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The Intertestamental Period

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 3, 2021 12:01 am

The Intertestamental Period

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 3, 2021 12:01 am

When you turn the page from the end of the Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament, you've crossed a gap of four centuries. What happened in all those years? Today, R.C. Sproul surveys the intertestamental period.

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When you turn the page from the last verse of the Old Testament to the first page of the New Testament, there's a 400-year gap. What happened over those four centuries, and why is it important?

Welcome to Renewing Your Mind, and a message from Dr. R.C. Sproul's sweeping overview of the Bible, a series we call Dust to Glory. By God's sovereign plan, the Jews came under tremendous persecution during that intertestamental period, and it created in them a deep longing for the Messiah. God's providence was at work in other events too, setting the stage perfectly for the incarnation and the inauguration of a new king. We come now to the beginning of the second segment of our study of the survey of the Scriptures from Dust to Glory, and now we are about to begin our exploration of the major themes of the New Testament. The New Testament period opens with the announcement in the gospels of the play Roma, which concept is translated by the words, fullness of time. There is a keen sense in the New Testament that what takes place in this brief period of time in which our Lord was on this earth and active in His ministry, that this period of history was what history was created for in the first place.

That from all eternity God created a plan of redemption, and now that plan of redemption comes to its main fruition in the history of redemption in the period of the New Testament. So it's not as if things just happened suddenly coming down from the sky, but there was a long period of preparation throughout the whole Old Testament where God was preparing the world for the coming of His Son in the incarnation. Now the Old Testament closes about 400 years before the New Testament begins, and those 400 years of course about which the Old Testament is silent are not insignificant in terms of the history of the world and the time of preparation for this fullness, this moment of pregnancy when the incarnation takes place.

That 400-year period, as I say, is called the intertestamental period. In 445 the walls of Jerusalem were finished in their rebuilding process under the leadership of Nehemiah, and at this time in redemptive history Israel was now a small nation struggling for survival in the ancient Mideast. And as I've said repeatedly, Palestine sort of functioned as a geopolitical football among the major powers of that day that were vying with each other for world domination. At the end of the Old Testament we see that period of domination in the world by the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Persian Empire lasted until towards the end of the fourth century B.C. to the year 331 when Persia was conquered by Alexander the Great. And of course the story of Alexander is one of the most interesting and fascinating stories of all of world history because at the time that he put the finishing touches on his conquest of the Persian Empire, he was 24 years old. And Alexander, of course, was the son of Philip of Macedon.

Philip was the king of Macedonia. And Alexander had been a student of the philosopher Aristotle. And that's an interesting process in and of itself because we go back into the history of ancient Greece and we see three giants, three titans who would influence Western civilization from that point after who succeeded one another in direct succession. First, of course, is Socrates, and Socrates' main pupil was Plato who established his academy in Athens, and then Plato had a star pupil whose name was Aristotle and he started his school called the Lyceum, and then Aristotle's most famous pupil was Alexander. Now, Alexander, of course, is not known for being a philosopher.

He's known for being a military genius and a world conqueror. And we ask, how in the world does that fit in with his studies under the tutelage of Aristotle? Well, Aristotle, of all of the great thinkers of the ancient world, had a consuming passion for unity.

He wanted to come up with a scientific system and a philosophical system that would integrate all the fields of knowledge in a coherent system. And his passion for unity caused him to differ sharply at certain points with his own teacher, Plato, but he communicated this passion for unity scientifically and philosophically to his star pupil, Alexander. For example, when Alexander began his military conquest of the ancient world, he took with him on his mission the largest entourage of scientists ever assembled up to that point in history for a scientific expedition.

It's been said that the cost of supporting this scientific expedition of Alexander's was not surpassed until the American space program in our own day. So, Alexander didn't just have his soldiers marching with him, but he had all these scientists whose task it was to collect samples of flora and fauna from all of these zones and areas of geography that the army visited so that they could be brought back and be part of the systematic analysis of knowledge of Alexander's teacher, Aristotle. Not only that, but Alexander had a vision of unifying the ancient world culturally. And so he became the original author of a process that became very important to biblical history, which was the process called Hellenization, which was the Greekifying of the ancient world. Alexander wanted to have all of the people in that area speak the same language, have the same philosophy, have the same cultural mores and so on.

So that was all part of his agenda for conquest and ultimately is the reason why the New Testament was written not in Hebrew or in Aramaic, but in the Greek tongue. Well, as I said, in 331, Alexander conquered the Persians. But in 327, he died in Babylon as he was about to vanquish the Babylonian empire. And upon his death, his kingdom was divided among his generals. In fact, there were eight surviving generals that engaged in a brutal power struggle to see who would reign supreme and inherit the kingdoms established by Alexander.

But it ended up ultimately being divided among two different groups. The Ptolemies, and you may have heard of that name as the Ptolemaic system of the universe, was that influenced by Aristotle's physics and astronomy, and that reigned supreme until the Copernican Revolution in the modern period. The Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Now, initially Palestine was controlled by the Ptolemaic dynasty that controlled Egypt as well. The Seleucids ruled over Syria and other portions of the world at that time. Now, in the year 320, Palestine was annexed by Ptolemy I of Egypt. So this surviving general of Alexander, Ptolemy I, took control of Palestine as part of his dominion that included Egypt.

And that lasted for a couple of decades until the year 198 BC. In 198, Antiochus, who was Antiochus III, wrested control of Palestine and brought it over now to the dominion of the Seleucids and the Syrian empire. So this is what was going on here as the control of Palestine was shifting and changing between the successors of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.

Now, the significance of this movement in 198 whereby Antiochus III takes control of Palestine is that Antiochus III had, if anything, a more ardent passion for Hellenization than even Alexander had originally. And as a result of this, he imposed by force a process of Hellenization upon the Jewish people. Now, his attempt to make Greeks out of the Jews in Palestine was fiercely resisted by a small group of orthodox, pious, conservative Jews who did everything in their power to preserve the ancient culture of Judaism. And they were called the Hasidians or the pious ones, and we still hear of Hasidic Judaism even in this day.

It's also significant that during the intertestamental period, as the Jewish culture was becoming eclipsed by the influence of Greek culture, that other groups began to emerge who sought to maintain the purity of their own ancient traditions. One of the most important of these groups was the group called the Pharisees, whom we meet frequently in the New Testament. In a sense, the Pharisees were the original Puritans of the church. They were called the separated ones whose commitment was to be zealous for the ancient covenant of the Jewish nation and to be obedient to every aspect of the Old Testament law. Now, by the time we meet the Pharisees in the New Testament, they have degenerated into a self-righteous, externalistic, hypocritical group of people who were deeply opposed to Jesus and to His mission.

But originally, they were godly men who were devoted towards reformation, towards restoring the historic faith of the people of Israel. Now, one of the most important moments that transpired in the intertestamental period took place in the year 175 B.C. when another Antiochus rose to power, and his name was Antiochus Epiphanes, Antiochus Epiphanes.

Now, that name may be familiar to you for one or more reasons. You've certainly heard the word epiphany. And we even have a celebration in the church year that honors the day of Epiphany.

And epiphany, the word, means manifestation. Antiochus Epiphanes was called by this name because he was considered to be the manifest God. He was Antiochus, the manifest God.

And some scholars came to the conclusion that he was demented because of the bizarre nature of his behavior. Antiochus Epiphanes is related to biblical prophecy of the coming of the abomination of desolation that had been predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. He came to power and implemented a radically anti-Jewish program in the nation and was called by pious Jews instead of Antiochus Epiphanes, that is Antiochus, the manifest God, he was called Antiochus Epimenes, Epimenes, which means Antiochus the insane.

And the reason for this negative handle that was associated with him is because he was, as it were, kind of the Hitler of the second century B.C. Under Antiochus Epiphanes, the observance of the Sabbath day, the practice of circumcision as a religious rite, and the possession of Hebrew Scriptures, these three things, observance of the Sabbath day, the act of circumcision, and even owning or possessing any copy or portion of the Old Testament Scriptures, all of these things were considered by Antiochus Epiphanes capital crimes. So that if a Jew observed the Sabbath, he could be put to death under the reign of this man who is associated with the abomination of desolation, which reached its climax in the year 167 when after abolishing all forms of Jewish worship, the ultimate sacrilege was committed when Antiochus had a pig sacrificed on the sacred altar in the temple.

And this was more than the people of Israel could bear. And his regime was so harsh and the persecution so cruel and so extensive that a spirit of revolt began to brew among the Jewish people. And in the year 164 B.C., we have what has been called in history the Maccabean Revolt. The Maccabean Revolt came to pass when a man, a Jewish believer by the name of Mattathias who had five sons, rose up in protest against the policies of Antiochus and sought to fight a rear guard guerrilla warfare type of insurrection against the Antiochian invaders.

Well, in the beginning of this period, very shortly after the revolt broke out, Mattathias died. And so the leadership of the revolt fell to his third oldest son whose name was Judas. And he received the name Judas Maccabeus, which means Judas the hammer. And he became a national hero and remains a national hero in Jewish tradition because of his daring and bold raids and forays against the invaders. And he was able to win certain concessions from the rulers in the year 164, which included the religious freedom being restored to the Jewish people and the temple being opened once again for the celebration of Jewish worship. And so in that year, the Jewish temple was rededicated and a great feast and celebration ensued, which is celebrated to this very day. The reopening and rededication of the temple took place in the month of December and is celebrated to this day under the feast of Hanukkah. We're all familiar with the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which is a celebration of the victory of Judas Maccabeus in this period of revolt.

In 142, the Jews under the Maccabees were able to gain their full freedom from foreign domination, and their liberation and freedom lasted from the year 142 until the year 63 B.C. when Palestine was once again conquered, but this time the conquerors were the Romans. And the general who was responsible for the conquest of Palestine in the year 63 B.C. is a man with whom we're somewhat familiar because of our awareness of Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, and our history books that tell us of the first great triumvirate that included in its members the general whose name was Pompey. And Pompey, you know, became associated with Julius Caesar, and there was all kinds of intrigue later on, and we remember in the story that Shakespeare gives us of the assassination of Julius Caesar that when Brutus stabbed Caesar, and Caesar's last words were what?

Et tu, Brute, then fall Caesar, and in the climactic moment in this scene of the play, Julius Caesar falls dead there on the floor of the Senate, and he falls dead at the foot of the bust of Pompey. Well, it's this man Pompey who was responsible for the Roman conquest of the Jewish nation in the year 63. Now, 23 years later in 40 B.C. there was a new moment that took place when under the Roman domination, an Idumaean chieftain was appointed more or less as a local vassal by the Roman authorities to be a local king over the Jews, and this man's name was Herod the Great. And Herod the Great really founded a dynasty. He's the one who rebuilt the massive structure called the Herodian temple and certainly would be famous in world history even if he didn't figure prominently in the New Testament for the extraordinary building projects that he established during his reign, but he was also known for his cruelty and for his viciousness as a puppet king of Rome. He was installed largely by the influence of two Romans whose names were Octavius and Mark Antony. Mark Antony of Antony and Cleopatra fame, and Octavius who becomes Caesar Augustus who is mentioned specifically in the New Testament. But it is significant that when the New Testament opens, the people of Israel are now groaning under foreign rule once again with the power of Rome and the power of Rome standing behind their puppet king who is conceived by the Jewish people to be a traitor to their national interests.

That's the drama. That's the setting in which the New Testament opens. And against that historical backdrop, the Messiah burst into the world. We're glad you've joined us for this message from Dr. R.C. Sproul here on Renewing Your Mind.

R.C. has introduced his overview of the New Testament from his series Dust to Glory, and we'll share more from this series next week. I do hope you'll make plans to join us. If you have not heard this entire series, let me recommend it highly in 57 messages. Dr. Sproul explores the major themes, events, and people that we find in Scripture. He helps you connect the Old Testament to the New and gives you the tools you need to understand the whole narrative of Scripture. And beginning Monday of next week, R.C.

will cover the early years of Jesus' life and ministry. This entire series contains more than 21 hours of teaching, and for your donation of any amount, we'll be glad to send you the DVDs of the entire series. But we'll also provide a bonus disc that contains the audio files of all 57 messages, plus we'll include the PDF study guide. You can reach us by phone to make your request at 800-435-4343, or you can go online to Once you've completed your request, all the videos will be available in your online learning library. You'll also have access on your phone or tablet through our free Ligonier app.

Just look for the My Learning Library tab on the app, and everything you've purchased from Ligonier will be saved there. Well, as I mentioned, on Monday, Dr. Sproul continues our tour through the early New Testament period, and here's a preview. Until John the Baptist came out of the wilderness preaching a message of repentance. Please join us Monday for Redoing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-15 06:10:22 / 2023-07-15 06:17:50 / 7

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