The Ancient Olympic Games were a very famous event in ancient times. Taking advantage of their popularity, Paul used them (specifically, the Stadion/200 metres and boxing games) in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to illustrate his teachings (maybe in the same way Pope Francis does with football?) by comparing the race to life, the prize to salvation, the fighting to Christian life:

Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

Was the usage of sports to illustrate religious teachings (in the same way Paul and Francis did) or to comment a church statement (by analogy, etc) a common thing in ancient times? Do it occur in other places of the Bible, and did other popes do it?

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    This question is not opinion based. It asks for biblical references to the Olympic Games.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 11:34
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    You were looking for verse-identification, which has a contentious topical status on this site.
    – user3961
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 20:19
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    For this question, I won't vtc, but there are currently 4, so it's probably going to happen. The first part "Are there other verses referecing the games?" is not one I particularly like, as that is more like a literature/history/Olympic kind of question, and not really about Christianity. The other question, "have other popes used sports illustrations?" I find both topical and interesting. With both in this post, the question is too broad. With just the first, you may get closed. With just the second, I bet you'd be just fine.
    – user3961
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 20:22
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    Just because Paul writes about athletic events doesn't mean he is writing specifically about the Olympic games. If I were to write today that "Every footballer trains so he can win the cup" it doesn't mean I'm specifically referring to the World Cup. It could be any cup or no specific cup. Neither I nor Paul would probably care which prize our readers thought we were referring to. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 20:53
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    @bradimus, Yes, I'm wrong, thanks. It was not 100 metres, but the 200 metres. Actually, Paul talked about the Stadion, which had about 180~190m, and is the precursor of the modern 200 metres (the Usain Bolt race). Stadion was a greek race and a unit of length based on the race.
    – Seninha
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


One other in NT is this:

And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully. - 2 Timothy 2:5 (ASV).

Paul's point to Timothy is that he must be disciplined and willing to suffer hardship in order to please God and obtain the reward.

Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us


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