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Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad  By  cover art

Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad

By: Mark W. Muesse,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Mark W. Muesse
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Publisher's summary

No understanding of human life, individual or collective, could be complete without factoring in the role and contribution of these history-shaping teachers. Now, this 36-lecture series takes you deep into the life stories and legacies of these four iconic figures, revealing the core teachings, and thoughts of each, and shedding light on the historical processes that underlie their phenomenal, enduring impact.

Speaking from multilevel personal experience with these teachings, Professor Muesse leads you in an inquiry with a dynamic double thrust.

First, you'll get the chance to reflect in depth on the most essential values of spirituality and the art of living, seen from four archetypal perspectives. Second, you'll delve into the historical contexts and individual lives of the four sages, and how the religious and philosophical traditions we associate with them came into being. The lectures serve as a unique window on the origins of these traditions, through their focus on the teachings, actions, and historical roles of the sages who inspired them. In uncovering the original wisdom and practices of each sage, you'll grapple with key questions. How did each man understand the nature of the universe? How did each envision the human self? What did they each see as the path to true self-realization? In words reflecting profound and compassionate insight, these lectures bring the teachings vividly alive as they speak to their essential purpose and as they shed light on the choices we all face, moment by moment, in living deliberately and savoring life to the fullest.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad

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Audible at its best

Where does Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

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 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.

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128 people found this helpful

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Great Job...on 3 of Them...

...but if you’re looking for an objective historical account of Jesus, please look elsewhere. It’s not that Professor Muesse shouldn’t have opinions about the divinity of Jesus—we all have them, and to be sure, any historical figure claiming to be GOD probably should be subject to firmer scrutiny by a historian. My complaint is that he should have acknowledged the arguments on both sides of the debate and, like a good historian, stick to the FACTS rather than to opinions.

What really set me off was that he went out of his way to present his own speculations about Jesus as though they were fact (e.g., Jesus “probably” didn’t consider himself God...how can anyone KNOW that? I mean, I don’t presume to know what went on in Jesus’s mind). BUT he did not take the same approach with the other 3 sages.

At one point, Professor Muesse addresses some historians’ claims that Mohammed’s revelations were mere epileptic seizures. He goes on to assure believers that it’s still possible in such a scenario to believe that Mohammed’s seizures yielded revelations from a divine source...which is fine...

...but then he couldn’t make similar assurances about the 4 Gospels in the Christian Bible?? Even though there actually are historians with arguments along this line?

I’m not saying he should be a believer in Christianity to comment on the historical Jesus. But I am saying that he glosses over the utter lack of consensus among historians regarding whether Jesus was God and presents his own views as ultimate fact.

If you want an anti-Jesus skeptic’s view of the man, then you might enjoy this. If you want a Christian view of the historical Jesus, try NT Wright, William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne and Richard Bauckham. If you want an objective, non-biased account of Jesus, which is what I was hoping for, well ...I’m at a loss here.

All that being said, I really enjoyed the rest of the lectures, so it wasn’t a total waste of an Audible credit.

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Wasn't what I had in mind.

I wanted to learn the teachings of these famous prophets; however, the course was more about their personal lives and how those lives shaped the teachings--each teacher's perspective--than the teachings themselves.

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If you are a Christian.. Approach Cautiously!

What would have made Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad better?

Disclaimer: I am a Christian Pastor (although my current role is predominantly researching, studying, writing and personal coaching). Also, so far I have only made it to Chapter 20. (I've completed the sections on Confucius and Buddha and just completed my 2nd chapter on Jesus.

Overall, I have enjoyed the audio book thus far, up until chapter 19 anyways. As someone unfamiliar with Confucius, and not nearly as educated on Buddha's teachings as I am in the Christian faith it was interesting to learn about their lives, their historical and cultural backgrounds, and their beliefs and ideas. The professor fits my personal style well, carefully articulating his words and with a clearly well-thought out and structured learning plan. He is not very exciting and can come off monotone at times, but I am a bit of a scholar so I don't mind learning from this approach. I thought the way he structured the program and has moved through the topics to be organized and very easy to follow.

I am dedicated to the pursuit of both knowledge and Truth and love learning about different religions, philosophies, and the various arguments and apologetics for and against different religious disciplines. I honestly believe that we should all continuously pursue the Truth, even if it "appears" like we are questioning our faith or if it means changing our minds about past beliefs. I state that so the title "Pastor" does not lead you to think that I would ever just blindly defend my faith. I've spent the past 4.5 hours analyzing the facts and data available, initially to question my own assertion, and now to share with others. Like I said previously, I was enjoying the audiobook until Chapter 19, where he lost all his credibility with me. Assuming we would likely not agree on everything with me, I came in open-minded but after giving it much thought I really don't believe he is presenting just the facts in an unbiased way. His vocal pitch has even changed in this chapter indicating his belief that it's just "made up". What bothers me the most though is that his initial argument is not arguably logical to me. If it were I would just write this one small piece off as something I'm not able to argue for and then move on. But later, he recalls back his initial argument that he arrived at by jumping to conclusions (that was supposedly rock-solid to him) and uses that to infer the follow-up assertion that these stories were likely fabricated by the authors. I'm sorry, that's a bold statement that you need good proof of if you're going to present a "scholarly, unbiased, rational" lecture on.

In Chapter 19, while interpreting he presents an argument that both Matthew and Luke cannot both be correct since they do not both say the same things. Even though he states that he fully understands the fact that they're writing to different audiences he can't fathom that they would leave these "irreconcilable differences". Differences that I could personally give you a half dozen reasons why the authors might choose to do this very thing. He ascertains that the stories were embellished and that even though both gospels record that Joseph and Mary live in Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem that they "probably just lived in Bethlehem" because "most scholars think that's probably what happened". He doesn't give any names of these scholars, give any reason for why this is, or any other substantial argument other than the fact that since King Herod ordered a killing of everyone under 2 years old (because the wise men said that's what the stars told them) that "we can infer that it happened at least 2 years ago and thus Jesus is 2 and thus they probably lived there). So rather than take the actual word of the 2 authors of the Gospel, we're going to take the word of the people in the story written by those 2 authors and then make our own assumptions based on that!? Perhaps Herod kills everyone under 2 years old to make sure that he gets the child! Why would he say 2 years or younger when it happened two years ago? The child might look old for his age! The star may have been from John the Baptist only 6 months older than Jesus who lives right near Bethlehem. Also it is very likely they were on their way to Mary's cousin's house Elizabeth when her water broke. Nazareth is after all over 60 miles from Jerusalem (4 miles from Bethlehem) where they would've wanted to stay for at least 8 days anyways to bring baby Jesus to Jerusalem for the ceremonial rights that all Jewish babies did. There is so much more I could say and/or prove that you could look up and see for yourself but I will write up a more thorough formal argument later for any and everything he ends up saying that I like is not well-researched enough and is misleading to people.

I will continue to listen to the rest of the audio book objectively and not discount any of his future ideas based on the merit of these ones. I will also update my review after listening to the rest of the book. The part that now worries me is that I now doubt his credibility on the subject matter. On Jesus' life I have probably a thousand or more hours of studying within the past 3 years. However, I know very little about the other sages in this book. I would have taken what I have already learned as nearly fact but now I'm not sure if I should trust what he has taught me about them! That worries me and it should you too. Approach this one cautiously, as always discern everything, and continue to read and learn. Never take just a few opinions and then close your mind to new ideas and arguments. God bless,

Brian S. Holmes
mpoweredchristian.org

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes, I like the format, and I think each individual author should be judged according to their own merits.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

In at least a few instances, he should have more thoroughly researched and analyzed the topic before deciding to make such bold assertions against commonly-accepted beliefs.

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

Disappointed at the moment

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47 people found this helpful

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Brilliant introduction to those 4 great teachers

Any additional comments?

This book's content is really interesting and the author's narration is great. It's a perfect introduction to comparative religion. I enjoyed it a lot and would recommend it to my friends. It might be better to choose another title if you are already advanced in the study of those historical figures though.

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A good overview of 4 sages

Where does Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This book covers a massive subject matter which is presented from a secular perspective. This audiobook does a capable job at presenting the main themes and historical background for each of Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad from the author's academic perspective - I am certain that theologians from any of the 4 religions will find many areas / points to disagree with! The book is controversial in places (when compared to mainstream theological understandings, e.g. the deity of Christ and Muhammad's use of war). It does offer an excellent opportunity to expand one's understanding of the 4 "sages" (the author's term) and to understand commonalities and differences between them. I truly enjoyed the audiobook, listened to its entirety, and learned a lot of things I didn't know. I took it for what it is - an academic, historical and sectarian view of the 4 "sages"; so, do not purchase this book if you are looking for a theology course.

Who was your favorite character and why?

All 4 "sages" were pretty interesting to learn about.

What does Professor Mark W. Muesse bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The spoken word reveals emotion and interest in a way a book can't portray.

Any additional comments?

The audiobook was well narrated.

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Great overview

What made the experience of listening to Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad the most enjoyable?

Prof Muesse placed the ideas of the 4 in good context. He relayed a lot of historical information.

What other book might you compare Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad to and why?

A history book. Can not think of a good example right now.

Which character – as performed by Professor Mark W. Muesse – was your favorite?

I thought he description of the life and works of Confucius was the most in depth and interesting.

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

To much info for that

Any additional comments?

One of my favorite "Great Courses" books.

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Was Expecting More

it was interesting, however I did sense the author's bias to Jesus which at the end he stated was based on early childhood recollections from Sunday school. He did not spent the time he spent with the other three describing Jesus's teachings and parables. I also felt with the Buddha he could of spent more time with the techniques used for meditation. I was expecting a more unbiased view which delved into the sages teachings and the effect the have in today's current world and was disappointed that did not occur

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Informative and well organized

This is my second series of lectures by Professor Mark W. Muesse. Both have been a pleasure to hear. I would classify this series as freshman- or introductory-level. It probably would not benefit any but the most casual religious scholar.

I feel that I came away with a good basic understanding of the historical facts, as they can be determined, and the teachings of these four individuals. Great care was taken to provide historical and cultural context for each. The work avoids any judgement about the validity of any religious doctrine.

When we experience deeds performed in the name of a doctrine, the obvious question is whether or not the actions reflect a rational interpretation of the originator's intention or are simply extremist excuses for the actions. An impartial scholar would be the ideal individual to examine this question; however, Professor Muesse makes no attempts in this area. Perhaps this issue was just not the focus of the series, but since the atrocities committed in the name of various religions are a part of their history, he loses one star for political correctness.

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Intelligent entertaining and unbiased

Intelligent entertaining and unbiased. Highly recommend it. Probably the best audio book I've listened to date.

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