I suspect that everyone reading this post saw either the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympics or at least a few news clips about it. The Olympics originated with the Greeks centuries before Christ. The Isthmian games were conducted at Isthmia, a few miles from Corinth.
Paul used several illustrations relating to athletics in the epistles to the Corinthians.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NASB)
The Greeks had two words for crown. The diadema was the crown of the king. The stephanos was the crown of the victor in the races. This is the term used by Paul in the text above (the word wreath). Here is a photo of a nice sculpture displayed in the Athens National Archaeological Museum showing a young athlete wearing the stephanos. Incidentally, the stephanos was often made of olive branches, or other perishable items.
Young athlete wearing a crown (stephanos). Athens National Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
John also speaks of the stephanos. To the saints at Smyrna (modern Izmir in Turkey) he says,
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10).
Enjoy the Olympics, but think of the more important spiritual lessons.
China has been in the news a lot in the past years. Most recently we have seen them assuring us they could resolve a severe pollution problem within weeks. Then there were all of those toys containing lead. One day we told our little grandson to take something from his mouth that he had picked up off the floor. He said, “Why, was it made in China?” We heard that the media in China to cover the Olympics would have free access to the Internet, but then certain sites were blocked.
More serious than all of this are those matters pertaining to human rights and the restriction of religious rights. In 1986 we carried a few Bibles into the country and gave them to individuals or left them where they might be picked up. Several friends who have visited China, or lived there for short periods, have mentioned the restrictions and the secrecy under which Christians meet for study of the Bible and the worship of Christ.
Here is a photo I made in 1986 in one of the cities we visited. The only news the people got was what the government posted for them. Such censorship is deplorable whether in China or elsewhere. It is based on fear. I was in Bangkok when I learned of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The next few days in Hong Kong I saw marches protesting what was happening in mainland China. Several people had copies of newspaper reports about the incident. They wanted us to fax or mail them to their friends in China.
Men lined up to read the news in China in 1986. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
We hope the time will come when the people of China will have free access to the Bible and all other information so readily available to those who live in freedom.
The media, especially NBC, is giving lots of attention to the upcoming Olympic games from China. Many changes have taken places in China over the past few decades. Some good; some not so good. In 1986 we took a tour to China. This morning I dug out a photo of the group that we made before climbing the Great Wall, and thought that some of you might enjoy seeing it.
Wonders of China group led by Ferrell Jenkins at the Great Wall in 1986.
If you know some of the folks who have traveled with us in the past you may click on the image to see a larger copy.
Within the past two weeks the Olympic torch was lighted at Olympia, Greece, amid political disruption. Important games were held by the Greeks at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia. Isthmia is located just a few miles from ancient Corinth, near the modern Corinth Canal.
The Isthmian Games, conducted biennially in honor of Poseidon, were second in importance to the Olympics. Discoveries at Isthmia have included starting gates for the races. Professor Oscar Broneer, who excavated at Corinth, indicates that Greek athletics had become corrupt and degraded during Paul’s lifetime [like professional sports in too many places, perhaps?]. Broneer suggested that Paul was present during one of these athletic festivals (Biblical Archaeologist, Feb., 1962; Acts 18). Here is a photo from Isthmia.
Paul made many references to athletic contests, especially in the letter to the church at Corinth. There are references to the races, and to boxing in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The victor’s crown at the Isthmian Games was made of wilted celery! This makes Paul’s reference to a “corruptible crown” come to life, doesn’t it (1 Corinthians 9:25)?
Note of Explanation. You may wonder how I could upload photos of Isthmia but not of those taken in the past few days. This post was already uploaded from home a couple of weeks back. Since I am still limited here I wanted to share this with you. And, the next tour is Steps of Paul and John.