The materials contained in this section unless otherwise noted are teaching notes and handouts prepared by Dr Ed Bez. The Intertestamental Period, or the so-called "400 Silent Years" is pivotal to understanding the New Testament particularly, the Gospels. The collection of topics will be ALPHABETIZED for easier access.

The historical narrative of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) ends approximately 400 years before the birth of Jesus, and numerous significant events occurred during this time that provides us with the historical context of the New Testament. Without a working knowledge of these so-called "Silent Years" or Intertestamental Period we are at a loss to understand much of the Gospel record.

This section will provide background details which will give you insight into the political, economic, cultural, social and religious environment from the rebuilding of Jerusalem's city walls under Nehemiah until the birth of Jesus as reported by Matthew and Luke.

General Survey

 “Between the Testaments” or the Intertestamental Period

Session 1


A general survey of the Bible can be divided into three unequal sections:

1. The Dust (Genesis)

2. The Glory (Revelation)

3. The Silent Years (Between the Testaments)

The historical narrative of the OT ends approximately 400 years before the birth of Jesus, and numerous significant events occurred during this time that provide the historical context of the NT.


The NT opens with the announcement of the PLEROMA.

Translated as “In the fullness of time”

Gal 4:4; Romans 11:25; Eph 1:10

Literal Gr means that which fills up; fullness, fulfilling, filling full.

It is a nautical term referring to 

1. A ship’s full load – merchandise, freight, and cargo is all stowed and secured

2. A ship being fully manned – all of the crew; riggers, rowers, sailors, and captain are on board

Gestational Period/ Pregnant Kingdom Moment

The story between the Testaments is a part of the PREPARTION for the PLEROMA

This period is not insignificant

This period is a gestational period

This period is a pregnant moment in Redemptive history

445 BC

Historical background begins in 445 BC – the city walls around Jerusalem completed under the direction of Nehemiah

Israel at this time – small speck of land and people struggling to survive

Israel as geo-political football

Israel – becomes a geo-political football among the major powers of that day that were all vying for world domination.

331 BC

The OT ends with the Medo-Persian Empire in control.

Their influence lasted until the year 331 BC

331 BC the Persian Empire is conquered by Alexander the Great 

Alexander was 24 at the time!

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

Son of Philip of Macedon

Student of Aristotle 

At this time “between the Testaments” the world would see the rise of (3) three giants or Titans who would influence Western Civilization even to modern times.

Each mentored one another in a direct line.

1. Socrates         (469-399 BC) 70 years

2. Plato (424-347 BC) 77 years Academy at Athens

3. Aristotle        (384-322 BC) 62 years The Lyceum in Athens

4. Alexander (356-323 BC) 32-33 years old

Aristotle/Passion for Unity

Aristotle had a consuming passion – Unity

Unity of knowledge

Unity of life

He wanted to discover or develop a scientific/philosophical grid by which he could integrate all fields of knowledge into a coherent system.

He passed that passion for unity onto and into Alexander.

When Alexander begins his military conquest of the known world he took with him the LARGEST ENTOURAGE of SCIENTISTS ever assembled in history.

The cost of this scientific program wasn’t paralleled until the establishment of the American space program in the middle of the 20th century!

Soldiers and scientist marched with Alexander’s Greek armies.

Soldiers fought

Scientists collected samples of flora and fauna from the ancient Middle and Far East.

Aristotle established first zoo and botanical garden for specific scientific study.


Alexander had caught a vision of unifying the Ancient world- Culturally. 

He became the original author of a process that became very important to biblical history and the NT specifically – Hellenization (the Greek –a- fying) of the known world, including Palestine.

Everyone speaks the same language

This is why the NT wasn’t written in Hebrew or Aramaic but Greek

Everyone shares in a common pool of knowledge and thought

Everyone accepts the same cultural mores.

ALL THIS was a part of Alexander’s agenda for conquest.

But, ALL OF THIS was even a greater part of the Divine Agenda to prepare the world for the coming of the Redeemer – at the right time or PLEROMA!

323 BC 

Alexander dies in Babylon at a very young age.

Ptolemy and Seleucid

His kingdom divided: among (8) surviving Generals, which in quick order is narrowed to two (2) principle Generals:

1. Ptolemy – Egypt and Palestine

2. Seleucid – Syria and eventually Palestine

320 BC - Palestine is annexed into Ptolemy I territory along with Egypt


198 BC 

Antiochus III seizes control of Palestine from the Ptolemies

Antiochus III had an even MORE RADICAL passion for Hellenization than did Alexander!

He imposed by brutal force Hellenization on the Jewish people

But his efforts to impose were fiercely resisted by a small group of:

1. Orthodox

2. Pious

3. Conservative Jews


The name given to this collection of small pro-Jewish groups was the Hasidim or “The Pious ONES”

It is significant that during the Intertestamental or so-called Silent years

…As Jewish Religion/Culture was being eclipsed) by influences of an alien Greek culture and religion

…that these groups emerged seeking to maintain the purity of their own traditions.


Among the small pockets of ideological protesters were the PHARISEES 

1. The original Puritans! Or literally “The Separated ones”

2. They did not exist in the OT, But they appear everywhere in the Gospels

3. They first appear in biblical history “between the Testaments”


 Formal Outline for the Intertestamental Period: Between the Testaments

 I. The Persian Period

A. Xerxes (Ahasuerus 485-465 BC) married Esther. Fought the wars with Greece; Marathon, Thermopalyae, Salamis.

B. Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC) – Authorized Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem.

C. Darius III (335-331 BC) – Defeated by Alexander the Great at the Battle of Arbela (near Nineveh). 

II. The Greek Period

A. Socrates (469-399) and Pericles (465-429) were contemporaries with Ezra and Nehemiah.

B. Alexander conquered the whole world by 331 BC. Tutored by Aristotle (384-322BC).

C. Alexander invades Palestine (332 BC), shows favor to the Jews and spares Jerusalem. Offered immunities to the Jews to settle in Alexandria, Egypt.

D. Alexander dies in 323 BC. The empire is divided between four generals: Ptolemy (Egypt), Seleucus (Syria), Lysimacus (Thrace), and Cassander (Macedonai).

E. Continual battle over the land of Palestine between the Ptolemies and Seleucids.

III. Jewish Independence –the Asmonenan Period

A. Antiochus Epiphanes (Syria 175-164 BC) hated the Jews:

1. Devastated Jerusalem - 168 BC

2. Defiled the Temple – offered a pig (sow) on the brazen altar

3. Erected an altar to Jupiter in the Temple.

4. Forbade circumcision and Temple worship.

5. Sold thousands of Jews into slavery.

6. Destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found.

B. The Maccabean Revolt (also called Asmonean, or Hasmonaean period)

1. Mattathias, of the house of Asmonaeus, of priestly descent, refused to conform to heathen rites and slew a commissioner of Antiochus. Led a revolt that gave Israel a short period of independence before Roman domination.

2. Feast of Dedication 

IV. The Idumean Period

A. Idumea – A district in southern Palestine which the Edomites occupied since the Babylonian captivity.

1. Conquered by the Maccabean king John Hyrcanus I who forced them to be circumcised and adopt Judaism (120 BC).

2. Administration was entrusted to a governor, Antipater, who cunningly vied against the Maccabees for the crown.  Antipater married an Arab woman and had five children, one named Herod (73 BC).

B. Jerusalem taken by Pompey (Rome) in 63 BC.

1. Pompey besieged Jerusalem killing thousands and dared to enter the Holy of Holies.

C. Julius Caesar defeats Pompey (48 BC), made Pontifex Maximus and Imperator by the Roman Senate (44 BC). “Veni, vidi, vici!”

1. Antipater given title of Procurator of Judea; Hyrancanus remained a powerless high Priest.

2. Herod, now 25 years old, was made governor of Galilee.

D. Caesar murdered (Ides of March, 44 BC – “Et tu, Brute!”) – Anatony and Octavius become triumvirs.

1. Antony appoints Herod a Tetrarch of Judea; later, Octavius proclaims Herod Senate King of Judea, the new successor of David!

2. With Roman military help, Herod subdues Judea and Jerusalem with terrible carnage.  Herod eventually executes all of the re remaining family of the Maccabees.

E. The Jews hated Herod – detested his semi-heathen reign; deeds of cruelty; an army of spies in Jerusalem.

F. Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple starting in 20 BC, still not completed in days of Christ. The Massacre of Innocents in Bethlehem.

G. On death of Herod the Great, Caesar Augustus divided the rule of Judea into a tetrarchy” Archelaus (Judea, Samaria, Idumea); Philip (Batanea, et. Al); and Herod Antipas (Galilee and Perea).

Herod Antipas (3 BC-AD 39) Put John the Baptist to death; called a “fox” by Jesus.

H. Herod Agrippa I (AD 39-44) – given tetrarchy of Philip, later Judea and Samaria.  Persecuted early church- killed James, imprisoned Peter; untimely death – Acts 12

I. Herod Agrippa II (AD 44-62) – Paul makes his defense in his presence – Acts 26

V. Development of Judaism – East vs. West

A. Eastern Judaism (Palestinian-Babylonian)

1. The Synagogue- Originated during Babylonian Captivity – Became the “cradle of the Church”. Those who were ignorant of the language of the Old Testament would have the Scriptures read and “targumed” to them. These paraphrased translations in to the vernacular became called Targumim, an oral tradition.

2. The Mishna – Piety, zeal and outward observance of the Law lead to the writing of this “Second Law” intended to explain and supplement the first.

3. The Midrash- “investigation” were written commentaries on scriptures and preaching. 

a. Jewish theology divided into two branches, the Halakhah, “the rule of the spiritual road,” and the Haggadah, popular personal sayings of teachers. The Halakhah had greater authority than the scriptures, yet ironically, almost all doctrinal teaching in the synagogue derived from the Haggadah.

4. Aramaic – The language spoken by the Jews was no longer Hebrew, but Aramaen, both in Palestine and Babylonia. The common people were ignorant of pure Hebrew, which henceforth became the language of students and of the Synagogue.

5. Pseudepi-graphic Writings – spurious literature; false names of authorship 

a. Anti-heathen character; Apocalyptic – taking up the prophecies of Daniel, the Kingship of coming Messiah.

b. Included: The Book of Enoch; the Sibylline Oracles; the Psalter of Solomon, and the Book of Jubilees. 

B. Western Judaism (Hellenistic)

1. Eastern Judaism groped in the darkness of the past; Western Judaism stretched froth its hands toward the dawning of a new day.

2. Alexander favored the Jews and gave special privileges to those who immigrated to Alexandria. Ptolemies I, II, and III were great patrons of learning; built a vast library in Alexandria.

3. The Greek mind was attractive, refined and profound and permeated the atmosphere.

a. The principle of simple authority upon which traditionalism rested yielded to Hellenic criticism.

b. The Hellenist sought to conciliate the truths of Divine Revelation with similar “truths” he recognized in Hellenism.

4. Hellenistic Literature

a. The Septuagint= Greek translation of the Old Testament, the starting point of Hellenism. Translated in Alexandria, Egypt under the reign of Ptolemy III. Became the “people’s bible” and was often quoted in the New Testament.

b. The Apocrypha – The loose views of Hellenists on “inspiration” led to the admission of the Apocrypha in to the Greek Bible.

1. Apologetic- to fill gaps in Jewish history and extol the dignity of Israel; great sarcasm toward heathenism.

2. Hellenistic – to show the deeper thinking of heathenism supported Old Testament truth; prepared the way for reconciliation with Greek philosophy.

5. Allegorical Method of Interpretation

a. Hellenists acknowledged there was truth in certain writings of the Gentiles which was the outcome of “Wisdom”, the revelation from God, and was compatible with the Scriptures.

b. The “truth” of the Scriptures was not only the substance, but also the form, or the letter.

c. “What was Jewish, Palestinian, individual, and concrete in Scripture, was only the outside – true in itself, but not the truth. There were depths beneath. Strip these stories of their nationalism, idealize the individual of the persons introduced, and you came upon abstract ideas and realities, true to all time and to all nations. All truth was of God. The sages of the heathen also were in a sense God-taught –God teaching, or inspiration, was rather a question of degree than of kind” (Edersheim).

d. Aristobulus (160 BC) a Hellenist Jew of Alexandria – sought to show that the whole system of Aristotle could be found in the Bible. If this was so, ancient Greek philosophy somehow knew the teachings of Moses.

e. Philo of Alexandria (20 BC –AD 40) – A wealthy Jewish merchant, a descendent of Aaron.

1. Gave a fixedness to the allegorical method by reducing it to certain principles, or canons of criticism.

2. Homogenized Greek and Jewish theologies

3. Platonic distinction between god and the material world. Matter is dead/evil.

4. Intermediary beings – Potencies (insert Greek); and Words (insert Greek).

C. The Scribes – an office that grew from the time of Nehemiah; a Talmid (learned student), a Chakham (sage), and a Rabbi, (my great on, Master).

D. Religious Parties

1. During the period of the Maccabees, Jewish nationalists (Chasidim, pious ones”) who were concerned with preserving their religion, split into two parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

2.  The aristocratic governing body of elders under the Maccabees turned into the Sanhedrin, which at the time of Jesus had great political and religious power.

3. The Pharisees – Aimed to preserve national integrity and strict conformity to Mosaic law. A reaction against the Hellenization of the Jews. 

4. The Sadducees – A reaction against phariseism. More in favor of adopting Greek custom and cooperating with heathen rulers. A wealthy, priestly clique, not large in number. Though religious leaders of the nation, they were avowedly irreligious, rationalistic and worldly minded.

The Synagogue

I. Origins

A. Obscure origins in Babylon (Ezekiel 14: 1; 20:1). Believed to be a council organized by Ezra and Nehemiah to govern and reconstruct the religious life of the returning captives

1. The Temple and Sacrifices were gone; no need for a priesthood.

a. Songs and prayers replaced the sacrifices

b. Public instruction, warnings, consolations replaced the prophets.  Targuming – paraphrasing in the vernacular (Neh. 8: 7, 8)

B. Hebrew – bet hakkneset – “house of meeting”

Greek – sunagog – a place of assembly or a congregation

II. Structural Form

A. Entrance by the east – towards Jerusalem (from Babylon) – rectangular building

B. The ARK at one end; seats for ELDERS in front of it, facing the people.

1. The movable ark contained the sacred rolls of the Law and the Prophets.  In front of the ark hung a curtain (veil).

2. Holy Lamp

C. Lectern for the reader in the center.

D. Women’s gallery.

III. Organization  - Requirement of ten “men of leisure” that could devote their time to the Synagogue, worship and administration.

IV. The Service

A. After an opening prayer, two lessons were read: 1. The Parashah, from the Law; 2. The Haftarah, from the Prophets.

B. These lessons were read by any competent person with permission from the rosh hakenneset (chief of the synagogue).

C. The reader handed the scroll back to the chazzan (clerk) and sat down in the bima (seat) to deliver his midrash (comment). See Luke 4:14-30.

V. New Testament – The Synagogue became the cradle of the Church.




Hanukkah: on the History and Meaning of 

Festival of Lights (Miracles)

Feast of Dedication

“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” – John 10:22-23

Did you know Jesus, or Yeshua as He was known throughout His life, celebrated Hanukkah?

During His earthly ministry, Hanukkah was known as the Feast of Dedication. In fact, it is still known as the Feast of Dedication today.

Yet, most followers of Jesus today think of Hanukkah as only a Jewish holiday – not something they necessarily should mark.

I have even heard Christians say Hanukkah is an extra-biblical festival – and not mentioned in the Bible. Next time you hear that, just point to John 10:22-23.

I say, if it was worth Yeshua’s attention, it is worth mine.

Surprise! Jesus Christ was not a blond-haired, blue-eyed Gentile. Yeshua of Nazareth was raised in an observant Jewish family in a culture where the Torah was the National Constitution. Get “The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus” at the WND Superstore today.

So what is Hanukkah all about?

Let’s go back about 175 years before the birth of Jesus.

What is the origin of the name of the holiday, Hanukkah?

 “Dedication” of ; in a formal way

                Pomp and circumstances

Marks the rededication of the Temple after it had been defiled by being used illegitimate and idolatrous purposes.

What does the holiday commemorate?

                Commemorates a military victory

                Jews vs. Graeco-Syrians

One old Jewish priest and five tough sons, the most famous one - Judas Maccabeus ( The Hammer)  vs. Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphany – Manifested god) and the vast army of the Syrians.

                The Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV, was a tyrant – a madman, a Hitler archetype.

He sought to suppress all the Jewish laws.

Thousands of Jews were killed.

All Jewish worship was forbidden.

The scrolls were confiscated and burned.

Honoring the Sabbath, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.

Antiochus conspired to depose and later assassinate the righteous high priest, Yochanan.

Antiochus’ henchmen ordered 90-year-old rabbi Eliezer to eat pork as an example to his followers. He refused and was put to death.

In a plot to undermine the strength of the Jewish family and morality, Antiochus decreed that any Jewish maiden who was to be married had to first spend the night with the local governor or commander.

He erected an Image of Jupiter in the Temple

He ordered the use of pigs as sacrificial animals to Jupiter, drenching the Temple with pigs blood.

165-163 B.C. - Maccabean Wars, and its heroes

·         In modern Israel this holiday is celebrated as an affirmation of Jewish military prowess and national rebirth.

What is actually celebrated?

                It actually celebrates MIRACLES!

                Talmud – Jewish commentaries on the OT and the Oral history of the Jews

“Once the Maccabees vanquished the Syrians, they searched and found a single jar of oil, with the seal of the high priest, which had not been defiled. Yet, the jar contained only enough to burn for one day. A MIRACLE occurred, after prayer, the oil was poured into the menorah, and lit. Next day the wick was still burning and another day’s oil was found in the jar! Thus it was so for seven more days. The following year (164 BC), they established these days as a festival with praise and thanks [to God].”

So the Talmud considers the MIRACLE of the oil the “Reason for the Season” and not so much the military victory.

But, why eight days? Because it took eight days for “extra extra virgin oil” or “holy” grade oil to be produced and delivered to the Temple.

                First pressing of the oil, no artificial means; i.e., no chemicals or heat allowed

 How is Hanukkah Celebrated?

                Hanukkah is a home-oriented holiday.

                                Family - An excellent holiday to encourage the participation of Children

                                Fun - Occasion for parties, singing, and games and gifts

                                Fried foods

Short passage is read from the Bible – Number 7 – describes the dedication of the Tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness.

Candle lighting with prayers

Psalm 30

How does one light the Hanukkah candles?

The HunukkiYah has receptacles for 8 candles, plus a ninth, higher or more prominent one, known as the Shamash Candle or “servant”  “assistant “ candle.

Candles lit from Right to left (same direction as when reading Hebrew)

But there is a moral lesson even in the way the candles are lit. That is…a person should always build on the light of the past so as to go on to even greater illumination in the future.

Are there other views of how to light candles?

                School of Hillel

                                One begins with one candle and adds a candle until eight (8) are reached

                School of Shammai

One begins with eight (8) lit candles and deceases one each day until one lights a single candle on the last day.

When is the festival celebrated?

The festival begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which occurs in either late November or December. It was on this day that the Temple was rededicated.

What are the blessings recited before lighting the candles?

                1st blessing

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who sanctifies us with Your commandments and commands us to kindle the lights of Hanukkak.

                2nd blessing

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors in ancient times and in our days.

                3rd blessing

What is sung after Hanukkah candles are lit?

                Ma’oz Tzur (Rock of Ages)

                Song of six stanzas, purported to have been written by Mordecai

Each stanza describes a different miraculous intervention of God to save, rescue and preserve the Lord’s people

Is there a special name of the Hanukkah menorah?

                HanukkiYAH – Dedicated to God

                Menorah has seven candles

                HunukkiYAH has nine candles

Where ought  the HanukkiYAH should be placed?

Placed in the front of the house or windows so that the light from the HanukkiYah “publicizes the miracle”!        

What is this I hear about gambling on Hanukkah?

You heard right. Hunukkah is the one time a year that Jews engages in gambling, but certainly not in any terms that we consider gambling today.

This introduces us to the DREIDEL, a four-sided top. ( S’vivon in Hebrew)

Each side of the dreidal has a Hebrew letter from the alphabet





This stands for nes gadol hayah poh / shin.

 “a great miracle occurred HERE”

“a great miracle occurred THERE”

History of the dreidel

Antiochus Epiphanies forbade Jews to observe or study the Bible, anyone found with even a scrap of paper with a single letter from the Torah could be executed.

The Jews still studied Torah but devised the dreidel as a cloaking device. When Syrian soldiers approached they would simply spin the dreidel and pretended to be innocently playing a child’s game of petty gambling.

Plus, etched in the dreidel were letters from the alphabet, and the alphabet was what created the Torah, so to have letters, was to have the hope of Torah.

How it was played

                Raisins, almonds (nuts) and gold wrapped chocolate (gelt or money) or pennies.

                Players ante up

                Spin one by one

                The letter that is face up at the end of the spin determines either:

                                That the player

a.       Receives the entire pot

b.      Receives half the pot

c.       Wins nothing, loses nothing

d.      Forced to add to the pot      

Are there any special foods for Hanukkah?

                Hanukkah is NOT dieters

                The culinary theme is oil, oil, and more oil

                Jelly-filled donuts

                Laites – potatoes, onions, spices and fried in oil

                Cheese, cheese, and more cheese

                Applesauce to wash it all down