(Σκύθης) occurs in Col 3:11 as a generalized term for a rude, ignorant, degraded person. In the Gospel, says Paul, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all." It was anciently applied sometimes to a particular people, and sometimes to all the nomad tribes which had their seat to the north of the Black and Caspian seas, stretching indefinitely eastward into the unknown regions of Asia. It had thus much the same latitude as "Tartars," and was in like manner synonymous with Barbarian (Βάρβαρος). The same view of Scythian barbarism appears in 2 Macc. 4:47 and 3 Macc. 7:5, also in Josephus (Cont. Apion. ii, 37) and Parmenio (ap. Athen. v, 221). For other similar testimonies, see Wettstein, Nov. Test. ii, 292. The Scythians were, in fact, the ancient representatives of the modern Tartars, and, like them, moved from place to place in carts drawn by oxen. It is from this circumstance that they, or a tribe nearly allied to them, may be recognised on the monuments of Egypt. In the latter part of the 7th century B.C., they had become well known as a formidable power through the whole of Western Asia. Forced from their original quarters north of the Caucasian range by the inroads of the Massagetee, they descended into Asia Minor, where they took Sardis (B.C. 629), and maintained a long war with the Lydian monarchs; thence they spread into Media (B.C. 624), where they defeated Cyaxares. They then directed their course to Egypt, and were bribed off by Psammetichus; on their return they attacked the Temple of Venus Urania at Ascalon. They were finally ejected B.C. 596, after having made their name a terror to the whole Eastern world (Herod. i, 103 sq.). The name of Seythopolis, by which Beth-shean was known in our Saviour's time, was regarded as a trace of the Scythian occupation (Pliny, v, 16). This, however, is doubtful. SEE SCYTHOPOLIS. The Hebrew records are silent respecting this Seythian invasion, though some scholars suppose it to be referred to by the prophets Joel and Zephaniah. The Seythians are described by classical writers as skilful in the use of the bow (Herod. i, 73; 4:132; Xenoph. Anab. iii, 4,15), and even as the inventors of the bow and arrow (Pliuy, 7:57); they were specially famous as mounted bowmen (ἱπποτοξόται, Herod, 4:46; Thucyd. ii, 96); they also enjoyed an ill-fame for their cruel and rapacious habits (Herod. i, 106).
With the memory of these events yet fresh on the minds of his countrymen, Ezekiel seems to select the Scythians, under the name of Gog (q.v.), as the symbol of earthly violence, arrayed against the people of God, but meeting with a signal and utter overthrow. He depicts their avarice and violence (Eze 38:7-13), and the fearful vengeance executed upon them (ver. 14-23) — a massacre so tremendous that seven months would hardly suffice for the burial of the corpses in the valley which should thenceforth be named Hamon-gog (Eze 39:11-16). The imagery, of Ezekiel has been transferred in the Apocalypse to describe the final struggle between Christ and Antichrist (Re 20:8).
As a question of ethnology, the origin of the Scythians presents great difficulties. Many eminent writers, with Niebuhr and Neumann at their head, regard them as a Mongolian, and therefore a non-Japhetic, race. It is unnecessary for us to enter into the general question, which is complicated by the undefined and varying applications of the name Scythia and Scythians among ancient writers. So far as the Biblical notices are concerned, it is sufficient to state that the Scythians of Ezekiers age — the Scythiaus of Herodotus — were in all probability a Japhetic race. They are distinguished, on the one hand, from the Argippoei, a clearly Mongolian race (Herod. 4:23), and they are connected, on the other hand, with the Agathyrsi, a clearly Indo-European race (ibid. 4:10). The mere silence of so observant a writer as Herodotus as to any striking features in the physical conformation of the Scythians must further be regarded as a strong argument in favor of their Japhetic origin. For the geographical and ethnographical relations of the term, see Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. ii, 936-945. Perhaps it may be inferred from Col. iii, 11 that there were Scythians also among the early converts to Christianity. Many of this people lived in Greek and Roman lands, and could have heard the Gospel there, even if some of the first preachers had not already penetrated into Scythia itself. See Nat. Quar. Rev. Dec. 1876; Jour. Sac. Lit. April, 1853.