As we finish up the Old Testament in this 90 Day journey through the Bible, we prepare ourselves for the New Testament. The last book of the Old Testament finishes with Malachi around 397 B.C.. The book of Matthew takes place about 400 years later. We can better grasp the context of the New Testament if we understand some of the major events that lead up to this time period. What happens during this 400 year Inter-Testament time is known as the Dark Period because there were no prophets or any God inspired writings recorded. During the Dark Period, there were 6 periods that ultimately shaped and influenced the culture in the time of Christ. These periods dealt primarily with rulers of various nations & cultures that include:
1. Persian rule – King Cyrus allows Jews to leave their captivity and return to Israel. This takes place over a 200 year period until Persia rule falls to Alexander the Great. During this time, Jewish customs and culture were allowed to develop.
2. Greek Rule – Alexander the Great did not destroy Jerusalem while conquering it. He did allow the Jews the same rights as the Greeks in Jerusalem and by doing so sided many of the people with the new blended society.
3. Egyptian Rule – Alexander the Great dies and his empire is torn into 4 factions (Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander, Selenus) After severe fighting took place and Syria fell to Ptolemy, the first of the Greek kings to rule over Egypt. It it important to know that during this time the Greek language was the primary language all over the conquered world. The Jewish Scriptures were even translated from Hebrew to the Septuagint Greek language. This language was still commonly used during the time of Christ.
4. Syrian Rule – After the Ptolemy dynasty, Antiochus the Great invaded the Egyptian and Judean areas and this is the time period when Palestine was split up into the 5 provinces we read about during the time of Christ (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea and Trachonitis). Antiochus did not like the Jews and his successor desecrated the temple, abolished the temple practices and sacrificed a pig on the alter (the abomination of desolation). This was a very difficult time for the Jews yet they were still allowed to live under their own Jewish laws.
5. Maccabean Rule - Because of the terrible things that happened to the Jews, they revolted against Antiochus. Judas Maccabeus captured back Jerusalem and their Temple. Several revolts and small wars broke out fighting for the city by various groups. Ultimately, the Jewish nation was able to be independent for a short while before the Romans appeared.
6.Roman Rule – About 65 years before the birth of Christ the first of several Herods uses Roman support and takes control of Judea and the region now becomes a province of the Roman empire. Years later, Herod was appointed king over Judea. He appoints his son as a governor and eventually he was appointed King by Rome. This is the same Herod who was king during the time of Christ.