THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD AND THE PERSECUTION WHICH LED TO THE MACCABEAN REVOLT
December 13, 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
First Temple Period …………………………………………………………….. 1
Babylonian Captivity and Demise of Judah …………………………..… 2
Palestine Under Persian Rule …………………………………………….... 3
The Second Temple Period
The Biblical Account of Esther
Alexander the Great ……………………………………………………….… 6
Jerusalem is Spared
Ptolemaic Dynasty…………………………………………………………..… 8
Antiochus the Great
Antiochus IV Ephiphanes……………………………………………….… 10
Maccabean Revolt……………………………………………………….… 11
Hasmonean Dynasty…………………………………………………….… 13
Herod the Great………………………………………………………………… 16
“We are the most challenged people under the sun. Our existence is either superfluous or indispensable to the world. It is either tragic or holy to be a Jew. …Unless being a Jew is of absolute significance, how can we justify the ultimate price which our people was often forced to pay throughout its history?”1
During the time of the Babylonian captivity, throughout the inter-testamental period, until the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, Israel endured abject and inhumane persecution at the hands of fellow citizens, government officials, and other nations. Although at times, they were miraculously delivered, this was not always the case, as demonstrated in the Maccabean revolt. The events that led to the Maccabean revolt are among the foremost of such degradation and persecution and shall be given particular attention in this discourse.
Israel’s was a united kingdom under the monarchal reigns of Saul, David and Solomon who ruled for forty years each. Solomon’s reign was considered the golden years for Israel and it was during this time that the first temple was built for Yahweh. With detailed plans from his father David, which were received from God through the prophet Nathan, the temple was constructed and no “hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard” in it as it was being built (1 Kings 6:7). It was modeled after the tabernacle instituted by Moses in the wilderness and took seven years to complete.2 The beauty of this temple can be imagined by the following passage in the Old Testament:
So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold. He stretched gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple; also he overlaid with gold the entire altar that was by the inner sanctuary. (1 Kings 6:21-22)
Treasures native to Judaism such as the Ark of the Covenant, and the tablets of Law were housed in it. This structure was no monument or mere place of worship. It was God’s dwelling place and his Shekinah rested there. It is important to pause and contemplate the significance of the temple to the Jewish faith. Worse than losing any battle or enduring the severest persecution, was having to witness the desecration of God’s temple by Gentiles. The time of its construction until 587-586 BC when the Babylonians invaded Judah and sacked Jerusalem, is called the First Temple period.3 During the invasion, the temple was raided and then destroyed by the Babylonians who exiled a great number of Jews. It is during the rule of the famous Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar that the events of the Old Testament book, Daniel takes place.
The book of Daniel details how Nebuchadnezzar forced national worship to the image of a Babylonian deity. Idolatry was strictly forbidden in Judaism and this edict placed Jews in a precarious situation. Three Jews: were specifically accused of disloyalty and resistance to the king’s orders. In his fury, the king declared that those who did not comply would be thrown into a fiery furnace. The biblical account tells us that three Hebrew men: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were there as a result of deportation from Israel, were sovereignly and miraculously delivered in the furnace. This however, was not always the fate of persecuted Jews as we will see. The Babylonian captivity comprises the first of five major crises for the Jews during the Second Temple period. The remaining four crises include: the Persian Empire being defeated by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, extreme imperial persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Roman rule, and their destruction of the Jewish state and the second temple.4
In 539 BC, Babylon fell to Persia under the reign of King Cyprus and Israel came under Persian rule. Although, Persia was involved in the Greco-Persian wars this was relatively a time of peace for the Jews. Cyprus permitted all exiles who wished to return to Israel to do so. By this time the Jewish community had grown significantly and many chose to return. With the oversight of capable leaders like: Ezra, Zerrubable and Nehemiah built the second temple and the city walls were built. The second temple was completed in 516-515 BC but could not compare in beauty and grandeur to the first. It lacked five crucial elements contained in the first temple: the first is the original Ark of the Covenant with its contents. Second is the Shechinah, which is the term, used to describe the presence of God that came down in the form of a cloud and rested over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Third, are the Ureem and Thumeem which were worn by the high priest and used to consult God about important matters. Fourth is the “sacred fire” that was sent by God to consume the daily sacrifices and lastly, the spirit of prophecy.5 The intertestamental period is also called the “silent age” because there were no prophets who spoke for God after Malachi. The construction of the second temple, begins our discussion on the intertestamental period, also known as the second temple period and ends with the Herodian dynasty.6
Palestine remained under Persian rule for over 200 years and during this time had eight different kings: Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, Darius II, and another Artaxerxes. One significant event that occurred during Persian rule under Ahasuerus, are the events recorded in the biblical book of Esther. Through the obedience of a Jewish girl who became queen, God miraculously saved the Jewish people from a deadly plot of annihilation by Haman, the king’s Prime Minister. This deliverance is still celebrated as the feast of Purim to this day.
The Persian Empire eventually fell to Alexander the Great of Macedonia. In 331 BC, Darius III was defeated by Alexander who led his armies through Syria. Most surrendered without hesitance, with Tyre and Gaza being the last to surrender. The Jewish people, in Jerusalem of Palestine had already declared their allegiance to King Darius and refused to surrender to Alexander. Alexander marched towards Jerusalem with the intent to conquer and punish those who resisted his leadership. Interestingly and miraculously, the Jews were saved from Alexander’s conquest. With the advancing Macedonian armies approaching Jerusalem, the high priest ordered that the gates of the city be opened and that all the priest dress in their official white linen robes and meet Alexander along with the elders and leaders of Israel. Prior to this event, it is reported that Alexander consistently had dreams of a man robed in white linen who gave him military strategies that never failed when implemented. Upon seeing them, Alexander was struck with awe and saluted the high priest who embraced him and told him the prophetic accounts concerning him written by the prophet Daniel. Alexander granted the Jews their wish of being governed by their religious laws and exempted them from paying tribute or taxes during the seventh year, which is the year of Jubilee in Judaism7. He suggested that a monument be erected in the temple in his honor, however, the very wise high priest explained that idolatry was forbidden, and offered to have every male child born to the priests that year, to be name “Alexander.” Alexander left Israel thoroughly pleased with his engagement with the priest and went on to conquer Egypt.8
Significant to note is Alexander’s belief in unity of culture. Taught by Aristotle, he focused on introducing Greek culture to every nation that came under Macedonian rule. This introduction of Greek culture is called Hellenization. It influenced a large portion of the Jewish community and contributed to the New Testament scriptures being written in Greek as opposed to Aramaic; Jesus’ native language or Hebrew, the original Jewish language. The natives of conquered territories expressed a natural interest in Greek thought, philosophy and arts. It was not necessarily imposed upon them. “Hellenization was never meant to replace native culture but to supplement it”.9 It was not only Greek thought, but a synthesis of Greek ideology along with Near Eastern thought.
The Grecian rule continued from 331 – 167 BC. Alexander, himself died at the age of thirty three and left no heir to the throne even though his wife Roxanna, was with child. Upon his death, his vast domain was divided among four of his generals, one of who murdered Roxanna and her infant child. These generals are referred to as the diadochi which means “successors” in Greek. This succession by four generals was previously prophesied by the prophet Daniel. The generals and their jurisdictions are as follows: Ptolemy Lagi ruled over Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Peterea. Antigonus controlled Syria, Babylonia, and central Asia. Cassander ruled over Macedonia and Greece. Lastly, Lysimachus was given Thrace and Bithynia.10
Of these four successors only Ptolemy I was able to form a successful kingdom, forming the Ptolemaic dynasty. Syria was eventually controlled by the Seleucids. Lysimachus lost most of Asia Minor to Syria. Cassander ruled Greece.11 Ptolemy I, was the first of this dynasty to rule and was a strong leader. However, he relocated many of the Jews from Palestine to Egypt promising to uphold the same privileges granted by Alexander, but failed to keep these promises.12 One of his most significant accomplishments include building Alexandria in Egypt which became the greatest metropolis of its time, until Rome. Alexandria was also known for philosophy and Greek thought and contained the famous library and museum that many traveled far and wide to see.
His son, Ptolemy Philadelphus made the library even more impressive by adding “one hundred thousand volumes”.13 He also paid a ransom of one hundred thousand to the Jews who had been taken captive by his father and enslaved in Egypt.14After winning the favor of the Jews by such an overwhelming act, he requested the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek so that Gentiles can access its wisdom. Ptolemy organized a staff of seventy-two elders to accomplish this task and the result is what is now referred to as the Septuagint.15 During the reigns of successive heirs, the library continued to grow and attract thinkers and from all over.
One of the Ptolemies’ main rivals was the Seleucids who quickly gained control of Babylon. Seleucus I Nicator this dynastly was the first ruler and his heirs expanded the kingdom to part of Asia Minor, Palestine and parts of Mesopotamia.16 In 261 BC Antiochus II, ruled in Babylon and the battles raged between both kingdoms. Eventually, they reached an agreement of peace after neither were able to reach a decisive win. Ptolemy’s II daughter, Bernice was given to Antiochus II. Conflict and the eventual death of Bernice by Antiochus’ other wife Laodicea resulted in the Laodicean War. The Ptolemies were very successful but did not retain the portions of Syria they captured. However, they retained control of Palestine. During this time, Israel remained primarily a temple state with the high priest leading both religiously and politically.
Ptolemy IV, Philopater succeeded his father and was the most antagonistic king towards the Jewish people within his dynasty. He hated the Jews and sought to persecute them and constantly aggravate them. On one particular occasion, he proceeded to enter the holy place of the Jewish temple, upon which he was struck with madness and had to be carried out of the temple.17 When he came to himself he was convinced that his mental break down was caused by the prayers of the Jews and thus proceeded to force them to sacrifice to his gods. Most of the Jews refused, and were thus branded with hot irons or made slaves. The fact that the majority of Jews resisted his orders infuriated him even more and he ordered all Jews who lived within Egyptian borders to be arrested and be killed by his elephants. When the Jews were brought to the place of execution, the elephants who were made drunk with wine and frankincense were released. However, instead of attacking the Jews they turned on the spectators who had gathered to watch the slaughter. Upon seeing this, Ptolemy IV, was overwhelmed with a fear of God and ordered all the Jews released. He reinstated their privileges given under Alexander, and actually “delivered into the hands of their enemies” those who had abandoned their faith under the pressure of persecution.18 Ptolemy IV, was succeeded by Ptolemy V, Epiphanes who was the last of this dynasty to maintain control of Palestine. The Ptolemaic dynasty came to an end completely with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC.
Antiochus of the Seleucid dynasty, is referred to Antiochus the Great throughout history. He was only eighteen when he took the throne but was an effective administrator having served as Governor of Babylonia under his brother. After losing a major battle to the Ptolemies in 217 BC, Antiochus III came back after twenty years and in 198 BC gained complete control of Palestine. The Seleucids kept control until the time of the Romans in 63 BC.19 His defeat by the Romans in 190 BC changed things for the Jews. He was ordered to pay heavy tribute, surrender his war elephants and send one of his sons hostage.20 He died a few years after and was succeeded by his son Seleucus IV.
Seleucus had the unfortunate task of coming up with the exorbitant amounts of money exacted by the Romans and therefore heavily taxed the people including the Jews. In 175 BC Antiochus IV, Epiphanes who was originally sent by his father to be held hostage by the Romans, returned home, murdered his brother, the king and took the throne. In the meantime, the Jews who governed themselves as a temple state, were growing weary of the burden of taxation and were becoming increasingly opposed to the government. Many looked to their high priest for direction. The high priest at that time was, Onias. He was among those who opposed to the heavy taxation and did not want to conform to Seleucus’ policy. His group was called the Oniads. Jason, Onias’ brother, led the another group and proceeded to bribe the king with “440 talents of silver” along with reporting many lies about Onias in order to be instated as high priest. He also asked to make Jerusalem a Greek city, which could confer citizenship upon its residents.21 These were granted to him. However, his leadership was short lived when he was dealt the same hand by another individual named Menelaus.
At first, Antiochus seemed friendly with the Jews, “granting the traditional right to practice their religion and remitting taxes for a short period of time …to repair damage to their city.”22 However, in 168 BC Antiochus moved on his five year plan, and marched his army toward Egypt. To his surprise he was met by the Roman representative Popilius Laenus and his delegation who had been watching him for quite some time. He was ordered to withdraw, and had no choice to concede since Rome’s armies were no match for his. However, this left him in an embroiled state and this is when things changed for the Jews under his reign. Somehow, news got back that the king died in battle and Jason who was removed from office of High Priest by the king, as a result of the bribe presented by Jason, came to Jerusalem with a band of men and deposed of Jason. The king, who was not really dead took this as a direct revolt and sent an army to Jerusalem. This was no small dispatch. Antiochus literally declared war on the Jews. He ordered his armies to kill “young and old without any reserve.”23 Of those who remained alive, some were taken into captivity and others sold into slavery. His cruelty and evil deeds did not end here. He proceeded to profane the temple, by first stripping it of all its vessels, robbing it of its treasures and then sacrificing a pig on the brazen altar and scattering its remains all over the temple. One can only imagine the desolation of the people. Dead bodies were everywhere, orphans roamed the streets and homes were burning. As if incited further by a malevolent force, Antiochus sent his general, Appollonius, who seemed to share his evil nature, to collect tribute from the Jews. He also sent him to attack the city on the Sabbath, and on that day while the priests were carrying out the sacraments with those who remained, Appollonius attacked ruthlessly, killing many who had gathered to worship including priests and Levites. Judaism was than outlawed and an image was placed on the altar. Antiochus renamed the temple, Temple of Jupiter Olympus and all sacred books were ordered to be burned.24
It was under these horrendous circumstances that Mattathias Maccabee, a pious and highly respected priest came to the forefront of Jewish history. The king’s officers were pressuring him to sacrifice to the image that Antiochus had erected. He not only refused, but when another Jew came and sacrificed, he and his five sons: Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar and Yohanan, killed the Jew, the king’s chief officer and the men with him. They destroyed this particular altar that was set up in Modin, than Mattathias shouted to everyone “Ye who are zealous for the cause of the Lord and his religion, follow us! Follow, follow!”25 Heschel once said: “There is a war to wage against the vulgar, against the glorification of the absurd, a war that is incessant, universal.”26 There are many times in history where this phrase would ring true, however, the Maccabean revolt captured it not only in practicality but in spiritual essence as well. Mattathias and his family, and a large number of Jews escaped to the mountains where they organized themselves and formed a small army.
Antiochus retaliated on a Sabbath day. This led to the slaughter of many Jews, because they refused to profane this holy day with war. However, after seeing the slaughter of his brethren, Mattathias established a rule that if they are unjustly attacked on the Sabbath, they have the right to defend themselves against their enemies, even on the Sabbath. This proposal was quickly accepted by other leaders within the Jewish community and delivered to the common people. Antiochus was enraged even further and what followed were extreme barbaric attacks against the Jews. Among these include the hanging of the priest Eleazer who refused to sacrifice swine as an act of abdicating his allegiance to Judaism; and the mother who had seven sons who were each terribly tortured whom she encouraged to remain faithful to Yahweh before being killed herself.
Judas Maccabee, whom Mattathias had named his successor, his brothers and his band of men fought several battles against the sophisticated Syrian army and were by the grace of their God quite successful. Within three years they gained control of Jerusalem, destroyed all the altars and images, circumcised the boys, and even found some of the sacred texts that had been hidden. According to Grabbe, their success “although not miraculous was unusual”, because there were so few of them, and they were not properly armed nor trained to fight a powerful Assyrian army, yet they defeated them on numerous occasions.27 Three years later, on the very same day that Antiochus had desecrated the temple, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple. This event is memorialized by the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. They remained in constant battle with the Romans, and even had to deal with neighboring countries. After a disappointing trip to Persia, Antiochus focused on Judea and planned to completely raze it. However; as if by divine intervention, he became ill. He “suffered the most excruciating agonies of body, and torments of mind, until he died.”28 Historians claim, that at his death he became very remorseful for the evils he perpetrated on the Jewish people.
In 161 BC, Judah was killed in a resistance. His brother, Jonathan succeeded him. For the longest time, Jonathan was unable to secure Judea’s independence. His break came when two dynasties claimed the Seleucid throne and fought amongst themselves for half a century. This gave the Jews the respite they needed and for Jonathan to “be courted by both claimants to the throne and to support the one from whom he felt he could gain the most.”29 By 167 BC, the Jews were able to completely drive out the Seleucids from Palestine and formed an independent kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. Jonathan was named the High Priest and given both religious and political authority. Josephus recorded the following:
On the eighteenth day of Elul [August-September], in the one hundred seventy-second year [of the Seleucid era], which is the third year of the great high priest Simon, in Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise, and that he should be governor over them and that he should take charge of the sanctuary and appoint officials over its tasks and over the country and the weapons and the strongholds, and that he should take charge of the sanctuary, and that he should be obeyed by all, and that all contracts in the country should be written in his name, and that he should be clothed in purple and wear gold.30
His is significant because for the first time, the priesthood was in a different family from that which was originally established. Many Jews did not accept the priest hood of the Maccabees, including some belonging to the pharisaic sect.
The Pharisees are first mentioned during the Hasmonean dynasty by Josephus, who also identifies himself as one. The term Pharisee comes from the Hebrew word “Perusheem” which means separation. They took on this name because they saw themselves as those who separated themselves from the masses in their conduct and observance of the law. Although they are viewed primarily as enemies of Christ in scripture, these individuals were originally concerned with preserving the observance and obedience to the law of Moses and were highly respected. The diaspora had been Hellenized in some respects, and had also taken on views that were not in sync with the Torah. In addition to the Torah, the Pharisees made the oral law just as binding and authoritative. The beliefs of this particular group, is the foundation of modern Judaism.31
Another group that is mentioned about the same time, were the Sadducees. Their name comes from the Hebrew term “Tzaddukeem”, from Zadok who was a student of Antigonus, the president of the Sanhedrin, many years prior. Antigonus taught that a person’s relationship with God ought to be founded on love and not out of a servile position. Nor should the relationship be fear driven. Zadok, took his teacher’s teachings completely out of context and taught that there was no after life, no punishment for evil, and no soul that remains alive after death. These basic tenets made up the belief system of the Sadducees. They did recognize the Torah as God’s word, but rejected oral law. This group was not very popular among the people, and after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, they were no longer a part of the Jewish community. 32 This gives one an idea of the religious climate at the time when the Maccabees were established in the priesthood.
The successors among the Maccabees created what is known as the Hasmonean dynasty. We will briefly consider the reigns within this dynasty. After Simon died, his son John Hyrcanus I, succeeded and remained in office from 135-104. During his reign he took the Samaritan cities of Shechem and Samaria. He was then followed by his eldest son Aristobulus, who ruled for only a year. He died in 103 BC and his brother, Alexander Jannaeus whom he had imprisoned was released by his widow. She made way for him to take the throne and later they were wed. Alexander continued with expansion and eventually went to battle against Demetrius III of Syria. This battle was almost like a civil war because Demetrius had many disgruntled Jews fighting with him. During the war, however, many changed their minds and sided with Alexander. Demetrius retreated, and Alexander returned home and executed 800 of his enemies in an arena.33 This act is very inconsistent with the nature and heart of the original Hasmoneans, or Mattathius and his sons.
In 76 BC, Alexander’s wife Alexandra took the throne and “the Pharisees dominated her rule.”34 Alexandra appointed her older son, Hyrcanus II to the office of High Priest and his younger brother Aristobulus II rebelled. Once Alexandra passed, both brothers were in constant disagreement to the point of battle; until they finally settled their disputes.
Under the leadership of the Hasmonean dynasty, Judah acted as an independent nation for almost a century. Their expansion brought the country almost “to its old borders under David and Solomon.” 35 This came to an end when Roman general, Pompey took control of Palestine in 63 BC. Pompey entered the capital and then visited the temple, and entered the Holy of Holies. The “next day he ordered the priests to re-purify the temple and resume the cult.”36 Judah became a protectorate of Rome and was allowed a king, who had to answer to a roman governor.
Eventually, Roman procosul Aulus Gabinius, 57-55 BC, divided Palestine into five regions with five districts of legal and religious councils called the Sanhedrin. These regions were: Jerusalem, Gadara, Amathus, Jericho and Sepphoris in Galilee. This established the structure into which King Herod would rule over Jerusalem. Herod was appointed king of the Jews by the Roman senate in 40 B.C. Ironically, the very same title they gave Christ when he was crucified. His territory included: Judea, Galilee, Perarea and Iturea. However, later Antony forced him to give up Ituraea and Samaritis to Cleopatra. When Herod became king he executed Aristobulus II and members of his family including his elder son Alexander. He then married Alexander’s sister, Mariamme, whom he later killed in a fit of rage along with his two sons that he had by her, Aristobulus IV and Alexander.
Very few people realized that Herod was a third-generation Jew, who to a certain degree was attentive to Judaism but was extremely Hellenized and accepted Roman religious ideology. He was an extremely jealous and paranoid tyrant and was particularly known for his cruelty towards the Jews. Despite his malevolent nature he was known for his brilliance in architectural projects, including the renovation of the Jewish Temple. He influenced history in several ways. First his political and religious views shaped the world into which Christianity was birthed. Second, he was the king at the time of Jesus’ birth and was responsible for killing thousands of male children. Given his jealous nature, rumors of another king would most likely enrage him. It is believed that both John the Baptist as well as Jesus, were born towards the latter end of the Herod’s reign.
Another aspect of Herod’s influence, is the continuation of evil by his descendants which had a negative impact on Christian history. 37 His son, Archelaus was appointed tetrarch over Judea, Samaria and Idumea in 4 BC. Tetrarch means “ruler of a quarter.” He was extremely evil like his father, but unlike his father, an incompetent ruler.38 Completely unprovoked, he ordered the slaying of many pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for Passover. Jerusalem eventually went under direct Roman control.
Phillip, another son of Herod’s, was given areas northeast of the Sea of Galilee, and he seemed quite content there, never seeking to expand his territory. It is believed that Jesus withdrew there several times during his ministry.39
Herod Antipas is the son, we read about in the gospels, who is confronted by John the Baptist for marrying his brother’s wife. Antipas was a very astute politician and ruler, however he was later accused of conspiracy against the Roman emperor Caligula, and was sent to exile in Gaul. His father, Herod the Great was the most barbaric and inhumane tyrant that ever lived in Jewish history at that time. He is reported to have killed, executed, and tortured more people than anyone before him. He would destroy cities at a time, no one was safe, not even his own children, who on several occasions fell prey to his insane jealousy and rage. One of the events that instigated his fury towards the Jews was upon completion of the temple; an eagle was placed by Herod above the “great Gate. Towards the end of his reign he became very ill, and people began to anticipate his death. This anticipation fueled underlying frustrations and rebellions. A group of students decided in full view of the temple guards to tear down the image of the eagle. They were arrested, and their execution was one of Herod’s final acts as king.
Herod died of a painful disease that some believe was syphilis. His symptoms included: “fever, itching, pains in the colon, swollen feet, inflammation of the abdomen, gangrene of the penis, lung disease, convulsions and eye problems.”40 Here our narrative stops. However, in this brief overview of the Second Temple period one can easily see the inheritance of trials, difficulty and persecution given the Jews.
“To be loyal to Judaism means to affirm it even at the price of suffering. We are attached to life, and still Judaism is dear to us. Our fate is often hard to bear. Yet we bear it for all men. There will be no humanity without Israel. It is our destiny to live for what is more than ourselves.”41
Grabbe, Lester L. An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism: History & Religion of the Jews in the Time of Nehemiah, the Maccabees, Hillel and Jesus. New York: T&T Clark International, 2010.
Henry, Henry A. A Synopsis of Jewish History: From the Return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, to the Days of Herod the Great. San Francisco: Towne & Bacon, Publishers & Printers, 1859.
Heschel, Abraham J. Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.
Kostenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, The Cross, and The Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.
Richardson, Peter. Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
Schiffman, Lawrence. H. From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. New York: Ktav Publishing Inc., 1991.