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Intertestamental Period

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The “Intertestamental period”, or the “Second Temple Period” represent a period within history, which upholds an interpretation for both Christianity and Judaism. According to Judaism, this era acknowledges the “Second Temple Period”, which exemplifies the Jewish Diaspora. First, “diaspora” simply means “dispersion” or “scattering.” This dispersion or scattering began through the efforts of the Assyrians when they defeated Israel in 722 B.C. In effect, the Jewish nation dispersed all over the Middle East, Egypt, and Babylon. These individuals literally disappeared from antiquity due to the results of the Jewish Diaspora. However, Nebuchadnezzar endured the Jewish populaces to inaugurate a cohesive group within Babylon around 597 B.C. Nevertheless, the subject of this essay will focus on the Christian assessment of the “Intertestamental Period.” For centuries, Christian intellectuals describe the era from the final quarter of the fifth century B.C. to the first century A.D. as the “Intertestamental Period.” This era arises with the reconstructing of the Jewish temple in the late sixth century, and terminating with its annihilation in A.D. 70. The “Intertestamental Period” represents a significant account of the supernatural hand of God throughout antiquity. The “Intertestamental Period” characterizes the period from the concluding of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi to the beginning of the New Testament, the book of Matthew. This era embraces about 400 “silent years”. The meaning of “silent years” embodies the various years where the voice of God is non-existent, and God ceased employing the representation of any prophets. In addition, these years represent both dramatic and sweeping changes throughout the ancient world. Most scholars attribute the beginning of these years to the arrival of the magnificent conqueror, Alexander the Great and conclude with the influence of the Herod’s. It is vital for every pupil of the Biblical text to comprehend the historical magnitude of this era. The Intertestamental Period extends a sensational elucidation of the Old Testament prophecies, and a descriptive perspective to the ideologies of Christianity established throughout the New Testament.
First, it is necessary to establish a brief history of the Intertestamental Period. This period of antiquity represents the end of the Old Testament era, where the Persian Empire gained control of Jerusalem and Judaea. It concludes with Rome in charge at the beginning of the New Testament. However, the Jews at the commencement of the Intertestament Period were influenced through the displacement originated by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Due to the captivity, the Jews learned to be fluent in Aramaic, which became the general language. In addition, Alexander the Greats conquest altered their language again, and Hellenistic Greek became the universal language throughout the whole region. However, the sophisticated Jews preserved knowledge of Hebrew. Therefore, the Jews were no longer able to study the law due to their lack of interpretation of the Hebrew language. Nevertheless, Nehemiah proclaims, “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8 NASB) This verse is essential because it elaborates about the difficulties for the Jewish nation to maintain their monotheistic religion. Through the conquest of both the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Hebrew language dismantles as the primary language for the Jewish people. The disbanding of the Jewish people altered their ability to maintain their religion. While in captivity, it was illegal for the Jews to practice their monotheistic religion. However, most Jews were willing to suffer and die to maintain their religion. Effectively, some important developments establish during the Persian period, which enabled the transformation of Judaism, by the first century. Both the synagogue and the Oral Law gain their roots throughout this era, and the origin of either is undocumented. This enabled the Jewish people to develop the synagogue system. No longer were the Jews able to worship at the Temple, so they began to worship corporately within each communities synagogue. The prophet Samuel instructs, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen that the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22 ESV) This enables the Jewish people to substitute prayer and good works for the atonement of sin.
It is essential to understand to the Babylonian Period to grasp the beginning of the Intertestamental Period. This era within the Second Temple Period is recorded within the Old Testament. One is able to observe these recording in the books of II Kings, II Chronicles, and parts of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. The Old Testament offers a historical record of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judea. However, the northern kingdom of Israel already fell to the Assyrians over a century earlier. (II Kings 25:3) Nebuchadnezzar’s deportation policy of the upper class contains the most influence toward the destiny of Judah.
These influences embody the establishment of the Synagogue, Oral Law, and the Jewish desire to abandon idolatry. First, scholars believe the origins of the Synagogue are a result of the exile. Synagogue worship is non-existent in the Old Testament. However, this concept is well established after the return from captivity. This is accredited to the efforts of Ezra and his replacements. These individual developed the procedure of congregational worship, containing prayer and reading of sections from the Bible. These efforts reflect the aspiration of the Jewish captives to study and deliberate the law. Consequently, the exile of the Jewish people enables them to recognize the necessity of worshiping the Creator God sole. During this captivity, idolatry loses its appeal among the Jewish nations. The author of Judith explains, “For never in our generation, nor in these present days, has there been any tribe or family or people or city of ours which worshiped gods made with hands, as was done in days gone by and that was why our fathers were handed over to the sword, and to be plundered, and so they suffered a great catastrophe before our enemies.” (Judith 8:8-19 RSV) Obviously, the Babylonian exile influenced the Intertestamental Period.
Continuing, the establishment of an upstart kingdom is the downfall of the Babylonian empire. This is attained through the efforts of the Persian emperor Cyrus. Eventually, Cyrus enters Babylon, and announces himself as “King of Babylon.” The significance of this era is evident through the words of the Prophet who proclaimed that Cyrus the Great would destroy the Babylonian empire and unshackles the Jews. The prophet proclaims that Cyprus is “the anointed of the Lord.” (Isaiah 45: 1-8) The essence of the Persian Era portrays a magnificent picture of the hand of God utilizing the emperors of nations aside from His choose people to produce a lasting result among the nation of Israel. These individuals continued to rule over Palestine from more than 200 years. Fortunately, the Persians allowed the Jewish people to continue their desired religion. However, the Greeks and Persian remained within a cold war with occasional battles. Through this process, history portrays the inability of the Persian's to maintain their political control, and causing a deteriorating empire. Eventually, the Persians will collapse to the Greek Empire. One is able to see the hand of God again through the prophecies established by Daniel when he proclaimed the destruction of Persia through the efforts of Greece. Daniel proclaims Greece will become a significant empire. (Daniel 8)
Next, it is necessary to establish the significance of the Greek Period within the Intertestamental Period. History deliberates an interpretation of this age through three stages, the triumph of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaic era, and the Seleucid or Syrian era. Eventually, this era would produce what most scholars consider Hellenization. By definition, Hellenization represents the ancient expand of antiquated Greek civilization, exceptionally throughout the Hellenistic Era. Predominately, Alexander the Great conquering of the Persians is recognized as the birthplace of the indoctrinating of countries with Greek culture. Hellenization generates components of Greek foundation united with other varieties and quantities originated in various cultures. This is significant because it explains why the Jews developed the Greek copy of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint is a perfect example of Hellenization. When Alexander the Great conquered a region, he did not dramatically alter the region; he simply infiltrated it with attributes from Greek philosophies.
Alexander the Great and his Conquest
In order for one to appreciate the Hellenization of ancient periods, one must attain a complete understanding of the influence of Alexander the Great and his conquest. First, it is necessary to establish the lineage and education of Alexander the Great. According to The World of the New Testament, “He was born of royal lineage around 356 B.C.” In addition, Alexander the Great studied both philosophy and politics under the great philosopher Aristotle. Eventually, he became the new king of Macedonia after the assassination of his father in 336 B.C. Consequently, Alexander the Great utilized his throne to conquer the vast amount of the known world from Persia, to India. His kingdom consumed the entire region, and under his rule were the nations of Egypt, Persia, and Syria. Alexander the Greats conquest of Persia afforded him the title of “Master of the Middle East.” According to Thomas Lea, “Alexander the Great established colonies that became centers for spreading Hellenism.” These efforts included his encouragement of his soldiers to marry oriental women, and educating Persians in the Greek language. Eventually, a lifestyle of festivities diminished his life, and he died of a fever he contracted around 323 B.C. Unfortunately, the death of Alexander left a divided kingdom with no royal lineage capable of ruling. Over the following several decades’ battles for preeminence fluctuated among the generals. Eventually, Ptolemy I Soter formed the only successful kingdom throughout Egypt.
Ptolemaic Period
Next, it is essential to develop an understanding of the Ptolemaic Period. This era establishes it roots through the efforts of Ptolemy, one of Alexander's most competent generals. Ptolemy established himself as the originator of a governing empire. Following the years of Ptolemy’s control, monarchs of Egypt carried the name “Ptolemy” in spite of their actual descent. Therefore, antiquity bears the remembrances of the Ptolemaic Period. In addition to Ptolemy efforts to maintain his governing empire, he offered the Jewish people religious freedom, while their culture continued to reflect the large amounts of Hellenistic influence. Apparently, this cultural influence enabled the Jews to establish the Greek text of the Law known as the Septuagint. According to legend, Philadelphus or Ptolemy II contracted 70 or 72 intellectuals to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures. The name Septuagint derives from the Greek, which means 70, and often the Roman numeral LXX abbreviates it. Obviously, this translation would replace the Hebrew text due to the effects from disporia of the Jewish people. Previously, it is explained that the Jews were dispersed throughout the Middle East, and the consequences of the dispersion gradually altered the Jews ability to read the law in the Hebrew language. Obviously, the task of translating the Old Testament created by Ptolemy II represents a tremendous accomplishment for the Ptolemaic Period.
Nevertheless, the Ptolemaic Period offered more to the Hebrews aside from the Septuagint. According to Josephus, the dispersal of the Hebrews all over the Mediterranean piloted countless into opulence. Typically, the Ptolemaic Period was one of peace and prosperity. Eventually, the kingdom was reduced to Syria, due to the constant battles between the Ptlolemies and the Seleucids.
The Seleucid or Syrian Period Understandably, the next influential era within the Greek period is the influence established through the Seleucid or Syrian Period. The Syrian influence over Palestine merely continued 31 years. Unfortunately, the attempt to ban Judaism by the ruler of the Syrians interposes to the third countless disaster that altered the Jews and permanently embossed Antiochus in the communal and spiritual awareness of Judaism.
Unfortunately, for the Hebrews Antiochus produced a negative effect throughout their culture. Through the organization of his prohibition, he desired to eliminate the ownership of the Torah, circumcision, festivals, and offerings to Yahweh. Continuing, Antiochus committed the most shattering act according to Jewish Law when he devoted the Jerusalem temple to Zeus. In addition, he assembled a statue of Zeus inside the temple, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. Due to the bitterness Antiochus contained toward the Hebrews, the Emperor abused the families who challenged and maintained their faith in Judaism appallingly. Fortunately, the efforts of a devout Hebrew named Mattathias circumvented the horrors bestowed throughout the Jewish nation, and Mattathias sparked a Jewish resistance movement because he opposed the tragic efforts of the emperor. (I Maccabee 2:15-28)
It is evident that the Hellenization of the ancient world played a crucial role throughout the Intertestamental Period. One must comprehend the significance of the supernatural throughout the many years of the diaspora. The diaspora itself created the capabilities for the future entrance of Christ. Hellenization opened the door for the ability for the Gospel of Christ to be spread throughout the entire world. The desire of individuals like Alexander the Great and Ptolemy enabled the production of the Greek Old Testament, and eventually produced the development of Greek as the common language. These multiple circumstances were not creations of man, but they were development of the will of God. Antiquity explains the ability of God to utilize humanity to produce His desired will. Hellenization of the ancient world is another great example of how God continued to speak throughout the silent years. The Intertestamental Period is a necessity to comprehend, and one is unable to understand the depths of the Biblical text without understanding the Period between both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Battle, John A. Intertestament Period. (accessed August 11, 2013).
Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition. Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2009.
Clogg, Richard. A Concise History of Greece. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Cohen, Shaye J. D. From the Maccabees to the Mishnah. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.
Hooker, Dick. The Diaspora. (accessed August 11, 2013).
James Innell Packer, Merrill Chaplin Tenney, and William White, eds. The World of the New Testament. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews - Book XII. (accessed August 11, 2013).
Kostenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown. Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2009.
Rabbi Michael Zimmerman. History of Judaism During the Intertestamental Period: The Second Temple Period. (accessed August 11, 2013).
Stevenson, John. The Intertestamental Period. (accessed August 11, 2013).
Synagogue. (accessed August 11, 2013).
Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black, eds. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Watt, Jonathan M., and Stanley E. Porter, ed. Diglossia and Other Topics in New Testament Linguistics. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
Zachariah, Katherine. Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity. Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing, 2008.

[ 1 ]. . Rabbi Michael Zimmerman, History of Judaism During the Intertestamental Period: The Second Temple Period, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 2 ]. . Dick Hooker, The Diaspora, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 3 ]. . Ibid.
[ 4 ]. . Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), 26.
[ 5 ]. . John Stevenson, The Intertestamental Period, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 6 ]. . Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), 59.
[ 7 ]. . Jonathan M. Watt and Stanley E. Porter, eds., Diglossia and Other Topics in New Testament Linguistics (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 18-36.
[ 8 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown.
[ 9 ]. . Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition, 10.
[ 10 ]. . Battle, Intertestament Period.
[ 11 ]. . Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition, 10.
[ 12 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 63.
[ 13 ]. . Ibid.
[ 14 ]. . Ibid., 63.
[ 15 ]. . Synagogue, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 16 ]. . Synagogue, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 17 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 63.
[ 18 ]. . Ibid., 64.
[ 19 ]. . Ibid.
[ 20 ]. . Ibid., 65.
[ 21 ]. . Katherine Zachariah, Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity (Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing, 2008), 252-53.
[ 22 ]. . Richard Clogg, A Concise History of Greece (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 209-13.
[ 23 ]. . James Innell Packer, Merrill Chaplin Tenney, and William White, eds., The World of the New Testament (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 3.
[ 24 ]. . Ibid.
[ 25 ]. . Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, eds., The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 13-14.
[ 26 ]. . Ibid.
[ 27 ]. . Ibid., 13.
[ 28 ]. . Ibid., 15.
[ 29 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 67.
[ 30 ]. . Ibid.
[ 31 ]. . Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - Book XII, (accessed August 11, 2013).
[ 32 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 68.
[ 33 ]. . Ibid.
[ 34 ]. . Ibid., 69.
[ 35 ]. . Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 22.
[ 36 ]. . Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 69.

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