Class 7 – Between the Testaments

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Skip straight to the video, or do the pre-class readings.

Suggested Pre-Class Readings

Note: These readings are historical–they are different than reading scripture, but understanding the context of the world in which Christ was born will help you get to know Christ better. It’s worth the effort to understand this history!

Read “Between the Testaments,” by Joshua M. Matson. As you read, make sure you can do the following: 

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “The Period of Destruction and Exile,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. 

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “Returning from Exile and Judea under Persian Rule,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. Key names to know: Cyrus the Great, Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah. .

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “The Hellenization of Judea,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. Key names to know: Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. If you’re a fan of Hamilton, check out this parody that shifts a song from the musical to be about the time period of the Hellenization/Maccabees.

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “A Period of Revolt and Restitution,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. Key names to know: Mattathias, Judas (Maccabeus). 

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “The Hasmonean Dynasty,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. Key names to know: Hasmoneans, Pompey

Be able to identify the approximate years Matson refers to as “Roman Rule through the Herodian Dynasty,” and summarize in a few sentences what happened during this time period. Key names to know: Antipater, Herod the Great, Antipas (known as Herod the Tetrarch in Matthew 14:1). Note that these three individuals are grandfather, father, and son.

Jesus interacted with many different groups of people in his day. Knowing a little bit about some of these groups can help us better understand the New Testament. Be able to provide a brief description of each of the following groups based on their entry in the Bible Dictionary.

Pharisees

Sadducees

Essenes

Samaritans

Scribes

Publicans

A powerful reading related to this class is 1 Maccabees 1:1-2:29. This comes from a book in the Apocrypha; it is part of the Catholic Bible, but not Protestant or Latter-day Saint Bibles (see this video for basic background on the Apocrypha, including one of my favorite stories from it). This account describes a pivotal moment in history, one that would have been very relevant to Jews at the time of Jesus (and is in fact still important to many Jewish people today).

Class video (or podcast)

Questions to focus on during the video

Be able to explain how Hellenism would have been difficult for observant Jews and how Hellenism caused distinctions among the Jewish people.

Be able to give a brief overview of the history surrounding Hellenization, the Maccabean Revolt, Hasmonean Dynasty and Roman Rule in the Herodian Dynasty

Be able to explain two scriptures from the Old Testament that show the conceptions many Jews at the time of Christ had for the Messiah.

How were common Jewish expectations of a Messiah different from what Jesus actually did?

Be able to explain what the synoptic Gospels are and how they relate to each other, including one theory (Q) as to how the similarities among these Gospels came to be.

Compare and contrast reading the New Testament Gospels in an harmony, sequentially, or in a synopsis.

Kahoot!

Here’s a Kahoot you can play to test your understanding of this video. (As of this posting, it will ask you to login, but you can also continue as a guest and play the game as a guest).

Check Your Understanding Questions

Available here.

Download Visuals and Printables

Download printables for this class.

Optional post-class readings

Watch the short music video, “The Maccabeats – Hasmonean – A Hamilton Hanukkah.” If you can get why this song is so clever, it’s a good indication that you understand the history surrounding Hellenism and the Maccabean revolt.

2 Maccabees 6:18-31 — A powerful story of a martyr during the time of Antiochus IV.

Download the PowerPoint used in the video

Acknowledgements

While living in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to sit in on a course on Ancient Near Eastern History taught by Dr. Matthew Grey and have observed him teach similar material in a variety of venues. Dr. Grey has a unique ability to take complex historical topics and make them relevant for scriptural literacy. I used several of his resources and approaches in this class. Resources and insights from Dr. Frank Judd, Dr. Lincoln Blumell, Dr. Richard Holzapfel, and Dr. Joshua Matson were also a part of this video.