Intertestamental Period

A timeline of events during the Intertestamental Period, occurring in Palestine, Greece and Rome, Egypt and North Africa, Syria and Turkey, and the Fertile Crescent.

Greece and Rome

Diadochi fight for control of Alexander's kingdom

Ptolemy gets Egypt, Palestine, southern Syria
Seleucus get most of Asia Minor, northern Syria, Mesopotamia and remainder of eastern empire
Antigonids get mainland Greece, Thrace, and other territory

Wars of the Diadochi

Delos - oldest diaspora synogogue

Jews expelled from Rome

Jews expelled from Rome for “attempting to transmit their sacred rites to Romans”

Synagogue at Ostia (earliest layer), port city for Rome

The Jewish community in Ostia is mentioned in an inscription found in Castel Porziano, to the south-east of Ostia. We hear of the [universitas] Iudaeorum [in col(onia) Ost(iensi) commo]rantium, and of the gerusiarches ("president of the elders") Caius Iulius Iustus. In the necropolis to the south of Ostia, on the Pianabella, the funerary inscription has been found of an archisynagogus, Plotius Fortunatus. Note that these Jews have adopted Roman names.

Syria and Turkey

Alexander crosses into Asia Minor

Alexander takes Tyre

Alexander defeats Darius III at Issus

Battle of Magnesia

Antiochus defeated by Rome


Palestine ruled by the Persians

Second Temple built

Ezra and Nehemiah

Legend of Alexander's trip to Jerusalem to bow before the High Priest

Antiquities 11.8.1-6

Samaria revolts, bringing Greek troops into Palestine

Jewish troops join Alexander's conquests(?)

Ag. Apion 1.22 §§ 192.201-4

Palestine ruled by the Ptolemies

Ptolemy takes Palestine

Allows High Priest Hezekiah to migrate to Egypt with a great many Jews

Joseph won tax farming rights from Ptolemy II

Zenon papyri

Joseph pays tribute when Onias refused

Joseph, a Tobiad and nephew of High Priest Onias II, pays tribute when Onias refused

Zenon visits Palestine

Zenon was the secretary to a finance minister of Ptolemy II

Hyrcanus wins tax farming privileges from his father Joseph

Hyrcanus, Joseph’s youngest son, wins tax farming privileges from him when his father and brothers shift their loyalty to the Seleucids

Composition of Tobit

The Healing of Tobit by Bernardo Strozzi, 1635

Simon II repairs Jerusalem

Battle within Jerusalem between pro-Ptolemaic and pro-Seleucid factions

Antiochus III grants tax reprieve to pro-Ptolemaic forces (Ant. 12.3.3-4 §§ 138-46) for repairs

Antiochus III defeats Ptolemy V

Antiochus III takes control of Palestine and southern Syria

Palestine ruled by the Seleucids

Seleucus IV raids temple treasury

Seleucus IV tries and fails to raid temple treasury, although otherwise peaceful time

Hyrcanus ben Joseph builds palatial estate

Hyrcanus ben Joseph of Tobiad family builds palatial estate at ‘Araq el-Emir in Transjordan

Onias III deposed as High Priest

Onias III serves as high priest when his brother Jason paid bribe to Antiochus for high priesthood and to Hellenize Jerusalem. Onias III is deposed by Antiochus IV and replaced by Jason, who established Greek gymnasium education in Jerusalem.

Menaleus bribes Antiochus for high priesthood

Menaleus bribed Antiochus for high priesthood (outbidding Jason) and sold off temple vessels. A riot ensues.

Onias III killed by Menaleus

Jerusalem Temple plundered

Jason attacks Menaleus to regain high priesthood

Antiochus sends army to put down riot and orders the suppression of Jewish religion.

Citadel founded in Jerusalem

Temple desecrated by pagan cult

Practitioners of Judaism persecuted

Jews rebel

Rebellion eventually led by the Maccabees

Maccabees retake the Temple

December: Maccabees retake the Temple and restore the cult. Antiochus withdraws his decree.

Temple rededicated (Hanukah)

Menaleus executed

Menaleus executed, Alcimus appointed High Priest

Judas Maccabee defeats Nicanor

Judas makes treaty with Rome

Judas Maccabee killed at Battle of Elasa

Jonathan takes over

Death of High Priest Alcimus

High priesthood vacant

Treaty between Jonathan and Bacchides

Syrians withdraw from Palestine

Jonathan serves as High Priest

Appointed by Alexander Balas

Simon serves as High Priest

Simon confirmed as High Priest, commander, and ethnarch in 140, supports rival Seleucid faction

Jews claim freedom from foreign rule

Jews claim freedom from foreign rule, in theory but not reality

Composition of Judith

Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Cristofano Allori, 1613

Simon assassinated

John Hyrcanus I serves as High Priest

John Hyrcanus I serves as high priest ruling like king, but without title; makes independence real in 129/128

John Hyrcanus I becomes High Priest

John Hyrcanus I, Simon’s son, becomes high priest and makes peace with Seleucids

Antiochus VII invades and besieges Jerusalem

Hasmonean expansion into Palestine

Hasmonean expansion into Samaria, Idumea, and Galilee

Gamla Synogogue

Dr. Lee Levine came forward in writing and in SBL sessions and elsewhere and made emphatically clear that there were indeed purpose built synagogues even in Jesus' day and thereafter, and that in fact the practice may well pre-date the Herodian era. One of the sites Levine most based his argument on was in the lower Golan Heights, at the village of Gamla, sometimes also called Gamala (from the Hebrew word for camel, because the hill on which the village rests looks like the hump, or perhaps the nose of a camel from a certain angle). As it turns out, Levine was absolutely and positively right. A little of the history of Gamla is in order, since it is not a city mentioned in the Bible.

The village seems to have begun as a Selucid outpost in the 2nd century B.C. where a fort was established as a sort of early warning signal for those living in the Holy Land. It seems to have begun to become a civilian settlement of Jews sometime later in that century. Bible readers may know this site if they have read Josephus' Antiquities, in particular 13.394 which recounts how Josephus himself, as a Jewish commander early in the Jewish war in the A.D. 60s fortified this outpost as one of his main lines of defense of Galilee from Roman attack.

Fertile Crescent

Darius III killed

Alexander takes over Persian Empire as far as the Ganges in India

Alexander dies in Babylon

Antiochus III rules Seleucid Empire

Antiochus IV Epiphanes rules Seleucid Empire

Death of Antiochus IV

Antiochus VII dies

Antiochus VII dies; Judea is de facto independent; Hyrcanus campaigns in Transjordan

Egypt and North Africa

Jewish Temple erected at Elephantine in Egypt

Alexander buried in Alexandria

Earliest evidence of synagogue from Ptolemaic Egypt

Translation of Torah into Greek

c. 250 BC

Onias IV flees to Egypt

Onias IV fled to Egypt and built alternative temple at Heliopolis in c. 160 (Ant. 13.62-73)

Antiochus IV invades Egypt

Antiochus' first Egyptian campaign

Antiochus invades Egypt again

Antiochus IV invades Egypt again and Romans forced him to withdraw;

Onias IV builds a temple at Leontopolis

Onias IV builds a temple at Leontopolis in Egypt after being expelled by the Hasmoneans (destroyed in 73 CE)