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
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
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.
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!
I'd highly recommend this book. The Old Testament is one of those books that one really should seek to understand, whether or not it has anything to do with your own personal faith (or lack thereof).
It is a very foundational book for a large portion of the earth's people. It is so intimately present in so much of western literature and thought that a person living in the west should really try to understand this work at some level.
The approach followed by the professor is very analytical, but not the least bit cold. She is trying to place the various stories along the historical timeline, and glean insight into the various authors and what the culture was going through at the various times and how this influenced the writing by various techniques. Very interesting parallels are revealed between for example the creation myth in the OT vs. the creation myths of other cultures at about the same time period.
No... nothing like that. This book was more of an intellectual thing than emotional. For me at least it was. I suppose it would be that way for most listeners.
Listened to it twice so far, and definitely plan to go back to listen again.
I like history, religion, philosophy, and language
Prof. Levine rightly states the study of religion is not just theology - it requires a bit of everything and she indeed includes everything. From looking at the history of the composition as a piece of literature, looking at the recorded history of the neighboring peoples of the region, analyzing the narratives as folklore, recurring archetypes, the Hebrew language, and so much more!
I have listened to many Great Courses and I have heard many lecturers deliver very funny lines, but she made a joke about an ancient near east law code that allowed parents to kill their children who disobeyed and I actually heard one of the producers audibly laugh!
This only exists in audio form
No, 30 minutes is a perfect time to allot to one lecture, it fits exactly on my drive to and from work. However, like any lecture in college, listening to too many in a row can start to get tedious, even for the seriously interested layman.
This is one of the older ones back when the Great Courses was still the Teaching Company, so it occasionally sounds of for a split second, as if it was copied from an old tape that got distorted.
Professor Levine is a lively and sympathetic storyteller, who provides so much interesting contextual information. She helps in understanding the story within the context of the times in which they arose and also when they were written down.
Dr. Levine delivered the material with a clear love of the subject and has reached conclusions that while at the time may have challenged her faith have ultimately made it stronger.
Listening to Levine in not so many words refer to certain figures of the Old Testament as jerks.
Her lecture on the book of Esther as a farce / tragedy with the implication that if you can't see this then you're blind.
I found that Levine has strengthened my Christian faith as opposed to her very Jewish arguments undermining it. She helped me to see the OT as not a series of literal historical events but as a variety of literary styles either towards a particular purpose whether it be polemical, poetic or allegorical in nature,
Professor Levine is a vibrant and engaging lecturer who obviously loves her subject. I highly recommend her and this series of lectures on the Old Testament
Not really. I was taking a course on the Old Testament and used this as a supplemental to my readings.
Not sure reading the Old Testament could be much a spoiler alert....I think we all know how it ends.
Narrator- Professor spoke way too fast. Hit the highlights but glossed over important details in nearly a monotone but hyperactive (if that makes sense) speed. I expected more of a more in-depth exploration presented in a more interesting format. I guess I was looking for some passion which she had but went way too fast for the listener to appreciate. Each section was 30 minutes long with canned applause & music at the beginning and end. I really don't like either in a book I am listening to. It is very jarring to me to have chapters begin and end with music. It is like my ears are not ready for the change from words to music.
I have listened twice since purchasing it, and will probably do so many more times. Levine's enthusiasm is infectious. She is articulate, intelligent, and forthright when it comes to expressing her opinions. No two people will totally agree on everything, and so it would have been a pity if I'd gone by some of the negative reviews that attack her beliefs, (The idea that she doesn't believe King David really existed, for example. I can't agree on this point either. There is inevitably some truth to the mythological.), because I would have missed out on a truly "fascinating" narrative. I will be purchasing her "Great Figures of the New Testament" as well. I trust she will deliver as masterful a series of lectures as she has in "The Old Testament".
One of the best Great Courses out there, in my opinion. Professor Levine's approach is very balanced.
"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.
"not bad but"
the book is rather simplistic and lets god off with a pass on many of the more distasteful(to modern eyes at least) aspects of the bible
not really applicable
was good and confident although she did stutter or mispronounce some words or phrases
yes it was,it gave a good insight into some of the aspects of the bible,especially where it crosses cultures+religions eg gilgamesh+noah
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