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Story of the Bible

Story of the Bible

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Story of the Bible

Course No. 6252
Professor Luke Timothy Johnson, Ph.D.
Emory University
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4.6 out of 5
52 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 6252
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrated, featuring around 100 portraits, maps, and illustrations. Portraits include those of figures critical to the development of the Bible, from Constantine the Great to Martin Luther to King James I. Maps help you contextualize the places central to the story of the Bible, including ancient Judea and Protestant Europe. And photographs and illustrations capture ancient manuscripts, printing technologies, and contemporary Bibles.
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Course Overview

Since the invention of the printing press, the world's consistently bestselling book has been the Bible. Since 1815, it has been printed an estimated five billion times. By the end of 2005, it had been translated into 2,043 languages. In the Western world, the Bible is easy to find: In most hotel rooms, it is handier than the Yellow Pages.

And yet, what do many of us know about this ancient and influential text? Compiled over centuries, the Bible is considered to be both a divinely inspired message and the work of human authors. Throughout its history, it has grown from a collection of stories and teachings shared through oral tradition to a founding text for three of the world's great religions. It has been copied and recopied into countless manuscripts, pronounced from the pulpit, studied in universities and synagogues, and read in private. Translated and distributed all over the world, it bears the mark of the many cultures that have debated its meaning and prized its wisdom.

In The Story of the Bible, renowned scholar Luke Timothy Johnson can illuminate for you the remarkable and complicated process by which this great book came into being. Tracing the development of biblical texts across millennia, Professor Johnson takes you on a journey from the farthest reaches of ancient history through antiquity and the Middle Ages up to the present. You'll learn about the many forms the Bible has taken and the ways history, scholarship, and technology have helped shape this great tradition, as well as the Bible's powerful influence on human history and culture.

Our journey takes us inside medieval monasteries where scribal monks copied scripture into beautifully illuminated manuscripts. We'll venture into the caves of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls lay hidden for hundreds of years and examine how the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem forever changed the way the Jews read their sacred texts.

Throughout this enthralling story, you'll develop a deep appreciation for the tremendous power of this astonishing book—one that has endured through centuries and touched the lives of countless millions.

From Spoken Word to Printed Page

The word Bible literally means "the book" in Greek, but throughout this course you'll see how the Bible's story is actually the story of many Bibles.

This fascinating saga starts in Israel, where the oral traditions of an ancient people were recorded as manuscripts and eventually collected into the Jewish Bible. From there, you'll explore the place of the Bible in 1st-century Judaism as it was practiced in both Palestine and the Diaspora communities of the Mediterranean. You'll learn about the competing factions within Judaism that argued for different interpretations of scripture and promoted different ideas about what constituted this sacred text.

Next Professor Johnson reviews the early history of the New Testament and describes the Hebrew and Greek sources used to build a new story on the foundation of the ancient Jewish tradition.

You'll enter the world of the scribe and learn about the challenging art of manuscript production, in which anonymous workers painstakingly copied millions of words by hand using a reed or quill and ink on parchment or papyrus. Later we'll see how future scholars fought to preserve these precious manuscripts from destruction, including the remarkable tale of Constantin von Tischendorf, who in 1844 rescued a 4th-century New Testament manuscript that was being used as kindling in an Egyptian monastery.

Professor Johnson also considers how the invention of the printing press forever changed the way the Bible was perceived and experienced, and by whom. You'll see how this revolutionary innovation expanded access to the Bible to individual readers, and as a result contributed to one of the most influential movements in European Christianity, the Protestant Reformation.

Finally, our exploration of the writing of the Bible contemplates how over the centuries sovereigns, priests, and scholars have debated which texts deserve a place within the canon of scripture, and how to provide the most illuminating editions and most accurate translations for the world's readers.

The Clash of Nations, the Lives of Common People

But our story of the Bible is not limited to how the words found their way onto the page. Throughout its history, the Bible has served as a powerful force, both reflecting and shaping the cultures that have read and embraced it. Over the centuries, perceptions of the Bible have inspired everyday men and women and shaped nations; they've sent nations to war and martyrs to their deaths.

We'll learn the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine, whose conversion to Christianity transformed personal revelation into a revolution of imperial policy—and in the process elevated the status of the Christian Bible to sanctified state document.

But the story of Constantine is just one of many that illustrates how the Bible has been used to consolidate political power and create cultural unity during chaotic times. We'll also see how biblical translation has been a battleground for controlling the meaning of sacred text, a struggle that reached its peak during some of the most important movements in Western history, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

But you'll also hear about how the Bible has for centuries exerted its influence on people's lives. From the Catholic liturgical calendar, to the daily prayers and observations of the medieval monastic life, to the vibrant theological debates that enlivened Jewish life in communities all over the world, scripture has shaped and enriched the lives of the faithful and stood as testament to the power of this astonishing book.

A Unique Perspective on One of History's Greatest Stories

Even if you've already experienced our other courses on Judaism and Christianity, you'll discover a whole new world of biblical scholarship in The Story of the Bible. Combining perspectives from history, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, and textual criticism, Professor Johnson provides an innovative multidisciplinary examination of the Bible as he traces the impact of technology on the spread of Biblical knowledge, and examines how the Bible has shaped individuals' lives, inspired artistic creation, and left its imprint on languages and cultures worldwide.

It's a story that's best told by an expert of Professor Johnson's caliber. A noted Bible scholar and former Benedictine monk, Professor Johnson is both well-informed and passionate about his topic. Imbued with deep faith and enthusiasm, Professor Johnson is also objective and unbiased, demonstrating a profound appreciation of the cultures and denominations that have shaped the Bible. He's also a gifted speaker who easily translates complicated scholarship into a compelling and accessible story. Throughout the sweep of centuries and nations, you'll never lose your bearings with Professor Johnson's helpful guidance.

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24 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Telling the Story of a Book
    The Bible is a book of stories; but the Bible as a book has a fascinating story of its own. In this lecture, we review the Bible's powerful influence throughout Western history and begin to consider the complex process by which this important text was composed. x
  • 2
    Making TaNaK
    We explore the contents and early formation of the Hebrew Bible (or TaNaK, an acronym derived from three ancient compositions, Torah, Nebiim, and Ketubim), and trace how this collection of ancient compositions arose from a centuries-long process of oral and written tradition. x
  • 3
    Forms of Jewish Scripture
    By the 1st century B.C.E., the Jewish Bible is both a unifying symbol and an emblem of Jewish diversity as communities across the Diaspora adopt different versions of scripture. x
  • 4
    Birth of the Christian Bible
    As the early Christian church takes shape, members of this new sect embrace the Greek translation of the Hebrew text and quickly develop their own sacred compositions. x
  • 5
    Formation of Jewish and Christian Canons
    During the first centuries of the Common Era, the Jewish and Christian faiths face a similar challenge: the need for a standardized version of scripture. For the Jews, this means confirming centuries of tradition; for the Christians, it is a longer and more contentious process. x
  • 6
    Writing and Copying Manuscripts
    Although the word Bible means "the book," it is anachronistic to call it a book before the 4th century C.E. In this lecture, we explore the techniques by which biblical manuscripts were created and copied prior to the advent of print. x
  • 7
    Imperial Sponsorship and the Bible
    When Constantine the Great converts to Christianity in the 4th century, the new faith becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire, an event that lifts the Christian Bible to the status of imperially sanctioned text and forever changes the relationship between Christians and Jews. x
  • 8
    Texts and Translations—The Ancient East
    The earliest translations of the Christian Bible provide a tantalizing glimpse into cultures throughout the ancient world, including the Syriac and Coptic cultures, and in many cases provides the first instances of written texts in these ancient languages. x
  • 9
    Old Latin and the Vulgate
    We examine the rise of Latin translation of the Bible, culminating in the Vulgate of St. Jerome in the 4th century, and learn how these translations underscored the growing divide between the Eastern and Western churches. x
  • 10
    Other Ancient Versions
    While many early worshipers read the Christian Bible in Greek and Latin, other translations spread to every corner of the empire, including Armenia, Georgia, Ethiopia, and Arabia. We'll learn how the project of translating the Bible often led to the creation of a written alphabet for these cultures. x
  • 11
    Monasteries and Manuscripts
    Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries provide a stronghold for the production and preservation of biblical manuscripts. Monks' lives are deeply immersed in scripture, whether serving as manuscript copyists, performing the daily recitation of chants, or practicing the fine art of manuscript illumination. x
  • 12
    Interpretation within Judaism
    Jews throughout the Diaspora continue to pursue their faith and debate the meaning of their sacred texts in strong communities of worship. This conversation appears in the development of the Talmud, a constantly evolving interpretation of how God's law should be observed, and in the work of great Jewish Bible scholars. x
  • 13
    Interpretation in Medieval Christianity
    During the medieval period, Christianity is shaped largely by the Bible and its interpretations. "Reading the Bible" is a many-faceted experience; scripture is heard during Mass, chanted by monks, experienced in daily life through the sacraments and liturgical seasons, and (for a very few) read and interpreted directly. x
  • 14
    The Renaissance, Printing, and the Bible
    With the invention of new printing technology, the Bible is more accessible to private readers. This innovation, coupled with a rebirth of interest in classical learning, leads scholars to challenge the dominance of the Latin Vulgate and develop new translations. x
  • 15
    The Protestant Reformation and the Bible
    In breaking with the Catholic faith, Protestant reformer Martin Luther introduces a new emphasis on private reading and interpretation and a sole reliance on scripture as a guide for right living. x
  • 16
    Translating the Bible into Modern Languages
    In the wake of the Reformation, countries across Europe forge new national and religious identities. The Bible is one of the chief battlegrounds for this struggle, as traditional texts are newly translated into vernacular languages and new canons of scripture are championed. x
  • 17
    The First Efforts at Englishing the Bible
    From the 14th century, translating the Bible into English appears as a way to challenge the Catholic Church and make scripture available to all. Early translators are persecuted as heretics, but "Englishing the Bible" also becomes a means for exerting political control. x
  • 18
    The King James Version
    In an attempt to standardize scripture—and, by extension, the religious and civic order in England—King James I marshals a team of scholars to produce an authoritative English text. The impact of the King James Bible is still felt today in English language and literature as well as in the church. x
  • 19
    The Romance of Manuscripts
    With the advent of printing, manuscripts fall into disuse until scholars begin to appreciate their historical and literary value. The result is an explosion of interest in rescuing these ancient manuscripts from oblivion. x
  • 20
    Searching for the Critical Text
    This lecture reviews the remarkable efforts made to establish a "scholar's Bible," a critical edition synthesizing thousands of ancient manuscripts to provide a guide for readers. x
  • 21
    The Historical-Critical Approach
    Since the rise of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, we have seen an expansion of interest in the Bible as a historical document that provides a way to reconstruct the past. x
  • 22
    The Bible in Contemporary Judaism
    In response to challenges of the modern world, Judaism reinterprets Jewish identity through the Reform movement, Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism, and Zionism. Cataclysmic events such as the Holocaust forever alter how modern Jews read ancient scripture. x
  • 23
    Contemporary Christians and Their Bibles
    While the Bible remains central to worship and theology in contemporary Christianity, it is also an arena for lively disputes. Modern Christians continue to debate the place of scripture in daily and civic life and strive for more accurate and appropriate translations of biblical texts. x
  • 24
    The Bible's Story Continues
    The Bible has maintained its place for centuries as one of the most widely read compositions and continues to hold a special fascination for people all over the world. New technologies extend the Bible's influence even further, and translations of biblical stories into other media never fail to arouse interest and controversy. x

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Your professor

Luke Timothy Johnson

About Your Professor

Luke Timothy Johnson, Ph.D.
Emory University
Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Johnson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Yale University, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, an M.Div. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in...
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Reviews

Story of the Bible is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 52.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content. Prof tried to be objective in his viewpoint even as an academic.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good Stuff but on Bad Media When I tried to play disc 1 on my DVD player it made a rumbling sound and about 1 minute into the first lecture the picture kept breaking up and pausing. I am returning the course for a refund. All other Great Courses I have bought were of good quality Somehow this one must have slipped thru Quality Assurance.
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Course from LTJ I have taken numerous courses by Luke Timothy Johnson and find him and the content brilliant. I listen to them multiple times and find my Biblical knowledge, especially from this course, to dramatically improve. Although I teach at a Christian College and seminary, I find myself more prepared with content even our pastoral and Bible faculty lac.
Date published: 2017-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Story of the Bible As usual Luke Timothy Johnson is the most knowledgeable and erudite of Professors. Always does a good job of presentation and is enthusiastic about it. Great course.
Date published: 2016-11-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The problem with the Great Courses DVDs and CDs is that the is no publication date listed in the course description. With some courses that really doesn's make a difference, but with other courses it is important because new info is being published frequently that introduces new data about the subject, e.,g., astronomy. If a course has been published 10 years ago, it should be noted so the purchased is aware that it may not be up to date.
Date published: 2016-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Illuminating Professor Johnson is a go-to lecturer in my book, and this course met his high standards. His presentations are thorough, enthusiastic, and engaging. As a broad overview, I found the course quite enjoyable.
Date published: 2015-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from story of the bible I found this course most enlightening It brought to life how the bible came to be written and why it became a canon for the Christian faith. I enjoyed every moment of the course and would recomend it to anyone who has a genuine interest in the study of the Bible.
Date published: 2015-05-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth your time The course is well prepared, well presented, and the Dr. Johnson is very knowledgeable. For a layman like me, it is a great way to get a perspective on the origin of scripture.
Date published: 2015-05-10
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