The Old Testament Period ends with the Persians ruling the Jewish land and the New Testament Period opens with the Romans controlling it. Sandwiched between the two was the Greek Empire as well as a century of Jewish independence. The Inter-Testamental Period was filled with wars, rumors of wars, social and religious conflicts, and tensions. Times of peace and prosperity were rare and brief. In fact, descriptions of what modern evangelicals call today as the “signs of the last days,” also describe this era – an era that culminated with the birth of Jesus. Judaism of this era was a descendant of the Old Testament Hebrew and faith, but was not identical to it. On the other hand, it must be distinguished from Rabbinic Judaism which developed mostly after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70.
This 400-year period is also called the silent Inter-Testamental Period. The term “silent” is used because there were no prophetic voices. Unfortunately, this suggests that God was not involved in the lives of His people. However, this is not to say that God did not intervene in the affairs of His people. In fact, two significant demonstrations of divine intervention were when,
- Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem, but did not destroy it.
- The Jewish farmers had an incredible military victory over the professional army of the Syrian-Greek dictator Antiochus IV Epiphanes, known as the Maccabean Revolt.
As will be shown, the Hellenistic influence upon the Jewish people was profound. After the Jews finally won their independence from the Greeks, their new leaders were almost as wicked as those they had defeated. Then came the Romans who installed an Idumean, Herod the Great (71 – 4 B.C.; reigned 37 – 4 B.C.), to be their “King of the Jews.” Herod’s personal life was a continuous disaster and would have made any Hollywood soap opera look like a children’s book. He was a descendant of Esau, had many of his ten wives killed, and only three of his sons survived to become rulers. Into this social, political, and chaotic environment, came Jesus.
Finally, there are almost no extra-biblical writings from the first two centuries of this era; but there is a vast amount of literary works from the second half of this turbulent period.