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Jesus and the Gospels

Encounter Jesus as we know him from the composite literary portrait drawn for us by canonical gospels and apocryphal narratives in this course by award-winning author and Professor Luke Timothy Johnson.
Jesus and the Gospels is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 87.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent for Intermediate-Level Student It seems to me that this course is like a seminary survey course. Dr. Johnson pre-supposes a familiarity with the Gospels. If you are not familiar with the Gospels in the Christian Bible, I suspect this course will be hard for you to follow. However, the more familiar you are with these Gospels, the more valuable this course will be for you. This course is about ancient books in the Christian tradition that talk about the life of Jesus. Four of the books are the Gospels of the Christian Bible (which is itself a collection of 66 books written over a period of more than 1,000 years). However, this course also addresses gospels not contained in the Christian Bible, gospels that are rejected by Christians today or at the most considered non-authoritative. Dr. Johnson takes a literary approach (“What does the document say?”) as opposed to a historical approach (“What can we scientifically verify about the document claims?”). Dr. Bart Ehrman offers several The Great Courses (TGC) courses that take a historical approach. I recommend that the listener take both professors. Dr. Johnson is a widely-recognized and highly-regarded scholar with emphasis on the New Testament (i.e., the parts of the Christian Bible from the birth of Jesus onward). He is a former Roman Catholic monk and he approaches the topic as an insider. Although Dr. Johnson obviously has a traditional Roman Catholic perspective, all his material is also accepted by Protestants. Thus, he conveys to the student what traditional Christians believe but he never tries to “convert” the student. Dr. Johnson presents this material as an “insider.” For an outsider counter-perspective, take the courses by Dr. Ehrman. The first lecture, “Why Not ‘The Historical Jesus’?’, should be a pre-requisite to any course by Dr. Ehrman. In this lecture, Dr. Johnson discusses the uses and limits of a historical approach to understanding Jesus. Lectures 2-8 set the stage in terms of history and culture. Lectures 9-24 discuss each of the four Gospels in the Christian Bible – those of Mark (Lectures 9-12), Matthew (Lectures 13-16), Luke (Lectures 17-20), and John (Lectures 21-24). Dr. Johnson discusses the unique perspective and contribution of each gospel writer. He discusses how they overlap and how they interact with each other. Lecture 20 addresses the book of Acts in the Christian Bible; although it is not a gospel per se, it is a continuation of the gospel of Luke. Lectures 25-34 discuss gospels not in the Christian Bible, so-called apocryphal gospels. The final two lectures, Lectures 35-36, addresses the relationship between these many gospels and the one person Jesus and why Jesus is such a compelling figure even today. The course guide is one of the better course guides by The Great Courses. Although its rare graphics contribute little or nothing to the content, the guide does include a useful timeline, an extensive glossary, biographical notes, and a bibliography. The bibliography includes a short description of why that reference is useful. I have used both the audio and video versions of this course. The video graphics add little. The course can be taken in audio-only mode, such as while jogging or driving a car, without loss of content. Oddly, I find Dr. Johnson a much more engaging speaker in the video version; I don’t think I’ve encountered that disparity with any other speaker in The Great Courses stable. The course was published in 2004.
Date published: 2022-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Great course, interesting and filling! Much to learn from.
Date published: 2021-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is one of the best courses we have bought and we have purchases many.
Date published: 2021-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Need Much More Time I bought this program because I wanted to watch it at my leisure. Like many, if not most, people I'm extremely busy. This survey is too much too soon.
Date published: 2020-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historically accurate. I grew up going to church, reading the Bible, and felt reasonably educated about the Gospels. Boy, did I have lots to learn. What I love about this series, is Professor Johnson is so knowledgeable of the times, an expert in reading the original gospels in Greek and if so very entertaining as well. He is a man you would just love to be able to sit down and pick his brain. It is a series I will be watching over and over again.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Erudition ... With Feeling I’ve always thought it a treat to watch/listen to Dr Luke Timothy Johnson as he “teaches … not preaches” his religious courses. This course packs a lot of information that will satisfy the intellectual curiosity of the non-believer as well as the believer. There are many great and thoughtful reviews here already, and I need not offer further detail. (See the review of “Challenger,” who has penned many outstanding reviews for different courses herein.) If I may offer a suggestion regarding “Essential Reading” that really is crucial for one's understanding of the related lectures (after the lectures on canonical Gospels): Some of the texts indicated can be easily found online via search engine. Those that I was unable to find online, I found in a 2014 book by TGC’s Prof Bart D. Ehrman (and Zlatko Plese), “The Other Gospels,” (Amazon, available in Kindle with active Table Of Contents, as well as hard copy) – Each work is accompanied by an introduction. I highly recommend this book to you as an adjunct to this course, as well as for its additional texts. All in all, this course has been, for me, a great learning experience.
Date published: 2020-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and interesting! A forceful, information-packed survey of what can and cannot be known of the Jesus of history. First class!
Date published: 2020-05-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Point of View of an Apologetic This is a course that takes historical facts here and there, interprets them with disregard to context, logic and common sense when they conflict with his believes. Had he stated at the beginning that the material is presented from the point of view of the faithful I would have understood his position and not assumed that his course was a scholarly work. The course deserves zero stars but since one star is reserved for the worst, which is Islam by professor Esposito, two stars have to make it.
Date published: 2020-04-14
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Overview

Who was Jesus? Is it possible to shape a single picture from the various accounts of his life? Jesus and the Gospels examines the canonical Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John familiar to us from the New Testament, as well as the many other, apocryphal narratives and literary works that have contributed to our perceptions of Jesus, Mary, and Christianity. Award-winning Professor Luke Timothy Johnson designed his course to examine the Gospels as literary productions. The lectures seek to encounter not the Jesus behind those compositions, but the Jesus found within them.

About

Luke Timothy Johnson

I strive to make philosophy accessible and lovable to everyone. If everyone embraced philosophy, the world would be a much better place.

INSTITUTION

Emory University

Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Johnson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Yale University, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, an M.Div. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. A former Benedictine monk, Professor Johnson has taught at Yale Divinity School and Indiana University, where he received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, was elected a member of the Faculty Colloquium in Teaching, and won the Brown Derby Teaching Award and the Student Choice Award for teaching. At Emory University, he has twice received the On Eagle's Wings Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007 he received the Candler School of Theology Outstanding Service Award. His most recent award is the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity. Professor Johnson is the author of more than 20 books, including The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels and The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, which is widely used as a textbook. He has also published several hundred scholarly articles and reviews.

By This Professor

Great World Religions: Christianity
854
The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation
854
Why Not

01: Why Not "The Historical Jesus"?

This opening lecture shows how history is and is not helpful in learning about Jesus and why a comparative literary analysis of the Gospels is at once a more responsible and satisfying way to engage this fascinating yet illusive person.

31 min
The Starting Point—The Resurrection Experience

02: The Starting Point—The Resurrection Experience

Virtually everything we know about Jesus comes from Christian sources. This lecture takes up the starting point for engaging Jesus: the distinctive Christian understanding of the resurrection.

30 min
The Matrix—Symbolic World of Greek and Jew

03: The Matrix—Symbolic World of Greek and Jew

This lecture introduces the complex 1st-century mixture from which Jesus and the Gospels arose, including Mediterranean culture, Greek ideals and realities, Roman governance, and the religion of Israel.

30 min
Parallels—Stories of Greek and Jewish Heroes

04: Parallels—Stories of Greek and Jewish Heroes

This lecture provides a context for approaching the distinctive character of the Christian Gospels through a survey of stories told about other significant figures in Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures.

30 min
The Context—Jesus in the Memory of the Church

05: The Context—Jesus in the Memory of the Church

The Gospels are compositions from the communal memory of the earliest Christian movement. This lecture sketches the first stages of that movement and the social settings within which Jesus was remembered.

30 min
Earliest Stages—Paul and the Oral Tradition

06: Earliest Stages—Paul and the Oral Tradition

Over a period of some 40 years, the memory of Jesus was shaped by the continuing experience of believers in communities. We consider the basic patterns of memory found in the oral tradition.

31 min
Why Compose Gospels?

07: Why Compose Gospels?

The writings of Gospels represented a real shift in the understanding of "good news." The answer to the question "Why compose Gospels?" leads to a consideration of the nature of the Gospels.

30 min
The Synoptic Problem and Its Solutions

08: The Synoptic Problem and Its Solutions

Three of the canonical Gospels are alike and different in striking and puzzling ways. This lecture exposes what is known as the synoptic problem and offers solutions, including a discussion of the hypothetical source of sayings known as "Q."

31 min
Gospel of Mark—Apocalyptic and Irony

09: Gospel of Mark—Apocalyptic and Irony

This lecture deals with the literary aspects of Mark, particularly the creation of dramatic tension, the apocalyptic outlook of the Gospel, and the ironic way the evangelist turns apocalyptic.

30 min
Gospel of Mark—Good News in Mystery

10: Gospel of Mark—Good News in Mystery

This lecture examines the powerful and paradoxical Jesus created by Mark. For humans, it is a mystery that both attracts and repels.

31 min
Gospel of Mark—Teacher and Disciples

11: Gospel of Mark—Teacher and Disciples

The drama of discipleship in Mark's narrative instructs readers concerning their allegiance to Jesus. Readers are to imitate him, not his first followers.

31 min
Gospel of Mark—Passion and Death

12: Gospel of Mark—Passion and Death

Mark has prepared his readers for Jesus' suffering and death by a series of prophetic statements, but the importance of Jesus' death—and the way he died—is shown by the amount of attention Mark gives to Jesus' last days.

31 min
Gospel of Matthew—Synagogue Down the Street

13: Gospel of Matthew—Synagogue Down the Street

Because Matthew uses Mark's Gospel in constructing his own version of the good news, it is possible to deduce with considerable confidence his own interests, which point to a context of competition and conversation with Pharisaic Judaism.

31 min
Gospel of Matthew—The Messiah of Israel

14: Gospel of Matthew—The Messiah of Israel

Matthew's concern with proving that Jesus is the Messiah spoken of by the prophets is shown by the genealogy with which his Gospel opens, his infancy account, and his use of explicit scriptural citations.

31 min
Gospel of Matthew—Jesus and Torah

15: Gospel of Matthew—Jesus and Torah

Matthew's Gospel not only shows that Jesus' life fulfills messianic expectations as expressed in Torah, but also shows Jesus as the definitive interpreter and very personification of Torah.

30 min
Gospel of Matthew—Teacher and Lord

16: Gospel of Matthew—Teacher and Lord

Matthew's careful redaction of Mark's use of "Teacher" and "Lord" shows that Jesus is understood as the risen Lord who teaches the church. No other Gospel gives such explicit attention to the instruction of the church as such.

31 min
Luke-Acts—The Prophetic Gospel

17: Luke-Acts—The Prophetic Gospel

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles form a single literary composition in two volumes that can properly be called "Luke's Gospel."

31 min
Gospel of Luke—God’s Prophet

18: Gospel of Luke—God’s Prophet

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus is presented as a prophet, delivering a radical message of reversal of human norms in the name of God's visitation.

30 min
Gospel of Luke—The Prophet and the People

19: Gospel of Luke—The Prophet and the People

This lecture examines Luke's portrayal of Jesus' call for a real conversion, along with the distinctive passion account that shifts blame toward Jewish leaders and away from ordinary Jewish people.

30 min
Acts of the Apostles—The  Prophet's Movement

20: Acts of the Apostles—The Prophet's Movement

Jesus' followers prove themselves to be prophetic and radical successors, including extending Jesus' understanding of God's people by an even more radical inclusion: accepting the Gentiles into the people without circumcision and the obligation to observe the Law.

30 min
Gospel of John—Context of Conflict

21: Gospel of John—Context of Conflict

Asking about the relationship between the Synoptics and the very different Gospel of John leads to the consideration of John's style, structure, and symbolism, and the discovery of something far more complex than the simple and straightforward account of an eyewitness.

30 min
Gospel of John—Jesus as the Man from Heaven

22: Gospel of John—Jesus as the Man from Heaven

John's powerful portrait of Jesus combines a constant insistence on his full humanity, while also portraying him as the revelation of God.

30 min
Gospel of John—Jesus as Obedient Son

23: Gospel of John—Jesus as Obedient Son

John's Gospel has sometimes been considered the most anti-Semitic New Testament composition. This lecture considers the complex ways it engages the world of Judaism.

31 min
Gospel of John—Witness to the Truth

24: Gospel of John—Witness to the Truth

In John's Gospel, the most extensive teaching of his followers takes place after the close of Jesus' public ministry. John portrays Jesus' death and resurrection in terms of the "hour" of his "being lifted up" and "glorified."

31 min
In and Out—Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels

25: In and Out—Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels

This lecture sketches the historical process of canonization in early Christianity, touches on some of the implications of the distinction between canonical and apocryphal, and provides an overview of the apocryphal Gospels.

31 min
Young Jesus—The Infancy Gospel of James

26: Young Jesus—The Infancy Gospel of James

The Protevangelium of James is an excellent example of how apocryphal Gospels sought to fill the gaps in the story of Jesus and is the source of many of the artistic conventions connected to the figures of Joseph and Mary.

30 min
Young Jesus—The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

27: Young Jesus—The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas illustrates how, in some Christian circles, convictions concerning the divinity of Christ tended to obscure his full humanity.

30 min
Jewish Christian Narrative Gospels

28: Jewish Christian Narrative Gospels

Here Dr. Johnson examines what is known about the narratives ascribed to followers of Jesus who also remained faithful to the Jewish heritage of Torah observance.

31 min
Fragments of Narrative Gospels—Gospel of Peter

29: Fragments of Narrative Gospels—Gospel of Peter

This lecture looks at a Gospel mentioned in ancient canonical lists; nothing more was known about it until the late 19th century with the discovery of a single manuscript containing a portion of it.

31 min
New Revelations—Gnostic Witnesses

30: New Revelations—Gnostic Witnesses

This lecture introduces Gnosticism and discusses two of the "Gospels" that were known before the discovery of the Gnostic library at Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Bartholomew and the Pistis Sophia.

31 min
Jesus in Word—The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

31: Jesus in Word—The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

Even more than the Gospel of Peter, the Coptic composition discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1947 has generated interest and controversy, especially concerning the figure of the historical Jesus.

30 min
Jesus in Word—Two Gnostic Gospels

32: Jesus in Word—Two Gnostic Gospels

This lecture looks at two compositions from the Gnostic library at Nag Hammadi, one showing Jesus in dialogue with some of his followers and the other containing a commotion-causing portrayal of Jesus and Mary.

31 min
The Gnostic Good News—The Gospel of Truth

33: The Gnostic Good News—The Gospel of Truth

One of the most impressive and original compositions in the Nag Hammadi library is a composition identified in antiquity as The Gospel of Truth, a theological reflection on the meaning of Jesus.

31 min
The Gnostic Good News—The Gospel of Philip

34: The Gnostic Good News—The Gospel of Philip

This lecture examines another "Gospel" that bears little resemblance to the narrative versions found in the New Testament, a strange and beautiful set of reflections on the life of the Gnostic Christian.

31 min
Jesus in and Through the Gospels

35: Jesus in and Through the Gospels

This lecture addresses some of the implications of the Gospels, wonders at the mysterious figure who inspired them, and marvels at the movement that encompassed so many impressions of him.

30 min
Learning Jesus in Past and Present

36: Learning Jesus in Past and Present

This final lecture takes up some of the ways Jesus continues to excite the imagination, both through the work of historians, theologians, and artists, and through the liturgical reading, art, and music of Christians at worship.

31 min