Hebrews 12:1 states, “Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us” (CSB).
David McClister comments,
The idea of a race with a finish line in the distance before us suits well the picture of a faith that is forward-looking and that requires determination. Josephus spoke of ‘those who have a prize before them’ and how, when they are zealous about it, they do not stop working for it. Races in Greco-Roman times were held in a public venue called a stadium, of which several ancient examples survive (Olympia, Athens, Rome, Tyre, Laodicea, Pergamum, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, Aphrodisias, Perge, Sardis, etc.). On each side of the race course was seating for spectators. The shortest races were about 210 yards, the longest were about 5,000 yards (2.8 miles), so stamina was needed for any one of them. The point of the imagery here is not about speed or who crosses first, but about endurance and running in the best possible way so as to finish what was started (A Commentary on Hebrews, p.441).
One of the best preserved Roman stadiums is at Aphrodisias (western Turkey), included in those mentioned above. This helps us understand the imagery used in the biblical text.
In running this spiritual race, the inspired writer goes on to say, “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (v.2, CSB).
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