When you hear the title of the course "Jesus and His Jewish Influences" you might think, "Another course on Jesus!" Prof Jodi Magness, Kenan Distingui..Show More »shed Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism, UNC at Chapel Hill, surprises with a course that is actually more about first century Judaism - of which early Christianity was a part - than about Jesus.
In 24 half an hour lectures she introduces the listener to the Jewish world in which Jesus lived in. Early on you will come to understand the importance and significance of mountains to Jews, whereafter you will be introduced to a concise historical overview of second temple period Judaism. At the end of each lecture she will link it to Jesus.
Some of the more interesting lectures to me, was that of Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews (lecture 7), especially the parallels she drew between Alexander and Jesus. In Lecture 11 she challenges the general view that Jesus came from the lineage of David, arguing forcably that as a Galilean his forebears probably was forcefully converted to Judaism, similarly as what happened to Herod the Great's parents. In lectures to follow she discusses the various Jewish sects from which Jesus could have come. She looks at the arguments for and against these origins for Jesus. I found lecture 18 about Pontius Pilate also very interesting, as she properly de-romantised him and places him in a convincing historical context.
At long last The Great Courses guides are also available in PDF format for download after you have purchased the title. I found that the guide was a good refresher after listening to the lectures. It helps you remember and revise the contents. For each lecture it contains questions about the contents and reading suggestions. The bibliography has an added explantion to each book quoted or used in the lecture series. I though the guide was not only very helpful, it brings a new dimention to the way I listened to the lectures. Furthermore it is informative as a stand-alone book also.
I can highly recommend this lecture series, as a window on the time around Jesus. It is just as important to understand Jesus' time as his words. Enjoy this listen!