What Did People Do For Entertainment During Biblical Times?
What did people used to do for fun and entertainment during biblical times?
We know that the Apostle Paul probably was referring to the Olympic Games when he was writing about training one’s self in godliness. In writing about the Christian faith, he wrote, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1st Cor 9:24) and later wrote, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1st Tim 4:7-8). By the time Paul was writing this, the Olympic Games had been around for a few hundred years (beginning in 776 BC) so most of his readers knew what he meant when using them as an analogy. These games included running since that was one of the primary ways that messages were transported in the ancient world. A man could run where a horse could not so these men often became the athletes of the games and so these footraces included short races for speed and long races such as marathon’s, therefore, some races were for endurance and some for quickness. There was also was also the discus throw and wrestling contests, but most people in the general population were never able to attend these games, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t play them in regional competitions among the local citizens. There were many more games than just the Olympics.
Children and Adult Entertainment
As far as children are concerned, there is no doubt that games of “tag” were being played and hide and seek, but also games of running, jumping, and climbing, and just as children do, they sometimes make up their own games. Most of the civilized world had never seen the Olympic Games but most at least knew about them and children would imitate these Olympic Games when they played together by having their own contests like running, jumping, and wrestling, but they also played an ancient game like marbles. The history of children having played with craved animals or images (like boats) has been around probably as long as there have been children.
There is always competition where there are people and during ancient or biblical times, crowds would often gather for many different competitive races, games or feats of strength. Because of all of these different contests and all of the different games, these “games” would draw audiences from far and wide. These contests or games were sometimes between families, rival cities, or just individuals who would travel just for the competition. These games were typically held on particular days or years, just as the Olympic Games were played every four years (called the Olympiad). Those that attended would cheer on their favorites or cities as they witnessed wrestling, races, long jumps, climbing, or displaying great feats of strength. These games might even include chariot races and horse races. Whatever they did, they drew audiences from miles around because there was little else to do for entertainment in biblical times. Other games included using a stick to move a leather ball, much like modern hockey, but without the ice. There was stick ball, not far from what baseball is like and there were jugglers, musicians, poetry, literature (mostly religious), and several different board games.
Theatre and Music
The Greeks may have perfected the art of having actors portray people in a dramatic or humorous story. There might even be music that accompanied these plays. They certainly drew huge crowds as we can see the remains of many ancient amphitheaters today. This might have been the most entertaining things to do in biblical times, at least among those who were not saved. Later, the Roman Games brutally featured gladiators and chariot races to the death. Just about anything went at some of these games and tragically, Christians would become victims for Romans in the Coliseum as they were often fed to a variety of wild animals. These were often murderous games that were graphically violent and drew larger and larger crowds as the “entertainment” grew worse and worse.
For many of the pagans who lived in the ancient days, their greatest entertainment was attending pagan temples and partaking in pagan rituals to a god that did not exist. Their “religious services” almost always included fornication with all kinds of debauchery taking place in their temple. There were usually temple prostitutes that were part of the worship service because they were involved in the sexual orgies that took place in their practices and they certainly had no shortage of wine. How tragic that they have suppressed the knowledge of God, as Paul writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Rom 1:18-19) and since “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).
Article by Pastor Jack Wellman