It is Ancient-Greek Wednesday! Let’s step away a bit from Attic Greek and dive into Common Greek (κοινή), which was made possible by Alexander III (The Great).
Τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα ἠγὠνισμαι. (2 Timothy 4:7)
I have fought the good fight.
He peleado la buena lucha.
Have you ever wandered why the Bible (βιβλια – books) has so many Greek names? Thank the Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria who preserved the text in the Septuagint.
But what does Timothy (Honor of God is his translated name) mean here when he places the words in Paul’s mouth? The concept of this text revolves around a single word: ‘agony.’ To the Ancient Greeks, to struggle was the stuff of life. We spoke of Romans wanting to be strong, the Greeks wanted to suffer. Whether a hero or a villain, your life would be measured in the struggle (agony) you had experienced by the time of your death. Paul is telling us that he is close to death (verse six – although he didn’t need to say it, it is obvious), and his struggle has been of the greatest sort, hence qualifying him for good judgement.
He actually uses struggle twice, first as a verb (ἠ-γὠν-ισμαι) and secondly as a noun (ἀ-γῶν-α). Also, he uses a Middle/Passive verb, which has the connotation of meaning ‘for myself.’ Our writer says he has done all possible to become worthy of good judgement after death, making himself an example of agony to all of us, at least in his mind. Notice he doesn’t claim salvation, but only the running of a good race, as any true Greek-thinking individual would do; “judgement is always left to others after we are gone” (Aeschylus); to Paul and Timothy, the judge is only thier version of God. The key is one must live the best life possible, and allow that to be the person’s own defense when judged (Socrates).
The Romans would have understood little of what Timothy was trying to say, but appreciated the need of making something of your life.