Jun 21, 2023 - 23:32
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By Elijah Asuo Wiredu

Have you ever thought about how the culture of the people of Israel in the Old Testament became different from those of the New Testament? The period is no short of a time. In fact, there is a 400-year gap between the Old and the New Testaments and a lot could happen which can shape the culture of a group of people. This 400-year period is known as the intertestamental period or the years of silence. During that period, men did not receive revelations from God and that is why it is known as the years of silence.

A clear change in the New Testament is that idol worship lost its central role in the life of Israel. In the Old Testament, the people severally left the Lord and followed idols. This became completely different in the New Testament. It was as if idolatry has never been part of the people of Israel. This was a result of the Babylonian captivity. After their return, they were led by Nehemiah to build the walls, Zerubbabel to build the temple and Ezra as their priest.

Secondly, we see in the New Testament that Israel was under Roman rule. During the birth of Jesus, Caesar Augustus (the then Roman Emperor) had ordered a census to be carried out (Luke 2:1). We also saw Jesus having to stand before Herod and Pontius Pilate for the trial ahead of his crucifixion. In fact, one of the reasons Jesus was not accepted as the messiah was that the Israelites understood the messiah as one who was coming to deliver them from Roman rule. During the intertestamental period, a number of nations ruled Israel. From 377-336 BC was the era of the Persians. In fact, God used the Persians to deliver Israel from Babylonian captivity (Dan 5:30-31). Form 336 to323 BC was The Greek Era and it was led by Alexander the Great. Also from 323-198 BC was The Egyptian Era. Israel also came under The Syrian Era from 198 to 166 BC and the Maccabean Era from 165 to 63 BC. The Roman rule started from 166 BC and ushered us to the New Testament.

Closely related to the eras is the springing up of sects in the Jews. The sects just appeared in the New Testament and they were the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Zealots and the Essenes. Jesus has to speak about the Pharisees a couple of times especially about their hypocrisy. The Pharisees came into existence during the Syrian era and the rest of the sects were born during the Roman era.

Another observation we make from the New Testament is the existence of synagogues which were not found in the Old Testament. After the exile, most Jews remained scattered across the lands of the Mediterranean and the Near East. They needed a place to meet. Even for the returning remnant, political instability often made temple worship difficult. This led to the creation of the synagogue as the chief institution for community religious life, both in Palestine and across the Diaspora. True to its Hellenistic origin, the name “synagogue” comes from the Greek synagein, “to bring together” and means “a place of assembly.” Unlike the centralized temple worship once or twice a year, synagogues provided local weekly gatherings for non-sacrificial worship, prayer, and the reading and teaching of Scripture. It served as the schools where the Mosaic laws were taught and also a place for the Sanhedrin to administer justice.

To conclude, these historical developments became factors that shaped Judaism after the exile and during the intertestamental period. For example, Greek and Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the common spoken languages of the Jews Though we didn’t hear God speak, He was actively working to shape the nation of Israel ahead of the coming of Jesus Christ.

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