Intertestamental period: Silent Years

I want stress something that has been bothering me the past few months. It has bothered me primary because it was real to me. I essential was a part of the problem. I could say I was a victim, which is partly true, but I don’t like to complain.

The problem is this: today’s Christians are not studying the Bible in historical context enough. The root problem is probably deeper, today’s Christians aren’t studying the Word of God enough in general.

I wonder how many Christians under the age of 25 could correctly associate each book of the Bible with its general time frame in history (I’ll even be nice and say: give or take a century.)

I hope I am wrong, but I think America’s young Christians might be failing.

I say all that a I am finishing up my Intro to OT and NT classes this semester, I started them in the summer semester. No one had ever informed me about the Intertestamental period. I had been trained (and trained well) in Sunday school classes, generally about all the big names (Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon…I could even name some of the kings like Ahab, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah, etc…and I knew about all the major prophets…In fact I even knew where all these names fit into history on a general basis.)

Then after the Babylonian exile and the return from exiles during the Persian rule….that is where the Sunday school lessons are not enough. (At least for me!) I did not really know what happened next in history. I have learned a lot in my intro to OT and NT classes!

All I knew was that the NT started and John the Baptist is preparing the Way for Jesus. Malichi was a nice bridge foreseeing John the Baptist and Jesus. But what about these silent years?

This “intertestamental period” is also known as the 400 silent years. History lessons of 8th Century till Christ’s life and death are important, but a lot of times this time period is forgotten about. I think that it is forgotten, many times becuase it is not addressed in the Bible very much. And becuase nothing wirtten from this time period is in the Biblical canon. The story goes, “if it is not in the Bible then it must not be important.”

I have a problem with this line of thinking for quite a few reasons. First it is addressed in the Bible. Second the Bible is ultimate truth, but there is truth outside of the Bible, history. The Bible lines up with history, furthermore showing God’s soverighty. Finally, just becuase something is not mentioned/addressed in the Bible directly, does not mean something is not important.

The book from the Bible that helped me the most to look into this period is Daniel. Daniel is propbaly one of the most difficult reads, but it does address the “silent years” through prophetic visions! While they are hard to read and understand we can still glean a lot about history from them. What is wonderful is that the visions line up with real history!

Anyways, I wanted to list some resources that address the “silent years:”
Timeline
Pictoral resource
Summary text of period
More in-depht readings:
Ray Stedman
George Kirkpatrick

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Hellenistic culture

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.

Hellenistic culture was brought on by the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC spread Greek culture and colonization over non-Greek lands.

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 .

Have you ever wondered about Chapter and Verse numbers?

The purpose of the chapters and verse numbers was to facilitate reference. These divisions sometimes ignore logical and natural divisions.

If you keep up with my blog you know that sometimes I feel that they should be ignored sometimes when reading the Inspired text because they can be frustrating, they are not diviney inspired. And they sometimes distract us from the full context of a story, text.

It is likely that the original manuscripts did not even contain basic punctuation, far less an organized numbering system for each sentence.

But there remains a question….
when were verse and chapter numbers added to bible?

Until I asked this question, myself, I did not realize how the texts of the Bible through-out history have been divided. The Original Hebrew Manuscripts of the OT first was divided at each paragraph with Hebrew letters separating each paragraph.
around the time of the council of Niche the NT also was divided into Paragraphs.

Churchmen Archbishop Stephen Langton and Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro determined different schemas for systematic division of the Bible between 1227 and 1248. It is the system of Archbishop Langton on which the modern chapter divisions are based.

Verse numbers came later: Rabbi Isaac Nathan around 1440.

Okay so I do need to mention this…there are some groups who believe that the chapter and verse numbers have some significance and relevance to us today. CodedBible.com has a very strange theory, but it seems like a conspiracy to me.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible
http://www.bible-researcher.com/chapter-verse.html
http://www.biblebelievers.com/believers-org/kjv-stats.html

Reformation saved Western Civilization

Typical behavior on my part, I was listening to a recent podcast from apologetics.com. The episode I was listening to was called “How the Reformation saved Western Civilization.”

Some great stuff in this episode really got my thinking and this post may not make any sense at all:

The episode had a lot of topics that is covered and this is only some of them.

In many ways what Luther did, really saved Western Civilization.

Luther’s deal was giving priesthood to all believers, not just the rules: popes, bishops, princes, emperors, etc.

Luther influenced change. No longer should people hold one law for rulers and one law for civilians. Luther did not directly say or fight for democracy itself, but think about it.
What Luther said implies equality of all men.

It implies popular will. It implies that every person should have own right by God to choose integrity of own person and own people representatively.

Look at democracy and a government where voting is involved. Every individual has the right to popular will, to represent their own country and the integrity of that country.

Similarly, what Luther was saying is that every individual was created in image of God by God, every individual should have the right to conscience, to interpret the Scriptures on their own and come upon their own conclusions. Every individual person has these rights, not just the bishops, princes, emperor, and popes!

Remember prior to this reformation, only a prince (and other religious leaders-popes) could enforce the laws of God.

The Apologetics radio show made a good point: Immoral law is not a real law. Enforcing law for own appetite is actually against the law. Luther was fighting for this. (Augustine said these things before Luther.)

Here are the final words of Luther’s famous response to the emperor at Worms:
” Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

These are common ideas in Protestant lands, like America: Rights of individual, freedom of conscience, etc. But it was not always this way and it still is not common ideas in other lands. Luther turned world upside down. Not just the church but the government system too!

A key factor to American Protestantism is the theology of essentials. Essentials must be the same no matter what church you belong to. These are things like: Jesus being the Messiah who conquered sin by dying on the cross, the Gospel Message. Then there are the non-essentials. For instance, whether you belief in baptism or not – having the belief of baptism is not what gets you into Heaven. In America, we have freedom of conscience on these non-essential issues. One church can freely believe and baptize thousands every weekend, while the church across the street gasps in disbelief thinking that all that baptism is meaningless.

Again these issues go back to Augustine! His ideas of “essential unity” and “non-essential charity.” This is why we have denominations: if we have disagreements about non-essentials, then you can start a new denomination! Without being forced to believe one thing or another.

Luther was arguing for the right to have arguments over non-essentials. But more importantly he was arguing an essential theological doctrine, indulgences. You can’t force me to recant things that are against my conscience. (indulgences.) he challenged them to look to Scripture and see if they can challenge anything that he took a stand for. And he was also taking a stand for the right for others to read Scripture.

A few hundred years later, a nation would be birth on the same ideas: You can’t force me to recant things that go against our conscience. Freedom of conscience comes from freedom of belief, comes from right of individual to think what he wants to think, comes from freedom of speech, and comes from freedom of assembly. It is a cycle!

This is America! You have the right to believe any anything and be as stupid as you want! And all of this comes from theology! Protestantism breeds Democracy!

Naturally it is a government system for sinful man to live in community and get along with other sinful Christians and non-Christians alike. The separation of powers flows from Biblical anthropology.

Think about it:
man is sinful/wicked
man gets power
man will do wicked/sinful things with power

Democracy helps to decentralize power. One could argue this is a consequent of reformation.

In the past, we have seen in absolute monarchy a lot of wicked kings and rulers. You might find maybe one good king, but they are all mostly wicked.


Then the podcast sifted to another topic that is somewhat related that I really liked also:

Law and Gospel distinction and the importance of both:

It is impossible for us (sinful man) to live up to the law fully. The Law is an oppressor. The Gospel comes and says, yes, but Jesus has taken on your responsibility of law. The Gospel is a liberator by Christ’s righteousness. The Gospel offers everything that the law demands. Christ did everything according to that law in our behalf.

Sermons need both the law and the Gospel. Law will say you ought to, you ought to, you ought to, but it hurts us to hear only law, because we can’t fulfill that! We need also to hear the Gospel message! Hearing the Gospel alone will not work either because then all of the prescriptions of how you are suppose to live due to law are missing and they are still necessary.

It has been argued that “The Law has nothing to do with us today because it has been fulfilled through Christ.”

It is true that we have freedom from law because it has been fulfill and the guilt of the law is now relieved. But saying that the there is no use for law anymore is not correct, or Biblical.

We live by grace. But the measure of sanctification is the law. Remember that Jesus kept the law. You know the two Greatest COMMANDMENTS (law) from Jesus was: Love God and love neighbor. This is law in summation of the Old Testament laws and 10 commandments.

Use of law today:

1. convict us of sin

2. order civics – points us to Christ, to know Christ

3. teach us how to live – in accordance of nature of Christ as a Christian

Love is a law. We have a Law of love.

This is not the Gospel! Christ died for sin that is the Gospel. Love is the law.
Love is a pursuit because you love the Beloved, and the best way to love is the following the law of the Beloved

Another neat point from the podcast is that Predestination and a lot of the ideas of John Calvin were not original. Much of his stuff came from Augustine.

apologetics.com