In seven passages the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. The athletic games, that were initiated by the Greeks consisted of running, discus, jumping, javelin, boxing and fighting events. Not to mention musical, oratory, and drama contests.
A variety of foot races were held but the basic one was the length of the stadium—close to 200 yards. The length of the stadia varied from place to place. The stadium at Nemea above is well–preserved. Notice the starting area in the foreground and the embankments on both sides where the male spectators sat.
Paul wrote (also in other places):
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith
It is interesting that Jesus, in his Judean/Galilean context never uses the image of running the race—but Paul, in a Greco-Roman context does.
The races took place in the nude. The above are first century A.D. copies of third century B.C. statues.
And the writer of Hebrews:
Hebrews 12:1 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.
The above is a representation of a runner prepared for the start of the race. the pole in front of him may represent a turning pole or a finish line at the far end of the stadium. Between the runner and the turning pole is a strigil—a scraper that was used to remove olive oil, sand, dirt, and sweat.
To view more images of Nemea Click Here.
Running a race is such a powerful metaphor for the Christian life! And crossing the finish line is the best part of the runner’s experience.