7 Ministry Types that End in Failure

7 Ministry Types that End in Failure

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Over my years of serving with ministries and observing ministries, I have come to notice at least seven types of ministry that end in failure. What I say that these ministry types result in failure, what I mean is that the ministry will not fulfill its intended purpose to love God and love people. It does not mean that the church or ministry will fail to exist. It is also possible that leaders in a church or ministry repent and turn back to God from these errors – as we should always hope that they do so.

Below, we have listed these seven ministry types. Keep in mind that these are overall attitudes held by the leader or leaders of a ministry. The structure of the church – including services – is geared around a certain mindset. Some of these attitudes can be combined or simultaneously occur in one ministry.

Personality Driven – It’s all about the pastor / leader’s personality. Everything is designed to promote, support and prop up the personality. This means that people can be tempted to look the other way when sin or false doctrine appears because the personality is what sustains the ministry structure. In this type, people become expendable to the personality.

Performance Driven – It’s all about the show. The service and sermon are geared around putting on church as a show. This requires being fake. Real issues going on underneath the service are hidden so that the show can go on. Glorifying God becomes expendable to the show.

Proving Driven – The leader or leaders are always trying to prove themselves. This means that they are always trying to one-up someone else or another ministry. The tendency to put down churches is necessary so that the leader can better ‘prove’ himself/herself. The will of God becomes secondary to the leaders proving themselves to others or self.

Reactionary Driven – Some church leaders are focused on reacting to what others are doing. If one church promotes missions, they react and become anti-missions. If another church is pro-spiritual warfare, they suddenly become anti-spiritual warfare. The leader or leaders are so focused on reacting to what everyone else is doing that they lose their own vision and lack genuineness. This will produce disciples that look at other people as enemies rather than human beings made in the image of God who need correction and affection. The attendees will also lack understanding of Christianity’s core beliefs because the teaching is so focused on what we should be against.

Fad Driven – What’s new? What’s hip? This type of structure “goes with the flow” of whatever new cultural phenomenon is going on regardless of how Scriptural it may be. The goal is to be the ‘cool’ church that can appeal to anyone rather than stand on the timeless principles of the Word of God. It is hard for this structure to sustain the same vision over time because it will always change with trends.

Numbers Driven – This type of structure focuses on numbers. The type of music played, who preaches, how the service is arranged, the schedule used, and so forth is all geared towards filling the pews with as many people as possible. This of course will cause the individual to be drowned out amid the collective. This is usually paired with other ministry types, but it doesn’t have to be.

Money Driven – Some leaders are focused on money. This can be connected to numbers, but not always. If the money is flowing, then they view God as having approval to everything else they do. There is a temptation to compromise to the will of givers to keep the money coming in. There is also the temptation to think that God approves of everything going on in the ministry because the finances are present. The will of God is assumed based on money and not on if God is actually honored by the ministry in Spirit and Truth.

Each of these structures is sustained by human effort because the goal is of human origin. The goal of getting the gospel out is dropped for the ministry structure – maintain a personality / agenda / program / human expectations / personal goals / cultural fads/ numbers / money. Pleasing God is not the first thing on their minds – it is not the central focus.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

When we serve in ministry, God wants to build character in us as well as the people who attend. We must seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost. The outward things of ministry will take care of themselves.

These ministry types are solely focused on horizontal attitude towards ministry. This is to be juxtaposed with a vertical-focused ministry – where a person receives from God and then ministers outward from that posture/position.

Let’s get back to the fundamentals of loving God and loving others in our ministries. Let’s seek first the Kingdom of God. Then we will be able fulfill the great commission!

God bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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Making the Case for Rosh Chodesh

Making the Case for Rosh Chodesh

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

According to the Bible, God established a weekly day of rest and celebration—the seventh-day Sabbath (Friday sunset through Saturday sunset). It is discussed in at least 140 verses across the entire Bible. God also established annual festivals which are outlined in Leviticus chapter 23. They are called moad’im or chag in Hebrew. They are mentioned in many Bible verses. If these weekly and annual cycles are clearly established by God,  then it would be logical for us to ask: does the Bible mention a monthly cycle with a celebration of some kind?

A Biblical month is based upon the cycle of the moon around the earth. This is about every 29.5 days. A year is composed of 12 or 13 lunar months. An extra month is added some years so that the monthly cycle will stay in sync with the proper seasons. God placed the annual festivals on specific months and days during the year. The Bible talks about the importance of the moon as it relates to the months and festival days. We have some verses below.

“Blow the trumpet at the new moon (chodesh), At the full moon, on our feast-day (chagenu)” (Psalm 81:3).

“It shall be established for ever as the moon, And as the faithful witness in the sky. Selah” (Psalm 89:37).

“He appointed the moon for seasons (moad’im): The sun knoweth his going down…” (Psalm 104:19).

The moon is the faithful witness to the monthly cycle. In Hebrew, the first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh, Echad Chodesh, or Chodesh. Chodesh means month. Rosh means head or chief. Echad means first or oneness. The first clue that this one day of the month is set apart from the others is the fact that it has its own name. More evidence exists to affirm this point.  

In Numbers 28:1-8, we learn that God required certain sacrifices to be offered by the priests every day. One lamb was offered in the morning and another one in the evening. In verses 9-10, we learn that two extra lambs were required to be sacrificed on the Sabbath. This is one witness that days known to be set apart by God had special sacrifices offered on them. In Numbers 28:16 through the end of chapter 29, we learn that the annual festivals, which are commonly called Holy Days, also had special sacrifices offered on them (many more than the weekly Sabbath). This is a second witness that days with set apart meaning had special sacrifices offered on them.

Between the verses on the weekly Sabbath offerings and Annual Sabbath offerings we find the sacrifices for Rosh Chodesh (Num. 28:11-15). On the first day of every month, God required special sacrifices to be made. They were similar to those offered on the annual festivals.

In Numbers 10:1-10, God told the Israelites to make special silver trumpets. They were only to be sounded by the sons of Aaron in special situations. One of them was when sacrifices were offered at “days of rejoicing” (verse 10). The Hebrew word translated as ‘rejoicing’ is simchah; it means gladness or joyful. In this verse, the two times of joy listed are the moad’im (found in Leviticus 23) and Rosh Chodeshim or the New Moons. So the moad’im in Leviticus 23 are considered days of gladness, but so is Rosh Chodesh. However, Rosh Chodesh is listed in a separate category from the moad’im. While the New Moon is set apart from all the other days of the month, it is also in a different category from the annual festivals.

Special events happened on certain New Moons throughout the Bible. We will start with the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, and then look at events outside of it.

During the time of Noah’s flood, the tops of the mountains were visible again on the first day of the tenth month (Gen. 8:5). On the first day of the first month, the waters were dried up from off the earth (Gen. 8:13).

The instructions for Passover were most likely given on the first day of the first month (Ex. 12:2). The Tabernacle was assembled in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the first month (Ex. 40:17). On the first day of the second month in the second year after they left Egypt, the Lord told the Israelites to assemble so that they could be counted (Num. 1:1, 18). The Feast of Trumpets was established on the first day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:23-24).

On the first day of the fifth month in the 40th year after they came out of Egypt, the Lord commanded Aaron to go up on the mountain. There he died (Num 33:38). On the first day of the eleventh month of the same year, Moses spoke to the people everything that the Lord had commanded him (Deut. 1:3). Most or perhaps all the book of Deuteronomy was taught to the people on the New Moon.

This overview of events in just the Torah is very revealing! God gave special instructions to His servants and the people on the New Moon. Other parts of the Bible discuss the importance of this day of the month.

In the Old Testament period, people had special gatherings on the day. In the time of David, we learn that people gathered to celebrate this event (I Samuel 20:1-34). In this same account, we learn that they enjoyed special food.

In the days of the kings, it appears that people expected prophets to receive revelation from God on the New Moons (2 Kings 4:23). The prophet Ezekiel often recorded which day of the Hebrew Calendar He received his prophetic words. Of all the prophetic messages he recorded, four of them came on the first day of the month, four of them on the fifth day, and three on the tenth day (the other days have scattered references).

Another theme connected to the New Moon is the Tabernacle/Temple of God. As aforementioned, the Tabernacle was set up on the Rosh Chodesh (Ex 40:17). In Hezekiah’s time, they began to purify the Temple on the first day of the first month (2 Chron. 29:17). In Ezra’s time, burnt offerings began to be offered again on the first day of the seventh month, which is also the Feast of Trumpets (Ezra 3:1-6). Ezra read the book of the law to the people on the same holy day, although it was probably a different year (Neh. Chapter 8). In Haggai chapter 1, God gave the people a prophetic message to return to rebuilding the Temple on the first day of the sixth month. The future Temple built in the Millennium will be purified on the first day of the first month (Ezekiel 45:18).

There are also prophetic implications with the New Moon. During the Millennial reign of Christ, a new Temple will be built in Israel. The gate to its inner court will only be open on the New Moon and the Sabbath (Ezekiel 46:1-10). The people will come and worship the Lord when this gate opens. In Isaiah 66:22-23, we learn that everyone in the New Heavens and New Earth will worship the Lord on the Sabbath and New Moons.

Revelation 22:1-2 provides more detail about this eternal age. In these verses, we learn that the Trees of Life on each side of the River of Life will produce their fruit every month. This is an indirect reference to the New Moon. In that eternal age, months will be connected to the production of fruit from those two trees! In Colossians 2:16-17, the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ is the body or real meaning for the New Moons just like He is for the weekly and annual Sabbaths.

When we look at these details, it becomes clear that there is something special about the New Moon. It is to be treated differently than the other days in a month. It has a special emphasis placed upon it by God and this importance is reinforced throughout the Bible.

How do we practically apply this understanding?
The New Moon does not have the types of commanded instruction that we find for the Sabbath and annual festivals. Despite that, there remains a set apartness to the day. There are practical ways that we can set this time apart to God.

Gather. The Israelites were not required to go to Jerusalem for the New Moon, but it appears that gatherings did happen on a local or regional level. Meet with other believers and fellowship. Families can also gather on the day.

Food. You can also have special food that you would normally not eat on other days. This will add emphasis to the day.

Scripture Readings. Read the Scriptures as a group or individually. Moses read the book of the Law to the people (Deut. 1:3). Ezra had the book of the law read to the people (Neh. 8).

Worship God. We do not offer sacrifices with animals, but we do make spiritual sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:2, Hebrews 13:15). We can share praise reports from the past month. You could have a time of prayer and music at your gathering. It was a time when God spoke to His people, so we want to position ourselves to hear from Him. All Christians have His Spirit (Acts 2:17-18, Rom. 8:1-14). If the prophets of old heard from God on the New Moon, then why can’t we?

At my home congregation, we gather for worship and fellowship. We sometimes have a presentation out of the Word. We encourage everyone who attends to write down praises from the past month. Everyone takes a turn reading two or three of their praises out loud. I can personally attest that it is encouraging and faith-building to hear the praises of other people. It allows us to connect better with each other. This is part of our spiritual sacrifice to God. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

As part of our practice of this day, we also write down our prayer requests to God – including our deepest needs. As we worship God on Rosh Chodesh, we seek His will for our lives. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Ps. 105:4).

Remember that rosh means head. Echad means one or becoming one with. We want to make God our head and become one with Him. Every month we have the opportunity to place the Lord God of Israel at the head of our plans and lives and bring our intent and purposes into echad with His will for our lives.

The weekly Sabbath is a day of rest at the end of the week. The focus for that day is rest from labor and gathering with other believers. The New Moon is qualitatively different in multiple ways. First, it is once a month. Second, it is at the beginning of the month (instead of the end of a time period). Third, it is a way for us to count down to the months when the annual festivals occur. It is a chance for us to review the past month and prepare for the upcoming month. It is a great opportunity for us to review our spiritual fruit and how we are treating the spiritual Temple of believers.

So this upcoming month, examine yourself. How can you make the first day of the month a time of gladness? Who is your Rosh? Who are you Echad with? Remember that Christ is the reality of the day.

Ultimately, there is something supernatural happening every New Moon. A special connection is made between heaven and earth. Will you position yourself to receive it?

God bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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Why I Celebrate The Feast of Trumpets

Why I Celebrate The Feast of Trumpets

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Lev 23:1-2)

“23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-24).

In Leviticus chapter 23, we learn about annual feast days of the Lord. The Hebrew word translated as feast is moed. It is more properly translated as appointed times. They are times in history in which God had appointments with His people. He still meets with us today.

As I consider why I celebrate these festivals, I first recognize that I have an appointment to meet with God. This reminds me of how God is personally interested in my existence and purpose. God wants to meet with me and the rest of His people.

The Hebrew word translated as ‘assembly’ is miqra. It means a gathering or rehearsal. This reminds me that God wants His people to meet together. We worship Him as one Body.

The appointed time which just passed (Friday Sept 18 at sunset through Saturday Sept 19 at sunset) is commonly called The Feast of Trumpets. It is also called zikron teruah. Zikron means to remember or a remembrance. Teruah can mean blowing (as in a trumpet) or shouting.

In fact, the Hebrew word Teruah throughout the Old Testament is connected to shouting, rejoicing, and praising God. Moreover, the word is used when the silver trumpets in Numbers chapter 10 are used or the ram’s horn (called a shofar).

These uses of the word teruah for shouting, the silver trumpets, and the shofar allow us to connect this appointed time with many verses relating to future judgment on the world for sin and disobedience (see Zephaniah chapter 1; Rev. chapters 8-11, 15-16). It is also tied to the Lord returning to gather the scattered people of God and defeat the armies of this world, which are at enmity with God’s people (see Isaiah 27:12-14).

While God’s judgment is a future event, I also remember that I will stand before God and give account for my life. This is sober and humbling.

To this end, our congregation spends the entire month before Trumpets (some call this Teshuvah) in self-reflection and repentance for our behavior, thoughts, and intent that violate God’s Word.

We take an inventory of our spiritual and natural lives. We look at where we haven’t lived up to God’s standard. We ask forgiveness and grace for where we have fallen short. We also make spiritual and natural goals so that, by God’s grace and the power of His Spirit, we will do better for the upcoming year.

One of the future events we anticipate on this day is the Lord returning with His armies to defeat the armies of this world at Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21). This battle will result in the end of this age of disobedience and pain, which began with Adam. Satan is then bound from influencing humanity (Rev. 20:1-3). Amidst God’s judgment mercy is granted to the humble (Is. 27:12-14). After His judgment, a better world can then begin (Rev. 20:4-6). There is hope for all humanity to have a brighter future. The Lord Jesus will see to it. This is something to truly celebrate!

God bless!


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Understanding Romans 14:5-6

Understanding Romans 14:5-6

by Kelly McDonald, Jr. 

“5 One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks” (Romans 14:5-6, KLV).

Common arguments: These verses have been misunderstood as negating the Sabbath or Holy days. Some have said that they are the basis for proclaiming every day is holy or that no day is holy.

Think it through: These arguments have obvious problems. If Paul can make any day holy or common, then any human could do this any time they wanted to. This would mean that there is no objective standard as to what days were holy or common. These viewpoints reduce God’s authority to lower than that of a man, which is dangerous. If Paul can change the rest of the Bible, who else can do that? What other subjects do we allow people to change?

Short Answer: Paul is talking about days that men esteem higher than others, not days that God considers holy. Thus, he is referring to Roman cultural days.

Longer Answer: We will examine the example of Paul, the context of Romans 14, and some history to clarify the meaning of Paul’s words.

One of the ways we interpret history is through what we call primary sources. This can include people who were eye witnesses to events as well as archaeological findings from the time period. The Apostle Peter was a contemporary of Paul and thus a primary source to the subject matter at hand. Here is what Peter said about Paul:

“15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:15-17, ASV).

We learn some important details from Peter’s words. Apparently, Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand, but they do not negate the other Scriptures. The other Scriptures are a reference to the Old Testament. They did not have a New Testament in Paul’s time. Paul was a very educated man, which is why some people struggled with his words.

With this background understanding from Paul’s life, let’s look further at the context of Romans 14:5-6 and the specific language used.

First of all, let’s look at Romans 14:1 “Now accept one who is weak in faith, but not for disputes over opinions.” Paul informed us that this issue was a dispute about opinions. This means it is not clearly defined by Scripture. Secondly, the Greek word Paul uses for day, hemera, refers to any common day. It refers to the other six days of the week. Thus, he is addressing common days, not holy days like the Sabbath.

Third, the Greek word for holy, hagios, is not even found in this chapter (Romans 14). This reinforces that he is addressing common days, not holy days like the Sabbath. If he were referring to the Sabbath, Paul would have used the specific Greek word for Sabbath, sabbaton. Fourth, Paul was not addressing which days God considers to be holy, but what days men esteem higher than others. God is the one who set aside the Sabbath, not man.

Lastly, one must also consider his audience. Paul wrote these words to the Romans. He is applying these verses specifically to days that the Romans considered to be important. Let’s take a look at some primary sources from the time before, during, and after Paul that will illuminate the meaning of these verses.

The Romans were very superstitious. They considered some days of the week to be unlucky, such as Saturday (Tibullus, 1:3,17-18; Propertius 4:1,81-86). They also considered certain days of the month bad for specific activities such as business or travel (Marcus Varro, On the Latin Language: VI:29-31; Plutarch, Roman Questions, 25). There were even days of certain months on which activities were discouraged, such as marriage (Ovid, Fasti, 5:470-492). On some days, common activities were encouraged, such as eating certain foods (Ovid, Fasti, 6:169 ). For instance, beans and spelt were eaten on June 1st to honor Juno).

The Romans conducted their behavior in this manner for one or more reasons. Sometimes these prohibitions were to honor a specific god or goddess (such as their activity on June 1st). At other times, the Romans were just superstitious. For instance, the Romans considered odd numbers as unlucky. Certain odd days of a month were considered bad for business (Plutarch, Roman Questions, 25).  The Emperor Augustus thought his shoes were an omen (Seutonius, Life of Augustus, XCII).

Another issue raised in Romans 14:5-6 is the issue of abstaining from meat. There was a strain of thought in the Roman world which believed very strongly in vegetarianism (Ovid, Metamorphosis,bk15:76-112, 140-142, 458-462; Seneca, Epistulae, 108:17-22; Plutarch: On the Eating of Flesh, 1:41 and On Isis and Osiris, sections 2,4,7; Lucius Apuleis, Metamorphosis, 11:26-29).  From these sources we can see that their vegetarian beliefs were rooted either in the worship of other gods or superstition.

With this historical understanding, we can better ascertain the meaning of these verses. Paul himself was an educated man and even a Roman citizen. While he grew up Jewish, he also grew up in a culture that practiced these Roman superstitions. He was well versed with them.

What do we learn from Romans 14:5-6? If we are going to consider a common day as important to perform a specific activity, then we should do so unto the Lord and not to a pagan deity, or superstition. He is addressing this specific Roman cultural activity for common days and activities, not the Sabbath or any day declared holy by God.

Paul’s example in the Bible shows us that he continued to keep and reverence the Sabbath even after his conversion to Christianity (for a few examples: Acts 13, Acts 17, 18, Acts 20:16, Acts 27:9, and I Cor.16:8). All of the early churches kept the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.

God is the one who declared the Sabbath Holy, not man (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 31:12-18, and Leviticus 23:1-6 to name a few). The seventh-day Sabbath persists even into the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22-24).

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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New Booklet: The Chronology of Christ’s Passion

New Booklet: The Chronology of Christ’s Passion

Would you like to understand the chronology of events from Jesus last Passover until the resurrection? How about the timeline of events from the resurrection until the ascension? In this booklet, you will receive in depth explanation of these events as well as the necessary background information to put it all together.

The four gospel accounts do no contradict, they compliment. In this booklet you will find out how!

Click the picture below to download this FREE booklet!

chronology booklet

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A 2nd Century Perspective on the Importance of Passover

A 2nd Century Perspective on the Importance of Passover

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The earliest disciples commemorated the death of Jesus, called Passover, on the 14th of Nissan. This remained the majority practice in Christianity for at least 120 or more years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. The earliest Christians knew nothing of a celebration called Easter. In fact, they did not even have a celebration for the resurrection of Jesus. This is not to say that the resurrection of Jesus is not important – but to highlight a historical fact. Why was the remembrance of Jesus’ death more important as a feast than the resurrection and why wasn’t the resurrection celebrated in some form?

Jesus established the practice of Passover for the early Church. “14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God’…And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me… (Luke 22:14-16, 19)

There are three things to note about these verses: 1) Jesus said that He eagerly desired to eat Passover with the disciples. This is the only time the Greek words translated as ‘eagerly desired’ are used. 2) He said it would find fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, which has not yet come, and pursuant to this point He commanded them to 3) “do this in remembrance of me”.

The early church continued this practice. Paul worded it this way: “6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor 5:6-8).

Again, the New Testament does not record any sort of celebration for the resurrection of Jesus. They did not neglect this incredible event as they preached about it. To understand why remembering the death of Jesus with an annual observance was so important, one must take a quick trip with me into the second century.

As I have reviewed in other articles, the second century was a tumultuous time for Christianity. There were cultural and religious forces that attempted to change the Christian community. Among the false teachings that exploded in the second century was Gnosticism; it had tremendous influence on the Christian community.

Gnosticism is a belief system which blended Greek and Middle Eastern influences. Some of their common beliefs are as follows: matter is evil and spiritual things are good; an inferior god made the material world and a superior god made the spiritual realm; spirit and matter are opposed; and a strong emphasis on the gaining of knowledge as essential to the salvation of one’s immortal soul.

The Gnostic teachers infiltrated the Christian community heavily in the second century. Because these heretics viewed the material world as evil, they denied that the perfect Jesus Christ could have ever been born in a human body. In their view – how could a being so perfect dwell in an evil, material body? They denied the bodily birth, bodily ministry, physical suffering, and death of Christ. They claimed that an apparition or the mere appearance of the perfect Christ appeared on earth.

For one example, we will consider the false teacher Basilides. The second century Christian Irenaeus testifies of his false doctrine, which insinuates that Christ did not really suffer and die for the world.

“He [Jesus] appeared, then, on earth as a man, to the nations of these powers, and wrought miracles. Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead ; so that this latter [Simon] being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For since he was an incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn father, he transfigured himself as he pleased, and thus ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be laid hold of, and was invisible to all… it is not incumbent on us to confess him who was crucified, but him who came in the form of a man, and was thought to be crucified, and was called Jesus, and was sent by the father, that by this dispensation he might destroy the works of the makers of the world… 5. Salvation belongs to the soul alone, for the body is by nature subject to corruption” (Irenaeus, Adv. Her., 1.24.3-5; emphasis mine throughout).

The Gnostic heretics did not always deny that Christ experienced some sort of resurrection or transfiguration, that He ascended into Heaven, and that He lives forever. They denied that He lived in a human body and suffered.

During His last Passover on earth, Jesus took bread and the fruit of the vine; he explained that they represented His body and His blood. This is a sober reminder that He actually came in a physical body and physically suffered for our sins.

Of all the feast days in the Bible, Passover is the ultimate refutation of Gnostic belief. No one can deny that He took physical items and used them as representations of His physical body/blood. Truly, no one can deny that He suffered those things for the sins of the whole world.

“Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26)

For a Christian in the second century, Passover was a reminder that the Word of God who became flesh triumphs over all heresy. In His suffering He gave us the victory. This is one historical reason why the Passover was instituted by Jesus and the early disciples.

Truly the Lord knows better than we do!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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New Covenant Passover Service

If you are new to Passover or would like a format to keep Passover, we have one below:

New Covenant Passover Service

Opening Prayer


Foot Washing – Before washing feet, read John 13:1-17

Meal (if you have one)

The following verses can be read together either during the meal or after it is finished

Passage #1: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 1:29; I Peter 2:20-24

Passage #2: Psalm 22

Passage #3: Psalm 23; Hebrews 4:14-16; Luke 22:19

Unleavened Bread for Communion – Thank you Lord for taking the bruising for our sins; Leader pray and all eat

Passage #4: John 6:32-40; 48-51; 53-58

Passage #5: John 13:18-30

Take the bitter herb (Horseraddish) – Thank you Lord for saving us from bitterness; Leader pray and all eat on unleavened bread

Passage #6: Hebrews 9:11-15; Romans 3:23-26; 5:6-15

Passage #7: Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 26:27-28

The Wine or Grape Juice for Communion – Thank you Lord for pouring out your blood for our sins; Leader Pray and all drink

Passage #8: John 13:31-35; 14:1-7, 14:12-31

Passage #9: John 15:1-26

Passage #10: John 16:12-16, 32-33

Passage #11: John 17:1-26

Passage #12: Matthew 26:36-44; Luke 22:39-44

Christ bore our sickness and infirmity in the Garden. He was in great agony, so much so, that He sweat great drops of blood. Let’s conclude our service with a prayer of gratitude.

Leader Pray


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Booklet: Passover Preparation

Greetings Everyone!

Check out the latest edition of my booklet “Passover Preparation”

Just click the picture below!
Passover Prep Pic


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Understanding I Corinthians 10:25-29

Understanding I Corinthians 10:25-29

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In I Corinthians 10:25-29, Paul wrote: “25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.”

A crucial fact to help us understand I Corinthians 10 is that I Corinthians 8 comes first. In I Corinthians 8, Paul addressed the issue of eating food offered to idols. In ancient times, people went to a market to buy their meat. Sometimes this meat had been sacrificed to an idol before it put on display for people to buy. I Corinthians Chapters 8-10 addressed a situation between two groups of people. The first group was composed of mature believers who did not care if meat had been sacrificed to idols or not. The second group was composed of newer believers who thought that believers should eat meat sacrificed to idols.

In I Corinthians 8, Paul wrote that idols are nothing and that there is only one God. We have an excerpt from this passage below: “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, the same is known by him. 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For though there are things that are called “gods”, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many “gods” and many “lords”; 6 yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him. 7 However, that knowledge isn’t in all men. But some, with consciousness of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” (I Cor. 8:1-7)

Paul’s conclusion is two-fold. First, it should not matter if a believer eats meat sacrificed to idols. Secondly, he warns the mature believers not to knowingly eat meat sacrificed to idols in front of newer converts. If mature believers do such things, then it may cause the newer believers to turn back to worshipping other gods.

In I Corinthians 10:25-29, Paul explained that eating food sacrificed to idols should be avoided if possible. If a believer was told the food was sacrificed to an idol, then he or she should not eat it. This is to protect the newer believers so that their consciences will not be harmed. On the other hand, if believers go to a meal and they are not informed that the food was sacrificed to idols, then they should not worry about it. There is only one true God. Idols are nothing.

This passage, like others from Paul and Jesus, is emphasizing how we should eat in a specific situation.  It is not discussing what types of animals we should eat. God defined what meat is acceptable to eat in Leviticus chapter 11 (see also Genesis 7:2). In I Corinthians chapter 8, Paul used the Greek word brosis once (verse 4) and the Greek word broma two times (verses 8, 13). These Greek words refer to food as defined in Leviticus chapter 11. By using these words, he has defined food by the time we arrive at I Corinthians 10.

A second key to understanding this passage is to read the verses following it. Paul concludes this passage in verse 31 by saying “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We are informed in this verse to do everything to glorify God. That means our thinking, how we treat others, and even how we eat should be used to glorify Him. Paul’s main concern in this passage is not to define or redefine what God made to eat. He is trying to educate believers in how to encounter situations where they might eat food sacrificed to idols.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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Mystery of the Magi: Who Were They?


Mystery of the Magi: Who Were They?

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The Upcoming Fall Holy Day Season is the time for us to remember the incarnation. This is when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. In John 1:14, we read, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (KJV). The Greek word translated as dwelt is skenoo. Its root word is skene; it can refer to the booths from Leviticus chapter 23. In other words, Christ came down and tabernacled with us. One reason we celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles is to remember the perfect life of Christ, who is the Word.

Among the mysteries surrounding Christ tabernacling among men is that of the Magi. We read about this event in Matthew chapter 2.

“1  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men [Greek: Magoi – literally translated as Magi] from the east to Jerusalem, 2  Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:1-3).

In Western culture, we often think that there were three Magi. However, the Bible does not say how many Magi there were; they brought three gifts (Matthew 2:11). But there are important questions regarding their appearance. How did they know that the King of the Jews was being born? We know the star guided them, but how did they know such specifics about him? Why would they look to worship a Jewish king? Why was Herod and the city of Jerusalem troubled at their appearance? The only other individuals who knew about his royalty were the angels, Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:31-33).

When the Magi came to worship Christ, He was in a house (not a manger – Matthew 2:11). This means the Magi did not arrive at the time of Christ’s birth. These individuals must have been very important because they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. Due to their visit, Herod wanted all the children two and under to be put to death.

To understand the identity of the Magi, we must go back far in time. In the period leading up to King David’s reign, the tribes of Israel were divided between two groups. In the north dwelt Israel; Judah dwelt in the south. During Saul’s life, a distinction is made between them.  “He numbered them in Bezek; and the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand” (I Samuel 11:8, KLV). David is recorded as ruling over both. “In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 5:5).

This united Kingdom continued into the reign of Solomon, David’s son. In I Kings 11, we are informed that Solomon turned away from God and fell into idolatry. As a result, the northern tribes of Israel were separated from Judah during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The two groups – Judah and Israel – became known as two separate nations.

“20 When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was no one who followed David’s house, except for the tribe of Judah only. 21 When Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen men, who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon” (I Kings 12:20-21).

The house of Judah was ruled from its capital of Jerusalem. Eventually, Israel developed its own capital named Samaria. It was founded by Omri.

“23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel for twelve years. He reigned six years in Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents[a] of silver; and he built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill” (I Kings 16:23-24).

Omri’s son was named Ahab. He is one of the more well recognized people in the Bible because of his wickedness. “In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel. Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Ahab the son of Omri did that which was evil in the LORD’s sight above all that were before him” (1 Kings 16:29-30).

Historical records from two different people groups confirm that other nations identified the northern tribes by the name Israel: the Moabites and Assyrians. The Moabite stone, which dates to around 830-840 BC, reads: “Now Om(r)i, King of Israel, he oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his l(a)nd. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab. In my days he said, (Let us go)” (Records of the Past, vol. 11, p 165).

The Assyrians also discussed the Kingdom of Israel. The ruler Shalmaneser listed several nations he defeated and the number of troops from each peoples. Among the kings mentioned is Ahab, the Israelite; his name in Hebrew is Achav.

“From the city of Argana I departed. To the city of Karkara I approached. The city of Karkara, the city of (His) Majesty, I threw down, dug up (and) burned with fire. 1200 chariots, 1200 magazines, (and) 20,000 men of Rimmon’-hidri of Damascus, 700 chariots, 700 magazines, (and) 10,000 men of Irkhuleni of Hamath, 2000 chariots, (and) 10,000 men of Ahab (Akhabbu) of the country of the Israelites (Sir’ila-a-a)…” (ibid, vol. 3, p 99).

Omri and Ahab both are identified as Israelites (the Assyrian word for Israel in this text is Sir’ila-a-a). Not long after this, the appellation changed. In the 840s BC, Shalmanesser III erected an Obelisk, or erect stone monument. In it is engraved pictures from different peoples he conquered with inscriptions. The Obelisk is currently on display at the British Museum, so it can be viewed online. Among the kings depicted on this monument is Jehu (Hebrew name: YAHUA). On it, he is bowing down before the Assyrian king and paying tribute.

“The tribute of Iaua (Jehu) son of Khumri (Omri): silver, gold, bowls of gold, vessels of gold, goblets of gold, pitchers of gold, lead, sceptres for the King’s hand, (and) staves: I received” (ibid, vol 5, p 41).

During the reign of Jehu, there was a sudden change in how the same Assyrian King addressed the Israelites. Instead of using the term Sir’ila-a-a, he called them the Khumri. Scholars agree that this Assyrian word is a reference to Omri. He was the King that founded Samaria. From the reign of Jehu forward, the Assyrians labeled the northern tribes by this name or the Samarians (after the name of their capital).

There was a legitimate reason for this transition. The weekly and annual Sabbaths were revealed to remind us that God is our Creator and that He makes us holy (Exodus 31:12-17). There was even a special national application to this understanding. Starting with Jereboam, the northern tribes abandoned God and the Sabbaths (I Kings 12:26-33). During the reign of Ahab and his wife Jezebel, God sent Elijah and Elisha to perform miracles so that the nation would turn back to God. Jehu, who reigned after them, had a chance to change the nation’s destiny. Unfortunately, they remained in disobedience (see 2 Kings 10:28-33); they eventually lost their identity. Jesus called them lost in His day (Matthew 10:1-6).

In the 730s BC, the Assyrian King Tiglath Pileser III, fought wars with both Judah and Israel. One of his inscriptions mentioned both groups. The inscription is a little damaged, but we can still gain valuable insight from it.

“2 ….. (in the) course of my expedition the tribute which 3 …. (AZARI)AH of the land of Judah like …. 4 …. Azariah of the land of Judah in …. 29 (I imposed upon them). The tribute of Kustaspi of the city of Kummuhai, of Razinu of the land of Damascus, of Minihimmi of the city Samirinai…” (ibid, vol 5, pp 45, 48)

This inscription references both Azariah and Menahem from the Bible. “In the thirty ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel for ten years in Samaria” (2 Kings 15:17). Notice that even the Assyrians designated them as ruling over separate peoples.  Fragments of the same ruler go on to describe the house of Israel again.

“…The land of Beth-Omri (Khumri)…. the population …. the goods of its people (and the furniture to) the land of Assyria I sent PAKAHA (Pekah) their King they had slain . . . HUSIH (Hoshea) to the kingdom over them I appointed . 10 talents of gold, 1000 of silver…I received from them as their (tri)bute…” (ibid, p 52).

This inscription indicates that the first deportation of Israelites happened in the 730s BC. Tiglath also mentions Pekah and Hoshea, the last two kings of Israel. The Biblical records the same details. “In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria” (2 Kings 15:29).   Hoshea killed Pekah (2 Kings 15:30).

The Bible discusses the captivity of the northern tribes further. They were sent to various places, with the final captivity taking place between 721 and 718 BC. “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6).

The deportation locations mentioned in 2 Kings 17:6 are somewhat debated. Some of these locations are closer to the capital of Nineveh (Halah and Gozan), while others such as the cities of the Medes, are farther away. Generally speaking, the locations of exile stretch from southeastern Turkey out towards eastern Iran.  This captivity is discussed further by Inscriptions from Sargon II.

“…I plundered the district of Samaria and the entire house of Omri (Khoumri)… “My mighty hand reached from the town of Hasmar until the town of Simaspatti in Media the far one, which is situated at the rising sun, the lands of Namri and Ellip, Bet-Hamban, Parsua, Van, Armenia, Kaska (Colchis), Tabal, until the Moschians, I instituted my Lieutenants as Governors over them and I imposed to them the prostration of the tributes like to the Assyrians…besieged, I occupied the town of Samaria and I brought into captivity 27,280 persons; I took before all parts over them 50 chariots, the part of my kingdom. I took them to Assyria…” (ibid, vol 7, pp 26, 28).

The bull inscription of Khorsabad (722-721), also constructed by Sargon II, discussed more about this event. “…he conquered the countries of an Karalla, Andia, Zikirtu, Kjsasi, Kharkhar, and placed Media and Ellip under the dominion of Assur….He swept away Samaria, and the whole house of Omri (bit-Khumri) and Kaska. He subdued the country of Tubal, and the whole of Bet-Burutas, he overcame Egypt near the city of Raphia, and placed Hanun, King of Gaza, in slavery…” (ibid, vol 11, p 18).

Sennacherib, a later Assyrian King, took a great number from the southern tribes into captivity during the reign of Hezekiah. This is a detail that is often overlooked in the research of this subject. Thus, a significant number of the tribe of Judah went into captivity – no mention of Israel is found.

“And Hezekiah King of Judah, who had not bowed down at my feet Forty six of his strong cities, his castles, and the smaller towns…in their neighbourhood beyond number…with warlike engines…I attacked and captured. 200,150 people small and great, male and female, horses, mares, asses, camels, oxen and sheep beyond number, from the midst of them I carried off and distributed them as a spoil. He himself, like a bird in a cage, inside Jerusalem his royal city I shut him up…” (ibid, vol 1, p 38).

While the northern tribes were first taken captive decades before this event, they were eventually joined by a significant number of their brothers from the southern tribes.

There is one linguistic detail that is necessary for the study of this subject. Edward Lipinski, in his work “Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar”, notes the following: “In Neo-Assyrian [g] and [k] seem to be positional variants of the same phoneme. The voiced pronunciation is attested in intervocalic position by Aramaic and Hebrew transcriptions, e.g. mngsr for Mannu-ki-sarri…” (page 145).

The well-known Assyrianologist Archibald Henry Sayce said, “In Babylonian g commonly takes the place of kh (as also in later Assyrian)…” (Sayce, p 48).

Thus, the kh sound in Assyrian is sometimes interchanged with g in Assyrian or when one transliterates from Assyrian to Babylonian. The sound kh in Khoumri is interchangeable with the g sound.

The Assyrian kings wrote letters during their respective reigns. These letters reference a people group called the Gimiri or Gimiraa. This would correspond to the Israelites or Khoumri. For one example, I have included an excerpt from Letter 1237.

“Belushezib to King Esarhaddon:…Let the cavalry and the Dakku invade the Cimmerians (Gimiraa), who have spoken saying, “The Mannai pertain to you, we have not interfered.” Certainly this is a lie. They are the offspring of outcasts, they recognize neither the oath of a god nor a (human) agreement. Let the chariots and baggage wagons take up a position on either side of the pass; (then) with the horses and the Dakku, let them enter and take the plunder of the plain of Mannai; and let them return at the pass let them bivouac once or twice they shall enter and…plundered and the Cimmerians (Gimiraa)…” (Waterman, pp 358-359).

Notice that the translators reckon Gimiraa as the Cimmerians. They are mentioned alongside a group called the Mannai, who dwelt in modern-day southeastern Turkey/northeastern Iran. This is in the same area that the northern tribes of Israel were sent! There are other records that shed light on the Gimiraa; one of them is the Behistun Inscription.

In the early 500s BC, Darius the Persian had a massive inscription carved in rock. It is called the Behistun Inscription, and it is located in modern-day Iran. It is the Rosetta Stone of ancient languages. On it, he proclaimed his victory over conquered peoples in three languages: Babylonian, Susan (or Elamite), and Persian.

Each section begins with Darius proclaiming himself king of kings and listing provinces he controlled. We have an excerpt from section VI in each of the three languages.

Behistun Inscription

Babylonian: “6. Ba-ah-tar (matu) Su-ug-du (matu) Pa-ar-u-pa-ra-e-sa-an-na (matu) Gi-mi-ri (matu) Sa-at-ta-gu-u…”

English translation: “VI. Bactria, Sogdiana, Paruparaesanna, the land of the Cimmerians, Sattagydia…” (Behistun Inscription, 161-162)

Susan: 13. Paksisaiak (m)Suktas-pe aiak [(m)Parruparae]sana aiak 14. (m)Sakka-pe aiak…”

English translation: “Bactria, and Sogdiana, and Parruparaesana, and Scythia…” (ibid, page 96)

Persian: “Bakhtris Sugjuda Ga(n)dara Saka…”

English translation: “VI. Bactria, Sogdiana, Gandara, Scythia…” (ibid, page 4)

It is fascinating that the term Gimiri (translated as Cimmerians) was considered synonymous with the Sakka or Scythian peoples in other languages. Keep in mind that the translators from the Behistun Inscription are different than those from the Assyrian Royal Correspondence we quoted earlier. The Gimiraa are described as the offspring of outcasts, which is a description we would expect of the northern tribes of Israel.

The Cimmerians are not mentioned in historical documents until 714 BC; they are mentioned in as dwelling in modern-day Southeastern Turkey (Aruz, Farkas, and Fino, p 148). The Scythians are not mentioned as a separate group until the 670s, when they were allied with the Medes (ibid, p 25). The first two mentions of these people groups are not long after the captivity of the northern tribes. Even the place the tribes were taken to (land of the Medes) is mentioned. Scythian burial mounds, also called kurgans, date to the same time period (Kuz’mina, pp 390-393; Bliss, pp 52-52-55).

From these primary sources, we are able to link the terms Khoumri and Gimiri in Assyrian and Babylonian with the ancient peoples of the Cimmerians, Sakka, and Scythians in the Susan and Persian languages. They are synonymous with each other.

According to Herodotus, the first Scythian Empire controlled all of Asia for a period of about 28 years (book 1, sections 104-106). They are mentioned with the Medes. Once again, we have a reference to the Medes and the Scythians within a reasonable time period of the captivity.

While Scythian dominance was temporary, they would have another opportunity at greatness in the ancient world. The Roman geographer and historian Strabo (lived 63 BC to 24 AD) wrote about a revival of Scythian dominance. Recalling the time period about 240 BC, he wrote:

Afterwards Arsaces [Arsakes], a Scythian, (with the Parni, called nomads, a tribe of the Dahae, who live on the banks of the Ochus) invaded Parthia, and made himself master of it. At first both Arsaces and his successors were weakened by maintaining wars with those who had been deprived of their territory. Afterwards they became so powerful, in consequence of their successful  warfare, continually depriving their neighbours of portions of their territory, that at last they possession of all the country within the Euphrates…They now have an empire comprehending so large an extent of country, and so many nations, that it almost rivals that of the Romans in magnitude. This is to be attributed to their mode of life and manners which have indeed much of the barbarous and Scythian character…” (Strabo, 11.9.2).

In about 240 BC, Arsakes and his Scythian peoples conquered the area known as Parthia (eastern Iran). The Parthian Empire is reckoned from Arsakes’ reign forward. It was composed of Scythians and had their cultural influence. Arsakes is depicted on the coinage of Parthian kings from the 200s BC to the early centuries AD (see figure one as a demonstration of this). He was so important that all future Parthian kings retained his name as part of theirs. Strabo also records this.

“Such also is the custom among the Parthians; for all have the name Arsacae, although each has his peculiar name of Orodes, Phraates, or some other appellation” (15.1.36). Elsewhere Strabo tells us about other tribal names of the Scythians: Daae, Massagetae and Sacae (11.8.2). This Scythian-Parthian Kingdom had a special class of individuals who chose their kings. They were called the Magi.

“…We have enlarged on the subject of the Parthian customs in the sixth book of historical commentaries, and in the second of those, which are a sequel to Polybius we shall omit what we said, in order to avoid repetition; adding this only, that Psedidonius affirms that the council of the Parthians is composed of two classes, one of relatives, (of the royal family) and another of wise men and magi, by both of which kings are chosen” (Strabo, 11.9.3).

The Parthian ruling class was composed of two groups. One were relatives of the royal family and the other were wise men and Magi. The Kings of Parthia were chosen by these individuals. The implications are that the Magi and wise men chose from the royal family of the Parthians.

The Parthians and Romans had a rocky history. Among the worst military disasters in Roman history was the battle of Carrhae (southern Turkey). In 53 BC, the Parthians defeated over 40,000 Roman troops; most of them were either killed or taken captive.

In 40 BC, the Parthians conquered Judea and set Antigonus Matthatias over the King of the Jewish people. It is interesting that the Parthians set Antigonus, a Jewish man and Hasmonean descendant, to be the king and high priest of Judea. They could have established whomever they wanted to be their puppet ruler. Instead, they chose a native born.

During this same time, a man named Herod, an Edomite by birth, sought to rule Judea and Jerusalem. He gained the support of the Romans; they recognized him as the legitimate king.  After 3 years of fighting and a siege of Jerusalem, Herod prevailed. He had Antigonus put to death by the Romans. This was the first time the Romans put a king to death. Antigonus was the last of the Hasmonean rulers.

Another clash between the two Empires occurred in 36 BC. Marcus Antony tried to invade Parthian territory and suffered a humiliating campaign. Tens of thousands of Roman troops died in this debacle.

We return to one of our original questions: Why were Herod and Jerusalem alarmed at the coming of the Magi? Herod was installed by Rome, who was a bitter enemy of the Parthians. Herod overthrew Antigonus, the Parthian-chosen king of Judea. The Magi came from Parthia to honor a king – and Herod was likely concerned that this king would replace him in Jerusalem.

The residents certainly did not want war or bloodshed. Recall that the Roman-supported coup of Herod involved a siege against Jerusalem. Herod tried to kill all the babies under 2 years old.

The Parthian King in this time, Phraates IV, was getting older. He died approximately 2 BC (some sources say as early as 4 BC). The Magi were entrusted with the task of finding candidates for the throne of their Kingdom. I have a coin of Phraates IV (pictured in figure two). Perhaps not coincidentally, face is looking towards a star. It was a star that led the Magi to Jesus (Matthew 2:2).

The Parthians were descended from Israel through the Scythian/Khoumri lineage. There were also Jews who lived among them, as Assyrian kings took Judeans captive in the reign of Sennacerib. The appearance of the Magi can only mean that Jesus was considered a relative of the kingly line of these Scythians/Parthians. Phraates IV died before or near the time that the Magi arrived. They were looking for the King of the Jews because these were the peoples that ruled over them.

They prostrated themselves before Him, which was an act of submission to a ruler. They brought Him gifts fitting royalty. What gifts will you bring when you worship your King this Fall Holy Day Season?


Aruz, Farkas, and Fino, eds. The Golden Deer of Eurasia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Symposia. New York, 2006. pp 25, 148.

Behistun Inscription. Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities. The Sculptures and Inscriptions of Darius the Great on the Rock of Behistun in Persia. British Museum, London: 1907.

Bliss, Frank. Social and Economic Change in the Pamirs. Nicola Pacult and Sonia Guss, trans. New York: Routledge, 2006. pp 52-55.

Catholic Encyclopedia 1911: Captivities of the Israelites

Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition: Phraates (IV).

Herodotus. The History. Greene, David, trans. The University of Chicago Press, 1987. pp 82-83.

Jewish Encyclopedia 1905: Antigonus Mattathias; Ashkenaz

Kuz’mina, Elena E. The Origin of the Indo-Iranians. Boston: Brill, 2007. pp 390-393.

Lipinski, Edward. “Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar”. Sterling, 2001. p 145.

Sayce, Archibald Henry. Lectures upon the Assyrian Language and Syllabary. Oxford, 1877. p 48).

Strabo. H.C. Hamilton and W. Falconer, trans. The Geography. 1856: Vol 2, pp 250-251. 1857: Vol 3 p 97.

The Society of Biblical Archeology. Records of the Past. Vols 1, 3, 5, 7, 11. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, Late 1800s. (pages referenced above).

Waterman, Leroy. Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire. University of Michigan Press, 1930. pp 358-359.

A further resource for recommended reading: Parthian Coins and History by Fred Shore.

Bible verses from: King James Version. Public Domain; Kingdom Life Version:  Old and New Testaments with Text Notes and Words of   Jesus in Red Letters, 1st Edition, Public Domain.

All language references come from Strong’s Concordance or The New Greek English Interlinear New Testament.

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