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Between Testaments


Between Testaments

with George Athas


The period between the Old and New Testaments – often called the ‘intertestamental period’ – has also been called a period of silence. Turn the page from Old to New and – whoosh! – you skip over almost 500 years, including huge historical figures like Alexander the Great! 

But plenty of important stuff happened in this period that set the world up for Jesus. So why is the Bible silent about it? Is it silent about it?

This episode is sponsored by Zondervan’s new book Why is there suffering? by Bethany Sollereder.


Go to Apple Podcasts, write a review of Undeceptions, send us a screenshot of what you wrote, and we have a free hardcover copy of John Dickson’s new book Bullies and Saints for the 5 best-written reviews. Extra points for using the Oxford comma! Details in the shownotes for this episode.

To WIN, all you have to do is leave us a review on Apple Podcasts (what used to be called iTunes), take a pic of the review and send it to us. Producer Kaley will pick the 5 best-written reviews in the next few weeks. 

Meet our guest


The Rev Dr George Athas is Director of Research at Moore Theological College, and author of several books and articles, including Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (The Story Of God Bible Commentary Series and Deuteronomy: One Nation Under GodHis research interests include the Old Testament prophetic books; Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs; apocalyptic literature; the exilic and post-exilic periods; Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity; history and archaeology of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean; biblical theology; and Hebrew language.

Featured Music


Michael Levy is a composer for the lyre. His music is a blend of some original ancient melodies and some of his own creations. His arrangements for solo lyre are based on reconstructions of some of the incredibly rare, actual surviving written music of antiquity. We played two of these reconstructions in our episode, with permission: Ma Tovu and Kandel’s Hora. You can find out more about Michael’s work, and listen to more of his music at


Yamma Ensemble is an Israeli world music group who have a beautiful love of the Hebrew language and ancient instruments. We played parts of their live recordings of Psalm 104 (see below) and also a track featuring the ancient Shofar, based on the Mi’mekomcha, a Jewish prayer. All music used with permission.


Download the transcript for this episode here.

  • Here’s a basic timeline of Jerusalem that might be helpful to get your bearings.
  • Watch Alexander, the 2004 biopic we reference at the top of the ep. Though, to be honest, it really wasn’t very good.
  • Get the Oxford Classical Dictionary here.
  • This YouTube discovery made Producer Kaley’s day:
  • Read a little more about George Athas’s upcoming book Bridging The Testaments (Zondervan Academic) in this article he wrote for Eternity News.
  • Read George’s PhD thesis, The Tel Dan Inscription (Sheffield Academic Press) which focused on the amazing 1993 discovery in Galilee of an inscription mentioning the dynasty of king David (of David and Goliath fame) – it’s likely the first mention of David outside the Bible.

From the Book of 1 Maccabees:

1Mac. 4:30-43   When he saw that their army was strong, he prayed, saying, “Blessed are you, O Savior of Israel, who crushed the attack of the mighty warrior by the hand of your servant David, and gave the camp of the Philistines into the hands of Jonathan son of Saul, and of the man who carried his armor. 31 Hem in this army by the hand of your people Israel, and let them be ashamed of their troops and their cavalry. 32 Fill them with cowardice; melt the boldness of their strength; let them tremble in their destruction. 33 Strike them down with the sword of those who love you, and let all who know your name praise you with hymns.”1Mac. 4:34   Then both sides attacked, and there fell of the army of Lysias five thousand men; they fell in action.a 35 When Lysias saw the rout of his troops and observed the boldness that inspired those of Judas, and how ready they were either to live or to die nobly, he withdrew to Antioch and enlisted mercenaries in order to invade Judea again with an even larger army.Cleansing and Dedication of the Temple1Mac. 4:36   Then Judas and his brothers said, “See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.” 37 So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. 38 There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins. 39 Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation; they sprinkled themselves with ashes 40 and fell face down on the ground. And when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.1Mac. 4:41   Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary. 42 He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, 43 and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place.

From the Book of 1 Enoch:

1Enoch 1:1-10 – The word of blessing of Enoch, as he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be present in the day of distress, when all the enemies are removed, and the righteous will be saved. 2 And he took up his parable and said: “Enoch is a righteous person, to whom a vision from God was opened to him, having the vision of the Holy one and of the heaven. It was shown to me, and I heard the holy messengers, and as I heard from them everything and understood I saw, but I was not considering the present generation, but I speak to one being distant. 3 and concerning the present elect I said, and concerning them I raised my parable: My great holy one will go forth from his habitation, 4 and the God of eternity will walk upon the earth, upon Mount Sinai and he will appear from his camp, and he will appear in the power of his might from the heaven of heavens. 5 And all will be afraid and the Watchers will believe, and they will sing hidden things to all the heights of the [earth]. And all the heights of the earth will shake, and trembling will take hold of them and great fear up to the ends of the earth. 6 And the mountain will be shaken and will fall and will be scattered, and the high and lofty mountains will be brought low, to be passed, and they will melt as wax before a fire in flame. 7 And the earth will be torn asunder (into) a split crevice, and all that is on the earth will be destroyed, and judgment will be upon all. 8 And with the righteous he will make peace, and upon the elect will be preservation and peace, and mercy will be given to them, and all will be of God, and he will give approval to them and he will bless all, and he will take hold of all, and he will help me, and light will appear to them and upon them he will make peace. 9 He comes with his myriads and with his holy ones, to make judgment against all, and he will destroy all the ungodly, and convict all flesh about all works of their ungodliness which they in an ungodly way committed and the harsh words which they have spoken.

From Ben Sira

Ben Sira 2:1-18. My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing. 2 Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.3 Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.4 Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient.5 For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. 6 Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.7 You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, or else you may fall.8 You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost.9 You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. 10 Consider the generations of old and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken? Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected?11 For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.12 Woe to timid hearts and to slack hands, and to the sinner who walks a double path!13 Woe to the fainthearted who have no trust! Therefore they will have no shelter.14 Woe to you who have lost your nerve! What will you do when the Lord’s reckoning comes?15 Those who fear the Lord do not disobey his words, and those who love him keep his ways.16 Those who fear the Lord seek to please him, and those who love him are filled with his law.17 Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts, and humble themselves before him.18 Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, but not into the hands of mortals; for equal to his majesty is his mercy, and equal to his name are his works.

From the Dead Sea Scrolls, the so called Messianic Apocalypse which was discovered in Cave 4 at Qumran (scrolls were scattered across eleven caves at the site). Though fragmentary, the passage powerfully expresses the Jewish hope for a Messiah, an eternal kingdom and the healings and good news promised centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah:

“… the earth will listen to his anointed one (mashiach /messiah) [and all] that is in them will not turn away from the precepts of the holy ones … For he [the Lord] will honour the pious upon the upon the throne of an eternal kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twis[ted.] … And the Lord will perform marvellous acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id,] [for] he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the poor.” 4Q521.
  • OK… now, who are the Essenes? 
  • The Sadducees?
  • The Pharisees?
  • The Zealots?
  • Read again Luke 4:16 – 21:

    16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.  And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

     18  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
     19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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