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Publisher's Summary

For most of the last 2,000 years, questions about the figure of Jesus have begun with the Gospels, but the Gospels themselves raise puzzling questions about both Jesus and the religious movement within which these narratives were produced. Is it possible to shape a single picture from the various accounts of his life given us by these Gospels?

This far-ranging course examines not only the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John familiar to us from the New Testament, but also the many other, apocryphal narratives and literary works that have contributed to our perceptions of Jesus, Mary, and Christianity - all of which are encompassed by the word "Gospel." In these 36 engaging lectures, you'll discover the human Jesus that underlies many portraits we have.

After introducing you to the era's volatile mixture of Mediterranean culture, Greek ideals and realities, Roman governance, and the religion of Israel, Professor Johnson turns to the Gospels and provides close analyses of key lines of text, explanations of the significance of language and terminology, and overviews of important issues with which scholars have long grappled. You'll learn about the different issues of faith each Gospel emphasizes, as well as the real-world logistics of spreading that faith during the early Christian era.

But it is the figure addressed by the Gospels who dominates these lectures, sometimes in ways less familiar than the portrayals of Jesus we most often encounter. Beyond the portrayal in the synoptic gospels, you'll study what the apocryphal narratives have to say about the childhood of Jesus. Among other things, you'll also learn about the source of Roman Catholicism's doctrine of Mary and examine the 2nd century faith of Gnosticism.

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

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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  • Jacobus
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 08-02-13

Thorough wideiranging overview of scholarship

Prof. Luke Timothy Johnson's course about Jesus and the Gospels is wide-ranging and very informative. It starts with the question of the historical Jesus, where-after Johnson deals with each of the canonical gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John helping to get a grip on these texts from a literary perspective. I found this part of the course not always easy to listen to, especially since there is no PDF or other written study guide available from Audible when you buy one of 'The Great Courses' audiobooks. I think it is essential to have it available. After the Canonical Gospels Johnson mode into the Apocryphal Gospels like the Pro-evangellium Jacobi and also the Nag Hammadi texts, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Truth. I found the extra-biblical material very interesting.

Prof. Johnson is fairly easy to listen to, very enthusiastic and that is what makes it a great listen. He furthermore speaks with authority. He holds a more conservative stance on various issues, like the dating of the Gospel of Thomas, but gives a fair and well-balanced account of current scholarship.

I would recommend this course to anyone who has some time to just focus on Jesus and the Gospel. It comes highly recommended.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Searching for truth

The author covered a wide range of thoughts, leaving no stone unturned. Excellent work!! I highly recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A good overview and honest scholarship

What made the experience of listening to Jesus and the Gospels the most enjoyable?

I like that Luke Timothy Johnson discusses the general overall scholarship, informs listeners when his opinion is being offered, and he would rather offer reasonable interpretation over sensationalistic theories. I would recommend this overview to those who want to go deeper in this field.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • Albuquerque, NM, United States
  • 08-13-13

Good Catholic Overview

This is the second lecture series I listened to from Prof. Johnson. He is extremely well prepared and keeps the topics interesting. I clearly has no use for the search of the "Historical Jesus" and makes a pretty compelling case for why that search is futile and irrelevant. He assumes you have knowledge of the canonical gospels, which is nice if you are looking for a more advanced course.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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I Never Knew About Historical Jesus Writings!

Where does Jesus and the Gospels rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I suppose that students of bible history know of the information supplied in this lecture; but for me it was all new. The Nag Hammadi scrolls especially and their expansion of the life of Jesus and his followers and subsequent "gospel writers" into the 4th century was amazing. Lecture 25, Canonical And Apocryphal Gospels covers material I did know existed. All my life I have read the Bible in part. This lecture lets me see a lot of those misunderstood parts into a whole. So glad I took the course.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Jesus and the Gospels?

Each lecture was beneficial.

What about Professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s performance did you like?

A pleasing voice. He has a very youthful voice and I was surprised to see an older man. No offense Prof!

Any additional comments?

The texts were so helpful for reviewing the lectures.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Excellent alternative to historical Jesus

I learned so much. Much better than the historical Jesus approach which winds up making Jesus a reflection of the scholar instead of getting to any authentic Jesus. The professor's voice is crisp and clear. Material is organized well.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Just Not Enough Insight

I had high hopes for this course fueled by my interest in any kind of assessment and discussion of the Gospels. But for whatever reason it did not live up to my expectations. Too many times I found myself zoning out unable to be drawn in by the discussion. Something just didn't click. I guess I was expecting a different approach. I think it is fair to say this isn't an introductory course or at the very least it can be said the professor assumes the listener has a certain level of knowledge going in and not just around Jesus but also of the ancient world. He's one of those professors that at the end you "get" what he's trying to say but the effort to understand the journey/delivery he takes you through can be harrowing. You wished he would've just said things differently!

At first I had a hard time adjusting to the professor's presentation style. The cadence of the delivery of his sentences at times felt a little odd: Sometimes it is too slow to the point you lose interest mid-sentence. Other times he emphasizes what seems to be the wrong word based on the intent of his message. Other times it sounds like he is dragging something out as if he is talking to a group of small children.

There were quite a few times in which I had a hard time grasping a point he was making and I hoped he’d follow it up with “In other words...” or "for example..." and repeat it in a different way. Instead he would just move on to the next topic or point.

However, I did warm up to him as the lectures went on. In fact the way he laughed through lecture 27 (Infancy Gospel of Thomas) as he told the story of the unruly boy Jesus was endearing and I was finally starting to feel a connection to his approach. It just didn't seem to hold up.

Highlights for me included lectures 5 (the early spread of Christianity), 8 (assessing the synoptic problem), and 25 (process of canonization and an introduction to the apocryphal works). Other than that I had a hard time walking away from a lecture thinking "that was indeed worth my time". Don't get me wrong: he does provide great insight at times but it is scattered across 36 lectures in dribs and drabs. It is hard to rate a course higher than 2 stars when that happens. 18 hours is a huge time committment to only walk away with a half dozen or so moments of "wow great insight".

Ultimately though I wouldn't let my review keep you away. You may very well find his delivery and approach more suited to your learning style even if it did not resonate with me. I would just rather listen to Professor Bart Ehrman on Christianity and the Gospels.

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Excellent story focused account of Jesus

This book/lecture is different from the historical Jesus books in that it focuses on the story written and not how factual it may be.

For anyone hoping to get a richer understanding of the story and point of the gospels, this is the ticket.

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Excellent scholarship, overview

Based on excellent scholarship, excellently done all around. Easy to listen to and follow. Enjoyable.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I learned

I personally learned how to examine these writings in a much clearer method. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • 12-12-14

Very good

What did you like most about Jesus and the Gospels?

The course was really interesting and very informative.

Have you listened to any of Professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This was my first book by Professor Luke Timothy Johnson but I will be purchaseing more.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No, but I thought the course overall was excellent.

Any additional comments?

Initially, I was a little sceptical generally about these courses. However, having now completed Jesus and the Gospels I was gratified to find that it fulfilled my expectations. So much so, that I have persuaded my husband to Persue other Great Courses of interest to him. I would highly recommend this course to anyone.


5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Sally jo-anne finlay
  • 03-21-18

Mind-blowing! Gave me a Totally New Perspective...

'This guy knows his stuff' to put it mildly! This is easily one of the best Audiobooks I have purchased. Having literally hundreds of books & significant amount of Audio titles, I didn't think there was much I hadnt heard before, primarily interested in gnostic, apocryphal writings.
However I started to wish I could start taking notes - there was so much. of interest in each chapter!
This was not just another reading of biblical text, it was a literary investigation of the Bible.
Putting it in the context of the times. The historical backdrop at the time of writing - When it was possibly written, Who was the most probable author, Why were they writing it (primary/secondary source) To what audience was it being written to, Why, What was the thrust of the content, Was it successful, What literary tricks or trends were used to get across the main message or the subtext presented - not to mention the obvious gnostic overtones & repetitive threads that echo OT & Torah. The various translations - or mistranslations! - cast an interesting alternative understanding coupled with his in depth knowledge of the historical context of the time. Often it revealed what seemed abit vague today would have been common knowledge without explanation back then. Each of the Gospels are delved into with each chapter - each character & the relationship discussed. After this is the Gnostic Gospels: Infancy Gospels, Thomas, James, Mary Magdalene, Essenic writings & the relationships to each.
I found that I had a better, deeper understanding of the message & time of Jesus. It was like having a complete bible study lesson each chapter! I believe you could easily pick up 5 -10 things, each chapter, that you never knew before...
The Professor has an engaging, energetic way of speaking that keeps you interested & feels personal.
Often peppered with little asides & jokes which provided some light relief on a subject that is often dealt with in a heavy manner.
I liked this book so much I wanted to send it to friends & I bought more in the series.
Dont think -' Oh I know how this one goes' because I think you will be in for a revelation.!

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  • fabrice
  • 10-02-17

so amazingly annoying at every level

the most annoying reader. brain washing crap hidden in fake history. unless you are brain washed yourself skip it

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • 10-20-16

Wonderful

Professor Johnson covers an fascinating range of material that gave me a satisfying sense of the breadth of early Christian literature covering Jesus's life. He clearly has a genuine, passionate interest in the topic and therefore delivers his lectures in an engaging style. I particularly appreciated his considered and objective analysis that I felt gave me a honest appreciation of how the Christian belief has developed. Professor Johnson takes care to explain things with clarity. I believe this is essential listening for all Christians honestly seeking a genuine understanding of the Gospels

1 of 2 people found this review helpful