We're finally in 1 Corinthians in my Thessalonians and Corinthians class. Yesterday we finished up chaps. 1-4. I often call what we do when we interpret a text like this one as "writing our novels" in class. We have to fill in the gaps left by the text. It is inevitable. And when we are interpreting a text like 1 Corinthians in historical context, a lot of those gaps prove to be of a narrative nature.
Since I wrote a popular commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (meaning I didn't engage most of the scholarly literature directly and focused almost as much on application as on the original meaning)--and since I was in the Durham Postgraduate Seminar the semester James Dunn was working on his 1 Corinthians guide--I have a lot of "novel" thoughts on the situation of 1 Corinthians. :-) A lot of them came out today.
I would love to write a Paul novel! The great thing about novels is no footnotes, you don't have to justify wild hypotheses, and it doesn't matter if you're right. It's just like giving a paper at SBL!
So if yesterday's class were part of a Paul novel, it might look something like the following--although I've had to make up even more stuff to put it in this form.
Here's chapter 8 1/2, in medias res...
Paul had been working for a couple weeks with Sosthenes on the letter when yet another delegation from the Corinthian church arrived. It was Stephanas with two of his sons, Fortunatus and Achaicus. Apparently, Gaius and some others had not been happy at all for Sosthenes to represent the whole community to Paul. Indeed, several of them were far more interested that Apollos weigh in on some of their conflicts than Paul himself.
So Stephanas volunteered to take a letter from the "opposition" to both Paul and Apollos, presenting the points of greatest disagreement. The letter was largely written by Gaius and Erastus, who had much preferred Apollos' take on things to Paul's. Stephanas himself mostly took Paul's side in the debates. After all, he had been Paul's first convert in Achaia. But he was trying to help both sides find some way to work out their differences.
Paul immediately asked Sosthenes to polish and copy what they had already written based on Chloe's letter. He set to work for the rest of the day on new papyrus and had it ready the next day. It opened with several blocks of material addressing the conflicts between the two principal groups in the church, then it addressed the situation with Quartus and his step-mother. Paul lambasted Erastus for taking Chloe to Roman court and gave them advice on head coverings and the Lord's Supper in worship. The letter ended with Paul's defense of resurrection.
He could see the letter would almost double in size when he addressed their questions--absurdly long for a letter, but these things were important. At first Paul thought they might just continue on the same roll. But Stephanas' clarifications and comments made it clear that it would be best to rewrite the whole thing, and Sosthenes wanted to integrate the new material with the old in some way.
As for Apollos, Paul had no desire for him to become a cowriter now. The letter from Gaius solicited Apollos' opinion on the questions too, but Paul viewed himself as the apostle to Corinth. To answer the letter together would give the impression that the two were of equal authority in the matter. Paul hoped instead to convince Apollos of his positions and perhaps send him back to Corinth later.
One of the things that Stephanas immediately noticed was Paul's comment on those he had baptized at Corinth. Paul had only mentioned Crispus and Gaius, primarily to bring out the irony that he had actually been the one who had baptized some of his opposition. But Stephanas was almost hurt to see that Paul had not mentioned him. After all, he had been the very first person Paul had baptized at Corinth! Sosthenes immediately took dictation from Paul and added a couple sentences in the margin to be copied in later...