Intertestamental Period Essay

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Intertestamental Period

INTRODUCTION

The overarching goal of the Christian church is to model a Kingdom lifestyle and in so doing facilitate a change in the world towards a lifestyle approved of God. That goal is accomplished by (1) being in the world, but not of the world, (2) being one and (3) using Kingdom methodology to achieve God’s objectives. But achieving the goal using that strategy is made difficult when it must be done in the midst of competing lifestyles. Especially when there is a desire to fit in rather than being ‘peculiar’. During the Intertestamental Period, also called the Second Temple Period by some authors, the Jews experienced cultural and environmental pressures which forced them apart and set the stage for the ministry of Jesus. The following is a brief summary of those pressures.

1. The Jews were bounded on all sides by other cultures and this caused them to compromise their life style to fit in with the world giving up any real distinction between a righteous lifestyle and a worldly lifestyle. Bruce stated that “the Greek way of life was attractive to many, and slowly but surely it continued to make headway among large sections of the population, including even the great priestly families in Jerusalem. This tendency was inimical to the true calling of Israel, and tended to break down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles in the wrong way, by blurring the sharp distinction between Israel’s revealed religion and Greek heathenism.”

2. The Jews moved from ‘being one’ to being ‘standalone competing sects’. It is readily observable that this caused infighting and an inward focus that was detrimental to their inherent mission. This problem was highlighted in later years when Jesus said “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

3. The Use of Political Means to Achieve Kingdom Ends

Instead of being in the world, but not of the world, the Jews readily became part of the world by entering into the political system of the culture in an attempt to develop some level of security and ensure their prosperity. The use of political maneuvering was used during the entire 400 year period. For the most part it would be impossible to distinguish the political wrangling of the Jews from that of any other self-interest groups of the day. 4. The combining of church and state in the office of High Priest. The High Priest was supposed to monitor and ensure the spiritual welfare of the Jews. However in during the Intertestamental period, governmental authority was vested in that position by the ruling factions. We can observe the same thing in some churches today.

We have Pastors who are not only empowered with the spiritual welfare of the church but are also given carte blanche authority over the governance of the church. And balancing those requirements is difficult at best. We must also consider the varying conquest strategies used by the nations that existed around the Jews. The Semitic nations, which included the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Ammonites, the Moabites and the Esau-ites deported those they conquered to be settled in foreign lands. Additionally, they had a policy of destroying the religion and culture of those they conquered. The Japhetic nations, which included the Medo-Persians, generally sent the conquered back to their homelands and granted some religious and political self-rule.

The Hamitic nations, which included the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Philistines and the Phoenicians, deported those they conquered and destroyed their culture and religion. Several sources were used to conduct this analysis and as can be expected, various divisions and time periods were used. For the purposes of this paper, we will divide the time period into the following divisions and use these associated dates: (1) 722-433 BC Antecedent Events; (2) 559-331 BC Persian and Medo-Persian Rule; (3) 368-323 BC Hellenistic (Greek) Rule; (4) 323-166 BC Ptolemies and Seleucids Rule; (5) 166-63 BC Jewish (Maccabean and Hasmonean) Self-Rule; (6) 63 BC AD 663 Roman (Herod) Rule. It is noted that the Intertestamental or Second Temple Period ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.

ANTECEDENT EVENTS722-433 BC

There are events that took place prior to the Intertestamental Period that must be considered in this analysis. In 722 BC, Sargon the king of Assyria captured the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and deported the higher Jewish classes to Babylon. These deportations created spiritual crises for the Jews. But in addition, a lot of the cultural aspects of being a Jew were destroyed. According to Kostenberger, the monarchy was destroyed and the sanctuary which was the central focus for the Jewish faith was lost. The Jews, who apparently had a penchant for fitting in with foreign cultures found themselves in close proximity to Gentiles. This created moral and ceremonial problems for those living outside of Judea. In 587 BC, the exact same situations occurred when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon captured the Southern Kingdom (Judah), destroying the Temple and Jerusalem.

In 583 BC Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, came to power and sent the captives home but only fifty thousand returned to rebuild the Temple. It is suggested that an equal number simply stayed in place opting not to return to an uncertain situation. With the goal of rebuilding the Temple, the Jews forbid the Samaritans to participate due to their mixed race heritage. Offended by this, the Samaritans became obstructionists delaying the building and eventually built their own temple further increasing the schism between the Jews and the Samaritans So we enter the Intertestamental Period with the Jews dispersed in several locales, experiencing and in some cases embracing foreign cultures to the detriment of their culture and faith and having been ruled and subjugated for generations.

PERSIAN AND MEDO-PERSIAN RULE559-331 BC

Historical Developments

The Jews were delivered from their previous captivity by the Persians and for the most part were left undisturbed by the Persians. But they had new and enthusiastic rivals among the Samaritans who had not only delayed the building of the Jewish Temple, but had initiated their rival temple on Mount Gerizim, overlooking the ancient city of Shechem.

Impacts on the Jews

The remnant of Jews that returned was idolatrous and had lost any sense of reverence for the Scriptures. During this period, idolatry was purged from the Jews. They gained a new sense of reverence for the Scriptures. The Jews developed a firm grasp for the concept of monotheism and completed the Temple reaffirming it as the center of worship.

HELLENISTIC (GREEK) RULE368-323 BC

Historical Developments

It can be defended that the Hellenistic (Greek) Rule Period actually started with the rule of Philip. Philip had brought the whole of Greece under his rule, and intended to lead the combined forces of his empire against the Persians. Some view this as a Macedonian event, but Philip had already embraced the Greek culture. One of Philip’s first acts was to have his young son, Alexander trained in Greek culture. However before Philip could complete his military efforts, he was assassinated and it was left to Alexander to complete his plans. Alexander the Great conquered Persia, Babylon, Palestine, Syria, Egypt and western India. Alexander’s Empire did not last long. In 323 he died of a fever at Babylon, before he had completed his thirty-third year. But even before his death, his followers carried the Greek language and culture all over the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia.

Impacts on the Jews

Caught between opposing forces the Jews lost all sense of security once again. They were immediately between two warring factions being pulled in both directions. This may have been one of the times when the Jews felt an overwhelming desire to fit in to avoid destruction. Hellenization, or embracing the Greek culture, was so powerful that from a cultural standpoint, the Greeks conquered Philip, Alexander and even the Romans when they showed up. The conquerors assumed the Greek language and eventually brought about the translation of the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint). Doing so also caused a rift between the Jews who were more traditional.

PTOLEMIES AND SELEUCIDS RULE323-166 BC

Historical Developments

Pursuant to his death Alexander’s generals quarreled over who would succeed him. Alexander’s Empire was eventually divided into several parts. Of these parts only two are of any real concern as they had a major impact upon the Jews. These are the Macedonian kingdom of Egypt, with its capital at Alexandria ruled by the Ptolemies, and Macedonian kingdom of Syria with its capital at Antioch ruled by the Seleucids. By 300 B.C. we find two Macedonian dynasties firmly established in these capitals. Palestine lay between these two kingdoms.

Impacts on the Jews

Hayford indicates that the Jewish faith was seriously undermined by being in close proximity to Hellenism. The Jews started to neglect Jewish religious rites and customs. But this is not to say that the Jewish faith is inherently weaker than Greek culture. For the Jews, adherence to Greek culture was easier and it was simply more acceptable. But it did cause a schism between the Jews. Two sects emerged which included the Hellenizing party, which was pro-Syrian and the Hasidim party, which eventually became the Pharisees. Once again, we see a division among the Jews. JEWISH (MACCABEAN AND HASMONEAN) SELF-RULE166-63 BC

Historical Developments

As they were pulled in both directions by two Macedonian dynasties, a Jewish revolt erupted. A Syrian official pushed for a heathen sacrifice in the Jewish village of Modein. Led by the priest Mattathias and his sons Judas, Jonathan and Simon this revolt eventually led to Jewish independence. The Jews retook Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple and restored worship starting a period of Jewish self-rule. However, this was a period of self-rule with major factions competing against each other.

Impacts on the Jews

In addition to the conflicts with the Syrians, the position of high priest took on political overtones with the high priest being chosen not by Aaronite lineage but by political strength. It is even suggested that bribes were being paid to secure the office. This caused further schisms among the Jews strengthening both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. ROMAN (HEROD) RULE63 BC to AD 663

Historical Developments

The self-rule of the Jews ended in 63 BC when Pompey took Syria and entered Israel. Under Roman rule Antipater the Idumaean was appointed procurator by Julius Caesar and was later succeeded by his son Herod. Herod was a converted Jew and yet was one of the most heinous leaders the world had ever seen. A summary of his reign would include marrying the Asmonaean princess, Marianne to secure the support of the Maccabeans; murdering Marianne and her two sons at the behest of his mother; executing his mother Alexandra; murdering forty-three members of the Sanhedrin; Hellenizing the country by erecting a Greek theatre in Jerusalem; restoring the Temple to increase his popularity with the Jews; murdering his son Antipater; and finally committing the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem.

Impacts on the Jews

These atrocities by Herod led to the development of three other sects developed during this time which included the Zealots, the Herodians and the Essenes. So near the end of the Intertestamental Period, we find the Jews more fractured than ever before, under the rule of a foreign power and turning to some very questionable means in an attempt to bring about God’s ends.

MAJOR PROBLEMS AND RESPONSE

1. With the collapse of the Persian Empire, which had a very lenient attitude toward self-identity and religious freedom for those they had conquered, the Jews had to deal with a series of Greek kings who had a strong belief in their cultural superiority. The Jews were bounded on all sides by other cultures the principle of which was the Greek culture. Bruce calls this ‘the progressive Hellenization of Palestinian Judaism’.. The Jews started to compromise their life style to fit in with the world. In so doing, they give up any real distinction between a righteous lifestyle and a worldly lifestyle.

The Jews made the decision to assume the Greek culture in whole or in part with some of them totally abandoning the faith. Others developed a sort of bi-faith practice where they embraced some of their Jewish faith as well as some of the Greek culture. This alone put them at odds with some of the more hardline practitioners of the faith. 2. The Jews moved from ‘being one’ to being ‘multiple standalone sects’. The rise of the Jewish sects resulted from the clash between Hellenism and the Jewish religion and culture. Taylor states that the Hellenism elements were dangerous to the purity of the Jewish faith and formed the new temptation to unfaithfulness just as idolatry had been to their forefathers.

The Sadducees

Under Jewish self-rule the Sadducees emerge as the party closely associated with the leading priestly families. It is thought that their name was derived from the priest Zadok, whose descendants are commended as faithful priests in Ezek. 44:15. The Sadducees observed only the Pentateuch and were the major supporters of the Hasmonean dynasty. As the ruling aristocracy in Jerusalem, they had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and with pressure from other sects there was a need to align themselves with the non-Jew ruling powers. They held a majority on the Sanhedrin and were allied with the Pharisees in having Jesus crucified. They held to a literal interpretation of the Law, liberal religious views and feared trouble with Rome.

The Pharisees

The Pharisees were the largest and most influential Jewish sects. They practiced a form of righteousness that observed a complex system of oral traditions in an effort to flesh out the implications of scriptural commends for everyday life. They were dedicated to teaching both the written and the oral Law attaching great importance to traditions. Consequently they practiced ritual prayer, fasting and tithing. They strictly kept the Sabbath and many other rules for everyday life; devised legal loopholes for their convenience.

Their main goals were the restoration of religious freedom and the cessation of the connection between politics and the high priesthood. Their popularity among the people increased steadily. Most of the scribes, or popular teachers of the law, belonged to the Pharisaic party. Politically, the Pharisees were the power brokers between the masses and the aristocracy. They were scrupulous about the Law and viewed themselves as separate from those who were lax about keeping it.

The Zealots

The Zealots were almost a military arm of the faith and were increasingly interested in political freedom. Their means were very aggressive and won the bulk of Jews to their cause They advocated the violent overthrow of Rome, refused to pay taxes and regarded any loyalty to Caesar or Rome a as sin. Their opposition to Jesus may have come from His discourse “They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The Essenes

The Essenes were one of the smaller sects and little is known of their origins. Their solution to the pressure and sects was to completely withdraw from society. They formed a sect that completely lived in seclusion. They turned to a philosophy that said we’re not of the world; neither will we be in the world.

The Herodians

The Herodians were a sect of influential Jews who were wholly politically minded. They still called themselves Jews but had pretty much left the faith. Even with his long list of atrocities, they completely supported Herod and by implication the Romans. This was their method of surviving when facing the pressures and challenges of the occupation and the various sects around them.

3. The Use of Political Means to Achieve Kingdom Ends

The Jews, having lost belief in the ability of their faith to support them in their occupied and factional state turned to the use of secular politics to control their environment. Eventually, they came to pay little attention to the spiritual ideals of Israel. Their chief aim was secular power and aggrandizement. This can only be viewed as completely giving up the idea of being God’s people and in effect just throwing in the towel. 4. The combining of church and state in the office of High Priest. Carroll speaks of the evils involved with combining church and state. First you have religious power and governing power all handed to one individual. This can open to door to the state then having a say in who should receive those powers. Having this much power up for grabs sooner or later will result in the position becoming a matter of barter and sale.

CONCLUSION

These are major problems facing the Jewish people, but of them all, the greatest has to be the continued fracturing of the people into smaller and smaller self-interest groups. So the greatest threat to the Jewish people during the Intertestamental Period was not the warring factions around them. Not even the heinous actions of a tyrannical leader, but rather their own willingness to cease ‘being one’. There is an African Proverb that states “when there is no enemy within, the enemy without can do us no harm.” The Jews, in their attempts to meet the challenges around them were doing themselves great harm. But the Intertestamental period is a preface to the coming of Jesus. And it would be difficult to find a better time for the One who would unite all things under Himself.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bruce, F.F. The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 64. Carroll, Benajah Harvey. Between the Testaments, A Class on Biblical History. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas. 1914. Gene Taylor. 2005. Between the Testaments: A Study of the 400 Years of Biblical Silence and the Relevant Empires. http://www.padfield.com/acrobat/taylor/between.pdf [Accessed July 25, 2013]. Hayford, Jack W. 1995, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for
Spirit-Filled Bible Study. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. Kostenbergen, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum and C. L. Quarles. 2009, The Cradle, The Cross and the Crown. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group.

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[ 1 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 12. [ 2 ]. John 17:20-21
[ 3 ]. Benajah Harvey Carroll. Between the Testaments, A Class on Biblical History. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas. 1914, 6-8. [ 4 ]. Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and C. L. Quarles, The Cradle, The Cross and the Crown, (B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 63. [ 5 ]. Benajah Harvey Carroll. Between the Testaments, A Class on Biblical History. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas. 1914, 6-8. [ 6 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 507. [ 7 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 10. [ 8 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 507-508. [ 9 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 10. [ 10 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 508. [ 11 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 11. [ 12 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 508. [ 13 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 11. [ 14 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 509. [ 15 ]. Ibid, 510.

[ 16 ]. Ibid, 510.
[ 17 ]. Ibid, 511.
[ 18 ]. Benajah Harvey Carroll. Between the Testaments, A Class on Biblical History. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas. 1914, 42-43. [ 19 ]. Jack W. Hayford, Hayford’s Bible Handbook: The Complete Companion for Spirit-Filled Bible Study Nashville: (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 511. [ 20 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 11. [ 21 ]. Gene Taylor. 2005. Between the Testaments: A Study of the 400 Years of Biblical Silence and the Relevant Empires. http://www.padfield.com/acrobat/taylor/between.pdf [Accessed July 25, 2013], 33. [ 22 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 63. [ 23 ]. Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and C. L. Quarles, The Cradle, The Cross and the Crown, (B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 72. [ 24 ]. Ibid, 95.

[ 25 ]. Gene Taylor. 2005. Between the Testaments: A Study of the 400 Years of Biblical Silence and the Relevant Empires. http://www.padfield.com/acrobat/taylor/between.pdf [Accessed July 25, 2013], 35. [ 26 ]. Ibid, 34.

[ 27 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 64. [ 28 ]. Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and C. L. Quarles, The Cradle, The Cross and the Crown, (B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 72. [ 29 ]. Gene Taylor. 2005. Between the Testaments: A Study of the 400 Years of Biblical Silence and the Relevant Empires. http://www.padfield.com/acrobat/taylor/between.pdf [Accessed July 25, 2013], 35. [ 30 ]. Mt 22:21

[ 31 ]. Gene Taylor. 2005. Between the Testaments: A Study of the 400 Years of Biblical Silence and the Relevant Empires. http://www.padfield.com/acrobat/taylor/between.pdf [Accessed July 25, 2013],
35. [ 32 ]. Ibid, 35.

[ 33 ]. F.F. Bruce, The Period Between The Testaments: I, Political Development. Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1949, 64. [ 34 ]. Benajah Harvey Carroll. Between the Testaments, A Class on Biblical History. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas. 1914, 11.

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