Story of the Bible

Led by a renowned scholar, trace the development of biblical texts across millennia. You'll get invaluable insight into the remarkable and complicated process by which the Bible came into being.
Story of the Bible is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 70.
  • y_2021, m_9, d_16, h_21
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.19
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_5, tr_65
  • loc_en_CA, sid_6252, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getAggregateRating, 35.8ms
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite a survey! This is the closest to a real college lecture series I've encountered in the Great Courses. It is thorough, casts a wide net, and holds nothing back -- including the big words used by scholars. I take that to be a good thing. I highly recommend the set to anyone seriously interested in how the Bible evolved and was received across space and time.
Date published: 2021-07-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting history about the Scriptures Good general history survey about the translations of the Bible throughout history. I have always enjoyed Professor Luke Timothy Johnson as a teacher.
Date published: 2021-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Marvelously executed I've been studying this, and related, area for nearly nearly 20 years what a masterful recapitulation of Wstern civilization
Date published: 2021-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History not Theology This is the third course I’ve taken from Professor Johnson and I am once again quite pleased. He tackles a subject (religion) that always causes quite a bit of controversy in the subsequent reviews. It is a testament to this course and Dr. Johnson, that the number of critical reviews is minimal and the number of those with low rankings that are due to issues of theology are very few indeed. While this may not seem to be much of an achievement, anyone who has read the reviews of most courses on religion, especially the Christian one, will realize that some of these reviews are more due to emotion and whether the course is in accordance with the reviewers own philosophy and theology. Once again Dr. Johnson presents his subject with a minimum of his own religious background intruding into his largely historical perspective. He begins at the beginning, with the making of the Tanak and the development Jewish Bible. If I have any criticism of this course it would be that he covers this in two or two-and-a-half lectures, devoting most of the course to the Christian Bible. To be sure he does return to the Jewish Bible during many of the following lectures and does include a late lecture on the contemporary Jewish Bible. For me, the real depth of the course was in the problems with determining exactly what should be in the bible, both in terms of what constitutes its content (the canon) and how the contents of that canon should be accurately translated from the Greek and Hebrew. I was most impressed with Professor Johnson’s ability to dispassionately discuss such sensitive issues as the translation from Hebrew or Greek to other languages of words that wind up being central to theology (e.g. virgin). His commentary on the need for continued new translations was also enlightening. As with his other courses, Dr. Johnson speaks clearly and concisely. It should be noted that some reviewers object to his word choices, although I don’t remember that he was pedantic. The course flows logically from antiquity to the present day (and perhaps a bit beyond) and within that flow each lecture is well constructed. One never has to consider why he chose to put one subject in front of another. I took the course mostly on audio , only looking at the video occasionally and I think that audio is fine. Highly recommended and I’ll continue to take other courses from this professor.
Date published: 2020-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative Not sure what I expected from this course, but was very pleasantly surprised. A lot I did not know and had never ever thought about. I always took the Bible for granted, but this course really made me think. How did a collection of stories become the basis of 2 religions? Who decided? Why? Fascinating history of it all. A must course for everyone, religious and non.
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Replete With Relative Information This was indeed the story of a book and how it came to actually be a book. We learn of the processes and controversies surrounding the book's content, use, source documents, format and translations. I found this course fascinating and highly recommend it.
Date published: 2020-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Biblical study This is an absolutely first rate course for anyone interested in the history and origins of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The expertise and depth of knowledge of the Instructor is beyond dispute. He clearly loves his subject and is not afraid to point out facts that sometimes challenge conventional wisdom, as well as sharing differing opinions and letting the viewer make up their minds. He is a joy to listen to and has answered all the questions that i have about the makeup and history of the Bible.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than Expected I was really hoping this course would be just what it is - details and good ones! Of how and when and why and who.....I love that it exceeds expectations. There are no graphics of any kind except the occasional word and I have been taking tours of countries that are nearly all visual. BUT this professor is so engaging and so into his subject that I do not miss them. The twinkle in his eye says he not only has taught this stuff a lot, but he loves it. And the materials covered so far are just what I wanted. Who decided the books of the Bible, how was it translated, what King did what with it, etc. He presents all sides without a lot judging or rationalizing. Just facts. So, to me, it is fascinating, fulfilling and has loads of stuff to pass along to my Sunday School class just for the joy of knowing. Thank you Professor Johnson! And God bless you.
Date published: 2020-03-07
  • y_2021, m_9, d_16, h_21
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.19
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_5, tr_65
  • loc_en_CA, sid_6252, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 4.5ms


Is the Bible a divinely inspired message, the work of human authors, or both? Translated and distributed all over the world, it bears the mark of the many cultures that have debated its meaning and prized its wisdom. In this course, Luke Timothy Johnson can illuminate for you the remarkable and complicated process by which this important book came into being.


Luke Timothy Johnson
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.


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
The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation
Telling the Story of a Book

01: Telling the Story of a Book

The Bible is a book of stories; but the Bible as a book has a fascinating story of its own. In this lecture, we review the Bible's powerful influence throughout Western history and begin to consider the complex process by which this important text was composed....

32 min
Making TaNaK

02: Making TaNaK

We explore the contents and early formation of the Hebrew Bible (or TaNaK, an acronym derived from three ancient compositions, Torah, Nebiim, and Ketubim), and trace how this collection of ancient compositions arose from a centuries-long process of oral and written tradition....

30 min
Forms of Jewish Scripture

03: Forms of Jewish Scripture

By the 1st century B.C.E., the Jewish Bible is both a unifying symbol and an emblem of Jewish diversity as communities across the Diaspora adopt different versions of scripture....

31 min
Birth of the Christian Bible

04: Birth of the Christian Bible

As the early Christian church takes shape, members of this new sect embrace the Greek translation of the Hebrew text and quickly develop their own sacred compositions....

31 min
Formation of Jewish and Christian Canons

05: Formation of Jewish and Christian Canons

During the first centuries of the Common Era, the Jewish and Christian faiths face a similar challenge: the need for a standardized version of scripture. For the Jews, this means confirming centuries of tradition; for the Christians, it is a longer and more contentious process....

30 min
Writing and Copying Manuscripts

06: Writing and Copying Manuscripts

Although the word Bible means "the book," it is anachronistic to call it a book before the 4th century C.E. In this lecture, we explore the techniques by which biblical manuscripts were created and copied prior to the advent of print....

30 min
Imperial Sponsorship and the Bible

07: Imperial Sponsorship and the Bible

When Constantine the Great converts to Christianity in the 4th century, the new faith becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire, an event that lifts the Christian Bible to the status of imperially sanctioned text and forever changes the relationship between Christians and Jews....

30 min
Texts and Translations-The Ancient East

08: Texts and Translations-The Ancient East

The earliest translations of the Christian Bible provide a tantalizing glimpse into cultures throughout the ancient world, including the Syriac and Coptic cultures, and in many cases provides the first instances of written texts in these ancient languages....

30 min
Old Latin and the Vulgate

09: Old Latin and the Vulgate

We examine the rise of Latin translation of the Bible, culminating in the Vulgate of St. Jerome in the 4th century, and learn how these translations underscored the growing divide between the Eastern and Western churches....

30 min
Other Ancient Versions

10: Other Ancient Versions

While many early worshipers read the Christian Bible in Greek and Latin, other translations spread to every corner of the empire, including Armenia, Georgia, Ethiopia, and Arabia. We'll learn how the project of translating the Bible often led to the creation of a written alphabet for these cultures....

28 min
Monasteries and Manuscripts

11: Monasteries and Manuscripts

Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries provide a stronghold for the production and preservation of biblical manuscripts. Monks' lives are deeply immersed in scripture, whether serving as manuscript copyists, performing the daily recitation of chants, or practicing the fine art of manuscript illumination....

29 min
Interpretation within Judaism

12: Interpretation within Judaism

Jews throughout the Diaspora continue to pursue their faith and debate the meaning of their sacred texts in strong communities of worship. This conversation appears in the development of the Talmud, a constantly evolving interpretation of how God's law should be observed, and in the work of great Jewish Bible scholars....

30 min
Interpretation in Medieval Christianity

13: Interpretation in Medieval Christianity

During the medieval period, Christianity is shaped largely by the Bible and its interpretations. "Reading the Bible" is a many-faceted experience; scripture is heard during Mass, chanted by monks, experienced in daily life through the sacraments and liturgical seasons, and (for a very few) read and interpreted directly....

31 min
The Renaissance, Printing, and the Bible

14: The Renaissance, Printing, and the Bible

With the invention of new printing technology, the Bible is more accessible to private readers. This innovation, coupled with a rebirth of interest in classical learning, leads scholars to challenge the dominance of the Latin Vulgate and develop new translations....

30 min
The Protestant Reformation and the Bible

15: The Protestant Reformation and the Bible

In breaking with the Catholic faith, Protestant reformer Martin Luther introduces a new emphasis on private reading and interpretation and a sole reliance on scripture as a guide for right living....

30 min
Translating the Bible into Modern Languages

16: Translating the Bible into Modern Languages

In the wake of the Reformation, countries across Europe forge new national and religious identities. The Bible is one of the chief battlegrounds for this struggle, as traditional texts are newly translated into vernacular languages and new canons of scripture are championed....

30 min
The First Efforts at Englishing the Bible

17: The First Efforts at Englishing the Bible

From the 14th century, translating the Bible into English appears as a way to challenge the Catholic Church and make scripture available to all. Early translators are persecuted as heretics, but "Englishing the Bible" also becomes a means for exerting political control....

30 min
The King James Version

18: The King James Version

In an attempt to standardize scripture-and, by extension, the religious and civic order in England-King James I marshals a team of scholars to produce an authoritative English text. The impact of the King James Bible is still felt today in English language and literature as well as in the church....

29 min
The Romance of Manuscripts

19: The Romance of Manuscripts

With the advent of printing, manuscripts fall into disuse until scholars begin to appreciate their historical and literary value. The result is an explosion of interest in rescuing these ancient manuscripts from oblivion....

30 min
Searching for the Critical Text

20: Searching for the Critical Text

This lecture reviews the remarkable efforts made to establish a "scholar's Bible," a critical edition synthesizing thousands of ancient manuscripts to provide a guide for readers....

31 min
The Historical-Critical Approach

21: The Historical-Critical Approach

Since the rise of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, we have seen an expansion of interest in the Bible as a historical document that provides a way to reconstruct the past....

31 min
The Bible in Contemporary Judaism

22: The Bible in Contemporary Judaism

In response to challenges of the modern world, Judaism reinterprets Jewish identity through the Reform movement, Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism, and Zionism. Cataclysmic events such as the Holocaust forever alter how modern Jews read ancient scripture....

30 min
Contemporary Christians and Their Bibles

23: Contemporary Christians and Their Bibles

While the Bible remains central to worship and theology in contemporary Christianity, it is also an arena for lively disputes. Modern Christians continue to debate the place of scripture in daily and civic life and strive for more accurate and appropriate translations of biblical texts....

30 min
The Bible's Story Continues

24: The Bible's Story Continues

The Bible has maintained its place for centuries as one of the most widely read compositions and continues to hold a special fascination for people all over the world. New technologies extend the Bible's influence even further, and translations of biblical stories into other media never fail to arouse interest and controversy....

31 min