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The Holy Land Revealed

Visit the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity in this comprehensive tour, taught by an archaeologist, that will take you deep beneath the pages of the Bible.
The Holy Land Revealed is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 258.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Learned So Much Okay, let’s get this out of the way. The presenter/professor, Jodi Magness, is a bit quirky. BUT she is an excellent teacher, very knowledgeable and extremely passionate about her subject matter. I loved her Socratic method of teaching, even though it was her answering her own questions. If I were to teach (pity the students) I believe I would employ her method. I had multiple motivations for watching the course, the primary one was that we are about to go on 2 week tour of Israel. We wanted to get as much background as we could in the short time before the trip so that we could appreciate what we were experiencing better. This course seems to have fulfilled the requirement, but we will see once we get there. With her course, I almost feel as if I have been to Jerusalem already. The title pretty much tells all. She uses a combination of archeology, a “history” by a Jewish author writing for a Roman audience and the Bible to “reveal” the Holy Land. There is so much history, so much conflict in this small strip of land at the eastern side of the Mediterranean. It is the birth place of three major religions with all that implies. My only real gripe with the course is that she treats Jesus like he was an actual historical figure. Obviously, one of those hot button subjects, but my personal opinion is that there was not such person. She never really addressed that controversy. Perhaps she was considering who her audience would be, or perhaps this is a non question for her. While I was history major before changing to a science major, archeology was never something I could get excited about as field I would like to study. However, I love the results they uncover and share with the rest of us, especially by someone as passionate about her subject as Ms. Magness. I definitely recommend this course. I learned so much.
Date published: 2023-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous course, extremely knowledgeable professor Great course so far on upward lecture 16. extraordinary professor who stayed years in the middle east doing work and research at many sites. I can't wait to watch more lectures and finish the entire course for incredible wisdom. I recommend watching the course!
Date published: 2023-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and Informative Overall an enjoyable and informative class. The professor has a good manner, her lectures are well organized, and she has personal experience as an archeologist in this part of the world, so she is a good authority. She makes good use of still photographs of Israel (though it would have been useful to have some videos as well). The course is also a full 36 lectures, so you feel like you get your money’s worth. On the negative side, it is never quite clear just what this course is about. Is it a course about archeology of Israel, or is it a history class? It seems to be an uncomfortable hybrid of the two: it covers the history of Israel, but only insofar as it is represented through archeological remains. Thus for example in the lecture on the Hellenization of Palestine, this is an issue of major historical debate: just how Hellenized was Palestine in the time of Jesus? But instead of giving a broad overview of this question, what we get instead is a discussion of two archeological sites that demonstrate Hellenistic influence. That is fine, but there is no big picture: how representative are these sites? What does it say about Greek influence on the ordinary person? Or on Jesus? More broadly, the professor mentions Jesus numerous times during the class, but you won’t really learn anything new about him, simply because archeology has little to contribute to understanding Jesus’ life and his teachings, as it left no archeological record. This is not to put down archeology or this class. It is a fascinating approach and has much to tell us. But it has significant limits, given that so much of life does not leave an archeological record, and what does often disappears after 2000 years. Finally, some of the minor flaws in the professor’s lecture style: • She does not understand how to use the word ‘literally.’ When she says literally, she means figuratively (e.g. ‘what we see is a literal flowering of the Holy Land, where the country becomes more densely settled’, or ‘the Holy Land was literally filled with monumental synagogue buildings’ or Jerusalem is ‘literally the jewel in the Byzantine empire’). • She does not understand the phrase ‘in other words.’ When she says ‘in other words,’ she usually repeats the idea in the very same words. • She vastly overuses the word ‘interesting’ (‘particularly interesting,’ ‘quite interestingly’ and ‘very interesting’ and even ‘very very interesting’). A good lecturer should show rather than say that something is interesting. • She overuses the style of asking questions. The lecturers are full of this kind of thing: ‘why do I say this?’ ‘why do historians believe this?’ etc.
Date published: 2023-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good course! Lectures are very logical and easy to follow. Her presentations were obviously thoroughly researched and quite interesting.
Date published: 2023-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Magness Is an Excellent Teacher! I learned so much from Dr. Magness. She is enthusiastic, and her personal experience and knowledge allow one to feel like they are in ancient Israel. I know that if I went to Jerusalem I could identify the different areas of the ancient city. I liked her maps and photographs very much. She gave an unbiased peek into each group of ancient people, and helped me see their relationships and dependencies with each other. The Bible and history make much more sense now. I would recommend her course to everyone! I will be repeating the course again soon--taking notes the next time.
Date published: 2023-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Course As an owner of 60+ Great Courses, I can easily say that this Holy Land course by Professor Magnus is head and shoulders above the rest. She describes the Holy Land as though she has lived through the 3000 years she covers with obvious high intellectual capacities as an archaeologist, a skilled and capturing teacher with a vast knowledge of the area, the literature thereof, the skills of a trained, skilled and practicing expert of the history and it’s archaeological past. I’m currently starting on my second time through her course, to enable detailed review of the entire course. Before further comment, I strongly suggest you purchase this course while it’s available if you have any vague interest in the Holy Land, the Jewish religion or it’s history, the history of the Bible or archaelology.
Date published: 2022-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough Dr. Magnus, overall, has produced a highly recommended course. The Course Guide of this 35-chapter 2010 course is extremely short. It has about 2 small pages (plus a third page of terms and "Questions") per chapter, totaling a scant 104 pages (plus 4 pages of maps). L3: King David's political neutral and geographically Jerusalem was true initially. However, by L5, the ancient's observations that the lower city's Gihon Spring could be targeted from the higher Mount of Olives led to the pre-David Bronze/Iron Age Warren shaft and Jebusite water tunnel. These lead to a higher water pool surround by fortifications, suggesting defense over neutrality. L6 tells us the writers of the Hebrew Bible were pro-Judah southerners who denounced Jeroboam and his cultic calves. L8: the Israelite Babylonian captivity and their subsequent release by the Persian ruler Cyrus explain the origin of the Samaritans. Meanwhile, the returning Judeans rebuilt Jerusalem and emphasized bloodline purity. L9: The Samaritans are at odds again, this time with Alexander the Great and were banished from their most important city Samaria, ending up in the foot of Mount Gerizim (at what is now Nablus) on the West Bank. L11: When the Seleucid king ordered the Jews to abandon their law in 167, the successful priest-led Maccabean Revolt created the Hanukkah event. Several Judaic alliances with the Romans helped throw off the Seleucid yoke and eventually led to encouragement of locals to convert to Judaism. "The result was a Judaized Galilean population, mixed with some settlers from Judea.” Magnus’ explanation of Pharisees (an afterlife, free will, God's foreknowledge), Sadducees (afterlife was not in 5 books of Moses, free will without divine intervention), and Essenes (preordination, scholars at Qumran L14-17) was useful. Herod's back-story (L18) including his nine wives, intra-familial murders, and Cleopatra's attempt to gain Palestine support the biblical views of his audacious behavior and are not found in other courses. Lectures 22-27 are well done chapters on the time of Jesus including Caiaphas' family tomb and the observation that synagogues were places to "gather together" whereas prayer occurred only at the Temple (i.e.: why Christ taught rather than prayed in the synagogue). Capernaum and its ancient synagogue (L22, 34) are highlights of any trip to the Holy Land. L28-32: concern the two major Jewish revolts. Prior to the first, Roman emperors ignorantly required Temple sacrifices on behalf of the Emperor. The Jewish leader Josephus surrendered after the last fortress (Masada) fell to Verpasian's son Titus. Interestingly, Josephus writings are found in Christian, not Jewish, tradition."…because they testified to the destruction of the second Jewish temple, an event foretold by Jesus." Titus' Arch in Rome has carvings of the Ark and Candle being carried off which Christianity views as symbolic of the end of the Jewish centricity in the New Testament. Emperor Hadrian renamed Judea Palestine, renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, and tried to install a temple to Capitoline Jupiter on the Temple Mount (L32). Thus the second Jewish revolt under Bar-Kokhba who fought in guerilla style (the 1st war showed they could not take the Romans on directly). It required fully 1/3 of the entire Roman Superpower Army to put down the Judean population. L35 discusses the early Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in 638 - 6 years after Mohammed's death. Islam's justification was its division of the earth into "dar al Islam" - the world of Islam and "dar al Harib" - the world of war. The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque were built on the Temple Mount "to overshadow the rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher": thereby overshadowing the teacher Christ, with teachings of Mohammed. Although World War I ended Muslim rule in Jerusalem and the fall of the Ottoman Empire ended Islamic control of much of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque remain Islamic. The Temple Mount is a high security area. CON: (Lecture 2 = L2) the Egyptian pharaohs Merneptah stele which states "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not". Oddly, Magnus states that the stele's words do not confirm Exodus, while simultaneously she confirms their existence in Canaan. This logic seemed misplaced, since to speak of their destruction (at a time when they DID exist in Canaan - as Magnus and later Egyptians acknowledge) by a leader whose predecessor's goal was to destroy them, seems to be a bit of ancient propaganda that would confirm, rather than deny, the Exodus.
Date published: 2022-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from excellent informations did only the first chapter and looking forward to continue.
Date published: 2022-10-10
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Comb through the rubble of an ancient citadel in the City of David, the contents of rock-cut tombs in the Kidron Valley, correspondence from caves in the Judaean desert, and other remains from one of the most important regions in the history of civilization. Delivered by archaeologist and award-winning Professor Jodi Magness, The Holy Land Revealed helps you relive and encounter life in the ancient Holy Land through the lens of archaeology. These 36 lectures are your chance to get up close and personal with ruins, artifacts, murals, documents, and other long-buried objects that will take you deep beneath the pages of the Bible.


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
The Holy Land Revealed


The Land of Canaan

01: The Land of Canaan

What do we mean by "holy land"? What is the difference between archaeology and history? How reliable is the Hebrew Bible as a window into life in ancient Israel? Discover answers to these and other questions in this introductory lecture, and take a peek at the region's earliest recorded inhabitants, the Canaanites.

31 min
The Arrival of the Israelites

02: The Arrival of the Israelites

Explore what archaeologists have uncovered about the arrival of the Israelites into Canaan. Among the many intriguing artifacts you examine are an ancient Egyptian stele featuring the earliest reference to Israel, the remains of Jericho's walls, and a Philistine temple similar to the one Samson destroyed in the book of Judges.

32 min
Jerusalem-An Introduction to the City

03: Jerusalem-An Introduction to the City

Here, survey the topography and layout of Jerusalem-perhaps the most important city in religious history. Then, review biblical accounts of Jerusalem from the arrival of David around 1000 B.C.E. to the start of the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.E. (including the remains of a dramatic Assyrian siege on the city of Lachish).

29 min
The Jerusalem of David and Solomon

04: The Jerusalem of David and Solomon

In this first lecture on the remains of the biblical City of David, comb through the fascinating remains of a scribe's house located behind a city wall; grasp the development of biblical Hebrew script; and examine rare examples of this script in a clay sealing, a piece of pottery, and a victory stele.

32 min
Biblical Jerusalem's Ancient Water Systems

05: Biblical Jerusalem's Ancient Water Systems

Continue your archaeological exploration of the City of David by focusing on its ancient water system, centered on the Gihon Spring. Learn about the three different water systems that were created-Warren's Shaft, Siloam Channel, and the impressive engineering feat of Hezekiah's Tunnel-due to the spring's location outside the city walls.

31 min
Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel

06: Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel

Turn now to Israel as it was ruled under the Omride dynasty between Solomon's death and the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C.E. Here, explore important ruins, including the High Place at Dan (where the cult statue of a golden calf once resided) and the acropolis at Samaria (which holds the remains of King Ahab's palace).

28 min
Fortifications and Cult Practices

07: Fortifications and Cult Practices

Delve into aspects of everyday life in the kingdoms of ancient Israel. Focus on how elaborately recessed gates were designed to protect cities like Gezer from enemies, and how altars, amulets, painted figures, and inscribed pottery vessels reflect the religious beliefs and practices at Kuntillet Ajrud and other sites.

32 min
Babylonian Exile and the Persian Restoration

08: Babylonian Exile and the Persian Restoration

In 539 B.C.E., after the Babylonians were subsumed by the Persian Empire, the exiled Judeans were allowed to return to Jerusalem. So what happened next? Find out with this penetrating look at the Persian administration of the Holy Land, the influence of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the birth of early Judaism.

32 min
Alexander the Great and His Successors

09: Alexander the Great and His Successors

Alexander the Great's conquests of the Near East introduced Greek culture to the Holy Land. Professor Magness uses archaeological findings- including the personal belongings of murdered Samaritans and the remains of towers at an ancient fortification-to illustrate the profound influences of Alexander and his successors.

28 min
The Hellenization of Palestine

10: The Hellenization of Palestine

Continue examining the Hellenistic influence on the Holy Land-this time on non-Jewish populations in the area. Focus on three distinct cities: Iraq el-Amir (with the remains of an impressive temple or pleasure palace); Marisa (with its fascinating series of caves); and Tel Dor (with its distinctly Hellenistic architectural style).

30 min
The Maccabean Revolt

11: The Maccabean Revolt

Turn now to the impact of the Greeks on the Jewish population of Judea. Tour the tumultuous years between 167 and 103 B.C.E., which saw Antiochus IV's imposition of Greek beliefs on the population; the subsequent revolt under Judah Maccabee; the reigns of the Hasmoneans; and more.

31 min
The Hasmonean Kingdom

12: The Hasmonean Kingdom

In this investigation of the Hasmoneans, meet individuals including the cruel king Alexander Jannaeus and his accomplished queen and widow, and examine the civil war between their successors. Then, meet their neighbors to the south: the Nabataeans, a desert people best known for the tombs cut into the cliff faces of their capital city at Petra (in modern-day Jordan).

32 min
Pharisees and Sadducees

13: Pharisees and Sadducees

By the mid-2nd century B.C.E., various Jewish sects had established themselves. Here, compare and contrast two of the most dominant of these sects: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. What parts of society did they represent? What were their views on religious innovation and free will? With which group did Jesus probably debate?

32 min
Discovery and Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls

14: Discovery and Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Travel to Qumran, the archaeological site located adjacent to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in the late 1940s. As you tour the caves and the site itself (including an ancient scriptorium and dining room), you'll learn what scholars know about the mysterious community that once lived there.

30 min
The Sectarian Settlement at Qumran

15: The Sectarian Settlement at Qumran

Continue touring the site at Qumran, with a focus on three distinctive features of the settlement. These are animal bones found in pots; an elaborate water system that channeled flash floods into pools used for ritual bathing; and a vast cemetery containing more than 1,000 graves.

31 min
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes

16: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes

Scholars believe the Qumran community, commonly identified with the Essenes, was a sect that lived in anticipation of the End of Days. What was it like to be a member of this ascetic community? What strict codes of purity did it live by? What is Jesus's relationship to this apocalyptic group?

32 min
The Life of the Essenes

17: The Life of the Essenes

In this final lecture on the Qumran sect, investigate the ancient latrines and hygienic practices of the community. Your three sources for insights into this little-explored aspect of everyday life: passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls, observations by the historian Josephus, and remains unearthed from the archaeological site itself.

29 min
From Roman Annexation to Herod the Great

18: From Roman Annexation to Herod the Great

Witness the rise of Herod the Great-the ruthless king who governed Judea between 40 and 4 B.C.E. and who is most infamous for ordering the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. It's an engrossing tale filled with court intrigue, jealousy, warfare, betrayal, and murder.

31 min
Herod as Builder-Jerusalem's Temple Mount

19: Herod as Builder-Jerusalem's Temple Mount

In the first of several lectures on Herod's great buildings, many of which served as the backdrop to Jesus's life and ministry, walk through the reconstructed Second Temple and Temple Mount. You'll visit the remains of magnificent structures, including Solomon's Stables, Robinson's Arch, the Western Wall, and the Hulda Gates.

32 min
Caesarea Maritima-Harbor and Showcase City

20: Caesarea Maritima-Harbor and Showcase City

During his reign, Herod also built Greco-Roman style cities in his non-Jewish territories. Here, Professor Magness guides you through the most famous of these: the port city of Caesarea Maritima (where Paul was imprisoned, according to Acts 23-24). Comb through the ruins of the city's harbor, hippodrome, aqueducts, and more.

30 min
From Herod's Last Years to Pontius Pilate

21: From Herod's Last Years to Pontius Pilate

Visit Herod's winter palace at Jericho, where he spent his final years, and his fortified palace at Herodium, where-in 2007-archaeologists discovered his tomb. Then, explore the divided kingdom he left to his three sons, with a special focus on the rule of Herod Antipas (who would play a critical role in Jesus's story).

31 min
Galilee-Setting of Jesus's Life and Ministry

22: Galilee-Setting of Jesus's Life and Ministry

Tour the remains of Galilean towns and villages that date back to the time of Jesus, including Sepphoris (with its theater) and Capernaum (with its neighborhood of private houses). Then, conclude with a look at the recent discovery of a house at Nazareth that may shed light on Jesus's boyhood.

32 min
Synagogues in the Time of Jesus

23: Synagogues in the Time of Jesus

What do we know about the synagogues that served as the setting for the teachings of Jesus and Paul? After surveying the history of this religious institution, explore some of history's earliest synagogues at sites such as Masada, Gamla, and the most recent one uncovered in 2009 at Migdal.

33 min
Sites of the Trial and Final Hours of Jesus

24: Sites of the Trial and Final Hours of Jesus

Explore the Antonia Fortress, the Church of the Sisters of Zion, three successive lines of fortification walls, the ruins of a burnt Jewish villa, and other archaeological finds in Jerusalem intricately linked with both the final days of Jesus's life and the city's destruction in 70 C.E. by the Romans.

33 min
Early Jewish Tombs in Jerusalem

25: Early Jewish Tombs in Jerusalem

Chart the development of ancient Jewish rock-cut tombs and burial customs. First, peer inside an Iron-Age cemetery at Ketef Hinnom and view the scant remains of the epic Mausoleum at Halicarnassos. Then, ponder the undiscovered Tomb of the Maccabees, and crawl through the burial chambers of Jason's Tomb in Jerusalem.

30 min
Monumental Tombs in the Time of Jesus

26: Monumental Tombs in the Time of Jesus

Turn now to burial customs spanning the Second Temple period, with a particular emphasis on the use of stone ossuaries to store the bones of the deceased. You'll also examine stunning examples of the more than 900 rock-cut tombs that have been discovered around Jerusalem, including the Tomb of Bene Hezir and Nicanor's Tomb.

32 min
The Burials of Jesus and James

27: The Burials of Jesus and James

Place the Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus within an archaeological context. The highlight of this lecture is the discussion of two recent-and highly controversial-discoveries: the Talpiyot Tomb (the supposed tomb of Jesus and his family) and the James Ossuary (connected to Jesus's brother).

34 min
The First Jewish Revolt; Jerusalem Destroyed

28: The First Jewish Revolt; Jerusalem Destroyed

Relive the first Jewish revolt against Rome between 66 and 70 C.E. You'll follow the infighting among Jewish rebel groups, explore the sites of fierce battles between rebels and Roman soldiers, and follow the tactics of Roman generals such as Vespasian and Titus as they besiege Jerusalem.

31 min
Masada-Herod's Desert Palace and the Siege

29: Masada-Herod's Desert Palace and the Siege

After the end of the first Jewish revolt, three Herodian fortresses remained occupied by Jewish rebels. The most famous of these: Masada. Here, discover what archaeological evidence reveals about how an estimated 8,000 Roman soldiers encircled the mountain, built camps, and laid siege to the fortress and its 967 rebels.

29 min
Flavius Josephus and the Mass Suicide

30: Flavius Josephus and the Mass Suicide

Pore over the remains of a ramp that was instrumental in the Roman victory at Masada. Then, take a closer look at controversies over the mass suicide of the Jewish rebels and the views of the historian Josephus-whose writings are our most important source of information about this event.

31 min
The Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans

31: The Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans

Investigate archaeological finds from the last 50 years that have shed unprecedented new light on the second major Jewish uprising: the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. Central to this lecture are two mysterious caves-the Cave of Letters and the Cave of Horror-whose contents tell us much about the Jewish families who hid there.

32 min
Roman Jerusalem-Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina

32: Roman Jerusalem-Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina

The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as the pagan city Aelia Capitolina. Witness the results of his rule, including the iconic Damascus Gate, a towering statue of Hadrian, and two public forums built at the northern and western ends of the city.

32 min
Christian Emperors and Pilgrimage Sites

33: Christian Emperors and Pilgrimage Sites

The legalization of Christianity under Constantine radically transformed the landscape of ancient Israel. In the first of two lectures on the Holy Land under the Byzantine Empire, tour two major churches built during this period: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the once-lost Nea Church devoted to Mary.

30 min
Judaism and Synagogues under Christian Rule

34: Judaism and Synagogues under Christian Rule

As Christianity spread across the Holy Land, synagogues became increasingly larger and more elaborate in an attempt to bolster Judaism. See how this was done by peering closely at the remains of the synagogues at Capernaum, Hammath Tiberias, and Beth Alpha-as well as their (sometimes surprising) decorations.

32 min
Islam's Transformation of Jerusalem

35: Islam's Transformation of Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are the two most potent examples of the spread of Islam into the Holy Land beginning in the mid-7th century C.E. Discover what archaeologists have learned about these two spectacular buildings and their importance to the Muslim faith.

32 min
What and How Archaeology Reveals

36: What and How Archaeology Reveals

What is it like to work alongside an archaeologist in the field? In Professor Magness's final lecture, experience how archaeologists reconstruct their delicate pictures of the past-from deciding where to start digging to reassembling broken artifacts uncovered from the earth to publishing their eye-opening findings and conclusions.

32 min