Great Figures of the New Testament

Course No. 6206
Professor Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
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Course No. 6206
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Course Overview

Improve your biblical literacy and re-encounter the New Testament as a great repository of literary genius. This is the promise of Professor Amy-Jill Levine's vivid portraits of the cast of characters in the New Testament. While most of the figures treated are real, historical people, at least two (the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan) are fictional protagonists in stories told by Jesus within Luke's Gospel.

Some figures are famous. Others, such as the Syro-Phoenician woman who must turn Jesus' own words back upon him to gain the healing of her daughter, are not so famous but deserve to be better remembered.

Christianity's Founding Generation

Our Great Figures include Jesus himself as well as:

  • A bullheaded fisherman from Galilee
  • A highly educated tentmaker from Tarsus
  • Several politically unaware magi, martyrs, Roman army officers, bad rulers, and the prophets who run afoul of them
  • One enigmatic betrayer
  • A number of strong and interesting women (including the unnamed Samaritan, a Canaanite mother, Martha the homeowner and her sister Mary, and a repentant sinner who anoints Jesus).

Representing the models of Old Testament piety are the elderly couple Elizabeth and Zechariah. The story of their son, John the Baptist, moves us immediately into the dangerous world of the 1st century, where messianic fervor was on the rise and popular prophets knew their lives were in danger.

You encounter Jesus' friends, the contemplative Mary and the vocal Martha, as well as their brother Lazarus.

You join conversations with:

  • Jesus' interlocutors: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman
  • The centurion with a paralyzed son
  • The desperate Canaanite mother with a demon-possessed daughter.

You explore the stories of the Apostles Peter and Thomas, James and John, Mary Magdalene (who becomes known as the Apostle to the Apostles), and Judas Iscariot—from the times they spent with Jesus to their post-canonical fates.

From the early years of the church, you meet James, "the brother of the Lord," and Stephen, the first martyr.

You explore how much we really know about:

  • The centurions who represent Rome's military presence
  • Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect who orders Jesus crucified
  • The four generations of the Herodian royal family who appear in the pages of the New Testament.

As for Paul the Apostle, Professor Levine investigates both his presentation in Acts of the Apostles and what can be determined about him from his own letters.

How Jesus Was Perceived—Then and Later

Concerning Jesus, one lecture is devoted to how he might have been perceived by those who knew him personally.

Then Professor Levine concludes with the development of Christology: how the "anointed one" was understood as a participant in the work of creation, as a new Adam, a perfect sacrifice, a suffering servant, the second part of the Trinity, and even a lactating mother.

Unlike primarily historical introductions to the Bible, including The Teaching Company's The Old Testament and The New Testament, these lectures frequently raise issues of religious interest.

The point of this exploration is not to inculcate any theology, let alone any particular religious world-view. Rather, it 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.

How Well Do You Really Know the Bible?

You may think you already know all the great stories of the Bible. But often they are misted over by centuries of common misperceptions frequently repeated.

To take the most well-known example, it is common today to regard the snake in the Garden of Eden as Satan and to see the disobedience of Adam and Eve as resulting in Original Sin. Yet the Genesis story mentions neither Satan nor sin.

Now, by taking a fresh look through the eyes of Professor Levine, you rediscover the Great Figures of the New Testament. You learn anew from the fascinating cast of characters in the greatest story ever told.

Writes Harold McFarland, Regional Editor at Midwest Book Review:

"In Great Figures of the New Testament Professor Amy-Jill Levine of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School does an excellent job of bringing several individuals to life. Not only does she discuss well-known individuals such as Pontius Pilate, James, and Philip but also important groups and individuals who are not specified by name such as the Centurions, the woman at the well, the shepherds, and others. Professor Levine deftly discusses details of the person from the perspectives of the Biblical stories, culture, literary criticism, how the church has viewed the person through history, and how artists and worshippers have viewed them. Probably one of the most fascinating aspects of the course is how she brings their personalities to life based on how they spoke, acted, or reacted within the confines of their culture.

"Professor Levine includes some analysis of literary types such as noting the parallel between Jesus' father Joseph going to Egypt and Joseph, Jacob's son going to Egypt. This opens up even more interesting aspects in the lives of the figures.

"Some of the many figures discussed include Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, the Samaritan woman, Pharisees and Sadducees, Thomas, James, John, Judas Iscariot, Stephen, Philip, Paul, and Jesus.

"This is a great piece of work and sure to enlighten anyone wishing to gain a more thorough understanding of these great figures. As usual with The Teaching Company products, this is a very highly recommended purchase."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The New Testament
    Why choose the particular Great Figures discussed in these lectures? What do you most need to know about their historical settings? What tools can best help you as a student to grasp the depth of these characters and the richness of their stories? x
  • 2
    John the Baptist
    Why did John baptize? What precisely was his relation to Jesus? Why exactly did Herod have John killed? By comparing Gospel accounts to the writings of the 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus, you will have an excellent opportunity to explore how students of the New Testament address questions of history. x
  • 3
    The Virgin Mary
    Unwed mother or mother goddess? Queen of Heaven who bore her child in a stable? Revered in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam, yet sometimes eyed warily in Protestant thought, Mary the mother of Jesus continues to inspire intense devotion, provoke controversy, and stimulate theological reflection. x
  • 4
    Joseph, Magi, and Shepherds
    Staples of "the" Christmas story, even though they do not appear together in any one Gospel, these figures naturally raise the question of what the Gospel writers—and later interpreters—are trying to emphasize in their particular renderings of Jesus' birth. x
  • 5
    Peter
    How did a headstrong Galilean fisherman become "the prince of the apostles" and, so Catholic tradition holds, the first pope? Untangle the whole astounding, inspirational, and often-confusing story. x
  • 6
    John and James, the Sons of Zebedee
    Fishermen like Peter, these brothers join Jesus in a new life as "fishers of people." While the Gospels (the fourth of which John is said to have written) show them often misunderstanding their master and his mission, in the end their faithfulness is beyond question. x
  • 7
    Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
    These siblings are beloved friends of Jesus. Mary and Martha appear briefly in Luke's Gospel, and all three figure importantly in John's. Historically, what role did they probably play in Jesus' movement, and culturally, how have their stories been retold through the centuries? x
  • 8
    "Doubting" Thomas
    While "Doubting Thomas" is a familiar phrase, the complex story of this apostle whose name means simply "Twin" is less so. Why are three major extracanonical early Christian works—including a gospel and an infancy narrative—associated with him? x
  • 9
    The Gentile Mother
    Find out why the story of this woman (Mark and Matthew identify her ethnicity differently) who pleads with Jesus to exorcise her child is one of the most problematic miracle narratives in all the Gospels. x
  • 10
    The Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son
    The protagonists of these famous parables (they appear only in Luke) may be so familiar to us that we've lost a sense of just how unsettling the stories would have been to Jesus' audience or Luke's readers. x
  • 11
    The Samaritan Woman
    Having learned who the Samaritans are, you are now ready to meet the extraordinary and unnamed Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at a well (John 4) and has an amazing conversation with him about "living water," proper worship, her own marital history, and the identity of the Messiah. x
  • 12
    Mary Magdalene
    Present at the cross in all four Gospels and the sole consistent witness to the empty tomb, this Mary appears before Good Friday in only one Gospel, Luke's. Yet, from the Gospel accounts to present-day Hollywood, she has enjoyed an exceptionally rich career in Christianity and culture. x
  • 13
    Pharisees and Sadducees
    Who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees? What did they believe and practice, and why do the Gospels polemicize against them? x
  • 14
    The Herodians
    Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Herodian royal family—Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I, and Herod Agrippa II—gets "bad press" in the New Testament. What does the extra-biblical historical record add? x
  • 15
    Judas Iscariot
    Betrayer, dupe, victim, revolutionary, or even friend of Jesus who took on the necessary dirty work of arranging his arrest—with this range of possible identities, it is no wonder that Judas has captured the imagination of interpreters for two millennia. x
  • 16
    Pontius Pilate
    By tracing the character of this Roman governor through the Gospels, the writings of Josephus and Philo, and later Christian theologians, we gain a valuable view on how early Christians saw their relation to both the Roman state and to the Synagogue. x
  • 17
    James
    Was James—the apparent successor to Peter as head of the Church at Jerusalem—called "the Brother of the Lord" because he actually was a sibling of Jesus? Did James write the epistle that bears his name? x
  • 18
    Stephen
    How does the story of this first follower of Jesus to be martyred open for us a window on the practices, beliefs, difficulties, and achievements of the early Jewish followers of Jesus? x
  • 19
    Philip
    In Acts, Luke offers us a number of colorful, intriguing vignettes about Philip that offer important clues about the growth of the early legends that scholars call the New Testament Apocrypha. x
  • 20
    The Centurions
    By examining stories in the Gospels and Acts about three centurions—prestigious Roman army officers—we can trace tantalizing clues about how the early Christians viewed life under the pax Romana. x
  • 21
    Paul, the Hero of Acts
    In this talk, you meet Paul as he is known through the companion volume to the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, where Paul first appears at the martyrdom of Stephen. x
  • 22
    Paul, the Epistolary Evangelist
    This second lecture on Paul considers what can be known about him from the letters that are attributed to him in the New Testament, weighs his authorship and views, and sketches his massive theological influence. x
  • 23
    Jesus of Nazareth
    This talk on "the Jesus of history" will first help you sort out major post-Enlightenment approaches such as source, form, and redaction criticism, and then help you weigh more recent scholarly reconstructions of who Jesus was, what he did, and what he taught. x
  • 24
    The Christ of Faith
    In the New Testament and later theological writings, knowing Jesus means more than knowing what he said and did prior to his crucifixion. In this final lecture, therefore, you examine various accounts of "the Christ of faith" as he appears in the New Testament and beyond. In the end, you are reminded of what else can, and should, be studied, again and again (cf. John 21:25). x

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 168-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Timeline

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Your professor

Amy-Jill Levine

About Your Professor

Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and the College of Arts and Sciences. She is also Affiliated Professor at the Woolf Institute, Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Dr. Levine...
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Reviews

Great Figures of the New Testament is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 68.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've completed the course, and my New Testament knowledge has greatly increased as a result. The professor has some excellent insights and is very intelligent and knowledgeable on the New Testament. She's not the most entertaining speaker, so I found it easier to read the transcript.
Date published: 2019-05-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course, but Lacks a Center This is the second course I have taken from Professor Levine, the other being “The Old Testament”. I gave that course five stars across the board, as I was unable to rate anything six stars. As much as I appreciated the organization of that earlier course, I was somewhat disappointed in this one. Perhaps the very goal of the course, centering on New Testament personalities is not well suited to a cohesive whole, or perhaps it may be my learning style, but I could never quite get a valid transition from one lecture to another (some exceptions of course, as in the back to back lectures on Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate). Plus in some cases I just not buy into the premise of the lecture itself, the one on “The Centurions” being a prime example. But so much about what I felt lacking. There is plenty to love and to learn from in this course. I gained new insight in the relationship of John the Baptist and Jesus for example. In almost every lecture my (mostly) rather casual understanding of most of the persons she covers was really enhanced as Dr. Levine really fleshes out what I thought were often cardboard characters into living, breathing people. For example both “The Gentile Mother” and “The Samaritan Woman” were figures (and only that) that I had never considered as real people. Whether they were or not, Professor Levine brings both to life with vivid portrayals. Most lectures cover one figure in 30 minutes, and occasionally a lecture covers more than one figure. Mary, Martha and Lazarus share one lecture for example. Both Paul and Jesus get two, with the last, summing-up lecture appropriately one on Jesus. And for me, this lecture was the highlight of the course, clearly demonstrating why he was important, regardless of one's faith or lack thereof. Now many reviewers have disliked Professor Levine’s presentation style, some even commenting the she seems snide of is dismissive of either their (the reviewer’s) faith or the passages she cites. I fall into the camp of loving her delivery, albeit at a rapid pace and her sense of humor. And all one has to do is listen to her comment on Martha, “I love Martha” to understand how much she loves her subject matter. Her following commentary as to why, gave me a warm insight to both Martha and Amy-Jill Levine.
Date published: 2019-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pacted with numerous opinons and insight I land squarely with those who gave this course 5-stars. If you want a single interpretation of the Bible and the people in it; this is NOT your course. I've studied world religions in college and this is the kind of course that causes students to consider a variety of interpretations; just what you want to do in an academic setting. There is a difference between 'teaching religion' and 'teaching about religions'. Professor Levine teaches about religions and does it very well. I've taken another of her courses in CD format. I did this one in DVD. She comes across much better in the DVD. She does speak fast and you may want to 'back-space' a lot. Which makes it difficult if listening in the car. However, this class is packed with information, potential alternate interpretations, and issues to ponder. I suggest you have a copy of a Bible next to you and be prepared to 'stop the tape' and review the passages she mentions.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I lead a class of 20 mostly retired folks at my church, meeting Thursday, noon-1:30. Each year we select a curriculum we would like to study. In May of last year we chose Amy Jill Levine's program, because we had previously studied two of hers. We are loving the curriculum and have many students wanting to lead a lesson, along with 3 of of Ministerial class. Great learning and discussions abound!
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative, enjoyable I have greatly enjoyed these lectures and have learned so much. When I bought this course, I was afraid it would consist of some fluffy biographies. To the contrary: these lectures are serious studies of some of the most fascinating New Testament figures and provide another perspective from which to understand this complex and confusing set of writings,
Date published: 2017-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite lecturer I loved her review of The Old Testament so I bought this lecture. And it's great, just as I hoped. Of course she is knowledgeable, but it's her passion that shines through. She clearly loves and respects the material.
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Figures in the New Testament The course is packed w/ incredible detailed information. It's like eating a slice of fruit-cake, I can only digest it in small quantities. My only negative complaint is that the lecturer talks so fast I almost lose track. I enjoy it on my iphone so I can listen while I take my long walks + work in the garden.
Date published: 2016-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A nice complement to her OT class I enjoyed this class as much as I enjoyed her class on the Old Testament. I liked learning about the extra-Biblical literary and historical sources that provide information to help flesh out each person.
Date published: 2016-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting perspectives on New Testament figures I thought this was a wonderful look at many of the New Testament figures and stories. There are lectures about both well-known figures as well as people not so well known. The professor does an excellent job of helping us understand the stories from the perspective of the first-century Jew, and in some cases, Gentile. There is a lot of historical information about the writers of the Gospels as well as the Apostles and major historical figures ( e.g., Pontius Pilate), as well as a clear understanding of what we can not know. I enjoyed the discussion about how much of the material in the New Testament relates to similar material in the Old Testament. There have been several comments about the speed with which the Professor speaks. Yes, she does go fast. You have to pay attention. It is also helpful if you have some reasonable background in Biblical literature and history. That said, I enjoy the presentation of Professor Levine. I like the inflection she has whens she speaks and the (for lack of a better word), the fact that she seems almost joyful in sharing her knowledge with her listeners. Professor Levine does not advocate for any particular interpretation of the stories or events she discusses but rather presents how one could possibly think about these people and the events in which they participate.
Date published: 2016-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Concise This is a wonderful course that did not disrupt Christian Beliefs which have been held for hundreds of years. The professor did a good job of balancing historical proclamations with Biblical proclamations. The course addressed Biblical characters and gave a concise description of the issues involved with the person or group. The presentations of Scriptural and historical discrepancies were described in a way that did not counter conservative Christian convictions. I would recommend this course to other and encourage people to reflect on the convictions of the characters presented.
Date published: 2015-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Figures of the New Testament Professor Levine is captivating in presentation, combining objective historical information with subtle wit. Her descriptions of the various characters portrayed bring each to life in understandable context. The study guide is well organized and succinct. Thanks to Dr. Levine and Professor Bart Ehrman, I am expanding my knowledge of the most intriguing book ever written.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good News I really like Prof Levine because she is balanced between the historical and the faithful. She brings a great deal of apocryphal sources to the subject, weighing each for its value. Sometimes the information comes so fast it seems to overlap the next topic. That is the advantage of the recording since you can replay it at will. The study guide helps also. The professor brings a sense of intimacy to the lectures. I felt at times she was speaking to me personally. She also doesn't shy from expressing an opinion or feeling about a topic. This is my second course by her and I can confidently recommend her.
Date published: 2015-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Words Fills in the gaps or rounds the corners of the New Testament stories.
Date published: 2014-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from DR LEVINE"S PRESENTATION IS FABULOUS! Dr. Amy-Jill Levine's presentation on the Great Figures of the New Testament is informative, thorough and very entertaining. You may think you know all there is to know about Mary, Joseph, Herod, Martha, James the brother of Jesus and others-- but I highly doubt that you do. Dr. Levine has compiled a wealth of information that makes these figures come alive. I highly reommend
Date published: 2014-10-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Never took a breath through the whole course I am so frustrated that I feel like pulling my hair out. I have had this course for 3 years, and each time I take it out, about twice a year, I have to remind myself why I have never finished it. Even though I want the information and love my Bible... Her delivery is like a reading of of a grocery list, no stopping, no breath, no time to take in anything...like she is telling us to listen and take notes as she is running a race , each sentence spoke last is lost by the rapidity of the next. I sense there is a great deal I could learn from this course, and that is what causes my frustration. I can't believe she gets called back to speak if this is how she does it all the time...either have to torture myself by listening to this, no way of slowing it down...or sending it back.
Date published: 2014-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Figures of the New Testament An excellent course. Well presented, not hard to follow as some have suggested. A wealth of information that you will not get from the Bible alone. A lovely lady who is very balanced in her views.
Date published: 2013-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Course Having completed courses on the New Testament already I was attracted to this course as a way to better understand some of the major figures in more depth. The course permitted me to do this and the Professor delivered a superb series of lectures on each of the figures covered. She gave a good overview and context for each and was very balanced and fair in summarising the various academic/scholarly interpretations regarding each figure as well as sharing her own view and supporting this with argument and evidence. The Professor delivers each lecture at a fast clip and is clearly on top of her game and one needs to be focussed to keep pace at times! Overall a superb course that wonderfully compliments others on the New Testament. Would love to have further courses from this Professor perhaps a re-issue of her Great Figures of the Old Testament.
Date published: 2013-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended but I'm not happy with professor DVD REVIEW: I recall hearing this lecturer, Amy-Jill Levine, state in another Great Courses series that she did not believe the Jewish patriarch Moses ever existed at all. In this 2002 course, speaking at a rather too-rapid-pace, she jumped straight into the gospel according to Matthew, saying that Joseph suspected his wife Mary of adultery. I have never before heard ANYONE use such language. I'm sure many will consider it coarse, disrespectful; at the very least it is alarmingly insensitive imho. Dr Levine speaks extremely fluently, with no tics (no ums, ers, ahs, I means, or Y'knows) but she has a slightly snide presentation style, seeming to delight in put-downs, sarcastic remarks. I found this trait ungracious. For example, in lecture 3, she poses the question who was Mary the mother of Jesus, and one of the options she gives is "unwed mother". In fact, Mary was married to Joseph when Jesus was born, so Mary could never have been an "unwed mother": that was purely an ascerbic and nasty remark. On balance, I can easily recommend this course, for it contains a wealth of information, ideas and questions, prodding the enquiring student to delve further into the subject matter. A decent knowledge of the New Testament is useful; anyone with minimal or no familiarity with the NT may well find the course difficult, but a second run should resolve that, and the guidebook is a great assistant.
Date published: 2013-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Whoa, Nelly! I prefer to listen to audio courses at double speed. This course was VERY challenging to digest at that speed--so fast was the professor's delivery. Professor Levine is very balanced. She calls out her biases so you can filter as appropriate. This was rarely needed because she WAS so balanced. As a feminist you are ready to call her on some "nonsense" feminist theory--but then she spoils the fun by calling "nonsense" first :-) Professor Levine brings more depth to many NT figures who are only mentioned in passing.
Date published: 2013-06-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Speed talking-worst presenter So disappointed...this instructor speaks so rapidly and doesn't come up for air. She crams so much in in a minute without a pause. I was a regular buyer to that purchase. I tried the DVD a year later & it was still too rapid to follow. I recommend all the other history & religion courses Ive heard, but not this one.
Date published: 2013-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Insight - Respectful of All Views Audio CD. Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is superb; I would listen to any course by her. This course is a collection of 11 lectures that are biographies of New Testament figures, although she omits the two primary figures – Jesus and Paul – because they are covered in other TTC courses. She includes Jews (e.g., Peter, James, and John), and gentiles (e.g., the magi and the Samaritan woman), men (e.g., shepherds) and women (e.g., Martha and three Marys), and real (e.g., Thomas and John the Baptist) and fictional (e.g., the good Samaritan and the prodigal son). Dr. Levine’s scholarship is excellent and her presentation style is excellent. However, what impresses me the most is that she is able to present controversial material in a way that respects all traditions. She does this by staying close to the text itself, accepting archaeological insight. This is not seminary level material, but it is certainly worthwhile listening to regardless of one’s experience with the material.
Date published: 2012-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Prof. Levine's discussion of these various New Testament figures was wonderful. Her lectures were filled with citations from the Bible as well as other historically relevant sources. She lectured well. She was quite organized and provided a nice bibliography. She chose her topics well. This is the first course I have taken that focused on themes within the Bible -- instead of just taking it book-by-book. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach. I particularly appreciated how Prof. Levine discussed how various figures -- such as Judas and Pilate -- have been considered through the years. An excellent course. I would recommend it for students who have some knowledge of the New Testament who wish to get a little more.
Date published: 2012-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course from my favorite professor This is the second course I have completed given by Amy-Jill Levine. I wish that I lived in Nashville so that I might attend her courses! She knows her material and presents it in an interesting easy to follow manner. Her portraits of the New Testament figures are based on history, the Bible, and her interpretation of these sources. I thought I knew a lot about this subject, but this course has added so much more information and a deeper insight to the knowledge that I had.. There were just a few things in the presentation that prevented my giving it five stars--she did misspeak a number of times, but she quickly corrected herself. I think it was because she was trying to get so much material in. It was also interesting to hear her Jewish view of the material in the course. She always identified her personal viewpoints. I wish there were a course on Old Testament figures by Amy-Jill Levine. I understand that there was at one time, but it is no longer available. I vote for re-issuing it. I would be first in line. Actually, I would be first in line for any course by Dr. Levine.
Date published: 2012-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Thoughtful, Well-informed Course These talks are densely packed with information, and are delivered at a rapid pace on a very high level, requiring close attention. They begin with fascinating figures such as John the Baptist, Doubting Thomas, the Prodigal Son, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalen and Stephen, eventually concluding, in two lectures each, with the more prominent figures of Paul and Jesus. Every lecture deals nicely with the person or topic discussed, although each seems to be a new beginning--that is, the lectures are rarely explicitly related to one another. This may well be a virtue, however, since (as suggested in the final lectures) it is up to us and not someone else to see connections and to make up our own minds, if need be, about this material. Major points are backed by indications of chapter and verse as flashed on the screen, and one would do well to have a Bible nearby. Professor Levine examines extensively the views of other scholars through the ages, speculating on the plausibility of those views and then suggesting her own position. Her final lecture is quite moving, but often her witty and ironic academic perspective, steering clear of any sermonizing, seems a bit detached from the pathos of the people and passages under consideration. With its focus on specific persons, however, this course is a huge improvement over her Old Testament course, which seemed rambling and bewildering to many. Here one is struck by a well-organized series of pointed insights, which are a pleasure to listen to.
Date published: 2012-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Levine is AWESOME! This professor is awesome. I don't understand why her Great Figures fo the Old Testament course is not also available. I highly recommend this lecturer.
Date published: 2012-03-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from New Testament version of Scofield bible I agree with Virgil's assessment that Levine's speaking style is too fast. In addition, her inflections are jarring, and listening to the lectures was extremely unpleasant. I had to obtain a transcript in order to understand the content of the course. It seemed that Levine was trying to reshape the New Testament to suit some underlying -- or undermining-- political purpose, in a fashion similar to the annotations to the Old Testament that characterize the Scofield bible. I came away from Levine's treatment of New Testament with the nagging thought that the entire bible, Old and New, are really more politically oriented and have very little to do with spiritual and moral underpinnings at all. Thomas Jefferson studied the New Testament very carefully and attempted to extricate the essence of Jesus from political uses of his life, like Michelangelo extricating David from the block of marble. Jefferson's close study of the essential life of Jesus shaped his world view -- and by extension, the template for the American Constitutional republic. I obtained Levine's lectures with the purpose and hope of amplifying Jefferson's understanding of the life of Jesus but Levine did not shed any light on the themes Jefferson found important. Rather, Levine emphasized the elements Jefferson discarded. For Jefferson's efforts I am grateful. For Levine's, not so much.
Date published: 2012-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Audio download. Prof. Levine has a nice voice, a good presentation of the material and in general is a pleasure to listen to. In this course she presents the major figures of the New Testament and does an outstanding job. I learned more from this course than I did from the review of the New Testament. This is not to say that the New Testament course was useless. I think it may be a good idea to listen to both.
Date published: 2012-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great for those interested in New Testment This is a professor I was unfamilair with but thought she was outstanding. I also found myself looking at sections of the New Testament differently.
Date published: 2011-08-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Great Professor spoke too fast, but more importantly the content was off. She spent way too much time on material that had nothing to do with the New Testament or with Biblical era studies. Also there didn't seem to be any cohesiveness to the course. At times the professor took a historical view, at times a literary view, and at times a cultural view. In the end it seemed like a mish-mash. And it clearly shows that a person who is not a believer in faith finds reasons to under cut the material. By the end of the course, my desire to read scripture was less than when it began.
Date published: 2011-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Testament to Great Teaching This course is a testament to the great teaching talent of Dr. Levine. Dr. L weaves the threads of thorough knowledge of her topic, objective presentation of religious history, an intriguingly witty style of lecturing, and sensitive consideration of the beliefs and doubts of her audience into a delightfully education experience. The title of her course belies the rich and wide coverage of the New Teatament. Whether you know the New Testament or never read it, this course will instruct you. No matter if your background is deep bibical or just in The History Channel and The National Geographic Channel specials - you will come away knowing more, appreciating more, and wanting to know more about her topic. The TC once published a course by Dr. L on The Great Figures of the Old Testament - they should bring it back or you should buy it used. This course will augment the TC's other courses on the New Testament, Jesus, and Early Christianity. I hope the TC will brong Dr. L back as as teacher of a new course. The best part of this course is that the only agenda Professor Levine has is to get you to know and love her what she is teaching as much as she very evidently does - and she does just that which all by itself is a testament to great teaching.
Date published: 2011-03-31
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