As most Christians and Jews are aware, there are two “sides” to the Bible. The first side is the Hebrew Scripture, or Old Testament, and the second is the Apostolic Scripture, or New Testament.
Jews believe the Hebrew Scripture is the inspired G-d-given text they are to live by, while Christians, at least in theory, hold that both sides of the Bible should govern life’s decisions.
In most printed Christian Bibles, there is a blank page that separates the book of Malachi from the book of Matthew. The last book of the Tanach (the Hebrew acronym for Torah, Neviim and Ketuvim) is the book of Chronicles. From the books of Chronicles to Matthew is what Bible scholars call “the 400 silent years,” by which they mean that, for 400 years, no Biblical text was written.
In other words, there was no written revelation from G-d from the end of Chronicle to the beginning of Matthew.
Let’s examine several significant events that happened in the “400 silent years” that have changed Biblical studies forever.
The first major event was a translation of the Hebrew Scripture into Greek. The translation is known as the Septuagint, Latin for 70. The Septuagint is abbreviated in scholarly literature by the Roman numerals LXX.
The LXX got its name from the legend that 70 scholars were sequestered and translated the Hebrew Scripture into Greek, with all 70 coming up with the same translation.
The LXX, like all translations, has some differences with the base Hebrew text, such as additions, deletions and, at times, some highly interpretive inserts. Throughout the years that led to the First Century A.D., there were several LXX translations made with differences in each of the translations.
What makes the LXX significant is that the translation was used quite often by the authors of the Apostolic Scripture when they quoted or referenced the Hebrew Scripture.
That makes sense, as the LXX provided a ready-made Greek text, and the Apostolic Scripture was written in Greek.
The next major event was the writings that have become known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls, which contained both writings we know as Biblical texts and non-Biblical writings that became known as “inter-testamental.”
The DSS have revolutionized Biblical studies, as the scrolls found at Qumran were dated to about 200 BCE. Prior to the DSS discovery (they were found in 1948 in the Judean desert south of Jerusalem), the earliest Hebrew manuscripts were dated to 900 AD, and most Bibles in use today use the Masoretic Text (The Leningrad Codex) as the basis for their translation.
When the Masoretic Text and the manuscripts from the DSS were compared, it demonstrated the careful and detailed attention that ancient Jewish scribes had given in copying the Scriptures for hundreds of years.
The research on the DSS has given Biblical scholars numerous insights into the world of Judaism prior to the advent of Yeshua (Jesus). For a thorough overview of the DSS, check out “The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls” by Peter Flint and James VanderKam.
Earlier I mentioned that the DSS contained non-Biblical writings, and now we turn our attention to those texts. Books such as Jubilees, Enoch and Ben Sirach, among others, were found at Qumran, and they are interesting for many reasons. We’ll explore just one.
As one looks at the Apostolic Scripture, we find many quotes, allusions and references to the Hebrew Scripture, as we would expect. What’s fascinating is to find a place where an Apostolic author mentions ideas that are not found in the Hebrew Scripture but surface during the “400 Silent Years” in the previously mentioned books.
As an example, 1 Corinthians 10:4 deals with Israel’s history and mentions a rock “followed” the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings. No one looking at the Hebrew Scripture would have concluded that a rock “followed” the Israelites, but several sources in the “inter-testamental” literature mention the idea.
There are numerous examples in the Apostolic Scripture in which the authors use material from the non-Biblical side of the aisle and incorporate it into the canonical text. For more examples, check out “Inspiration and Incarnation” by Peter Enns.
I am interested in places you’ve found in your reading of the New Testament where the idea or words can’t be found in the Hebrew Scripture. Please let me know the places you’ve found, as I’m intrigued and researching these texts.
We’ve only scratched the surface of all that happened in the so-called “400 Silent Years,” but as you can see, they were hardly silent.On Faith columnist Brent Emery can be reached at by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.