10 Values Of Participating In Sports In Old And New Testament

10 Values Of Participating In Sports In Old And New Testament


The benefits of participating in sports both New Testament and Old Testament are widely documented. The health and physical gains are clear but there is good evidence to suggest that physical activity can also improve mental wellbeing and academic performance.

The human brain is like a muscle and just like all of our other muscles, it grows with exercise. Regular physical activity not only promotes the growth of new brain cells and improves brain function, but it is also thought to enhance memory and thinking cells. All of these benefits can only ever have a positive impact on academic performance.

10 Values Of Participating In Sports In Old And New Testament


Sports that are at least two and a half thousand years old include hurling in Ancient Ireland, shinty in Scotland, harpastum (similar to rugby) in Rome, cuju (similar to association football) in China, and polo in Persia. The Mesoamerican ballgame originated over three thousand years ago. The Mayan ballgame of Pitz is believed to be the first ball sport, as it was first played around 2500 BCE. There are artifacts and structures that suggest that the Chinese engaged in sporting activities as early as 2000 BCE. Gymnastics appears to have been a popular sport in China’s ancient past. Ancient Persian sports include the traditional Iranian martial art of Zourkhaneh. Among other sports that originated in Persia are polo and jousting. A polished bone implement found at Eva in Tennessee, United States and dated to around 5000 BCE has been construed as a possible sporting device used in a “ring and pin” game.

Various representations of wrestlers have been found on stone slabs recovered from the Sumerian civilization. One showing three pairs of wrestlers was generally dated to around 3000 BCE. A cast Bronze figurine, (perhaps the base of a vase) has been found at Khafaji in Iraq that shows two figures in a wrestling hold that dates to around 2600 BCE. The statue is one of the earliest depictions of sport and is housed in the National Museum of Iraq. The origins of boxing have also been traced to ancient Sumer. The Epic of Gilgamesh gives one of the first historical records of sport with Gilgamesh engaging in a form of belt wrestling with Enkidu. The cuneiform tablets recording the tale date to around 2000 BCE; however, the historical Gilgamesh is supposed to have lived around 2800 to 2600 BCE. The Sumerian king Shulgi also boasts of his prowess in sport in Self-praise of Shulgi A, B and C. Fishing hooks not unlike those made today have been found during excavations at Ur, showing evidence of angling in Sumer at around 2600 BCE.


Pankration: This was a primitive form of martial art combining wrestling and boxing, and was considered to be one of the toughest sports. Greeks believed that it was founded by Theseus when he defeated the fierce Minotaur in the labyrinth.

Boxing: Boxers wrapped straps (himantes) around their hands to strengthen their wrists and steady their fingers. Initially, these straps were soft but, as time progressed, boxers started using hard leather straps, often causing disfigurement of their opponent’s face.

Equestrian events: These included horse races and chariot races and took place in the Hippodrome, a wide, flat, open space.

Wrestling: This was highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons. It ended only when one of the contestants admitted defeat.

Discus throw: The discus was originally made of stone and later of iron, lead or bronze. The technique was very similar to today’s freestyle discus throw.

Jumping: Athletes used stone or lead weights called halteres to increase the distance of a jump. They held onto the weights until the end of their flight, and then jettisoned them backwards.

Running: Running contests included the stade race, which was the pre-eminent test of speed, covering the Olympia track from one end to the other (200m foot race), the diaulos (two stades – 400m foot race), dolichos (ranging between 7 and 24 stades).

The ancient Olympic Games and the gladiatorial munera reveal a lot about their respective societies, in their beliefs and philosophy, priorities, religion and even the nature of their people.

The situation today is similar, with many famous athletes being celebrities and endorsing certain products, with some being famous for reasons other than their sporting

The ancient sports, their physique, love of a challenge and extraordinary appetites chimed with a public brought up on the immortal heroes of Greek mythology.


Some historians – most notably Bernard Lewis – claim that team sports as we know them today are primarily an invention of Western culture. British Prime Minister John Major was more explicit in 1995:

We invented the majority of the world’s great sports…. 19th century Britain was the cradle of a leisure revolution every bit as significant as the agricultural and industrial revolutions we launched in the century before.

The traditional team sports are seen as springing primarily from Britain, and subsequently exported across the vast British Empire. European colonialism helped spread particular games around the world, especially cricket (not directly related to baseball), football of various sorts, bowling in a number of forms, cue sports (like snooker, carom billiards, and pool), hockey and its derivatives, equestrian, and tennis, and many winter sports. The originally European-dominated modern Olympic Games generally also ensured standardization in particularly European, especially British, directions when rules for similar games around the world were merged.

Regardless of game origins, the Industrial Revolution and mass production brought increased leisure which allowed more time to engage in playing or observing (and gambling upon) spectator sports, as well as less elitism in and greater accessibility of sports of many kinds. With the advent of mass media and global communication, professionalism became prevalent in sports, and this furthered sports popularity in general.

With the increasing values placed on those who won also came the increased desire to cheat. Some of the most common ways of cheating today involve the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids. The use of these drugs has always been frowned on but in recent history there have also been agencies set up to monitor professional athletes and ensure fair play in the sport.

10 Values Of Participating In Sports In Old And New Testament


  1. Enhances memory and thinking skills. Research conducted by the University of British Columbia identified that regular aerobic exercise (cardiovascular activity that gets the heart pumping) appears to increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory.
  2. Stimulates the growth and health of brain cells. Exercise is known to stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that improve the health of existing brain cells as well as enhance the growth of new brain cells. Research from UCLA also found that physical activity increased growth factors in the brain.
  3. Reduces stress and anxiety. Indirectly, exercise is thought to have a significant positive influence on mood and sleep. People who suffer from stress or anxiety are more likely to encounter issues with cognitive impairment. To allow the brain to function at its full potential, it is vitally important that we all take positive steps to improve our mental wellbeing. This is especially important at a time when so many young people suffer from mental-health issues.
  4. Improves brain function. Physical activity has a direct impact on the amount of oxygen that is pumped to the brain – allowing for a more nourishing environment for brain cells to thrive. Exercise also helps to process information which can enable us to understand concepts better. If children have a good understanding of the principles and concepts being taught in the classroom they are more likely to succeed academically. It is not enough that a child simply remembers a selection of facts, they need to know the content.
  5. Improves concentration. Participating in physical activity can also help children stay focused and improve their attention spans. Studies have shown that students who participated in daily sport activities over a 12-month period became better at multi-tasking, ignoring distractions and retaining information.
  6. Sparks creativity. Recently, we discussed the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report, which placed ‘creativity’ as one of the top three skills required to thrive in the 2020 workforce. One way to enhance creativity is through physical exercise. In 2014, psychologists found that walking improved divergent thinking – the idea-generating component of creative thinking.
  7. Increases your IQ. Not only is sport a smart thing to do, it can also make you smarter. Studies have found convincing links between cardiovascular health and IQ test scores. Interestingly, adolescents aged 15 to 18 have been found to increase their IQ test results after improving their cardiovascular fitness.
  8. Sports as social phenomena is characterized by a specific cultural and general cultural function.
  9. Sport, being one of the most important means of enhancing human health, physical development and improvement, it also has a significant positive impact on his spiritual world, his attitude, emotions, moral principles, aesthetic tastes, promoting harmonious development of personality.
  10. Modern sport is also important in the development of contacts between people, not only within one country, but also internationally, playing a significant role in deepening mutual understanding between peoples, helps to create a climate of trust and peace.


For a long time the history of sport was not taken seriously, being seen as mere play. Today, however, sport is undeniably a central topic for historical scholarship. The immense importance of sporting competition in society is evident all around us, and especially in the light of major global events such as the Olympic Games or the Soccer World Cup. Few other events unite so many people, whether in the stadium or in front of the television, and nowhere else can social tension and ambivalence be seen as clearly as here. Sport represents understanding among nations as much as the persistence of hostile stereotypes; a discourse of equality as much as of discrimination; a common agreement on written and unwritten rules as much as pure pragmatism.

Sport is an important part of today’s society and plays a large role in many people’s lives. Now more than ever, sport events dominate headlines and athletes have become national heroes. Sport has been and continues to be practised in all human societies. Nowhere, however, was its social importance so high as in ancient Greece. In the Greek view, a man’s value was measured above all by his physical capabilities.

Accordingly, successful athletes were honoured in their home cities and were famous throughout the Greek world. Sport was a popular topic in ancient literature and fine art. The largest surviving corpus of classical Greek poetry is Pindar’s Odes for victorious athletes. Depictions of athletes are a recurring motif on vases and, according to Pausanias’ Description of Greece, the victory statues at Olympia constituted the most important collection of statuary in the ancient world. In the light of its paramount social significance, in ancient history in particular, sport is a highly productive object of research.

10 Values Of Participating In Sports In Old And New Testament


David Gilman Romano (1993). Athletics and Mathematics in Archaic Corinth: The Origins of the Greek Stadion. American Philosophical Society. pp. 10

Gary Barber (1 February 2007). Getting Started in Track and Field Athletics: Advice & Ideas for Children, Parents, and Teachers. Trafford Publishing. pp. 25.

Crowther, Nigel B. (2007). Sport in Ancient Times. Praeger series on the ancient world, ISSN 1932-1406. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. xxii.

Garry Whannel (2005). Media Sport Stars: Masculinities and Moralities. Routledge. p. 72.

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