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Introduction to the Intertestamental Period


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From the introduction:


When readers of the Bible turn its pages from Chapter 4 of Malachi to Chapter 1 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, they pass not only from the Old to the New Testament, a fact of which they are well aware, but they also pass over a number of centuries, a truth to which most readers give little thought. Between Malachi and the appearance of John the Baptist there is an interlude of about four centuries. Certain scholars in the past have characterized these centuries as the “silent centuries,” and have relegated them to oblivion, not considering them of much significance for Jewish history or for an understanding of the history and theology of the New Testament. In a larger sense than is often realized, these centuries are the key for the understanding and adequate comprehension of the life and literature of the New Testament. While the setting for both the Old and New Testaments is the Mediterranean world, yet the intellectual, social, and religious backgrounds of both Testaments is different. The fact is that the atmosphere in which the New Testament is written is in large part the product of the period between the Testaments, and no amount of study of the Old Testament can solely explain it. On the other hand, no survey of the life of the Roman era is able to give the biblical reader explanations of many New Testament phrases and ideas.

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Raymond F. Surburg