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Holy Land Revealed

Holy Land Revealed

Professor Jodi Magness, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Holy Land Revealed

Course No. 6220
Professor Jodi Magness, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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4.6 out of 5
86 Reviews
91% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 6220
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What Will You Learn?

  • Survey the typography and layouts of ancient Jerusalem.
  • Learn what scholars know about Qumran: the site adjacent to the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
  • Visit Herod's winter palace at Jericho and explore the divided kingdom he left his three sons.
  • Investigate recent archaeological finds that shed new light on the second major Jewish uprising.

Course Overview

As the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, the Holy Land (the area in and around modern-day Israel) is one of the most important regions in the world. With a rich history stretching back over 3,000 years, this area is a sacred land for three major faiths and the setting for defining events in religious history, including

  • the life, ministry, and death of Jesus;
  • the construction and destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples;
  • the composition of the Old and New Testaments, and parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls;
  • the dramatic siege of Masada; and
  • the journey of the prophet Muhammad to Jerusalem.

The majority of our knowledge about these and other captivating events comes from a wealth of written sources, including the Old and New Testaments, non-canonical works such as the Apocrypha, and works by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

But the Holy Land is also filled with physical evidence that attests to these events—evidence that has only been revealed during the last 200 years. With the information uncovered at various sites—from the rubble of an ancient citadel in the City of David to the contents of rock-cut tombs in the Kidron Valley to individual pieces of correspondence from caves in the Judaean Desert—archaeologists have shed intriguing new light on our understanding of the history of this area. In some cases, their findings have clarified what we already knew. In other cases, they've radically reshaped our views.

Now, comb through these and other remains for yourself with The Holy Land Revealed, an unforgettable experience that will add new dimensions to your understanding of the millennia-long narrative of this dynamic place. Delivered by archaeologist and award-winning Professor Jodi Magness of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has spent her career excavating at sites in and around Israel, these 36 lectures give you an insider's look at how archaeology helps us relive and encounter firsthand life during this formative period of human civilization. And it's a chance to get up close and personal with ruins, artifacts, murals, documents, and other long-buried objects that will take you deep beneath the pages of the Bible.

Travel to a Mysterious Land Rich with History

How does one begin to approach this region, with a history stretching from the arrival of the Canaanites around 3000 B.C.E. up through the Muslim conquest around 640 C.E.? While it's easy to get lost in the whirlwind of political and religious groups in places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Megiddo, Jericho, and Petra, if you have the right guide, the tumultuous story of the Holy Land is easy to understand.

That's why Professor Magness's chronological approach makes The Holy Land Revealed such an invaluable guide to grasping this period of ancient history. She gives you an expert's look at this winding story, but makes it all the more accessible by organizing the course around three major periods:

  • Old Testament and Post-Exilic period (c. 3000–1st century B.C.E.): This period served as the backdrop for some of the most fascinating stories in the Hebrew Bible and early Jewish history.Gain a greater understanding of events such as the reign of King Solomon, the destruction of the First Temple, the Babylonian exile, the birth of sects such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the rise and fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom.
  • New Testament period (1st century B.C.E.– 1st century C.E.): Spanning the rule of King Herod to the life of Jesus through the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 C.E., this era forms the core of the New Testament. Delve into everything from life in Herod's impressive palaces to archaeological finds from the villages around Galilee.
  • Post–Second Temple period (70–640 C.E.): After the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple by the Romans, the Holy Land was the site of political and spiritual turmoil. Examine the two major Jewish revolts against Roman rule, Jewish and Christian life under the early Byzantine Empire, the conquest of the region by the emerging Islamic empire, and more.

You'll also see how other great civilizations and empires played key roles in the story of the Holy Land. These include the

  • Babylonians: The Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. A large number of the Judean population went into exile in Babylon, where the authoritative texts of the Hebrew Bible were edited, and where the concept of synagogues possibly originated.
  • Greeks: In 332 B.C.E., Alexander the Great first passed through the Holy Land on his way into Egypt; after his death, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms each ruled the region. The stamp of Hellenistic culture can be seen in the remains of defensive towers at Samaria and the layout of the Idumaean town of Marisa.
  • Romans: After Pompey's siege of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E., the cities of the Holy Land fell under the authority of the Roman Empire. Following this came centuries of conflict between the Romans and Jews (including the famous Bar-Kokhba Revolt), but also a cultural imprint that was reflected in many early synagogues and churches.

Explore a Wealth of Archaeological Wonders

The Holy Land Revealed is packed with detailed analyses of architectural wonders that provide a physical context for stories from this region. It's a three-dimensional impression that recreates this long-lost world, adding richer layers to stories and events you may be familiar with and providing powerful introductions to those that might be new to you.

You'll walk through ancient water systems and tombs, comb through the ruins of early synagogues and sacred temples, and tour the remains of stables, scriptoriums, and cave dwellings. Along the way, you'll visit some astounding places, including

  • the Temple Mount, the veritable center of Jerusalem and a sacred site of powerful importance for the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths;
  • Caesarea Maritima, a marvel of ancient architecture and engineering, and also the Roman harbor where Paul was imprisoned, as recounted in the book of Acts; and
  • Masada, one of the most famous fortresses in the Holy Land and the site of a dramatic last stand by Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire.

Every lecture is also enlivened by archaeological discoveries frequently tied to related depictions in religious and historical texts. You'll encounter

  • the Merneptah Stele, an ancient Egyptian stone slab from 1209 B.C.E. inscribed with history's earliest mention of Israel;
  • the Cyrus Cylinder, a cuneiform edict from the 6th century B.C.E. Persian king announcing the repatriation of exiled peoples; and
  • the James Ossuary, a controversial burial container with the mysterious inscription that identifies the remains as belonging to "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus."

Provocative and Intriguing Questions

A deft blend of religion, archaeology, history, and culture, The Holy Land Revealed creates a narrative tapestry of life in the ancient Holy Land. The region is one that Professor Magness has devoted her entire career to studying and understanding; as such, every lecture is suffused with a passion for the subject that is nothing short of contagious.

What's more, her approach of comparing archaeological and documentary descriptions with those in canonical texts raises a host of intriguing questions.

  • Did Herod's infamous "slaughter of the innocents"happen the way it is described in the New Testament? Or was it instead inspired by the ruler's murder of his own sons?
  • How does Jesus's Passion along the Via Dolorosa compare with how the route actually existed during that period in Jerusalem's history?
  • Was there really a mass suicide at the fall of Masada? If so, did it truly happen the way Josephus describes it in his historical narratives?

Prepare yourself for a provocative, engaging, and unforgettable journey back in time with The Holy Land Revealed.

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36 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Land of Canaan
    What do we mean by “holy land”? What is the difference between archaeology and history? How reliable is the Hebrew Bible as a window into life in ancient Israel? Discover answers to these and other questions in this introductory lecture, and take a peek at the region's earliest recorded inhabitants, the Canaanites. x
  • 2
    The Arrival of the Israelites
    Explore what archaeologists have uncovered about the arrival of the Israelites into Canaan. Among the many intriguing artifacts you examine are an ancient Egyptian stele featuring the earliest reference to Israel, the remains of Jericho's walls, and a Philistine temple similar to the one Samson destroyed in the book of Judges. x
  • 3
    Jerusalem—An Introduction to the City
    Here, survey the topography and layout of Jerusalem—perhaps the most important city in religious history. Then, review biblical accounts of Jerusalem from the arrival of David around 1000 B.C.E. to the start of the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.E. (including the remains of a dramatic Assyrian siege on the city of Lachish). x
  • 4
    The Jerusalem of David and Solomon
    In this first lecture on the remains of the biblical City of David, comb through the fascinating remains of a scribe's house located behind a city wall; grasp the development of biblical Hebrew script; and examine rare examples of this script in a clay sealing, a piece of pottery, and a victory stele. x
  • 5
    Biblical Jerusalem's Ancient Water Systems
    Continue your archaeological exploration of the City of David by focusing on its ancient water system, centered on the Gihon Spring. Learn about the three different water systems that were created—Warren's Shaft, Siloam Channel, and the impressive engineering feat of Hezekiah's Tunnel—due to the spring's location outside the city walls. x
  • 6
    Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel
    Turn now to Israel as it was ruled under the Omride dynasty between Solomon's death and the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C.E. Here, explore important ruins, including the High Place at Dan (where the cult statue of a golden calf once resided) and the acropolis at Samaria (which holds the remains of King Ahab's palace). x
  • 7
    Fortifications and Cult Practices
    Delve into aspects of everyday life in the kingdoms of ancient Israel. Focus on how elaborately recessed gates were designed to protect cities like Gezer from enemies, and how altars, amulets, painted figures, and inscribed pottery vessels reflect the religious beliefs and practices at Kuntillet Ajrud and other sites. x
  • 8
    Babylonian Exile and the Persian Restoration
    In 539 B.C.E., after the Babylonians were subsumed by the Persian Empire, the exiled Judeans were allowed to return to Jerusalem. So what happened next? Find out with this penetrating look at the Persian administration of the Holy Land, the influence of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the birth of early Judaism. x
  • 9
    Alexander the Great and His Successors
    Alexander the Great's conquests of the Near East introduced Greek culture to the Holy Land. Professor Magness uses archaeological findings— including the personal belongings of murdered Samaritans and the remains of towers at an ancient fortification—to illustrate the profound influences of Alexander and his successors. x
  • 10
    The Hellenization of Palestine
    Continue examining the Hellenistic influence on the Holy Land—this time on non-Jewish populations in the area. Focus on three distinct cities: Iraq el-Amir (with the remains of an impressive temple or pleasure palace); Marisa (with its fascinating series of caves); and Tel Dor (with its distinctly Hellenistic architectural style). x
  • 11
    The Maccabean Revolt
    Turn now to the impact of the Greeks on the Jewish population of Judea. Tour the tumultuous years between 167 and 103 B.C.E., which saw Antiochus IV's imposition of Greek beliefs on the population; the subsequent revolt under Judah Maccabee; the reigns of the Hasmoneans; and more. x
  • 12
    The Hasmonean Kingdom
    In this investigation of the Hasmoneans, meet individuals including the cruel king Alexander Jannaeus and his accomplished queen and widow, and examine the civil war between their successors. Then, meet their neighbors to the south: the Nabataeans, a desert people best known for the tombs cut into the cliff faces of their capital city at Petra (in modern-day Jordan). x
  • 13
    Pharisees and Sadducees
    By the mid-2nd century B.C.E., various Jewish sects had established themselves. Here, compare and contrast two of the most dominant of these sects: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. What parts of society did they represent? What were their views on religious innovation and free will? With which group did Jesus probably debate? x
  • 14
    Discovery and Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls
    Travel to Qumran, the archaeological site located adjacent to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in the late 1940s. As you tour the caves and the site itself (including an ancient scriptorium and dining room), you'll learn what scholars know about the mysterious community that once lived there. x
  • 15
    The Sectarian Settlement at Qumran
    Continue touring the site at Qumran, with a focus on three distinctive features of the settlement. These are animal bones found in pots; an elaborate water system that channeled flash floods into pools used for ritual bathing; and a vast cemetery containing more than 1,000 graves. x
  • 16
    The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes
    Scholars believe the Qumran community, commonly identified with the Essenes, was a sect that lived in anticipation of the End of Days. What was it like to be a member of this ascetic community? What strict codes of purity did it live by? What is Jesus's relationship to this apocalyptic group? x
  • 17
    The Life of the Essenes
    In this final lecture on the Qumran sect, investigate the ancient latrines and hygienic practices of the community. Your three sources for insights into this little-explored aspect of everyday life: passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls, observations by the historian Josephus, and remains unearthed from the archaeological site itself. x
  • 18
    From Roman Annexation to Herod the Great
    Witness the rise of Herod the Great—the ruthless king who governed Judea between 40 and 4 B.C.E. and who is most infamous for ordering the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. It's an engrossing tale filled with court intrigue, jealousy, warfare, betrayal, and murder. x
  • 19
    Herod as Builder—Jerusalem's Temple Mount
    In the first of several lectures on Herod's great buildings, many of which served as the backdrop to Jesus's life and ministry, walk through the reconstructed Second Temple and Temple Mount. You'll visit the remains of magnificent structures, including Solomon's Stables, Robinson's Arch, the Western Wall, and the Hulda Gates. x
  • 20
    Caesarea Maritima—Harbor and Showcase City
    During his reign, Herod also built Greco-Roman style cities in his non-Jewish territories. Here, Professor Magness guides you through the most famous of these: the port city of Caesarea Maritima (where Paul was imprisoned, according to Acts 23–24). Comb through the ruins of the city's harbor, hippodrome, aqueducts, and more. x
  • 21
    From Herod's Last Years to Pontius Pilate
    Visit Herod's winter palace at Jericho, where he spent his final years, and his fortified palace at Herodium, where—in 2007—archaeologists discovered his tomb. Then, explore the divided kingdom he left to his three sons, with a special focus on the rule of Herod Antipas (who would play a critical role in Jesus's story). x
  • 22
    Galilee—Setting of Jesus's Life and Ministry
    Tour the remains of Galilean towns and villages that date back to the time of Jesus, including Sepphoris (with its theater) and Capernaum (with its neighborhood of private houses). Then, conclude with a look at the recent discovery of a house at Nazareth that may shed light on Jesus's boyhood. x
  • 23
    Synagogues in the Time of Jesus
    What do we know about the synagogues that served as the setting for the teachings of Jesus and Paul? After surveying the history of this religious institution, explore some of history's earliest synagogues at sites such as Masada, Gamla, and the most recent one uncovered in 2009 at Migdal. x
  • 24
    Sites of the Trial and Final Hours of Jesus
    Explore the Antonia Fortress, the Church of the Sisters of Zion, three successive lines of fortification walls, the ruins of a burnt Jewish villa, and other archaeological finds in Jerusalem intricately linked with both the final days of Jesus's life and the city's destruction in 70 C.E. by the Romans. x
  • 25
    Early Jewish Tombs in Jerusalem
    Chart the development of ancient Jewish rock-cut tombs and burial customs. First, peer inside an Iron-Age cemetery at Ketef Hinnom and view the scant remains of the epic Mausoleum at Halicarnassos. Then, ponder the undiscovered Tomb of the Maccabees, and crawl through the burial chambers of Jason's Tomb in Jerusalem. x
  • 26
    Monumental Tombs in the Time of Jesus
    Turn now to burial customs spanning the Second Temple period, with a particular emphasis on the use of stone ossuaries to store the bones of the deceased. You'll also examine stunning examples of the more than 900 rock-cut tombs that have been discovered around Jerusalem, including the Tomb of Bene Hezir and Nicanor's Tomb. x
  • 27
    The Burials of Jesus and James
    Place the Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus within an archaeological context. The highlight of this lecture is the discussion of two recent—and highly controversial—discoveries: the Talpiyot Tomb (the supposed tomb of Jesus and his family) and the James Ossuary (connected to Jesus's brother). x
  • 28
    The First Jewish Revolt; Jerusalem Destroyed
    Relive the first Jewish revolt against Rome between 66 and 70 C.E. You'll follow the infighting among Jewish rebel groups, explore the sites of fierce battles between rebels and Roman soldiers, and follow the tactics of Roman generals such as Vespasian and Titus as they besiege Jerusalem. x
  • 29
    Masada—Herod's Desert Palace and the Siege
    After the end of the first Jewish revolt, three Herodian fortresses remained occupied by Jewish rebels. The most famous of these: Masada. Here, discover what archaeological evidence reveals about how an estimated 8,000 Roman soldiers encircled the mountain, built camps, and laid siege to the fortress and its 967 rebels. x
  • 30
    Flavius Josephus and the Mass Suicide
    Pore over the remains of a ramp that was instrumental in the Roman victory at Masada. Then, take a closer look at controversies over the mass suicide of the Jewish rebels and the views of the historian Josephus—whose writings are our most important source of information about this event. x
  • 31
    The Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans
    Investigate archaeological finds from the last 50 years that have shed unprecedented new light on the second major Jewish uprising: the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. Central to this lecture are two mysterious caves—the Cave of Letters and the Cave of Horror—whose contents tell us much about the Jewish families who hid there. x
  • 32
    Roman Jerusalem—Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina
    The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as the pagan city Aelia Capitolina. Witness the results of his rule, including the iconic Damascus Gate, a towering statue of Hadrian, and two public forums built at the northern and western ends of the city. x
  • 33
    Christian Emperors and Pilgrimage Sites
    The legalization of Christianity under Constantine radically transformed the landscape of ancient Israel. In the first of two lectures on the Holy Land under the Byzantine Empire, tour two major churches built during this period: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the once-lost Nea Church devoted to Mary. x
  • 34
    Judaism and Synagogues under Christian Rule
    As Christianity spread across the Holy Land, synagogues became increasingly larger and more elaborate in an attempt to bolster Judaism. See how this was done by peering closely at the remains of the synagogues at Capernaum, Hammath Tiberias, and Beth Alpha—as well as their (sometimes surprising) decorations. x
  • 35
    Islam's Transformation of Jerusalem
    The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are the two most potent examples of the spread of Islam into the Holy Land beginning in the mid-7th century C.E. Discover what archaeologists have learned about these two spectacular buildings and their importance to the Muslim faith. x
  • 36
    What and How Archaeology Reveals
    What is it like to work alongside an archaeologist in the field? In Professor Magness's final lecture, experience how archaeologists reconstruct their delicate pictures of the past—from deciding where to start digging to reassembling broken artifacts uncovered from the earth to publishing their eye-opening findings and conclusions. x

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Jodi Magness

About Your Professor

Jodi Magness, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.A. in Archaeology and History from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. For her engaging teaching, Professor Magness won the Archaeological Institute of...
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Holy Land Revealed is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 86.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love having questions answered I love studying the history of Christianity. When science or philosophy supports scripture it provides me with evidence of what I believe. Watch these DVD's and lay your ESV Bible Atlas in front of you. Pure Joy!!
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Preparation for a trip to Israel We have been to Israel many times and this course puts many places we visited into historical and religious context.
Date published: 2016-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sooo Interesting Along with great descriptions and photos of archaeological sites in the Middle East, Dr. Magness' descriptions of Middle East history, including names of individuals and sects, gave me a greater understanding of the biblical references to these people and groups. She takes biblical passages and clearly explains who and what those verses are referring to, and supports those passages with the archaeological finds in the middle east during the time of early Jewish Kings and events. For those people interested in the Old Testament people and places, this is a must view! And New Testament readers will find this course very valuable as well. I actually looked forward to each subsequent lecture in the series and only wished I had taken notes as I viewed these educational gems! I will definitely go back and view the series again with my pen and notebook in hand to save this valuable information! Thank you Dr. Magness!!!
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent course. excellent professor. prof jodi magness makes the course. she speaks well and explains everything with clarify. she lays out the course material very well. there is a lot of history and material to cover and she does a very good job presenting everything. i love this course
Date published: 2016-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fills in a lot of details for other GCs There is not much I can add to other reviews. I think it has very high value. I agree the Professor repeats herself too much; but that is way over shadowed by the value of the course. If this course were done again I recommend that "rulers" be placed on the photos so you can get a better idea of the size of things; such as the size of a "tel" or building. The best value of this course is that it fills in details that the more theological GCs don't cover.
Date published: 2016-09-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course - really! I enjoyed this course a lot. Professor Magness has an infectious enthusiasm as well as extensive knowledge of the subject. I learned a lot about the holy land (one of my favorite subjects along with archeology) and enjoyed the journey. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone because of the excellence of the presentation.
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Holy Land Revealed The venue is too big and empty. Why not use the lectern and keep the professor stable rather than deliberately moving from side to side. My fault for assuming it would be more on the history of The Holy Land instead of the emphasis on archeology .Suggest you change the name. Unless you are a student of the subject it is far to detailed. Too many names that few would ever remember. In summary it is far below the other courses I have, both of which are on art.
Date published: 2016-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Holy Land Really informative and fascinating how the bible is connected to and backed up by archeology in the holy land. We can honestly say doing this course will make you a better Christian.
Date published: 2016-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Holy Land Revealed I have not finished it yet, but I will. I'm getting a little confused as the Romans enter the picture into the Holy Land. Requires much concentration. But I'll get through it. It is making clear already the history behind the Holy Land. *************************************** I don't think I received a questionnaire on the course on Greece and Turkey. It was fantastic. Especially because there were so many archaeological ruins, and my husband is an archaeologist.
Date published: 2016-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good, No Outstanding I purchased this course after viewing one or two of the lectures on the new Great Courses site where you can view courses for 30 days for a fee. Based on my sample lectures I thought it was an archeology lecture series and at first was a bit disappointed. However, Professor Magness stitched together archeology / religion / history and archeology theory to provide a very very enjoyable learning experience. Professor Magness is a very knowledgeable well spoken enthusiastic professor. Well done Professor Magness. The thing I was most down about in the end was; the series ended. I hope Great Courses and Professor Magness will team up in the future and produce another series.
Date published: 2016-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! Exactly What I was Looking For I thoroughly enjoyed this outstanding course! It was exactly what I was looking for and I learned a lot. Not only did I get the history of the Israelites but I got the archaeology, too. I found it fascinating. I also thought that Professor Magness was a great teacher. She was not boring or monotonous. I would recommend the dvd course because of the photographs, artifacts, maps and other images that she used. They were extremely helpful in learning. The fact that she was personally involved and on site at some of the archaeological digs in the middle east was a bonus! I think Prof. Magness was very objective and balanced in her presentation regarding both the Israelites (Jews) and Christianity. She also was well versed in the Greek and Roman cultures and history and well as the pagan cultures of the eras involved. I am enthusiastically looking forward to watching her subsequent and latest course entitled "Jesus and His Jewish Influences."
Date published: 2016-04-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from extending my faith Goog course, gave me a great overview of the Holy Land, with great archeological information that enriched and expanded my bible studies.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2015-08-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great once it gets going in my view this course is at least partially a victim of archaeological happenstance—specifically, the fact that the further back you go, the less there is to be found. from the description i expected a thorough study of the various archaeological sites in the holy land, with site plans, lots of photos, and perhaps even graphics. and by the time we reach the roman period about half-way through the course that is indeed what we get. the problem is that in order to put these sites into context the professor is obliged to retell the whole biblical story, and not all of this easily lends itself to an archaeological focus. for a good chunk of the course in fact the historical background serves less as connective tissue and more as the main subject. there are quite a few early lectures which feature essentially no site studies and very few graphics, and this occurred to such an extent that i spent at least half the course wondering why it needed to be video-only. some early lectures do have essential visuals, such as the excellent 3D graphics of the topography of jerusalem, but others, like that on the babylonian captivity, used hardly any at all. indeed, much of the first half of the course is simply a matter of watching the professor talk. now in the later lectures, once we reach the period from which most of our surviving evidence dates, the course does indeed fulfill its promise. once the professor starts talking about qumran, or herod’s cities and palaces, or the tombs of jerusalem, or masada, there are plenty of helpful visuals. the lectures on jerusalem are particularly great, and provide you with an intimate understanding of how the city grew—and shrank—over its long, turbulent history. it’s true that the visuals are usually still photographs and not the sort of enhanced graphics we might be used to from tv, but they get the job done. in short, once we reach this point the course is great; i just didn’t expect it to take quite so long to get going. the professor herself is excellent. she clearly has an exhaustive knowledge of the subject, and it was particularly interesting to hear about her own excavations and how they contributed to the material she was presenting. there are also plenty of fascinating discussions about what archaeology can and cannot tell us about a variety of contentious questions, and prof. magness is always careful to point out when there is no scholarly consensus and she is simply giving her own view. i found her commentary on some of the sensational finds of recent years, such as the james ossuary and the “tomb of jesus,” especially useful. if, like i did, you’re expecting the course to be roughly half jewish and half christian, think again. presumably just because of the nature of the evidence—christians don’t start to seriously impact the archaeological record until constantine—this is much more of a jewish course than a christian one, even after we reach the time of jesus. i personally find it interesting either way, but some potential viewers may find this helpful to know. in its current form the guidebook for this course is one of the weakest i’ve ever seen. all you get per lecture is a mere 5-6 short paragraphs, and of these the first is little more than, “in this lecture we’ll discuss…” while the last is a similar tag about the next lecture. as such the guidebook is hardly more than a few highlights, and so if you want to remind yourself of anything expect to have to watch the lecture again. hopefully the teaching company will produce a revision which will bring it up to the excellent standards of some of the newer courses.
Date published: 2015-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential Viewing before Traveling Prof. Magness's passion for archaeology is extraordinary. The last lecture (#36), in which she describes the complicated nature of that inexact science, is a superb example of that passion. This course is indispensable preparation for the serious traveler to the Holy Land.
Date published: 2015-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delivers much more than promised! I have quite a few courses on biblical historiography and theology, so I wanted to flesh that out with some science, a bit of archaeology and anthropology. I certainly got that, with wonderful photographs, maps and diagrams. But Professor Magness also provides one of the best expositions of Jewish history I've yet found. This course must be the best way to experience the Holy Land without actually going there. Having recently been there, I wish I'd seen this course first, so I could make more sense of what I was seeing. I've travelled extensively, and yet I've never experienced so much history and archaeology packed into such a small place as there is in Jerusalem's Old City, so I'll be sure to watch the course again before I return. Highly recommended, an excellent complement to the TGC courses on early Christian history.
Date published: 2015-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Useful for understanding historical background I'm not religious, but find the history of religion fascinating and this course is a great way to really get a deeper understanding of the backdrop against which several major religions have developed. It's nice to "triangulate" on a historical understanding, and by concentrating on the archeology and geography we get a different view into major historical events. The professor is an excellent presenter and really engages your attention. This is definitely worth more than one watching .
Date published: 2015-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2015-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2015-01-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Biases & Guidebook Disappoint DVD I have mixed feelings about this course. On the one hand, it is really interesting and delivered by a very qualified and exceptionally experienced archaeologist. On the other, it is accompanied by a deficient guidebook and contains a lot of opinion that swings wide of archaeological evidence, occasionally delivered in what I must characterize as a snarky manner. I will get to some examples shortly. While I found the Professor Magness’s presentation generally and often exceptionally well done, there is annoying repetition and her delivery often struck me as too intense. The visuals are fine and essential to understanding. The course would benefit from better organization and emphasis, specifically an overview of Holy Land archaeology at the beginning rather than just in bits and pieces in the lectures. There also ought to be a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of archaeology as one of a number of disciplines, though an important one, in understanding the Holy Land. I would also appreciate more specific citations to the ancient authors cited. For instance, Flavius Josephus is quoted liberally over several lectures, but no specific citations are provided. It is not too much to ask for, certainly, as Professor Garret Fagan does so for his use of Josephus in his TC course ‘Great Battles of the Ancient World’. (I should mention, here, that Professor Magness’s excellent treatment of the mass suicide at Masada builds considerably on what I had learned in Professor Fagan’s lecture on the subject.) A great disappointment, however, lies with the guidebook. It is the poorest one I have encountered in my more than fifty Teaching Company courses. Though it contains maps, timeline, glossary, biographies, and annotated bibliography, there are none of the usual references in the lecture summaries to works relied on or suggested for further study. But most importantly is that, early on, I started noticing that the lecture summaries would end quite short of the end of Professor Magness’s lectures. By lecture sixteen, the notes end after thirteen minutes! Other lecture summaries were better, but none really satisfying. I cannot help but compare this quite spare 146 page guidebook to that of such other TC professors as Kenneth Harl’s ‘The Peloponnesian War’ (also 36 lectures) at 265 pages, and, the best by far, Suzanne Dean’s ‘Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon’ (48 lectures) at 372 pages. You will need a transcript book if you find having a printed guide important for your study. Otherwise, prepare for note taking when the guidebook fails you. So, how about those personal opinions? While Professor Magness keeps her feminism generally within bounds, she does less well in other significant respects. These are a few examples that, as a Christian, particularly struck me as off: *Professor Magness’s use of the Good Samaritan parable in Luke’s Gospel at the end of lecture eight on The Babylonian Exile and Persian Restoration. In an otherwise fine discussion on the Samaritan-Judean “schism”, Professor Magness brings in a reference to the Good Samaritan, referencing Luke 10:30-34, indicating that the story is a continuation of that enmity. In the video (but not in the guidebook), she says that we are wrong to take the story “at face value”, that it actually reflects the “schism”, and that it ignores the Judean purity laws. In a particularly snarky manner Professor Magness says it is “a dig” to make the despised Samaritan a “good guy” at the expense of the Jews. Well, sure, on the limited reference she provides, but if one expands the verses to Luke 10: 25-37, the message is in its most essential aspect about mercy/compassion, which does not even merit a nod from Professor Magness. We are getting away from the archaeology, are we not? *Similarly, in lecture six on Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Professor Magness paints a particularly negative picture of an “inclusive” (i.e., Yahweh and other gods) and “exclusive Yahwism” to describe respectively the Samarian and Judean religious practices, attributing the basest of personal motives to the Judeans in their monotheism and centralization of worship in the Jerusalem temple. Much of this is missing in the course guidebook, but Professor Magness does state (Page 21) apropos to this matter, “The writers of the Hebrew Bible were pro-Judah/pro-south and anti-Israel/anti-north”. Though none of this is terribly off-base, the emphasis exclusively on base personal motives, while it might be trendy, again goes off the track into Professor Magness’s seemingly unsupported personal beliefs presented as ‘gospel’. A modern day analogy would be the argument that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution operated exclusively from personal economic motives. If that is your orientation, this is likely the course for you. *A final example is Dr. Magness’s treatment of Jesus’ resurrection in lecture twenty-seven. She does not express a personal opinion directly, but rather inserts a bit of information into discussion of Jewish burial customs in an oblique way, that it would not be unusual for Jesus to have been re-buried elsewhere after satisfying the requirement in Jerusalem for burial within twenty-four hours of death. This, of course, casts doubt on the resurrection without having to expound upon anything definite or even probable to back it up. I found her boldness in that move particularly breath-taking, only qualified with “you can draw your own conclusions” (audio only). I watched this course over several months, at first with my wife, but then she said she could not watch it any more due to the presentation style and content. After watching all the lectures, I returned to several to check on my initial reactions and found my first impressions warranted. I am usually an easy TC course grader, but, for the reasons cited above, this course does not merit my usual four or five stars.
Date published: 2014-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Archeology and the Bible The Holy Land Revealed gives the historical, archeological, and cultural background about the Holy Land in order to provide a better understanding of the people, places, and events recorded in the Bible. The course is valuable to the viewer for the following reasons: (1) It substantiates many of the people, places, and things recorded in the Bible. (2) It enables the viewer to envision many of the people, places, and things recorded in the Bible. The geographic maps of the layout and expansion of Jerusalem along with the routes of the water supply systems for the city are especially helpful. (3) It adds biblical background to the characters, places, and events in the Bible to enhance biblical understanding. Professor Magness is an excellent teacher for (1) she has passion for her subject which comes through in her teaching, (2) explains matters in a clear manner, (3) uses a wide array of teaching tools such as maps, photographs, models (such as of Jerusalem), artist depictions, and visual excerpts of biblical and extra-biblical texts, and (4) uses expert archeological knowledge to explain the significance of archeological discoveries. However, her expertise is in biblical archeology not biblical interpretation; that is, she is not a biblical scholar but an expert in biblical archeology. Generally speaking, she is familiar with biblical passages that relate to biblical archeology but at times she makes statements that run counter to conservative, evangelical understanding of the Bible. For example, in the course guidebook Professor Magness asks, “How reliable is the Hebrew Bible as a source of information about this ancient time?” Then she answers her question as follows: “What makes this question difficult to answer is that the Hebrew Bible was composed and edited through many centuries, and often it refers to events that occurred centuries or millennia before they were written down.” On the contrary, the Bible is filled with many prophecies that were made hundreds of years before the prophecies were fulfilled. Nevertheless, Professor Magness uses lots of quotations from the Bible to support archeological findings. So on the one hand, she mentions her reservations about the reliability of the Bible; but on the other hand, she relies heavily on passages from the Bible to help clarify archeological findings and uses archeological discovers to support biblical accounts.
Date published: 2014-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2014-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from C
Date published: 2014-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This is a very in depth, straightforward presentation of what unbiased archaeology tells us about the area around Palestine. More than that, the professor explains the cultural and political climate that influenced events. The speaker does a fantastic job of moving at a good clip that kept me interested in what was going to happen next. The people and events might be from a different continent and a different time, but she makes them seem relevant and very real. I greatly appreciated how balanced and thorough her explanations were. There was too much material for me to completely grasp at one hearing, but that is the way I like it. Good learning isn't like fast food, it is like a five course meal that must be enjoyed and savored. I learned a tremendous amount and expect to learn even more the next time that I watch the lectures. I wish all of my college lecturers were this good.
Date published: 2014-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from revelation! I really enjoyed all of the knowledge I received through this course. I loved the multifaceted presentations combining scripture, history and archeology. I was entranced throughout the whole thing and couldn't wait to get onto the next lecture each time. I learned so much more than the basics of the Bible that I knew. Thank you.
Date published: 2014-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful experience! What a joy to see such great photos of the famous sites of the Holy Land and hear them described and explained by an experienced archaeologist! Professor Magness does such a wonderful job making the complex history of this region comprehensible. I'm only sorry to see this course end. It was a fascinating adventure from beginning to end. I am hooked on The Great Courses!
Date published: 2014-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The two stories DVD review. Once you've seen enough feature films, American or foreign, there comes a point when you suddenly realize each experience is really two films at the same time. The first is obviously the plot with its heroes, challenges and surprises; the reason why we watch the film in the first place. The second is what surrounds the heroes — the extras, the urban landscape, the clothing, music and unspoken assumptions. The second film, in other words, is really an unintended documentary about a world that grows more foreign as the film ages. And yet that world was never irrelevant. It shaped the story and buoyed its cultural meaning just like the submerged mass of an iceberg supports the eye-catching bits we marvel at. ____________________ Dr. Magness' THE HOLY LAND REVEALED covers the "second story" behind the biblical tales we are all familiar with. Its focus is the unspoken material world as well as the cultural and political realities that shaped the biblical narrative. It differs from Sunday school explanations in that Magness limits herself to unearthed evidence. The Jericho walls account in Joshua is very dramatic and therefore widely-known. But she points out that there probably was no standing wall around Jericho when the Hebrews arrived. In other cases, physical remains do confirm biblical descriptions. Obviously, archeology, like history in general, cannot prove or disprove miracles, which are by nature unnatural, exceptional events. These disciplines seek to explain the bedrock of routine and values underlying the biblical world as well as the constraints imposed by geography, weather and politics. This she does very well with many drawings and photos. Whenever I read the Bible now, a clear picture emerges behind the story. The characters no longer float in a blurry, never-never-land. _______________________ Magness' PRESENTATION skills are excellent. So is the course guidebook. Still, 36 lessons are a major time investment in what is an extremely narrow, specialized topic. It will feel excessive, unless the Bible really interests you or a visit to Israel is planned. In that sense, HOLY LAND is a close cousin to TTC "Great Tours" courses such as GREECE AND TURKEY. Another related TTC product is THE WORLD OF BIBLICAL ISRAEL. Both courses examine ancient Israel from a frankly secular perspective and both rely on archaeological evidence. They differ in that WORLD is concerned with how the Old Testament was designed to make sense of the Babylonian Captivity #597 - 538 BCE#. Its focus is therefore ideological — storytelling and history-telling as a way to make sense of a national catastrophe. HOLY LAND is more concerned with physical remains. It also explores ancient Israel's ethnic and political evolution in more detail. Normally I recommend audio versions of courses as the best value option, but in this case images play such an important role that visual versions are definitely worth it. Highly recommended for the target audiences mentioned.
Date published: 2014-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Holy Land Revealed This course makes the lands, people and places of the Bible come alive.
Date published: 2014-08-12
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