Verse 26. "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly" - In the foot-course in those games, how many soever ran, only one could have the prize, however strenuously they might exert themselves; therefore, all ran uncertainly; but it was widely different in the Christian course, if every one ran as he ought, each would receive the prize.
The word adhlwv, which we translate uncertainly, has other meanings.
1.It signifies ignorantly; I do not run like one ignorant of what he is about, or of the laws of the course; I know that there is an eternal life; I know the way that leads to it; and I know and feel the power of it.
2.It signifies without observation; the eyes of all the spectators were fixed on those who ran in these races; and to gain the applause of the multitude, they stretched every nerve; the apostle knew that the eyes of all were fixed upon him.
1.His false brethren waited for his halting:
2.The persecuting Jews and Gentiles longed for his downfall:
3.The Church of Christ looked on him with anxiety: And he acted in all things as under the immediate eye of God.
"Not as one that beateth the air" - Kypke observes, that there are three ways in which persons were said, aera derein, to beat the air. 1. When in practising for the combat they threw their arms and legs about in different ways, thus practising the attitudes of offense and defense. This was termed skiamacia, fighting with a shadow. To this Virgil alludes when representing Dares swinging his arms about, when he rose to challenge a competitor in the boxing match:-
Talis prima Dares caput altum in praelia tollit, Ostenditque humeros latos, alternaque jactat Brachia protendens, et verberat ictibus auras. AEn. v., ver. 375.
Thus, glorying in his strength, in open view His arms around the towering Dares threw; Stalked high, and laid his brawny shoulders bare, And dealt his whistling blows in empty air. PITT.
Sometimes boxers were to aim blows at their adversaries which they did not intend to take place, and which the others were obliged to exert themselves to prevent as much as if they had been really intended, and by these means some dexterous pugilists vanquished their adversaries by mere fatigue, without giving them a single blow. 3. Pugilists were said to beat the air when they had to contend with a nimble adversary, who, by running from side to side, stooping, and various contortions of the body, eluded the blows of his antagonist; who spent his strength on the air, frequently missing his aim, and sometimes overturning himself in attempting to hit his adversary, when this, by his agility, had been able to elude the blow. We have an example of this in Virgil's account of the boxing match between Entellus and Dares, so well told AEneid. v., ver. 426, &c., and which will give us a proper view of the subject to which the apostle alludes: viz. boxing at the Isthmian games.
Constitit in digitos extemplo arrectus uterque, Brachiaque ad superas interritus extulit auras.
Abduxere retro longe capita ardua ab ictu; Immiscentque manus manibus, pugnamque lacessunt.
Ille (Dares) pedum melior motu, fretusque juventa; Hic (Entellus) membris et mole valens; sed tarda trementi Genua labant, vastos quatit aeger anhelitus artus.
Multa viri nequicquam inter se vulnera jactant, Multa cavo lateri ingeminant, et pectore vasto Dant sonitus; erratque aures et tempora circum Crebra manus; duro crepitant sub vulnere malae, Stat gravis Entellus, nisuque immotus eodem, Corpore tela modo atque oculis vigilantibus exit.
Ille, velut celsam oppugnat qui molibus urbem, Aut montana sedet circum castella sob armis; Nunc hos, nunc illos aditus, omnemque pererrat Arte locum, et variis assultibus irritus urget.
Ostendit dextram insurgens Entellus, et alte Extulit: ille ictum venientem a vertice velox Praevidit, celerique elapsus corpore cessit.
Entellus VIRES IN VENTUM EFFUDIT; et ultro Ipse gravis, graviterque ad terram pontere vasto Concidit: ut quondam cava concidit, aut Erymantho, Aut Ida in magna, radicibus eruta pinus.- Consurgunt studiis Teucri et Trinacria pubes; It clamour coelo: primusque accurrit Acestes, AEquaevumque ab humo miserans attollit amicum.
At non tardatus casu, neque territus heros, Acrior ad pugnam redit, ac vim suscitat ira: Tum pudor incendit vires, et conscia virtus; Praecipitemque Daren ardens agit aequore toto; Nunc dextra ingeminans ictus, nunc ille sinistra Nec mora, nec requies: quam multa grandine nimbi Culminibus crepitant; sic densis ictibus heros Creber utraque manu pulsat versatque Dareta.
Both on the tiptoe stand, at full extent; Their arms aloft, their bodies inly bent; Their heads from aiming blows they bear afar, With clashing gauntlets then provoke the war.
One (Dares) on his youth and pliant limbs relies; One (Entellus) on his sinews, and his giant size.
The last is stiff with age, his motions slow; He heaves for breath, he staggers to and fro. - Yet equal in success, they ward, they strike; Their ways are different, but their art alike.
Before, behind, the blows are dealt; around Their hollow sides the rattling thumps resound; A storm of strokes, well meant, with fury flies, And errs about their temples, ears, and eyes: Nor always errs; for oft the gauntlet draws A sweeping stroke along the crackling jaws.
Hoary with age, Entellus stands his ground; But with his warping body wards the wound; His head and watchful eye keep even pace, While Dares traverses and shifts his place; And, like a captain who beleaguers round Some strong-built castle, on a rising ground, Views all the approaches with observing eyes; This, and that other part, in vain he tries, And more on industry than force relies.
With hands on high, Entellus threats the foe; But Dares watched the motion from below, And slipped aside, and shunned the long descending blow. / Entellus wastes his forces on the wind; And thus deluded of the stroke designed, Headlong and heavy fell: his ample breast, And weighty limbs, his ancient mother pressed.
So falls a hollow pine, that long had stood On Ida's height or Erymanthus' wood. - Dauntless he rose, and to the fight returned; With shame his cheeks, his eyes with fury burned: Disdain and conscious virtue fired his breast, And, with redoubled force, his foe he pressed; He lays on loads with either hand amain, And headlong drives the Trojan o'er the plain, Nor stops, nor stays; nor rest, nor breath allows; But storms of strokes descend about his brows; A rattling tempest, and a hail of blows. DRYDEN.
To such a combat as this the apostle most manifestly alludes: and in the above description the reader will see the full force and meaning of the words, So fight I, not as one that beateth the air-I have a real and a deadly foe; and as I fight not only for my honour but for my life, I aim every blow well, and do execution with each.
No man, who had not seen such a fight, could have given such a description as that above; and we may fairly presume that when Virgil was in Greece he saw such a contest at the Isthmian games, and therefore was enabled to paint from nature.
Homer has the same image of missing the foe and beating the air, when describing Achilles attempting to kill Hector, who, by his agility and skill, (Poetice by Apollo,) eluded the blow:- triv men epitÆ eporuse podarkhv diov acilleuv egcei calkeiw, triv dÆ hera tuye baqeian. ILIAD, lib. xx., ver. 445 Thrice struck Pelides with indignant heart, Thrice, in impressive air, he plunged the dart.-Pope.
Verse 27. "But I keep under my body, &c." - This is an allusion, not only to boxers, but also to wrestlers in the same games, as we learn from the word upwpiazw, which signifies to hit in the eyes; and doulagwgw, which signifies to trip, and give the antagonist a fall, and then keep him down when he was down, and having obliged him to acknowledge himself conquered, make him a slave. The apostle considers his body as an enemy with which he must contend; he must mortify it by self-denial, abstinence, and severe labour; it must be the slave