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The World of Biblical Israel  By  cover art

The World of Biblical Israel

By: Cynthia R. Chapman,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Cynthia R. Chapman
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Publisher's summary

From Genesis to Job, the Hebrew scriptures contain some of the most influential stories in Western civilization. But what do these stories tell us about daily life in ancient Israel? And why do they still speak to us today?

In 24 captivating lectures, Professor Chapman introduces you to the stories of the Judeans in exile and grounds them in their historical context, giving you a grand vision of history as presented in the scriptures. She compares the history in the Bible to the archaeological record so that you come away with a complete picture of life in biblical Israel.

Discover the complete literary power of the scriptures by investigating many of the Bible's key historical moments, from the origins of the Israelites in the Torah to the Babylonian Captivity and the resettlement under the Persian Empire, which is the very heart of the Hebrew scriptures. Learn how the exilic period motivated the community to reexamine its relationship to its God, its land, its religious practices, and its legacy to the children who would become the new Israel.

But you'll tackle more than the sweep of history. From the family compounds to the battlefields and from the kitchens to the temples, Professor Chapman puts flesh on the bones of the biblical stories. Spiritually engaging and historically fascinating, this course is unlike any other, and it will give you a new appreciation both for ancient history and for the foundation of the three Abrahamic faiths.

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

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The World of Biblical Israel

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Interesting, if you can stomach the bias.

I was excited when I found this course - I thought I would be getting historical and cultural insight into ancient Israel. I got some interesting tidbits, but was distracted by the overtone of cynicism with regard to the Bible as anything beyond rewritten family stories full of propaganda, or "composed" literature. As a believer in the Bible as the Word of God, I felt the delivery to be dismissive and disrespectful of listeners who believe these scriptures to be true and ordained by God. The information could have been communicated entirely apart from these subjective interjections - it didn't add anything to the series to have the obvious personal bias of the lecturer against the validity of scripture as truth coating the delivery, and indeed took away from my experience of this series. By the end, I had given up getting any real content, and resolved that the lectures would be mostly the a retelling of scriptural accounts with the speaker's own thoughts and ideas woven in, full of subtle jabs at its accuracy. One might ask how we can learn ANYTHING from the text, if we are also saying it isn't trustworthy. The duplicity is aggravating, and the lack of integrity saddens me. How disappointing.

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Liberal Bias

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Cynthia R. Chapman?

No

What was one of the most memorable moments of The World of Biblical Israel?

When I realized the author did not believe the Bible was God's inspired Word.

Do you think The World of Biblical Israel needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No, I am not interested. I was hoping that Audible Books would also offer more books from conservative scholars.

Any additional comments?

Warning to a Biblical conservative that this series has a liberal bias. Author does not believe Moses wrote the five books attributed to him and that Judges is a retelling of the book of Joshua. I wish in the details of any book the author's biases would be noted.

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40 people found this helpful

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Wow! The Torah Kinda Makes Sense Now!

I absolutely loved this course and felt like I finished it far more educated! I have always felt that the Bible combined historical truth with political opinion and deific mythology. This course does a great job of distilling the history from the mythology. For beginners trying to figure out the Bible, it also puts things along a nice timeline.

I've read bits and pieces from the Bible and they never really made sense to me. For example, if Jews are not to have idols, and David was a great king, why does the Bible describe him as having household idols? In another example, what did it really mean that the Assyrians displaced the 10 tribes of Israel and left just the tribe of Judah?

Well, Dr. Chapman takes the text and puts it into a historical context - suddenly, the material makes sense! You walk away with a real sense of who the ancient Israelites were and what they really believed.

Dr. Chapman's overall thesis is that, while some material was older than the Babylonian exile, the Bible is largely a result of that exile and, even the older material, was edited in light of the experience of exile. She delves into a lot of concepts to support her thesis.

For those who commented that this course comes from a secular perspective that denies the existence and supremacy of Gd, I'd have to agree with their opinion. Of course, I'm not sure what a history course would look like if it were built around Gd - isn't that pretty much the Bible in it's raw form?

Anyway, for a wannabe, amateur, Biblical historian, this course just ties everything together and I highly recommend it.

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23 people found this helpful

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Title of Course does not match expectations

I have listened to about 25 great courses and enjoyed most of them. Professor Chapman apparently knows her material well, but most of the time she is speaking in a monotone, suggestive of having given this talk many times. Once in awhile, she would become more animated, but most of the time, it was hard for me to listen.

More importantly, the story was also unclear. The primary focus was on the exilic period when Judah and Israel had been conquest by Babylon and Assyria respectively. However, it was not history as much as an exposition of how the Deuteronomists edited the history to give meaning to that period of Israel's exile. That is fine, but that more narrow focus was not indicated by the title of this course. There were also a few places where I questioned some of the "facts" being offered. Not a course I would recommend. Sorry! I enjoy the great courses, but sometimes they miss the mark, and I do not place the fault on the speaker.

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16 people found this helpful

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Outstanding course

What made the experience of listening to The World of Biblical Israel the most enjoyable?

Professor Chapman offers an outstanding course on the World of Biblical Israel. It is thorough, insightful, and her presentations are enjoyable. As a Catholic deacon who has studied Scripture extensively, I would strongly recommend this course to anyone who wishes to understand the life and struggles of a people whose blessing paradoxically comes from wrestling with God.

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Great overview of ancient Jewish history

I had trouble finding a good overview of biblical Jewish history and this is it. Exactly what I was hoping for!

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I wanted either more or less

This discussion starts off pulling a lot of bits from the Bible about day to day life in ancient Israel. If she had stopped with that, it would have been a good series, but she continued into areas such as the origins of the Hebrew God. That would certainly be a fascinating subject, but it was breezed over so quickly we were left with only her opinions and no supporting evidence.

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Fascinating supplement

Cynthia Chapman provides a chronological guided tour through the history of Israel, from the days of the patriarchs through the return from exile. It's a vivid account, combining a critical reading of the scriptures with archaeological evidence and references to the records of other Middle East countries; essentially it's a “life and times” of the Jewish people during this period. She includes information about diet, about the architecture of houses, about the arrangement of villages, and about dress and recreation. It's not an introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures per se, but it's a valuable supplement to such an introduction. The course ends with a discussion of the Book of Job and the possible relationship of its philosophical debate to the problems of exile and return.

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Thoroughly disappointed.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

If you want to hear the standard critical assessment of the Hebrew Bible regurgitated then this course is for you. but if you want to hear a fresh synthesis of faith and scholarship look elsewhere.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Yes

Any additional comments?

the author seems not to understand her biases and assumes all listeners share her worldview. She should be more inclusive.

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6 people found this helpful

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Hit piece?

This rant is more of a hit piece done against the authority of the Bible! I wanted to hear more facts about culture and history and less about opinion on authenticity of the Bible and Biblical narrative. I would not have this lady teach a Sunday school class.

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