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

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By Erin on 04-18-14

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!

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Charlie on 02-26-14

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.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Jonathan on 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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Glebovich on 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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Customer Reviews

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By Amazon Customer on 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.

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