I Corinthians and 1 Clement are epistles addressed to a church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians is ascribed to Paul and 1 Clement is ascribed to the leader of the Roman congregation. Both letters concern factions within a congregation (1 Cor 1.11 and 1 Clem 1.1).
It is odd that both Paul of Asia Minor, and the Roman congregation, claim pastoral authority over a church in Corinth. One would expect only one. And Corinth was sufficiently distant from both Ephesus and Rome that (if it existed) it was essentially independent.
I propose instead that there was no orthodox congregation at Corinth. I suggest that the term “Corinth” was used as a metaphor for “mixtures”–in this case, mixtures of beliefs, or factions.
The metaphor comes from the famous and precious Corinthian bronze, which was an alloy, per Satyricon, Chapter 50:
[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)
There are several places in 1 Clement that refer to the metaphor. In the first sentence the author draws attention to the name “Corinthians”! 1 Clement 1: “… we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition…that your venerable and illustrious name… has suffered grievous injury.” The metaphor of a stable mixture then appears in 1 Clement 2 “Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight.” The metaphor appears again in 1 Clement 37: “There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage.”
If 1 Clement and 1 Corinthians are not historical evidence for an orthodox church in Corinth, we are left with nothing that indicates its existence.
expanded May 10, 2021, December 11, 2201