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The Old Testament

Engage more fully with the Old Testament with this course that teaches you how to apply a variety of forms of interpretation to better understand this treasured work.
The Old Testament is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 278.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Illuminating I decided on this course to help with sermon preparation, particularly with OT texts. Dr. Levine provides amazing insights with a clear and often humorous presentation. I have listened to several lectures multiple times and have heard new information on each listen.
Date published: 2024-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I liked it I rhink Prof Levine does a good job of presenting the OT from a Jewish point of view. I liked it and found it very helpful.
Date published: 2023-07-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Failed to Meet Expectations After feeling let down by other courses that covered the Old Testament like "The World of Biblical Israel", "Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation", and "The Book of Genesis", I was excited for this one but, unfortunately, it also failed to meet my expectations. At times I couldn't quite put my finger on why. Maybe I expected more insight behind the stories contained in the Old Testament. Maybe I expected more critical literary analysis of each of the books or at least more background on when most scholars thought each book was written and what the author(s)' main intentions/objectives were (Professor David Brakke achieved mastery in this space in his "Understanding the New Testament" course). Maybe it was the frustration felt when after meticulously discussing every episode of the Book of Genesis in the first 7 chapters (this is a compliment) she conspicuously does not discuss the last, and for some the most beloved episode of the book: that of Joseph’s story. Why spend 30% of the lectures on the one book but not cap it off with the beautiful saga of Joseph? Maybe the no coming back moment was when she spent way too much time on God's covenant with the people of Israel (lectures 10 and 11). Yes, this is the main unifying theme of the entire Old Testament and deserves an in-depth analysis but most of the discussion wasn't so much on the covenant itself but on how one defines a legal contract and how other legal contracts or laws compare with this specific covenant. Maybe it is because she didn't necessarily cover the books in the sequence they appear in the Old Testament but hopped around and for the most part covered them chronologically based on the time periods they are set in. Maybe it was the length of the course. It continues to boggle the mind as to why 39 books with so much rich material to dissect, analyze, and appreciate were given only 24 lectures. At a minimum we should be looking at 36 but considering how much ground there is to cover in the Book of Genesis itself, 48 lectures is not unreasonable. In fact she spent the last 10 minutes of the course (33% of the last lecture) listing off all of the topics and books she did not have time to discuss. You could hear her frustrations and lamentations. Maybe it was the loud audible sighs she would let out when she was about to cover a complicated subject (or one in which there was "a problem with the text"---usually signifying multiple copies or additions). It reminded me of a child laying on a melodramatic tone to get a reaction. It just became too much and out of place. Or maybe (and you can call this petty) it was the professor's smile that gave off vibes ranging from "smug" to "creepy" to "scheming" ("I'm going to get you, my pretty"). Yes, unfair, perhaps but something about it made me uncomfortable. Whatever it was I was unable to warm up to her presentation style and when a professor can't engage me fully, it is all uphill from there. Yes, there is good content here. Yes, she covers all of the genres present in the Old Testament from myths/legends to prophetic to history to wisdom literature to apocalyptic. Yes, she touches on most of the books (most of the misses were the minor prophets but she did cover a few). I thought the high points were lectures 13-15 which describe all of the main events of the Book of Judges and 1 Samuel. I just wish she would have taken that approach when covering the other books instead of leaving me yet again on that voyage trying to locate a Great Course that does the Old Testament well. My next stop on that voyage is "Understanding the Old Testament"----at this point TGC's last chance (although wouldn't it be nice if TGC releases a course on the Old Testament Apocrypha? Lots of interesting texts there to explore).
Date published: 2023-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of the Old Testament I purchased this looking to learn more about the word of God. I was not disappointed and absolutely enjoyed the teacher and the teaching that was presented. It opened a world of insight and thought that has ignited a flame of continuing to dig into the topics that could not be covered and look deeper into the ones that were.
Date published: 2023-03-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The beginning of the Bible is NOT mythology I don't believe that the beginning of the by is mythological.
Date published: 2023-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent content and delivery. But grain o salt. PhD Levine is a scholar and gifted lecturer. The course was exceptionally valuable as it does not have a non-standard POV. I was taken aback however by Ph.D. Levine's presentations of her scholarly opinion versus the 'strongest' alternative. It began with Moses being denied entry into the Promised Land. She thought it excessive. Then presented what I believe is the weakest counterargument. Rather than 'Our God is transcendent and omniscient'. Our hearts and motives are open books to God. Therefore perfect Justice is God's alone. This brings me to one of the most powerful aspects of the Torah. The authors do not presume to know the individuals' motives. Rather they record actions available for observation. (This is why 'All did as they saw fit in their own eyes' is so powerful.) So a major strength of this course. PhD has easily forgotten more than I know of this ancient period. But the concept of Theodicy seemed forced as well. The Ethical Monotheism of Judaism remains while the theodicy of paganism does not. Including the hyper-superstition or intellectualism of later Platonism. 'The One'. So it is an odd recommendation. Her presentation of history is excellent. But her Theological opinions and presentation of the counter position per the 'disinterest' instruction method must be suspect. It is possible this is an early display of unintentional Wokism. This is why I would strongly recommend pairing this course with..... Biblical Wisdom Literature Joseph Koterski, S.J., Ph.D. This is a course that defines excellence and the disinterested method of instruction. Sadly it also makes exceptionally clear the limitations of PhD Levine's scholarly opinions on matters of Theology. However, I do believe both together are much better/stronger than either alone.
Date published: 2023-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview I found this course to be both educational and enjoyable. Easy to follow and stimulating to learn more about this rich topic.
Date published: 2022-10-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from FALLS FAR SHORT OF GREAT COURSES STANDARDS I've watched many of the Great Courses. I've also been a 50 years student of the Bible. For someone who is a very serious student of the Bible, this course will have a few valuable factoids. For everyone else, don't waste your time or money. This course falls way, way, short of every one of the many other Great Courses I have taken. If this had been my first from TGC, I never would have gone back. I hate to say it but Levine ultimately comes across as not only annoying but really as someone who is pretty sick inside.
Date published: 2022-08-21
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Overview

The Old Testament, or Tanakh, was written in ancient Israel over 1,000 years by many authors. What can this book teach us about the ancient Israelites? What does our faith find in new scholarly understanding? These lectures by scripture expert Professor Amy-Jill Levine introduce you to the history, religion, and literature of ancient Israel as preserved in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible. Professor Levine brings biblical characters and passages to life and vividly reveals the magnificent artistry suffusing the Old Testament.

About

Amy-Jill Levine

The study of the Bible is a simply marvelous endeavor, and each time it's approached, students will see new things. I'm continuing to see new things.

INSTITUTION

Vanderbilt University

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and the College of Arts and Sciences. She is also Affiliated Professor at the Woolf Institute, Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Dr. Levine earned her B.A. with high honors in English and Religion at Smith College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. Professor Levine's numerous books, articles, and essays address such topics as Second-Temple Judaism, Christian origins, Jewish-Christian relations, and biblical women. She has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Association for Jewish Studies. A widely sought-after speaker and favorite at the Chautauqua Institution, she has given hundreds of talks on biblical topics to both academic and nonacademic audiences, including church, synagogue, and community groups throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Her awards include grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

By This Professor

The Old Testament
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The Old Testament

Trailer

In the Beginning

01: In the Beginning

What are the diverse issues, critical methods, and approaches that can play a role in biblical interpretation? How do they shed light on the chapter where God says "let there be light"?

32 min
Adam and Eve

02: Adam and Eve

This lecture follows Genesis selectively, episode by episode, to highlight its status as a foundational narrative, its complexity, the possible order of its composition, its ancient Near Eastern connections, and the questions it raises.

31 min
Murder, Flood, Dispersion

03: Murder, Flood, Dispersion

This lecture investigates the major themes of Genesis by analyzing the stories of Cain and Abel, Noah's Flood, the Tower of Babel, and more.

31 min
Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

04: Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

Here we meet Abraham-faithful hero, morally ambiguous trickster, and patriarch-first briefly via historical investigation, and then through a close reading of Genesis 12:10-20.

30 min
Isaac

05: Isaac

The accounts of Abraham's son Isaac and daughter-in-law Rebecca (Genesis 21-24) provide the opportunity to introduce the method of biblical study known as "source criticism" as well as to demonstrate its limitations.

31 min
The Jacob Saga

06: The Jacob Saga

The story of Isaac's sons Jacob and Esau (beginning in Genesis 25) provides an example of the insights that can be gleaned from "form criticism." This approach attends carefully to metaphor, double meaning, narrative voice, physical descriptions, handling of motivation, and use of dialogue.

29 min
Folklore Analysis and Type Scenes

07: Folklore Analysis and Type Scenes

Source and form criticism can help us understand common biblical plot lines, or "type scenes." Type-scene analysis, a method pioneered by folklorists, reveals narrative art and teaches about community heroes and values. Here we focus on betrothal scenes.

30 min
Moses and Exodus

08: Moses and Exodus

Combining folklore, morality, theology and, perhaps, historical memory, Exodus 1-15 offers quick-witted women, a reluctant hero, and a mysterious deity. This lecture introduces "text criticism" while discussing slavery in Egypt, Moses' infancy and commission, and the Exodus itself.

31 min
The God of Israel

09: The God of Israel

More than an account of the liberation of Hebrew slaves, the opening chapters of Exodus also provide insight into the name of the deity and the sources employed in the Pentateuch's composition.

30 min
Covenant and Law, Part I

10: Covenant and Law, Part I

Knowing the forms that legal contracts could take in the ancient Near East helps us understand the character of the covenants that the deity makes with the people (through Moses), and with individuals such as Noah, Abraham, and David.

30 min
Covenant and Law, Part II

11: Covenant and Law, Part II

Likely products of centuries of development, the Torah's laws concerning diet, farming, and sexual practices mark the covenant community as a holy people. Scholars still debate the laws' origin, symbolic meaning, and implementation.

31 min
The

12: The "Conquest"

With this lecture we move to Joshua, the first prophetic book. After looking briefly at the account of Moses' death and the function of "holy war," we address Joshua through three major explanations for Israel's presence in Canaan: conquest, immigration, and internal revolt.

30 min
The Book of Judges, Part I

13: The Book of Judges, Part I

In essence a large type scene of apostasy, punishment, repentance, and rescue, Judges ultimately spirals into idolatry, rape, and near genocide. Yet this deep tragedy is leavened by high comedy, which this lecture introduces even as it raises historical, theological, and moral questions.

29 min
The Book of Judges, Part II

14: The Book of Judges, Part II

Returning to Gideon's son Abimelech and then introducing the tragic judges of Jephthah and Samson, this lecture unveils the increasing instability of the judge as political leader and the descent of Israel's tribal confederation into moral and political chaos.

30 min
Samuel and Saul

15: Samuel and Saul

This lecture begins with Samuel, who represents the transition from charismatic leader to prophet, and then turns to the tragedy of King Saul to reveal the benefits and liabilities of monarchy.

28 min
King David

16: King David

What is David's status in history? How does the complex story of his relationship with Bathsheba combine the personal and political while revealing his charm, his ruthlessness, and his faith?

30 min
From King Solomon to Preclassical Prophecy

17: From King Solomon to Preclassical Prophecy

Biblical prophets were known less for predicting the future than for communicating divine will, usually through poetry, and often in debate with kings and priests. This lecture focuses on the "preclassical" (nonwriting) prophets, particularly Elijah.

31 min
The Prophets and the Fall of the North

18: The Prophets and the Fall of the North

Amos and Hosea, the first two classical prophets whose words are preserved in the canon, offer poetic critiques of the government of Israel, the priesthood, and the rich. What followed from their warnings about both personal behavior and political machinations?

31 min
The Southern Kingdom

19: The Southern Kingdom

What was the context in which the major prophet Isaiah issues his oracles? How did the Southern Kingdom of Israel respond under its kings Hezekiah and Josiah?

28 min
Babylonian Exile

20: Babylonian Exile

This lecture begins on the eve of the Exile, with the prophetic warnings of Jeremiah. It introduces the prophecies, narratives, and law by which the Judean exiles maintained their identity.

31 min
Restoration and Theocracy

21: Restoration and Theocracy

What did the exiles find on their return from Babylon? How did these conditions lead to the breakdown of classical prophecy and an increasing concern with assimilation and intermarriage?

31 min
Wisdom Literature

22: Wisdom Literature

Since the "Sumerian Job" of the 4th century B.C.E., authors have attempted to make sense of the world and our place in it. Biblical contributions to such "wisdom literature" range from the optimistic Song of Songs to the practical proverbs and the pessimistic Ecclesiastes. But the most famous, and most controversial, is the Book of Job.

31 min
Life in the Diaspora

23: Life in the Diaspora

The Babylonian Exile gave rise to the Diaspora ("dispersion") of the Judeans, now known as Jews. New questions of identity arose. The court tales of Esther and Daniel, like those of Joseph and Moses, gave answers at once humorous, macabre, and profound.

31 min
Apocalyptic Literature

24: Apocalyptic Literature

What are the literary devices and sociological origins of apocalyptic writing? How are these typified by the Old Testament's only full-blown apocalyptic account (Daniel 7-12)? We conclude with a few comments on messianic speculation and future hope.

31 min