Among the Greeks the rage for theatrical exhibitions was such that every city of any size possessed its theatre and stadium. At Ephesus an annual contest was held in honor of Diana. It is probable that St. Paul was present when these games were proceeding. A direct reference to the exhibitions that I took place on such occasions is made in (1 Corinthians 15:32) St. Paul's epistles abound with allusions to the Greek contests, borrowed probably from the Isthmian games, at which he may well have been present during his first visit to Corinth. These contests, (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7) were divided into two classes, the pancratium, consisting of boxing and wrestling, and the pentathlon, consisting of leaping, running, quoiting, hurling the spear and wrestling. The competitors, (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5) required a long and severe course of previous training, (1 Timothy 4:8) during which a particular diet was enforced. (1 Corinthians 9:25,27) In the Olympic contests these preparatory exercises extended over a period of ten months, during the last of which they were conducted under the supervision of appointed officers, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The contests took place in the presence of a vast multitude of spectators, (Hebrews 12:1) the competitors being the spectacle. (1 Corinthians 4:9; Hebrews 10:33) The games were opened by the proclamation of a herald, (1 Corinthians 9:27) whose office it was to give out the name and country of each candidate, and especially to announce the name of the victor before the assembled multitude. The judge was selected for his spotless integrity; (2 Timothy 4:8) his office was to decide any disputes, (Colossians 3:15) and to give the prize, (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philemon 3:14) consisting of a crown, (2 Timothy 2:6; 4:8) of leaves of wild olive at the Olympic games, and of pine, or at one period ivy, at the Isthmian games. St. Paul alludes to two only out of the five contests, boxing and running, more frequently to the latter. The Jews had no public games, the great feasts of religion supplying them with anniversary occasions of national gatherings.
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