Why Did Paul Preach Christ Crucified among the Corinthians? A New Answer to an Old Question

Interpreters have answered the question posed in the title of this paper in sundry ways. Theological and rhetorical considerations notwithstanding, most scholars have suspected that congregational and autobiographical factors also shaped Paul's decision "to know nothing among [the Corinthians] except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). This study posits that in addition to various forces at play in Corinth one should pay careful attention to a heretofore neglected influence, namely, Paul's proclamation and its reception in Thessalonica as evidenced by 1 (and 2) Thessalonians. It appears that Paul's emphasis upon Christ's parousia while in Thessalonica prompted some within that assembly to fixate upon the soon-to-come Day of the Lord. When in Corinth c. AD 50, Paul maintained consistent communication with the Thessalonians and was all too aware of the problems that preoccupation with the parousia was causing that church. Arguably, this is one reason why Paul determined to emphasize Christ's cross over Christ's coming when preaching the gospel in Corinth. As it happens, Paul's proclamation in Corinth does not appear to have been as enthusiastically received as his preachment in Thessalonica. This may be attributable to any number of theological and contextual factors. Interestingly, the symbol of the cross remained a scandal for Christians long after believers readily embraced the word of the cross that Paul declared in Corinth (and elsewhere).