Lesson 1 – The Background of the Gospels
What world powers controlled Palestine during the inter-testamental period?
A. The Persian Period – 536-333 B.C.
Under Cyrus King of Persia many of the Israelites were encouraged to go back to Palestine and REBUILD THEIR TEMPLE.
A significant thing that happened in this period is that THE SYNAGOGUE SYSTEM was established under Ezra to promote the reading and the study of the Old Testament among the Jews both in Palestine and in exile.
Another significant thing that happened in this period that has huge bearing on understanding the New Testament was the serious antagonism and rivalry that developed between THE JEWS AND THE SAMARITANS.
B. The Greek Period – 333-323 B.C.
Perhaps the most significant thing that happened under the Greek period is that of the unification of the world under THE GREEK LANGUAGE and in a lesser extent the Greek culture.
Most of the New Testament would be written in the Greek language which was the UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE in the time of Christ.
C. The Egyptian Period – 323-204 B.C.
It was through his initiative that THE SEPTUAGINT was produced, which was a Greek version of the Old Testament.
This is significant because the Septuagint, written in the most COMMON LANGUAGE in the world, became the Bible of Jesus, Paul and the Early Church.
D. The Syrian Period – 204-165 B.C.
As the Egyptian hold on things grew weaker and other powers grew stronger (including the Romans), the Selucids or Syrians were seeking to exercise their own freedom from dominance and desired control of Palestine to serve as a BUFFER ZONE to the rest of the world powers.
E. The Maccabean Period – 165-63 B.C.
Judas Maccabeas went to Jerusalem, cleansed the temple and the city and brought a restoration of worship. It took several years before complete control of the land was accomplished under the leadership of the Maccabean family.
F. The Roman Period – 63 B.C. – 476 A.D.
The greatest things that the Romans did for the Gospel was to create a universal society of laws, to establish a kingdom of peace (Pax Romana) and to establish a system of roads that made world-wide travel much easier and safer than it had ever been before. Many of the roads that were built by the Romans endure to this day. These roads would be the means by which the Gospel would be carried into the entire world.
What was the political setting at the time of Christ’s birth?
A. Herod the Great 37-4 B.C.
- Herod’s Three Sons 4 B.C. – 36 A.D.
- Archelaus 4-6 A.D.
- Philip 4-34 A.D.
- Antipas 4-39 A.D.
- Agrippa I 37-44 A.D.
- Agrippa II 48-70 A.D.
Who are the other political leaders that are relevant to New Testament study?
- Pontius Pilate 26-36 A.D.
- Antonius Felix 52-59 A.D.
- Porcius Festus 59-61 A.D.
What are some of the religious and cultural background that serve to help us understand the New Testament?
- The Sanhedrin