Sources: I. Howard Marshall et al., Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation (IVP, 2002); Raymond E. Brown, The New Testament: an Introduction (Doubleday, 1997); Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (Oxford, 2004).
A Roman Banquet ... Social theory from the nineteenth century concentrates on group dynamics.
1 and 2 Corinthians are especially amenable NT texts to social analysis:
They involve Greco-Roman family structures (7:1-16, 7:25-8:40),
gender relations (5:1-13, 6:15-7:9, 11:1-16, 14:33-36),
class structures (1:26, 9:1-18, 11:17-34, 2 Cor. 12:13),
civil/political relations (6:1-11),
spiritual hierarchies and factions (12-14, 1:10-17, 3:1-4:21, 10:23-33),
cultural, philosophical, and religious legacies (8-10, 6:12-20, 8:1-13), and
ethnic identities and interrelationships (7:17-24, 12:2; cf. Acts 18:4-11)
in a chaotic, problem-ridden community of believers.
In all these ways Greco-Roman social history fills in many interpretive gaps.
At the same time adequate interpretation demands knowledge of
Paul's uses of Israel's Scriptures (9:8-12, 10:1-13, 11:2-16, 14:20-25, 15:20-57),
Christian liturgy (10:14-22, 11:17-34, 16:1-4, 16:22),
theology (especially Christology [1:17-31, 15:1-58], eschatology [10:11, 13:1-13, 15:1-58], pneumatology [2:6-16, 12:1-31], ecclesiology [12-14])
(what about justification by grace through faith?!? see 1:30, 6:11),
subsequent appropriation of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Church, and
the broader context of Paul's life, missions, and personality (2:1-5, 9:19-27, 16:1-24).
The hermeneutical result is an interdisciplinary banquet of linguistics, history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literary theory, and theology.
All these factors overlap and interplay in ways that require mature judgments of readers.
... and a Lord's Supper Paul addresses each of these dynamics through the cross (1 Cor. 1:18-31). This judgment alone judges rightly.
Passage by passage, how does "Christ crucified" re-narrate all these social, theological, historical, cultural, personal factors in Corinth?
(... Where shall we focus our attention?)
How does Christ crucified transform such factors today?