s Death: An Exegesis of 1 Cor 11:17-34 in Light of the Greco-Roman Banquet” (Master’s Thesis: Liberty University)

Finney, M.T., “Honor, Rhetoric and Factionalism in the Ancient World: 1 Corinthians 1-4 in Its Social ContextBiblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology Vol.40, No. 1

Finney, M., “Honour, Head-coverings and Headship: 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 in its Social Context” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament Vol. 33, No. 1

Gupta, N.K., “Which ‘Body’ Is a Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)? Paul beyond the Individual/ Communal Divide”.  In Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 3

Hansen, B., All of You Are One: The Social Vision of Galatians 3.28, 1 Corinthians 12.13 and Colossians. 3.11 (T & T Clark 2010)

Hiu, E., Regulations Concerning Tongues and Prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14.26-40:  Relevance Beyond the Corinthian Church (Book: T & T Clark)

Hodge, C.J., “Married to an Unbeliever: Households, Hierarchies, and Holiness in 1 Corinthians 7: 12–16” in  Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 103, No. 1

Hollander, H.W., “Seeing God ‘in a riddle’ or ‘face to face’: An Analysis of 1 Corinthians 13.12,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 32.4

Hwang, Jin Ki, Mimesis and Apostolic Parousia in 1 Corinthians 4 and 5: An Apologetic-Mimetic Interpretation (Book)

Inkelaar, Harm-Jan, “Conflict on wisdom: The Role of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 1-4” (Doctoral Thesis: Universiteit van Tilburg)

Kim, O., “Paul and politics: Ekklesia, household, and empire in 1 Corinthians 1-7”(Doctoral Thesis: Drew University).

Kwon, O.Y., “A Critical Review of Recent Scholarship on the Pauline Opposition and the Nature of its Wisdom (σοϕί α) in 1 Corinthians 1—4” in Currents in Biblical Research Vol. 8, No. 3

Kwon, O.Y., “Discovering the Characteristics of Collegia—Collegia  Sodalicia and Collegia Tenuiorum in 1 Corinthians 8, 10 and 15” in Horizons in Biblical Theology Vol. 32, No.2

Lakey, M.J., Image and glory of God: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 as a Case Study in Bible, Gender and Hermeneutics (T & T Clark 2010)

Parrish, J.W., “Speaking in Tongues, Dancing with Ghosts: Redescription, Translation, and the Language of Resurrection” in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses Vol. 39 No. 1

Seebarran, R.R., “1 Corinthians 15:12: The Corinthian Controversy Over the Resurrection of the Dead.” ( Master’s Thesis: Wycliffe College)