The Pauline Church and the Corinthian Ekklesia
An examination of Paul's Corinthian church in relation to contemporary cult groups from Mediterranean antiquity challenges accepted thinking
The Pauline Church and the Corinthian EKKLESIA: Greco-Roman Associations in Comparative Context
By Richard Last
Cambridge University Press
Reviewer: Paul Beasley-Murray
Published in the Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, this study by Richard Last, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of York, is a revision of a doctoral dissertation. It is inevitably highly technical, and certainly not geared to the general reader.
In brief, Dr Last challenges accepted thinking about the Corinthian church. On the basis of a comparative study of first-century ‘associations’ as also of a highly original reading of Paul’s letters, he argues, for instance that:
there could not have been more than 12 members of the church;
the church almost certainly did not meet in a home but rather rented a space;
Gaius mentioned in Rom 16:23 was a fee-paying guest rather than a ‘host’;
the Corinthian church charged its members a membership fee which in turn precluded the poor from membership; and the church attracted recruits by offering benefits such as ‘crowns’ and leadership positions.
Although I personally am not convinced by the arguments put forward, the knowledge of contemporary ‘associations’ is impressive, and as a result the book gives cause for much food for thought.
The Revd Dr Paul Beasley-Murray retired from full-time stipendiary ministry in 2014. His reflections on a 43-year career in ministry are available in a four volume guide called Living out the Call.