Summary

The Old Testament - written in ancient Israel by many different authors over the course of a thousand years - has had more meaning to more people than any other book the world has known. Its influence, whether you consider it scripture or literature, is evident everywhere in our culture, from medieval mystery plays to modern novels, art, music, theater, film, and dance. What can this work teach us about those who wrote it? About the people we once were? And can new academic understanding also speak to faith? As Professor Levine observes: "The Old Testament is endlessly fascinating because it offers everything to explore: myth, saga, and history; tragedy, comedy, and farce; economics and politics; literature and poetry of surpassing beauty; court intrigue and prophetic morality; heavenly miracles and sometimes heavenly silence; questions of theodicy; answers that satisfy and answers that may not; destruction and rebuilding; despair and hope."
In a series of 24 lively lectures, she takes you down all of these avenues, exploring selected passages from the texts known as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, and the Tanakh, revealing how fresh research and findings from scholars of archaeology, cross-cultural studies, and comparative religion can deepen your understanding.
And though the focus of her lectures is on historical and literary issues, Professor Levine does not shy away from issues of religious concern, maintaining that the goal of an academic course is not to undermine religious faith, but to use that academic knowledge as a new source of insight into the writings that form a believer's spiritual bedrock.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jonathan on 29-10-14

Engaging and Interesting but Drags in Places

I was very unsure about choosing this course because the reviews on the Great Courses web site (strongly recommended for details of content) are very mixed indeed. Having listened to it I think that this is because devout Christians/Jews would find some of the comments and style sacriligious. For such people I would recommend the course The World of Biblical Israel (also Great Courses) as an alternative. (In fact I would say that that is a better course anyway). That course goes through the Bible with a focus on everyday life in Biblical times, while this course has a more literary focus. I found the material interesting overall and there are some very interesting parts, e.g. about Saul, David and Solomon. But some of it dragged, e.g. a very drawn out discussion of the Covenant. The lecturer is lively and full of personality -- not quite five stars for performance, but nearly. So it was engaging and easy to listen to, but would have benefitted from a bit of editting.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Anonymous User on 25-01-18

Very informative. Great insights.

Not only excellent content, it is read by the professor herself with engaging narration. Could not stop listening.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jacobus on 14-12-13

A critical but inspiring 'walk thru the' Bible

I am intrigued by the name of the course 'The Old Testament' as Prof. Amy-Jill Levine herself is Jewish. One would've expected a course name such as 'The Hebrew Bible.' But Prof. Levine is one of those scholars who has a very open-minded approach. If I didn't know, I wouldn't have guessed that she is not a Christian scholar. In this course she takes you through almost every aspect of the Old Testament or Tanach or Hebrew Bible, whatever you want to call it. In her lectures she also has a sensitivity for the New Testament and I think this enriches her presentation so much more.

The course consists out of 24 jam packed lectures. Lectures 1-6 focus mainly on the Book of Genesis through which she introduces the various critical approaches of studying the Bible while giving the listener a feeling of the content of the book. I thought lecture 7 "Folklore Analysis and Types Scenes" were a highlight. (If you have listened to Prof. Gary Rendsburg's lecture series 'The Book of Genesis' you might be pleasantly surprised how these two courses complement each other.)

Lectures 8-11 deals with the rest of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). I found her explanation of various laws and why they are the way they are very interesting. She was able to keep my attention through what might seem very boring to some indeed.

Lectures 12-14 deals with the books of Judges and Josua and the conquest of the land. He take on the various judges was refreshing, especially how she interpreted Samson. (It is approached mainly narratively and reminds me a lot of Tammi J Schneider's commentary on Judges in the 'Berit Olam' commentary series.)

Lectures 15-17 deals with the kings of Israel focussing especially on Saul, David and Solomon. The highlight here was her treatment of the story of David and Batsheba. She ends with the earlier prophets.

Lectures 18-21 deals with prophecy, the fall of the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), the exile and restoration. You will be introduced to Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a book like Ruth.

The last three lectures (22-24) deals with Wisdom literature, Song of Songs, Job and Ecclesiastes; the books of the Diaspora, Esther and Daniel and the apocalyptic part of the book of Daniel.

It is quite extensive. Prof. Levine is able to deal with almost all of the important issues in the current scholarly study of the Old Testament.

Her style and enthusiasm for the subject matter keeps the course vivid and easy to follow (that said, you must have at least an inkling of the content of the Old Testament as this is not a crash course in its content.) Unfortunately Audible do not provide any study guide in PDF format for the Great Courses series.

I recommend this course to those who what to get a grip on the Old Testament and want to understand it better. It is an excellent course covering A LOT of information.

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60 of 62 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Erin on 18-04-14

New appreciation for the Old Testament

What made the experience of listening to The Old Testament the most enjoyable?

The Old Testament has been a part of my life for more than 40 years, but Professor Levine has brought new meanings and significance to those old, familiar stories I thought I knew very well. Among other things, I enjoyed her exploration of Semitic culture and law, her emphasis on ancient literary tropes and how they lend meaning to the stories, and the way she delves into the stories of minor characters we don't hear much about in church. Her lectures are lively, funny, and illuminating. I highly recommend this course for people interested in Biblical studies, ancient history and culture, or literary criticism. Great listen!

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12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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