New Testament Survey
Rebelled against Assyria in 626 B.C.
Joined forces with the Medes to defeat Nineveh in 614 B.C.
Conquered Judah and Egypt. Extended Babylonian influence overthe known world.
Was not originally of the royal family so he married a widow ordaughter of Nebuchadnezzar. His son was Belteshazzar.
Nabonidus spent little time in Babylon, having a palace at Tema.
He was a religious man, and was instrumental in restoring severaltemples.
Belteshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, co-regent with his father.
He was left in charge of Babylon while his father was living in Tema.
Nebuchadnezzar took many members of the royal family includingDaniel and his three friends. He also took much of the temple wealthincluding the golden vessels which were later used by Belteshazzar inhis feast.
After Nebuchadnezzar left in 605, Jehoiakim rebelled but was takento Babylon as prisoner. His successor, Jehoiachin, reigned only threemonths because he too rebelled and was taken to Babylon.
1 John F. MacArthur, The Rise and Fall of Wold Powers,
(Panorama City: Word of
Grace Communications, 1989), pp. 90-91.
2 Robert G. Gromacki, New Testament Survey
, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
Nebuchadnezzar left Mattaniah, who was renamed Zedekiah, as apuppet king.
Zedekiah aligned himself with Egypt in an attempt to gain freedomfrom Babylon. This alliance did not last and Nebuchadnezzarcaptured Zedekiah, put his eyes out, and took him to Babylon wherehe died in captivity. At this time, Jerusalem was destroyed andburned. Solomon’s temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world,was destroyed.
After the Babylonian captivity, Israel did not have any moreproblems with idolatry. Never again would they bow the knee toBaal or some other pagan deity, even on pain of death.
Because of the destruction of the temple, the Jews of the dispersioncongregated in local groups called synagogues. It was here that thelaw was taught although sacrifices were never offered in synagoguessince it was only at the temple that sacrifices could be made.
Priests, who no longer could practice Judaism since there was notemple, took to the copying and preservation of the OT Scriptures.
They later became the scribes, the law experts found in the Gospels.
Because of the length of the captivity, we find that many Jewssettled down and became permanent residents of foreign countries.
This dispersion exists even till today, and will continue to exist untilGod calls Israel back during the end times.
Lastly, the Jews defined the canon of the OT during this time. Threedivisions of the OT were defined, the Torah, the Prophets, and theWritings. These writings were copied and transmitted by thescribes.
4 Charles F. Pfeiffer, Between the Testaments,
(Grand Rapids, Baker Book House,
5 James A. Borland, A General Introduction to the New Testament
University Book House, 1986), pp. 20-24.
Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) - 555 B.C. to 529 B.C.
Became ruler of a combined Medo-Persia empire in 550 B.C. Cyrusfirst inherited the kingdom of Anshan, but quickly tired of beingunder Median rule and revolted. He successfully conquered theMedian armies, due in part to the fact that the Median army revoltedagainst their commander. When he gained power of Media, hiskingdom became one of the four major powers of the world, Lydia,Babylonia, and Egypt being the other three. He was able to conquerthe first two, and his son Cambyses conquered the last. 7
Lydia was defeated by Cambyses before he conquered Babylon.
Lydia was the land east of the Median empire which now forms thebulk of Turkey. The conquest of the Lydian empire brought greatwealth to the Median empire. The king of Lydia defeated by Cyruswas Croesus, whose great wealth resulted in the phrase, “rich asCroesus.”8
Defeated Babylon and killed Belteshazzar in 539 B.C. This event isrecorded in the book of Daniel. Upon the death of Belteshazzar atthe hands of Gobyru, a general under Cyrus, the ultimate fall of theBabylonian Empire was assured. Gobyru (Darius of Daniel) wasnamed the governor of Babylon. Cyrus marched into Babylon amonth after its fall with the applause of the city. It seems that priorto his conquest of the city, Nabonidus had become very unpopularwith the people.
Cyrus was very benevolent to the conquered peoples, usually justremoving the leaders of the countries he conquered and leaving mostof the infrastructure in place. It was Cyrus that allowed Israel toreturn to Israel and rebuild their temple.9
Cambyses, one of Cyrus two major sons, became ruler upon Cyrus’death. His brother, Bardiya (or Smerdis as the Greeks called him),tried to take the throne but was ultimately murdered by Cambyseswho then consolidated his rule over Medo-Persia. This is confirmedby the Behustin inscription written by Darius, Cambyses successor.
Cambyses’ great claim to fame is that he defeated Egypt, adding thelast of the three great world powers to the Medo/Persian fold.
Darius the Great (Darius I) - 522 B.C. to 486 B.C. 11
Darius the Great ruled for over 40 years. His major contribution tothe Medo/Persian empire was the consolidation of power and thereorganization of the empire. He was a great administrator whocontributed greatly to the efficiency of the government.
The ministries of Haggai and Zechariah occurred during his reign.
The rebuilding of the temple languished during the time immediatelyafter the giving of the decrees by Cyrus. The returning Jews had lostheart and had become more concerned about their own homes thanthey were about the house of God. According to Ezra 6, Dariusconfirmed the decree of Cyrus which allowed the Jews to rebuild thetemple.
Had five capitols: Susa, Ecbatana, Pasayadae, Persepolis, andBabylon.
After consolidating his power in the empire, Darius turned hisattention to military conquests. He conquered the lands of Thraceand Macedonia, but was unable to take mainland Greece, the greatcity states of Athens and Sparta having stopped their fighting longenough to repel the Medo/Persian advances. The Greeks never forgotthis, and nearly one hundred years later take out their revenge underthe great military leader, Alexander the Great.
Xerxes (Ahasuerus in Esther) - 486 B.C. to 464 B.C. 12
Xerxes is also known as Ahaseurus, the king of Esther. He waskilled in palace intrigue in 464 B.C.
Xerxes continued the campaign against Greece, but was defeated bythe Greeks at the Battle of Salamis. His moves against Greece,along with that of Darius, were long remembered by Greece andultimately resulted in the rise of Alexander the Great and the Greekempire.
Artaxerxes (Nehemiah) - 464 B.C. to 423 B.C.13
The Medo/Persian empire was unable to take Greece, and madepeace with Greece under the reign of Artaxerxes. It was during thereign of this king that the Medo/Persian empire began its decline.
Although the empire itself would last another 100 years, thehandwriting was on the wall as nation after nation succeeded inoverthrowing the Medo/Persian yoke. The final blows occurred underthe Greek general, Alexander the Great.
The return of Ezra and Nehemiah occurred during the reign ofArtaxerxes. Ezra attended to the religious issues of the Jewswhereas Nehemiah attended to the civil affairs. Many think thatEzra was the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles, and the one who collectedmany of the OT books together.
This decree, recorded in Ezra 1:1-4, gives Israel permission to rebuildthe Temple.
14 John F. MacArthur, The Future of Israel
, (Panorama City: Word of Grace
This decree, recorded in Ezra 6, is merely a reassertion of the Decreeof Cyrus.
The First Decree of Artaxerxes - 458 B.C.
This decree, recorded in Ezra 7:11-26, gives Israel permission toreturn an institute Temple worship. It also provides for the meanswhereby worship could be started.
The Second Decree of Artaxerxes - 444 B.C. or 445 B.C.
This decree, recorded in Nehemiah 2, allows the Jews to return andrebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It is this decree that is the mostlikely candidate for the start of Daniel’s seventy weeks in Daniel 9.
Philip of Macedon - 359 B.C. to 336 B.C.
Laid the foundation of the Greek empire by uniting all of the Greekcity-states.
Alexander the Great - 336 B.C. to 323 B.C.
Succeeded his father, Philip of Macedon, upon his death.
Was the greatest military leader and conqueror of all time.
Alexander died while returning to Greece in323 B.C.
Alexander made a big point to establish Greek culture in allconquered lands. He did this by establishing many cities (theDecapolis of Christ’s time is one such example), establishing Greekcustoms (the gymnasium and Greek athletic events), and sowingGreek concepts of justice and religion. This was so successful thatGreek culture eventually influenced Rome, and from Rome themodern world.
As part of Alexander’s activities to spread Greek culture, he madethe Greek language the common tongue of the day. This succeededso well that in the time of the NT, the Greek language was used theworld over as the common language of commerce and diplomacy(koine)
The establishment of the library and Alexandria in Egypt
One of Alexander’s greatest contributions was the establishment ofthe library in Alexandria Egypt where many texts of the ancient
world were collected and stored. Alexandria later became one of theintellectual capitols of the world.
After Alexander’s death in 331 B.C., the Greek empire was split into fourpieces as foretold by Daniel in Daniel 8:8. These four pieces and theirrulers were:
Antigonus was later defeated by Seleucus, one of his generals, whogained power over Babylon. This began the Seleucid dynasty whichlasted for over one hundred years.
The Ptolemies and Seleucids eventually fought between themselvesover Judah and Syria.
Ptolemaic Influence - 323 B.C. to 198 B.C.
Judah prospered under the Ptolemies.
During the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphius, the LXX wastranslated and became the “Bible” of the NT.
Between the years 275 B.C. and 198 B.C. several wars occurredbetween the Ptolemies and Seleucids which eventually led to theSeleucid’s gaining control of Palestine.
These wars are outlined in prophetic form in Daniel 11:5-20.
Ptolemy II Philadelphius (king of the south) married off hisdaughter Bernice to Antiochus II Theos (king of the north).
Antiochus II divorced his wife, Laodice, to marry Berenice, butupon the death of Ptolemy II divorced Berenice and took backLaodice. Laodice murdered Berenice, her son, and herattendants. Laodice also murdered Antiochus II and causedher son Seleucus II Callinicus to become king in 246 B.C.
17 John F. MacArthur, The Future of Israel
, pp. 75-90.
Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III Euergetes, brought an armyagainst Antiochus Seleucus II and defeated him. He carriedaway a great deal of spoil to Egypt. Seleucus II died in a ridingaccident in 226 B.C., Ptolemy III ruled six years after that thusfulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 11:8.
Since Ptolemy III defeated Seleucus II, he controlled Judah.
However, Seleucus II had two sons, Seleucus III Soter andAntiochus III the Great). These two sons raised up a largearmy and continued the campaign against the south. SeleucusIII died leaving Antiochus III in charge of the army. Hemarched through Palestine with an army of 75,000 men.
Ptolemy IV Philopator, the king of the south during Antiochus’III invasion, raised his own army of 70,000 soldiers and 5,000cavalry. Ptolemy IV soundly defeated Antiochus, but was notstrengthened by the victory, only making Antiochus III angry.
The Return of the North - Daniel 11:13-20
Thirteen years after his defeat, Antiochus III returned with alarger army. In 199 B.C., Antiochus III succeeded in routingthe southern army. Because of his victory, Antiochusstrengthened his control over Judah, something the Jews hadnot bargained for.
After his victory, Antiochus III gave his daughter to theEgyptian king to be a spy for him as well as the glue of analliance. However, his daughter loved her husband more thanher father and did not take her father’s side.
Antiochus then turned his attention to the coasts of theMediterranean islands and Greece, but was defeated by Romein 191 B.C. He was then forced to return to his own land wherehe died while plundering a temple.
Upon Antiochus’ death, his son, Seleucus IV Philopator becameking. Because of the heavy tribute levied by Rome he became araiser of taxes. He was killed by his prime minister in 176 B.C.
thus fulfilling Daniel 11:20.
Antiochus Epiphanes (IV), obtained the throne by deceit in 175B.C. He then devastated Egypt and their boy-king Ptolemy VIPhilometor in the battle of Pelusium. After his defeat of Egypt,Antiochus returned to Judah where he plundered the templeand sacked Jerusalem on his way back north.
Antiochus made a second attack against Egypt, but was turnedback by the ships of Kittim (Rome). As he returned to his landin humiliation, he took out his frustration against Judah againcausing immense suffering. It was the atrocities started by
Antiochus Epiphanes that ultimately resulted in theMaccabean revolt in 166 B.C.
The Persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes19
After his humiliation in Egypt, Antiochus Ephiphanes returned toJerusalem and took out his frustration on the Jews. At the end ofthe year in 167 B.C., he desecrated the temple. Furthermore, heoutlawed the Torah. Observance of any part of the law was made acapital offense. Altars were erected to false deities and the Jewishpeople were forced to worship idols upon pain of death. Antiochussacrificed a pig on the altar in the temple thus desecrating the holyplace.
The process of forcing Greek culture on the Jewish populace wasknown as Hellenization. This took several forms:
The establishment of a gymnasium and games where theparticipants competed completely naked.
The removal of the sign of circumcision.
The full acceptance of Greek culture and ideas.
The abandonment of the Sabbath day of rest.
Jewish names were exchanged for Greek names.
Most of the Jews bowed to the pressure and worshipped pagandeities, at least outwardly. In order to expose Jews faithful to thelaw of God, emissaries of Antiochus were sent from city to city tomake pagan sacrifices in the city square and cause the population ofthe city to worship the pagan gods. Jews who would not take part inthe pagan ceremonies were arrested, tortured, and martyred.
In 166 B.C., agents of Antiochus made their way to the town ofModin. When the first apostate Jew stepped forward to take part inthe pagan sacrifice, Mattathias took a sword and killed the Jew andthe delegate from Antiochus. He then proceeded to tear down thealtar and flee into the wilderness, along with his family, to avoid theauthorities. Thus began the Maccabean revolt.
From the Judean hills, Mattathias organized resistance againstAntiochus Epiphanes. This revolt took the form of raids on the forcesof Antiochus and those who would want to Hellenize the Jews. WhenMattathias died in 165 B.C., leadership fell on his third son, Judas,who was surnamed Maccabeus, the hammer.
19 Elias Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees
, (New York: Schocken
After the death of Mattathias, Judas Maccabeus became the leaderof the fledgling revolt. During the next two years he increased thesize of his army and staged many raids on small villages andenclaves of Antiochus’ troops. At first, the Seleucids ignored theMaccabees, considering them another robber band. However, it soonbecame apparent that the Maccabean revolt was much larger thanjust a band of robbers, and more attention was given to them byAntiochus.
The success of the Maccabees revolved around the concept of guerrillawarfare. The Syrian armies of Antiochus were made up of a lot ofregulars who had little experience in this type of warfare. As aresult, the Maccabees were very successful by attacking from the hillsand at night when the Syrian army least expected it.
After a major conflict in 165 B.C., the Maccabees made a treaty withLysias, the Syrian commander, who interceded for the Jews toAntiochus. Antiochus, who was busy fighting another battle, called ahalt to the practice of forced Hellenization. An official proclamationAntiochus Epiphanes granted asylum to all Jews who had takenpart in the revolt and restored the right to worship according to thelaw of Moses. This ended the persecutions of Antiochus against theJews.
In December of 164 B.C., Judas Maccabeus and his army descendedon Jerusalem and reinstituted the ceremonial system. It was duringthis time that the feast of Hanukkah was instituted upon thepurification of the temple. Judas presented himself as the rightfulleader of the Jewish people, and set about to rebuild and fortifyJerusalem. The only place that remained where soldiers loyal to theSyrians held out was the Accra, the citadel in Jerusalem.
In 163 B.C., Antiochus died ad Ispahan after unsuccessfully raidinga temple. At the same time, Judah laid siege to the Accra in order toforce its surrender. When news of this reached Lysias, the successorto Antiochus, he marched against Judas Maccabeus in order todeliver the Accra from Jewish hands. When he reached Jerusalem,Judas Maccabeus had garrisoned himself on Mount Zion. WhileLysias was laying siege to Judas Maccabeus, news reached him ofanother person who had been named ruler in Antiochus’ place.
Lysias made a quick peace with Judas and left.
The treaty between Lysias and Judas not only restored Judaism, itmade it the dominant religion. The treaty also marked the end ofthe reform party, headed by Menelaus, who had attempted to wedJudaism with Greek culture. On order of Lysias, Menelaus wasexecuted and the reform part disbanded. This treaty also ended theMaccabean revolt. Jakim, a member of the previous high priestlyfamily, was named high priest and changed his name to Alcimus.
Supported by the Syrian authorities, he became the leader of Judahwhile Judas Maccabeus retired into the hills.
Judas reappeared in Jerusalem a short time later to protest theactivities of Alcimus, and his right to be high priest. This conflictescalated to the point that the Syrian army, under the leadership ofBacchides, defeated Judas Maccabeus’ small army and killed Judas.
Although Judah had regained a large degree of independence, it wasstill under the domination of the Syrian empire headed by thedescendants of the Seleucids.
After Judas Maccabeus’ death in 161 B.C., the mantle passed toJonathan, Judas’ brother. He retired to the hills of Tekoa as thehead of a bunch of outlaws, but in 156 B.C. made peace with theauthorities and was granted Michmash as a place of residence.
Jonathan would have probably lived out the rest of his years inMichmash, except that in 152 B.C. a pretender to the Syrian thronearose named Alexander Balas. Supported by Rome, Egypt,Pergamum, and Cappadocia, Alexander began to make plans towrest power from Demetrius II, the current king of Syria. Demetriusgave Jonathan the power to gather troops to help him in his bid tokeep the throne.
In 159 B.C., Alcimus died without an heir to the high priesthood.
The first thing that Jonathan did was to secure his position inJerusalem. Alexander Balas, wanting to secure Jonathan on hisside, asked Jonathan for his price. Jonathan’s price was to beproclaimed high priest, and at the Feast of Tabernacles in 152 B.C.
was proclaimed high priest even though he was not of the rightlineage.
The ascent of Jonathan marked a decided change in the course of theMaccabees. Prior to this, Judas Maccabeus had fought and died forthe purity of the high priestly office. Now, Jonathan hadaccommodated the law so that he could be high priest. This beganthe process of Hellenizing the Jewish law to fit the politicalatmosphere of the day. Jonathan not only rose to power by playingboth sides of the political fence, but he consolidated his power thesame way. Using his political savvy he rounded out the borders ofJudah and succeeded in setting himself up as the rightful leader ofJudah.
Upon his death in 143 B.C., Simon, his brother, succeeded to theleadership of Judah. By playing both sides of the political fence,Simon eventually succeeded in emancipating Judah from the Syrians.
In 142 B.C., documents were dated according to the years of Simon.
In 139 B.C., Simon was granted the privilege of minting coins in hisname.
This independence was short-lived, however. After the death ofSimon at the hands of his son-in-law in 134 B.C. his son JohnHyrcanus assumed the mantle of leadership. The Syrian army,under the leadership of Antiochus VII, subdued Jerusalem onceagain making Judah subservient to a foreign power. John Hyrcanuswas allows to continue as High Priest but the cities taking by
Jonathan and Simon were forfeited. Thus began the Hasmoneanperiod and thus ended the Maccabean era.
The period of the Hasmoneans were marked by jealousy, intrigue,and greed. The office of the high priest was held by men who weredisqualified due to the fact they were not of the house of Zadok. Infact, the office of the high priest was forever changed to that of apolitical prize, often occupied by the highest bidder.
During the reign of John Hyrcanus, two political parties arose. Thefirst was that of the Hasidim, who could be considered theconservative element who wanted to retain historic Judaism. Thisgroup were the separatists, who were the forerunners of thePharisees. The other party was the Hellenizers who were willing tosacrifice distinctive Judaism to gain the advantages of Greek life.
This group eventually became the Sadducees.
John Hyrcanus was also an able military and political leader. Underhis leadership, he raised a foreign army and became one of thestrongest military powers under the Syrians. He succeeded insubjugating the Samaritans and destroying their temple on Mt.
Gerezim. He annexed the area of Galilee and assigned it as theresidence of Alexander Jannaeus, his son. When John Hyrcanus diedin 104 B.C. he left his successor Judah Aristobulus a territory thatextended from Galilee to Masada, and from the Mediterranean Seato the Jordan river.
Judah Aristobulus reigned only one year and was succeeded byAlexander Jannaeus. Under his leadership Judea extended itsborders into the Trans-Jordan and the plains. From the outside itappeared as though Judea was eminently prosperous, but inwardlyit had become Hellenized and corrupt. This eventually proved itsdownfall.
Under the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, civil strife escalated betweenhimself and the Pharisees. This eventually led the Pharisees to askDemetrius III to intervene on their behalf against Jannaeus. Afterthe battle with Demetrius III, the Syrian King in which Jannaeusmercenaries where slaughtered, Demetrius left the country whichallowed Jannaeus to suppress the rebellion. He murdered over 800of the rebels while he himself had a party.
On his deathbed in 76 B.C., Alexander Jannaeus transferred the ruleto his wife Salome Alexandra. He also counseled her to change thepolicy of the government as it pertained to the Pharisees. She namedJohn Hyrcanus II to be the high priest and entrusted the governmentto the Pharisees. Using their newfound influence as well as theirnewly gained seats in the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees took out theirvengeance on the counselors of Alexander Jannaeus who had theinsurrectionists killed.
However, there was a significant anti-Pharisaic coalition whichformed under Alexandra and her second son Aristobulus. As soon asAlexandra died in 67 B.C., open hostilities broke out between
Aristobulus and Hyrcanus II, the rightful ruler. Hyrcanus abdicatedthe throne to Aristobulus, but later sought to regain it with the aid ofthe Nabateans. In 65 B.C., Hyrcanus II laid siege to Jerusalem withthe aid of the Arabian Nabateans, who were led by Antipater, thefather of Herod the Great.
At this time Rome entered the picture. In 66 B.C. Scaurus, thelegate of Pompey, came to Damascus and decided in favor ofAristobulus. This caused the Arabian Nabateans to lift the siege ofJerusalem. In 63 B.C., Pompey himself came to Damascus andagain both Aristobulus and Hyrcanus made their appeal to Pompeyfor control of Judea. Because of a lack of confidence, Aristobulus lostthe support of Pompey who then ordered the occupation ofJerusalem. The city was laid siege and taken in the fall of 63 B.C.
Thus ended the Hasmonean dynasty and thus began the occupationof Rome.
In 63 B.C. Pompey occupied Jerusalem and ended independent rule forJudea until A.D. 1948. Pompey, a great military leader, was married tothe daughter of Julius Caesar. He was murdered during the conquest ofEgypt in 47 B.C. Antipater II, Herod the Great’s father, assisted Rome intheir conquest of Egypt. Julius Caesar appointed Antipater II Procuratorof Judea because of this assistance.
In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus. The empire was thenruled by Octavius and Marc Antony. In 31 B.C., Octavius defeated thearmy of Brutus and Marc Antony at Actium and became the sole ruler ofRome. He took upon himself the title of Augustus.
Rome had succeeded in conquering most of the known world by the timethe New Testament starts. The Roman Empire extended from Spain inthe west all the way to Parthia in the East, from Britain in the North, toNorthern Africa in the South.
Although Rome controlled the known world, it was not a brutal empire.
For the most part, conquered territories were allowed a great deal of selfrule, provided they paid their taxes to Rome, obeyed Roman law, and didnot threaten to rebel.
Conquered territories were organized into provinces. There were two basictypes of provinces, Imperial and Senatorial. Imperial provinces werefrontier provinces where a strong army was required to keep the populacein line. They were ruled over by Procurators, who were selected by theEmperor and served as long as the Emperor desired. Senatorial provinceswere basically peaceful. They were ruled over by Proconsuls who wereannually appointed by the Roman Senate. Judea was an Imperialprovince.
Nero was most likely the Emperor who had Paul and Peter put todeath and the Caesar to whom Paul appealed. He was also theEmperor during the first great persecution.
Vespasian was the Emperor during the Jewish revolt in A.D. 70. Hisson Titus is the one that led the attack against Jerusalem in whichthe Temple was destroyed and the nation sold into slavery.
Pilate gained immortality by being the Procurator during the time ofJesus’ crucifixion. He was a hated man by the Jews, and at the timeof the crucifixion was under investigation by Rome. He hadcommitted several blunders in his dealings with the Jews. He hadentered Jerusalem with the Roman banners displaying the Eaglewhich infuriated the Jewish leaders. He also robbed money from thetemple in order to pay for an aqueduct. In just about every way,Pilate succeeded in stepping on the sensitivities of the Jews. As aresult, he was easily swayed by the mob to have Jesus, an innocentman, crucified in order to save his own neck and job. He waseventually banished to Gaul by Caligula where he committed suicide.
Herod was an Idumean by birth (descendant of Esau), and washated by the Jews from the start. In order to gain acceptance fromthe Jews, he married Miriamne, the granddaughter of Aristobulusand Hyrcanus II. Although he married into the Jewish ruling family,he was never accepted and despised by the Jews all his life.
Since Herod could not gain power diplomatically, he went to Romeand sought the backing of the Roman empire. He was named King ofthe Jews in 40 B.C. by the Marc Antony and Octavius. He thenreturned to Palestine and proceeded to consolidate his rule over theJews. His first act was to murder 45 members of the Sanhedrin andset up his own men in their place. He was a ruthless ruler whomurdered anyone who threatened his rule. He died in 4 B.C. at theage of 69.
Herod was a great builder. Many of his building projects are stillstanding. Just before his death he began a massive rebuilding of theJewish temple, which was destroyed by Rome only a few years afterits completion. He courted both the favor of Rome and the favor ofthe Jews by his massive building projects and the promotion of theJews at home and abroad. He did much for the Jews although hewas never really accepted as their King. Some of this most notablebuilding projects were:
The fortress Herodium southeast of Bethlehem.
The fortress of Masada where the Jews made their final standagainst Rome in A.D. 72.
The fortress of Macherias, where John the Baptist wasbeheaded.
The fortress Alexandrium east of Nablus.
Many cultural buildings including a hippodrome, theater andathletic ampitheaters.
A huge aqueduct which can be seen today.
The reconstruction and beautification of the Temple which tookover 40 years to complete.
When Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., his kingdom was split amonghis three sons Archelaus, Philip, and Herod Antipas.
Archelaus the Ethnarch - 4 B.C. to A.D. 6
Archelaus was given the territory of Judah upon Herod the Great’sdeath. He was deposed by Rome after ten years at which time Judeawas put under Roman procurators (of which one was Pilate). It wasthis Herod that caused Joseph to go live in Nazareth.
Philip was put over Iturea and Trachonitus (northern Palestine).
Ruled until A.D. 34 at which time Rome took over direct rule of thelands over which he was a ruler since he had no children.
Antipas was put over Galilee and Perea (area of the Decapolis).
Christ called him a fox and it was this Herod that had Johnbeheaded. He was banished to Gaul in A.D. 39 when he was falselyaccused by Agrippa I of being in league with the Parthians.
Herod Agrippa I eventually ruled all the lands formerly ruled byHerod the Great. He was loved by the Jews because he tried to liveaccording to the law. He had James killed (Acts 12:1-19) and diedsuddenly because of pride at the age of 54 (Acts 12:20-23).
Herodias was the wife of Philip and later Antipas. It was because ofher unlawful marriage that John was put into prison and laterkilled. She was the granddaughter of Herod the Great and sister toAgrippa I.
Agrippa II ruled over the lands formerly ruled by Herod the Greatwith the exception of Judea. It was this Herod that Paul almostpersuaded to be a believer (Acts 26:28).
Originally Bernice was married to Herod, King of Chalcis. When hedied she traveled with Agrippa II and raised suspicions of incest inRome.
Drusilla - married to Felix, procurator of Judea.
Drusilla was the daughter of Agrippa I.
There was essentially no middle class in the Roman world. Justabout everyone was either very wealthy, or very poor. It has beenestimated that nearly 60 percent of the Roman world was slaves.
What middle class there was often found themselves poorer andpoorer under a tax burden which approached over 40 percent.
Slavery was a basic institution in Roman life. A slave had absolutelyno rights, and was often considered little more that a human tool. Amaster could have his slave beaten or even killed and be totallyimmune from any legal recourse.
In Judea, most Jews were free but poor. They lived from day to dayon the wages they could muster doing manual labor, farming, orfishing. The only wealthy Jews were the Sadducees, who controlledthe temple and gained their living by changing money and chargingexorbitant prices for sacrificial animals.
Most people of the first century were bilingual, with some beingmultilingual. The four major languages of the day were:
Latin - used mainly in the western empire.
Greek - most common language spoken and read throughoutthe empire.
Aramaic - everyday commercial language of Palestine.
Hebrew - spoken only by the orthodox Jew and used in thereading of the Torah.
Education was not public but private. The wealthy families oftenhired tutors to teach their children. Very few universities existed,however there were three major university learning centers inAlexandria, Athens, and Tarsus.
Jewish education consisted mainly in the learning of the Torah.
Most young Jewish males were exposed to the Torah in largemeasure, some even being able to recite large portions.
Women were considered uneducatable. It was a rarity to find awoman who could read. Most were considered little more thanproperty.
For a religion to be practiced in the Roman Empire, it had to belegalized. Judaism was legalized and hence a protected religion. Fora while, Christianity was considered to be a sect of Judaism andhence it was protected as well. However, in the sixth decade of thefirst century Christianity made a split from Judaism and wastherefore illegal. Those who practiced it were subject to death.
Roman religion consisted in a polytheistic collection of Gods. Somenotable names are Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Hera, and Apollo. Mostof the Roman gods were taken from Greek mythology and givenRoman names.
A major religious order were the mystery religions in Greece. Thesereligions consisted of secret rituals and hidden knowledge given onlyto initiates. Common religious practices were orgies and drunkenparties since it was thought that indulging the flesh was one way tocommune with the divine.
Other notable religions and philosophies were:
Gnosticism held that matter was evil and spirit divine. Thiswas founded in philosophical dualism. At death, the soul wasreleased from the prison of the body and free to be all it wascreated to be. Since the body was evil, it did not matter whatone did with the body. Gnostic religions were known for theirmany excesses
Stoicism taught that the world had a purpose it they denied aperson God. One’s goal in life should be to find that purposeand align oneself with it. Stoics had a great deal of personaldiscipline and morality.
Epicureanism taught that the world came about by randomchance. Therefore, the goal of life is to pursue pleasure.
Whatever made one feel good was therefore acceptable.
Jewish religion, as opposed to paganism, believed in a single,personal God. They revered the Old Testament, consisting of theLaw, the Prophets, and the Writings.
Throughout the Roman world, the Jews had established synagoguesin the cities in which they found themselves. As long as twelveJewish men lived in a city, it could have a synagogue. It was in the
synagogue that the Old Testament was read and taught by the localrabbis. When Paul began his missionary journeys, it was thesynagogues that offered him his first opportunity to meet and tell theJews about the Gospel.
The Jewish religion was also centered around six feasts and a groupof other holy days that had come into existence over the centuries.
The defined feasts were:
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