Warning: This post and the one tomorrow are not for the faint of heart. They contain disturbing historical references.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
Especially notice how Paul begins this verse. He says, “For we wrestle...” From the very outset of this verse, Paul makes a very strong, pointed and dramatic statement!
The word “wrestle” is taken from the old word pale (pa-le), and it refers to struggling, wrestling, or hand-to-hand fighting. However, the word pale is also the Greek word from which the Greek derived their name for the Palastra (pa-la-stra), a house of combat sports.
The Palastra was a huge building that outwardly looked like a palace; it was a palace of combat sports, dedicated to the cultivation of athletic skills. Every morning, afternoon and night you could find the most committed, determined and daring athletes of the day working out and training in this fabulous building.
Primarily three kinds of athletes worked out at the Palastra: boxers, wrestlers and pankratists. These were exceedingly dangerous and barbaric sports.
First, their boxers were not like ours today. Theirs were extremely violent — so violent that they were not permitted to box without wearing helmets. Without the protection of helmets, their heads would have been crushed.
Few boxers in the ancient world ever lived to retire from their profession. Most of them died in the ring. Of all the sports, the ancients viewed boxing as the most hazardous and deadly. In face, these boxers were so brutal and barbaric, they word gloves that were ribbed with steel and spiked with nails! At times the steel wrapped around their gloves was serrated, like a hunting knife, in order to make deep gashes in the skin of an opponent.
In addition to this, boxers began using gloves that were heavier and much more damaging. It is quite usual, when viewing the artwork from the time of the early Greeks, to see boxers whose faces, ears, and noses were totally deformed because of these dangerous gloves.
In studying the art of the Greeks, it is quite usual to see painting of boxers with blood pouring from their noses and with deep lacerations on their faces as a result of the serrated metal and spiked nails on the gloves. And it was not unusual for a boxer to hit the face so hard, with his thumb extended toward the eyes, that it knocked an eye right out of its socket.
Believe it or not, even though this sport was so combative and violent, there were no rules — except you could not clench your opponent’s fist. That was the only rule to the game! There were no “rounds” like there are in boxing today. The fight just went on and on and on until one of the two surrendered or died in the ring.
An inscription from that first century said of boxing: “A boxer’s victory is obtained through blood.” This was a thoroughly violent sport! Continued....