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When I was researching about the deuterocanon (or the apocrypha, as most Protestants call them) I stumbled upon the notion that God was silent during a period of 400 years between the end of the Old Testament (after the Prophet Malachi) and the beginning of New Testament time (namely the appereance of John the baptist).

From a Protestant point of view where the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books are not considered scripture, there is indeed a 400 year gap in revelation -- no prophets, no inspired writings, nothing.

From a Catholic (or Orthodox) point of view however there is scripture written and inspiration taking place during that period and there is no gap (at least not that long) in in Gods revelation.

Now, when looking for reasons why christians consider the deuterocanon/apocrypha inspired or not I am sometimes told that those writings originated in a period where God was silent and thus cannot be considered scripture (like here, here or here).

To me this is:

  1. A circular argument (apocrypha are not scriptural -> God was silent 400 years -> in those 400 years no inspired scripture was written -> apocrypha are not scriptural) or
  2. There must be another reason to believe God was silent for that period. This reason would break the circle in (1) and make the stated argument valid.

My Question: What biblical basis give adherents of a large time of Gods silence between the Prophet Malachi and John the Baptist beside the (perceived) fact of missing inspired scripture in that period?

A best answer could simply cite the prophet X in saying: "Listen, God will be silent for 400 years before the fulfillment of time." and then stating that this fulfillment of time has come with Christ. But there may be more to say to that matter ...

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    There's no argument, simply an observation from the Protestant perspective that there were no inspired writings during that time. No one claims there was a prophecy, or that the 400 years was necessary. There's no real question here. – curiousdannii May 28 at 12:46
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    1 Maccabees 9 27 refers to the worst famine since prophets ceased to appear in Israel. That seems to imply prophets had ceased to appear. But if Maccabees is not canonical ,,, – davidlol May 28 at 19:39
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    Have you read the Book of Malachi? It's basically God getting angry at the Hebrews and going "Screw you, I'm taking my ball and going home," with a side of "I'm going to get a new people, and they're going to treat me properly!" – nick012000 May 28 at 23:37
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    Methinks you and the RC church might be engaged in circular thinking too: A circular argument (apocrypha is Scripture -> God was not silent 400 years -> in those 400 years inspired scripture was written -> apocrypha is Scripture. Presuppositions work that way. Call them assumptions, first principles, argument by definition, or even non-negotiables. For the RC church, another complicating factor is tradition. I do not know how far back the RC church started assuming the Apocrypha was inspired, or how they determined it to be Scripture, but te Protestants, otoh, had no such tradition. – rhetorician May 29 at 12:34
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    The Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years before being brought out of Egypt (Exodus 12:40). So there is the historical precedent of a 400+ year silence between the events of Genesis and God bring His people out of Egypt. – Revelation Lad May 29 at 18:35
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There are two considerations. One is to establish the fact of roughly 400 years of silence based on writings of that time area. In other words, this is in fact how those of that time understood that there was silence. Two is to then establish if this is shown in Scripture and specifically the Old Testament. In other words, since we know they believed there was silence, why do they believe as they do? Does God tell them end points or the from to periods during which is silence?

No Succession

Specfically, Josephus circa 97 will write this.

  1. From the time of Artaxerxes to our own day all the events have been recorded, but the accounts are not worthy of the same confidence that we repose in those which preceded them, because there has not been during this time an exact succession of prophets. -source-

The Book of Maccabees will claim the same of itself; that is, during their period, there was no valid prophetic voice, no inspired word from God.

And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give answer concerning them. (1 Maccabees 4:46)

And there was a great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel. (1 Maccabees 9:27)

And that the Jews, and their priests, had consented that he should be their prince, and high priest for ever, till there should arise a faithful prophet. (1 Maccabees 14:41)

So, we find the idea of silence is extant at the time. It is due to the silence of the prophetic voice, the stilled guiding word of God as it were speaking through "men of old", as Peter would say.

2 Peter 1:21 (YLT) for not by will of man did ever prophecy come, but by the Holy Spirit borne on holy men of God spake.

Given that this is reasoning is clear to any reader, to what do we refer in the same Scripture to prove this idea? Again, why did they believe there is silence?

Says Scripture

Others have mentioned the possibility of Jesus' defining the bookends of the Old Testament from Abel to Zecharia at Luke 11:49-51 and Matthew 23:34-36 and Amos' quotes, but there are more references to the prophetic voice as it points to Jesus Christ.

Rather than quote from Psalms, Isaiah, and others, we will jump to the end of the valid prophetic voice with Malachi. Malachi is written after the Captivity and is a review of their agreement, their covenant with God. They have returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, city, and temple.

Yet, God speaks of how and why their offerings fall short, of how they mumble against the LORD. He then goes directly to the point.

Mal 1:10 (LXX) Because even among you the doors shall be shut, and [one] will not kindle [the fire of] mine altar for nothing, I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands.

The LORD goes on to the priests.

Mal 2:3 (LXX) Behold, I turn my back upon you, and I will scatter dung upon your faces, the dung of your feasts, and I will carry you away at the same time.

Even though they were called to rebuild and did rebuild the Second Temple, it was not enough. From rejection, however, came the restoration possibility.

Mal 3:1 (LXX) Behold, I send forth my messenger, and he shall survey the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into his temple, even the angel of the covenant, whom ye take pleasure in: behold, he is coming, saith the Lord Almighty.

With this rejection and promise, God tells us of silence from this time forward until the time of the forerunner who is John the Baptist.

Why 400 years?

To get into this would require much more detail, but again from Josephus we know the period of silence ran from the time of Artaxerxes to his time. Of course, some of the Jews did not realize the forerunner, let alone Messiah, but many did.

Conclusion

We have read from Josephus and Maccabees that say the same thing. There had been no valid prophetic voice since the time of the last prophet in Israel who was Malachi meaning My Messenger. We read where God rejected the priests and offerings, but there was offered hope in Messiah to come.

  • Thanks for those quotes from 1 Maccabees. – Andrew Shanks May 30 at 13:35
  • Regarding your "No Succession" section... Josephus has no authority in Christianity, as he denies the New Testament as inspired, and does not recognize John the Baptist as a prophet (Luke 7:26) which would go against his statement you quoted. Your quotes from Book of Maccabees about there being no prophetic voice are correct, but it's noteworthy that Psalm 74:8 and Lamentations 2:9 make the same claim, but we still consider those books inspired. – emeth Jun 9 at 13:47
  • Josephus recognizes Messiah and hence the forerunner (you may search the references). To be sure, not everyone will agree with what he says. Psalm 74:8-9 is a "they" say, not a we say. And ironically enough Jeremiah was a known, recognized, valid prophet of the time as did David operate during a time when prophets were also recognized. – SLM Jun 9 at 22:33
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In Amos 8, the prophet declares (NIV trans.):

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.

12 People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.

13 “In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.

14 Those who swear by the sin of Samaria— who say, ‘As surely as your god lives, Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’— they will fall, never to rise again.”

I have on several occasions heard Baptist preachers cite this passage as a prophecy fulfilled by the 400 year gap in divine revelation.

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    See also Micah 3:4, 7- the seers/prophets will cover their faces because there is no answer from God. See also the NIV Study Bible section "The Time Between The Testaments". – Lesley May 28 at 16:37
  • There's some punctuation errors here. There's an extra double quote in v. 13, and v. 14 contains a footnote artifact (the lone "b" before "of Beersheba"). – jpmc26 May 29 at 11:12
  • See also Psalm 74:8 and Lamentations 2:9 - The time period these passages are referring to is not necessarily the '400 year gap', and could easily be referring to numerous times throughout OT history. – emeth Jun 9 at 13:39
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When Jesus said that the scribes and Pharisees would be charged for the murder of all the prophets, that is, from Abel to Zechariah, he indicated what he considered to be the Hebrew canon. He was speaking according to the traditional Jewish canon, in which Chronicles is listed as the last book and in which Zechariah is killed at 2 Chronicles 24:20, 21.

Luke 11:49-51 (NWT)

That is why the wisdom of God also said: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, and they will kill and persecute some of them, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the founding of the world may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zech·a·riʹah, who was killed between the altar and the house.’ Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.

(A parallel account of this is found at Matthew 23:34-36)

This traditional Hebrew canon that Jesus was alluding to does not contain any new inspired writings from those previous 4 centuries.

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    In Matthew 23:35, he refers to the prophet Zechariah who was the "son of Berechiah" and writer of the second to last book of the Old Testament (see Zech. 1:1), not Zechariah the son of Jehoiada who was killed in 2 Chronicles. The death of the first Zechariah is not recorded in the Bible. – Casey Perkins May 29 at 19:55
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    @CaseyPerkins One common explanation is that Jehoiada and Berechiah are different names for the same person, or that Jehoiada is an ancestor of the same Zechariah. It would not make sense for the Pharisees to be held guilty for "Zechariah, son of Berechiah" if there is no record that that Zechariah was killed. – 4castle May 29 at 20:23
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    There is no record available to us, but it could have been common knowledge to them at that time. In any event, Christ knew it. But your explanation cuts both ways, because there is no record that the prophet Zechariah in Chronicles was the son of Berechiah. (Rather, he is expressly said to be son of Jehoiada). Christ's hearers would be more likely to understand "Zechariah son of Berechiah" as indicating the more famous prophet. – Casey Perkins May 29 at 20:29
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    @CaseyPerkins There is a difference between Barachiah (Mt 23:35) and Berechiah (Zeph. 1:1). One is spelled with "a" and the other is spelled with "e". Jesus wasn't talking about the Zephaniah who wrote the book bearing his name. – 4castle May 29 at 22:30
  • The names are spelled identically in my Greek Septuagint and my Greek New Testament. Besides, the Zechariah in Chronicles was killed in the "court" while the one mentioned in Matthew was killed between the (inner) "temple and the altar". I provide a link to a diagram below so you can see the intent. The case is conclusive; the son of Jehoaida was not referred to by the Lord. i.pinimg.com/originals/a2/36/15/… – Casey Perkins Jun 2 at 1:19
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The Protestant view has been taken from the Jews. It was the Jews who did not recognise the apocryphal writings as inspired.

A personal view is that the 62 weeks in Daniel 9:25 is 434 years of prophetic silence from the end of the OT (with the completion of Nehemiah) in 408 BC, to the start of the ministry of John the Baptist. This is based on a crucifixion date of 33 AD, the decree of Artaxerxes I given to Ezra (Ezra 7:12,13), to rebuild Jerusalem in his 6th year 458 BC (Ezra 7:7); and 49 years ("7 weeks") after that is 409 BC.

Nehemiah 12:22 informs us Jaddua has succeeded Johanan as High Priest, whereas Johanan was High Priest in about 410 BC according to the Elephantine Papyri letter named "Rowley 30" or "B19".

It also tells us the list of priests is given "to the reign of Darius the Persian". This would be Darius II, who died 404 BC. I think it reasonable to assume that the list of priests are given up to the time of writing, and that, therefore, the book of Nehemiah was finished during the reign of Darius. (If the book had been written later then the giving of the list of priests only up to the time of Darius would require some explanation: on the face of it, it would seem to have been a peculiarly arbitrary decision.)

Letter "B19"

"TAD A4.7 - Cowley 30 - (Sachua Plates 1-2)"

"Date [of letter]: 25th November 407 BCE"

"Place: Elephantine"

"Parties: From Jedaniah and his colleagues the priests [at Elephantine] to Bagavahya, governor of Judah"

"Purpose: Reconstruction of the Temple" [at Elephantine; request for help]

"In the month of Tammuz, year 14 of Darius the king..." [between 14th July and 12th August 410 BCE] .... summary: ... the enemies of the Jews at Elephantine conspired together and said let the Temple of the Jews at Elephantine be plundered and destroyed.

"Moreover, from the month of Tammuz, year 14 of Darius the king, and un(til) this day, we sackcloth are wearing and are fasting,..."

"Moreover, from that time and until this day, year 17 of Darius the king,"... summary: ... there has been no Temple worship.

"Moreover, before this, at the time this ev(il) was done to us, a letter we sent to our lord, and to Jehohanan the High Priest and his colleagues the priests who are in Jerusalem, and to Ostares (the) brother of Anani and the nobles of the Jews. A letter they did not send us." ("A letter" is emphatic i.e. Not a single letter of reply did they send back to us).

(For the name "Anani", see 1 Chronicles 3:24).

Source: THE ELEPHANTINE PAPYRI IN ENGLISH

Please note I have merely interpreted and changed the values "70 weeks", "7 weeks" and "62 weeks" into years in the following passage from Daniel 9:24-25:-

490 years are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be 49 years, and 434 years: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. Daniel 9:24,25.

(Why does the prophecy give "70 sevens", "7 sevens", and "62 sevens"? Why not just give 490 years, 49 years and 434 years? Possibly because 7 sevens is a bit more vague - and it is not literally exactly 49 years, but close to 49, eg 50 years; and not exactly 434 years, but 435 years.

Secondly, there was a way to measure time over multiple years during the Old Testament period: every 7 years there was a year of Sabbath (when the ground was allowed to remain unseeded, and debts were cancelled between Jews (cf Exodus 23:10,11; Leviticus 25:3-7; Deut 15:1-18; Neh 10:31). Then every 7 sabbatic years there was the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:8-9; Ezekiel 40:1). The priests were required to record these years in order to keep the law of Moses. 7 sevens could simply be meaning there will be 7 sabbatic years, or between 49 and 55 years duration, and 62 sevens, between 434 years and 440 years duration.)

Some additional notes on this:

  1. For the dates for the reign of Artaxerxes I, I have taken as 464-424 BC.

  2. The dates for the reign of Darius II 423-404 BC has been taken.

  3. Ezra 7:7 tells us Ezra began the journey to return to Jerusalem the first day of the 7th year of Artaxerxes, so the decree itself must have been given in the 6th year.
  4. The Persians followed the Zoroastrian calendar, for which New Year's Day is the Spring Equinox.
  5. Nehemiah 12:22 reads

"The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, ..." -

This is the list of High Priests for the period. Obviously, then, the book of Nehemiah was written after Johanan (also called Jonathan (Neh 12:11) & Jehohanan) had ceased to be High Priest.

  1. The English translation of the Elephantine Papyrus letter B19 (Rowley 30) can be seen at the link provided. Letter B19 is dated 25th November 407 BC (p139).
  2. A summary of events surrounding B19 letter is this: the Jews in southern Egypt on the River Nile were so far from Jerusalem that they built themselves a Temple, with the approval of those in authority. This Temple was destroyed by enemies in July/August 410 BC. Soon after this (410 BC, September?) the Jews wrote to Jerusalem to ask for financial help to rebuild this Temple. One of the people they wrote to was "Jehohanan the High Priest" (see "Appeal" section of letter, line 2, on p142).
  3. The book of Malachi contains no dates as to when it was written, but the sins it condemns fit in well with the situation described in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. Ezra returned to Jerusalem 458 BC (Ezra 7:7); Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem the first time 445 BC (Nehemiah 1:1), and the second time 433 BC (Nehemiah 13:6). Sometime during this period 458 to 433 seems to be the best time to place the book of Malachi. This would mean it was not the last book of the Old Testament to be written, because Nehemiah 12:22, and thus the book of Nehemiah, was clearly written later.
  4. It is often thought that the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem would be the thing spoken of as happening 7 sevens (49 years) after a decree. So Daniel 9:25 says "the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times". The problem with such an interpretation is that you can never say when a city has been completely rebuilt. You cannot say in what year London was rebuilt after being bombed during WWII, or Hamburg, or Dresden. If it is referring to the date when the wall was rebuilt then that was 445 BC. But it is possible to say what year the book was written in which the rebuilding of the wall is described (i.e. the book of Nehemiah). It is possible then that the above quotation from Daniel 9:25 is referring to the book of Nehemiah itself.
  5. The Angel Gabriel appears just four times in the Bible. He is first mentioned in the Bible in Daniel 8:16. Gabriel then gives Daniel the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 (Daniel 9:21). The next appearing of Gabriel is for the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19) and thereafter of our Lord (Luke 1:26). The appearances of Gabriel are making a connection between the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 and the birth of John the Baptist, and of our Lord.
  6. Jesus was crucified in a year when Passover fell on a Friday. There are only two possible years: 30 AD or 33 AD.
  7. Luke 3:23 tells us "Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age". If Jesus was born about 4 BC and he died 33 AD and his ministry was 3 years long then there is a problem!
  8. Luke 3:1 tells us John the Baptist's ministry began in the 15th of Tiberius Caesar which, if I am understanding Alex Frazier's answer correctly, must have been 28 AD. If Jesus was born 4 BC then he could only have been baptised at 31 years of age at the earliest. See Stack Exchange, Biblical Hermeneutics, question "Luke 3:1-3 was Luke mistaken about the year in which John the Baptist's preaching began?" - Scroll down to the answer by Alex Frazier.
  9. If Jesus was crucified in 30 AD then he must have begun his ministry very soon after John began his ministry. There is hardly any time for the ministry of John the Baptist.
  10. The only reason why Jesus's ministry is usually said to have lasted only three years is because there are three Passovers recorded in his ministry. It may be his ministry lasted longer. Or could it be that where in Luke 3:23 it says, at his baptism, that "Jesus began to be about thirty years of age" it means in 30 AD (with the three Passovers of his ministry in 31, 32 and 33 AD, and assuming he was born 4 BC) when he was thirty three years of age? Is thirty three years of age about thirty years of age?

People have asked for sources: apart from the above sources, alas, I cannot give any. I cannot remember the order of events precisely but it was something like this:

The interpretation of the 62 weeks dawned on me when reading "Kingdom of Priests" by Eugene Merrill: page 505 says "Furthermore, Johanan appears in the Elephantine papyri as the high priest of Jerusalem in the seventeenth year of Darius II. This would be 407, fifty years after the traditional date of Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem." When I read this on 1st September 2017 I had already concluded that the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 was not one which was never going to reveal its secrets: God does not do that sort of thing, when he prophecies he always intends the people of God, sooner or later, to understand his meaning, he always intends that a prophecy be revealed. I also knew that 458 BC was the starting point, so 409 BC was the date which had some major event which needed to be found, which is a long time after the events described in the book of Nehemiah. At some point it also dawned that 62 weeks was 434 years, which is close to the 400 years which is usually given as the length of time between the Testaments. I then had a look at Malachi to see if it could be understood when it was written, but there was nothing. Then I looked at the book of Nehemiah and found Nehemiah 12:22 and understood its significance.

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    This is very interesting, and I hadn't heard that before! Could you cite some sources? Also, is there a difference between how the Jews didn't think the apocrypha was cannon, and how they don't think the New Testament is inspired? – Cullub May 29 at 14:19
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    @Cullub I would say the biggest difference is that the apocrypha was written by Jews, whereas the New Testament was written by Christians. :) At any rate, the New Testament writers didn't cite apocrypha often, either. I can only think of one or two references off hand, whereas there are tons of quotes from the law, the prophets, and the psalms. – reirab May 29 at 15:53
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    Regarding the part about the 434 years, would 33 AD really be the correct year for the crucifixion, since most scholars believe Jesus was born in the 4-6 BC range? – reirab May 29 at 16:00
  • @reirab Can you expand on your assertion that most scholars believe Jesus was born in the 4-6 BC range? – Monomeeth May 29 at 23:15
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    @reirab The first century Josephus says Archelaus was deposed in his 10th year. The calculations are that this was 6 AD. He also tells us that Quirinius desposed of Archelaus's estate and then appointed Ananus, the son of Seth, as High Priest (Ananus is the Annas of the New Testament). Annas/Ananus was high Priest from 6 to 15 AD. Unless we are going to ignore Josephus, then it seems Herod died and Jesus was born 4 BC (or even late?) 5 BC. I have added a note as to what might be a solution to explain how 33 AD might be the date of his death. – Andrew Shanks May 30 at 11:14
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This period of 'silence' may correspond to the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel. There is a hint in the seventy weeks vision to a coming absence of visions and prophecy:

Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)

Whether 'seal' means exactly a withdrawal of prophetic revelation, or perhaps something else, I don't know. But this prophetic seventy week period would represent time starting from the appointment of Ezra, with the crucifixion occurring in the middle of the 69th week ("the anointed one is cut off").

Seen as falling in the intermediate years / 'weeks' of time, a scriptural basis for an absence of prophetic outpouring in Judea during the Second Temple period can be identified.

I will point out, though, that while the Tanakh became closed to addition after the time of the Second Temple prophets, even a casual read of Maccabees and even Josephus provide plenty of evidence that God had remained engaged with the Jewish people until Zechariah was made mute. Maccabees may not be considered as scripture, but it is the written basis for the Hannukah feast (called Feast of the Dedication), and the miracle of the oil is remembered to this day.

Also, when Jesus was brought to the temple as an infant, the two prophets there (Simeon and Anna) made their pronouncements (Luke 2). So prophecy and visions were also not entirely absent in this so-called 'silent' period.

  • Your question pre-supposes that a prophet is the only medium of communication between God and His people. But then, see that Jesus considered himself as a prophet: " But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household'” (Matthew 13:57). That, in a way, leads us to another period of `silence' of two millennia ! – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan May 30 at 9:17
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    Many Protestants do not see the current age as silent at all, rather the opposite. "And I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh..." – wberry May 30 at 13:29
  • Agreed. But, why the need for a Second Coming of Christ ? – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan May 31 at 3:35
  • Exodus 25:8 "Let them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them." Christ is not only the sacrifice, and not only the priest (after Malchi-Tzedek) but also the Temple in which the Spirit will dwell and He will live among us. It is not so much that the second coming is needed, although God's Word cannot be false, but that God desires to dwell among us. And, the Malchut Elohim / Kingdom of God is meant quite literally, not only in an abstract spiritual sense. A king dwells among his subjects. (And, as we are made in the image of God, we are also the Temple...) – wberry May 31 at 4:25
  • Thanks. I stand enlightened. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan May 31 at 8:56

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