Intertestamental Events Timeline

334–330b.c.Alexander the Great (356–323 b.c.) sweeps through Asia Minor and conquers the Persian Empire, including Egypt and Mesopotamia (see notes on Dan. 7:3; 7:6; 8:5; 8:8;8:20–22; 11:3; cf. 1 Macc. 1:1–7). Alexander imposes the Greek language and culture on all the nations he conquers, marking the beginning of the Hellenistic Age (ranging approximately from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 to the establishment of Roman Imperial rule around 30 b.c.). As a result of Alexander’s imposition of the Greek language on conquered kingdoms, the entire NT will later be written in Greek, and will be understandable throughout the ancient world.
333Alexander the Great passes through Palestine (comprised of Judea and Galilee), extending the influence of Greek thought and culture throughout the region and also into the Judaism of the period. (“Palestine” derives from a Latin name the conquering Romans later gave to this province [c. 63 b.c.] on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, comprising parts of modern Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.)
323–281In the absence of legitimate heirs, following Alexander the Great’s death in 323 b.c. (cf. 1 Macc. 1:5–9) four of his generals (called the Diadochoi, “successors”) divide the conquered territory of his empire into fourths (which then included most of the known world throughout Europe and Asia Minor; see notes on Dan. 7:6; 8:8; 8:20–22; 11:4): (1) Antipater (and later Cassander and then Antigonus I Monophthalmus) ruled in Greece and Macedon; (2) Lysimachus took control in Thrace and much of Asia Minor; (3) Seleucus I Nicator assumed power in Mesopotamia and Persia; and (4) Ptolemy I Lagi Soter became sovereign of Egypt and Palestine.
310*Zeno of Citium (c. 334–262 b.c.) founds Stoicism in Athens, a philosophy which prizes logic, reason, and indifference toward pleasure and pain alike. Paul later encounters Stoics and Epicureans in Athens (see Acts 17:18).
307*Epicurus (c. 341–270 b.c.) founds the Garden, an egalitarian community based upon friendship, in Athens (see Acts 17:18). The philosophical system of Epicureans stands somewhat opposite Stoicism in its pursuit of pleasure, especially emphasizing the importance of friendships and the luxurious enjoyment of eating, drinking, and other comforts.
277By 277 b.c. three Hellenistic kingdoms stabilize out of the four divisions of Alexander the Great’s kingdom: (1) the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia (issuing from Alexander’s general Antigonus I Monophthalmus, 382–301, and beginning with his son Demetrius I Poliorcetes in 294/293); (2) the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt (issuing from the general Ptolemy I Lagi Soter, 367–283); and (3) the Seleucid dynasty in Syria (issuing from the general Seleucus I Nicator, c. 358–281), the latter which also ruled much of Asia Minor from 312 to 64 (see Dan. 11:4–35 and notes there). Though Judea will later become controlled by the Seleucids in 198 b.c., it is initially under Ptolemaic (Egyptian) rule, with little disturbance.
198The Seleucids gain control over Judea from the Ptolemies after the battle at Panium (see note on Dan. 11:15–16). They are led in victory by their king, Antiochus III the Great (reigned 223–187 b.c.; see notes on Dan. 11:10; 11:11–12; 11:13; 11:15–16; 11:17–19), the father of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164/163; see notes on Dan. 8:9–10;8:23; 8:25; 9:24–27; 11:21–23; 11:24; 11:25–27; 11:29–30; 11:33–35; 11:37–38).
190Antiochus III the Great and the Seleucids are defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Magnesia (fought on the plains of Lydia, in modern Turkey) and forced to pay an indemnity in 12 annual payments. The Seleucids continue to rule over Judea, however.
176*The Teacher of Righteousness, the founder of the Qumran community (perhaps the Essenes) which produced many of the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls, becomes active.
174The Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (who reigned from 175 to 164/163 b.c. and was the son of Antiochus III the Great and brother of Seleucus IV Philopator) deposes the Zadokite high priest Onias III (2 Macc. 3:1–4:6), the son of Simon the Just (cf. Sir.50:1–21). Onias III, who had functioned as the effective head of state for the Jewish people to that time, was replaced with his brother Jason (2 Macc. 4:7–22; see also note on Dan. 8:9–10). Jason in turn would be supplanted by Menelaus (2 Macc. 4:23–26), who was eventually put to death about 162 b.c. following a 10-year reign (2 Macc. 13:1–8). (“Zadokite” refers to the descendants of Zadok, a high priest during King David’s reign. Zadokites held a monopoly on the Jerusalem priesthood from the time of Solomon forward.) Antiochus IV takes on the name “Epiphanes,” meaning “[god] manifest” (cf. 1 Macc. 1:10), however his enemies would call him “Epimanes,” meaning “madman.”
168/167Antiochus IV Epiphanes, led into the sanctuary by the high priest Menelaus, loots and desecrates the temple in Jerusalem (1 Macc. 1:20–24; 1:37–64; 2 Macc. 5:11–26; 6:2–5; see also notes on Dan. 11:28; 11:31–32). On Kislev (Nov.–Dec.) 25, 167 b.c. (1 Macc.1:59), an idol devoted to Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple (“the abomination that makes desolate”; cf. Dan. 11:31; 12:11) and shortly afterwards sacrifices (likely swine) were offered up on the altar in the “Most Holy Place.”
167/166Mattathias, father of Judas and his brothers, leads the Maccabean Revolt against Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (cf. 1 Macc. 2:1–48; see also notes on Dan. 11:28;11:31–32; 11:33–35), and dies (1 Macc. 2:49–70). See Rulers Foretold in Daniel 11.
164Judas “Maccabeus,” third son of Mattathias and second leader of the revolt and later the Jewish government during 166/165–161/160 b.c. (1 Macc. 3:1–5:68; 6:18–54; 7:26–9:22; cf. 2 Maccabees 8; 10:14–38; 11:1–15; 12; 13:9–22; 14–15) purifies the temple—an event still remembered by Jews at Hanukkah (1 Macc. 4:36–61; see also notes on Dan. 8:12–14; 9:24).
161*The Zadokite priest Onias IV migrates to Egypt and founds a rival temple at Leontopolis.
152Jonathan (assumed leadership during 160–143/142 b.c.; cf. 1 Maccabees 9–12), brother of Judas Maccabeus, fifth son of Mattathias, and third leader of the revolt, accepts the high priesthood as a gift from Alexander Epiphanes (Balas) (1 Macc. 10:1–21), the son of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and pretender to the Seleucid throne. Three distinct sects within Judaism become active at this time: the Essenes (or perhaps Qumran community—the sect with which the Dead Sea Scrolls are most closely connected), the Pharisees (see note on John 1:24), and the Sadducees (see note on Matt. 3:7). See also Jewish Groups at the Time of the New Testament.
142Jewish independence is recognized by Seleucid king Demetrius II Nicator (d. 125 b.c.; cf.1 Macc. 13:31–42). Simon, brother of Judas Maccabeus and second son of Mattathias, is named “high priest and commander and leader” of the Judeans (1 Macc. 13:42; cf. 14:35, 41), effectively establishing the Hasmonean Dynasty. Simon rules 142–135 b.c. (cf. 1 Maccabees 13–16). (“Hasmonean” is derived from the name of Hashman [see Josephus,Jewish Antiquities 12.265], great-grandfather of Mattathias.)
135/134–104John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon, rules following his father’s murder (cf. 1 Macc. 16:11–24).
113The Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus I destroys the Samaritan temple.
104–103Judah Aristobulus I, oldest son of John Hyrcanus I, rules.
103–76Alexander Jannaeus, youngest son of John Hyrcanus I, rules.
88The Seleucid king Demetrius III Eukairos (son of Antiochus VIII Grypus) is invited by the opponents of Alexander Jannaeus to invade Palestine.
76–67Salome Alexandra, wife of Alexander Jannaeus, rules.
73–71Spartacus, a gladiator-slave, leads an ultimately unsuccessful slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) against the Roman Republic.
67Civil war breaks out in Judea between supporters of Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, Hasmonean brothers. Hyrcanus II, older son of Alexander Jannaeus, rules from 67 to 63b.c. Aristobulus, younger son of Alexander Jannaeus, rules from 63 to 40 b.c. Herod the Great would eventually marry into the Hasmonean Dynasty through his union with the granddaughter of Aristobulus II, Mariamne I.
64Syria becomes a Roman province, effectively establishing Roman rule on Palestine’s northern boundaries.
63Aemelius Scaurus leads Pompey’s armies into Palestine, leading to Roman control over Palestine and thus marking the definitive end of Jewish political independence.
47The Library of Alexandria is burned. Once the largest library in the world, probably containing half a million scrolls or volumes, it suffers the loss of many primary sources of ancient Greek literary texts, as well as translations or adaptations of important works written in other languages. According to the Letter of Aristeas, the Greek translation of the OT called the Septuagint (LXX) was begun for the needs of this library. No works housed in this once great library survived antiquity.
44 (March 15)Julius Caesar is murdered.
43–40Parthian invasion and interregnum: Phasael, Herod’s brother and tetrarch of Judea (“tetrarch” is a ruler of one of four divisions of a Roman country or province), is killed when the last Hasmonean, Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus II and nephew of Hyrcanus II, gains the support of the Parthians to the east and invades Judea.
40–37Mattathias Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, rules from Jerusalem.
40The Roman Senate declares Herod the Great “King of the Jews,” giving him vassal rulership over Palestine (comprised of the provinces Judea and Galilee). His rule does not truly begin until 37 b.c., however, when he is able to recapture Jerusalem from Antigonus.
37–4Herod the Great rules from 37 to 4 b.c. and is the “legitimate” successor to the Hasmonean Dynasty through his marriage to Mariamne I, granddaughter of both Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II (her parents were first cousins). Herod recaptures Jerusalem from Antigonus and the Parthians in 37 b.c. through the help of Roman forces, to whom he had fled for help three years earlier.
37–31Herod the Great fortifies Masada, a mountaintop fortress in southeast Israel on the southwest shore of the Dead Sea, as a refuge in case of revolt. (Masada would be the site of the last stand of the Zealot Jewish community against the Romans during the revolt ofa.d. 66–73. After a two-year siege, the Zealots chose to commit mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.)
31Octavian (later called Caesar Augustus) defeats Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium, effectively consolidating his de facto power as the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. His reign lasted until his death in a.d. 14, with Tiberius assuming power after him.
30Egypt becomes a Roman province.
20/19Herod the Great begins rebuilding the temple proper in Jerusalem.
5*Jesus of Nazareth is born within the province of Judea in the town of Bethlehem during the final years of the reign of Herod the Great (cf. notes on Matt. 2:1; Luke 1:5–7; 2:2).
4Herod the Great dies, and his kingdom is divided between his three surviving sons: (1) Herod Archelaus (“Herod the Ethnarch”) became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (or Edom; ruled 4 b.c.a.d. 6; “ethnarch” refers to ruler of a people under the Roman Empire); (2) Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (ruled 4b.c.a.d. 39); and (3) Herod Philip II became tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (ruled 4b.c.a.d. 34).

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