Why Study the Second Temple Period?

Why would someone interested in the New Testament study the history of the Greco-Roman world?  This history is important because the key to understanding the New Testament is context….If we do not try to put ourselves into the context of the original readers of the Scriptures, we can very easily read our own culture into a passage and reach wrong conclusions about what it meant to the author and therefore what it should mean to us. James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 1999), 293.

The years between the two Testaments are critically important for understanding the New Testament. Let me offer two easy examples. First, the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees are often based on-going discussions in the Second Temple Period over Jewish practice. The Pharisees have a rich history prior to their role in the Gospels. Most Christians think of the Pharisees as the evil, works-for-salvation religious leaders who hated Jesus and were constantly trying to trick him into saying something worthy of death. But this is far from the case! Anyone who thinks this mischaracterization of the Pharisees is accurate is reading their own culture back into the New Testament (As Jeffers says in the quote above).

A second example is Paul’s struggle against what he calls Judaizers in Galatians. This group of Jewish Christians insisted Gentile converts submit to circumcision in order to fully convert to Judaism. There are a number of factors here, but these Pauline opponents should be understood in the light of circumcision as a boundary marker during the Maccabean Revolt. What define a person as “Jewish” 200 years before Paul’s day was the ritual of circumcision and to reject that practice struck at the heart of what it meant to be Jewish at that particular time.

The main struggle of the Jews during this 400 year period was how to integrate into a world which was decidedly not Jewish. As Greek and Roman culture came to pervade the post-exilic world, how could a Jewish person live out their lives in faithfulness to God’s Law yet also live in a pagan world?

One option is it withdraw entirely, as the Essenes will in the mid-second century. I do not think the Essenes were a monastic community who lived completely separate from other people (this is a misreading of the evidence and imposes a later Christian view of asceticism on the Essenes). But they certainly separated themselves from the mainstream of Judaism as we know it in the first century. For the group at Qumran, it appears they sought to live in a state of ceremonial cleanliness required for priests in the Temple as the waited for the messiah (or messiahs) to come to their community and lead them into battle against the “sons of darkness,” the Jews who were in charge of the Temple!

A second option is to become wholly integrated into the culture, as many Jews did. Philo of Alexandria’s brother is a chief example of this, since he rejected Judaism entirely. Although Herod the Great kept some Jewish practices, for the most part he intentionally lived as a Roman and he certainly ran his kingdom as a Roman. Throughout the Second Temple period there were Jewish people who completely Hellenized and walked away from their ancient Jewish practices.

Pharisees, Sadducees, and Christians fall in-between these two extremes since they found ways to remain loyal to God’s Word, yet also found a way to interact with the pagan world. In the case of Christianity, the motivation was to reach the lost world with the Gospel of Jesus.

This is exactly the same struggle American Christians face today as our culture becomes increasingly post-Christian. It is the same struggle Christians face in countries where Christian was never the majority religion. It is impossible to completely withdraw from the world, although some Christian communities have tried to be as separate as possible. It is also the case many Christians have become so integrated into their culture they have ceased to be Christian by any objective definition of the word.

Can the struggle of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period be a model for contemporary Christians as they struggle with similar issues?

46 thoughts on “Why Study the Second Temple Period?

    • I have, it was close to my choice for textbook for this class. I went with Tomasino’s Judaism before Jesus. I thought it was a bit better on the historical side of things, Heyler was better on the literature.

  1. Wow! This background helps to shed light on the N.T, and especially the fledgling new Christian community as it tries to find its place in a society hostile to its teachings.

  2. I’ve been concentrating on second Temple Judaism (which covers a lot more centuries than just the intertestamental period) for a few years now, because I was particularly interested in Christian Origins and how the idea of the messiah(s) developed in Jewish/Israelite thought. There are many fine (small) introductions, such as Lester Grabbe’s. It is a fascinating period that sheds enormous light on the perfect storm into which Jesus was born.

    For those interested, Eerdmans published a comprehensive dictionary of early Judaism in 2010. A shorter version that contains only the essay portions is also available at a more modest cost.


  3. I have really enjoyed reading this post and the first chapter of Anthony Tomasino’s, “Judaism Before Jesus”. I have never really put a lot of thought into what happened or went on during the Intertestamental period. The first chapter in “Judaism Before Jesus” gives us a little bit of background information and history about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Flavius Josephus; where they came from and how they were created. It also gives a brief history of how different translations came about and how some writing were removed/taken out to get the Bible that we now have today.
    I look forward to continuing to learn more in-depth about these not so ‘silent years’.

  4. It is so true that our culture, and we as Christians, are dealing with a society that is a post-Christian culture. We need to learn about the society Jesus was ministering to in the Intertestamental period and the origins of their ideals to better understand Jesus and the Scriptures. The only way to grasp their ideals is by understanding the history of the men and women in Israel who dealt with conquerors. As I study this period, I get a deeper understanding of how rich the hope was that people had for a Messiah who would bring militant results. Anthony Tomasino tells us in his book Judaism before Jesus, that the Israelites were good at being influenced by the culture, but not influencing the culture around them. The Jews were constantly falling into apostasy. I find it most encouraging that Israel becomes what God called them to be while they were in exile. They held tightly to their family units, collected and organized Scriptures, and most famously, Daniel and other Jews, find high places in the new society’s government for influence. God even uses the Kings ruling over Israel during the exile for his glory. He drags King Nebuchadnezzar through a beastly keyhole, and after making an example out of him uses Cyrus to release the Jews, so that they may return to Israel and build their temple (Ezra 1:1-4). What is the task for us if we are going to be a counter culture in society?

    • That is an intriguing comment to end with. “What is the task for us if we are going to be a counter culture in society?” As I read what Tomasino wrote about Ezra working hard to bring the Torah law and obedience back into mainstream Jewish life I saw the beginnings of a restoration. One can imagine quite easily how such dedication to the law would, if continued, lead to creation of groups such as the Pharisees and the Essenes. This dedication that was spurred on by the symbol of the Temple. For us there appears to be no symbol like the rebuilding of the temple to unite us once again under God, but we are under the symbol of Jesus sacrifice. It is that sacrifice that is our rebuilding of the temple, and for us just as it was for the Jews in Ezra’s day it is returning to scriptures teaching that is our task.

  5. The process of understanding the culture that exists, and had existed for many years, in the New Testament is absolutely crucial to being able to fully understand what the scripture states. I especially appreciated your remark about how the level of knowledge we have has drastic effects on how we perceive certain groups throughout the New Testament. Too often the Pharisees are painted as the enemy of Christian progress, and while they often oppose the early church, at least if we can understand their history, we can better understand their intentions. This is why it is so crucial that we devote time learning the stories behind people, both in a biblical sense and a personal sense. When we begin to put in effort to understand people, it paints them in a whole new light. This is why it is crucial that Christians study the second temple period. When we understand the motives behind actions it can be much easier to act with grace and mercy.
    As far as whether or not the second temple period can be a model for our current issues, I think it can absolutely provide certain principles that apply to our lives today. While we struggle with similar issues, acting as a Christian in our current culture carries drastically different repercussions. We, as Americans, don’t risk imprisonment, beatings, or stoning at the hands of our persecutors. With this in mind, we should have at least the same sense of boldness as the figures we see in the scriptures. If Paul, Peter, and Stephen can risk their own physical lives, we should not be hesitant to risk our social standings. I concede that this is in no way some original thought, and pretty much every single Christian would agree wholeheartedly with that statement. The important part is doing more than agreeing and stating it. How can the leadership in the modern American church move Christians from agreeing to risk more to actually doing it?

  6. When exploring new content, it is critically important to establish its significance and relevance in order to study it effectively (especially where Scripture is concerned). So why bother with the study of the second temple period and literature that isn’t canonical? How is it important to the believer? Essentially, there is far too much subplot to the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament for the reader to effectively interpret them without a solid grasp of the time preceding them. Therefore, we study this era and its literature to avoid false assumptions about the culture, and to better understand the meaning of Scripture.
    Another major concern here is that there are definite theological ramifications when a study of Scripture is done improperly – when one “reads their own culture” into the content. For example, the idea of giving grace in the contemporary Church is everywhere. You practically can’t enter a church building without hearing about God’s grace, or “grace and peace to you,” but to apply this concept to a second-temple period Jewish culture would be a complete misrepresentation of their beliefs during that era. That said, the challenge as we begin to study the Intertestamental Period will be to remove all cultural assumption and build our understanding from a wholly objective point of view.

  7. The intertestamental period is extremely important for understanding the transition to the New Testament. Historical context is a key component in order to avoid reaching “wrong conclusions about what it meant to the author and therefore what it should mean to us” (Jeffers, 293). Long provides an excellent example of the common misconception of the Pharisees as the enemy, and the dangers of reaching false conclusions when not put into the proper context. Thus making it essential that Christians understand this second temple period as accurately as possible to fully understand the struggle of God’s people.

    During this time period, the Jews struggled with how to remain obedient and faithful to God’s law while living in a pagan world. So when asked the question: “can the struggle of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period be a model for contemporary Christians as they struggle with similar issues?” I would say that the same principles can be applied even though the circumstances slightly differ. Christians today struggle with how to be “in the world” but not “of the world”. Nehemiah 1:8-9 talks about the instruction given to Moses saying that if they obey His commands, God will gather them and “bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (1:9). It is vital that Christians remain strong in their faith and obedience to God even in a world where religion, in particular Christianity, is not well received.

  8. The fact of the matter is, no matter what kind of history it is, all history is important. Why would history be important to study one would ask? The answer to this question is actually simple. There’s so much to learn from history especially when talking about the Bible. That’s why indeed the Intertestamental Period or the Period between the Testaments is so important to learn about. Especially considering the fact that the time between the Testaments is rarely discussed today. The world today is easily much more different then it was within this time period. However: It’s important to remember the fact that everything that was written in the Bible centuries ago is still applicable today. If one is righteous in there ways then they will certainly be treated as such, if not they will be punished for it (Mal 4:1-2).

  9. I think that what the Jewish people were conflicted with during the second temple period can totally be related to the struggle that modern day Christians face in today’s society. Today I see more and more Christians abandoning righteous works and fully assimilating themselves into what the church would consider a secular society. I can imagine how challenging it would have been for the Jews of the second temple period to discern how to carry out their faithfulness to God in the midst of a religiously cultural shift. In the same way, I notice many Christians today struggling to determine which cultural norms to except, and even practice, and which norms they would consider to be “too worldly”. I think it is so important to study the second temple period because it is a great example of the history of the church “repeating” itself (so to speak). During the 400 year period culture, doctrine, and practices shifted immensely, and the same is happening today (especially with the most recent presidential election). It is this concept that helps the modern church understand the relatability of the scriptures, and to not discredit or be ignorant to its teachings because of “how-our-culture-is-so-different-today-from-what-it-was-back-then”.

    • I agree with what you said about Christians “abandoning righteous works” in today’s culture. I have seen this happen among many of my friends who are believers. I think that believers today are attempting to create a form of Christianity that allows for secular works to be enjoyed and practiced. However, it is dangerous to drift away from what God has called us to do. There is certainly a “shift” taking place in the church in various areas. The Jewish people had to determine how to stay faithful to God and His Word in the midst of change and chaos. As it mentions in Nehemiah 1:8-9, God told moses to remain faithful to His commands, and He would restore the people who had fled.

  10. I agree that Christians in today’s culture can accurately be compared to the Jews in the Second Temple Period. There is a fine line of how much one should be completely “in the world” and how much one should be seperated from the world. I think that there was a fair point being made here regarding how we read our own culture and our own circumstances in the scripture. It is vital to seperate the two so that we can fully understand how the culture was back in this time period. Studying the Second Temple Period is not seen as crucial to many Christians in this day in age; however, it is important when looking at how we are to remain in Christ but also be living in the world for the time being.

  11. I throughly enjoyed reading about the importance of understanding Intertestemental history in Jewish culture. For some reason, I have never really considered studying what exactly happened intwine both the Old and the New Testament. As mentioned in Tomasino, many theologians consider these years to be somewhat “silent.” However, it is evident that in order to fully understand both pieces of literature and how they relate to one another; it is necessary to study the history which took place in between the two testaments. I appreciate the comparison between the struggles that Jewish people faced in the Second Temple period and contemporary Christians in today’s society. I certainly think that looking at how the Jews lived during those trying times can be used as a model for similar struggles for Christians today. Many post-Christian’s struggle with following the Gospel while living in a sinful world, and that is very apparent in today’s day and age. There is extensive change happening within the church today, and it could be useful to look at how previous groups of people responded to similar circumstances.

    • I think that this is really going to stretch me as well as I learn about this period of time; I know nothing about it and it will be nice to have a better understanding of the history and things that the Israelites went through at this time. It is really interesting to see how the book of Malachi ends and then all of a sudden Matthew starts up with no real background information as to how we got there. It is interesting to see that nothing has really changed when it comes to the way the Jews lived and how we as Christians are living today; we are still doing the same things, sinning, and wonder why things are difficult for us.

  12. Its always interesting looking at how does a religious group come to terms and live with and reach a culture far from what it practices. Western Christianity has always had the same problem from people who fully engage the culture of their time like the rock band Stryper, to those who would state when the radio was invented who said it was of the devil and turned their heads the other way. Unlike the second temple age Jews, Protestants have never really been sent to exile nor understand what it means when God just stops talking to us giving us an easier way to see how this works. In modern society today we have way more people engaging in the culture then those who have shunned it. Then again when the Church started hymns were formed out of bar songs and they tended to borrow things from the cultures around them. I feel the blessing of the study of this in between time will give us a richer understanding of the players in the New Testament and many even change how we see the leaders, and maybe give us insight into our cultural bends.

  13. I think that the struggle of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period can be a model for contemporary Christians because in today’s society, American teenagers in the public school system listen to what their peers say and they want to be included in their school. Many teenagers believe that in order to be accepted, they have to act similarly to how their peers act on Monday through Saturday. On Sunday they get up and go to church with their parents and act as if they were still “good” Christians. I believe that many Jews during the four hundred years between the testaments had to struggle with similar things. Maybe not quite to that extreme, but similar.

  14. I absolutely agree that we need to know this context. If we do not understand the cultural context of Israel two-thousand years ago, we either may be a little confused or may mistranslate passages possibly by trying to understand them with the framework of our own culture. It is obviously important that the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, is understood correctly.

    You also make a very interesting observation about how the Jews struggle in the intertestamental period is applicable to us today. We should not try to be as far apart as possible with unbelievers, obsessing about how holy we are. But, on the other hand, we should not try to fit in with the world that we are indistinguishable. We are called to serve and glorify God with our lives, which includes pursuing the lost.

    • I liked what you had to say about trying to understand certain passages within the framework of our own culture. However, if this is an issue that we face when reading scripture (which I agree with completely), what’s to say that we won’t try to smash the literature listed on this post into our own cultural concepts as well? How do we practically avoid this issue both for scripture and non-canonical scripts? Thanks for your input!

  15. Wow, lots of comments on this post. You would think that living in exile in Babylon would teach the Jews how to exist in a non-Jewish culture. However, as it stands, there were Jews who were enthusiastic about returning to rebuild Jerusalem and others who couldn’t care less. There was clearly a spectrum of reaction to the culture which surrounded them. The same case applies both to the Judaism of the first century and the Christianity of the modern west. In both cases, it is clear that every Jew at that time and every Christian today reckons with this tension in a different way. Thus, you have a spectrum of ways to deal with it.

    Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 5 provide some insight. “I wrote…not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (v. 9-13)

    I read a comment on this subject from a blogger: “There isn’t any question that American culture is in a transition from a dominantly Christian culture to a dominantly secular culture. We can no longer expect America society to uniformly embrace Christian values or morality. How the Christian community chooses to respond to this will be critical. Angry rhetoric, and bitterly contested lawsuits and elections create adversaries, but no one ever made an enemy by offering the hand of friendship, helping the down and out, mentoring kids, giving generously to others or helping people after a hurricane get their lives back together. Paul was right – “against such things, there is no law”.


  16. I think the idea of having to withdraw from a world that is decidedly not a certain religion or concrete belief system is something most people — Jewish, Christian, Pagan — struggle with. Because who is to decide?
    When we look at the Pharisees and the Sadducees(and boy do I love to), I would go as far as to say that they had a great amount of success in integrating. Perhaps because they were in a position of political power in their own right, but even though Pharisees and the like weren’t inherently bad despite how a fraction of them went against Jesus, their theological beliefs were law. So why would they have to submerge with any other belief system or pay heed to it?
    If we look at the withdrawal tactic with the Essenes — do contemporary Christians not have the same mindset? Of course this isn’t conclusive to all of them, but one can either attempt to adapt to the cultures around them — even if not participating. I would raise the question, does integrating into a world that is not Christian really mean we are in an unholy place?
    Would it be more appropriate to shun the ideas of other belief systems or to not make peace with them? The meek inherit the earth — and that includes more than just us.

  17. It is very interesting to read and learn about the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it is not really something I have ever taken time to think about. Growing up, there was never really a Sunday school teaching of the Second Temple Period and the time that passed between the two testaments. It is really eye opening to learn more about the that went on and reframe my understanding to— Old Testament, Second Temple Period, New Testament. I can also say that I am guilty of being someone who has always viewed the Pharisees as being an evil group of people who were always trying to catch Jesus saying or doing something wrong. I think having never thought about the time between the Testaments played into this thought process because I just picked up reading the New Testament and never once gave a thought to the backstory of the Pharisees, or considered their view of Jesus coming to earth. In their eyes they were living their lives the way they were raised to. They saw no wrong with what they were doing, but confusion was brought when a whole new way of life was brought to them by Jesus. Being a Christian in our culture is very difficult to do. How do you balance being in the world, but not of the world? We are meant to shine the light of Christ and further the Gospel of Jesus, but it is not entirely easy when most of the world denies Him as a man and even as a savior.

  18. The topic presented in the blog post raises many questions that are sometimes very hard to think through and answer. The thought of someone or a group of people just abandoning everything that they once believed to be more like the world. As I read the blog post I realized there was a lot I did not know about the Second Temple Period that would have been nice to know before diving into my studies of the New testament. It would have allowed me to view certain things differently, especially the belief systems of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. I know now that the Pharisees were not just people trying to get Jesus in trouble but just doing what they were taught to do in their culture. Not that it makes it right necessarily, but I understand them a bit better now. They were trying to both be in Gods word and at the same time does not want to conform to the world. I think that is a huge dilemma in our culture today. People are afraid to be immersed into the world for fear of being changed and impacted negatively, but at the same time we must somewhat integrate ourselves into society in order to impact the lost and unsaved. We must somewhat be like the Pharisees and work in between the two extremes listed in the blog post and bring people to Christ while still guarding ourselves from the negative influence the world may bring.

  19. I do believe that we as Christians today can relate what the Jews were facing in the Second Temple period. I didn’t have to think for long before multiple examples came into my mind of the sinful things that the world promotes such as indulging in sexual sins. For Christians who are supposed to follow the way of Christ and not the way of the world, I think that it can be tempting to either fully integrate into society or go fully Essene. However, we are called to be in the world, but we are not called to follow it. As the post says, “the motivation [for Christians should be] to reach the lost world with the Gospel of Jesus” (Phillip Long). This doesn’t mean hiding from the world, nor does it mean fully immersing ourselves into it. It means obeying Jesus’s words when he said to “[g]o into all the world and preach the Gospel” in Mark 16:15 and to “let [our] light shine before men” in Matthew 5:16 (HCSB).
    We can’t escape the world that we live in, but we can live a life pleasing to God by following His word. There will be times where every Christian will struggle with the temptations the world presents, but because of God’s grace our mistakes don’t define us. Our job on this Earth is to bring to light God’s grace, salvation, and love to others who see nothing but darkness. I believe it’s important that we study the Second Temple Period because it shows us that what we are going through is nothing new and it helps us to understand why the religious groups of the first century did what they did.

  20. The example that is given about the Pharisees really resonates with me because I too am guilty of thinking of Pharisees as this evil group of people who were opposing Jesus. That is just my own bias, and I only base this off of the few stories I can remember off the top of my head about Pharisees. However, I have never actually looked into it myself and really took the time to study this group of people, which is why I carry this bias and do not understand the full truth. This is a good point of why understanding context is important. In addition, I can see how contemporary Christians struggle just like the Jewish people in the Second Temple period. As time goes on, it seems like our culture keeps on normalizing many sins such as homosexuality, sex before marriage, etc. While the world around us may seem to be making it more difficult for contemporary Christians to keep their heads up and remain faithful, it is important to keep our hearts set on God during these times.

  21. In the world today, I believe that christians are not facing many similarities in the struggles that jewish people faced in the second temple. “ The main struggle of the fews during this 400 period was how to integrate into a world which is not jewish” This is something that I honestly think about a lot from a christian perspective. The world is changing and it seems to me that most people are moving away from the Bible that claim to be christain. As a young christian I see our youth (Many that claim to be christian) partake in activities that they shouldn’t be doing. I think this is because young christians struggle when it comes to living in a world that constantly pressures you to go against the Bible. Moreover, I believe this pressure to go out and party with your friends and be rebellious takes a toll on youth because everyone wants to have fun because “Yolo”. We live in a time where we don’t have to worry about being stoned or put to death because of what we believe in, but losing our youth to all the temptations this world has to offer. Mark 16:15 states “ Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature” meaning we need to stay true to ourselves regardless of what the world says and shine God’s light on anyone you come across. Because that’s the only way we can make things better, that’s how we will continue to keep thriving and gaining more and more people.

  22. The Intertestamental Period is something that I have wondered about for some time now, but have not done a lot of research on that moment in time. I think that a part of the reason for that is because I had the mindset that since it was not a major focus in the Bible, it was not that important in the grand scheme of things. However, as I read this article, the textbook by Tomasino, and begin reading through some of the books like Tobit, I have begun to realize that it is an important part of history and there is a lot that we can all learn from that time. One of the big things that I learned from this is how the Jews had to adapt to a world that was becoming less and less Jewish and was being taken over by the Greek and Roman culture instead. I feel like this would be really hard and I think that it is interesting to read and learn more about how they dealt with these changes, as well as reading about some of the things that happened because of the changes. There is a lot that we can learn from this that we can use today. In many aspects, things are becoming less Christian today. Whether it is from new laws, the culture, or whatever else, it can be hard as a Christian to try and fit in. This does not mean that we should conform to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2), but instead, we should keep our Christian values.

  23. I have always wondered what happened during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. This class will definitely teach me what happened during this time. Going over in class about this did help more about this certain topic. I knew a little bit about the Essenes from a Bible study when I was younger, but it was only about what they wrote. I never knew that they totally withdrew from the culture and basically were the Amish of those days. The other Jews were integrated with Hellenistic growth, though they were still allowed to worship God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world,” and I believe that is what they did during that time. As Christians today, we should follow what Romans says and follow the example of what the Jews did in the mid-second century. With how crazy everything has become recently, this needs to be more so, even if we die for what we believe.

  24. As a Christian I feel that a lot of time we get stuck in the idea that we only need to understand the Bible and nothing further. This is simply not possible. To truly understand and learn the history and the culture of the Jews in the Old Testament and to learn the circumstances of the newly founded Christian Jews and the Gentiles, we have to dig deeper than what is provided on the Bible. It is extremely important to understand the background of Scripture. Tomasino words it well in the sense of learning what happen between the gap of the Old and New Testament, “But we can’t fully appreciate the way these two bodies of literature relate to one another without knowing something of what the Jews experienced between the time of the prophet Malachi and the time of Jesus” (Tomasino, 14). I find it interesting that sometimes it seems like Christians followed the same ideas as the Jews during this time did. We either swing too far to one side and get stuck in the idea that we are supposed to be completely separate from the world because it is so corrupt. Then there is also the other side that goes far too deep in the idea that we need to look like the world, and they begin to look exactly like it. I think that this proves how important it is to learn about this time in history as a believer.

  25. I am definitely guilty of, at points, reading my own culture into the New Testament and struggling to understand things or groups of people because of a lack of any sort of understanding of the history behind certain actions and beliefs. I’ll admit that I personally have viewed the pharisees in light of the inaccuracies that you have mentioned, lacking knowledge of their past. While the four hundred years between the testaments are often referred to as the “silent years,” they were anything but silent, as Tomasino mentions in Judaism Before Jesus (2003).
    It astounds me now that we have considered this period within class and our textbooks that I have never truly considered this period when addressing my Bible reading. You asked us in class to imagine our surroundings four hundred years ago and how different things would be. America was not even founded at that point, and it would be unrealistic to apply our culture to then; why then, do we do this in our Bible studies?
    One example of a major shift that had occurred during these years was a shift from nationalism to individualism. “Corporate guilt” is represented within the Bible in several places, such as Deuteronomy 8 and 2 Samuel 24, but the culture shifted to be more individualistic after the Old Kingdom collapsed (Tomasino, 2003). Without the acknowledgement of this shift, one might take subjects in a completely out of their proper contexts. With proper study of the intertestamental period, we come to understand topics fully.

  26. I would say yes the Jewish people paved a way for Christians today in regards to what happened in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Contemporary Christians do have similar issues that happened in the Old Testament, it’s all based on context like Jeffers stated in his quote. We cannot just assume that things we read in the New Testament are only pertaining to what is going on in today’s society, but what happened back then in that specific time frame. I feel we have a similar situation as the Jews did in regards to living in a world that is not primarily their religion. You could most likely take any verse you read in any part of the bible whether that be Old Testament or New Testament and pertain that to what is going on in your life today, but if you don’t read whats around it or know the context of the message then you might be mixing up what the author intended that message to be. This in return can change how we use that verse and message. We have seen this happen a lot in today’s society with what the bible says about marriage, and drinking. These two things have been debated in many different ways. Each person has their own opinions and views from what scripture says about these situations. In Conclusion I would say that the struggle the Jewish faced in the second temple period is pretty close and similar to what contemporary christians are facing in today’s society.

  27. In today’s society, I do think that there are many struggles that can be mirrored from the Jewish people in the Second Temple period. There is an uprising of Postmodernism in the Christian community; introducing culture into the traditional view of Christianity is not something that is taken lightly. When there is some postmodern culture introduced into the traditional setting most Christians get sacred because of the new practices it will bring about and they view it as evil.

    In the paragraph where it says “The Pharisees have a rich history prior to their role in the Gospels. Most Christains think of them Pharisees as the evil, works-for-salvation religious leaders who hated Jesus…” When looking at postmodernism christanity, there are huge things that they do for the Kingdom of God and their impact on individuals brings them on the right path. Yet this path is misconstrued by some picking and choosing of Scripture that sugar coats salvation, making one think that some sin is “acceptable”.

    There are multiple things that traditional Christians can do that will help these people influenced by the Postmodern Christians, by correcting them in love and bringing them correct Scripture references. As I said not everything done by Postmodernism is a bad thing but their Bible background is not as strong as it should be.

    Like the Pharisees they had influence on the Jewish people and culture by bringing their traditions to light. Not everyone had agreed with what was going on, nor did they like that both cultures were being influenced and integrated with each other. Instead of walking alongside them and correcting them in love by trying to settle a difference the Jewish people insisted that the Pharisees were terrible.

    This is often a struggle we face, as traditional Christains we tend to view the Postmodern church as doing everything wrong. If we keep insisting that they are wrong and want nothing to do with them then there will be no room for growth. How is the Postmodern Church going to come to an understanding of our view of things if we continually tell them they are doing wrong?

  28. Dylan DeVries
    Blog Post #1

    I am one who thinks of the Pharisees as a negative group of individuals who constantly tried to trick Jesus into messing up and saying/doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. So, the examples given really hit me thinking well yea of course they are an evil group. This has been ingrained in my head since Sunday school and the stories we were told as it is for many other people as well. So, reading the opposite side and seeing that they have a rich history and now seeing that they were not always bad stands out and shocks me. Looking at the second temple period really hits home how Christians today are much like the Jews from the second time period. Sins that have shown up and become more prevalent in today’s society keep getting normalized and not necessarily seen as okay, bought not fought against due to the many issues with fighting back and people being afraid of the results of their words against this I feel like. Sins that stand out to me personally that this has occurred with and they have grown more “okay” are those of Homosexuality and Wedlock. And this is the connection with the second temple period Jews that I see. They struggled to stay on course, and we do as well with everything changing in our world and the temptation to normalize sins. Although all sins are sin we must do our duty as Christians to help others stay the course and do our best to stay as pure as we possibly can. As this is hard, we know that God is with us! And all things are possible through Christ Jesus.

  29. It is so true that the years between the two testaments are important because they provide context to the New Testament, and some to the old testament. Literature from the Second Temple period helps connect the Old and New Testament. As Anthony Tomasino explains in the first chapter of his book Judaism before Jesus, “when the Old Testament historical narrative ends, the Jews are still the insignificant subjects of the mighty Persians… When the New Testament story begins, the world is entirely different” (p.14). I think that the common Christian often forgets that the Old and New Testaments are part of the same story, because of the lack of context connecting the two. How do we get from Persians to Romans, who are the Pharisees and Sadducees? Where did they come from? This post does an excellent job explaining the Pharisees and Sadducees are two of the groups of Jews who fall in between the two extremes of the options Jews had in this time period. Some completely isolated themselves so they could live in accordance with God’s laws. While this helped them keep their faith, isolation never gave these people the opportunity to evangelize and share their God with the peoples around them, as passages, even in the Old Testament, tell them to do. Psalms 96:3-5 tells the Jews that they should “declare [God’s] glory among the nations” and that “the gods of the nations are idols.” living in complete separation from the world around them does not give them this opportunity.
    The other extreme for Jews was to completely assimilate with the culture around them. They could reject Judaism and become pagans. Many Jews found a balance somewhere in between, not living in complete isolation, but separate enough that do not compromise what they had heard from God for the culture around them. And, as explained, modern Christians face this same issue. In a world where we just want to fit in, we have to stand out. We cannot simply conform to the world around us, especially when that world is not following the truth. The Second Temple period not only connects the dots and fills in the gaps between the two testaments, but it can also be an example for modern Christians as we still struggle with how much of the culture around us we should accept.

  30. Studying the intertestamental period is vital to fully grasping the context of the inspired New Testament. To address such a collection of works with no prior background knowledge is to inevitably read one’s own culture into the text. As mentioned in your other blog post, “Why Study the Second Temple period?,” one example of a common mistake that occurs at the hands of those who lack knowledge of the intertestamental period is the tendency to view the Pharisees as an evil group, attacking Jesus without cause; the reality is that there is a lot of tradition and beliefs that cause the Pharisees to have the conversations we find between them and Christ in the Gospels.
    Addressing your questions within your article, these texts should be considered useful, yet not inspired. 2 Timothy 3:16 confirms that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” But the intertestamental books are not authoritative, and therefore would be wise to study for cultural context and historical knowledge, but unwise to consider with the same weight as our canonical Scripture. It would be wise as well for someone studying these texts to have a prior knowledge of inspired Scripture and a deep faith, so that they are not confused by texts that are not authoritative. Of course much of these texts exist in fragments, as you have mentioned, and that is one limitation to our understanding of this time. You also mentioned some of the issues relating to pseudepigraphal books and their dating, which may pose issues in our understanding of them (not to mention the fact that they are considered false writings in and of themselves).
    In sum, these sources are all massively important discoveries that are very informative of their times, but one should address them not as inspired canonical texts and first with a firm faith that cannot be shaken. Tomasin in “Judaism Before Jesus” attests to the vast wealth of knowledge that can be gained from such intertestamental texts and highlights some major shifts during this time in language, the eastern map, religious beliefs, and so on (2003). Undoubtedly this period is vitally important to our approach to the New Testament.

    Bibliography: Tomasino, A. J. (2003). Judaism before Jesus: The events & ideas that shaped the New Testament world. InterVarsity Press.

  31. I think that this blog post does a great job explaining the importance of studying the second temple period. I like how in the blog it was mentioned that “If we do not try to put ourselves into the context of the original readers of the Scriptures, we can very easily read our own culture into a passage and reach wrong conclusions about what it meant to the author and therefore what it should mean to us.” (Long) An example of this that was mentioned is about the Pharisees it was said that Christians often think of them as evil because they read their own culture into a passage. This is why it’s extremely important to study the second temple period so people understand the Pharisees prior to the Gospels since they have a history before then. I agree about Christians “abandoning righteous works” I think that especially today people try and create their own ways to be a Christian by abandoning religious works for more of a secular way. This is very dangerous to stray away from the path God has paved for us. 1 Corinthians 7:17 “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” I think that this is a verse great verse that goes along with it’s not good to stray away from God because he has called us to be his hands and feet on earth and to spread the Gospel in hopes of bringing more people to Him.

  32. History often repeats itself. When we look back in history, we can often see things that our society today is struggling with. Therefore, I think the struggles of the Jewish people can be a model for contemporary Christians today. One of the Jewish rituals of their time was circumcision. Some of the people groups did not circumcise. This is just one example of the different between the Jews and those they were trying to reach. The Jews were struck with the fact that they either had to follow the world or stand out and be different. Christians today have that same issue. While circumcision is not something now that makes Christians different from the world, there are other differences. The secular culture has different views on dress, profanity, music, and relationships than Christians have. Christians today have those same two options. Follow the world or stand out and tell others about the good news. We should not separate ourselves from the world simply because there is evil in it. The Essenes were like the Pharisees, but their beliefs were even more separate (Strauss, 171). While their intentions appear to be good, they were doing themselves harm. Why is it harmful to withdraw and live in a ceremonial cleanliness state? It is harmful because God called His children to go out and tell others about Him! Mark 16:15 says, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, Zondervan
    Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2020

  33. For many modern Evangelical Christians, the time period between the Old and New Testaments is usually known as the “silent 400 years”, supposing that not much activity occurs during this era of Jewish history and literature. Yet, this is a deceiving moniker, as the Second Temple Period contained a plethora of significant and influential works of literature, although none came to be considered inspired by God by later Jewish audiences. This period of Judaism experienced several key theological developments which heavily impact New Testament thought, such as a more advanced understanding of the afterlife and an increased emphasis on personal obedience to the law. The cultural interactions between the Jews and the surrounding nations during the exilic and post-exilic periods led to the expansion of thought on many aspects of Jewish theological and philosophical issues, although some of these changes most likely have their roots in older Jewish thought as opposed to solely external influences.
    If one desires to understand the historical and cultural context of the New Testament, then one must begin to study the Second Temple Period, as it helps inform your understanding of the issues and activities evaluated in the New Testament. For example, modern evangelicals often interpret the Pharisees as a hyper-legalistic religious group that advocated for a works-salvation and simply always hated Jesus and desired His execution, but this may be a mischaracterization of a highly sophisticated and nuanced religious party (Long, 2017). Furthermore, when Paul rejects the necessity of circumcision for gentile believers, opposing the “Judaizers” who believed that circumcision was necessary for entry into Judaism. It is easy to characterize this as the Jewish Christians advocating works-based salvation, but this may mischaracterize the disagreement, as it was more centered around one’s identity as a member of God’s family. During the Maccabean Revolt, circumcision was an essential boundary marker for determining that one was Jewish and the residue of this central ritual practice during this period certainly impacts the New Testament interaction between Paul and the Judaizers. Overall, the Second Temple Period is a significant period of time and drastically influences the New Testament. If one yearns to understand the nuances and complexities of the New Testament world, it is essential to have a grasp on the historical and religious developments that occurred between the Old and New Testaments.

  34. Educating ourselves especially as Christians on the Second Temple Period is such an important part of understanding the context and connection between the Old and New Testament periods. The quote by James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999), 293, really captures the essence of why we should take the time to study the 400 years in-between the Old and New Testament. By understanding the context, we can better apply the struggle of the Jewish people in the Second Temple period as a model for contemporary Christians as they struggle with similar issues. These 400 years offer a lot of insight on how these groups such as Pharisees and Sadducees came to be in the New Testament. Without applying our naive perspectives of the Pharisees and people in the New Testament we can apply the knowledge from the Second Temple Period to help us better understand the why’s and how’s of actions taken by people groups in the New Testament. By taking the time to understand the two extreme options for the Jews during the Second Temple Period after the Old Testament: To withdraw entirely; as the Essenes will in the mid-second century, or to become wholly integrated into the culture, we can see how limited and difficult it was for Jews to not only stand out as Children of God, but to also integrate themselves into the culture around them as a means of surviving and reaching out to unbelievers. Balancing between a world of Greeks and Romans and Hellenism surrounding them, it is clear to see the difficulty and also provide a kinder perspective to who the Pharisees represented. “Pharisees, Sadducees, and Christians fall in-between these two extremes since they found ways to remain loyal to God’s Word, yet also found a way to interact with the pagan world. In the case of Christianity, the motivation was to reach the lost world with the Gospel of Jesus.” It is so similar to today, where modern Christians find themselves either assimilating too much into the world’s culture or completely separating themselves making it hard to reach unbelievers and do our work as believers to disciple to the world around us (Matthew 28:19-20). By understanding the Second Temple Period and the connections between the Testaments, we can better understand our roles as Christians to reach out to unbelievers while at the same time shedding the light of God unto this broken world, we live in (Matthew 5:14-16).

  35. The importance of studying the Second Temple Period never resonated with me until learning more about it. Not only is the Second Temple Period an important time in history, but it can lead to a clearer understanding of the history behind different New Testament events as well. Studying Second Temple Period history can help people understand the culture of this time period as well. For instance, during this time in history, there were two choices when it came to culture: One could either withdraw from culture altogether or one could become a part of the culture. Groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees were able to find ways to both remain loyal to God while also being integrated into the current culture. However, this was not just a problem that occurred back then. This is still a prevalent problem today. Modern Christians are either being persecuted for their faith in other countries or they are ashamed to be associated with the word Christian. In America, a common theme that I have noticed is that Christians are no longer resembling God. For example, it is not uncommon to find Christians on social media who post inappropriate content or support the LGBTQIA+ community. If someone is truly a Christian and lives by the Word of God, they would not be doing these things on social media. When you compare the Second Temple Period to today, it is easy to see what has changed but it is also possible to see what things have stayed similar to how they were. For instance, there are still Christians out there today who are struggling to find a way to be in the world but not of the world. I believe this is something that will always prove to be difficult.

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