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The Old Testament | [The Great Courses]

The Old Testament

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. In a series of 24 lively lectures, Professor Levine explores 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.
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Publisher's 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.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 12-14-13
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 12-14-13 Member Since 2013

    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.

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    "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.

    24 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin 04-18-14
    Erin 04-18-14 Member Since 2005
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    "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!


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel J. Macarro Philadelphia, PA 10-30-14
    Daniel J. Macarro Philadelphia, PA 10-30-14 Member Since 2015

    I like history, religion, philosophy, and language

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    "Great general overview of the Old Testament"
    What did you love best about The Old Testament?

    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!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Old Testament?

    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!


    What does Professor Amy-Jill Levine bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    This only exists in audio form


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer San Jose 02-26-14
    Amazon Customer San Jose 02-26-14 Member Since 2014

    Lifelong Student/Seeker.

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    "Really glad I listened to this course"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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).


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What about Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s performance did you like?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Listened to it twice so far, and definitely plan to go back to listen again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charlotte A. Bruce 08-18-13

    cabruce

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    "Engaging storytelling"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Goldman 01-15-15 Member Since 2012
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    "A wonderful introduction to the Old Testament"

    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

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MARY Denville, NJ, United States 01-04-15
    MARY Denville, NJ, United States 01-04-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Supplement to a course I was taking"
    Would you listen to The Old Testament again? Why?

    Not really. I was taking a course on the Old Testament and used this as a supplemental to my readings.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Not sure reading the Old Testament could be much a spoiler alert....I think we all know how it ends.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-19-15

    a skeptic from downunder

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    "I loved this course!"

    I found it really engaging, and really learned a lot. In spite of thinking I was relatively well read in scripture. I would love to listen to another of Prof Levine's courses. Absolutely value for money compared with some audio books I have bought lately.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Review5"

    this was an excellent lecture series, I'm curious as to what other titles the Professor has available

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa B 03-18-15
    Lisa B 03-18-15 Member Since 2014

    My life is wholly filled with studying the Word of God, researching the Bible's background, accuracy, etc. This is my 1st love in life!

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    "Highly DISAPPOINTING; Even MORE SAD"
    What would have made The Old Testament better?

    If this supposed "Professor" had an actual UNDERSTANDING of Scripture and was therefore ABLE to teach the TRUTH about it. What you get here is what I consider to be an atheistic/WORLDLY view of Scripture that ANYONE could teach. I expected a more educated teaching on Scripture by someone who actually KNEW their Bible. I didn't get that at all.


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    To have a teacher who actually KNEW AND UNDERSTOOD Scripture - AND - kept CURRENT on the myriad of archaeological and scientific discoveries of our times that show how highly ACCURATE Scripture "IS" on the whole. In most cases, this author was COMPLETELY "UNAWARE" of newer discoveries made during the last 10 years at least, which make her teachings obsolete in that area.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    She's a wonderful speaker; highly animated and entertaining. However, her complete ignorance and obvious misunderstanding of Scripture on the whole really detracted from this book. I've studied and researched the Bible on an in-depth basis myself every day, for hours a day, over the past 15 years and so thankfully, was educated enough to recognize the complete inaccuracy of this course. I was hoping to learn something new or more than I've already researched and studied myself; believing that would be the case from a supposed "Professor". Turns out, I already knew more accurately for myself, than ANYTHING this author had to "teach". I learned that anyone taking this course, will come away believing a pack of lies and outdated theories that have nothing to do with the Old Testament to begin with.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    A little anger for wasting my money on this; but mostly DISAPPOINTMENT and sadness that anyone who reads or listens to this believing they'll learn more truth about the Old Testament will go away believing lies and inaccuracy instead. That's VERY sad. One should be REQUIRED to actually know and understand Scripture from a Biblical world view before being allowed to teach on it. I finally understand 1st Corinthians 2:14 fully: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I believe that says it all. This author obviously wasn't able to teach on the Old Testament because she was unable to understand it to begin with. However, there's no excuse for the inaccuracy of the various disciplines and sciences. As a "Professor", she SHOULD be keeping up with the latest archaeological and scientific discoveries that have only served to further prove the accuracy of the Bible. She should also do more studies in the Ancient Near East area, as many of the latest discoveries show that the Bible's recorded statements were, in fact, accurate for that day. Something else this author seems to have no knowledge on.


    Any additional comments?

    If you want to know what the atheistic world view is on the Old Testament, this would be a perfect course for you. If you actually want to LEARN what the Old Testament is really all about and about the myriad of scientific proofs out there (meaning archaeological, geographical, etc.) that show that the Old Testament is not only historically accurate; but also scientifically accurate; then this ISN'T the course for you. If you really want to learn the TRUTH of the Old Testament, I would suggest doing what I've been doing for the past 15+ years. Study and research it for yourself, asking God to show you HIS Truth. I'll keep these lectures ONLY because I plan on writing my own book that shows the difference between an atheistic world view of Scripture verses the real Truth of it. I didn't think before this that I would have been qualified to do so; but after hearing these lectures, by a "Professor" no less, I now "know" that I'm MORE THAN QUALIFIED to do so. If one good thing came out of purchasing this particular series of lectures, it was that I learned that the supposed "Professors" of today who are supposed to KNOW the truth of Scripture, DON'T. I've seen this on t.v. many times with supposed "scholars" but had no idea that this problem went into our college system this badly as well. It's something that people who really want to know and understand Scripture NEED to know about though. You can no longer just "trust" what a "Professor" or "scholar" says. You NEED to research it for yourself to find out if what your being TAUGHT is actually TRUE. Very sad...

    4 of 20 people found this review helpful
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  • Jonathan
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    10/29/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nicky Beet
    9/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "not bad but"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    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


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    not really applicable


    What about Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s performance did you like?

    was good and confident although she did stutter or mispronounce some words or phrases


    Was The Old Testament worth the listening time?

    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


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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