While not as focussed as his course on the 'book of Genesis' (probably because of this study field being vast) Prof. Gary A. Rensburg does a splendid ..Show More »job in introducing the Dead Sea Scrolls in 24 lectures aimed at those who are almost ignorant of this material.
He covers various aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, from how and when it was found, to its ancient history, its significance and contributions to especially Old Testament/ Tanach scholarship as well as halackhic (Jewish law) issues. Prof. Rendsburg represents and presents the majority view of scholars throughout this course. In lecture 12 he engages with significant as well as sensational alternative views and claims that have surfaced over the years. The course is structured around all of the important Dead Sea Scrolls and Prof. Rendsburg often quotes and discuss these scrolls' content.
A great strength that is sometimes absent from similar introductions is the bird's eye-view of everyday life at Qumran that Prof. Rendsburg provides. On the other hand he significantly downplays the controversy that surrounded the scrolls since its discovery.
When comparing this course to a similar course in the 'Modern Scholar Series' presented by Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, I find that the two courses covers almost the same content with different accents often complementing each other. Because both scholars are Jewish, it does seem that their focus and I presume passion, is more on the Jewish significance of the scrolls. Prof. Schiffman seems to have a better grasp on the New Testament and how the Dead Sea Scrolls enlightens it. On the other hand Prof. Rendsburg's presentation is more polished than Prof. Schiffman's. I would suggest for someone interested in the Scrolls also to obtain Prof. John J Collin's 'The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography.'
If you are interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and want an comprehensive overview, this course comes highly recommended.
12 lectures on Eastern beliefs, 12 lectures on Western beliefs, and not a moment of them wasted. In addition to the Big 5 (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judais..Show More »m, Christianity, and Islam), we also get the essentials on Chinese folk religions, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, Mormonism, Jainism, Sikhism, and the Baha'i tradition. From there, religion and law in America and modern religious trends are discussed as the grand finale.
The information is given in a straightforward manner such that the entire presentation comes across as non-judgmental. The listener is invited by Prof. Berkson to take the basics presented here and build upon that foundation in the quest for knowledge and tolerance. All in all, a remarkable overview course for anyone wanting to look past media, pop culture, and political portrayals.
I was cautious at first, given that a shallow, slanted view trends to sell better than a more nuanced look; especially given the current political cli..Show More »mate.
I was quickly, pleasantly surprised by the quality of these lectures. Mr. Esposito provides a wonderful introduction to Islam, customs, and mainstream thought while giving historical and comparative analysis. Mr. Esposito also addresses extremism, it's relation/separation to the mainstream and gives context for verses (taken out of context) commonly used to justify extremism. Mr. Esposito them goes even further to explain how extremists are actually in violation of Islam.
Throughout, Mr. Esposito gives references and points to exact instances to support the material. Thus, he avoids the all too common trap of, "trust me, I have a title. "
I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about Islam, whether they were new to the topic or well versed. Mr. Esposito uses an academic approach, so if you are expecting proscletizing you will be disappointed. But, if you have a genuine curiosity, you will not be disappointed.
This course opened my eyes on the belief system of Judaism. The professor is probably the most qualified in this course than all the other Great World..Show More » Religions courses, because it seems that he is a devout practitioner.
I love India and Bollywood movies and have been fascinated by the temples and rituals I witnessed in my trips there. But I knew almost nothing about H..Show More »induism. What I could see confused me. The religion seemed whimsical and imaginative, but I was sure I was misinterpreting what it was about. This series of lectures set me straight.
Dr. Muesse's lectures are informative, and he makes Hinduism's concepts and beliefs comprehensible to my Western, linear mind. Starting with the origin of Hinduism, he traces its evolution through the millennia until modern times. This might sound funny, but now I understand much better the plots and characters' motivations in Bollywood musicals.
The professor's delivery is pleasant to listen to. He has a slight Southern (US) accent and an earnestness that I enjoyed. Without reservation I recommend this college course.
So, I've received "The Great Courses" catalogs for years! And for years I've been curious, but unless they are having one of their periodic sales (whi..Show More »ch I always happened to miss), I just felt they were massively overpriced. At least beyond my budget, I knew that much. So when I saw them arrive here at Audible for FAR less money, I was thrilled and purchased immediately! I listened to this title all at once, as I cleaned my house today.
A subject of particular interest to me is Buddhism, and there's two titles they offer, "Buddhism" and this one, "Great World Religions: Buddhism". The difference seems to be that this one is shorter, has less "lectures" (chapters) and is more of an introductory version. It being the lesser priced of the two, I decided to try this one out as my first purchase of these "Great Courses".
So, the first thing I feel like I should note is that it's not so much a "course" as just a lecture divided into chapters. There are no assignments, no students (other than you, the listener), no homework, books or any study materials whatsoever. That may seem more obvious here on Audible but I've always viewed their catalogs and actually thought it was some sort of, well, COURSE. It's really just listening to a professor speak on the subject, Buddhism in this case. This is fine as long as you are aware of that. I would have been livid if I had paid the $135.00 that the website wants for the CD's or even their digital price of $90.00 just to discover it's only a lecture. But for the ten bucks I paid here? Sure, worth it.
One minor criticism, and this isn't a huge deal, but worth a mention: It's a lecture in front of a "pretend audience". We're supposed to think he's standing at a podium in front of a college class of students or perhaps something like a TED talk, but it's really just clearly pre-recorded applause tracks and he's sitting in a quiet studio recording this. I mention it because it's **painfully obvious**; the chapters ("lectures") are each about 30 minutes long and start and end with the identical fake applause, so you hear that every half hour. There are times when he 'banters' or jokes with "the class", and that's just awkward because there's no one else giggling but him. However, having said that, I do actually appreciate that he makes a very genuine effort to personalize the listening experience and so perhaps I am being too harsh. Again, for ten dollars who cares, but at their full price I might have more of an issue with it.
Despite my above knit-picking, the speaker is actually enjoyable to listen to, he has an engaging voice and seems to have genuine interest in the subject. He makes a clear effort to act conversational as if there really is a live audience as opposed to a narrator reading and overall he's quite likeable and the audio is clear and good. (really good of course, since it isn't really live).
As for the actual content, it's tough for me to say as I am not a beginner to Buddhism. I think beginners would like it very much, but intermediate or advanced students would not find much new here. The emphasis appears to be mostly on the "history of Buddhism", or perhaps even a "geography of Buddhism", discussing when and where Buddhism spread around the Asian world as it grew. There is almost no mention of modern Western Buddhism or practices however, so if you're hoping for a current rundown or a 'how-to' of practices and rituals, this would not be a good choice. Also, it does not go into meditation; there's barely a mention and no instruction whatsoever; it's definitely more of a light history of it's origins and summation of it's core beliefs.
A side note: The speaker occasionally references "written material", glossary, etc., that are NOT included with this purchase. I was annoyed at this initially, but saw later that Audible does actually warn you of this below the description, I just missed it. It's nothing of major consequence to me, but if you are very new to Buddhism, he does reference a lot of names/words/terms that might be hard to look up later if you want to learn more but don't know the spelling. It doesn't interfere with the listening experience at all however, as long as the spellings aren't important to you.
Bottom line for me is that I would never-ever pay their usual full price for this, but the price that Audible is offering at is MUCH more in proportion to the content and value that you get. A great intro for newcomers who want to learn a bit about Buddhism's history.
This course covers a variety of topics and compares them across religions, including creation, where we're going, rituals (in time and space), importa..Show More »nt people, places and objects, the nature of God, the afterlife and everything in between.
This course makes some attempt to give a comparative perspective on several of the religions of the ancient Mediterranean. The religions covered are m..Show More »entioned in the publisher's summary, and if you know very little about the religions covered, you will no doubt learn something about each, as I did. However, some major mediterranean religions are left out, most notably Phoenician/Carthaginian religion; also absent is any treatment of Celtic or Iberian peoples' beliefs. Only the briefest mention of the Etruscans as well.
This is especially grievous in light of the large amount of time spent on Judaism and Christianity; these are no doubt Ancient Mediterranean religions, and thus worthy of some coverage, but they -- Christianity especially -- are covered in more detail than for instance the beliefs of classical Greece; this is unfortunate given that Christianity and Judaism are covered in-depth by so many other Great courses lectures, and are bound to be more familiar to most listeners besides.
There is also very little time devoted to the rituals and actual practice involved in each religion, and too much spent on discussing stories told in the context of ancient religion that are not actually religious documents, such as the various ancient epics. As much as I love the Epic of Gilgamesh, this doesn't seem like the place for a close reading of it; more information about each of the ancient Mesopotamian gods would have filled that time better.
However, if you know very little about ancient Mediterranean, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. And if you are primarily interested Christianity, this course would be a great place to learn about the context that gave rise to it. I definitely learned many things from this course, but I can't help feeling that I could have learned a lot more.
In the top five. The course was perfect for me. I subscribe to Audible mainly for the non-fiction. The new Great Courses section is now my favorite.I ..Show More »fell short of an AA degree after the Army because I had to return to work. With the Great Courses option, I can now get up to speed on what I am most interested in, and be in a much better place when I return to school. This course - Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad was an excellent way to begin Great Courses. It was Taught and Narrated so well. There were very few - if any - areas that I wanted to speed threw. In-fact I hit my 30 sec. back button hundreds of times. The subject matter was perfect. It was taught in such a way that I can return to this course over and over, without the dread. We are lucky and blessed to now live in a time that a common laborer can continue to labor at his or her job, yet be able to study these Great Courses at the same time,satisfying our minds while at the same time satisfying our work ethic.I will now keep my eye on any and all of Professor Mark W. Muesse's courses.
This lecture series takes on an important set of topics and handles them well. Professor Koester clearly knows his stuff, and his insights into the B..Show More »ook of Revelation and it's history of interpretation are a helpful corrective to the reigning popular approaches to this important biblical book. That said, Koester's lectures rarely fail to disappoint with the threadbare amount of material that is covered in each. There are several reasons for this. First, Koester's style of speaking is slow, and he pauses often. Second, his presentation of the material wastes a lot of time in belabored explanation of the obvious. He often fails to get to the meat of a particular subject because he has made a point of giving a well defended argument about everyday experience. For instance, he will spend five minutes trying to convince his listeners that troubled political times cause people to be afraid and need to hear a message of hope. Who would doubt that? Finally, he repeats himself a great deal. This pattern becomes the most frustrating in the two lectures that discuss musical interpretations of Revelation through the ages. In all, these two lectures contain about 5 minutes worth of actual material; and the listener is forced to wait through 60 minutes meandering narratives for a point that never comes. In short, this lecture series is not at a collegiate level. I imagine that Dr. Koester is more accustomed to teaching at a masters or doctoral level and has attempted to adjust his style to the college level and undershot the mark. Or perhaps the college level is not what I remember.If you're looking for a lecture series with a lot of meat, I would suggest that you buy a different lecture series from The Great Courses (they really are great) and just go read one of Koester's books on Revelation.
I gained much from this study of EVIL, as examined and imagined in art, philosophy, theology and psychology. I recommend it (with the proviso below) ..Show More »if you write much or if you are fascinated by the forces of good and evil in film and other arts, theology, the psychology of those who commit atrocities or in politics.
The course covers:
the nature and origins of evil (including the symbolism of tragedy, sin and wickedness),
the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh, the Peloponnesian War (and Greek tragedies), the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle,
the Hebrew Bible (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the tower of Babel, Abraham and Job), Christian scripture (original sin and the Apocalypse), Augustine, Rabbinic Judaism, Islam (the Qur'an and the story of Iblis), Thomas Aquinas, Dante (Hell and the abandonment of hope), the Reformation (Luther and Calvin),
Machiavelli, Hobbes (The Leviathan), Montaigne and Pascal and divertissements, Milton (Paradise Lost and epic evil), the Enlightment (Theodicy, Voltaire v. Rousseau and Hume),
Kant (the idea of radical evil), Hegel (evil in history), Marx's failed idea that evil is fundamentally a problem of material conditions), the American Civil War (Huck Finn and Abe Lincoln), Nietzsche,
Dostoevsky (Demons and the nature of evil in modernity), Conrad (human incapacity to escape the Heart of Darkness), Freud (the death drive and pleasure principle), Camus (biological evil in The Plague, selfishness and narcissism in The Fall),
the religious outlooks on evil after WWII (Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish), Hannah Arendt (the banality of evil in Totalitarianism), 20th Century poets on evil (the poetry of surviving Shoah, or catastrophe), science and the empirical study of evil (the shock and prison experiments, on obedience to authority), the "unnaming" of evil (genocide, 9/11 and the H-Bomb), and
whether hope can be found (by avoiding hatred and guilt, "planting iris [that] will be flowering long after [Hitler] is dead").
The Professor did a remarkably good job on an exceedingly ambitious subject.
Proviso: The lectures get rather deep at times, making it difficult at times to follow if you're doing something else, like driving, while listening.
This course is one of the best Great Courses lecture series I have come across. Prof. Grant Hardy has compiled and presents in this course a huge amou..Show More »nt of information about various world religions through introducing their sacred scriptures. He presents it in such an enthusiastic and engaging manner that it is difficult to stop listening.
During these lectures he deals with all the major religions in the world and a few of the lesser known religions. He conveys a lot of empathy towards the different religious traditions without sacrificing his own faith tradition. (He actually kept me guessing about his background, until I listened to his lecture on the Book of Mormon and the Church of the Latter Day Saints' liturgy used in their temples as a spoken form of sacred text. An internet search confirmed my suspicion. That said, his engaging, objective and open-minded approach to different religions ensured that no clear bias towards any specific faith tradition could be detected.)
He dealt with Hinduism (4 lectures), Sikhism (1 lecture), Judaism (5 lectures), Zoroastrianism (1 lecture), Buddhism (6 lectures), Jainism (1 lecture), Confucianism (2 lectures), Daoism (2 lectures), Shinto and Tenrikyo (1 lectures), Christianity (4 lectures), Mormonism (1 lecture), Islam (3 lectures), Baha'i (1 lecture), Abandoned Scriptures (1 lecture) and Secular Scriptures (1 lecture) with an introductory and closing lecture added.
It is very interesting and insightful. For me his lectures the Hebrew Bible, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism were the most interesting. The idea that the Hebrew Bible is a text in conversation with itself is a brilliant observation. I found his discussion of the influence Zoroastrianism on Judaism and Christianity thought provoking. He helped me also to get a much better grasp on Buddhism. There is however much that I didn't know about other faith traditions like Baha'i and Islam and the relationship between them.
I would have chosen different abandoned scriptures (like the Ugaritic clay tablets or some Mesopotamian works, instead of the Egyptian Book of the Dead etc). However I realise that you cannot include everyone's likes and dislikes.
If you want to get to know something about the most important faiths in the world and what they received as holy texts, this is the course to enlighten you. It is very well researched and presented. A must-have course!
The most important insight I gained from Prof David Brakke’s “Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas” is that without Christianity’s flin..Show More »g with ancient Gnosticism the concept of the Trinity of God might not have come to full realisation. In the course he doesn’t say it, but when you think about it, it seems highly probable.
Though for most part Prof Brakke’s lectures follows the standard format of introducing Gnosticism in all its varieties, his contextualisation in the last two lectures, brought a different dimension to what one usually can expect of such courses. For that I commend this course series.
When listening to the lectures you will be introduced to Irenaeus, an early heresy hunter and church father. You will learn something of what other scholars calls “Sethian/Classic” Gnosticism (which includes their myth and an overview of the Gospel of Judas). You will also hear about Valentinus and Valentinian Christianity; the famed Gospel of Thomas and its relation to Gnosticism; the unifying teachings of Mani and Manichaeism; non-Christian Gnosis like devotion to Hermes Trismegistus and you will be given an overview of the beliefs of the Mandaeans. At the end Gnostic ideas will be linked to popular culture and films, such as The Matrix trilogy and Blade Runner.
Prof. Brakke has a way of breaking down difficult concepts and myths in congestible parts through succinct summaries. This facilitates easy understanding. Some of the lectures build on each other. At the end of the course you will understand the basic structure of various related Gnostic traditions.
Yet there are things about this course that I would have liked different. For one, Prof. Brakke’s pronunciation of Greek, Coptic and Hebrew are extremely Americanised. I found it very difficult to follow him when he referred to something in these languages and quoting it. I even got the impression that he might not know any of the languages he referred to. I think that using standard academic pronunciation will tremendously help me as a listener to follow him better. I am thinking of words like “psyche” and “trismegistus.”
I think the name of the course is a bit of a misnomer. Prof. Brakke doesn’t end with “The Gospel of Judas” but deals with it quite early on in the lecture series. Maybe the series should also have been called “Gnosticisms” as Prof. Brakke is of the opinion that only Sethian Gnosticism is true Gnosticism. He is not part of the older school that used Gnosticism as an umbrella term.
This aside, if you want to know what ancient Gnosticism is all about, why it was seen as heretical in the early Christian Church and what it entails, then this course is for you.
I am surprised at how much there is to say about death and dying. Mark Berkson, Professor and Chair in the Religion Department at Hamline University (..Show More »USA), brings together a thesaurus of facts from vastly different disciplines addressing the issue of death in 24 half hour lectures.
He begins the course by asking what death is. Quickly the listener becomes aware that death is not such an easy concept to define. Using insights from the medical sciences Prof. Berkson challenges traditional views.
After defining death, the listener is challenged with his/ her own fear of death and how one copes with grief. Hereafter he/ she is introduced to various rituals surrounding the death of a loved one in different cultures, creating a sensitivity and understanding for other peoples' beliefs.
The beliefs surrounding death and the afterlife from the stance of various religions, gets quite a lot of attention. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism and Syncretistic beliefs are all discussed.
Issues like dying well and what it means, suicide, euthanasia, killing during war, killing of non-human animals, near death experiences and the pursuit of immortality also comes under the spyglass.
I think that the benefits the listener by making listeners sensitive about death and the various world cultures' beliefs. Though it is presented from a American perspective (the USA's death rituals gets precedence), the vastness of Prof. Berkson's knowledge surrounding the subject is truly astonishing. I was really impressed with the way he approached his subject matter, showing the same respect for the listener as one would expect to be shown to the dead. There is however one thing I think needs to be added when the course is revised - the African funeral. Living in South Africa, as a minister, I have buried people from different cultural backgrounds. I have been amazed at how the beliefs surrounding death and the dying differs within the Christian Faith within this country. One of these beliefs has to do with when to bury a person. In the Northern part of the country, you will bury at 6:00, while a Zulu from KwaZulu-Natal may not be buried before 12:00. Even the content of what should go in the grave differs. Many of these rituals are syncretised with Christian beliefs and practises. For the course to be perfect, I would have liked some of these issues to have been included. That said, I am not sure where one would stop when compiling a course such as this if everyone's whims have to be included.
This course can be followed without the course guide. However, the neat guide not only refreshes the mind. I think it can stimulate further discussion.
I recommend this course to anyone interested in a sincere empathetic in-your-face approach to dealing with one of the most important realities in life, death. While I suspect that Prof. Berkson himself leans to a Buddhist approach to death, he is fair to all religions and does not try to push his own understanding of death on his listeners. He gives you the room to decide how you would like to approach it. It comes highly recommended! The only type of death that you might not encounter in this course, is Terry Pratchett's character, Death...