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Jesus and His Jewish Influences

Embark upon an in-depth investigation of the ancient world that Jesus was born into, and discover what effect it had upon his life and ministry in this course taught by an award-winning professor.
Jesus and His Jewish Influences is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 150.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historic view of Jesus This is a course that gives a very solid historic background to the development of Christian thinking, based firmly on Torah traditions AND contemporary political event. Presented beautifully with clarity and facts. Anybody with open mind will love it.
Date published: 2022-01-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Likable Person, Competent Scholar The presenter is a likable person and competent scholar. Her knowledge is wide and her opinions, which she sometimes contrasts with those of other scholars, are provocative. The problem is that the title of this course is misleading. While the review of Judaism as it existed around the beginning of the Christian era is good, relatively little is said about the life and ministry of Jesus relative to these facts. And her interpretation of parts of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is definitely over the top!
Date published: 2021-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course Prof. Magness' course is an eye-opener, putting Jesus in context of Jewish history and influences. She looks at archeology, text and scholarly commentaries. She is a dynamic lecturer, and I would consider any other courses she may teach.
Date published: 2021-09-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very dull Any course about Jesus should be exciting and dynamic. The professor doesn't seem to know Jesus personally. While knowledgeable about history, her delivery is lackluster and monotonous.
Date published: 2021-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from jewish influences, not so much jesus i’ve now done two courses by prof. magness, this one and the archaeology one, and in both cases i found the same thing: the course ends up being mainly a recap of biblical history, with a little bit of the respective theme tacked on at the end of each lecture. now i certainly understand that she needs to give context and cannot assume that people will have the relevant background, but if you were attracted to this course by the “jesus” in the title, be advised that you’re only going to get five, maybe ten minutes of jesus in each lecture. that means that in a course called “jesus & his jewish influences,” only about 20% of it is about jesus. one suspects that this has more to do with the marketing department than with the professor, but if the title had been turned around to something like “jewish history as a background to jesus,” potential viewers would have a better sense of what they were getting into. once you understand that, however, this is a perfectly enjoyable course. the tour through jewish history is engaging and often takes us into sidebars one might not hear about in church. that’s because prof. magness draws on the full range of ancient sources, including the dead sea scrolls, the pseudepigrapha, and rabbinic literature, to paint a fuller picture of the jewish world into which jesus was born. expect to become familiar with the septuagint, the book of enoch, philo of alexandria, and above all flavius josephus, who by the end of the course will seem like an old friend. the discussions of these sources are often of great value in their own right. and when the professor finally does get to jesus, she often presents interesting or novel interpretations of familiar old sayings. as a scholar she is careful not to say, “this is the right interpretation,” but rather, “so-and-so suggests this interpretation,” thus leaving listeners free to decide whose argument we find most compelling. when you get to this part of each lecture it’s hard not to feel like it would have been nice to have a lot more of this, but we can still enjoy what we get. i did the audio version of this course and never had the sense that i was missing anything.
Date published: 2020-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent dissertation with some glaring biases This was a very interesting discourse, and I went into it realizing the bias and lack of true understanding of Christianity by Dr. Magness, as she is straightforward and honest that she was an Educator and Archaeologist, not a Theologian. However, early in the discussion, Dr. Magness discusses Monotheism vs. Monolatry and fails in her objectivity by making an argument that Judaism and Christianity are religions of Monolatry, not Monotheism. Monotheistic means the worship of only one god, while Monolatry is accepting the existence that other gods exist. To establish this thesis, Dr. Magness uses Scripture such as Psalm 86 that says, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,” and other scripture passages to make her point. Dr. Magness steps out of her field into the field of Theology by interpreting Scripture to prove her hypothesis that Judaism and Christianity acknowledges that other “gods” exist besides the God of the Jews and Christianity. Therefore, she states Judaism and Christianity are not truly Monotheistic, or believe in One God, since Scripture acknowledges there are other “deities.’ In doing so, she engages in Scripture interpretation by cherry picking verses or phrases out of context to prove her thesis. She assumes that when Scripture mentions other “gods” that it must be a deity that has true and/or competing spiritual powers to the “God Most High.” Consequently, Dr. Magness concludes the God of Judaism and Christianity have a “chief deity” and not a single deity. It could as well be argued when God said in the ten commandments “You shall have no other gods before me,” God is not necessarily referring to other spiritual deities or secondary or auxiliary “deities” or "deity" to Himself, but is, rather, referring to things that man sets up as “gods” such as wealth, possessions, intellectual prowess, or anything valued more than God. The phrase, “God Most High” in Judaism and Christianity can just as confidently be interpreted as meaning higher than all corporal matters, which man so often sets before himself as ‘gods.’ Dr. Magness uses Daniel 2:47 “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.” This verse is not necessarily expressing validation the God of Israel is a chief deity among a pantheon of deities. That “pantheon” could also be interpreted as the deities that man vests in as ‘gods’ are earthly possessions, power, wealth, etc. The meaning of ‘God Most High’ could also mean God is above all earthly pursuits that man can so easily become consumed by and set up as gods. Reasonably, the phrase “God Most High” describes God as the object of exaltation as being “higher” in rank, in beauty, in title, in intelligence, and in position than anything man sets his sights on to satisfy himself in place of God. Dr. Magness is a very intelligent, well versed in her field, and interesting, but needs to limit her scholarship to her field, and refrain from expressing an authority in the field of Theology by interpreting Scripture. Treating Scripture as a mere historical literary reference neglects the Bible’s perfect missive to separate and be unrestrained from this earthly world where countless false gods threaten to defile man’s soul over the One God Most High.
Date published: 2020-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from pragmatic & open-minded I appreciate Dr. Magness's honesty & disclosure. Earlier in this set of lectures I was wishing she would draw clearer conclusions so I could check some of my own, but later she was. It is valuable to see confirmed that "history" -- particularly in Judeo-protestant scripture -- is written in heavy bias, even prejudice. And with this ethnocentric slant, many a prophecy and voice of God credited to antiquity were actually written/rewritten later with retroactive hindsight, I think to influence the appearance of divine favoritism that we have preserved for an advantage of Western dominance. Near the end, Dr. Magness acknowledges with emphasis that in her study Jesus Christ's attitude was opposite to such postures of exclusive & reactive disqualifying, and was instead inclusive & proactive.
Date published: 2020-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting analysis Enjoyed the course and found the comparison between Judaism and Jesus teaching very fascinating
Date published: 2020-06-09
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Follow an acclaimed archaeologist to unearth the roots of Jesus's actions and teachings within the traditions of early Judaism. This fascinating course approaches the subject from a historical, rather than scriptural, perspective; one rooted in ancient texts and archaeological discoveries. Discover hidden insights into how the tumultuous events of Jewish history shaped an individual whose legacy endures to this day.


Jodi Magness

I love sharing the excitement of archaeology with others.


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dr. Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.A. in Archaeology and History from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. For her engaging teaching, Professor Magness won the Archaeological Institute of America's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Her other honors include a Fulbright Lecturing Award from the United States-Israel Educational Foundation, and fellowships from institutions including the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A trained archaeologist with more than 20 years of field experience, Professor Magness has excavated throughout Israel and in Greece and has codirected excavations of the Roman siege works at Masada and a Roman fort at Yotvata. She is the author of numerous scholarly books on the archaeology of the Holy Land. Among them are The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which won the 2003 Biblical Archaeology Society's Award for Best Popular Book in Archaeology, and The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine, which won the Irene Levi-Sala Book Prize.

By This Professor

Jesus and His Jewish Influences
The Holy Land Revealed
Jesus and His Jewish Influences


Jesus and Judaism

01: Jesus and Judaism

Begin your fascinating historical adventure by developing a solid framework for your exploration of Jesus's Jewish influences. What was it like to be a Jew in the ancient world? What do we mean when we talk about Jewish temples? And how similar was ancient Judaism to other ancient religions....

30 min
Sacred Mountains and Law Giving in Judaism

02: Sacred Mountains and Law Giving in Judaism

In ancient Judaism, there was little distinction between religion and politics. In this lecture, explore the importance of the law (the Torah) in the Jewish religion. Then, draw some intriguing connections between the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai and Jesus's own Sermon on the Mount....

35 min
The United and Divided Israelite Kingdoms

03: The United and Divided Israelite Kingdoms

In this in-depth look at the kingdoms of David and Solomon, follow the transformation of 12 Israelite tribes into a monarchy that eventually crumbled over tensions regarding how to properly worship the God of Israel. Along the way, probe controversies that lie at the heart of modern scholarship's hottest debates....

31 min
The Destruction of Solomon's Temple

04: The Destruction of Solomon's Temple

How (and why) did the First Temple Period end? First, examine the reign of King Josiah, whose popular religious reforms reasserted the importance of Jerusalem's Temple. Then, investigate the Temple's traumatic destruction-and its relationship to Gospel accounts about the destruction of the Second Temple....

30 min
The Jewish and Samaritan Schism

05: The Jewish and Samaritan Schism

After the end of the Babylonian exile in 539 B.C., returning exiles began to reestablish themselves in Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah. This return would lead to a dramatic schism between Jews and Samaritans-one which, as you'll learn, would influence encounters with Samaritans in Jesus's own time....

36 min
The Jewish Diaspora and the Golden Rule

06: The Jewish Diaspora and the Golden Rule

What insights into the ancient Jewish diaspora communities can we glean from close readings of the Book of Tobit and the Book of Esther? What do these books say about holiness and the treatment of other people (the "golden rule" of Jesus's time)? Join the fascinating historical-literary debate....

28 min
Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews

07: Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews

Alexander the Great's legendary visit to Jerusalem and Judea had a profound influence on the development of ancient Jewish traditions. Could the ancient warrior also have served as a model for the mythical Jesus? Professor Magness illuminates possible narrative parallels between these two iconic figures of Western history....

31 min
Jews and Greek Rule: The Heliodorus Affair

08: Jews and Greek Rule: The Heliodorus Affair

Investigate the strange episode known as the Heliodorus Affair. This power struggle between Jerusalem's elite families during the time of the Ptolemies and Seleucids became a key turning point in the history of Jews in Judea. We also see echoes of this conflict in Gospel accounts of taxation....

30 min
Desolating Sacrilege and the Maccabean Revolt

09: Desolating Sacrilege and the Maccabean Revolt

Follow the turbulent story of the Maccabean Revolt after the outlawing of Judaism under Antiochus IV. Then, examine how the Book of Daniel (written around the time of the revolt) dealt with the concept of "desolating sacrilege," and how this is repeated in Jesus's own prophesies about the destruction of the Temple....

29 min
Apocalyptic Works and the

10: Apocalyptic Works and the "Son of Man"

From 1 and 2 Maccabees to the Books of Daniel and Enoch, get a close reading of apocalyptic literary works composed in the aftermath of the Maccabean Revolt. Afterwards, Professor Magness probes possible meanings of the term "son of man" in both the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels....

32 min
Jesus's Jewish Lineage

11: Jesus's Jewish Lineage

Learn how the expansion of the Hasmonean Kingdom provides a sharp context for understanding the birth narratives of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The authors of these Gospels went to great lengths to establish Jesus's descent from David. The question is: Why?...

31 min
Was Jesus a Pharisee?

12: Was Jesus a Pharisee?

In this lecture, probe the rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees during the late Second Temple Period. You'll learn how the Pharisaic approach became dominant in Judaism, and you'll spend time investigating what the Gospels say about whether or not Jesus identified as a Pharisee....

30 min
Jewish Ritual Purity: The Sons of Light

13: Jewish Ritual Purity: The Sons of Light

Turn from the Pharisees to the Essenes, the sect associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the first of three lectures on this fascinating sect, focus on how a strict system of ritual purity was a fundamental part of everyday life at Qumran (the site where the Scrolls were found)....

28 min
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Earliest Hebrew Bible

14: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Earliest Hebrew Bible

Unpack the hidden meaning and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves-some of ancient history's most fascinating texts, which date back to the time of Jesus. Among the findings you'll explore here: early copies of the Hebrew Bible, fragments of a Greek translation of the Septuagint, and early biblical commentaries....

32 min
Was Jesus an Essene?

15: Was Jesus an Essene?

Most of what scholars know about the Essenes, and their apocalyptic outlook, comes from the ancient historians Josephus and Philo. After a deeper dive into who the Essenes were (and how Essene women lived), Professor Magness makes her case for why Jesus could not have been an Essene....

32 min
The Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint

16: The Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint

First, examine the "Letter of Aristeas," which describes translating the Torah into Greek. Then, meet Philo of Alexandria, whose writings (preserved by Christians) are based on an allegorical method of interpreting the Bible. Finally, using a passage from Isaiah, discover why Jews eventually came to reject the authority of the Septuagint translation....

32 min
The Reign of Herod the Great

17: The Reign of Herod the Great

What are the historical roots of the often-disputed Massacre of the Innocents reported in the Gospel of Matthew? Find out in this lecture on the reign of Herod the Great, a man notorious for killing members of his own family and best remembered for his biblical campaign of infanticide....

32 min
Pontius Pilate: A Roman Prefect

18: Pontius Pilate: A Roman Prefect

Following the death of Herod the Great, there began a period of direct Roman administration of Judea under prefects, the most famous of whom was Pontius Pilate, who would later oversee the trial of Jesus. Learn the historical backstory of both this figure and another contemporary of Jesus, Herod Antipas....

28 min
Anarchy in Judea

19: Anarchy in Judea

In the first half of this lecture, examine the growing anarchy that led to the First Jewish Revolt against Rome-including the rise of others who, like Jesus, claimed to be the messiah. Then, follow the story (as related by Josephus) of the trial and execution of Jesus's brother, James the Just....

30 min
Jesus's Prophecy: Jerusalem's Destruction

20: Jesus's Prophecy: Jerusalem's Destruction

The First Jewish Revolt against Rome culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Explore how this cataclysmic event had profound aftershocks for subsequent Jewish history-as well as early traditions surrounding Jesus (for example, the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" in the Gospel of Matthew)....

30 min
Flavius Josephus: Witness to 1st Century A.D .

21: Flavius Josephus: Witness to 1st Century A.D .

One cannot explore Jesus and his Jewish influences without understanding the life and works of Flavius Josephus, the ancient Jewish author who was a witness to the period during and after the life of Jesus. Here, learn how his fascinating historical writings complement what the Gospel authors relate....

27 min
Rabbinic Judaism's Traditions about Jesus

22: Rabbinic Judaism's Traditions about Jesus

What was Jewish life like after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.? How did the religion survive this trauma? With insights from various historical sources, chart the rise of Rabbinic Judaism-the literature of Jewish sages who portray Jesus as an illegitimate child and magician....

31 min
Jesus's Apocalyptic Outlook

23: Jesus's Apocalyptic Outlook

Join Professor Magness as she shares some of her own research into Jesus, comparing and contrasting his apocalyptic beliefs with those of the Qumran sect associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. As you'll discover, one cannot understand Jesus's exorcisms and healings without understanding the notion of apocalyptic purity....

29 min
Jesus's Teachings and Sayings in Context

24: Jesus's Teachings and Sayings in Context

Close out this insightful course with a pointed consideration of how selected passages from the Gospels can be better understood within their Jewish context. The three passages you explore involve the concept of Hell, Jesus's cleansing of the Temple, and John's account of Jesus's healing of a blind man....

31 min