Setting the Stage for the Messiah
The Period between the Testaments
443 (C.) Nehemiah and Ezra read the Scriptures to the Jews; the first roots of the Vidrash begin to sprout; the Sopherim (scribes) flourish.
436 (C.) Malachi begins to prophesy.
429 Death of Pericles. The Acropolis is finished. Plato is born.
342 Epicurius teaches his philosophy.
336 Darius III Codomannus becomes king of
332 Alexander destroys
331 Alexander seizes
327 Alexander invades
323 Alexander claims to be the son of Zeus.
Alexander's empire divided among his four chief generals.
285 Ptolemy II Philadelphia becomes king of
274 Hinduism codified in
214 Construction of
168 The Romans interfere in Antiochus's war with
166 Matthias leads the Jews in revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes.
164 Antiochus Epiphanes dies.
130 The Pharisees begin to emerge as a sect.
64 Pompey captures
60 The first Triumvirate at
59 Julius Caesar becomes proconsul. Pompey marries Julia, daughter of Caesar.
58 Caesar conquers
54 Caesar invades
49 Caesar crosses the Rubicon.
44 Caesar assassinated.
42 Caesar deified; temple to him erected in the Forum where his murder had taken place. Battle of Philippi fought.
40 Herod appointed king.
37 Herod captures
27 Octavian assumes the title of Augustus.
20 Herod begins to rebuild the
4 The birth of Jesus.
14 Augustus dies. Tiberius becomes Roman emperor.
26 Jesus begins to teach,- He characterizes rabbinic teaching (the Mishna) as "vain tradition.” Pilate becomes procurator of
30 Jesus crucified and raised from the dead. The Christian church is born at Pentecost.
I. Literature - During these unhappy years of oppression and internal strife, the Jewish people produced a sizable body of literature that both recorded and addressed their era. Three of the more significant works are the Septuagint, the Apocrypha and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A. Septuagint - Jewish legend says that 72 scholars, under the sponsorship of Ptolemy Phfladelphus (c. 250 B.C.), were brought together on the
1. Behind the legend lies the probability that at least the Torah (the five books of Moses) was translated into Greek c. 250 B.c. for the use of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria. The rest of the OT and some noncanonical books were also included in the LXX before the dawning of the Christian era, though it is difficult to be certain when.
2. The Septuagint quickly became the Bible of the Jews outside
B. Apocrypha - Derived from a Greek word that means "hidden," Apocrypha has acquired the meaning "false," but in a technical sense it describes a specific body of writings. This collection consists of a variety of books and additions to canonical books that, with the exception of 2 Esdras ( A.D. 90), were written during the intertestamental period. Their recognition as authoritative in Roman and Eastern Christianity is the result of a complex historical process.
1. The canon of the OT accepted by Protestants today was very likely established by the dawn of the second century A.D., though after the fall of
2. The Apocryphal books have retained their place primarily through the weight of ecclesiastical authority, without which they would not commend themselves as canonical literature. There is no clear evidence that Jesus or the apostles ever quoted any Apocryphal works as Scripture (but see note on Jude 14). The Jewish community that produced them repudiated them, and the historical surveys in the apostolic sermons recorded in Acts completely ignore the period they cover. Even the sober, historical account of I Maccabees is tarnished by numerous errors and anachronisms.
3. There is nothing of theological value in the Apocryphal books that cannot be duplicated in canonical Scripture, and they contain much that runs counter to its teachings. Nonetheless, this body of literature does provide a valuable source of information for the study of the intertestamental period.
C. Dead Sea Scrolls - In the spring of 1947 an Arab shepherd chanced upon a cave in the hills overlooking the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea that contained what has been called "the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times." The documents and fragments of documents found in those caves, dubbed the "Dead Sea Scrolls," included OT books, a few books of the Apocrypha, apocalyptic works, pseudepigrapha (books that purport to be the work of ancient heroes of the faith), and a few of the books peculiar to the sect that produced them.
1. Approximately a third of the documents are Biblical, with Psalms, Deuteronomy and Isaiah-the books quoted most often in the NT-occurring most frequently. One of the most remarkable finds was a complete 24-foot-long scroll of Isaiah.
2. The Scrolls have made a significant contribution to the quest for a form of the OT texts most accurately reflecting the original manuscripts; they provide copies 1,000 years closer to the originals than were previously known. The understanding of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic and knowledge of the development of Judaism between the Testaments have been increased significantly. Of great importance to readers of the Bible is the demonstration of the care with which OT texts were copied, thus providing objective evidence for the general reliability of those texts.
II. Social Developments - The Judaism of Jesus' day is, to a large extent, the result of changes that came about in response to the pressures of the intertestamental period.
A. Diaspora. The Diaspora (dispersion) of
B. Sadducees. In
C. Synagogue. During the exile,
D. Pharisees. As the party of the synagogue, the Pharisees strove to reinterpret the law. They built a "hedge" around it to enable Jews to live righteously before God in a world that had changed drastically since the days of Moses. Although they were comparatively few in number, the Pharisees enjoyed the support of the people and influenced popular opinion if not national policy. They were the only party to survive the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and were the spiritual progenitors of modern Judaism.
Essenes - An almost forgotten Jewish sect until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes were a small, separatist group that grew out of the conflicts of the Maccabean age. Like the Pharisees, they stressed strict legal observance, but they considered the temple priesthood corrupt and rejected much of the temple ritual and sacrificial system. Mentioned by several ancient writers, the precise nature of the Essenes is still not certain, though it is generally agreed that the
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