When the Jews returned from the Exile in Babylon, in the late sixth century B.C., Jerusalem and its original temple lay in ruins. Leaders like Nehemiah and Ezra helped to lead the people to rebuild the city and the temple. This “Second Temple” survived until being destroyed in 70 A.D., by the Romans. During that 600 year period, the Jews were dominated by a range of empires, including the Persians, the Greeks, the Syrians, and finally the Romans, though they were able to manage a brief period of self-rule during the Maccabean Revolt. Much of the later part of the Second Temple period is unfamiliar to many students of the Bible, as the last prophet we have in the Old Testament is Malachi, leaving about a four hundred year gap in the biblical chronology unaccounted for until the birth of Jesus. But modern scholarship today indicates that knowing this period of Israel’s history is critical to understanding the cultural context for the New Testament.
Recently, I discovering this interactive timeline for the Second Temple Judaism period at the BibleOdyssey.org, sponsored by the Society of Biblical Literature. I have been looking to something like this for awhile, so I am glad that BibleOdyssey.org put it together fairly recently. This is a great reference tool for your study of the Bible.
Just a word of caution: the Society of Biblical Literature includes a very wide spectrum of scholarship, conservative evangelical as well as liberal critical, so some of the dates given for a few of the biblical books might raise a few eyebrows. For a comparable list of dates for the writing of Old Testament books from a conservative evangelical perspective, you might want to look as well at Matt Slick’s listing at CARM.org.
What do you think?