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  • Writer's pictureBlake Barbera

Four Amazing Ways God Prepared the World for Jesus During the Intertestamental Period

The One Who Is Sovereign Over History Was Busy Setting the World Stage During the Supposed Silent Years


The time between the Old and New Testaments is a total mystery for many Christians. While some know that there exists a gap in the prophetic literature between the Old and New Testaments, many have yet to learn that a series of events fundamentally changed history and the world landscape during this time. These events were stunning, and when understood correctly, they show us the immense way that God was at work in the world during the supposed silent years, preparing the way for Jesus and the Gospel He would bring.


Following are the four critical historical events that make up the Intertestamental Period. You will not only be amazed at how God orchestrated world events to set the stage for the coming of His Son, but you will also possess a deeper understanding of the world Jesus stepped into and the place He held within it.



Event #1: Alexander the Great Conquers the World and Introduces a Common, Universal Language

Alexander the Great was tutored in Greek philosophy and language as a boy by the philosopher Aristotle. In 334 B.C., he became the first world leader in history to conquer the entirety of the known world.


To advance Greek culture and language and ensure that his empire would remain unified under Hellenistic rule, Alexander made one of his mother languages, Attic Greek, the language of his Empire.[1] This was astonishing in its effectiveness and significance.


The language spoken by Alexander and his military spread quickly throughout the known world. As it comingled with other, less adept languages, it eventually became a more straightforward, quickly learned language called Koine Greek, or common Greek. Even in Egypt, where Jesus spent significant time with his parents during childhood, Greek had become the official language of the land under the rule of the Ptolemies (one of the successors of Alexander).


What’s even more amazing is to see how God was at work in the events of history, preparing the world for the Gospel by establishing the first ever lingua-franca 200-300 years before the birth of Christ. This allowed for many things, such as the New Testament to be written in a language that was broadly accessible to the world’s people—rich and poor, educated and non-educated alike. But it also allowed for the Gospel to be taken by the disciples and followers of Jesus throughout the known world in a language understood by nearly everyone.


Event #2: The Hebrew Scriptures are Translated into Greek

After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was split into four separate kingdoms ruled by four of his generals. During much of the third century BC, Egypt was ruled by a Greek Pharaoh named Ptolemy II Philadelphus. He was the son of Ptolemy I, a Macedonian Greek General who served directly under Alexander.


In the early 3rd century BC, Ptolemy II called for the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanakh, to be translated into the people’s language. Many of his subjects were God-fearing Jews who had fled Judea after the fall of the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians some 300 years earlier (597 BC) and no longer spoke Ancient Hebrew.


2 Kings 25:26 “Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces [arose] and [went] to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.”


There can be little doubt that this Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible became prominent in the Jewish world during the centuries leading up to Christ’s birth, as Jesus himself likely read and was taught out of the Greek Old Testament, also called the Septuagint.[2] In the Gospel records Jesus can be seen quoting from both the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew Old Testament, a sign that he was, like most Jews living in Judea at that time, bilingual. As many Jews in Egypt and the East were already speaking Greek by the middle third century, the translation of the Septuagint likely encouraged more Jews living in Judea between the second and first centuries (who also may have struggled to read Ancient Hebrew) to learn Greek as well.


Event #3: The War of the Maccabees Occurs in Judea

The third historical event God used to prepare the world for Christ centers more specifically around the Land of Israel, the territory known as Judea. Following the split of Alexander’s Kingdom, Judea was left under the rule of the Seleucid dynasty. After several generations of Seleucid leaders who were more or less indifferent to Judaism, Antiochus IV rose to power within the Empire. He saw it partly as his mission to Hellenize the known world, including the territory of Judea, formerly the nation of Israel and the homeland of the Jewish people.


Antiochus IV banned the practice of Judaism while simultaneously auctioning the Jewish High Priesthood off to the highest bidder, a Jewish priest named Jason, who discouraged traditional monotheism and promoted Greek culture and religion throughout the land.


These actions by Antiochus resulted in two drastic repercussions: first, after the persecution of Jewish people by the Seleucids and their dignitaries reached its boiling point, a Jewish revolt was initiated in 167 BC, and an independent Jewish State was formed in 130 BC under the rule of the Hasmoneans. This independent state would last for almost 80 years, eventually giving way when Rome annexed Judea due to a power struggle within the Hasmonean ruling family.


Rome’s restored control over Judea would set off another series of critical events: the appointment of Herod the Great, the subsequent rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, and the transformation of a once out-of-the-way Roman province into the restored center of Jewish cultural and religious life. Despite Rome’s annexation, many Jewish exiles, most of whom now spoke Greek, returned to the land of their fathers in the 150 years leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, especially during the 80-year reign of the Hasmoneans.


Event #4: The Romans Build Roads All Over the Empire

The Roman Empire is known for prolific achievements such as its military might, governmental structure, and social institutions. However, one of the most underrated facets of Roman geopolitical success can be found in how they unified their empire when the world was still a vast and arduously traveled place.


Roman roadbuilding revolutionized the world over two millennia ago. It advanced the spread of Roman thought and language but also created an incredible mechanism for which the Gospel of Jesus Christ would depart from Judea and quickly spread across the entire Empire.


Thanks to the success Rome experienced connecting their empire via a road system, the apostles and other disciples of Jesus were able to spread the Gospel message throughout most of the known world in less than 70 years.


Conclusion

While many Christians believe that God was silent during the intertestamental period, it is clear from history that while He may not have been inspiring new Scripture to be written down, God was active in the world in a different sort of way. Via these four major historical events, God was setting the stage for the coming of His Son while simultaneously preparing the world stage for the rapid spread of the gospel message. A message that was able to run quickly throughout the known world due to the unification of human language, a massive empire that controlled most of the world’s population while maintaining a common language, and the roads they built.

[1] While Alexander himself spoke Macedon, the vast majority of people in his military and empire spoke Greek. [2] The word Septuagint comes from the Latin septuaginta, or “70,” and is based on the legend that the translation was performed by 72 Jewish scribes, 6 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.


The Intertestamental Period Explained

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