Materials: Walk Thru the Bible New Testament Hand Motions (must go to a training event for these)
Greece, Rome, Israel
The Old Testament was over. This was the time between the books of Malachi and Matthew. God became silent.
Main Events of the 400 Years:
Powers: Countries seem to enjoy fighting over land. And people today are STILL fighting over the land of Israel. During the time between the Old and New Testaments, at least three powerful countries rose to power. The first was Persia. Persia allowed the Jews to keep their religion. Remember, the King of Persia allowed Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the people rebuilt the temple. Ezra brought back the word of God. SO during about the first 100 years of the 400 years of silence, Israel was pretty much at peace with the surrounding nations with Persia in control. The Jews did their own thing.
Greece – Language: Then Alexander the Great came along and conquered lands for Greece, including Israel. They forced people to speak Greek, which allowed for people in different countries to communicate with each other. Greece also wanted to spread their polytheistic culture and the Jews did not like that.
Israel – Hopes: The culture of that day, in the eyes of the Jews, was worldly and sinful. There were Jews and there were Gentiles. People were clean or unclean. All the Jews could do was hope their Messiah would come soon.
Rome – Roads: Greece weakened and Rome conquered. This was the time of Pax Romana, mainly because if the conquered peoples did not cooperate, then they would be executed (ever heard of crucifixion?). So this was a time of relative peace and building. The Romans built buildings and bath houses; aqueducts and roads. Once roads were built, transportation was much easier.
Politics: Though Israel was governed by Caesar, it had its own leadership issues.
Sanhedrin: This was the governing religious body that was a mix of Sadducees and Pharisees. This was the group that made “laws” or judged the Jewish people for religious matters.
Scribes: These were men who make copies of the holy scriptures.
Sadducees: A religious political group that accepted only the 5 books of Moses as the law and they did not believe in resurrection. They held a lot of power in the Sanhedrin.
Pharisees: The opposing political group of the Sadducees. This group accepted the law of Moses and added additional oral law to their teachings.
Publicans: These men were also known as Tax Collectors. They were usually Jews who collected money for Rome, while padding their own pockets with the riches of their own people. These men were greatly despised, and seen as traitors, by the people of Israel.
Zealots: These people were ready to attack the Romans, but they were waiting for the Messiah to come and join them. In the mean time, they would attack Roman soldiers and attempt to overthrow local leadership.
Four Distinct Views: The first four books of the New Testament were written by four different men and they each wrote to different audiences. BUT…
ONE GOOD NEWS: All of the gospels had one purpose, and that was to share the gospel of Jesus with the world.
Life Application of the Silence:
So why is all of this important? I mean, God never spoke. What was going on?
Just because God did not speak and have someone write down His words does not mean He was not actively present and at work. The world was going through the motions of life, but God was preparing it for a Messiah. The fact that there was a common language would help people understand the word of God. Safe, good roads meant that the Word of God would be able to easily travel. God was setting the stage for salvation!