I Corinthians/I Clement are not evidence for a church at Corinth

In Satyricon, written in the 50s or 60s CE, we learn that the famous Corinthian bronze was an alloy. The term “Corinthian” in common parlance could have denoted “mixtures” in general.

I Corinthians and 1 Clement are pastoral letters concerning mixtures of doctrines. (See 1 Cor 1.11 and 1 Clem 1.1) Both letters were addressed to the church at Corinth. The possibility of a popular meaning to “Corinthians” means that I Corinthians and I Clement are not evidence for a church at Corinth, at least in the late first and early second centuries. Rather, I propose instead that the term “Corinth” immediately indicated to the readers/listeners the topic of the letters. The addressee, the purported church at Corinth, may have been fictional.

Here is the relevant passage from Satyricon, Chapter 50:

[scene: Trimalchio’s dinner party. The cook has just theatrically gutted a stuffed hog.] The whole household burst into unanimous applause at this; “Hurrah for Gaius,” they shouted. As for the cook, he was given a drink and a silver crown and a cup on a salver of Corinthian bronze.

Seeing that Agamemnon was eyeing the platter closely, Trimalchio remarked, “I’m the only one that can show the real Corinthian!” I thought that, in his usual purse-proud manner, he was going to boast that his bronzes were all imported from Corinth, but he did even better by saying, “Wouldn’t you like to know how it is that I’m the only one that can show the real Corinthian? Well, it’s because the bronze worker I patronize is named Corinthus, and what’s Corinthian unless it’s what a Corinthus makes?

And, so you won’t think I’m a blockhead, I’m going to show you that I’m well acquainted with how Corinthian first came into the world. When Troy was taken, Hannibal, who was a very foxy fellow and a great rascal into the bargain, piled all the gold and silver and bronze statues in one pile and set ’em afire, melting these different metals into one: then the metal workers took their pick and made bowls and dessert dishes and statuettes as well. That’s how Corinthian was born; neither one nor the other, but an amalgam of all. (emphasis added)

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