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When you hear the title of the course "Jesus and His Jewish Influences" you might think, "Another course on Jesus!" Prof Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism, UNC at Chapel Hill, surprises with a course that is actually more about first century Judaism - of which early Christianity was a part - than about Jesus.
In 24 half an hour lectures she introduces the listener to the Jewish world in which Jesus lived in. Early on you will come to understand the importance and significance of mountains to Jews, whereafter you will be introduced to a concise historical overview of second temple period Judaism. At the end of each lecture she will link it to Jesus.
Some of the more interesting lectures to me, was that of Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews (lecture 7), especially the parallels she drew between Alexander and Jesus. In Lecture 11 she challenges the general view that Jesus came from the lineage of David, arguing forcably that as a Galilean his forebears probably was forcefully converted to Judaism, similarly as what happened to Herod the Great's parents. In lectures to follow she discusses the various Jewish sects from which Jesus could have come. She looks at the arguments for and against these origins for Jesus. I found lecture 18 about Pontius Pilate also very interesting, as she properly de-romantised him and places him in a convincing historical context.
At long last The Great Courses guides are also available in PDF format for download after you have purchased the title. I found that the guide was a good refresher after listening to the lectures. It helps you remember and revise the contents. For each lecture it contains questions about the contents and reading suggestions. The bibliography has an added explantion to each book quoted or used in the lecture series. I though the guide was not only very helpful, it brings a new dimention to the way I listened to the lectures. Furthermore it is informative as a stand-alone book also.
I can highly recommend this lecture series, as a window on the time around Jesus. It is just as important to understand Jesus' time as his words. Enjoy this listen!
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
The professor is very knowledgable and keeps the course easy to follow, however I felt the title was a bit misleading. This course could easily have been called, "A History of Judea before Christ". Very informative, but I though the professor would present a more concrete connection throughout the entire course.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
What did you like most about Jesus and His Jewish Influences?
The structure is rather satisfying in that individual chapters cover seperate topics that are interesting enough to standalone, but when stacked one after another - like lego - fit together to build a more and more '3D' model of the Jewish world and culture that shaped Jesus. It's quite an objective portrait that is neither Christian or Jewish in slant, but rather historical - insofar as that is possible for such a far-removed time.
Who was your favorite character and why?
It's too obvious to say Jesus, so I'll give a special mention to Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, because he is such an important source for first century Jewish history, which was particulary violent and traumatic for the Jews and culminated in their sacred temple being destroyed. Interestingly, Jews themselves were not much interested in Josephus, being somewhat of a traitor, and as his writings were historical in nature rather than religiously inclined. Thus, it was Christians who preserved his writings.
Which character – as performed by Professor Jodi Magness – was your favourite?
The audiobook is historical in nature, so the characters are not 'performed' as such, but there are many important historical figures featured relevant to the Jewish story. And what a tumultuous story it is! Uprisings, conquests, schisms, exiles. Biblical Patriarchs, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Assenes, Pharisees, Maccabees, Samaritans, Galileeans. Whilst it's historical and academic, it still manages to be dramatic and fascinating with many colourful characters and villains.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Emotional is probably not the right word, but I was certainly intrigued. Everyone will draw something different from this course based on their perspective, but I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in Jewish history from early Biblical times leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple and/or anyone interested in finally getting to the bottom of what the enigma wrapped inside a riddle that is Jesus Christ was like. Or even just ancient history or religion in general. Some key questions you might have about him will be answered outright. Some other ones will probably spring to mind, but that's part of the fun of it.
Any additional comments?
I found the narration irritatingly slow at first - almost patronisingly so. However, I came to appreciate the delivery and structure after a few chapters. There's a lot of info. packed into each chapter, and you need to concentrate to a certain extent to join up the dots. Long periods pass where Christ is not mentioned at all. Cultural and historical context is key. If you chopped Christ and Christian sources such as the New Testament out of this book, most of the audiobook would still be intact as a fascinating insight into Jewish history and culture - Torah, ritual purity, prophets, apocalyptic and messianic fervour, foreign rulers and persecution, exile, different sects such as the austere Essenes, ordinary peoples' lives etc. It's terrific.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
this is a history of Judaism with limited references to Jesus. interesting anyway. tough going