Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS?

The approximately 400 years between the time of Nehemiah and the birth of Christ is called the intertestamental period (432 – 5 B.C.).  The Jews produced three significant literary works during that period: Septuagint, Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

SEPTUAGINT

72 scholars, sponsored by Ptolemy Philadelphus (250 B.C.), were brought together on the island of Pharos where they produced a Greek translation of at least the first five books of the Old Testament in 72 days.  The Latin word for 70, ‘Septuagint,’ became the name attached to the translation.  The rest of the Old Testament, and some non-canonical books, were translated into Greek, before the Christian era, and included in the Septuagint.  The Septuagint became the Bible of the Jews outside Palestine who no longer spoke Hebrew.  It also became the Bible of the early Christian Church.

 

APOCRYPHA

The word apocrypha means hidden.  It describes a specific collection of writings produced during the intertestamental period (except for 2 Esdras, 90 A.D.).  They are recognized as authoritative in Roman and Eastern Christianity.  The apocryphal books continued in common use by Christians until the Reformation.  During this period, most Protestants decided to follow the original Hebrew canon while Rome, at the Council of Trent (1546) and the First Vatican Council (1869), affirmed the legitimacy of the Apocrypha. 

There is no clear evidence that Jesus or the apostles ever quoted any Apocryphal work with the exception of Jude 14.  This quotation is from the Apocryphal book of Enoch.  That this book is not canonical does not mean that it contains no truth; nor does Jude’s quotation from the book mean that he considered it inspired.  The Jewish community that produced the Apocrypha subsequently repudiated them.  There is nothing of theological value in the Apocryphal Books that cannot be duplicated in canonical Scripture.

 

DEAD SEA SCROLLS

In 1947, a shepherd discovered documents and fragments, named the Dead Sea Scrolls, in a cave overlooking the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea.  They included some Old Testament books, some Apocryphal books, Pseudepigraphal Books (purporting to be written by ancient heroes of faith), and some other writings peculiar to the sect that produced them.  Approximately one-third of the documents are Biblical including a complete 24-foot scroll of Isaiah.  The Old Testament documents are 1000 years closer to the autographs than were previously known.  These documents demonstrate the care with which Old Testament texts were copied thus providing evidence for the general reliability of those texts.