Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation
01: The Bible as Dialogue
Start your immersive journey into the books of the Old and New Testaments with this illuminating introductory lecture. By breaking down the Bible into its different books and narrative styles, you'll start to think of it not as a single book-but rather as a fascinating dialogue spanning centuries.
02: Creation and Chaos in Genesis
[Genesis 1-11] Travel back to biblical accounts of the dawn of time in Genesis and start to think critically about how its stories work as a narrative. By unpacking familiar tales from the book's first 11 chapters, you'll gain a fresh perspective on how God creates, destroys, confuses, and renews.Travel back to biblical accounts of the dawn of time in Genesis and start to think critically about ho...
03: Abraham, Sarah, and the Promise
[Genesis 12-25] Abraham's spiritual legacy is nothing short of profound-yet his story also includes some little-appreciated humor. Delve into the biblical text and consider how Israel's patriarch is portrayed in Genesis 12-25. How is the overarching theme of promises reflected in his relationships with Sarah, Isaac, and God? Get to know Abraham as both exemplary and short-sighted-a much more relat...
04: Jacob, Joseph, and Reconciliation
[Genesis 25-50] According to Professor Koester, the biblical stories of Jacob and Joseph are rooted in perennial themes of familial conflict and reconciliation. In this lecture, ponder the significance of disguises and dreams: how they propel the narrative forward and how they reflect the underlying mystery of God's will.
05: Moses and the Drama of the Exodus
[Exodus 1-15] Both encouraging and threatening, Exodus 1 15 is one of the Bible's most thrilling stories. First, consider the story's literary setting (and its surprising humor). Then, discover its focus on two different forms of power: God's and pharaoh's. Finally, see how the events in Exodus have resonated throughout subsequent history.
06: Freedom and Law at Mount Sinai
[Exodus 16-40] What happens after an enslaved people are set free? How is freedom lived out? Continue exploring Exodus with chapters 16 40, in which ancient laws and ideas of freedom begin to take root. Along the way, you'll study different interpretations of "manna" and break down the different groupings of the Ten Commandments.
07: Israel's Wandering in the Wilderness
[Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy] Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy-three biblical books everyday readers find challenging to read and relate to their own lives. But with Professor Koester's insights, you'll come to see these books (with all their strange ancient rituals) as vital to a complete understanding of the Bible's narrative movement from Mount Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land.
08: Violence and Kindness in the Promised Land
[Joshua, Judges, Ruth] Turn now to Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, which challenge the idea of the Promised Land as a place of simple peace and prosperity. In comparing these three books, you'll witness disturbing accounts of violent conquest and explore the tragic consequences of that violence, and yet you'll also encounter remarkable instances of acceptance and welcome of foreigners.
09: Saul, the Tragic King
[1 Samuel] Why is the story of King Saul, who united Israel's twelve tribes, one of the world's great tragedies? Find out in this lecture, which approaches 1 Samuel as a three-act drama recounting Saul's rise to power as Israel's first king-and the path of his tragic, Shakespearean downfall.
10: David and Nation Building
[2 Samuel] Go beyond the heroic portrayals of David in Western art to reveal the vibrant heart of the fascinating figure described in 2 Samuel. You'll read between the lines of David's early triumphs, his relationship with God, his infidelity and brutality, and the tragic shattering of relationships within his own family....
11: Solomon, a Study in Contradictions
[1 Kings 1-11] Throughout the story of Solomon in 1 Kings, splendor and oppression go hand in hand. Were all the impressive results of Solomon's monarchy (including his iconic temple) worth the human suffering? Consider this perplexing question as you encounter a king who was both ruthless and wise.
12: Psalms: The Bible's Songbook
[Psalms] Packed with poems, prayers, and song lyrics, the Bible's 150 psalms are an evocative blend of hope, despair, anger, and contemplation. Here, consider the four different types found in the book of Psalms: songs of praise, prayers for help, psalms of gratitude, and psalms expressing trust.
13: Biblical Wisdom Literature
[Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job] Questions about the meaning of life abound in the Bible's books of wisdom literature: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Join Professor Koester as he unpacks each book's distinctive character and outlook, the answers it offers to life's questions (sometimes straightforward, sometimes nebulous), and its contribution to a fascinating dialogue on how to live.
14: Elijah, the Troubler of Israel
[1 and 2 Kings] Continue on to 1 and 2 Kings and follow the story of the prophet Elijah. You'll examine his challenges to the god Baal, his flair for street theater, his tendency toward self-absorption, his earthly departure in a whirlwind, and, most important, his story's promise of a new beginning.
15: Justice and Love in Amos and Hosea
[Amos, Hosea] Discover how the prophets Amos and Hosea shattered the idea of spiritual indifference. First, learn how Amos portrayed a God committed to social justice and a society where people were treated decently. Then, learn Hosea's views on a rejected, angry God who wants to be reconciled with the people he loves.
16: Isaiah on Defiant Hope
[Isaiah] Go beyond the book of Isaiah's prophetic imagery to focus on the narrative's powerful, lasting visions of hope-and some of its disturbing passages on warfare and injustice. As you'll discover, these contradictions offer numerous challenges and rewards for the attentive reader who refuses to give in to despair.
17: Jeremiah on Anguish and Compassion
[Jeremiah] The book of Jeremiah takes as its goal the reconciliation between God and Israel. How does the prophet hope to achieve this? Find out by studying Jeremiah's vision of national transformation in the context of the larger geopolitics of ancient Israel-and the collision point of love, anger, grief, and longing.
18: Babylonian Conquest and Exile
[2 Kings, Lamentations, Habakkuk] In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Explore the trauma of this cataclysmic moment through three biblical books: 2 Kings, which tries to explain the events of the loss of Jerusalem; Lamentations, which gives voice to the anger and grief of exile; and Habakkuk, which helps us come to terms with life's unanswered questions.
19: Ezekiel on Abandonment and Homecoming
[Ezekiel] Experience the dislocation of the Babylonian Exile with a close reading of the book of Ezekiel's perspectives on abandonment and homecoming. You'll trace this movement from Chapters 1¬-32 (which castigate the people for abandoning God to idolatry) to Chapters 33-48 (which include stirring visions of renewal).
20: Jewish Identity and Rebuilding after Exile
[Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah] What did it mean to be Jewish after the Babylonian Exile? Professor Koester examines biblical books that offer differing perspectives. On one end: Ezra and Nehemiah, which define Israel by the temple, Jewish law, and Jerusalem. On the other: Jonah, where Israel's identity is defined by the way it relates to the other peoples around it.
21: Esther, Daniel, and Life under Empire
[Esther, Daniel] Delightful and playful, the books of Esther and Daniel tell stories of life under the Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek empires. Here, you'll learn how these two important biblical heroes respectively illustrate the value of human initiative and the call for resistance against injustice and oppression.
22: Resistance, Adaptation, and the Maccabees
[1 Maccabees] Dive into Jewish life under Greek rule in the 2nd century BC in 1 Maccabees. View the struggle for Jewish independence as a dramatic story marked by the tension between resistance and adaptation. Also, consider the debate over whether or not this book truly belongs in the Bible.
23: Jesus as Messiah in Mark
[Mark 1-10] Begin your look the New Testament with the first of several lectures on the four gospels-the narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In Mark (which was likely the first to be written), you'll be reintroduced to the powerful story that continues to captivate people around the world.
24: Mark on the Crucifixion and Resurrection
[Mark 11-16] Continue examining the gospel of Mark, this time focusing on the infamous trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. Also, consider why this gospel ends so abruptly and how it suggests to readers the mystery of God's kingdom-and the role of suffering and sacrifice within it.
25: The Dynamics of Forgiveness in Matthew
[Matthew] Learn how Matthew reshaped the story of Jesus in startling new ways, specifically with its ideas on forgiveness. Start by confronting Jesus's relationship to Israel's heritage. Then, read between the lines of the iconic Sermon on the Mount. Finally, examine the coexistence of faith and doubt during Jesus's resurrection.
26: Luke on a World Upside Down
[Luke] The gospel of Luke is home to some of the New Testament's best-loved passages. Here, Professor Koester asks you to consider the more subversive dimensions of Luke's narrative. How do the inaugural sermon at Nazareth and the parables of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son challenge established patterns? How do they demonstrate the values espoused by Jesus?
27: John on the Word Made Flesh
[John 1-12] In the first of two lectures on the gospel of John, probe the first 12 chapters of this book's poetic prose, which takes readers back to the dawn of time. What does it mean for Jesus to embody the word of God in the flesh? Consider possible answers in this most distinctive account of Jesus's life.
28: Self-Giving Love According to John
[John 13-21] If Jesus is the giver of life, how does his crucifixion fit into the New Testament's larger spiritual narrative? To consider this question, you'll have to find new ways to think about events like the Last Supper, the Farewell Discourses, the crucifixion itself, and the story of doubting Thomas.
29: The Early Church in Acts
[Acts 1-10] Turn to subsequent texts of the New Testament, which take up the struggle to understand Jesus and what it means to live by his message. The Acts of the Apostles, you'll find, is a fascinating narrative that shows the Christian community being transformed as it welcomed Jews, Greeks, and Romans.
30: Paul's Calling
[Acts 9-17] One of early Christianity's most controversial figures is Paul. In this look at the apostle's life and mission, you'll learn how to see his preaching as an extension of older biblical texts and an attempt to connect the new Christian faith to other belief systems and patterns of life.
31: Paul and the Roman Empire
[Acts 17-28, 1 Thessalonians] Paul's travels to cities like Corinth and Philippi, and his letters to the Christian communities there, offer a lens into the relationship between early Christianity and the Roman Empire. From conflicts between Jesus's kingship and Roman imperial rule to the events of Paul's imprisonment, consider some narrative and spiritual challenges faced by the writer of Acts.
32: Paul's Letters to a Community in Conflict
[1 and 2 Corinthians] While in Ephesus, Paul wrote letters now known as 1 and 2 Corinthians to the Christian community of Corinth. Here, unpack the four major sections of these two iconic letters to a conflicted community, which offer insights into Paul's views on the cross, the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and reconciliation.
33: Freedom and the Law in Paul's Letters
[Galatians, Romans] Continue your exploration of Paul's letters, this time by studying the correspondence he wrote to the Galatians and the Romans. In these letters, you'll find some of Paul's most provocative ideas about freedom and law-ideas that would play a profound role in shaping subsequent Christian communities.
34: Paul on Gender Roles and Slavery
[Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, 1 Timothy] What did Paul have to say about women and about slaves? We find different viewpoints in the letters known as Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, and 1 Timothy. How do these texts relate social roles to Christian love? How might they reflect patterns of community life that were changing over time?
35: Letters for Sojourners
[Hebrews, James, 1 Peter] Paul wasn't the only letter writer in the New Testament. Join Professor Koester for a discussion of the books of Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter, which sought to comfort and inspire early Christian outsiders through keeping the faith, focusing on integrity, and questioning what it means to "belong."
36: Revelation's Vision of New Creation
[Revelation] Conclude the course with a lecture on perhaps the most evocative, unsettling, and yet hopeful book in the Bible: Revelation. After considering the narrative's vivid word pictures, dramatic plot, and unforgettable characters, you'll see how Revelation fits into a comprehensive, informed reading of the entire Bible.