Around 50AD a woman named Chloe was the leader of a house church in Corinth. But she was very upset because, like some churches today, her church was splitting apart. There were those who said there is only one true apostle, and that’s Paul. The wealthier, more educated people said, “Nah, Paul’s just a poor tentmaker who can’t even speak well. We follow Apollos, the teacher of wisdom.” The Jewish believers said, “Paul’s too liberal. Peter follows the law and he is our leader forever!” And the charismatic group of slaves said, “You’re all wrong. We should be following Christ alone!”
Creating a Scene in Corinth:A Simulation explores 1st Corinthians through a book by Reta Halteman Finger which provides an introduction to the Greco-Roman setting of Corinth and a chapter-by-chapter survey of Paul’s letter and in turn leads to a simulation of a church.
The book is divided into two principal parts. The first seven chapters introduce Corinth, the background to Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, and key sociological constructs such as honor-shame, slavery, patronage, and the religious world of 1st-century Corinth. They provide the essential set-up for the simulation.
The participants divide into four factions – those favoring Paul, Apollos, Peter, and the Christ group (1 Corinthians 1:12). A brief description of the background and nature of the groups gives the participants a sense of their role in the recreation. The characters represent a cross-section of Corinthian society: they include slaves and freeborn, widows and singles, and a number who have suffered deprivation and sexual abuse – much like typical society in that day. The authors encourage the readers/actors to respond to the oral text of 1 Corinthians as if the church hadn’t yet solidified its authority as God’s revelation (as the original listeners did).
Chapters 8-18 provide material for the simulation proper. For the full simulation, 11 sessions cover the entire letter of 1 Corinthians, concluding with an Agape meal and worship. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the text to be read (by someone playing the role of Phoebe or of Stephanas) during the session. After this introduction, each chapter prints out a central section of the text under consideration for the session. Following the text, several questions are posed for the characters to discuss in their respective house churches.
The book and class will be a unique way to understand the Corinthians 1 as text and the environment in which it was created.