The Christian Marathoner: Athletic References in Paul’s Epistles


  • Elias L. Taylor Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Department of Applied Social and Political Science Coppin State University 2500 W. North Avenue Baltimore, MD 21216-3698



Epistolography, Evangelism, Hellenism, Sport.


When the Apostle Paul came to Corinth, most likely in the year 50 AD, Corinth had regained its cosmopolitan importance after its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC. Once again it was a prominent and flourishing commerce city.  Its bustling population developed the city and its port to be a vital connecting link between Italy and the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. After a century of virtual abandonment, Corinth’s Isthmian Games were once again celebrated in the same festive manner as they had been in the past. Since Paul, on his first visit remained in Corinth for eighteen months, as indicated in the book of Acts of the Apostles, he must have been present at the Isthmian Games held in the spring of 51 AD. This experience, as well as those of his own youthful Hellenic and Judaic educational upbringing, gave Paul the opportunity to re-acquaint himself with pagan rituals and use athletic images to spread his evangelical message. Although there is no documented evidence that Paul was an athlete, this qualitative analysis of Alexandrine Greek text, which Paul used to write his epistles, as well as archaeological evidence, points out Paul’s usage of many athletic/sport related references (words) in spreading his evangelical message.  In the arena of Christian spiritual contests, Paul was an exceptional Isthmian “athlete”.


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