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Greek Word Study - Scythian

Barbarian, Scythian, slave—all are united with us in Christ Jesus (Col..3:11). Barbarians I know, and slaves I know, but what is a Scythian? (SITH ee un) If our brothers in Christ include some Scythians, maybe we should learn more about this branch of the heavenly family tree.

Several centuries before Christ, the Scythians swept westward out of southern Russia. They plundered and killed, driving out even the barbaric Cimmerians. Herodotus tells us that the Scythian soldier would drink the blood of the first man he killed in battle. He would cut off the heads of all those he killed and present them to his king. (If he brought no heads, he forfeited his share of the plunder.) After¬wards the Scythian would remove the scalp from each skull, scrape the scalp clean, and soften it for use as a napkin-cloth. They liked to adorn themselves and their horses with the scalps and human hides of their enemies. The skulls of their most hated enemies were turned over, sawed off, and used as drinking cups. A great warrior among the Scythians could really host a fine banquet, boasting of his ex¬ploits over each guest’s goblet! It is little wonder that Josephus later wrote of them, “They delight in murdering people and differ very little from wild beasts.”

So how did the early church handle the Scythian problem? Did they dare to be known as friends of the lowest of all the barbarians? An early statement from Justin Martyr gives us the answer: “Even if someone be a Scythian . . . if he has knowledge of God and Christ and keeps the eternal ordinances . . . he is God’s friend.”

Well, Scythians, welcome to the family!