THERE’S A BASKETBALL TEAM I was rooting for in the NCAA March Madness tournament of champions (past tense; they lost). So I’ve had games on the mind.
Bible folks didn’t play basketball. The Canadian hadn’t invented it yet: Dr. James Naismith, a Phys. Ed. instructor at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA, 1891.
But Bible experts, archaeologists, and historians have turned up a few of the games people played in Bible times.
Here’s an excerpt from a book I wrote, Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
“They are like children playing a game in the public square.” [biblegateway passage=”Luke 7:32″]
FROM BOARD GAMES to Olympic marathons, kids and adults in Bible times found ways to have fun.
A few games mentioned in the Bible: a mind-stretching riddle at Samson’s wedding ([biblegateway passage=”Judges 14:12″]); Olympic-style foot races mentioned by Paul ([biblegateway passage=”1 Corinthians 9:24″]); soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes “by throwing dice” ([biblegateway passage=”Luke 23:34)”].
Some of the many other games discovered, shown in ancient art, or described in writings:
- team tag
- playing catch with nuts
- jacks, played with animal knucklebones
- chess-style board games
- One of the most popular board games was a bit like checkers, but the players had to role dice to determine their next move.
A fully-preserved Egyptian board game called hounds and jackals (wild dogs) involved moving ivory pieces around a board. Half the 10 pieces are carved in the shape of dog heads, the other half as jackal heads.
When Paul spent a year and a half starting the church in Corinth, he may have seen the Olympic-style games held on the outskirts of town every two years: the Isthmian Games. Or he may have seen the actual Olympics held every four years at Olympia, southwest of Corinth about 75 miles (120 km).
From Illustrated Bible Dictionary, by Stephen M. Miller,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.