Imágenes de páginas

n רר

uppermost, and compelled the other to ask quarter, and confess himself vanquished. Such appears to have been the manner in which Jacob wrestled with the angel: “ And Jacob was left alone : and there wrestled a man with him, until the breaking of the day.”

The verb which we render to wrestle, is derived from the noun (pax) abak, dust or fine sand, and means to struggle in the dust, or to sprinkle each other with small dust, after the manner of wrestlers. Hence, the victory was not contested by Jacob and the angel standing, as Rollin seems to suppose, but rolling in the dust. Thus in Virgil, the happy tenants of the Elysian fields were employed : “ Some exercise their limbs on the grassy plains, contend in sports, and wrestle on the yellow. sand :"

“ Pars in gramineis exercent membræ palæstris ;

Contendunt ludo, et fulva luctantur arena." Æn. lib. vi, 1. 643. There is only another text in which the sacred writer may seem to make an allusion to this species of contest: “ For we wrestle not against flesh and blood ; but against principalities and powers ;”but as the apostle in the verse before, directs the Ephesians to put on the whole armour of God, that they might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, he must allude, not to the combat of the wrestler, who performed his exercises naked, but to the art of war, in which the combatant appeared in complete armour, and endeavoured to make the best use of every weapon, offensive or defensive, which art or nature supplied.

The only other athletic exercise to which the sacred writers allude, is the foot race. It seems to have been placed in the first rank of public games, and cultivated with a care and industry proportioned to the estimation in bich it was held. The olympic games generally opened with races, and were celebrated at first with no other exercise. The lists or course where the athlete exercised themselves in running, was at first but one stadium in length, or about six hundred feet; and from this measure it took its name, and was called the stadium, whatever might be its extent. This, in the language of Paul, speaking of the Christian's course, was “ the race which was set before them," determined by public authority and carefully measured. On each side of the stadium and its extremity, ran an ascent or kind of terrace, covered with seats and benches, upon which the spectators were seated, an innumerable multitude collected from all parts of Greece, to which the apostle thus alludes in his figurative description of the Christian life; “ Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight.”!

m Rollin's Ancient Hist. vol. i, p. 69. Gen. xxxii, 24.

Eph. vi, 12.

The most remarkable parts of the stadium, were its entrance, middle, and extremity. The entrance was marked at first, only by a line drawn on the sand, from side to side of the stadium. To prevent any unfair advantage being taken by the more vigilant or alert candidates, a cord was at length stretched in front of the horses or men that were to run; and sometimes the space was railed in with wood. The opening of this barrier, was the signal for the racers to start. The middle of the stadium was remarkable, only by the circumstance of having the prizes allotted to the victors set up there. From this custom, Chrysostom draws a fine comparison : “ As the judges, P Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. i, p. 441, 442.

9 Heb. xii, 1.

in the races and other games, expose in the midst of the stadium, to the view of the champions, the crowns which they were to receive ; in like manner, the Lord, by the mouth of his prophets, has placed the prizes in the midst of the course, which he desigus for those who have the courage to contend for them.”

At the extremity of the stadium, was a goal, where the foot races ended; but in those of chariots and horses, they were to run several times round it without stopping, and afterwards conclude the race, by regaining the other exi tremity of the lists from whence they started. It is there fore to the foot race the apostle alludes, when he speaks of the race set before the Christian, which was a straight course, to be run only once, and not as in the other, seves ral times without stopping.

According to some writers, it was at the goal, and not in the middle of the course, that the prizes were exhibited; and they were placed in a very conspicuous situation, that the competitors might be animated by having them always in their sight. This accords with the view which the apostle gives of the Christian life: “ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus." L'Enfant thinks, the apostle here compares our Lord to those who stood at the elevated place at the end of the course, calling the racers by their names, and encouraging them by holding out the crown, to exert themselves with vigour.

Within the measured and determinate limits of the stadium, the athletæ were bound to contend for the prize, r Phil. iii, 14

s Burder, vol. i, No. 551.

which they forfeited without hope of recovery, if they deviated ever so little from the appointed course. In allusion to this inviolable arrangement, the apostle tells the Corinthians: “ We will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you; for we are come as far as unto you also, in preaching the gospel of Christ.” ! It may help very much to understand this and the following verses, if, with Hammond, we consider the terms used in them as agonistical. In this view of them, the measure of the rule, (50 pergov 18 revovos), alludes to the path marked out, and bounded by a white line, for racers in the Isthmian games, celebrated among the Corinthians ; and so the apostle represents his works in preaching the gospel as his spiritual race, and the province to which he was appointed as the compass or stage of ground, which God had distributed or measured out, (suegrasy artw), for him to run in. Accordingly, “ to boast without his measure," (ver. 15, si tu apetece), and to stretch himself beyond his measure, (uzreg sx?ecverdes), refer to one that ran beyond or out of his line. 66 We are come as far as to you,” (ver. 14, exei vpwy spocraper), alludes to him that came foremost to the goal ; and “ in another man’s line," (ver. 16, sandorgia xavovi), signifies in the province that was marked out for somebody else, in allusion to the line by which the race was bounded, each of the racers having the path which he ought to run chalked out to him, and if one stepped over into the other's path, he extended himself over his line.” u

The chariot races were the most renowned of all the exercises used in the games of the ancients, and those from which the victors derived the greatest honour ; but the writer can find only one or two allusions to them in the sacred volume, and those involved in some uncertainty. One occurs in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, where he informs them of his great success in collecting a church at Ephesus : “ But I will tarry at Ephesus until pente. cost ; for a great door, and effectual, is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” The inspired writer, it is thought, alludes here to the door of the circus, which was opened to let out the chariots when the races were to begin ; and by the word avlonciuesvos, which is translated adversaries, but which Doddridge renders opposers, means the same with antagonists, with whom he was to contend as in a course. : This opposition rendered his presence more necessary to preserve those that were already converted, and to increase the number, if God should bless his ministry. Accordingly a celebrated church was planted at Ephesus; and so far as we can learn from the tenor of his epistle, there was less to reprove and correct among them than in most of the other churches to which he wrote. W

+ 2 Cor. x, 14.

u Burder's Orient. Cust. No. 529.

The other allusion occurs in his second epistle to the Thessalonians : “ Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.' Some think these words allude to the applauses given to those who made a speedy progress in the races, which constituted so important a part of the Grecian games.

The honours and rewards granted to the victors were


"I Cor. xvi, 9. * 2 Thes. iii, 1.

* Burder's Orient. Cust. vol. i, No. 525. y Ibid. No. 554.



« AnteriorContinuar »