I wanted to keep a low profile during the recent STM
biblical study tour to Greece. Then the spiritual directors, Rev Dr Lim Kar
Yong and Rev Dr Paul Baker decided to have a Bible quiz for all the
participants of the two buses. The question was “How many biblical metaphors
about athletics preparing for their races can you find in the New Testament?” I
opened my mouth. To my dismay, I find myself being crowned with an olive wreath
for being winner of the quiz. And on the very stadium of ancient Olymphia where
the winners of the Olymphic games were crowned. So much for keeping a low
profile. It is on Youtube now.
There are quite a number of metaphors and the seven
1. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
12 Therefore, since we are
surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that
hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us,
2. Philippians 2:16 (NIV)
16 as you hold firmly to the word
of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not
run or labor in vain.
3. Galatians 2:2 (NIV)
2 I went in response to a revelation
and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the
gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running
and had not been running my race in vain.
4. Galatians 5:7 (NIV)
7 You were running a good race. Who
cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
5. 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I
have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
6. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (NIV)
24 Do you not know that in a race
all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get
the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that
will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I
do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
7. 2 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
5 Similarly, anyone who competes as
an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to
I am sure there are more similar biblical references. The
Greeks and Romans are crazy about sports. Like we moderns with our football,
basketball, baseball, boxing and other sporting events, they too have their
sporting favorites. The winners, like ours, are celebrities. They were crowned
with wreaths and rewarded with fame, riches and statures made in their lifelikeness.
Similar to what our sport celebrities received today. The Olympic Games were
held in the sanctuary of Zeus in ancient Olympia every four years, commencing
around 776 B.C.E. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic
Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian
Games thus ensuring that there were some events taking part in different part
of the country in consecutive years.
The New Testament is full of metaphors about athletics
preparing themselves for their races. This is especially relevant to the
Hellenistic listeners who are embedded in a culture of athletic endeavors from
the four Greek. Recent excavations at Olympia which is the site of ancient Olympics
brought to light the temples, training sites and the stadium itself while the
annual games are being held. As with all Greek life, there is a strong
religious and political connections of the games with the city-states. Whether
they were the Greeks, Mycenaeans, Macedonians or later the Romans, what stood
up is their shared heritage of Greek culture. Being Greek is not so much as
living in a certain area as sharing a common legacy of shared values and
beliefs. Ancient Greeks were made up of a number of warring city-states. The
Games was an event where all city-states has to lay down their arms and declare
a three month truce to take part. Offender will be attacked by the combine
might of all the other city-states. Not only this allowed time for farming, it
enhanced the Games as the religious and socio-political event in their annual calendar.
The Game is associated with peace under the watchful eyes of Zeus.
Christian spirituality is the interaction of my daily life, my Christian belief, my thoughts, my dealing with people, and my experience of God. Here are my random musings and reflections on life, God and all that stuff
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