The Apostle Paul’s Crown That Would Not Last

The Apostle Paul’s Crown That Would Not Last

The Isthmian Games are very prominent in Phoebe’s Journey Part 1: Of Passion And Pride. Historical records tell us they probably started in the 6th century BC, took place every two years in the Corinth area, and alternated with the other three Panhellenic games. Most likely these games are part of the reason the Apostle Paul, Priscilla and her husband Aquila, set up their tent-making enterprise in Corinth.

The Isthmian Games focused primarily on combat sports. The other three Panhellenic games (Olympics, Pythian, and Nemean) included running sports, as well as combat sports.

Here are the events we know occurred during the Isthmian Games:

  • Greek boxing
  • Greek wrestling
  • Pankration [A brutal combat sport with few rules]
  • Chariot racing

Victors at the festival were awarded a crown of celery. When Greece became part of the Roman Empire, the crown changed Isthmian_Games; Crown; Apostle_Paulfrom celery to laurel leaves. Eventually, the laurel wreath became a symbol of accomplishment and distinction. The expression “resting on one’s laurels” refers to someone relying on past successes for continued recognition. At some universities the laurel wreath is used as a symbol of the master’s degree. The word laureate in poet laureate refers to the laurel wreath. Even the Boy Scouts have borrowed from the Isthmian tradition and put a wreath of service on their patches as a symbol of service. 

When the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he knew the Christians reading it would understand his reference to the crown awarded at the Isthmian Games:

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.

1 Corinthians 9:25

 

 


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