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Students will be able to:

  1. Describe cultural and political factors which made a ready environment for the spread of Christ's teachings.
  2. Identity, six divisions of the Intertestamental period.


Jensen 1981, Jensen's Survey of the New Testament, pp. 41-55 and Cate 1989, A History of the Bible Lands in the lnterbiblical Period.

(1) Our study of the Intertestamental period begins with Persia in control of the Holy Land and the Jewish remnant that lived there. The dates below mark the beginning of the reigns of those who follow the Persians.

400 B.C. 334 B.C. 324 B.C. 204 B.C. 165 B.C. 63-S B.C.
Persian Alexandrian Egyptian Syrian Maccabean Roman
  (Greek) (Greek) (Greek) (Jewish)  

1. Persian Period: 400 - 334 B.C.

Palestine was under the rule of the high priests, who were responsible to the governor ((satrap)) of Syria, a province of Persia The period was mild and uneventful, for the most part, as far as the Jews were concerned." (Jensen 1981, 47)

2. Alexandrian Period: 334 - 324 B.C.

After the death of Philip of Macedon, his son, Alexander, came to power and became the country's best commander. Through his conquests, he hoped to make the entire world Greek (to Hellenize them). Koine Greek became the language of business, and Greek culture was enjoyed throughout the world When Alexander died, his territory was divided among his generals. The two generals of most interest to the Bible lands were Ptolemy with a power base in Egypt and Seleucus with a power base in Syria. It was these two leaders and their followers who used Palestine and the dews for their battleground.

3. Egyptian (Ptolemy) Period: 324 - 204 B.C.

During this period things were peaceful with the dews having self-rule. During this period the first copies of the Greek Septuagint (the first major translation of Scripture from Hebrew to Greek) were distributed. "At the end of the Fifth Syrian War it was obvious that the Seleucid had finally defeated the Ptolemies and had wrested control of Palestine from them." ((Cafe 1989, 46)

4. Syrian (Seleucid) Period: 204-165 B.C.

The Jews literally walked through "the valley of the shadow of death" during this time. There was an internal struggle between the Hasidim (the Jewish Loyalists who resisted Greek culturatization) and the Hellenistic Jews. Many apoclyphal writings began to appear. The Hasidim or "Pious Ones", tried to keep the Jews pure. The Phansees were successors to that group. The most prominent enemy of the dews was Antiochus IV (Epiphanes).(TN 2)

5. Maccabean Period: 165 - 63 B.C.

This period saw the Jews gain both political and religious freedom. Antiochus IV decided to destroy the dews by destroying their Law, worship, and Temple. A revolt, led by the priest Mattathias and his sons, launched the dove for freedom. He and his sons, Judas, John, Simon, Jonathan, and Eleazar, headed for the hills and fought against the Syrians. It seems likely that groups which developed into the Sadducees and Pharisees originated during this period.

6. Roman Period: 63 B.C. - A.D. 5

In 63 B.C. Pompey, a Roman general, claimed Judea for Rome. Antipater, a local power broker of Idumea (a province south of Judea), eventually became governor of Judea, followed by his son Herod the Great. There was little interference by Rome in the daily life of the]ews. "when Jesus was born (near 5 B.C.) the political situation was generally stable, but opposition to the Messiah's coming was quickly demonstrated by King Herod's reactions end decree. Read Matthew 2 :1-18 (Jensen 1981, 49)


From a Bible encyclopedia identity the following:

Pontius Pilate


Antipas Augustu s Tiberius.

How were these people related to the public ministry of Jesus? Or were they?



1. By 400 B. C., a any Hebrews felt that God had stopped communicating with them. It was to a remnant of saints that God did continue to speak during these silent years. Many things happened to the historical, political, religious and cultural areas of their lives. These events were v y crucial to the birth of the church and writings of the New Testament.

2. Events describing the Jewish response to the policies of Antiochus IV are recorded in I Maccabees and referred to in Daniel 11: 29-39 where Antiochus is accused of committing the "abomination" that makes desolate."

Review and reinforcement exercise: After the lecture on the Intertestament period, ask students to associate the following names and expressions with the six divisions. Divisions Terms

1. Persian   Antiochus IV
2. Alexandrian   Mattathias
3. Ptolemaic (Egyptian)   Septuagint
4. Seleucid (Syrian)   Pompey
5. Maccabean (Jewish)   Alexander The Great
6. Roman   Judas Maccabees
   Herod The Great
   Abomination of Desolation


Discussion Questions
  1. How did Greek culture and Roman political organization contribute to the spread of Christianity?
  2. What role did Maccabees play in the Jewish history during the Intertestamental Period?

Updated Thursday, February 24, 2000
Modified for Internet August 27, 1998


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