Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. The population during the time of Paul is set around 50.000 people. Since it was a seaport, the city was frequented by people from different parts of the world and different backgrounds - sailors, adventures, and swindlers - those wanting to get rich fast by dubious means. Thus, Corinth was notorious for its immorality. Sex industry was booming. The patron goddess of the city was Aphrodite. She had splendid temple and within it plenty of female slaves for the service of strangers.
Paul spent in that city 18 months (perhaps 51–52 CE) building a church of both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 18:1–8). Paul started his missionary work in his usual fashion - beginning from the Jews and preaching the Gospel in the synagogues. Then only, because of the opposition, he moved to the Gentiles - moving his ministry to a house church of Justus (Acts 18:7). According to the Acts 18:8, Crispus - the chief rules of the synagogue believed in the Lord and then another chief ruler of the synagogue seemed to follow (see Acts 18:8 and 1 Cor 1:1). One among the members of the church in Corinth seemed to be the city treasurer - Erastus (Rom 16:23; 2 Tim 4:21), belonging to one of those few of “noble” (1 Cor 1:26).
There were more letters writing from Paul and the Corinthians. In 1 Cor 5:9, Paul speaks about the previous letter (first letter?) in which he tells them not to associate themselves with a brother, who is a fornicator, covetous, an idolaters, a railer, a drunkard, an extortioner (1 Cor 5:9–11).
The 1 letter to Corinthians was written from Ephesus (16:8) (probably around 54 CE) and it is the second letter. The reason for its writing were not encouraging news received from the community through letter (1 Cor 7:1) and through the people of Chloe (1 Cor 1:11).
Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10). Timothy’s report was so serious that Paul made a short visit directly from Ephesus to Corinth and back (2 Cor 2:1;13:2). It seems that both visits did not work out. Moreover, someone from the congregation insulted Paul (2 Cor 2:5–10).
Another lost letter, know as the “tearful letter”, mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians (See 2 Cor 2:4; 7:8). This letter was written in order to avoid another painful visit. Neither the second visit, nor the tearful letter helped. What was really happening at Corinth?
In the 2 Corinthians we seem to have two (or perhaps three?) separate letters combined into one. 2 Cor 10–13 was in defense of his apostolate and probably predates 2 Cor 1–9. Some other missionaries - called by Paul as “super-apostles” 2 Cor 11:5 - came to Corinth and questioned Paul’s ability to preach the Gospel (2 Cor 10:10; 11:6).
Probably, between 2 Cor 10–13 and 2 Cor 1–9 was the visit of Titus to Corinth. Titus finally brought the long awaiting good news to Paul. The Corinthians repented and changed their attitude towards Paul (2 Cor 7:5–15).
2 Cor 1–9 - so called the letter of reconciliation - written after the successful visit of Titus to Corinth. It also informs the community about the planned collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Some suggests that 2 Cor 8–9 - the part that deals with the collection - is in itself a separate letter.
Thus the usual order of the two canonical Corinthian letters is: 1 Cor, followed by 2 Cor 10–13, and then 2 Cor 1–9. After 1 Cor, we would have the visit of Timothy and Paul with painful consequences, followed by 2 Cor 10–13, and then the visit of Titus with a happy ending. The last would be 2 Cor 1–9 as the letter of reconciliation.
1 Cor can be divided as follows: