The Bible: Time of Transition
Between the writing of the Old and the New Testaments a period of time elapsed. How much time? That is one of the questions. If you look at the chronology of the Christian Bible the last book is Malachi. However, if you are reading the Jewish scriptures the last book is Chronicles. Historically the last of the Old Testament books would most likely be Nehemiah which recorded activity around 400 BCE. However, if you follow what I call the “non-prophetic” approach to interpretation then you would say the last book is Daniel written around the time of the revolt of Judas Maccabeus between 170 -160 BCE.
Regardless, the Old Testament concluded at minimum of 170 years before the birth of Jesus to some who believe it ended about 400 years before the birth of Jesus. Regardless, these years were not silent years. Alex Maxey gives this account of the period between the Testaments.
During the 400+ “silent centuries” a great deal of religious literature was produced. The Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Septuagint, and the writings of the Qumran community — the Dead Sea Scrolls — are only a few of the better known examples of the type of sacred literature produced during this period. Some of the writings from this era are of great religious and historical significance; others are less so. All of them, however, shed light upon the thinking of their time, and are thus of importance to a better understanding of this historical period.
Perhaps the most significant collection of intertestamental writings is the Apocrypha, which means “doubtful.” They are so characterized because very few actually accept them as inspired of God; they are of doubtful origin. The ancient Jews never accepted them as part of the Old Covenant canon, nor did the early church. Most scholars characterize them as “a lower level of writing” since they contain numerous historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms, and because they “do not breathe the prophetic spirit so evident in Canonical writings.”
(About half of) The Apocrypha is accepted, however, by the Roman Catholic Church, although they were not declared to be inspired of God (thus making them authoritative as recognized Scripture) until the Council of Trent (1546 AD).
The Westminster Confession (1643 AD) states: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture, and are therefore of no authority in the Church of God, or to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.”
The Anglican Church, in its Thirty-nine Articles, takes a mediating position between the Protestant and Catholic viewpoints: “The Church doth read (the Apocryphal books) for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to confess any doctrine.”
Why do I blog about this boring, dry, and to some degree insignificant information? It is the truth. Books were written during these “silent times.” People didn’t stop seeking God nor writing about God. But, not all pursuits of God, not all statements about God, not all proposed revelations from God, pass the test of the eternal truths of God. Read the warnings concerning false prophets in Bible. More personally, think of the thoughts you have had about God that are honest feelings but not necessarily theologically sound. Most personally, there are some sermons (just a few, lol) that I wish I could take back.
It is important to remember that there were silent centuries in the midst of what we believe to be God’s revealed word. It is important to remember there are times of silence in my spiritual development as well. Don’t lose heart. The Gospel, God’s Good News, is coming.