Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Missing Years of the Bible: From the Greeks to the Romans

When we left off, the Greeks had control of pretty much everything and in 200 BC Judea was conquered by the Macedonian kings of Syria (also known as the Seleucids) who were not at all as kind as the Greeks or the Persians.

The King of the Seleucids who controlled Judea was named Antiochus Epiphanies who would go on to desecrate the Temple, persecute Judaism and, by 167 BC, outlaw all Jewish practices.  In defiance, Mattathias the Hasmonean (a Jew) refused to offer a sacrifice to Zeus.  The incident, sparked the beginning of a guerrilla campaign against the Seleucids led by Mattathias' son, Judas.

Judas was also called Judas Maccabeus, or Judas the Maccabee (which means "the hammerer"), and with his brothers Jonathan and Simon, led the revolt.  By 164 BC, Judas had liberated the Temple and had it cleansed (both literally and spiritually) and rededicated.  That re-dedication is celebrated even today by the Jews in the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah.

This story is relayed in the books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees, which most Protestant Bibles do not have.  Without these accounts, though, there would be virtually nothing written (remaining) conerning Israel's history from the time of Ezra (400 BC) to the time of the New Testament.

The war with the Seleucids would claim the lives of Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, but would achive a total political independence for Israel that would last from 135 to 40 BC.  This was known as the Hasmonean Dynasty.  After Simon, the rulers John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus led the dynasty, but following the death of Jannaeus, the dynasty began to weaken.

Backing up slightly to the year 63 BC, the Roman Empire ended the empire of the Seleucids.  That same year, Pompey, a Roman general entered Jerusalem and from that point forward, Israel was subordinate to Rome either directly or indirectly.

There were critics to the Hasmonaean Dynasty, mostly because they were not of the line of David yet they held the throne.  They were also not of the line of priests, yet they held the priesthood.  And though they sought Jewish independence, the Jews who were more ‘hard line’ saw the Hasmonaeans as usurpers. 

The Hasmonaean Dynasty came to an end in 40 BC when the Romans appointed Herod as King over the Jews.  He would rule from 40-4 BC.  During Herod’s time, he would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  He was hated by Jews, though for the fact that not only was he a puppet king to Rome, he built temples to Caesar while building the temple in Jerusalem. 

While Herod was a successful king, his sons were not.  When he died, the country was split into three sections, each ruled by one of Herod’s sons.  The one that was entrusted with the southern part of the kingdom was Archelaus, who was a total failure in the eyes of Rome and was removed from power.  He was replaced by a Roman procurator named Pontius Pilate. 

That name should sound somewhat familiar to Christians.

And with that we move into the era of the New Testament writings.

I hope this has been beneficial for you, even if it is a brief version of some tremendous events that took place between the Old and New Testaments.
- Pastor Charles

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