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The Analogy of
The Grecian Games In The Word
By J.B. Scaramastro
"afflictions" "PATHEMA, (a) a suffering, an affliction..." Bullinger page 30. According to Bullinger definition (a) is what applies to Heb. 10:32 which is the passage under consideration at present. Section (b) from Bullinger is, "(b) a passion, an affection." "... from PATHOS, suffering, signifies affliction...it is used (a) of afflictions...(b) of an evil emotion, passion... The connection between the two meanings is that the emotions, whether good or evil, were regarded as consequent upon external influences exerted on the mind ... expresses in sense (b) the uncontrolled nature of evil desires... Its concrete character is seen in Heb.2:9" Vine's page 38. It only occurs in the following passages:
Note 1: "Perfect" "TELEIOO, to complete, make perfect, so as to be full, wanting in nothing, to bring to a full end, consummate." Bullinger page 579.
Thus the Apostle Paul indicates the intensity of the contest we are involved in as spiritual athletes by indicating that we must stand fast under sufferings which are like those that Christ went through in being made complete or perfect by the Deity so that he might bring many sons unto glory. (Heb. 2:9,10). We have both a contest with the carnal mind, or sin-in-the-flesh, (Rom. 7:5; Gal. 5:24) which must be won and one because we are struggling to follow Christ. (Rom. 8:17, 18; 2 Cor. 1:5-7; Phil. 3:7-14; Heb. 10:32-34; 1Pet. 4:13; 5:9).
Let us pause now to look at some of the words which have passed into the English from the above Greek words. This list occurs as follows: agon, agonal, agonic, agonist, agonistic, agonize, agonized (adj.), agonizing, agonothete (the judge or director of public games in Ancient Greece), agony column (a paper column of personal advertisements relating especially to lost objects, missing relatives or friends, and marriage separations), antagonism, antagonist, antagonistic, antagonistical, antagonistically, antagonistic cooperation (the suppression of minor differences by two or more persons or groups to achieve a major common interest), antagonistic symbiosis, antagonize, agonistical, agonistically, agonizedly, agonizingly, athlete, athlete's foot, athlete's heart, athletic, athleticism (an intense interest in athletics), athletics, protagon (a white crystalline powder consisting of a mixture of lipides obtained from the brain), protagonism, protagonist, gym, gymkhana (a meet or festival featuring sports contests or athletic skills, gymn- or gymno- (combined form ... naked: base: uncovered), gymnasial, gymnasiarch (1: one responsible for the training of athletes in ancient Greece 2: the head or head tutor of a school or college), gymnasiast (1: a student in or graduate of a gymnasium 2: ... Gymnast), gymnasium, gymnasia, gymnast, gymnastic, gymnastical, gymnastically, gymnastic, gymnastics, gymnic, gymnics. Plus many words combined with gymn- or gymno-, gym shoe.
Returning back to our subject we were deaaling with an analysis of two statements by Paul in 1 Cor. 9:25, 27 about the training period of an athlete. We have already started looking at the first statement contained in verse 25 by considering the phrase "that striveth for the mastery." This discussion led us to consider the various names for the contestants in the games and the terms related to them. Now picking up where we left off in 1 Cor. 9:25 let us consider "is temperate" "EGKRATEUOMAI, to exercise power or mastery over; hence, to exercise self-control ..." Bullinger page 763. "... rendered "is temperate" in 1Cor. 9:25, is used figuratively of the rigid self-control practised by athletes with a view to gaining the prize." Vine's vol. 4 page 114. "... to be self-controlled, continent ...; to exhibit self-government, conduct one's self temperately ... PANTA, in everything, every way, 1 Cor. 9:25 (in a figure drawn from athletes, who in preparing themselves for the games abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence) ..." Grimm-Thayer page 167. It only occurs in 1 Cor. 7:9 "can not contain" and 1Cor. 9:25. Thus Paul is driving home the point that just as a natural athlete must exercise complete self-control in all things, which means continuous habitual discipline, so must the spiritual athlete. Paul using the cognate noun form tells the Galatians that one of the fruits of the spirit is temperance. (Gal. 5:23). Peter using the cognate noun exhorts those "that have obtained like precious faith" to add temperance to knowledge. (2 Pet.1:6).
Paul in his instructing Titus about the qualities of a bishop or overseer says that he must be "temperate" where he is using the cognate adjective. As has been said previously, his diet can not be one of wordly wisdom or vain philosophies but must be the bread of life or the word of the Deity. Likewise, he must not become self-indulgent in the ways of the world. He must remain separate from the world and all the evil that is in it if he wants to develop spiritual health and strong spiritual muscles. He must remain separate from that group described by the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 21:34, "And take heed to youselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares." Note the meaning of the Greek word for "surfeiting" which only occurs here in the New Testament: "KRAIPALE, seizure of the head; and hence; intoxication and its consequences, giddiness, headache, etc..." Bullinger page 752. It is important to note that in Scripture wine can be used as false doctrine and is no doubt what is being referred to here. Just as intoxication clouds up your mind and removes all inhibitions and eventually leads to sleep and a life time of it to death even so false doctrine destroys your ability to think clear and so the truth is lost sight of and this passes on to the suppression of the conscience and then to spiritual sleep and eventual oblivion in the grave. Therefore, the spiritual agonist or athlete must have self-control and stay away from all that is in the world that will entice him and disqualify him from the race or make him spiritually unable to endure unto the end. Consider the following quotations:
"All those who contended in these exercises went through a long state and series of painful preparations. To this exact discipline Epictetus refers. ..."Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? - Consider the requisite preparations and the consequences: you must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which you dislike; you must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the necessary and prescribed times both in heat and cold; you must drink nothing cooling; take no wine as formerly; in a word, you must put yourself under the directions of a pugilist, as you would under those of a physician, and afterwards enter the lists. Here you may get your arm broken, your foot put out of join, be obliged to swallow mouthfuls of dust, to receive many stripes, and after all be conquered." Thus we find that these suffered much hardships in order to conquer, and yet were uncertain of the victory..." Adam Clarke's commentary. vol. 6 pages 239-240.
"Horace says: "The youth who would win in the race hath borne and done much; he hath sweat and been cold; he hath abstained from love and wine" ... Tertullian, commending the example of the athletes to persecuted Christians, says: ... "They are constrained, harassed, wearied" ..." Vincent's Word Studies. vol. 2 pages 781. Can the above be said of us as spiritual athletes? Remember that they did it for a "corruptible crown" whereas we are suppose to be doing it for an "incorruptible crown". Therefore, how much harder should we be striving and agonizing so that we might be victorious in the race for aionian life? Now let us consider his second statement in 1 Cor. 9:27, " But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection."
"But," "ALLA", but, more emphatic than DE and is used to mark opposition, interruption, or transition; ..." Bullinger page 123. Paul is about to give the reason why he is not like those who run with uncertainty or those boxers who are unable to hit their opponent and, therefore, "beat the air" because their opponent is in better condition and has quicker reflexes. Thus Paul uses this term to mark the emphatic contrast between the unsuccessful type in verse 26 and what it takes to be successful in verse 27.
"I keep under," "HUPOPIAZO", to strike under the eyes, hit and beat the face black and blue, (English, give a black eye) ..."Bullinger page 430. "... literally, to strike under the eye (from HUPOPION, the part of the face below the eye; HUPO, under, OPS, an eye), hence, to beat the face black and blue (to give a black eye), is used metaphorically, and translated "buffet" in 1 Cor. 9:27 (A.V., "keep under"), of Paul's suppressive treatment of his body, in order to keep him spiritually fit (R.V. margin, "bruise") ..." Vine's page 156. It only occurs here and Luke 18:5 where it is translated "weary" and is used in Jesus' parable of he unjust judge about the woman who is seeking his aid. The judge determines to avenge her because he was worried about being worn down by her continual coming. Just as the natural athlete had to subject himself to constant self-discipline not giving into the desires of his flesh to satisfy itself and break the rules he was suppose to train and abide by, even so the spiritual athlete was to endure rigid discipline not giving into the desires of the flesh and not break the rules (the Word of the Deity) that he is suppose to train and abide by. By the use of this term Paul is indicating the intenseness of the struggle we are experiencing with our battle against the carnal mind or sin-in-the-flesh. Part of the imagery here is that of a boxer in the Greek games who is beating his opponent into submission. However, our opponent, as well as Paul's, at this point, is the thinking of the flesh or a carnal mind and what Paul is telling us is that we must blind the eyes of the carnal mind so that it can not see. Thus destroying its ability to cause you to stumble and fall. By doing this the spiritual athlete will be able to see clearly out of his spiritual eyes which will enable him to be successful. The Lord Jesus Christ gave similar advice. Consider what he says in the following passages: Matt. 5:29-30; 6:22-23; 7:3-5; 18:8-9; Mk. 7:20-23; 9:43-48; Lk. 6:39, 41-42; 11:34-36.
"and" "KAI", the conjunction of annexation, uniting things strictly co-ordinate, and, also, even, (KAI connects thoughts...)" Bullinger page 50. By the use of this term Paul indicates that both parts of this statement stand related to each other and equally important in the life of a spiritual agonist or athlete.
"bring (it) into subjection," "DOULAGOGEO", to lead as a slave, make a slave of." Bullinger page 746. "... to lead away into slavery, claim as one's slave ... to make a slave and to treat as a slave that is with severity, to subject to stern and rigid discipline..." Grimm-Thayer page 157. It only occurs in this passages in the New Testament. Thus Paul says he, and therefore we, must be victorious in the battle with the carnal mind or sin-in-the-flesh and bring it into bondage so that it might be our slave and not we the slave of it. In this manner, we can force ourselves to do the Will of the Deity which is the will of the true successful spiritual athlete. Again, looking at our analogy: just as a natural athlete had complete control over his body so that it could perform the way he wanted it to, even so must the spiritual athlete have complete control over the thinking of the flesh and the words, deeds and actions of the body so that it will perform in the way he, as a spiritually minded, individual wants it to. Upon considering the Epistles to the Corinthians, it is quite obvious that the above exhortation and admonition was needed. However, let us examine ourselves and see where we might be in need of exactly the same exhortation and admonition. Can it be said of us that we have successfully made the thinking of the flesh the slave of the spiritual man we are now suppose to be?
The above discussion basically completes that part of the analogy that deals with the training and preparation for the race. Now let us actually look at the race itself and what wass involved. In order to do this, let us return to Heb. 12:1 and pick up where we left off at.
In this passage, Paul exhorts the Hebrew brethren to "run with patience the race that is set before us, ..." By this statement Paul brings us right down to the sandy floor of the stadium and to the very starting point of the race. Now it might be asked, "What did the stadium look like, and are there terms that refer to it in the New Testament?" Firstly, consider the following quotations describing a stadium:
"... The position chosen for the stadium was usually on the side of a hill, which would furnish a natural slope for seats; a corresponding elevation on the opposite side being formed by a mound of earth, and the seats being supported upon arches. The stadium was oblong in shape, and semicircular at one end; though, after the Roman conquest of Greece, both ends were often made semicircular. A straight wall shut in the area at one end, and here were the entrances and the starting-place for the runners. At the other end was the goal, which, like the starting-point, was marked by a square pillar. Half-way between these was a third pillar. On the first pillar was inscribed excel; on the second, hasten; on the third, turn, since the racers turned round the column to go back to the starting-point." Vincent. Word Studies page 780.
"Running was one of the most popular of the Olympic games. The place prepared for the race was called the stadium because its length, which was a stadium, or six hundred Greek feet. This was equal to six hundred and twenty-five Roman feet, or six hundred and six and three quarters feet English ... The stadium was an oblong area, with a straight wall across one end, where were the entrances, the other end being rounded and entirely closed. Tiers of seats were on either side for the spectators or "witnesses." The starting-place was at the entrance end, and was marked by a square pillar. At the opposite end was the goal, where sat the judge holding in his hand the prize. The eyes of the competitors were fixed on him: "Looking unto Jesus." Heb. 12:2. The goal, as well as the starting place, was marked by a square pillar, and a third was placed between the two. The goal is the "mark" referred to in Phil. 3:14. ... The distances run were various. The most common was the space between the starting-point and the goal. Sometimes this was doubled, the race terminating where it began. Sometimes the terms of the race required a still longer distance to be run. Seven, twelve, twenty, and even twenty-four times the length o the stadium were occasionally run. This required severe effort, and was a great tax on the strength. The runners might well be exhorted to "run with patience."" James M. Freeman. Manners And Customs Of The Bible. pages 466-467.
"... The competitors raced up and down, and did not run around as we do. The track was covered with white sand. At Olympia you can still see the starting - and finishing - lines of the fourth century B.C. These were formed by letting sstone slabs, about 18in. wide, into the ground right across the course. In these parallel groves are cut about 7in. apart, which appear as if they had been used by the runners to get a toe grip ..." Marjorie and C. H. B. Quennell. Everyday things In Ancient Greece. pages 157-158.
Secondly, consider the terms that refer to the arena where the race was run:
"STADION, a stadium, that is the standard of measure, namely, a distance of 600 Greek feet or 625 Roman, ... The course for the Olympic games was a stadium in length; hence, a stadium came to be used of any course where public games were exhibited." Bullinger page 620. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
"DROMOS, a running, a race, generally of horses; metaphorically a course, career, ..." Bullinger page 191. "... course, race ... of any quick movement ... 2. foot-race, as a contest ... generally contest ... II. place for running ... 2. race-course ..." Liddell and Scott page 450. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
Note 1: "I might finish," "TELEIOO, to make perfect, consummate. (The word is used of inaugurating as king, to confirm in the kingdom, and so, of the consummation of the martyrs and glorification of the saints.)" Bullinger page 287. "... to make perfect or complete; 1. to carry through completely; to accomplish, finish, bring to an end ..." Grimm-Thayer page 618. Below are a few passages where the above word occurs with a similar meaning:
Note 2: "I have finished," "TELEO, to bring about, complete, fufil, accomplish; hence, to end, to perfect." Bullinger page 287.
Thus from the above discussion, we have a descriptive picture of the race-course and arena itself plus the fact that our Scriptural analogy even includes the terms that describe it.
Again, note the English words which have been derived from the two words that apply to the race just considered: stade (stadium), stadia (plural of stadium), stadia (1a: stadiaa rod b: a surveying method using a stadia rod), stadia hairs or stadia wires, stadial (adjective ... of or relating to a stage, stadial, or stadium), stadial (noun ... a substage of a glacial stage ...). stadia rod, stadic, stadic, stadimeter (an instrument for measuring the distance of an object of known height), stadium, stadiums, stadion, stadium Boot, drom- or dromo-, drome, -drome, dromic (of, relating to, or in the form of a racecourse), dromotropic (affecting the conductivity of cardiac muscle - used of the influence of cardiac nerves), -dromous (running).
We must now imagine our stadium filled with all those who have been successful in the race for aionian life and the herald about to make those announcements necessary for the race to begin. In the analogy, we are considering does the role of the herald come up? It most certainly does, but before seeing where let us look at a few appropriate quotations which will establish the significance of this office.
The first quotation comes from Olympic Games In Ancient Greece by Shirley Glubok and Alfred Tamarin on pages 18 and 19: "The competition for heralds and trumpeters took place that same morning. Trumpeters and heralds were important officials in the Olympic Games. The trumpeter's blast signaled the start of a race, and often the notes of the horn encouraged the competitors during the final lap. Heralds proclaimed the names of the contestants, their fathers, and the communities which they represented. They also announced the winners of each Olympic event."
The second quotation comes from Clark's Commentary. vol. 5 page 55: "As the office of a herald is frequently alluded to in this chapter [Matt. 3], and also in various other parts of the New Testament, I think it best to give a full account of it here, especially as the office of the ministers of the Gospel is represented by it. Such persons can best apply the different correspondences between their own and the herald's office.
"At the Olympic and Isthmian games, heralds were persons of the utmost consequence and importance. Their office was:
1. To proclaim from a scaffold, or elevated place the combat that was to be entered on.
2. To summon the Agonistae, or contenders, to make their appearance, and to announce their names.
3. To specify the prize for which they were to contend.
4. To admonish and animate, with appropriate discourses, the athletae, or combatants.
5. To set beforethem, and explain, the laws of the agones, or contenders; that they might see that even the conqueror could not receive the crown or prize, unless he had strove lawfully.
6. After the conflict was ended, to bring the business before the judges, and, according to their determination, to proclaim the victor.
7. To deliver the prize to the conqueror, and to put the crown on his head, in the presence of the assembly.
8. They were the persons who convoked all solemn and religious asemblies, and brought forth, and often slew, the sacrifices offered on those occasions.
9. They frequently called the attention of the people, during the sacrifices, to the subject of devotion..."
Now let us look at the word for herald in the Greek and its related words. They occur below:
"KERUX, a herald; a public servant of the supreme power, both in peace and war; one who summons the EKKLESIA, ... conveys messages; one who proclaims or communicates something." Bullinger page 596. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
"KERUSSO, to be a herald, discharge an herald's office, to make proclamation, proclaim, annonce publicly, publish announcements." Bullinger page 596. Some of the places where it occurs are listed below:
"KERUGMA, that which is proclaimed or "cried" by the herald, the command, the communication, ..." Bullinger page 597. Some of the places where it occurs are listed below:
Notice that in 1 Cor. 9:27 the Apostle Paul connects his mission as a herald of the gospel message with the analogy of the games. We have already looked at the first part of the verse so let us look at the last part of it. After giving us the principle he trained and lived by in our analogy of the spiritual agonist, which is, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:...," he goes on to say, "lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (Note Rotherham translates this as, "Lest by any means - unto others having proclaimed the contest I myself should be rejected.") Here the word translated "castaway" in the Greek is, "ADOKIMOS, unapproved, spurious, that will not stand proof, generally spoken of metals..." Bullinger page 138. "... 4. of persons ... discredited, reprobate, ..." Liddell and Scott page 24. "... not standing the test, then unqualified, worthless, base of persons ... disqualified ..." Arndt and Gingrich page 18. "... not standing the test, not approved; properly of metals and coins, ...; hence, which does not prove itself to be such as it ought ...; hence, unfit for something ..." Grimm-Thayer page 12. Thus the Apostle Paul is here considering himself as both a herald and a contestant stating that he endures the rigorous self-discipline so that when he fulfils his role as a herald and obtains the information as to who the victors are from the Judge he does not find out that he has been disqualified for not having trained and contended lawfully. To be discredited and pronounced worthless and reprobate by the Judge, whom he loved, would not only be the height of disgrace and embarrassment, but would utterly break his heart. In this manner, the Apostle Paul powerfully exhorts the brethren in Corinth to a greater expenditure of effort along these same lines. (Consider what is said in Rom. 8:13 and Col. 3:5-6.)
Another important aspect of the role of the herald is brought out in Heb. 12:1-4 and 1 Cor. 9:24-27 and that of 2 Tim. 2:5, namely, he was suppose to state what contest was being held, who were the contestants, state the rules and exhort, encourage, admonish, warn, motivate and stimulate the contestants to strive more earnestly and perseveringly for the prize. In these passages, we find the Apostle Paul doing exactly that. Therefore, let us pay heed to his words, because, if he can sound a note of warning in his own case, as he does in 1 Cor. 9:27, then how much more careful must we be? At this point, let us consider the words of the herald mentioned in the above passages.
Firstly, in 1 Cor. 9:24, the voice of Paul, the herald, rings out, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." The word for "run" is, "TRECHO, to run, hasten, hurry, ..." Bullinger page 653. "... to run: ... Metaphorically, from runners in a race, of swiftess or of effort to attain an end: ..." Abbott-Smith page 450. "... 2. figuratively - a. using the foot-races in the stadium as a basis ... exert oneself to the limit of one's powers in an attempt to go forward, strive to advance Rom. 9:16 (the emphasis is entirely upon the effort which the person makes; ..." Arndt and Gingrich page 833. "... by a metaphor taken from the runners in a race, to exert one's self, strive hard; to spend one's strength in performing or attaining something ..." Grimm-Thayer page 630. "... to run, is used ... (b) metaphorically, from the illustration of runners in a race, of either swiftness or effort to attain an end, Rom. 9:16, indicating that salvation is not due to human effort, but to God's sovereign right to exercise mercy; 1 Cor. 9:24 (second part), and verse 26, of persevering activity in the Christian course with a view to obtaining the reward; so Heb. 12:1; in Gal. 2:2 (first part), R.V., "(lest) I should be running," continuous present tense, referring to the activity of the special service of his mission to Jerusalem; (second part), "had run," aorist tense, expressive of the continuous past, referring to the activity of his antagonism to the Judaizing teachers at Antioch, and his consent to submit the case to the judgment of the [ecclesia] in Jerusalem; in 5:7 of the erstwhile faithful course doctrinally of the Galatian believers; in 2 Thess. 3:1, of the free and rapid progress of "the word of the Lord."" Vine's vol. 3 page 308-309.
The word for "ye may obtain" is, "KATALAMBANO, (LAMBANO, with KATA, down, prefixed) to take, to receive with the idea of eagerness, lay hold of, seize with eagerness, to grasp, seize upon." Bullinger page 542. "... 1-a. active and passive seize, win, attain, make one's own ..." Arndt and Gingrich page 413. It occurs in the following passages:
It is clearly seen from all of the above that Paul is exhorting the brethren at Corinth to run as fast as they can, and to exert themselves to the limit of their power constantly striving to win the race and eagerly grasp hold of the prize. Note that an important contrast is made here between the Greek games and the spiritual contest that they were involved in and that is in the Greek games there can only be one winner, "but one receiveth the prize," but in the race for aionian life all can win, "YE may obtain." (See Heb. 11:39-40 and 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
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