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Between the Testaments

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BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS

A. Inter-Testamental History

This is a brief synopsis of inter-Testamental history or the four hundred (400) silent years from Malachi to Matthew as it concerns the Jews. No study of the Bible is complete that does not take into consideration the events of the four hundred (400) years which elapsed between the Old and New Testaments. During this time no inspired writer, historian, or prophet appeared. Unbroken by revelation, this period is called the Aperiod of silence.@ The last prophetic voice of the Old Testament was that of Malachi, and the first in the New Testament that of John the Baptist. During this period of time, Judea was subject to Persia until about 330 B.C. at which time the empire of Greece was established as a world power under Alexander. In 167 B.C., under the Maccabees, we see Jewish independence. But, in 63 B.C., Judea came under Roman sway, and was subject to Rome at the time of the birth of Christ.

Covering this period, Daniel gives a marvelous prophetic outline of the world's history in predictions that have been literally fulfilled. Daniel 2:31-43 records Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the great image and Daniel 7 records the rise of four (4) world empires under the figures of four (4) great beasts. The image vision reveals the Babylonian Empire represented by the head of gold; Media Persia is represented by the breast and arms of silver, Greece by the belly and thigh of brass, and Rome by the legs of iron. Daniel 7 shows the same empires in successive supremacy; Daniel 7:4 represents Babylon by a lion with eagle wings, Daniel 7:5 represents Media Persia by a bear, and Daniel 7:7 represent the Roman Empire by a terrible monster. God worked out these prophecies in history.

During this period the Samaritans came into prominence, and we see the rise of the different Jewish sects such as the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots. Out of this period came the Synagogue, and such Jewish writings as the Mishna (oral law) and the Gemara (commentaries on the oral law), known as the Talmud; also the Halachot, known as the Traditions of the Fathers. The Septuagint version of the Old Testament was translated at this time (a translation of the Hebrew into Greek, the Bible in general use in the Greek-speaking world of Christ's days).

B. Changes Along Three (3) Lines.

Marked changes are noted along three (3) different lines: politics, religion, and language.

1. In Politics

The political history of this period is in four (4) parts.

a. Persian period (B.C. 536 to 330)

At the close of the Old Testament, under Cyrus, we saw the Jews returning to their own land. Please refer to notes in the Old Testament survey on "The Restoration," and the subject matter of Ezra and Nehemiah. We must not forget that only a "remnant" returned to Jerusalem and Judea. The greater part stayed on in Babylonia and Assyria under Persia rule where they were living more like colonists than captives.

b. Grecian period (B.C. 330 to 167)

One of the wonders of history is seen in the conquests of Alexander the Great. He conquered the Medes and Persians in 330 B.C., bringing the Jews under his control. This mighty conqueror is the "notable horn" in the "he-goat" vision of Daniel 8:1-7 and 20-21. In the brief time of twelve (12) years, he was the conqueror of Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Syria. His ruling ambition was not just to conquer the world but of bringing the impress of Grecian civilization upon the nations of the world. His accomplishments changed the entire course of human history and brought to the world a universal language. His treatment of the Jews was favorable and they were allowed a choice of settlement throughout the empire. Alexander=s untimely death (323 B.C.) brought about a four-fold break up of his empire under four (4) generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Selenus. This fulfilled Daniel's prophecy (Da.8:20-22). Palestine and Egypt now came under the Ptolemy dynasty. Upon the death of Ptolemy Soter, Ptolemy "Philadelphus" came into power and founded the renowned Alexandrian Library. During his reign the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament Scriptures was made from the Hebrew into the Greek language, which by this time had become the language of the civilized world. Upon the death of Ptolemy Philopator in 204 B.C., Antiochus the Great invaded Egypt and Judea, bringing them under Syrian rule. When Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian, took over in 170 B.C. he seized Palestine and subjected the Jews to monstrous cruelties. He slew forty-thousand (40,000), profaned the temple, and shocked their religious sensibilities by offering a sow on the altar. This 'desolation' is considered the type of the "abomination of desolation," in the final antichrist of Matthew 24:15 (Da.11:31).

c. Maccabean period (B.C. 167 to 63)

This is one of the outstanding periods of history. The revolt of the Jews that brought about Jewish independence began under Mathias. Upon his death the leadership passed to his son Judas Maccabeus (from the Hebrew word for "hammer"). The period received its name from this man. Angered and outraged by the persecution from Antiochus, a band of determined godly Jews under Judas Maccabeus rebelled and waged a successful war against the Syrians, winning their independence which lasted for one hundred (100) years. Jerusalem was retaken, the Temple refinished, refurnished, and sacrifices were offered once again. At this time the High Priests were granted civil and priestly authority and given governing power over Jewry. The Hasmonean Dynasty (B.C. 142 to 63) was the controlling power and influence during this period.

d. Roman period (B.C. 63 to New Testament)

The latter successors of Judas Maccabeus did not possess his courage or leadership. They had conflict among themselves and eventually appealed to the Romans for help, who in turn, took over and secured possession of Palestine. Pompey, the Roman Ruler, granted political leadership of Palestine to Herod Antipator, the Edomite in B.C. 47. Upon the death of Antipator, and after a severe struggle, it was given to his son, Herod the Great, by Julius Caesar. Herod, who reigned from 40 to 4 B.C. as king of the Jews, seeking to win favor of the Jews, built an elaborate Temple (greater

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