A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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The Cultural Background

The Place of a Schema in Understanding

One of the difficulties of understanding any ancient writing is that we are so far removed in time and culture from the ancient world. De Beaugrande and Dressler have shown that a reader understands a text not just from the information within it but also from what they call "a discourse-world model", that is, "the integrated configuration of concepts and relations underlying all the texts in a discourse" (1981, 194). Within the reader's mind, these concepts are generally related by a pattern that text linguists refer to as a frame or a schema. The resultant understanding of a text is a combination of the information in the text and information in the schema (de Beaugrande and Dressler 1981, 194-205).

Where information which the reader or listener needs to supply is lacking from the schema, the result is either a failure to understand the text or a guess at the missing information, often resulting in a misunderstanding when the guess is wrong. In the absence of good evidence, scholars sometimes are apt to make incorrect guesses as well as less studied readers. With regard to the view that short hair or a shaved head was the mark of Corinthian prostitutes, Fee notes, "But there is no contemporary evidence to support this view (it seems to be a case of one scholar's guess becoming a second scholar's footnote and a third scholar's assumption)" (1987, 511). Such a guess evolves into a made-up "fact," which becomes part of a scholar's schema but was never part of the original writer's schema.

With this in mind, it is important to establish the cultural setting for several items mentioned in I Corinthians. As Pike has stated, "A context has very high power to determine or to change a meaning" (1982, 132). Thus the text cannot be understood as it was originally meant apart from an understand of its cultural context. Much of the information below is drawn from the texts of ancient authors that shed light on the cultural situation in Corinth. The reader should note that in all the following areas in which Paul admonished the Corinthians, they were following patterns that were well established in Greek society.

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