Tomorrow at 11.15am, Ottery St Mary Parish Church, Leisa concludes the Old Testament part of our Bible Timeline series, which we started January 2016. What happened between the Old and New Testaments?
At the close of the Old Testament, Jerusalem was ruled by Persia. Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 333 B.C. and established Greek culture and the Greek language as a unifying force for that part of the world. When Alexander died, his kingdom quartered, but Hellenistic (Greek) culture still advanced and remained the dominant influence. When Rome conquered that part of the world, Roman influences were introduced but initially the Greek influence was still strong. The march of the nations passed from Persia to Greece to Rome.
Throughout the four hundred Silent Years, there were militant Jews who attempted to revolt against foreign rule and make Jerusalem and the surrounding area of Judea an independent country. These included the Maccabeans and Zealots.
There were two primary religious ‘parties’ in Jerusalem during this time. Unfortunately, neither offered much guidance in true spirituality, as they were caught up in promoting a religious ‘legalism’ of external adherence to rules while overlooking inner motivation and attributes. The Pharisees were orthodox and conservative, and they fostered separation between themselves and “secular” society. The Sadducees were more liberal. They were the party of the Jerusalem aristocracy, and they used their wealth and influence to keep the political waters calm. A ruling board, called the Sanhedrin, was made up of representatives from both the Pharisees and Sadducees, but the two groups had little in common except their desire for religious freedom and, later, their antagonism for Jesus of Nazareth.
The ‘Messiah,’ or ‘Saviour’, was one who was prophesied throughout the Old Testament to come and save the Jews. Some felt they needed spiritual salvation, and others were looking only for political salvation. For both reasons, the expectation and hope for the coming of the Messiah was strong during the four hundred Silence Years between the Old and New Testaments. Events of the Silence Era seemed to especially prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah:
- This part of the world has a common language and a common culture, which facilitates the spread of a Messianic message.
- The Roman Empire has brought this region military peace, an extensive system of roads and sea travel, and a common government so that people can travel extensively without interference.
- The Jews are suffering such religious persecution and political humiliation that widespread hope and expectation of a savior exists.
These facts made the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, claiming to be the Messiah, an event that captured the attention of the entire Jewish world.