Between the Testaments

By Dr. B. H. Carroll
Late President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas
Edited by Dr. Ronald D. Lesley for Fundamental Baptist Institute

A Class on Biblical History


Lesson # 1

INTRODUCTION: Between the Testaments

 

We commence this study with an introduction to the period. The Old Testament books written during the Babylonian exile are, part of Jeremiah, all of Ezekiel, all of Daniel, and possibly a few of the psalms. The Old Testament books written after the Jews’ return from the Babylonian captivity are the following, in their order, as stated: Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Esther, Nehemiah, Malachi—Nehemiah and Malachi having been written about the same time. The Old Testament closes, then, about 433 B.C. with the books of Nehemiah and Malachi.

The extent of the period between the Old and New Testaments, in round numbers, is over 400 years, that is, from 433 B.C. to 4 B.C., the true date of Christ’s birth, four years before the time it is usually given. We may learn the history of that 400 years: First, from the Jewish historian, Josephus, Jewish Antiquities and the first part of his Wars of the Jews. Josephus was a Jewish general in the war which led to the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus, living forty and more years after Christ died. Second, from a radical critic, Ewald, who has written, perhaps, the most remarkable history of the Jewish people. I do not very well see how we could do without it on account of its great scholarship and research, though many things in it cannot possibly be accepted on account of his radical criticisms. One volume of his history is devoted to this period. As that book may not be accessible, I mention Stanley’s Jewish Church, the third volume. He is something of a radical critic himself, and follows Ewald just about as closely as Dr. Boyce, in his theology, follows lodge. But better than all of them for brevity and clearness is a little book of the Temple Series of the Bible, entitled, "Connection Between Old

and New Testaments." The author is Rev. George Milne Rea. This is the shortest, clearest, and most forcible history of the period that I know anything about. He is somewhat of a radial critic, but there is little poison in it.

Then, for a great part of the period, we find 1 and 2 Maccabees indispensable. They are apocryphal books of the Old Testament. The first book of the Maccabees is good, great, and spiritual. it is a fine history. It is not an inspired book, but many uninspired books are very valuable. I have been reading the first book of Maccabees ever since I was ten years old. The second book of Maccabees is also. good, but not quite so reliable.

Daniel’s prophecies concerning the Persian, Grecian, and Roman Empires, while prophecies are really a forecast of all the history there is on the subject.

I will sum up the histories of the period: (1) Daniel; (2) Josephus; (3) Ewald’s History of the Jewish People; (4) Stanley’s Jewish Church; (5) Milne Rea’s Connection Between the Testaments; (6) 1 and 2 Maccabees. In giving these histories let me say that Josephus on that period sometimes gives the chronology wrong—in one instance at least a hundred years. The ancient Greek historians Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Appianus, Arrianus, and others, touched on the period. The ancient Roman historians, Livy, Tacitus, Diodorus, and others, touch the period. The great modern histories of ancient times which cover the period are Rollin, Rawlinson’s Monarchies, Grotes’ History of Greece, and Mommsen’s History of Rome.

We next notice the Jewish literature during this period, i. e., what the Jews wrote during this period. We get the literature of this period to find out how the people were thinking, to what their minds were being given. A large part of that literature appears in the Septuagint Old Testament, and is incorporated in the Roman Catholic Bible. In our Bible the Roman Catholics make their insertions of the Jewish literature as follows: Just after Nehemiah they put in two books, Tobit and Judith, neither one of them historically good, and a good deal of Tobit is exceedingly silly. To the book of Esther they add ten verses to the tenth chapter, and then add six more chapters. That these additions were written in this period, and after the inspiration closed, is evident from the reading of them. Just after the Song of Solomon, they put two Apocryphal books, Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus. These books, while not inspired, make very good reading, but they are written, as I said, in that interval between the two Testaments, and rather late in that interval. Just after the Lamentations of Jeremiah, they put the book of Baruch. Baruch himself was the scribe of Jeremiah and a good man. This book, some of it, is exceedingly silly, and evidently not written by Baruch.

To our book of Daniel they make the following additions:   When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into the fiery furnace, they put a long song of about sixty-six verses into the mouths of these three men, and make them sing it in that furnace. At the end of the book of Daniel they put two stories: The story of Susanna, and the story of Bel and the Dragon—good stories to tell the children. Just after Malachi they put 1 and 2 Maccabees.

The Romanist Bible, Douay Version, has these additions and shows just where they come in. All these books were written during the period of which I speak, and in addition to them the following which do not appear in the Romanist Bible:

the Prayer of Manasseh. He was the wicked son of the good king, Hezekiah, and the record states that when he was a captive in Babylon he repented and prayed to God to forgive him. It occurred to one of these inter-biblical Jews to write out that prayer for him. It is a splendid prayer and I do not see anything wrong in it.

A letter from Jeremiah to the Babylonian exiles. He had written one that we find in the book of Jeremiah, but this is falsely attributed to Jeremiah. Then, during that period, they wrote certain psalms and attributed them to Solomon, calling them The Psalms of Solomon. Most of these are good reading.

But the greatest exploit of the Jewish mind during the period of which I speak was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, the Septuagint version. I will have a good deal to say about it later.

I did not include in that period two other books written by Jews, and sometimes classed in the period. One is the book of Enoch. That is an apocalypse, an imitation of Daniel, and a good deal like Revelation. Some of it is fine reading. It is barely possible that part of it was written before Christ was born, but it cannot be proved. The other books are 1 and 2 Esdras. They were certainly written after Christ, both of them, and it is not yet clear whether a Christian Jew wrote them or an unchristian Jew, but they are intolerable stuff, no matter who wrote them.

I will now restate the literature of that period. I called attention to the part of the literature incorporated in the Romanist Bible, the following books in their order: Tobit, Judith, Ecciesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, then the additions to Esther and Daniel. Apart from what is incorporated in the Romanist Bible I gave these: The Prayer of Mannasseh, the Psalms of Solomon, the letter of Jeremiah, the great work of translating the Old Testament into the Greek language—the Septuagint. That commenced about 250 years before Christ, and it was about 100 years before all of it was done.

The king of Persia at the time the Old Testament closed was Artaxerxes Longiinanus, and the book that mostly influenced the Jewish thought and hope during that period of 400 years was unquestionably the book of Daniel. Revelation is the quickening book of the New Testament, as Daniel was the quickening book to the Jewish mind, both of them apocalypses.

There are ten great preceding events which influenced this

period of 400 years, as follows:

1. The first event was 722 B.C. Sargon, king of Assyria, reigning at Nineveh, captured the capital of the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of the ten tribes, deported the inhabitants into the Far East, and colonized their territory with heathen people from his own realm. As we go on, not only up to Christ, but beyond Christ, we will see the tremendous significance of that mixed population in Samaria—a heathen population settled there to take the place of the deported Jews, intermarrying with the remnant of Israelites left behind, and constituting what later was called the Samaritan people.

2. The second great event was in. 587 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, captured and destroyed Jerusalem, the capital of the lower kingdom, the kingdom of Judah, and deported the best and most influential of the inhabitants to Babylon. All through the period comes the echo of that event.

3. The third great preceding event was in 538 B.C. Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, captures Babylon, and in 536 B.C., two years later, he issued a decree allowing the Jewish captives in Babylon, so many as wished to do it, to go back to their own country, instructing them to rebuild their Temple, which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. This event, as we will find, was mighty in influencing the inter-biblical period in several respects. Heretofore the fortunes of the people of Israel had been influenced by the Hamitic and Semitic nations, who held them in subjection. Henceforward it is the Japhetic nations that affect them. The Medo-Persians were descendants of Japhet. The Babylonians and Assyrians were descendants of Shem, as were also the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Esau-ites. The people of Egypt were the descendants of Ham, and so were the Canaanites, including the Philistines and Phoenicians. Now, with the coming of Cyrus to Babylon the nations to affect the Jews are the descendants of Japhet.

The second respect, and a very remarkable one, was that the policy of Assyria and Babylon had been to deport the inhabitants of the countries that they conquered and colonize them elsewhere. That had been the settled policy. The policy of Cyrus was exactly the opposite—to send all the exiles home, when conquering any people. Cyrus was not a Persian, but an Elamite, and hence not a monotheist, but a polytheist. He was a great man. A heathen, while he did not know God, God knew him, and God raised him up to do the work that he did. As Isaiah prophesied, "God says, I will raise up and guide Cyrus, though he knows me not." He not only sent home those of the Jews that wanted to go, but any other captive nation.

The third respect was the policy of all the Hamitic and Semitic nations that when they conquered the people of Israel they destroyed their religion. Cyrus’ policy was exactly the opposite; he did not want to interfere with the religion of any conquered people. lie even sent back all the captured idols in Babylon and sent the people back to their native land. He sent the Jews back and gave them all the Temple vessels, the sacred vessels of the sanctuary. No Persian king ever interfered with the religion of a conquered nation. At no time during the subjection of the Jews to the Persians, while they controlled the political end, did they interfere with their consciences. They let them worship God in their own way.

The fourth respect was that the Medo-Persian policy allowed a Jew, who was qualified, to be local governor, subject to the satrap who controlled a district, and was like a viceroy. The king appointed him and he had a great district under him. For instance, the district of Syria was ruled by a satrap, with headquarters at Damascus, but Judea was one province of this district whose local governor might be a Jew; and we know of two distinguished Jews who were local governors; Zerubbabel was one—he was the first one, who belonged to the line of David. He was not made king, but was the local governor over all the territory reoccupied by the Jews. The high priest, with a council of elders, attended to the religious matters. Nehemiah also was a local governor, but I do not know that any other Jew was local governor during that period. It is somewhat doubtful, from an expression in Nehemiah and one in Malachi, but those two were permitted to rule in civil matters.

 

4. The fourth great event that affected the inter-biblical period was in 535 B.C., when nearly 50,000 Jews returned to their own country with Zerubbabel as governor and Joshua as high priest, with orders to rebuild their own Temple and worship God according to their old forms. The question has often been asked why no more returned. There were forty-two thousand and some hundreds, besides some seven or eight thousand servants and some singing people, but less than fifty thousand Jews accepted the privilege conferred by Cyrus. One reason that the number was so small is that they would not allow anybody to go back—the Jews would not—who could not prove hi8 genealogy—his pure descent by the genealogical tables. His pedigree had to be traceable all the way back to Abraham. That let out a good many of them. Now, as less than fifty thousand of them returned, that brings us to a new word diaspora, the "dispersion." The Jews who remained, from that time. on till now, are called the dispersion. We find that language repeated in the New Testament. James and Peter both write letters to the dispersion.

5. The fifth great event was that these Samaritans, not being permitted to help rebuild the Temple, though claiming that they worshipped Jehovah, became bitter enemies to its rebuilding. Zerubbabel and Joshua were not counting numbers, but wanted a pure and homogeneous people. The Samaritans were a mixed race, and they refused to allow them to be associated in the work, whereupon they wrote letters back to Persia, making all sorts of accusations against the Jews, and finally securing an order for a discontinuance of the work of rebuilding the Temple, and held it suspended for fifteen years, until a new Persian dynasty received letters from the Jews asking him to search the records of the reign of Cyrus and see if he could not find that decree allowing the Jews to rebuild their Temple.

6. Darius did have the records searched, and did find it, and he used a pretty strong hand to help the Jews, and told them to go on with the building of their Temple. So, protected by him, the Temple was completed and dedicated in the year 516 B.C. The rebuilding of that Temple, the re-establishing of the old Jewish worship, can hardly be overestimated as an event bearing on the period we are discussing.

7. The seventh great preceding event was in 478 B.C. Esther, a Jewess of the dispersion, living in Babylon, became the wife of Xerxes the Great, he who is called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. She became his wife and saved the Jews of the dispersion from being destroyed by Haman. That Ahasuerus, the husband of Esther, is the very Xerxes that invaded Greece with so great an army, but that was before he married Esther. I will tell all about it in a later chapter in showing the struggle between Greece and Persia. The war really commenced under Darius Hystaspris, and just about the time that Darius was having that Temple completed he sent the Persian soldiers to fight the battle of Marathon, just outside the city of Athens, in which they were ingloriously defeated. When Xerxes the Great came to the throne, he led an army of over two million people against the Greeks. At the pass of Thermopylae, Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans died fighting for Greece. Then in ‘the great battle of Plataea his land forces were terribly defeated. When Attica was invaded, Themistocles caused the Athenians to take to their ships and let the city be burned, and on the sea he fought and won the great battle of Salamis.

The seventh great event was in 458 B.C., when Ezra leads another caravan of Jewish exiles to Jerusalem. This was in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus. He was reigning when the Old Testament closed. This was by far the most influential factor in the future of the Jews; indeed, with Ezra comes the rise of Judaism. The people are called Jews from his time on. The great factors of Ezra’s coming were: first, he brought back a copy of the Mosaic law, the Pentateuch; second, with him commenced that remarkable body of people called the scribes. Ezra was a notable scribe. They were the publishers of the Bible, not indeed by printing, but they multiplied the manuscript copies of it. We may credit the publication of the Old Testament to Ezra and the scribes. These scribes, by giving the people copies of their Bible, had more to do with the great advance in the period of four hundred years that I am going to tell about than anything else.

 

With Ezra also commenced the Jewish Council of Elders, which afterward became the Sanhedrin, so well known in New Testament times. With Ezra’s return from Babylon came also the synagogue, and of all the potential things that preserved the Jewish faith from that time on the synagogue takes the lead. Up to that time they were temple ritualists. Theirs was a sacrificial worship. From now on, wherever three or four Jews could be found in a place, they would establish a proseuche, or "prayer-chapel," like the one that Paul found at Phiippi.

Where there were more of them they established a synagogue. The synagogue is not a temple, but it is a place of public worship. Every Sabbath day, throughout the world, they come up to these synagogues and read a part of the law, and a part of the prophets, and a part of the other writings, and then expound them just as a preacher now reads a portion of the Scriptures and expounds it. Then, that synagogue was a popular assembly. For the first time, anybody in the audience that wanted to, could get up and say what was in his mind.

When Christ went to the synagogue at Nazareth, they handed him the lesson to be read that day. He read it and expounded it. When Paul entered a synagogue, the leader said to him, seeing he was a visitor, a stranger, "Brother, if you have anything to say, say on." It was of tremendous importance that the people should have Bibles and places of worship. The synagogue more nearly embodies the idea of a New Testament church than the temple does, and in the Greek Old Testament, / it is sometimes called ecclesia. With the return of Ezra, idolatry by the Jews died forever. Up to that time God had scourged them continually with other nations because of their idolatry. But from the time of Ezra throughout all their history to this very hour in which I write, no Jew has been an idolater; they ceased to worship idols. Well might the Jews call Ezra the second Moses.

9. The ninth, and last, great antecedent event is this: In 445 B.C., Nehemiah, the cupbearer to Artaxerxes Longimanus, asked to be appointed governor of Judea, and the Persian king, who loved him very much, made him governor. The Babylonians would call him Pekher, the Turks would call him Pasha, the Persian would say Tirshathe, but we say "governor." Nehemiah caused a wall to be built around Jerusalem to protect it from the Samaritans and Arabians, and their other enemies close by, and after staying twelve years he returned to Persia. He remained there a while, then came back and served as governor until 433 B.C.

I will briefly repeat these great events: first, the destruction of the ten tribe by Sargon in 722 B.C.; second, the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.; third, the destruction of Babylon by Cyrus, king of the Persians, in 538 B.C., and the marvelous advantages of his policy; fourth, in 535 B.C., fifty thousand Jews returned with Zerubbabel as governor and Joshua as high priest; fifth, the Samaritans opposed the building of the Temple and obstructed it for fifteen years; sixth, Darius Hystaspis, the head of the second Persian Dynasty, in 516 ~.; ordered the finishing of the Temple; seventh, Esther became Queen of Persia, 478 B.C.; eighth, 458 B.C., Ezra led another caravan to Jerusalem; ninth, Nehemiah was made political governor.

We have now before us the books of the Bible that were written in exile, the books of the Bible written after the exile, the histories that cover this period, the literature of the Jews during this period, and the great antecedent events influencing this period.

 

QUESTIONS

1. What Old Testament books were written during the Babylonian exile?

2. What Old Testament books were written after the Jews’ return from the Babylon captivity?

3. What then is the extent of the period between the two Testaments?

          4. From what books may we learn the history of this period?

5. What Jewish literature was written during this period?

6. Who was king of Persia at the close of the Old Testament canon?

7. What book mostly influenced the Jewish thought and hope during the inter-biblical period?

8. What is the first great preceding event which influenced this period and how?

9. What is the second, and how?

10. What is the third, and in what four respects was it mighty in influencing this period?

11. What is the fourth, and how?

12. What is the fifth, and how?

13. What is the sixth, and how?

14. What  is the seventh, and how?

15. What is the eighth, and how?

16. What is the ninth, and how?



 Edited by Dr. Ronald D. Lesley for Fundamental Baptist Institute
Original material by Dr. B. H. Carroll  1916 Fleming H. Revell Company
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