In my Intro to Old Testament and especially more so in my Intro to New Testament classes, we talked about the “Intertestamental period.” This it the chronological history and time between the date that the last book in the Old Testament was written and when the events in the first book of the New Testament were taking place. This is the time where we do not have internal Biblical text to portray history. But we do have external text, outside of the Bible that clue us in on history.
This period of time is sometimes overlooked. It is an important time in history, and important time especially for Jewish and Christian history.
This is where it gets fun, because there are several theories when it comes to dating the books of the Bible:
Typically it is thought that the last book of the OT was Malachi and it is dated around 450-441 BC. Then the first book of the NT is not completed till about 37-50 AD (this is a very conservative estimation). Some scholars think Matthew could have been the first Gospel completed as early as 37AD, while many more scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel completed around 50 AD. There are other theories as well with more liberal and later dates.
But nonetheless the events addressed in the Gospels occurred from around 1AD-34AD.
This means that we have about 400 maybe even 500 years without anything written down. A silent period from the mouth of god, if it were.
This period is known as the intertestamental period, because the time (historically) is in-between the two Testaments.
One of the main features of this time period for Israel, (and is a big reason why there are not any writings from this time period) is Diaspora. Another big issue for Israel at this time is Hellenism.
The Jewish Diaspora during the Hellenistic period, should not be confused with either the Babylonian or the later Roman Diasporas. This diaspora was not pure brute force. It was in part, a voluntary movement of Jews into the Hellenistic kingdoms that created the Jewish presence outside Judea, especially in Ptolemaic Egypt .
This Diaspora was wedged between two worlds, on the one side were the Hellenistic values of the Greeks and on the other was the Mosaic law. The various ways the Jews of the Diaspora, especially the Jews in Alexandria, balanced these two extremes, through the emphasis of common values and loyalty to the monarch, dictated its existence in the Hellenistic World.
The Greek culture and influence left Hebrew Jews only a handful of options: They could embrace Greek culture, abstain from Greek culture, or mix with Greek Culture.
Some Jews continue to live in Israel and lived snobby. They hated Greek culture, they thought they were better than the Greek influence and lived a traditional lifestyle away from the world.
Some Jews fully embraced the new Greek cultures and fads. They went so far, as to abandon their Jewish and Hebrew traditions and religion.
Some Jews lived a life of balance. They lived in but not of the world. They embraced the culture but they continued their faith. For example the 72 scribes who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek.
In a later post I will describe how the Hellenistic culture looked a lot like America in recent years .