Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 23 Number 12 December 2021
Page 16

Questions and Answers

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How Many Years Were
There between the Testaments?

Louis Rushmore

Louis RushmoreThe Bible Exposition Commentary says about Matthew 3:1-15, “For over 400 years, the nation had not heard the voice of a prophet. Then John appeared and a great revival took place.” Regarding Luke 1:5-25, the same commentary continues, “It was indeed a dark day for the nation of Israel. The people had heard no prophetic Word from God for 400 years, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah (Mal 4:5-6).” Later, the commentary says, “When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, no prophetic voice had been heard in Israel for 400 years.”

Albert Barnes wrote regarding Luke 1:11, “It had now been about 400 years since the time of ‘Malachi,’ and since there had been any divine revelation. During that time the nation was looking for the Messiah, but still with nothing more than the ancient prophecies to direct them. Now that he was about to appear, God sent his messenger to announce his coming, to encourage the hearts of his people, and to prepare them to receive him.” For Matthew 3:7, he penned about the Jewish sects, “Of course nothing is said of them in the Old Testament, as that was finished about 400 years before the Christian era.”

The Bible Illustrator of the New Testament refers to the same lapse of new revelation between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era. “…prophecy exists; if Jesus Christ be its chief and central subject, it is only natural that, after an interval of 400 years, it should awaken again, just as he was about to visit the earth…” Adam Clarke wrote concerning Luke 1:11, “There had been neither prophecy nor angelic ministry vouchsafed to this people for about 400 years. But now, as the Sun of righteousness is about to arise upon them, the day-spring from on high visits them, that they may be prepared for that kingdom of God which was at hand.”

Another commentary remarks about the Book of Malachi 4:6, “This was the last revelation that God gave His people before the forerunner of Messiah, whom He promised in 3:1, appeared some 400 years later” (Thomas Constable’s Notes). The same commentary says about Matthew 3:16-17, “After 400 years without prophetic revelation, God broke the silence.” Still later, the same source comments at the place of Matthew 3:4-6, “John called them back to God on the eve of their greatest opportunity. He was the first prophet from God in approximately 400 years.” Also, Thomas Constable’s Notes observes regarding the Book of Malachi, “…this is the last prophetic message that came to the Jews before 400 years of silence from heaven…”

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, too, notes the “…400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament…” In addition, see the following from the same source.

When the Old Testament canon was being closed, Malachi, its last prophet, threw a ray over the dark period of 400 years that intervened until the New Testament return of revelation, by announcing, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

About Luke 1:1-80, Gaebelein wrote, “For about 400 years the Lord had sent no communication to His people Israel. The silence of heaven is at last broken. The ministering Priest Zacharias beholds the Angel Gabriel, the same wonderful being, who brought heaven’s messages to Daniel.” Gray observed at the place of Luke 1:5-25, “Not since that prophet’s time, 400 years before, had there been communication from Jehovah to His people, but He was now visiting them again.” Ironside commented regarding Luke 2:1-20, “They had heard of angels appearing in time past. But 400 years had gone by since the last of the prophets, and there was no authentic record of angels being seen on earth until Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in the temple.”

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary records at the place of Malachi 4:4, “After Malachi there was a silence of 400 years.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary notes, “…the canon of the Old Testament was completed in Malachi, and then prophecy ceased for nearly 400 years, till the coming of the great prophet and his forerunner.” The Teacher’s Commentary says, “It had been nearly 400 years, and God had been silent. Malachi, the last of those Old Testament greats, closed his book with a promise – and a warning.” About John the Baptist, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament observes, “No prophet had been heard for 400 years!”

In his commentary, Coffman quoted from Dummelow, “The public appearance of the Baptist marked a new era. He came forward in the two-fold capacity of a prophet and forerunner of the Messiah. Since prophecy had been silent for 400 years, and all patriotic Jews were longing for the coming of the Messiah…” John Waddey noted, “With his [Malachi’s] words the curtain falls on inspired prophecy and 400 years of silence settle upon the Hebrew people to be lifted by the coming of John the Baptist” (438).

Paul T. Butler wrote in his commentary on Luke, “The prophets of the Old Testament had spoken concerning an age of glorious righteousness and abundant spirituality for the Jewish people. But the last prophet had spoken 400 years earlier and Jehovah had not said anything to His people since then” (9). The Gospel of Matthew from College Press notes, “The sudden appearance of John, who came thundering the message of God, broke the silence that Heaven had kept for over 400 years” (122). Fowler described the mind of first century Jews, “As the Jews had cried for release from their oppressors and the establishment of the Messiah's reign, they had faced the horrible possibility that God had abandoned His people, for the heavens had remained silent now for 400 years” (496). Boatman wrote, “The prophets’ days seemed closed for about 400 years after Malachi, but John broke the silence” (18).

Michael Hatcher penned, “Expectation was at an all-time high, as there had been about 400 years of silence from God” (415). Putting things into perspective, Bobby Liddell scribed, “There had been no word recorded from God since the close of the Old Testament revelation (about 400 years before). Now, with John, came word from God, and the preaching that the kingdom was near, or at hand, began (Matt. 3:2)” (340). Curtis A. Cates plainly stated, “Although the pen of inspiration was silent during the approximately 400 years of the Intertestamental Period (being the period of history between God’s revelation in the Old Testament Period and the New Testament Period)…” (459). Jack Williams penned, “The history of the temple built by the people under Zerubabbel is found in the writings of men, not in the sacred record which fell silent for the 400 years between Malachi and the New Testament record” (711-712).

Phrasing things colorfully, Winfred Clarke said, “In the book of Malachi one gets a last glimpse of the condition of God’s people before the lights go out for 400 years” (66). Stating very clearly, L.D. Webb wrote, “Under the Old Testament dispensation, when God gave a revelation through Malachi, he did not give any more for about 400 years, till he sent John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus” (2). “Revelation had been silent for more than 400 years when Matthew wrote” (“Survey of the New Testament” 20). “John the Baptist’s mission occurred during the peak of this great period of expectancy. After 400 years of silence there was heard once again the prophetic voice, this time in the wilderness of Judea” (Northern 26).

Historically as well as biblically, there was approximately 400 years of silence from God to man between the conclusion of the writing prophets of the Old Testament and the restoration of communication between God and man as the New Testament record opens. Uninspired writings, either with historical value or false pretensions of inspiration, appeared between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era. These are referred to as apocryphal or pseudepigraphal writings. They were included in early Bible translations for their historical worth. The Catholic Church, though, views many of them as inspired but lays aside biblical authority anyway in favor of manmade doctrines of its own.

Works Cited

Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.

Biblical Illustrator, The. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft and Ages Software, 2006.

Boatman, Don Earl. Helps from Hebrews. Joplin: College P., 1960.

Butler, Paul T. The Gospel of Luke. Joplin: College P., 1981.

Cates, Curtis A. “The Period between the Testaments.” The Two Covenants. Southaven, Mississippi: Southaven Church of Christ, 1996.

Clark, J. Winfred. Expositions of the Expositor. Vol. 1. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 2001.

Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke’s Commentary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. Electronic Database. Abilene: ACU Press, 1989.

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. 2. Joplin: College P., 1975.

Gaebelein, Arno C. The Annotated Bible. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2015.

Gospel of Matthew, The. Joplin: College P., 1968.

Gray, James M. Christian Workers’ Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.

Hatcher, Michael. “Raising of the Widow’s Son.” The Miracles of Jesus. Southaven, Mississippi: Southaven Church of Christ, 2001.

Ironside, Henry Allen. Ironside Commentaries. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2012.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.

Liddell, Bobby. “Questions on Hebrews 8:13b; Luke 16:16 and 1 Chronicles 16:17.” The Two Covenants. Southaven, Mississippi: Southaven Church of Christ, 1996.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Northern, Fenter Dee. Grace All Sufficient. Winona, Mississippi: Choate P., 1966.

“Survey of the New Testament.” WVBS Course Notes. Maxwell, Texas: World Video Bible School, 1986.

The Bible Exposition Commentary. Electronic Database. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor P., 1989.

Teacher’s Commentary, The. Electronic Database. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor P., 1987.

Thomas Constable’s Notes on the Bible. Electronic Database. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Waddey, John. An Outlined Introduction to the Bible. Vol. 2. Job-Malachi. Winona, Mississippi: Choate Publications, 1987.

Webb, L.D. “Continuous Revelation.” Firm Foundation 26 May 1942: 2, 5.

Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Electronic Database. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor P., 1992.

Williams, Jack. “The Temples of the Two Covenants.” The Two Covenants. Southaven, Mississippi: Southaven Church of Christ, 1996.

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