Between The Testaments

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Between The Testaments

Post  blessed4ever on Fri 10 Jul 2009, 6:11 pm

There is a period of some four centuries between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament. During this period, God’s voice in divine revelation was stilled.

The political history of this period of time falls into several periods of governmental dominion by foreign powers:
  1. The Persians governed the Jews from the time of the return from the Babylonian Captivity to 332 B.C.

  2. The Grecians brought the Jews under their domination with the conquest of the Persians by Alexander the Great. This opened up Palestine to the effects of Greek culture by Hellenization (332-301 B.C.).

  3. The Ptolemaic or Egyptian period from 301-198 B.C. was a time when much Hellenization permeated Judaism and its lifestyle.

  4. The Syrian period began with Antiochus III who defeated the Egyptians in 198 B.C., and took control over Palestine. His successor Antiochus IV, who was known as Epiphanes (the manifested one) but who was nick-named Epimanes (the madman), sought to Hellenize the Jews completely and endeavored to destroy the religious practices of Judaism. He ordered pigs sacrificed on Jewish altars and when a reprobate Jewish priest sought to do so, the Jews revolted and the Maccabean wars broke out. The fierce fighting zeal and military skill of the Maccabees finally drove the Syrians out of Palestine.

  5. The Maccabean or Hasmonean period continued from 163 B.C. to 63 B.C. when Rome conquered Palestine.

  6. The Roman period was a time when Rome ruled Palestine through either procurators or rulers such as the Herodians. In 37 B.C. Herod the Great was placed as King and ruled until 4 B.C. It was during his reign that Christ was born and the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem took place. Herod had three sons who followed him as rulers: Archelaus ruled over Jerusalem from 4 B.C. to A.D. 6, after which Judea was ruled by Roman procurators (from A.D. 41-44, however, King Herod Agrippa I ruled over Judea); Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39; Herod Philip ruled east and north of the sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34.
During the Roman period, great power was concentrated in the hands of the High Priest who, for all practical purposes, was the political leader of the Jews. The Roman period ended about A.D. 135.

The religious developments during the four centuries between the Testaments saw the translation of the Septuagint (from about 250-150 B.C.), the rise of the Synagogue, and the establishment of the various religious sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Essenes.
  1. The Pharisees were the legalists of the day. They were devoted to the Law of Moses and sought to adapt and apply it to the varying conditions and experiences of life. They had firm belief in the supernatural, in angels, in the immortality of the soul, the doctrines of the future life, future rewards and punishments, and the resurrection.

  2. The Sadducees were the rationalists of the day. Their beliefs were governed by a skeptical attitude toward religion. They believed in the literal interpretation of the Law of Moses but did not allow it to have much effect on their lives. They denied the existence of angels, immortality, rewards, punishments, and the future life. They were materialistic and had an earthly outlook.

  3. The Essenes were the mystics of their times. Some scholars have identified them with the Qumran community of the Dead Sea Scrolls, though there are some problems connected with such an identification. A monastic community, the Essenes emphasized withdrawal from the world. They shared property in common and ate at a common table. They were vegetarians and their economy was based on labor in the fields. They abhorred filth in any form and their white apparel signified purity.
These parties made significant impact on Judaism and its faith. The Sadducees were politically the most powerful party during New Testament times.

The moral conditions during these years were especially horrendous. Orgiastic practices in heathen worship, divorce, abortion, infanticide, prostitution, seduction, and adultery characterized the Gentile world. Despair was rampant and the need for a Savior was a desperate necessity.

The Greeks, the Romans and the Jews with their important positions of leadership during these four centuries made their own contributions to the world into which Christ came and through which Christianity spread.

The Greeks, the framers of classical expression and civilization, contributed in a most unusual way since it was into their language that the Old Testament was translated and was spread among the Jews through their Synagogue worship. And when God gave His revelation through the New Testament, it was written in the Greek language (Koine Greek), for Greek was the language of commerce during this time.

The Romans left the legacy of law and order and a great highway system leading out from Rome to the ends of the Empire (see Major Roads). Along these highways, the Gospel was taken to various parts of that great Empire.

The Jews made four-fold contribution: a belief in one God, the Scriptures in the common language of Greek, the Synagogue as the place of public worship, and a strong faith in God. These all made a strong impact upon the heathen mind and many became proselytes to Judaism (cf. Acts 6:5 - NKJV).

During these four centuries between the Testaments, in varied ways, God prepared the world for the coming of Christ and as Paul stated: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4 - KJV).

Source: Ronald William Publishers, 1981, The Bible - Between The Testaments, 42-43. Palm Springs, California

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