Fund-raising in Corinth : a socio-economic study of the Corinthian church, the collection and 2 Corinthians
Paul's collection for the poor in Jerusalem has been neglected in recent New Testament scholarship, and the two monographs by Keith Nickle and Dieter Georgi have largely treated the topic from a historical-critical perspective. The collection however was primarily a socio-economic project. This study seeks to place Paul's collection in its original socio-economic setting, specifically in the Corinthian church of the first century. Part one deals with method, an important and often controversial element in studies of the social world of the New Testament. The first chapter of this section surveys the general debates, problems and theories in social-scientific methods, with especial focus on the use of models. It is concluded that models are both necessary and limited. The second chapter addresses specific issues in socio-economic studies of the New Testament world. A proper understanding of the issues and debates in economic history is critical to the interpretation of economic texts and data, and the proper description of socio-economic structures in the Graeco-Roman world. There are several socio-economic models which could be applied to Roman Corinth of the first century. Part two describes the socio-economic context of Roman Corinth and the Corinthian church from the perspective of economic models. The first chapter of the section suggests that the economy of Roman Corinth was relatively diversified and robust, and that significant numbers of the non-elite had real opportunities to be economically self-sufficient and to be socially mobile. This, it is suggested, is not consistent with the Finleyan model of the economy and the city. Rather Roman Corinth was a commercial city in which economy was primarily based on commerce rather than agriculture. From this picture of economy, the social structure of Roman Corinth was not in fact merely divided between the elite and the non-elite, but rather divided along various gradations, especially within the non-elite. The second chapter evaluates the consensus view that Paul's congregation in Corinth represented a wide cross section of Corinthian society and specifically considers the recent challenge to the consensus view by Justin Meggitt. The early churches have similar social structures with voluntary associations and with Roman households, which suggests that there was considerable internal social disparity. It is concluded that the consensus view remains essentially correct, where some early Christians were relatively higher on the social scale than others. These wealthier Christians held to similar values to the elite of Graeco-Roman society and behaved as the elite would have done in their sphere of influence. Part three looks at the collection project specifically as a means of illuminating the discussion over the social make-up of the Corinthian church, and other early Christian churches, and its role in the conflict in the church and in 2 Corinthians. The first chapter of the section socio-economically locates the communities which participated in the collection, with specific focus on the Corinthian church. The socio-economic approach enhances the understanding of the collection as a means for material relief and the socio-economic location of the Corinthian church as relatively wealthy when compared to the Jerusalem church and the Macedonian churches. 2 Corinthians 8-9 only makes complete sense in light of wealthy Christians who had misconstrued the collection as an act of patronage. The second chapter discusses the collection in the conflict setting reflected in 2 Corinthians and concludes that the collection was the main occasion for 2 Corinthians as a whole. Paul's response entails an alternative economy of God which must overshadow both the real economy of Corinthian church and the competitive economy of Corinthian society.