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 of the intertestamental period[edit]

Persian rule[edit]

See also: Yehud Medinata
539–331 BC

Persian rule under Artaxerxes I, Darius II, Artaxerxes II, Artaxerxes III, Arses and Darius III.

Medo-Persian rule[edit]

The Medo-Persian Empire was established by Cyrus and lasted 207 years. Judah was under Persian rule for about 100 years.[2] The Medo-Persian Empire became a model to future empires in the delegation of power to local governments.[3] This could account for the timing of Cyrus the Great allowing the exiled Jews to return from Babylonian captivity[4]

Hellenistic period[edit]

The conquest of Alexander the Great in 330 BC not only brought the Jews under Grecian domination (see also Hellenistic Judaism) but also introduced the Greek language and ideas throughout the ancient world.[5] Due to Alexander's conquest, Hellenism was very prominent during the New Testament period. The Greek culture affected the Jews in particular. A lot of New Testament books of the Bible are letters written to the Hellenized Jews. There was no resisting the Greek culture. So powerful was this Hellenization that even after Rome conquered the Jews, the Greek culture continued within the Roman Empire.[6]

Alexander the Great reigned for a very short time from 336 BC to 323 BC. His father, Phillip II, king of Macedonia, had united the Greek states and attempted to invade Persia, but was killed in 336 BC. Alexander, 19, succeeded him and continued his father’s plans. In 334 BC, Alexander crossed the Hellespont, and soon met the Persian army. In 333 BC, he met Darius’ army in the mountains between Cilicia and Syria. The Persian army was almost defeated there. Alexander turned to conquer Tyre, all the way to Gaza. Jerusalem simply submitted to him. He conquered Egypt and built a city at the mouth of the Nile and named it Alexander after himself.

Alexander crossed the Euphrates River in 331 BC, and completely defeated the Persians in Arbela. Darius fled, but he was soon killed. In 330 BC, Alexander entered Babylon, and still traveled east to conquer and build cities. After conquering the Punjab area of India, he turned around, re-entering Babylon in 324 BC to make it his capital.In 323 BC, he died from drinking too much ardent spirits at 32 years old. He had conquered the world in just 6 years.[7]

Alexander wrote a letter to the high priest and governor at Jerusalem, while besieging Tyre, demanding that they send extra troops and supplies. Jaddua refused to do it. Jaddua formed a great procession of the priesthood. Jaddua marched at the front holding only the scriptures. Alexander saluted him and offered anything Jaddua wanted. Alexander granted that the people could plant crops on the sabbatic year, enjoy their own religion, and have a separate section of his city in Egypt. Alexander explained that he had a dream where Jaddua came to him to say that the Persians would fall before him.[8]

Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties[edit]

323–166 BC

After the death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided, and a struggle between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the monarchs of Syria ensued, resulting first in Egyptian, then in Syrian, rule over Judea.

The latter was a dark period in Jewish history, especially during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian king, who committed many outrages against the Jews, sought to establish idolatry in Jerusalem (abomination of desolation), and defiled the Second Temple.

Antiochus Epiphanes, the father of Antiochus the Great, died leaving Antiochus hostage in Rome after the great battle of Magnesia. He grew up there and became fond of Roman fashion and Greek culture. Antiochus, using flattery and treachery, took the place of his nephew, Demetrius, as king even though he was not the rightful heir. Antiochus was said to be a vile person with no conscience about sacred and holy things.

During his reign he set up a high priest named Jason, a Jew, who claimed to be Hellenized and believe in Greek religion. However, a second man, named Menelaus, offered the king a better bargain, and therefore, replaced Jason as high priest. He, also, called himself a Jew but did not heed the Jewish religion. He set up a Greek gymnasium in the holy city, Jerusalem, trying to Hellenize the Jews.[9]

After Antiochus was claimed to be dead, 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]) He then asked Rome to enter a treaty with him but he died in the battle before the news arrived.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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”.[20]

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. ^ Carroll, Benajah Harvey. Between the Testaments (PDF) (PDF). Woodstock, VA: Grace Baptist Church. p. 9. 
  3. ^ David Sacks, Oswyn Murray, Lisa R. Brody; Oswyn Murray, Lisa R. Brody (2005). Encyclopedia of the ancient Greek world. Infobase Publishing. pp. 256. ISBN 978-0-8160-5722-1.
  5. ^ Carroll, p.16
  6. ^ Carroll, p.17
  7. ^ Carroll, p.12
  8. ^ Carroll, p.14
  9. ^ Carroll, p.32
  10. ^ Carroll, p.36
  11. ^ Carroll, p.34
  12. ^ Carroll, p.36
  13. ^ Carroll, p.39
  14. ^ Carroll, p.41
  15. ^ Carroll, p.40
  16. ^ Carroll, p.43
  17. ^ Carroll, p.42
  18. ^ Carroll, p.43
  19. ^ Carroll, p.45
  20. ^ Carroll, p.46
  21. ^ 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]