Secular And Christian Leadership In Corinth -- By: Andrew D. Clarke

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: Secular And Christian Leadership In Corinth
Author: Andrew D. Clarke


Secular And Christian Leadership In Corinth

Andrew D. Clarke

I. Introduction

The dissertation traces the influences of first century, Corinthian, secular leadership on local church leadership as reflected in 1 Corinthians 1-6 and then shows how Paul modifies the Christian understanding of church leadership.1

In the past the study of the nature and development of local leadership in the New Testament churches has often focused on the process of institutionalisation through the first two centuries and the antithesis between those churches emphasising the Spirit and charisma and those, assumed later, with formal structures and offices.

Many such studies have either been too narrowly constructed on the theological ideals of the Pauline material or too strongly dictated by modern social theory. A more appropriate method is to assess the New Testament material in the light of its social and historical background.

By comparing secular leadership in first century Corinthian society with leadership in the Corinthian church, it has been argued that one of Paul’s major concerns with the church in Corinth is the extent to which significant members in the church were employing secular categories and perceptions of leadership in the Christian community.

II. Graeco-Roman Leadership Profiles

The nature and practices of Graeco-Roman leaders can be determined both from literary as well as Corinthian epigraphic and numismatic sources. They show that social élites jostled for position and popularity in Graeco-Roman city life and status; patronage and benefaction, political enmity and oratory were crucial to a successful profile of secular, political leadership.

Wealth and property in the Graeco-Roman world formed the basis of the society’s structure and personal, social advancement. Leadership in the Roman colony of Corinth was expensive and therefore élitist. It was thus a necessary pre-requisite to be among the wise, well-born and powerful.

A leader was one who was respected, had standing and honour, was eloquent in the assembly and had a number of influential friends and clients. Furthermore he recognised and affirmed the social barriers of class and status.

III. Secular Leadership In 1 Corinthians 1-6

Within the Christian community there were some from this Corinthian social élite. This is seen at a number of points:

Firstly, the reference in 1 Corinth...

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