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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.

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

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Jacobus
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 12-14-13

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.

48 of 49 people found this review helpful

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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!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Masterful delivery by a terrific lecturer...

What did you love best about The Old Testament?

Dr. Levine delivered the material with a clear love of the subject and has reached conclusions that while at the time may have challenged her faith have ultimately made it stronger.

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

Listening to Levine in not so many words refer to certain figures of the Old Testament as jerks.

Which scene was your favorite?

Her lecture on the book of Esther as a farce / tragedy with the implication that if you can't see this then you're blind.

Any additional comments?

I found that Levine has strengthened my Christian faith as opposed to her very Jewish arguments undermining it. She helped me to see the OT as not a series of literal historical events but as a variety of literary styles either towards a particular purpose whether it be polemical, poetic or allegorical in nature,

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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

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  • Robert
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 04-14-16

Above and Beyond

An ample and generous course on the Old Testament. More than your money's worth. You won't be disappointed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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magnificent

I truly loved this Old Testament. the author was amazing I learned so much and I'm so thankful

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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to much personal opinions

very hard to listen to the entire course, but still did. interesting perspective but she seems to come across as though she feels it's a book full of fables and legends and very little historical truth.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Most excellent!

I wish there were part II of this course. Amy-Jill Levine is such an expert. She has an ability to share her enormous knowledge with excitement. She is also very sensitive to differences in religious interpretation of particular texts. Overall the best!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan
  • 10-29-14

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Glebovich
  • 07-26-15

Excellent course

One of the best Great Courses out there, in my opinion. Professor Levine's approach is very balanced.

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  • Nicky Beet
  • 09-17-14

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

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  • JB
  • 03-04-16

More please

I'm found the course very informative, interested to hear more! I was fascinated throughout. The speaker ls voice and words were clear, and she explained concepts and stories well.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-28-17

Under the hood of the old testament

Excellent for Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Aetheist, well actually anyone interested in the historical, if not spiritual richness of this material which is too important, even now, to overlook. Also very entertaining. Wish I had lecturers like her.