Friday, October 14, 2011

Chloe’s People: Gossip? (I Corinthians 1:11)

In which city did Chloe’s people live? Corinth (I Corinthians 1:11)

While working in Ephesus, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church which he had founded (I Corinthians 16:8). Paul’s letter was topical, addressing conflicts that existed within the church. Paul remained familiar with the Corinthian news as he had informants in the form of “Chloe’s people” (I Corinthians 1:11).

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. (I Corinthians 1:11 NASB)
This is the only time Chloe’s name appears in the New Testament. Any other statements regarding her are speculative.

Paul’s informants were most accurately “Chloe’s “people”. Though this is reflected in many translations (ESV, NASB, NRSV, RSV), it is not the most common rendering. “Family” (CEV), “house” (KJV, MSG) and “household” (ASV, HCSB, NIV, NKJV, NLT) are all used in prominent translations of this passage. Even so, Chloe’s people were likely unrelated to her. Family would customarily be identified through the name of the father (not the mother) even if the father was deceased.

Gordon D. Fee (b. 1934) summarizes:

Most likely, therefore, Chloe was a wealthy Asian–whether a Christian or not cannot be known–whose business interests caused her agents to travel between Ephesus and Corinth. Some of them had become Christians and members of the church in Ephesus. (Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 54)
Were Chloe’s people correct to tell Paul of the shortcomings of the Corinthian church? When have people informed others of your actions? How did it make you feel?

Paul names his informants. They give validity to his letter. In naming them, Paul brings everything out into the open. Evidently, Chloe’s people proved to be a reliable source.

In a very real sense, Paul relied on gossip. Though gossip has a pejorative connotation, this has not always been the case. The word is from Old English godsibb, from god and sibb, the term for godparents.

Richard Lischer (b. 1943) writes:

A gossip was a sponsor at baptism, one who spoke on behalf of the child and who would provide spiritual guidance to the child as it grew in years. A gossip was your godmother or godfather. Gossiping was speech within the community of the baptized...For all its negative assocations, gossip retains something of its salutary function in a small town. (Lischer, Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery, 95-96)
When is gossip be helpful? When is it hurtful? How do you determine the difference?

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