The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

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Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

One of the prizes at the Istmian games was a wreath, sometimes made of pine branches (see picture above) and at other times of wilted(!) celery leaves.  Thus Paul’s “They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” certainly rings true!

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The grave stela of an unnamed athlete who won games at at least 8 different venues. Inside of the crowns are the names of the games. In the upper left wreath “Olympia” is noted and in the lower right “Pergamum.” Note the variety of “wreathes.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

To view additional images of this and other stelae from Isthmia Click Here.

The terms “prize,” “victor’s wreath,” etc. are common in New Testament imagery.

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One response to “The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

  1. Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
    Many Christians, when they read this admonition to run to win the race, think of racing many opponents because this is a feature of modern competition. Christians can be confused as to who they are competing against and may think this verse speaks of competing ministries. I do not think the verse refers to competing against other Christians, rather, the struggle between the “old” and “new man” within a believer. Paul here refers to a two person race as evidenced by the accompanying figure of boxing the body negating the lusts of the flesh (beating the body to submit it to the new person). Both metaphors are for the ultimate purpose of not being disqualified through the lack of self control. It is the same as presenting one’s body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12.1-2). The old person is rendered inoperable by denying the old self and taking up their cross in following Christ (Mt.10.38-9).

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