Chloe and the Corinthians

“For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:11)

Early on in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, readers are briefly introduced to a woman named Chloe.   Very little is known about this woman, but by patching together a handful of Bible passages along with some historical information, a simple sketch of this early Christian can be created.

The Head of a Household?

The fact that Paul recognized a group of people as belonging to Chloe is noteworthy.  Normally, during this time in history (50s AD), the name of a husband, or father would have been used.  This presents some possibilities.  Perhaps Chloe was a widow.  Perhaps she never married, but had inherited or earned some wealth.  Perhaps she had a husband who never embraced Christianity the way she did and so, was uninvolved.

While some theories suggest that Chloe lived in Ephesus, a more common assumption is that she lived in Corinth.  It appears that she could see some disturbing problems evolving within the new Church there and so sent some emissaries to Paul, hoping for some intervention.

Who Were Chloe’s People?

Who exactly “Chloe’s people” were is intriguing as well.  The Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible uses the words, “by them that are of the house of Chloe.”  Another translation cites “people from Chloe’s family” (Good News Translation).  A variety of commentaries suggest that Chloe’s people could have been family members, servants, slaves, employees, or members of a possible House Church at her home.

There are three interesting names to consider that come up in the closing of Paul’s letter:  Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus were from Corinth and visiting Paul (who was in Ephesus at the time) when he wrote this letter containing Chloe’s name.  It seems very plausible that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus were “Chloe’s people.”  It is also possible that these three returned to Corinth to deliver Paul’s letter to the Christians there.

Some Background on Corinth

First-century Corinth was a city on an isthmus in Greece (then in the Roman Province of Achaia) which held ports on both sides of the isthmus, serving both the east and west portions of the Mediterranean region.  This geographical circumstance helped the Corinthians to develop a very impressive center of commerce.  Due to the large influx of foreigners, trading, and shipping, Corinth was also a center of cultural diversity.  Many thoughts, traditions, and ideas were shared there.  Some have asserted that such a diverse and active city prompted a fair amount of crime and immoral behavior.

The Problems that Chloe’s People Reported

We can learn about the problems of the early Church of Corinth through the Biblical book we now call The First Letter to the Corinthians.  A lack of cohesiveness was clearly one of the bigger issues.  The average house in Corinth was pretty small, so there was probably a need for number of House Churches in the city and it seems that divisions evolved over time between the House Churches; different loyalties, varying liturgical practices, and some attitudes of spiritual superiority came about.

In his letter, Paul addressed these problems and more.  Understanding the great need for unity, he implored the Corinthians to pull together and to regard themselves as parts of one body; all requiring the strengths of each other.  It is also in this book that one of Paul’s great discourses on love is written – 1 Corinthians 13.  So often this passage is read at weddings nowadays, but at the time of Paul and Chloe, it was directed to the people of Corinth who had put associations, knowledge, and a competitive spirit above a primary message of Christ – to love one another.

A Young, Growing Church

The name Chloe is Greek and means a young, green, growing shoot.  What a perfect name for a person who evidently made efforts to find nurturing for the young, green, growing church of Corinth.  It appears that Chloe understood the need for assistance and so got word to Paul.  This probable move of Chloe’s proved to be a great blessing for Christians for nearly 2000 years now.  Thanks to the correct awareness and caring hearts of Chloe and her people, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians has been, and still is, a treasure full of knowledge and truth for countless Christians.

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.  Your every act should be done with love.”  (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Some Gems of Advice to Ponder, Thanks to Paul, Chloe, and the Corinthians:

The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Strive for great devotion in marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

Live the life God calls you to live. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

Avoid pride of knowledge. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

We must bear God’s trials for us.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

All members of the Church have need for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:4-26)

Love is a crucial element to all spiritual gifts.  (1 Corinthians 13)


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