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Ancient Boxing and the Apostle Paul

Another Tuesday Time Travel…

“So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air.” – 1 Corinthians 9:26

Boxer of Quirinal (1st cent. BC)
Boxer of Quirinal (1st cent. BC)

Paul, discussing his willingness to yield certain rights for the sake of winning people to Christ, uses athletic imagery to illustrate his point. So what does it mean to land your punches in Paul’s world?


Boxing Gloves
Boxing Gloves

Notice the statue above resembles a Greek man (curly beard and hair), though it likely originated in the 1st BC. During Roman times, boxing gloves included a metal piece over the knuckles which made for a heavy, brutal glove called a caestus. Missing an opponent was extremely dangerous, but not so bad as receiving a blow. Notice (below) the wounds inflicted on the boxer:





Boxing Wounds

What implications does this have for Paul’s use of the metaphor in the context of 1 Corinthians 9?

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