Intertestamental period

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The intertestamental period is the gap of time between the period covered by the Hebrew Bible and the period covered by the Christian New Testament. Traditionally, it is considered to cover roughly four hundred years, spanning the ministry of Malachi (c. 420 BC) to the appearance of John the Baptist in the early 1st century AD, almost the same period as the Second Temple period (530 BC to 70 AD). It is known by members of the Protestant community as the "400 Silent Years" because it is believed to have been a span where God revealed nothing new to his people.[1] However, most of the Deuterocanonical or Anagignoskomena books, accepted as scripture by Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy respectively, were written during this time, so it is sometimes also referred to as the Deuterocanonical period. This is also the time when many pseudopigraphal works were produced. An understanding of the events of the intertestamental period provides context for the New Testament.

Political history[edit]

Achaemenid rule[edit]

See also: Yehud Medinata

Yehud Medinata (Aramaic for "the province of Judah"), Yahud Medin'ta/Yahud Medinsa,[2] or simply Yehud, was an autonomous province of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, roughly equivalent to the older Kingdom of Judah but covering a smaller area, within the satrapy of Eber-Nari. The area of Yehud Medinata corresponded to the previous Babylonian province with the same name, formed after the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian Empire (c.597 after its conquest of the Mediterranean east coast, and again in 585/6 BCE after suppressing an unsuccessful Judean revolt). Yehud Medinata continued to exist for two centuries, until being incorporated into the Hellenistic empires, following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Hellenistic period[edit]

The conquest of Alexander the Great in 330 BC not only brought the Jews under Hellenistic domination but also introduced the Greek language and ideas throughout the ancient world.[3]

Ptolemies and Seleucids[edit]

After the death of Alexander his kingdom was divided, and a struggle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids ensued, resulting first in Ptolemaic, then Seleucid, rule over Judea.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes[edit]

In an ongoing dispute between the current High Priest, Onias III, and Simon the Benjamite, Jason offered to pay Antiochus IV Epiphanes in order to be confirmed as the new High Priest in Jerusalem. Antiochus accepted the offer and further allowed Jason to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem and create a Greek-style polis named after the king, Antioch.[4]

Jason's time as High Priest was brought to an abrupt end in 172 BCE when he sent Menelaus, the brother of Simon the Benjamite, to deliver money to Antiochus. Menelaus took this opportunity to "outbid" Jason for the priesthood, resulting in Antiochus confirming Menelaus as the High Priest.

Menelaus' first act was to seize the sacred vessels in the Temple stores in order to meet the obligations he had incurred. This act came to the ears of the deposed high priest Onias III, who publicly accused Menelaus of robbing the Temple. The latter, afraid of the consequences of this accusation, induced the king's lieutenant Andronicus, who had had his share of the plunder, to get rid of Onias before a formal complaint had been lodged with the king. Accordingly Onias was decoyed from the sanctuary at Daphne, in which he had sought refuge, and murdered.

Maccabean Revolt[edit]

After Antiochus was claimed to have been killed while trying to conquer Egypt, the Jews made an effort to overrule Menelaus, the high priest. However, when Antiochus heard of this he came back, and, believing that the Jews were rebelling, he killed thousands of their men, and stole items from the temple.[5] Later, Antiochus sent a general named Apollonius, to Jerusalem. He destroyed the temple, stealing objects and corrupting it with unclean animals and sacrifices to Greek gods.[6]

Judas Maccabeus was appointed charge of the army. He conquered Edom and helped in oppressing Judah. Judas defeated Antiochus’ army. When Antiochus heard this he was grief-stricken. He decided since he was near death he would crown his friend Philip ruler of his kingdom.[7]

Jewish independence[edit]

Under Maccabees and Hasmonean dynasty 166–63 BC, spreading teaching of unity of God, messianic hope and Scriptures.

Antiochus' activity led to the Maccabean revolt, 166 BC in which the priest Matthias and his sons defeated the Syrians in a series of battles, which secured the independence of the province of Judea.

This was the foundation of the Hasmonean dynasty, which reigned from 166–63 BC.

The Hasmonean dynasty's main proponent was Judas Maccabees. While Judas was in power, Menelaus was appointed as high priest by the Syrian king. The Syrian king sent an army against Judas. Judas met this army with 3,000 men who had advised him not to fight. Nevertheless, Judas fought and was defeated. Judas advised Antiochus to make peace. Peace was made with this condition: the Jews were free to practice their religion, but they remained under Syria.[8] Judas eventually defeats the Syrian general and brings the spoils to Jerusalem. Demetrius sent a great army against him he had 22,000 men while Judas had 3,000 men. Judas’ men left him and only 800 men remained.[9]) He then asked Rome to enter a treaty with him but he died in the battle before the news arrived.[10] His brother Jonathan was then appointed king and he joined with Alexander in the war to become the ruler of Syria. To further strengthen himself, Alexander entered a peace treaty with Ptolemy in which he gave his daughter Cleopatra to Alexander. Ptolemy wants to become the ruler of the Seleucids therefore he ended this treaty. Trypho, a minister and general to Alexander, invited Jonathan over. He killed Jonathan’s 1,000 men and put Jonathan in prison because he wanted to become king, and Jonathan was in his way.[11]

Roman rule[edit]

Pompey in the Temple of Jerusalem, by Jean Fouquet.
Main article: Iudaea province

In 63 BC, Pompey of Rome conquered Jerusalem, putting all of Judea under Roman control. This eventually led to Herod the Great being made King of the Jews by the Roman senate. This would be the nation that taxed and controlled the Jews, and eventually executed Jesus on a Roman cross, see Responsibility for the death of Jesus for details. Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures (and others) were now mixed together in Judea and in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire is commonly associated with the establishment of stable government, uniform laws, and Roman roads, water and sewerage systems. Nevertheless, there was an uprising at the Census of Quirinius and several Roman–Jewish Wars before the region was finally fully subjugated and renamed Syria Palaestina in AD 135.

In 44 BC, Rome was turned into a madhouse. This was caused by the assassination of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate. There were 60 senators led by Brutus and Cassias who committed the murder. Antipater was raising an army to help Brutus and Cassias, but the Jews poisoned him in 43 BC. Octavius and Antony defeated Brutus and Cassias, who committed suicide.[12]

Herod the Great reigned from 37 BC to 4 BC. He married an Hasmonean princess before he captured Jerusalem. Herod had to kill his beautiful wife because she was getting tortured by Herod’s sister and his Arabian mother. This was the only woman that he truly loved, and he married many women. He also had to murder the two sons of that wife. He always felt guilty for murdering her. Herod also put to death 43 members of the Sanhedrin because they had summoned him to a trial.[13]

In Caesarea and Samaria Herod erected many heathen temples. Herod’s greatest exploit was the rebuilding of the temple, known as Herod's Temple. The building of it began in 20 BC and it was completed in 65 AD. Five years later it was destroyed. His temple was far superior to both the Solomonic and Zerubbabelian temples.[14]

Herod also committed many more murders in his lifetime. In 28 BC Herod killed another one of his wives, and one year later he killed his own beloved mother. Because of all Herod’s murders Octavius said “it is safer to be Herod’s swine than his son”. In 4 BC Herod is said to have slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem in an effort to destroy a future “King of the Jews”.[15]

Significant events[edit]

Development of Jewish sects[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lambert, Lance. "400 Silent Years: Anything but Silent". Retrieved 2012-09-21. 
  2. ^ Yehud Medinata article in the Hebrew Language Wikipedia
  3. ^ Carroll, p.16
  4. ^ 2 Maccabees 4:7-11
  5. ^ Carroll, p.36
  6. ^ Carroll, p.34
  7. ^ Carroll, p.36
  8. ^ Carroll, p.39
  9. ^ Carroll, p.41
  10. ^ Carroll, p.40
  11. ^ Carroll, p.43
  12. ^ Carroll, p.42
  13. ^ Carroll, p.43
  14. ^ Carroll, p.45
  15. ^ Carroll, p.46
  16. ^ a b Brown, S. Kent; Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel (December 2014). "The Lost 500 Years: From Malachi to John the Baptist". Ensign: 56–60. 

Further reading[edit]

  • The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 1, Page 457 "Literary Activity"
  • Pfeiffer, Charles F. Between the Testaments. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1959. 132 p.
  • Carroll, Benajah Harvey. Between the Testaments (PDF) (PDF). Woodstock, VA: Grace Baptist Church. p. 9. 

External links[edit]