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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2007

How Many Years Passed Between the Old Testament and New Testament?

by  Digger Doug

Dear Hannah,

            Thanks for your super question. Your Bible class teacher was right—about 400 years separate the time of Malachi (the last Old Testament prophet) and the time of Jesus. During those 400 years, we have no record of any prophets or inspired writers in Israel (see Psalm 74:9). So, sometimes we call this period the “400 years of silence” or the “Intertestamental Period.”

            The first New Testament books, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all tell us about the life of Jesus on Earth. The apostle Paul wrote that Jesus came “when the fullness of the time had come” (Galatians 4:4). In other words, Jesus came at exactly the right time in order to carry out His mission to teach the lost, fulfill prophecy, live as a perfect man, die as a sacrifice for our sins, establish His church, and send the Holy Spirit to guide the early church. 

     So what happened during the 400 years of silence to create the perfect time for Christ to come to Earth? History tells us that during the 400 years, there were six major Israelite time periods: Persian (highlighted by Cyrus), Greek (Alexander the Great), Egyptian (Ptolemy), Syrian (Antiochus Epiphanes), Maccabean (Judas Maccabees), and Roman (Herod and Caesar). Many things occurred during these transitions that made the time just right for Jesus’ ministry and the writing of the New Testament. For example, the Romans built vast road systems that made it easier for Christians to spread the Gospel. Also, the Greek language spread throughout the world, making it easier for common people to read the New Testament. The more you study ancient history, the more you will appreciate God’s wonderful timing.

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