The Period Between Malachi and Mathew covers 400 years.
The old Testament cannon of Scripture closed with Malachi about 397 B.C. The condition of the Jews at the beginning of this four hundred year period should be remembered. Two hundred years earlier Jerusalem had been destroyed and the people carried into Babylonian Captivity(587 B.C) the Assyrian destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel 135 years earlier in 722 B.C Babylon was overthrown by Medo-Persian empire,as had been predicted by Daniel Chapter 2 and 7 and Cyrus issued an order for the Jews to return and build the temple. Under Zerubbabel a remnant returned and twenty one years later the temple was completed.515 B.C. Ezra then took a small group of people to Jerusalem and restored the worship in the temple, followed by Nehemiah twelve years later to rebuild the city walls. such is the picture at the beginning of this period between Malachi and Mathew. The Jewish remnant back in Judah,temple and Jerusalem rebuilt.worship restored. But the great masses of the Jews remained in the land of their captivity. The old Testament cannon of Scripture closed with Malachi about 397 B.C
It is in the remnant that we find Jewish history preserved between the Old and New Testament.
The Four Hundred year history of the Jews runs in Six periods. the following is the political background of the Jews during the 400 years between New and Old Testament.
- 1 The Persians — 538 B.C. Persia never succeeded in subduing Greeks until Alexander The Great defeated Persian Empire. He was a student of Philosopher Aristotle. This was the second empire mentioned by Daniel. This means Jews were under Persian rule at the end of Malachi and remained under them for the first 60 years of the inter testament period.Alexander permitted the Jews to keep their Laws. Granted them exemption during Sabbatical Years.and when he built Alexandria in Egypt 331 B.C.he encouraged Jews to settle there and gave them privileges comparable to those of the Greek subjects. He pressed on to Punjab India. During this period, the rival worship of the Samaritans became established , back in 721 B.C. The Northern kingdom of Israel,the ten tribes,were,scattered by Assyria to “the cities of the Medes”; The Assyrian emperor remixed the cities of Israel with intermingling people known as Samaritans. It was from these people that Nehemiah faced opposition on his way to Jerusalem.( NEH 2:10 and 4:1-3) The rivalry persisted through the New Testament times.
- 2. The Greek — 333 B.C. Alexander The Great,at Twenty years of age,transformed the face of the world in ten years. The architecture and trade, gymnasiums and games became popular. the materialistic aspects were of Hellenism attracted the people. He was killed at age 33 and nothing ever could be as it was before.
- 3. The Egyptian — 323 B.C. This was the longest of the six year period in the Inter-Testament Period. The death of Alexander the Great resulted in Judea falling into the hands of the first Ptolemaic ruler They were the line of Greek kings over Egypt The Ptolemy Soter, who dealt kindly with the Jews The Second Ptolemy Philedelphus founded the Alexandrian Library and the famous Septuagint translation of the Old Testament . These were also known as the legend of 70 or 72, 6 from each of the 12 tribes who were sent from Judea, to produce . This was made from the Hebrew to the Greek during this reign. Palestine was becoming the battleground between Egypt and Syria. Seleucid were the line of Syrian Kings. Jews enjoyed prosperity at this period. The greatest figure among the Jews of the Ptolemaic period was Simon the Just. The high priest,who is the subject of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiastical which calls him,Great among his “brother-en and the Glory of his people” he is credited with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem,which has been demolished by Ptolemy I.and is said to have repaired the temple and directed the excavation of a great reservoir to provide fresh water for Jerusalem in times of drought and Siege. He was also a great teacher of ancient Judaism
- 4. The Syrian — 204 B.C. This was the most tragic part of the Inter-Testament Period for the Jews with the coming power of the Antiochus Epiphanies in 175 B.C. A reign of terror fell on all Jews. he wrecked Jerusalem,tore down the walls and killed the people. he desecrated the temple in every way culminating in the offering of the pigs on the alter of sacrifice and then erecting statues of false gods on the alter. Dan. 8:13
- 5. The Maccabean- 165 B.C. The oppressed Jews were not long in find a champion. This was one of the most heroic period. The excessive Antiochus Epiphanies provoked the movement by the ages priest ,Mattathias, and carried by his son,Judas Maccabeus, who restored the temple and orthodox services were re instituted following the desecration of Antiochus. Judas Maccabeus was killed in one of the battles with the Syrians. His brother Jonathan,became leader and high priest,uniting the civil and priestly authority in one person,thus commencing the Hasmonean line of high priests, when he was killed his brother Simon became leader and when he was killed and his able son John Hyrcanus reigned for twenty nine years. After changes among the Hasmonean leaders, the herod family appears on the scene,leading tot he Roman period.
- 6. The Roman — 63 B.C. to Christ. Judea became a province of Roman Empire. When the Mccabean line ended, Antipater was appointed over Judea by Julius Caesar in 47 B.B. Antipater appointed Herod,his son,governor of Galilee. He was appointed king of the Jews by Rome in 40 B.C. He murdered almost all of his family including his wife and sons. This was the ” Herod the Great” who was king when our Lord was Born.
Now we are going to look at the Religious Background during the 400 years.
The political background changed the Jews but no more than the changes in their Jewish religious customs. There were new groups such as Scribes,Pharisees and Sadducee and new institutions such as Synagogue and Sanhedrin. Because of these changes in the Jewish culture the period between Malachi and Mathew is important. The Oral Law which was in existence for centuries was transformed into Talmud in 2 A.D and remains the authority for Jews today. At the time of our Lord it was still oral. Jesus contradicted its obstacles in Matthew 15:1-9 and in Sermon on the Mount He said six times, “Ye have heard that it was said” but I say unto you” His way of referring to the Scriptures was,”It is written”.
The Pharisees and Sadducees
the Pharisees held the Oral Law that was given to Moses,to Joshua,to the Prophets and then to the men of the Great Synagogue. They were the interpreters of the Oral Law. The Sadducee rejected all this holding to only “the law” meaning the “Pentateuch” They denied the spirit world of angels,immorality and resurrection from the dead Acts 23:8 while the Pharisees affirmed all these doctrines. they always opposed each other. You will find references for both groups in the New Testament in many places.
From the time of the Babylonian captivity, there developed a new line of Scribes,who were not just transcribers and secretaries,but a new body of men,who became the guardians,expounders and teachers of Scriptures became the new distinguished order in the nation. They were different than the priests and Pharisees they were not alike and did not function together and Sadducee are also mention in various places in New Testament. Our Lord denounced the Scribes because of their corruption and outward piousness. Mathew 23:13-18
This is not mentioned in the Old Testament , but as soon as we are in New Testament it is found everywhere. After Captivity and when The Jews totally turned form the idolatry when there was no longer a Jewish temple it seemed to have originated. It was congregational and priestly. It was from this background the early Christian Church as organised by the apostles took its main form of worship. the tiles Elders, Bishops,Deacons were all carried over from Synagogue.
This group in New Testament time was Supreme civil and religious Tribunal of the Jewish nation. These were the people who were responsible for the Crucification of the Lord Jesus Pontius Pilot was merely a “rubber stamp” of imperial Rome. They were made up of High Priest, Twenty four chief Priests, who represented 24 orders of the priesthood.Twenty four Elders were called the Elders of the Peoples.. Twenty Two Scribes who interpreted the Law in both religious and civil matters. To the total of Seventy one members of the Sanhedrin.Matthew 26:59 King James Version (KJV)
Matthew 26:59 – Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; this is the most tragic verse in the history of the Israel because Sanhedrin people met illegally in the high priest ` s palace John 18:15 instead of in its own council hall. All surrounding their actions in reference to the death of Christ was illegal and wrong.
Then there were few other groups like Essences who trace their roots to the strictly orthodox leaders of Mccabean times. Out of these the monastically minded Jews who varied among themselves, one group avoided women and did not marry,the other did. They were strict with discipline with Sabbath they did not lift even the lamb from the pit. They regarded themselves as pure Israelite and did not cooperate with the observation of the temple but carefully regulated themselves at their essence center.They are not mentioned in New Testament nor in the Jewish Talmud. although the High morality of the Essences were commendable . The teaching and practice of Jesus were diametrically opposite to the legalism and the practice of strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline of the Essence teaching. Jesus did not hesitate to eat and drink with Publicans and sinners Mathew 11:19; Luke 7:34. although obedient to the Mosaic law, Jesus had no sympathy with those who made of the Law a burden instead of a Blessing. The Sabbath according to Jesus was made for Man and it is lawful to do good n that Sabbath Day. Mathew 12:1-12,Mark 2:23-28;Luke 6:6-11;14:1-6. The Ministry of Jesus was largely to the Common People, So the self righteous people called Jesus a drunkard ,a friend of Publicans and sinners. Mathew 11:19. The New Testament also mentions The Herodians and Zealots. Their fanaticism brought on the war during which army of Titus destroyed Jerusalem and its temple A.D 70.