From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

During the second century B.C., when the Seleucids under Antiochus Epiphanes tried to convert the Jews to Greek culture, Jason, one of the Jewish high priests, built a gymnasium in Jerusalem. (See  1 Maccabees 1:14;  2 Maccabees 4:7 .) Aristocratic Jewish young men began to frequent the gymnasium and to participate in Greek activities. The pious Jews were shocked at both their nudity, prohibited by Jews, and their practice of wearing the broad-brimmed Greek hats, associated with the worship of the Greek god Hermes. In addition some of the young men became ashamed of and tried to hide their circumcision. These practices were one of the causes for the Maccabean rebellion of 175 B.C.

There is no mention of the gymnasium in the New Testament, but there are references to the activities associated with it. In  1 Timothy 4:8 , the expression “bodily exercise” is from the word for gymnasium. Paul also used metaphors from the gymnasium in  1 Corinthians 9:24-27;  Galatians 2:2;  Galatians 5:7;  Philippians 1:30;  Philippians 2:16 . No bad connotations are associated with the word in these passages.

W. T. Edwards

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

( Γυμνάσιον , A.V. "place of exercise), a large unroofed building for the purpose of athletic exercises, consisting usually of different compartments, or a set of separate buildings conjoined, each of which was set apart to some special sport, as the Sphaeristerion for playing at ball, the Palaestra for wrestling and the exercises of the pancratium, etc. (Smith, Dict. Of Class. Antiquities, s.v.). This was almost exclusively a Greek institution, and there was hardly a Greek town of-any size that had not its gymnasium. To the Jews it was unknown until the Hellenizing party introduced it in the age of the Maccabees ( 1 Maccabees 1:14). Jason, the Hellenizing high-priest, caused one to be erected at Jerusalem ( 2 Maccabees 4:12 sq,). This innovation was viewed with much displeasure by the strict party among the Jews. Whether Herod the Great, when he introduced the theatre and amplitheatre, restored the gymnasium, does not appear, but the probability is that he did (Josephus, Ant. 15:8, 1; compare War, i, 21, 11). (See Games).