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Greek Word Study - Boxing

Iatrocles was a man who drew a crowd. He was tall and muscular; he was "a beautiful young man." He probably could have said with Mohammed Ali, another boxer who became famous, "Ain't I pretty!"

On one occasion in the gymnasium at ancient Naples, Iatrocles had stripped down for exercising. Although many other athletes were there that day, it was Iatrocles who attracted the most admirers. Men swarmed around to watch, as he lifted his arms high and went through the motions of a boxer. As he shadow boxed against an imaginary opponent, he gave "a most brilliant performance, in so spirited a way that he seemed more like a man in an actual contest."

But it was really just for show.

The Greek word for boxing is pukteuo (pook TYOU oh). It is closely related to the Latin word from which we get pugilsim. It is the word Paul used in 1 Cor 9:26, when he said, "I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air."

Paul used athletic allusions a number of times and he understood quite well the demands put on an athlete. It is one thing to go jogging; it is another thing to be in an actual race with someone. It is one thing to prance around swinging at the air and showing off your muscles; it is a far different thing to box with an opponent who wants to knock you out.

Mere jogging has no competition, no finish line, no prize. Mere shadow boxing involves no opponent, no danger, and no championship at stake. Paul knew that to be serious about serving Jesus he had to discipline himself like a real athlete. Only then could he finally say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown. . ." (2 Tim 4:7-8).