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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Deceptively Modest Theme Chock Full of Knowledge
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.
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.
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.
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?"
- George R. Murray
A fascinating who's who of First Century Palestine