The Inter-Testamental Period

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“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks…”

Dan. 9:25

“These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.  But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.”

Dan. 7:17-18

“And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

Dan. 11:32

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The Inter-Testamental Period comprises the 400 years between the close of the Old Testament when the Temple was rebuilt and the prophets ceased, and the coming of Jesus the Messiah, when God ‘hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son.’ (Heb. 1:2)

God left not his Church without guidance, but prophesied in detail what would happen during this era by the prophet Daniel.  Much of the political history of this time forms the general background to the New Testament and is illuminating thereto.  

Hence, a knowledge of the Inter-Testamental Period will be of the utmost interest to the one that loves everything relating to God’s Word.

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Order of Contents

The Scriptural Prophecies
Historical Background  4
.      The Herods
General Ancient History & Religion  3
Inter-Testamental Primary Sources:

Jewish  3
Apocrypha & Pseudepigraphia  2
The Dead Sea Scrolls  1

Greek  1
Roman  1

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The Scriptural Prophecies of the Inter-Testamental Time

Daniel:

ch. 2:31-46  The Statue and the 4 Kingdoms till Messiah: 1. Babylon, 2. Media-Persia, 3. Greece, 4. Rome

ch. 8  The Ram (Media-Persia) and the Goat (Greece)

ch. 9:24-27  The Seventy Weeks, or 490 years till Messiah

ch. 10:20-12:1  Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Maccabees, and the Roman domination till Messiah

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Commentaries

In order to see the incredible point-by-point historical fulfillment of these detailed and intricate prophecies, see Commentaries on Daniel.  

That these prophecies are authentic, and were written during the Babylonian captivity (500’s B.C.), and not written after they were fulfilled during the 2nd century B.C. (per liberalism), see ‘The Authenticity of Daniel’ on the same page.

 

 

Historical Background

Top Recommendation

Edersheim, Alfred – ‘Introductory. The Preparation for the Gospel: The Jewish World in the Days of Christ’  1883   110 pp.  being Book 1, chs. 1-8 of The Life and Time of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 1

You need to read Edersheim’s ‘Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah’ cover-to-cover.  It may be one of the best books you ever read.

Edersheim was raised in Orthodox Judaism and became a Christian partially through the influence of ‘Rabbi’ John Duncan.  He entered the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland.  Later he transferred into the Church of England and was a renowned scholar on 1st century studies.

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Alexander, Archibald – A History of the Israelitish Nation: From Their Origin to Their Dispersion at the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Part 5, Section 3 to Part 6, Section 8  1853  140 pp.

Alexander was the first professor of Old Princeton seminary.  This work is an expansion of his earlier work: Annals of the Jewish Nation During the Period of the Second Temple  1832  355 pages

Fairweather, William

The Background of the Gospels, or, Judaism in the Period Between the Old and New Testaments  Buy  1908  500 pp.

Fairweather was a minister in the post-1900, United Free Church of Scotland.

From the Exile to the Advent  1895  236 pp.  in Handbooks for Bible Classes, ed. Dods & Whyte

Schurer, Emil – A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, vol. 1 (Political History of Palestine, 175 – 4 BC)  1891  465 pp.  There are 5 volumes in this set

Schurer (1844–1910) was a German scholar.

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The Herods

The Herods

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General Ancient History and Religion

Rawlinson, George

The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, or the History, Geography and Antiquities of Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Parthia, and Sassanian, or New Persian Empire, vol. 1 (Chaldea, Assyria), 2 (Media, Babylonia, Persia), 3 (Parthia, Sassanian/New-Persian)  1875

Rawlinson (1812–1902) was an Oxford scholar of ancient history who was committed to the historical truthfulness of the Scriptural account (and gave a series of the Bampton Lectures defending that proposition in detail, which was published as a book).

A Manual of Ancient History from the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Western Empire  1871  640 pp.

The Religions of the Ancient World, including Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia, Persia, India, Phoenicia, Etruria, Greece, Rome   n.d.  290 pp.  A chapter is devoted to each nation, about 30 pages long

“From none of them [these ancient religions] could the Hebrew religion have originated… The facts point to a primitive religion, of which monotheism and expiatory sacrifice were parts, gradually corrupted and lost except among the Hebrews.” – Rawlinson, Concluding Remarks

 

 

Jewish Primary Sources

Josephus

Books 11-16 of The Antiquities of the Jews  184 pp.  Trans. William Whiston;  From 536 B.C. to 4 B.C.

Book 1 of Wars of the Jews  60 pp.  Trans. William Whiston;  From the mid-2nd century B.C. to the death of Herod the Great

Josephus (37-100), the 1st century Jewish historian gives his recounting of the near history of the Jews before the New Testament era, many of which events may have been popularly in the minds of the 1st century gospel hearers.

Philo – The Works of Philo Judaeus, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4  Trans. C.D. Yonge

Philo (25 BC – 50 AD) was an Alexandrian, Egyptian Jewish theologian who was a contemporary of Jesus, who largely represented the thought of Hellenistic Judaism, which had developed outside the land of Israel since the Dispersion rsulting from the Babylonian captivity.

 

 

The Apocrypha & Pseudepigraphia

ed. Charles, R.H. – The Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old Testament in English, with Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes, vol. 1 (Apocrypha), 2 (Pseudepigraphia)

The Jewish Apocrypha, while not being inspired or part of the canon, does give some very helpful light upon the history and thought of the Inter-testamental period, as most of its books were written during the first few centuries B.C.  

For instance, the books of Maccabees are our main primary source for much of the Jewish history during the 2 century B.C.  Scripture says in the prophecies of Daniel that during the Maccabean time, “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Dan. 12:32

‘Pseudepigraphia’ means writings written under a false name.  These religious writings, also written during the first few centuries B.C., none of which made it into the Jewish canon, do give some light on the current literature of that day.  Read them and you will see why they were not recognized as inspired, though forgeries and false prophets have abounded in every age.

The New Testament Pseudepigraphia is generally not useful to understanding the background of the New Testament, as it is post-dated, by definition, to the New Testament, though it may have some use in understanding post-Biblical early Church history in its erroneous strands (as Paul warns against in Galatians, Colossians, etc.).

ed. Charlesworth, James – The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols.  Buy  1983  1,000 pp. each  Doubleday/Anchor

The is the most exhaustive, scholarly and standard edition of the O.T. Pseudepigraphia, including 65 works, many more than what is in R.H. Charles’ older edition above.

 

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls

ed. Vermes, Geza – The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English  Buy

See the Dead Sea Scrolls at Wikipedia for background info.  This is the standard translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Read them all for yourself!  

Vermes  (1924–2013) was a Jewish/secular scholar, one of the foremost authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The lengthy, detailed and sufficient Introduction in this book will give you all you need to know about the the group and their scrolls, their history, characteristics and their teachings.  The Introduction was later published as its own separate volume.  

While the scrolls do give some interesting insight into the Jewish Inter-Testamental period, the helpfulness of the Scrolls to understanding the setting of the N.T. is very limited and is tangential, because the group that this literature derived from was essentially a fringe, monastic Jewish, prophetic, cult that remained deliberately secluded from the rest of Judaism and their distinctives were shared very little, if at all, with the rest of the Jewish people. 

The closest group that they had some superficial resemblance to was the Jewish Essenes, though they were very distinct from them as well.  John the Baptist’s character and mission emphatically was not that of the Essenes or the Dead Sea group, and he had certain practices that were forbidden by the Dead Sea group; any ascetic similarity between them was simply superficial.

 

 

Greek Primary Sources

Herodotus – The History of Herodotus, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4  transl. by George Rawlinson

Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 B.C.) a Greek historian, is often considered ‘The Father of History’.  He gathered materials and wrote a history of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars, which were prophesied of by Daniel.

 

 

Roman Primary Sources

Suetonius – Lives of the Twelve Caesars, and Lives of the Grammarians, Rhetoricians and Poets  570 pp. in Bohn’s Classical Library

Suetonius (AD 69-122) gives biographies of the 12 Roman Caesars, ranging roughly from 100 BC to 96 AD.  

After reading these accounts, mixed heavily with superstition and fables, you will appreciate even more the plain, mutally confirming, self-evident truthfulness of the Gospels and the history of Acts.

 

 

 

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Mal. 3:1

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Related Pages

Old Testament Commentaries

Old Testament Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

New Testament Commentaries

New Testament Background, Survey & Introduction

Whole Bible Commentaries

Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction