Great Figures of the New Testament : The Great Courses: Christianity

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Amy-Jill Levine
  • Series: The Great Courses: Christianity
  • 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Improve your biblical literacy with these 24 insightful lectures about the cast of vivid characters in the New Testament. From the well-known figures of Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples to important but lesser known figures, such as the Syro-Phoenician woman who must turn Jesus's own words back on him to gain the healing of her daughter, Professor Levine paints vivid portraits of Christianity's founding generation.
You'll learn about such figures as:

The elderly couple Elizabeth and Zechariah and their son, John the Baptist;
Jesus's friends, the contemplative Mary and the vocal Martha, as well as their brother, Lazarus;
The apostles Peter and Thomas, James and John, and Judas Iscariot;
Mary Magdalene, who becomes known as the apostle to the apostles;
Paul the apostle, as presented in Acts of the Apostles and what can be determined about him from his letters;
A number of strong and interesting women, including the unnamed Samaritan and a repentant sinner who anoints Jesus;
Jesus's interlocutors, including the centurion with a paralyzed son and the desperate Canaanite mother with a demon-possessed daughter.
Rather than promoting any particular religious worldview, this course seeks to read the ancient texts anew to discover what they really say and how they were interpreted by both the secular culture and the faithful church.

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Most Helpful

Deceptively Modest Theme Chock Full of Knowledge

What made the experience of listening to Great Figures of the New Testament the most enjoyable?

I enjoyed the realization of how little I (and probably 90+ percent of US Christians) really know about 1) the figures of the New Testament, 2) the historical contexts of the (ancient) times, 3) how many myths and falsehoods lifelong Christians take for inviolable truth and 4) some of the unfortunate consequences of our faith that have been swept under the rug.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Not only has Mary of Magdala's reputation taken a completely undeserved beating for the last 2000 years, but her enormous contributions to the Christian faith have been grossly understated as well. If there was any justice in this world, she would be named the 13th Apostle forthwith.


What about Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s performance did you like?

Professor Levine's deep reservoir of historical and scholarly knowledge never obscures her passion for this material, and her wry bits of humor never disrespect it. For thinner-skinned adherents to rigid orthodoxy though, enjoyment levels may vary.


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

There were many wonderful, sad, touching, courageous and tragic moments throughout the lectures, but after listening to this entire course, I keep coming back to one nagging question: "What the heck was 'saint' Stephen thinking?"


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- George R. Murray "It kills me to think of how many years I've wasted driving around in my car and doing house/yard work when I could have been learning."

A fascinating who's who of First Century Palestine

When hearing this course' title "Great Figures of the New Testament," I conjured up an image of someone discussing some literary figures from the New Testament. What I found was surprisingly and excitingly different. Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, the well-known Jewish New Testament Scholar, gives an important overview of of various characters and historical figures from the Christian New Testament. On the one hand you will meet the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, while you will also learn of Peter, Herod the Great, Paul, Josephus and various other historical figures. She asks "Who is who in the first century living in and around Palestine?"

If you thought that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, you might be surprised to find out that she wasn't. Prof. Levine is not hesitant to dissect the layers of tradition that surrounds various of the historical figures she presents in this course. She presents her insights and that of other scholars in a non-threatening way while minimising typically scholarly jargon. If I did not know that she was Jewish, I might never have guessed it, the way she presented it. She brings together a vast array of knowledge about different figures, that enables the listener to think differently about various topics.Her careful phrasing of ideas and sentences makes this course very accessible. Her respect for her subject matter is praiseworthy.

If you want a critical overview of the New Testament, this course comes highly recommended. She is very fair in most of her comments her unique blend of historical-critical scholarship and literary analysis of texts shines through. Her redeeming of the Jews and of females are also two important aspects that shines through in these lectures.

I heartily recommend this course, if you need an overview of the New Testament. Prof. Levine gives profound insights throughout this course. Some of it will keep your mind occupied for some time.

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- Jacobus "When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses