M 213 Inter Testament Period

What is Inter-Testament Period
 The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament.  On the other hand, Matthew is the first book in the New Testament.  In between the writings of these two books, there is approximately 400 years of gap which  is called / known as Inter-testament period.
Objectives of this course on Inter-Testament Period
  1. It helps the student to acquaint with the historical, political, cultural and social background of the Inter-Testamental Period.
  1. It supplies numerous information that are useful to understand the background of New Testament books.
  1. PERSIAN PERIOD (539 – 331 B.C.)
                   The Medes and Persians unitedly defeated the Babylonians and captured the city of Babylon in 539 B.C.  After defeating Babylon, the Medo – Persians became super – power.  They had two main capital cities; Susa and Persepolis.  Many kings ruled Persian empire.
  1. Period of Persian Might (539 – 423 B.C.)
During this period, Persian empire was very strong and enlarging its territories by defeating neighbouring kingdoms.  Nearly five emperors ruled during this period.
  1. Cyrus (539 – 530 B.C.)
Cyrus became the king of the small kingdom of Anshan in 559 B.C.  It was a tributary to Media.  He revolted against Media and overthrew it in 549.  Finally, he defeated Babylon in 539 B.C.  After defeating Babylon, he allowed the dispersed Jews to return to their homeland (2 Chron. 36 : 21-23; Ezra 1 : 6-3 : 5).  Many Jews returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Ezra. (539 / 538 B.C.).
  1. Cambyses (530 – 522 B.C.)
Cambyses was a son of Cyrus.   After Cyrus’ death, Cambyses killed his brother Smerdis and became the emperor of the Persian Empire.  He also defeated Egypt.  When he was in Egypt, an imposter named Gaumata took the name of Smerdis and tried to usurp the throne.  Gaumata was known as Pseudo – Smerdis (522).  Cambyses came back from Egypt and killed Gaumata.  
The reconstruction of Jerusalem Temple was stopped for a while by royal order during Cambyses’ reign (Ezra 4 : 7, 11).  Finally Cambysus committed suicide.
  1. Darius, the Great (522 – 486 B.C.)
He was also known as Darius-I.  He was a cousin of Cambyses.  He strengthened the crumbling empire by restoring law and order.  When Babylon attempted  a revolt, he crucified and killed more than 3000 leading citizens of Babylon.
He led a huge army of 60,000 soldiers in a fleet of 600 ships to capture Athens (Greek).  But he was defeated by the Greek General, Miltiades on a small plain called Marathon.
Darius-I permitted the Jews to finish rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem in 516/515 BC. (Ezra 6 : 1-12).
  1. Xerxes-I (486-464 BC)
He was the son of Darius.  He was the King known as Ahasuerus of the book of Esther (Ezra 4 : 6).  He was the husband of Esther.  He also attempted to capture Greece.  Although he had won earlier battles, he was defeated in 480 BC in a sea battle at island of Salamis by the Greeks with their swifter fighting boats.
  1. Artaxerxes-I (464-423 BC)
He was the son of Xerxes.  He was the king during the time of Ezra (Ezra 7 : 1) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2 : 1).  He permitted Ezra to return to Jerusalem in 458 BC (Ezra 7-10) and Nehemiah later (Neh. 1, 2).
  1. Period of Persian Power Decline (423 – 331 BC)
From           423 BC, the Persian empire began to decline.  During this period also, there were five kings.
  1. Darius II (423 – 404 BC). He was the son of Artaxerxes-I.
  2. Artaxerxes II (404 – 359 BC). He was the son of Darius II.
  3. Artaxerxes III. (359 – 338 BC).  He was the son of Artaxerxes II.
  4. Arses (338 – 336 BC). He was the youngest son of Artaxerxes III.
  5. Darius III (336 – 331 BC). He was a cousin of Artaxerxes III.  The Persian Empire was finally destroyed by Alexander, the Great.  The Persian Empire lost its super power status.  By defeating the Persians, Alexander established Grecian Empire.
  1. GRECIAN PERIOD (331 – 143 BC)
                   After the death of Philip of Macedon in 336 BC his son, Alexander, the Great became the king of Greece at the age of twenty.
  1. Alexander, the Great (336 – 323 BC)
Alexander was a student of Aristotle, a Greek Philosopher.  He was also a great conqueror.  He loved Greek language and culture.  So he consolidated the Hellenic league (Greek league).  He used Hellenic league in order to promote Greek culture.  Promoting the culture of Greeks was known as Hellanisation.  He promoted Greek culture (Greek way of life) in all countries, he captured.
He defeated the Persians at Granicus in 334, again at Issus in 333 BC, and finally at the battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC.  He destroyed Tyre but spared the city of Jerusalem.  Egypt welcomed him.  He established the city of Alexandria in Egypt.  It was famous for Greek culture in the East.  He planned to rebuild the city of Babylon.  He invading some parts of India in 327 BC.  But he died before invading India fully in 323 BC. at the age of thirty two.
After the death of Alexander, the Grecian Empire was divided into four parts, among his four generals in301 BC after many years of power struggle.  General Ptolemy ruled Egypt, Seleucus ruled Syria, Cassander ruled Greece and Macedonia and General Lysimachus ruled Asia Minor.  Among four, Ptolemy and Seleucus were prominent.
  1. Ptolemic Rule (323 – 198 BC).
Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Palestine area.  His capital was Alexdandria.  During this rule, the Jews generally fared well.  They were allowed to keep their religion and culture.  The Jews paid tribute to the Ptolemic government in Egypt; but the local and religious affairs were administered by the High Priest.  The Jews began translating Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek at this period.
Since Palestine and Jerusalem were between Egypt and Syria, Ptolemics and Seleucids tried by many wars  to have control this area.  So the Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine suffered under the power struggle between Ptolemics and Seleucids.
  1. Seleucid Rule (198 – 143 BC).
(i) Seleucid Control (198 – 168 BC)
The Seleucids ruled Syria and Antioch was their capital.  Although Seleucids attempted to gain control of Palestine by marriage alliances and many invasions, they failed until Antiochus III defeated Egypt in 198 BC.  The Seleucids forced the Jews to accept Hellenism (Greek culture).  Later Antiochus IV (Ephiphanes) removed the High Priest (Onias III) and appointed his brother Jason in 174 BC after receiving bribe from Jason.
Jason was favourable to Hellenism and planned to make Jerusalem into a Greek city.  He forced the Jewish lads to exercise nude in Greek fashion.  The pious Jews (named Hasidim) opposed to the paganization of their culture.  Antiochus then sold the High Priesthood to another Jew (Menelaus), who was more favourable to Greek culture.  Menelaus was not from priestly line; but he got priesthood by paying huge money to Antiochus.  The Jews naturally opposed selling of Priesthood.  Jason seized control of Jerusalem from Manelaus in 170 BC.      So Antiochus raided Jerusalem and  ransacked the temple.  He killed many Jews by slaughter.
  • Maccabean Revolt (168 – 143 BC)
Antiochus tried to invade Egypt, but the Romans prevented his advance.  He returned to Palestine in 168 BC.  He outlawed Judaism, circumcision and Sabbath.  In 167 BC, (Probably 25 December), he dedicated the temple of Jerusalem to Greek god Zeus and offered swine flesh on the altar.  He destroyed the copies of OT.  For these reasons, the Jews revolted against him under the leadership of Mattahias.
Mattahias was an aged Priest in the village of Modein.  He refused to set up a heathen altar to offer pagan sacrifice.  When another Jew the agent of Antiochus IV volunteered to offer pagan sacrifice, Mattahias killed him.  Then Mattahias, his five sons, along with many followers and supporters fled to the mountain ranges.  This is known as Maccabian revolt.  The pious Jews also supported Maccabians.
Mattahias died in 166 BC.  After his death, Judas Maccabens, third son of Mattahias   led the revolt. It was called Maccabens from the Hebrew meaning “hammer”.  He used guerrilla warfare against Syria, as well as Hellenistic Jews.  He captured Jerusalem, destroyed Pagan altar, and restored the Temple.  He rededicated the Temple to Jehovah on 25 December 164 BC.  This dedication day was called and celebrated as “Hanukkan”.  He was killed in a battle in 160 BC.  His brother Jonathan (160 – 143 BC) led Maccabeans after Judas’ death.
After Judas death, the Hellenist Jews (Syrian supporters) regained control.  But through diplomacy, Jonathan increased in power.  He became the High Priest.  In143 BC< he was killed by Syrians in a battle.
                        Hasmonean was a name derived probably from an ancestor of Maccabeans. Hasmonean period was a period of independence of Jews.
  1. Simon (143 – 135 BC)
Simon, succeeded his brother Jonathan in 143 BC.  He gained independence from Syria in 142 BC.  He also became the high priest.  He first formed Hasmonean dynasty.  Simon and two of his sons were murdered by his Son-in-law in 135 BC.
  1. John Hyrcanus (135 – 104 BC)
John Hyrcanus was the surviving son of Simon.  He expanded his territory by including Samaria and Idumea.  He forced the Idumeans to circumcise and to accept Judaism.  During this period, two religious sects known as Pharisees and Sadducees evolved.  Hasadim evolved into the sect of Pharisees, on the other hand, the Hellenists evolved into the Saducees.  John Hyrcanus was a supporter of Sadducees Sect.
  1. Aristobulus I (104 – 103BC)
              He was the eldest son of Hyrcanus.  He became a ruthless Hellenist.  He preferred his Greek name instead of Hebrew one Judah.  He was very cruel.  He imprisoned his mother and brothers and let his mother starve to death.  He conquered Galilee and added it with his kingdom.
  1. Alexander Janneus (103 – 76 BC)
              After the death of Aristobulus, his brother Janneus married Aristobulus’ widow Salome Alexandra, and became king.  He expanded his kingdom, almost equal to the period of David.  He was also a Sadducee and opposed Pharisees.  So Pharisees asked the help of Syrians to defeat him.  After a few years of power struggle, Janneus killed the leader of Pharisees.
  1. Alexandra (76 – 67 BC)
              Janneus made his wife as his successor on his deathhood.  Her elder son Hyrcanus II was made High Priest and his brother Aristobulus II became military commander.
  1. Hyrcannus II (67 – 66 BC)
              After the death of his mother, Hyrcannus II became the king.  He favoured Pharisees.
  1. Aristobulus II (66 – 63 BC)
              Aristobulus and the Sadducees marched against his brother Hyrcanus, who agreed and retired from public life.  Thus Aristobulus II became the king as well as high Priest.
              Later Hyrcanus was convinced by Antipater, the governor of Idumea to regain his rightful position by making war.  So Hyrcanus attempted to became High Priest again.
                   Roman kingdom was established by its founder named Romulus in 753 BC.  However, it got control of Palestine         only in 63 BC.  Roman general, Pompey conquered Palestine in 63 BC.
  1. Hyrcanus II – (63-40 BC)
              Hyrcanus II again became High Priest and with authority over Judea, Perea and Galilea with the strong support of Pompey.  When Julius Caesar established his powerful Roman Empire, he defeated Pompey in 48 BC.  Hyrcanus aided Julius Ceasar.  So Ceasar appointed Hyrcanus as Ethnarch of the Jews; Antipater was appointed as procurates of Judea as well.  Ceasar was assassinated on the Ides of March (15th March) in 44 BC by Brutus and Cassius.
  1. Antigonus – (40-37 BC)
              After the death of Julius Ceasar, Octavius Ceasar (known as Augustus Ceasar – Lk. 2 : 1) became emperor.  During this period, there was a power struggle with the Parthians, a powerful nation which vied  with Rome to gain control over Palestine and Syria.  Antigonus got the help of the Parthians in deposing Hyrcanus.
  1. Herod, the Great – (37 – 4 BC)
              Herod, the Great was the son of Antipater.  He went to Rome and got the support of the senate of Rome.  He was made king of Judea by the Senate in 40 BC.  However, he could re-take the land with the help of Romans only in 37 BC.  As soon as he retook the land of Judea, Herod, the Great beheaded Antigonus.  With the death of Antigonus, the Hosmonean rule came to the end.
He began rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem in 20 BC.  Jesus was born during the time of Herod (probably between 7-5 BC); while Augustus Ceasar (Lk. 2 : 1) was Emperor in Rome.
Note : With the birth of John, the Baptist and of Jesus, New Testament period began.
  1. Rule of Herod’s sons
After the death of Herod, the Great, the land of Palestine was divided among his three sons. 
(i)  Archelaus (4 BC – AD 6)
           He became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria and Idumea (Mt. 2 : 22).  He misruled the land.  So he was banished by Augustus in AD 6.  After that, Judea was ruled by Pontius Pilate (26 – 36 AD), Antionius Felix (52 – 59 AD) and Procius Festus (59 – 61 AD) as Roman governors.
Note :  Pilate was Jusus’ judge.  Felix and Festus heard Paul’s case (Acts 23-26).
(ii)  Philip (4 BC – AD 34)
          He was incharge for the land of Northern Transjordan, including Iturea, Batanea (Lk. 3 : 1).
(iii) Herod Antipas (4 BC – AD 39)
          He was incharge of Galilee and Perea (Mk. 6 : 14 – 29 : Lk. 3 : 1 ; 13 : 31-35 ; 23 : 7-12).  He divorced his wife to marry Herodias, the wife of his half brother.  John, the Baptist rebuked Antipas for divorcing.  So he arrested John, the Baptist and later beheaded him (Mt. 14 : 3-12 ; Mk. 6 : 17-29).
  1. Herod Agrippa-I (AD 37 – 44 AD)
Herod Agrippa was the grandson of Herod, the Great.  He became king and eventually over the whole Palestine.
  1. Hero Agrippa-II (AD 53 – 70)
He was the son of Agrippa I and great grandson of Herod, the Great.  But he received only the land of Philip (Transjordan area).  It was not Jewish territory.  Paul defended  his cause before him.  (Acts 25 : 13-26 : 32). 
  1. Jewish Revolts
The Jews attempted to gain control over Palestine.  A man named Judas of Galilee led a revolt against the Romans (Act 5 : 37).  But it was a failure.  However this marked the birth of the resistance movement of nationalist, later called the Zealots.  They refused to pay taxes to the Romans.  In 45 AD, a man named Theudas led some followers against the Romans.  But he failed and was beheaded by Fadus, the Roman procurator of Judea.  Between 46 – 48 AD, two sons of Judas of Galilee opposed the Romans.  But they were crucified by Tiberius Alexander, the Roman procurator of Judea.
In 54 AD, Sicarii movement started by the radical Zealots.  (Sicarii derived from Latin Sica meaning ‘dagger’).  They killed many with daggers.  In 55 AD, thousands of Sicarii led by an Egyptian encamped on Mt. Olives in order to take Jerusalem.  The Romans dispersed them too.  Neverthless Zealot nationalist movement was growing because Florus, the Roman governor raided the Temple treasury on the pretext that money was required for the imperial service. 
So the Jews made war against the Romans.  The Jews were successful at first.  But Nero, the Roman Emperor sent Roman army general Vespasian to Palestine along with Titus, son of Vespasian.  He took control of Galilee.  The Christians in Jerusalem fled to Pella, south of Galilee.  This incident of fleeing separated the Jews and the Christians permanently, and historically, and geographically from Jerusalem.
Nero died in 68 AD.  Vespasian rushed to Rome to get the throne after giving the charge over Jerusalem to Titus.  Titus put a siege.  After five months, his troops breached the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.  The Romans crushed the rebels again in 73 AD at the fortress Masada, where 960 rebel Jews agreed to commit   suicide rather than be taken by the Romans.
Again between 132 – 135 AD, the Jews rebelled against the Romans, when the Emperor Hadrian banned the Jewish rite of circumcision.  Simon known as Bar Cochba led the Jews.  (Bar – Cochba was a title given by Rabbi Akiba.  It means son of a star).  This rebellian was also put down in 135 AD.  The Jews ware forbidden by Hadrian to enter the city of Jerusalem.
This was the political situation in Palestine during the inter-testament period and  the first century A.D.
In order to understand the New Testament writings, we should have knowledge about the religious, cultural and political situation of Palestine during Inter-Testament period, and First Century A.D.
  1. Samaritans
          After the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel ) in 722 BC, the largely depopulated land was resettled by the Assyrians from other parts of their empire (2 King 17 : 24).  The newly settled Assyrians inter married with the Jews who lived in defeated Israel.  The children of mixed people of Jews and Assyrians were known as Samaritans.  Since they were born through mixing with the Assyrians, the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea despised the Samaritans.  The Samaritans opposed rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem in fifth century B.C. (Neh. 2 : 10 – 6 : 14 ; 13 : 28).  They worshiped on their own temple built on Mt. Gerizim (Jn. 4 : 20).  They built this temple during the period of Alexander, the Great.  This temple was partly destroyed in 128 BC by John Hyrcanus.   The Samaritans accepted Pentateuch only as their Law books.
  1. Pharisees
          This term means “separated ones”.  They got developed from the root of Hasidim who opposed Hellenism (Introducing Greek culture to the Jews) in second century B.C.  Later they opposed the Maccabees who later held both religious and political office.  They were first mentioned as a distinct group under the high priest Jonathan (160 – 143 BC).  They believed the resurrection and angels.  The Pharisees were mostly laymen, but their leaders were mainly scribes.  The famous Pharisee was Hillel (60 BC –20 AD).  His son (or grandson) was Gameliel who was the teacher to Paul (Saul before conversion).  They did not join with Zeolots in their revolutionary policy.  They got permission from Emperor Vespasian to open a rabbinical school in 70 AD.
  1. Sadducees
          They claimed that they were the descendants of Zadok, the high priest at the time of King David.  The Sadducees were highly educated and rich.  They were the supporters of Hellenism.  They did not believe angels and resurrection (Mt. 22 : 29 – 33).  They were opposed by the Pharisees.  They opposed Jesus because he taught resurrection.  They controlled the affairs of the Temple.  They probably ceased because of the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.
  1. Essenes
          Their name was not directly mentioned in the New Testament.  But Jewish historian Josephus wrote about them.  The meaning of this term is unknown.  Qumran documents never use this term but many scholars identify Essenes with the monastic community at Qumran that produced and protected Dead Sea scrolls.  But some scholars say Essenes had no connection with Qumran community.  Some scholars believe that John, the Baptist was one of Essenes.
B.      Greco – Roman Religion
The Greeks and the Romans had many gods and goddesses.  Some of their beliefs and deities are given here.
  1. Olympian Religion
The Olympian religion has originated from the writings (The Iliad and the Odyssey) of Homer, a Greek poet, as well as Hesiod in the eight century B.C.  According to their belief, there were many superhumen who dwelt on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.  They were afraid of those gods because gods would punish them.  The Greeks worshiped these gods out of fear not because of reverence.  Some names of gods are here.
  1. Zeus (Jupiter) – He ruled Mt. Olympus and was the father of gods.  He was the god of the weather.  He guided men’s fortunes.
  2. Hera (Juno) – She was wife of Zeus and goddess of marriage and families.
  3. Poseidon (Neptune) – He was the brother of Zeus, and god of seas and earthquakes.
  4. Apollo – A son of Zeus. He was the god of light, music and prophecy.  He was a symbol of young manly beauty.
  5. Artemis (Diana) – She was a favourite goddess of many women because she gives child birth to the Greeks and Romans. She was goddess of moon and twin sister of Apollo.  Ephesian called her Artemis, (goddess of fertility) and the Romans named her Diana (Act. 19).
  6. Aphordite (Venus) – She was goddess of love and beauty. Asians called her Astarte.
  7. Athena (Minerva) – She was virgin godess of wisdom, arts and protectress of Athens. She sprang forth from the head of Zeus.
  8. Hermes (Mercury) – The messenger of gods.
  9. Dionysus (Bacchus) – He is a god of wine.
  10. Hades (Pluto) – He was the god of death and under world. He was another brother of Zeus.
  1. Oracles
          It was a popular religious activity to visit   famous religious center and to consult its oracle.  They used ‘oracle consulting’ in order to know the will of their gods.
  1. Delphi Oracle
                   It was a famous ‘oracle consulting’ center in Greece.  Its famous was lost when various daughter ‘local consulting centres’ became prominent.  A god named Apollo killed a snake named Python and became a god of prophecy.  He spoke through a priestess to the people who consulted oracle.
  1. The Sybilline Oracle
The term Sybil was mythological aged women, who in a state of ecstasy prophesied coming events.  Some followed this group.
  1. Mystery Religions
          Some religious sects had secret ceremonies.  So they were called mystery religions.
  1. Demeter
It was a mystery religion, popular in Athens.  Dameter was goddess of grains.  Her daughter was Persephone.  Persephone was abducted by god Hades.  So Demeter was heartbroken.  She did not allow any grain to grow.  So Zeus talked a compromise to his brother Hades.  Through the compromise, Persephone was freed, and came to Demeter, but she had to spend four months underground each year which produced winter.
  1. Dionysus
          The god Dionysus (a son of Zeus) was called Bacchus by the Romans.  He was god of vegetation and wine.  Many women followed this religions sect.  They were known as the Maenads (The mad ones).  The followers drank much wine and danced ecstatically, fondling serpants.  At the climax, they end their orgies by rending of a living animal limb by limb.
  1. Orpheus
This mysterious cult was also based on Dionysus and who was associated with Orpheus.  So it was known as Orphism.  According to Orphic writing, Titans a group of giants killed Dionysus and ate his body except heart.  Zeus, his father again created a new Dionysus from heart, and destroyed Titans.
  1. Cybele
The Sibylline oracles introduced a cult of Cybele.  The Romans called her the great mother.  This cult of Cybele was the first mystery religion introduced into the city of Rome.  Cybela was a goddess of nature.  The priest of Cybele castrated himself.
  1. Isis
          An Egyptian god, named Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, and cast the body into the sea.  Isis, his wife found the body at Byldos (Lebanon) and brought him back to life.  Seth again cut Osiris into fourteen pieces.  Isis once again gave him life, and he became the king of the dead.  Based on this myth, people worshiped Isis.  This Egyptian cult was introduced into Rome about 150 BC.
  1. Mithraism
          Mithras was a Persian god, Mithras was born by emerging from a rock.  As emerged, he first battled with the sun and then with a primeval bull, thought to be the first act of creation. Mithras slew the bull that then became the source of life for the human race.  So by the power of Mithras, the Persians cast out demons.  This cult was popular after Persian conquests of Cyprus in 546 BC.  But it was not so popular until first century.  However it spread widely in 140 AD.  In third century AD it slowly disappeared.
  1. Gnosticism
          This term is derived from the Greek word ‘Gnosis’ meaning knowledge.  (Secret knowledge).  The name of this false movement was first mentioned in the writings of Second century AD.  Many scholars think, this movement was established by Simon Magus, who tried to buy the miracle – working power of the Holy Spirit from Peter and John.  (Act 8 : 9-24).  This man was not a true Christian.  So he taught against Christ later.  Menander, a fellow Samaritan and Cerinthus, one from Asia Minor were followers of Simon and were teachers of Gnosticism.  Cerinthus taught Jesus was man.  So Apostle John condemned his teaching (1 Jn. 4 : 1-3).
          The Gnostics taught the material creation as evil.  The creation of woman was the source of evil.  One Gnostic named Carpocrates urged his followers to sin.  His son Epiphanes taught the promiscuity was a law of God.  This teaching was false, because true God is not the author of confusion.  (1 Cor. 14 : 33).
The Gnostics taught that salvation was by knowledge which depended solely upon knowing “Secret knowledge” (gnosis).  This is utter falsehood.  Because one can not be saved by secret knowledge.  Paul condemned such false knowledge (1 Tim. 6 : 20, 21).  The Bible teaches that we are not saved by secret knowledge but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2 : 8).
C.      The Greek Philosophers and Philosophy
The Greeks were known for their education and philosophy.  The Greek has produced many philosophers of the world.  We learn briefly here some important philosophers and their philosophies.  In those days Philosophy was not a critical study as it is in modern days. It was a way of life (system of life).  Each philosophy had its own way of life (style or system of life).
  1.   Early Philosophers
Greek Philosophy began in the sixty century before Christ (B.C).  Thales, and Heraclitus were important early Philosophers.  They were now known as the pre-Socratics.  Philosophy began with speculations on the nature of the universe.  Philosophers thought that the universe arose naturally from either a single eternal substance or combination of substances such as earth, water, air, and heat.  However they could not come to a conclusion.
  1. Pythagoras (578 – 496 BC)
Pythagoras of Samos is known well for his theorem of the right-angled triangle.  He also discovered the relationship between numbers and musical scales.  Pythagoreans first suggested that the earth was round.  He was a mathematician as well as philosopher.  He first taught re-birth theory: that dead persons take re-birth as animals.  This is a false philosophy.
Note :  The Bible teaches that the believers become like angels after death (Mt. 22 : 30).  The unbelievers will go to hell.  (Heb. 9 : 27 ; Rev. 21 : 8).
  1. Sophists
Sophists were in the fifty century B.C.  They were wandering teachers.  They got derogatory name because Socrates opposed them.  They taught Public speaking to others and got fee.  Public speaking was famous in Athens.  They taught to their pupils how to argue on general grounds as opposed to evidence, to put new interpretations on the facts and to turn them for their advantage.
  1. Socrates (469 – 399 BC)
          Socrates went around Athens constantly questioning men.  His philosophy focused on human affairs of daily living.  The basic idea of Socrates was that if one know what is right, one will do it.  Wrong – actions are the result of wrong thinking and wrong information.  Finally He was accused of corrupting Athenian youth by teaching “atheism”.  He was condemned by the court to death by drinking poison.
  1. Plato (428 – 347 BC)
He was from an aristocratic family in Athens.  He had personal contacts with Socrates.  The death of Socrates changed Plato’s life.  He established the first University, named Academy at Athens in 387 BC.  His famous writings were The Republic, Laws, the Timaeus and Symposium.  In “The Republic” he proposed abolition of families.  He also said the Idea of Good which is above all.  Some of Plato’s writings contradict each other.  Ex. In “the Laws”, he again wrote about the place of family, which he asked to abolish in ‘the Republic.
  1. Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)
He studied in the Academy under Plato, but he disagreed with him in many ideas.  He was the teacher to Alexander the Great.  He founded his own philosophical School in 335 BC at Athens.  He taught that “reality” consists, in physical items rather than invisible ideas.  He also laid down rules for logical argument.  He argued that there must be an “Unmoved First Cause’ which could be called Prime Mover or God.  However he never prayed to his God.
  1. Skeptics
The founder of Skepticism was Pyrrho of Elis (365 – 275 BC), who traveled with Alexander, the Great to India.  Although he did not write books Skepticism taught agnosticism about the possibility of knowing.  He said it is impossible to know anything about God.
Note : This agnosticism is wrong, because we can know God through the Bible and Jesus Christ.
  1. Cynics
          The Greek word ‘cynic’ means ‘dog-like’.  These philosophers lived a simple life like dogs.  The founder was Antisthenes (445 – 365 BC) a follower of Socrates.  He rejected Plato’s ideas, but stressed for life without any wordly comforts.
  1. Stoics
          The founder was Zeno (350 – 260 BC).  It was known as stoicism.  As a shipwrecked and poor, he came to Athens in 314 BC.  From 304 BC, he began teaching in the pointed Porch (Stoa Poikila).  Thus stoicism was named after ‘stoa’.  The stoas  were pantheists.
          Stoicism had popular in First Century A.D.  Paul quoted Stoic poet Aratus of Soli (315 – 240 BC) in Act 17 : 28.  Paul knew some philosophies of Stoics because Tarsus, Paul’s birth place was a famous stoic philosophical center.  Paul quoted stoic poet just to get the attention of educated.  He was not a stoic.  So he did not study in Tarsus, but studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Act 22: 3).
  1. Epicureans
Epicurus (341-270 BC) founded this philosophy.  He was a sickly person, affected with nervous disorder.  He taught the world was made up of the chance combination of tiny indivisible atom. This was wrong because science has proved that atom is divisible.
  1. Political Background (The Roman Empire)
                   Romulus first founded the Roman kingdom in 753 BC. In the city of Rome.  The Romans had two class of people in earlier centuries.  In 445 BC, a law was passed to permit inter marriage between Petrician (aristocratic class) and Plebeians (general class people).  During fourth and third centuries B.C., the Romans gradually expanded their kingdom to include all of Italy.
                   The Roman waged war against Phoenician at Carthage.  Carthage was sea port of Phoenicia.  In Latin, Phoenicians were called Punics.  Hence the war between the Romans and Phoenicans were known as Punic wars.  At the third Punic war, Carthage was completely destroyed (149-146 BC).  The Romans also defeated Macedonians who supported the Punics (148 BC).  Then they defeated the Greek city – states (Achaean) League and destroyed the city of Corinth (146 BC).  Finally in 63 BC, the Romans got the control of Palestine.
          After 63 BC, there was unrest in the Roman empire.  But in 48 BC, Julius Caesar took up the powers and became the dictator.  He was assassinated in 44 BC.  After his death, Octavian, nephew of Caesar defeated Antony; Ceasar’s Chief general and Cleopatra (Queen of Egypt) at Actium in 31 BC.  Egypt was annexed to Rome.
          Octavian was granted the title Augustus (Exalted) and he officially became the First Emperor of Rome (27 BC – AD 14).  Jesus was born during his rule (Lk. 2 : 1 – Augustus Caesar).  Tiberius (14-37 AD) became emperor after Augustus. After Tiberius, Gaius Caligula (37 – 41) became the emperor.  He was good first; but he soon became utterly immoral.
          The guards killed Gaius and made Claudius,  Gaius’ uncle as the emperor (41 – 54 AD_.  Herod Agrippa-I negotiated between guards and Claudius to make him emperor.  So Claudius rewarded Agrippa with an enlarged kingdom through out Palestine.  During his rule, he expelled Jewish residents from Rome.  Aquila and Priscilla were among them (Act. 18 : 2).
          Nero (54 – 68 AD) became emperor after Claudius.  During his rule, there was a devastating fire in Rome in 64 AD.  Nero accused the Christians for that fire, and persecuted them.   After Nero, his military general Vespasian (69 – 79 AD) became the emperor.  Vespasian’s son Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.  He also became the emperor after his father during 79-81 AD.  He was known for his generosity.  After Titus, his younger brother Domitian became emperor (81-96).  He ruled as a despot.
  1. Roman Government System
Since the Roman empire was large, it was divided into provinces.  The peaceful and civilized provinces were called Senetorial provinces which were administered by the Senate and ruled by proconsuls.  The restless frontier provinces were under the direct control of the emperor.  Small provinces like Judea were governed by equestrian class (Procurators).
  1. Roman Tax System
All persons including women and slaves must pay a poll tax which was equal to a day’s wage.  There were direct taxes on land and properties.  Harvest tax was 12.5 percent in Judea.  The taxes were collected by publicans.  Publican collected more taxes than permitted.  Zacchaeus and Matthew (Levi) were not tax collectors but local tax officials employed by Herod Antipas.
  1. Roman Army System
The Roman army had three categories of soldiers.  The praetorian guard, the legionaries and the auxiliaries.
  1. Praetorian guard was the body guard of the emperor formed by Augustus Caesar. It consisted twelve or sixteen cohorts (group of soldiers).  Each of about 500 soldiers, stationed at Rome.  They got the highest pay and the shortest service for sixteen years.  When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he was chained to a member of the practorian guard (Act 28 : 16, 20).
  1. Legionaries were the infantry, recruited from Roman citizens. Soldiers could join at the age between fourteen and nineteen.  Each legion had ten cohorts of 600 soldiers (6000 soldiers).  Each cohort was further divided into 100 soldiers commanded by a centurian.  The centurian was a veteran soldier.  Soldiers were given food and sour wine.  Such sour wine, the soldiers offered to Jesus (Mt. 27 : 48).
  1. Auxiliaries were soldiers selected from non-citizens. After twenty five years of faithful service, they could receive Roman citizenship.  Auxiliaries were experts with special weapons such as the archers from Syria and the slingers from Spain.  They had better road system so that they could send army to their vast empire during emergency.
  1. Roman Social Classes
              The Roman social classes of people were senators, Equestrians, Lower classes, slaves and freed men.  Senators were the highest level of Roman society.  They were in councils to advise the policies.  Equestrians were wealthy men who could provide their own horses for cavalry of the army.  They became political leaders than military division.  Lower class were soldiers who served for long years in Army.  After many years of service, many farmers were dispossessed of their land.  They came and lived in suburban areas of Rome.  They got foodgrain for subsidies.
              Slaves were mainly prisoners of war.  The population of slaves in Rome by the second century BC was estimated about 2,50,000.  The Romans looked down the slaves.  Sometimes, the household slaves were treated well by masters (Lk. 7 : 2).  Another class of people were known as freed men.  Freed men were former slaves.  There were various reasons for freeing slaves.  If a slave did some special service to his master, the master freed him (Ex. Saving master’s life).  Some slaves were freed by masters for religious reasons or for generosity.  There was a synagogue in Jerusalem for freedom (Act 6 : 9).
  1. Social Customs of Romans
              The age for marriage was set at twelve for girls and fourteen for boys.  Although there was education, the teaching profession was not favoured but despised.  The income in teaching profession was very low.  The trade flourished between Rome and other parts of world during the period of Augustus, because of peace within the Republic (Pax Romana).  During his rule, the Latin literature experienced the golden age.
              They built good towns.  They first invented concrete, by mixing volcanic ash and lime at 2 : 1 ratio.  They could build upto six stories.  The Roman roads were between 13 and 16 feet width.  They constructed 2,50,000 miles of paved roads.  Their entertainment was drama, chariot races, and gladiatorial games.  In gladiatorial games, the men who were forced to fight each other till death were usually criminals or prisoners of war.
  1. Emperor worship was common after the second century BC. Julius Caesar was declared divine by the Roman Senate in 42 B.C. They persecuted the Jews and the Christians who refused to worship the emperor.
                   The Old Testament Canan completed with the book of Malachi.  However there were many writings written after Malachi.  Some of them have historical, value.  Although some of these writings were considered religious, they have no spiritual value.
A.      Apocrypha
                   Apocrypha in Greek means “hidden” or “concealed”.  Jerome (420 AD) used this term to denote any books outside of 39 books of our Old Testament.  The apocryphal books were written mostly in Greek, some in Hebrew and Aramic.  These books were written by Alexandrian Jews, except First Maccabias and Ecclesiastics which were written by Palestinian Jews, between 250 BC – 100 AD.  Many of these authors were spurious.  The real authors are unknown.
  1. List of Apocryphal books
  1. First Esdras
  2. Second Esdras
  3. Tobit
  4. Judith
  5. Additions to Esther
  6. Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Ecclesiasticus
  8. Baruch
  9. Letter of Jeremiah
  10. Prayer of Azariah and Song of the three young men
  11. Susanna
  12. Bel and the Dragon
  13. Prayer of Manasseh
  14. First Maccabees
  15. Second Maccabees
Some of these books are in Roman Catholic Bible.
  1. Value of the Apocrypha
  1. Biblically, these books fill the gap between the Old Testament (Malachi) and the New Testament (Matthew).
  2. Historically, they narrate the history of the Jews from the Persian period to the birth of Christ.
  1. Reasons of Rejecting Apocrypha
              Apocryphal books are not added into Jewish Bible nor Protestant Bible for the following reasons.
  1. Jesus never accepted these books.
  2. The Jews never accepted them as part of scripture.
  3. Many of these books contain historical errors (Ex. Judith speaks of Nebuchadnezzar as ruling in Nineveh instead of Babylon).
  4. Some of the books contain heretical teaching (Ex. Prayer for the dead and salvation by works – 2 Mac. 12 : 44-45 ; Sir. 3 : 3).
  5. No Recognized church council until 4th century AD accepted them.
  6. Jerome, the translator of Vulgate rejected their canonicity.
  7. The apocryphal books were only accepted in 1546 AD by the Roman Catholic church as a reaction against the Protestant Reformation.
These are the important reasons for rejection of the apocrypha.
B.  Septuagint
                   The term “Septuagint” is a shortened form of ‘Interpretatio Secundum Sepuaginta seniores’ meaning ‘translation of the 70 elders’.  Since 70 elders were present at the giving of the Law, it was probably translated by 70 elders.  It was possibly translated around 250 BC.  In summary, Septuagint refers to ‘the Greek translation of Hebrew scripture’.  The symbol used to denote Septuagint is LXX (Roman Number 70).
  1. Reasons for Septuagint Translation
              In Jeremiah’s time some Jews had migrated to Egypt for safety.  They were many in the city of Alexandria in Egypt.  After living about a century, the Jewish children could not read Hebrew but Greek.  Just as the Jews had dropped Hebrew for Aramaic in Babylon, so now they abandoned Aramaic for Greek.  The elders decided to translate the Hebrew scripture into Greek so that the Jewish children in Alexandria could read their scripture.  Hence Septuagint was translated.
  1. Importance of the Septuagint
It was of great importance in the history of Judaism as well as the church.  Since Septuagint (Greek Bible of Old Testament) was in Greek language, both Greek speaking Jews and Gentiles could understand God’s revelation in Old Testament.  Early Christians favoured Septuagint instead of Hebrew Old Testament.
  1. The Dead Sea Scrolls
There were many manuscripts found from Qumran cave Library between 1947 and 1956.  Since these caves are around the Dead Sea, the scrolls found from those caves are known as Dead Sea Scrolls.  The scrolls are dated back to 150 BC. 
One of the important scrolls found there was the book of Isaiah.  This scroll confirmed that the text of Isaiah was genuine.  All the manuscripts of Old Testament books except Esther were found.  This was the greatest discovery of manuscripts in the history of Christianity.
  1. Write the reasons for rejecting apocrypha
  2. Write short note about Septuagint.
3        Write about the political and social background of the Roman Empire.
  1. Write a short note about Greek Philosophers.
  2. Write about the Jewish religious groups.
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