Bible Survey Main Page           Printable Web Version            Acrobat PDF Version


The Time Between the Testaments

The approximate 400 years that separate the time of Malachi to the birth of Christ is known as the Intertestamental Period (420 - 5 B.C.). Sometimes this period is called the “silent” years.  They were anything but silent. A lot of changes were going on. The world events would shape the world of the New Testament.

At the close of the Old Testament, the dominant world empire was Persia; and the international language is Aramaic. The Persian Period is 539-332 B.C.

History: During this period, Israel was under three world powers.

 1) Persia

2) Greece

3) Roman

With the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C., Israel ceased to be an independent nation, and became a territory of Babylon. When Persia conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., Israel then became a territory of Persia.

Very little is known about the latter years of Persian domination because the Jewish historian Josephus, our primary source for the intertestamental period, all but ignores them.

Then the power of Persia was broken by Alexander the Great of Greece in 330 B.C. Alexander introduced the Greek language, culture and customs to the lands he had conquered. Before the death of Alexander the Great, he divided his empire among his four generals, because he had no heirs to his throne.

In 638 B.C., and expanding Roman Empire took Jerusalem after a three month siege.

In 63 B.C. Rome becomes the sole world power.

When the New Testament opens, Rome is the world power, and the international language is Greek.

Rome’s universal rule: In a political sense the world was united. To bring about their military control, the Romans had constructed excellent roads which expedited easy transfer and interchange between all nations. Their laws also bound the world together in one great unit.

Greek language was well known: One of the conditions that prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah is the fact that the Greek language was the vehicle of international thought. Thus making it convenient for the gospel to be understood and carried to all peoples everywhere.