The World of Biblical Israel

Course No. 6325
Professor Cynthia R. Chapman, Th.D.
Oberlin College
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Course Overview

We all have associations with the word “Israel”—a modern-day nation in the Middle East that makes up part of the biblical Holy Land. But how did ancient Israel emerge? Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? What was it like to live in biblical Israel? Before unpacking these questions, it might help to consider how the very meaning of the word “Israel” evolved throughout the Hebrew Bible:

  • “Israel” first referred to a person, Jacob, the founding ancestor of the Israelites.
  • Jacob had twelve sons whose descendants became the “twelve tribes of Israel.”
  • Later, “Israel” became the name of the monarchy headed by King David and his son Solomon.
  • When the monarchy divided, the northern kingdom was called “Israel” and the southern kingdom, “Judah.”
  • Finally, “Israel” came to refer to the Judeans who survived as a nation in exile during the Babylonian captivity.

In fact, the Babylonian captivity is at the heart of the Hebrew scriptures (known to Christians as the Old Testament) and provides a key to understanding biblical Israel—as a people, a kingdom, and a nation. It was during this period of exile that the Judeans systematically gathered their stories and defined their identity as descendants of Abraham and one of Jacob’s tribes. The act of storytelling helped to create a community in exile, preserving the Judeans’ sense of identity while they were separated from their homeland. This story of exile still resonates with us today, as we have seen numerous modern crises that resulted in the reshaping of national identity.

The World of Biblical Israel takes you on a journey through ancient Israel to introduce you to the world, the people, the challenges, and the triumphs of this ancient land. In 24 captivating lectures, Professor Cynthia R. Chapman of Oberlin College introduces you to the stories of the Judeans in exile and grounds them in their historical context, giving you a grand vision of history as presented in the scriptures. She compares the history in the Bible to the archaeological record, giving you a complete picture of life in biblical Israel.

Along the way, you’ll encounter the richness of the Hebrew Bible, which for thousands of years has been one of the most important literary and religious works in the world, foundational to all three Abrahamic religions. In fact, Judaism has maintained unbroken ties to this text, and studying it sheds light on how the religion is practiced today. Yet it’s not until you view the Hebrew scriptures in the context of the history in which they were written that you see how truly powerful their narratives are.

Experience a People in Exile, a Nation in Crisis

The Hebrew Bible contains some of the most influential stories in Western civilization, and we regularly encounter them today—not just in religious services, but in art, films, literature, political speeches, and more. The World of Biblical Israel takes you inside the stories, introduces you to the characters, and shows you what daily life would have been like for ordinary people. Professor Chapman introduces you to the complete literary power of the scriptures by investigating many of the Bible’s key historical moments:

  • The origins of the Israelites: The first five books of the Bible—the Torah—provide the ancestral history of the Israelites and set down a series of laws—many of which continue to be observed today.
  • The monarchic period: Under David and Solomon, the state political structure of Israel emerged, and then the kingdom divided under subsequent rulers.
  • The age of empires: Neighboring empires, including the Assyrians and the Babylonians, attacked and eventually conquered Israel and then Judah, and the resulting political instability created a tremendous economic and social burden for the Israelites and Judeans who survived.
  • The Babylonian captivity: The exilic period inspired the conquered Judeans, who came to see themselves as the remnant of ancient Israel, to reflect on who they were as a people, and it forced them to reconsider their worship practices.
  • Resettlement: Cyrus and the Persian Empire freed the Judeans from captivity, but the period of resettlement motivated the community to reexamine its relationship to its God, its land, its religious practices, and its legacy to the children who would become the new Israel.

In addition to learning about the period’s governments, laws, and wars, you’ll take part in the religious debates of the time. You’ll see how the gradual development of monotheism shows up in the language of the scriptures. You’ll also consider the philosophical and theological issues with which ancient Israelites wrestled:

  • Why would God allow the Israelites to be conquered?
  • How could the Israelites continue their worship after the temple had been destroyed?
  • Why does God allow evil in the world?

Explore a Variety of Archaeological Sources

While the Bible provides a wealth of insight, Professor Chapman also delves into the archaeological record and compares it to biblical accounts. For instance, the Bible presents two histories on the return of the Israelites from Egypt—in Joshua and in Judges. You’ll see why archaeological evidence favors the Judges account.

But The World of Biblical Israel is about more than the sweep of history. Professor Chapman zooms in on the daily life of ordinary Israelites. From the family compounds to the battlefields and from the kitchens to the temples, she puts flesh on the bones of the biblical stories.

  • Learn about marriage and the role of women by studying Eve, Dinah, Ruth, Jezebel, and others.
  • Reflect on social inequality in the story of Naboth’s vineyard as well as the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah.
  • Meet judges such as Deborah, Jephthah, and Gideon, and trace the development of law and society.
  • Study the importance of literacy, as indicated in the books of Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel.
  • Find out what the story of Jacob and Esau has to do with the later period of exile.

An Ancient Civilization Comes to Life

You’ll look at the art, relief sculptures, writing, and administrative records, not only from the Israelites but also from the Assyrians, the Persians, the Egyptians, and other peoples to see how they viewed ancient Israel. This method gives you a balanced, historical look at a truly fascinating time and place and puts you in the role of a history detective uncovering how life was lived in biblical Israel. Additional elements such as maps, family trees, and timelines provide an even more detailed visual representation of the people, their relationships, and the sites they occupied.

This course is such a treat because it provides the full historical context for the Hebrew Bible. You’ll enjoy Professor Chapman’s lively storytelling and clear examples, and you’ll be surprised by her grand vision of the scriptures—as if the history you’ve known all your life suddenly came into brilliant focus. Spiritually engaging and historically fascinating, this course is unlike any other—and it will give you a new appreciation both for ancient history and for the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Biblical Israel—The Story of a People
    What can the Bible tell us about life in biblical Israel? What do other archaeological sources tell us? Enter the world of biblical Israel with a historical overview and an examination of how the Bible gives us insights into the daily life of ancient Israelites. Then consider the context for how the Bible came into being. x
  • 2
    By the Rivers of Babylon—Exile
    Start your journey through biblical Israel with a look at the Babylonian exile. In this period, the exiled Judeans began asking themselves who they were as a people and why they had been conquered. Because the Bible began to be compiled in this time of exile, it offers us two vantage points for understanding its history. x
  • 3
    Ancestor Narratives in Genesis
    Survey the stories of ancient Israel’s origins as preserved in the book of Genesis, from the covenant of Abraham through the cycle of Jacob and his children. Ancient Israel understood itself to be a family that descended from Jacob, so these origin stories are crucial for understanding the books that follow. x
  • 4
    Moses—The Torah’s Central Hero
    Continue your study of ancient Israel’s origins with a look at Moses and the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. After tracing the narrative of Moses’s captivating journey, which includes receiving the Ten Commandments from Yahweh, the Israelite god, on Mount Sinai, you’ll review the Torah—the “law of Moses”—and explore the origins of the priesthood. x
  • 5
    Becoming the Nation of Israel
    Turn now to the emergence of Israel as a nation, which is detailed in the books of Joshua and Judges. What does each book tell us about the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan? And what does archaeological evidence tell us about this period? Learn about the origins and methods of biblical archaeology. x
  • 6
    Kinship and Economics in Highland Villages
    Enter the central highlands of ancient Israel and see what the houses, family compounds, and villages were like. How did people live? What did they cook with? How did they divide their labor? What were the roles of men and women? x
  • 7
    Three Weddings and a Funeral
    To explore some of the practices and beliefs that surrounded marriage, Professor Chapman focuses on several biblical relationships: Isaac and Rebekah show us what was considered an ideal marriage in ancient Israel; Abraham and Hagar reveal the importance of producing an heir in marriage; and Dinah’s abduction and rape by Shechem offers insight into the role of proper family negotiations in protecting a woman’s status in marriage. x
  • 8
    Political Power Bases in Early Israel
    Investigate three models of leadership—the judges, the elders, and the kings—each of which offers insight into ancient Israel’s structures of power. You’ll meet several men and one woman who rose to power during times of military crisis, and you’ll get insight into how they ruled. x
  • 9
    Kingdoms and King Making
    Begin a four-lecture unit on the political, religious, and economic developments that occurred between 1000 and 745 B.C.E. The unit opens with an overview of King David, Solomon, and the divided kingdom of Israel. What were the origins of monarchy? Why did Israel split into northern and southern kingdoms? How does the archaeological record compare with the biblical narrative? x
  • 10
    Politics and Economy of a Centralized Cult
    Delve into the intersection of politics and religion in Mesopotamia, from the Sumerian kings to the Egyptian pharaohs. Then consider the political and economic role of the temple. Use a variety of sources to reconstruct Solomon’s temple and its place in ancient Israel’s society. x
  • 11
    Worshipping Locally
    While the ancient states built centralized places of worship, many Israelites continued their local religious practices. Discover the household religions and the variety of gods and goddesses worshipped at the time. Then see what the Bible has to say about these deities and family shrines. x
  • 12
    Lives of the Rich, Lives of the Poor
    Learn the story of Naboth’s vineyard, in which King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, annexed land from a common man, and see what this story tells us about the monarchy and social classes. Then find out what prophets such as Amos and Isaiah had to say about living in a stratified society. x
  • 13
    Assyrian Incursion into Israel and Judah
    Travel to the “age of empires” and witness the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel. Thanks to Assyrian writings and recordkeeping, historians have a wealth of sources with which to explore life in this era. See how Assyria’s recorded history overlaps with the history preserved in the Bible. x
  • 14
    Life under Siege
    Turn now to the southern kingdom of Judah. After providing an overview of King Hezekiah’s reign and the Judean perspective on Assyria, Professor Chapman shows you how each side claimed victory following the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. Regardless of who truly won, the survival of Jerusalem had profound implications for history. x
  • 15
    Religious Debates and Preserved Text
    In the 7th century B.C.E., Judah was a vassal of the Assyrian Empire. Delve into the period’s religious debates, including the worship of foreign gods and the division over centralized worship in the Jerusalem temple. King Josiah repaired the temple and enacted a sweeping religious reform that called for the worship of one god, Yahweh, in one temple. x
  • 16
    Ezekiel—Exilic Informant
    Meet the prophet Ezekiel, an eyewitness to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and a first-person informant on the experience of exile. Ezekiel’s traumas become symbolic of the larger national trauma, and this lecture introduces you to his visions and examines the theological developments that came about as a response to exile. x
  • 17
    Life in Exile, Life in Judah
    What was it like for the Judeans living in exile? Different segments of the population had varying experiences following the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom. In this lecture, you’ll investigate what life was like for exiles in Babylon and in Egypt as well as for those who stayed in Judah. x
  • 18
    Literacy and Education
    Explore the origins of writing in the ancient Near East and the growth of literacy in ancient Israel. After looking at the earliest forms of writing, explore the rise of literacy in the monarchic periods. Then learn about the education systems in ancient Israel—the palace training programs, the book of Proverbs, and education within the family. x
  • 19
    Religious Developments of the Exile
    Chart the development of monotheism in the Bible, from a plurality of gods to the primacy of the Israelite god known as Yahweh. Then turn to Second Isaiah, “the prophet of monotheism,” who, in the final years of the Babylonian exile, envisioned Yahweh on a cosmic and universal scale. x
  • 20
    The New Israel—Resettling the Land
    How did the Israelites return to their homeland? And what issues did they confront after the restoration? With the Cyrus Cylinder and the book of Ezra as your sources, find out who returned from exile, what conflicts they faced in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, and how they preserved their sense of national identity. x
  • 21
    Food and the Family Meal—Boundaries
    Step into the kitchens of the ancient Israelites and take a tour of their diets, from the fruits and grains of common villagers to the meats and fats of the elites. Then consider the bond that forms between people who share a meal and what effect dietary laws have on the formation of group identity. x
  • 22
    National Identity—Intermarriage
    Take a closer look at intermarriage with foreigners in the years after the restoration. In Genesis, the story of Dinah reflects the post-exilic anxieties about national identity. Likewise, the book of Ruth offers a rare glimpse into women’s perspective on marriage and survival in the restored Judah. x
  • 23
    National Identity—Twins and Enemies
    Revisit the story of Jacob and Esau in light of the quest for national identity. On one level, this narrative presents the history of two brothers and shows the rise of Jacob as he supplants Esau, the firstborn. On another level, the story captures the relationship between Israel and its neighbor Edom, and speaks to their continuing relationship in the post-exilic world. x
  • 24
    Loss and Restoration—Two Biblical Stories
    Conclude your study of biblical Israel with a look at the stories of Abraham and Isaac and the trials of Job. Each of these tells a narrative of loss and recovery, of displacement and restoration, and each asks questions about the nature of suffering and the mystery of the Israelite god. These questions—and what answers the text could offer—would have held meaning and hope for a community in exile. x

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Your professor

Cynthia R. Chapman

About Your Professor

Cynthia R. Chapman, Th.D.
Oberlin College
Dr. Cynthia R. Chapman is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Oberlin College, where she teaches courses on the Old and New Testaments, suffering and the book of Job, and biblical women, among other topics. She holds a B.A. from Kalamazoo College, an M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University. Professor Chapman's research has focused on the historiography of the...
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Reviews

The World of Biblical Israel is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 72.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Social Analysis of Biblical Israel My concern with this course is not the material or the presentation themselves but in discerning the intended audience. It seems to me that a fundamental familiarity with the Biblical narrative (Tanakh or Old Testament) is needed to follow these lectures. Dr. Chapman starts by postulating that the Biblical narrative (again, confining the scope only to Tanakh or Old Testament) is shaped by the Babylonian Exile. Having established that, she reviews the history of Israel in view of how the stories relate to that Exile starting with Abraham. Rather than simply summarize the main narrative arc, Dr. Chapman is interested in drawing out anthological aspects such as women, family, food, structure of society, etc. She uses archeology to supplement the Biblical sources. Understanding these social conditions then lends insight into the narrative itself. It should be noted that Dr. Chapman follows the Biblical narrative respectfully even though I suspect that she is a critical scholar. There is little or no deconstruction here. Dr. Chapman has a good presentation style. She is easy to listen to and she presents her material in a coherent manner. The production values seem to me to be average or perhaps a little below The Teaching Company (TGC) standards; there is a lot of her just turning and walking toward the camera and the graphics are not as helpful as I expected. I used the video version. With the exception of the lecture on the four room (or pillored) house, I found the video version to have no advantage over the audio version. In fact, I would play the video and just listen to it without watching the video.
Date published: 2018-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Required course for biblical Israel Dr. Chapman analyzes in a story-telling style all pertinent archeological, literary, and sociological sources along side the Bible to arrive at a lucid understanding of the lives and times of ancient Israel.
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent stretch for me! I really enjoy the professor - her presentation, her knowledge and writing, the logical progression of her lectures and she allows some warmth and personal interest to show as well. When I began, I couldn't stop and did 3 in a row! I think this is going to be quite interesting, but most of all - informative. I am a Christian, very fundamental when it comes to the Word, but I love how she teaches us to consider all things as we read the Word: other cultures, mores, religions nearby as well as those of the People of God in that time in history. Excellent stretch for me! I can't wait to "see" more of the area to bring my Bible study to life.
Date published: 2018-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent ! As soon as I read the comments from those fundamentalist / evangelical blind faithers, I suspected that this might actually be a good course. I bought the video download version and found it instantly to be more than good; it is excellent! The professor is clear, knowledgeable and precise. The maps and photos are valuable for learners. Once in a while, the professor uttered the wrong words and corrected them immediately. I really don't mind about that.
Date published: 2018-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The World Biblical Israel Excellent learning tool . Many details , information .
Date published: 2018-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quite fascinating My hat is off to Professor Chapman for presenting an interestingly told story of the formation of most of the Old Testament through an informed reading of the Bible's texts and a knowledge of ancient history and of up to date archaeological findings. I had known that most of the First -- or "Old" -- Testament had taken its present shape roughly in the middle of the first millennium before Jesus' time, but Dr. Chapman does a wonderful job of explaining just how this likely came about -- as the intentional preserved memory of the literate Jewish people exiled to Babylon! I am now 75 years old and have studied the Bible, theology, and modern scholarship about the Bible for most of my adult life. Accordingly, I have long NOT been a person who believes in the literal "truth" of that, nonetheless, remarkable collection of writings. I understand them to be written -- and edited -- from a particular belief perspective and that this perspective was not only that of the tiny literate portion of those ancient people but also that of the advocates of priesthood and worship centralized in the great Temple in Jerusalem. Even though it is clearly not -- and was not intended to be -- "history" in the modern sense, it is highly informative of the surviving element of ancient Israel whose viewpoints have thus prevailed through the centuries. Professor Chapman also excels in helping us understand the precarious position ancient Israel occupied in a land long contested between rival empires -- Egypt from the South and a succession of dominant states in the northeast (including Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia). While she does cite instances where biblical authors likely inflated historical reality -- the best example given is how the Book of Joshua portrays the swift conquering of the Holy Land by an impressively massed collection of all twelve tribes of Israel when, in archaeological fact, it appears that the more likely reality was a gradual infiltration of the people over several generations -- she also repeatedly uses Biblical information as an accurate remembrance of hostile forces, the grim reality of life in cities under sustained siege, and of rival beliefs in multiple divinities. Personally, I found her exposition of the likelihood that many (most?) residents of ancient Israel long practiced religious devotions to several gods, including the "God of Israel" to be fascinating. For proof, she cites the continuing exhortations of a succession of prophets for "the people of Israel" to return to their covenantal relationship with their God that had been sundered by their worship of other so-called gods. Despite some previous reviewers (who were disturbed by her non-literal interpretation of the Bible) claims that Dr. Chapman's presentation was characterized by disdain for, or outright mocking of, the Bible, I found her knowledge of the Bible very impressive and believe her grounding it in the lived experience of traumatic times quite revelatory. Highly recommended for those with curious and open minds.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Survey course on ancient Israel This course was the most interesting courses I have taken. The professor provided clear explanations and examples which helped me (a novice) to understand the context and historical background of ancient Israel.
Date published: 2018-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! In this fast-moving series of 24 lectures, Professor Cynthia Chapman provides a captivating context to the writing of the Old Testament. Her rational approach will not please those with a “pre-Darwinian” view of the Bible whereas it was somehow miraculously generated. It does provide those who are more down to earth with an understanding of why and how it was produced. It is particularly interesting to realize the Old Testament writings played a part in the power struggle between various Jewish groups. It is also noteworthy to see that Yahweh was originally not considered the universal Divine Being but rather Israel’s specific single god, in competition with foreigners’ gods. Though she does make a few repetitions, Professor Chapman is extremely well organized and a very dynamic speaker. This course is highly recommended to all interested in history and in seeing how the Old Testament “makes sense” from a rational point of view.
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Biblical Israel This is a truly excellent presentation of the story of biblical Israel; Professor Chapman doesn't jjust tell bible stories, she adds the pertinent known history and sociology drawn from archeology and inferred from what else is known about ancient Mesopotamia and Canaan, to paint a fleshed-out composite that makes these ancient people and characters recognizably human, a history that almost comes to life and doesn't seem thousands of years in the past. The printed guidebook is also excellent and i found it useful to read each section after having watched the video.
Date published: 2017-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well produced Not quite what I expected -- goes well beyond description of life in Hebrew scripture times. Puts much of the bible in perspective. Not scholarly in that it only makes allusions to debates -- probably necessary to make course accessible to viewers such as myself. Overall, one of the best courses I have watched/listened to,
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Interesting Course If you have any interest in the Old Testament books about Israel, this DVD is a great starting place. The subject is well presented by a very good lecturer. We have liked everything about this course, except the camerawork. It seems to be the fad now days for the camera to be moving all the time. Very irritating! It is even worse when the lecturer walks and talks and the camera is also moving. The lecturer moves one direction, the camera moves the other, and the background moves out of sync with the lecturer. This is very nauseating. There were time I couldn't watch. I thought about sending this back, except the content is very good. I would have given this 5 stars if it wasn't for the camerawork.
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good description of the course We finally finished the course last week; thoroughly enjoyed it and learned interesting information. We have also taken courses by Jeff Cavins on biblical history from a Catholic perspective. This course filled in some interesting background.
Date published: 2017-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information! I have been playing these dvd's over again. There is so much information that I am learning about, and I don't want to miss a word. The many details of the culture were new to me. I especially enjoyed the chapter about the food that was eaten then. Everything that detailed this culture was fascinating. Great teacher!
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Information! Twice a month we watch one episode from this series at our church. We love this presenter's style of teaching and the clarity of her information. She makes unusual connections that I would not get through my regular reading or studying scripture. She has become a real favorite with the group, and people with a lot of Bible knowledge seem to be getting as much out of the series as those with little knowledge.
Date published: 2017-06-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not quite what I expected While the title the world of biblical Israel does discuss some aspects of biblical Israel, the predominant theme seems to be more of disproving biblical history by current archeological findings.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow ... I finally get it! Dr Chapman's 'The World of Biblical Israel' did more to help me to understand the writings in the "Old Testament" (Hebrew Bible) then any previous source of study (TGC's, church study groups, college classes, personal research, etc) that I have pursued. I told my wife that this course was "Bible study without the prayer." Jodi Magness's Great Course 'The Holy Land Revealed,' had served as an excellent primer to Dr Chapman's course. If you are interested in this course then I highly recommend considering Dr Magness's course along with this lecture series. The two courses compliment one another, perfectly. Dr Magness focuses on the 'History and the People of Israel,' mostly from an archeological and historical perspecitve; while Dr Chapman's course focuses on the events that influenced the collective psyche of the writers and redactors of Jewish scripture, resulting in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that we have today. Dr Chapman opens these lectures in the middle of the Old Testament, at Psalms 137. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion." From this passage, she will take you on a journey through the Old Testament, from Genesis to Micah, with a focus on this pivotal event: the Babylonian exile. Dr Chapman asserts that the Judahite scribes who both wrote and abridged the collective works that we now call the Old Testament, mostly did so during and after their Babylonian exile. The organization of this lecture series is designed to support this central thesis: that understanding how the Babylonian exile shaped and molded the identity of the Jewish people and influenced the thought processes of the Jewish scribes, is fundamental to understanding many of these biblical writings. This includes the selection process by which older writings and traditions made it into the Old Testament. I found myself saying, "Wow, I finally get it," several times throughout this lecture series. While other scholars may approach the Bible from a different perspective than Dr Chapman's, her contention that the final collective tome is predicated largely upon this one traumatic and cataclysmic event in the Jewish history ... made a lot of sense to me. Dr Chapman supports this view, very effectively, throughout the lecture series. While this course is academic and secular in nature, I found nothing in these lectures that should offend the sensibilities of any open minded persons of faith. Dr Chapman speaks clearly and has a relatively smooth delivery, with few teleprompter stumbles. Her sense of humor occasionally comes through, which added to my overall enjoyment of these lectures. While there are limited pictures, photos, maps and timelines provided in the video version, this course should work quite well in the audio only version too. I would recommend this course to anyone with an interest in the ancient people of Israel, an interest in how we got the Bible, anyone who loves history, or for open minded (this course is secular, after all) persons of faith who are looking for a richer understanding of the writings of the Old Testament. Cheers.
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent: Very informative. Dr. Chapman gives 24 straightforward presentations on Biblical Israel using the Old Testament as one source of historical material. Additional information came from Babylonian records, Assyrian writings, and artifacts found by archeologists. Her way of speaking is easy to follow and easily understood. Her presentation is free of "judgment" or religious bias which I appreciate. She tells us probable reasons as to why certain books were written. Dr. Chapman explains that some portions of the Old Testament books directly conflict with others but these conflicts were purposely retained by the OT writers to present concepts that were present at the time of writing. After viewing Dr. Chapman's presentations I have a much better concept of Biblical Israel as well as the struggles of the ancient peoples involved.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strong on Social History Top-rate scholarship. It seems to me that some of the negative reviews here are less about this specific course and more about the discipline of religious studies as a non-devotional, academic enterprise. So, if you want a course that proceeds from the assumption that the Bible is true word of God, then you might not enjoy this course. This course is not homiletic or apologetic in tone or content. This course is especially strong in the social history and gender of ancient Israel, but also gives a good overview of the world that produced the scriptures that went into the Hebrew Bible. Some prior familiarity with the Bible might help, but this course could also serve as a good introduction if you wanted to get into Biblical Studies. What else can I say? I enjoyed this course. The professor delivery was a bit too polished and made me think that actually having a class with Chapman would be better, but that's one of my more general complaints about newer Teaching Company Courses -- they are too scripted kind of like an over-edited short-story. I still gave the course high marks, though. I know that I can't change the ways things go...planetary movement, the laws of physics, the production choices of The Teaching Company, things like that. My only complaint is that my hand got caught in a vending machine while listening to this course, but that's nothing compared to what happened to Job.
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The World of Biblical Israel This course is helpful to give the Bible student an awareness that much of the writing of the book appears to have been the work of a small part of the overall society of the people of Israel. This subgroup are the people of Judah who experienced captivity in Babylon. And so much of the Bible is written from their perspective.
Date published: 2016-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic presenter I purchased this course as part of my interests and study of “design in biblical times” (i.e. object creation/architecture, etc.). I found that professor Cynthia Chapman is an amazing presenter and that I enjoyed her lectures due to their clear organization and clear style of delivery. I am also pleased that in these lectures Dr. Chapman parallels archeological findings with biblical texts and that she does not rely only on one or the other to construct a strong content.
Date published: 2016-10-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from only course I returned The only great courses course I returned. I was very Disappointed, as it was not clearly stated in the course review that the course starts with the assumption that all of the books of the bible are just "stories" and that all of the books of the bible were written after the exile, and gives the strong impression that the books of the bible are just Israeli mythology. The Egyptian course taught by Bob Baier in the great courses catalog had a more balanced and even handed study of the exodus than this course. You don't have to be a Christian to see the bias in this course.
Date published: 2016-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More details to fill in other GCs As usual there are a variety of opinions depending on the reviewers' desires, background, and religious opinion. I obviously come down on the 5-star side. I bought this course with "The Holy Land Revealed" and they go together very well as a set. This course, along with "Holy Land Revealed", is another great addition to the GCs' library. I have taken many GCs on religion and I now find myself going back to the more theological courses and listening to pertinent parts of them along with these more "earthy" courses. The combination of the theology and "real' life issues provides much enhanced insight.
Date published: 2016-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The professor shared a lifetime of research and experience with us. Very informative and exciting to watch.
Date published: 2016-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellant review of the Old Testament One of the things that I especially liked about this course was that Dr. Chapman tells us about the history of the writing of the biblical text. She also ties in the archeology of ancient Isreal with biblical references and other non-biblical sources. This course should be on anyone's list that is interested in seriously studying the Bible, and not just reading it.
Date published: 2016-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This course provided a great mix of biblical stories alongside the historical and archeological record. I feel that I have a deeper understanding of my religion's central text, the Tanakh, and its ancient history.
Date published: 2016-06-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from For me, it boils down to Job Audio download The reviews by Jacqueline, MisterDarcy and BGZRedux are excellent...especially the back and forth discussions. My comments are intended for the people thinking of investing time and money in these lectures. These detailed lectures are about the history of Israel (the ethnic people...not necessarily the nation) as described by the earliest Hebrew writings...the Old Testament...the Torah. Dr Chapman, as a gifted lecturer, explains the history, life styles and parables using these texts to help us understand how the Hebrew people see themselves...mostly through the trials of exile and restoration. The final lecture was for me particularly informative since I was only vaguely aware of the story of Job. Job's fate was to be tested by God, essentially by being tortured, then restored because of his piety. I think that the modern nation of Israel...and the Israelis as a people...see themselves as a product of suffering unjustly (throughout history). In this day, they are focused on the restoration of their national and ethnic pride promised to them by their god. The book tells them that they have suffered in the past, but will ultimately be rewarded. I could have easily give it five stars...4.5 would be best. Recommended, when on sale and you have a coupon.
Date published: 2016-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of My Favorite Courses I've purchased about 10 Great Courses so far, and this is one of my favorites. It gave me a wonderful high-level view of the entire Old Testament. I also enjoyed Dr Chapman's descriptions of what daily life was like for the people. (I had no idea that the Israelites had to travel 800 miles to their exile in Babylonia). The professor uses two sources for this course: the Bible and archeology, and she always points out where archeology supports the biblical stories and where it doesn't. The student is left to draw their own conclusions, which is just how I like it! Professor Chapman has a real knack for bringing history to life, as well as a good sense of humor. I'd recommend this course for anyone who is curious what life was like in biblical Israel and the beginnings of the writing and assembling of the books of the Old Testament.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The bible as history ? Mr Darcy's comments are exhaustive, and I shall not attempt a similar commentary. As an atheist, I find Professor Chapman's lectures extremely interesting as a summary of the origin and development of that group of people we nowadays refer to as 'the Jews'. Unlike other reviewers, I find her use of archeological findings of great value in supporting her conclusions. Her style of presentation is relaxed, erudite, clear, and suffused with gentle humour. My only real adverse criticism is general to many of The Great Courses lecturers. She tends to spend too much time summarising what she covered in the previous lecture - a trait quite useful to students who took that earlier lecture a week ago. If one watches several lectures at a time, it is annoying. However, the fast forward button copes with that issue ! All in all, a really worthwhile addition to ones' knowledge of Mediterranean antiquity.
Date published: 2016-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Lovely Tapestry The lead review is a well written tome, so I'm going to keep this one short. This course succeeds in explaining how the people of Israel lived, how they viewed God and gods and how the exile helped create the Torah and the Jews of today as "people of the Book". That is a pretty impressive accomplishment in 12 hours. All of the above was taught with dignity and grace. To the critics, don't expect a Sunday School class at a University.
Date published: 2015-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Significance of the Babylonian Exile Professor Chapman painstakingly explains the centrality of the Babylonian exile experience to the emergence of Biblical Israel. An outstanding, very organized, and very well-presented course!
Date published: 2015-06-28
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