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The Old Testament

Narrated by: Amy-Jill Levine
Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (66 ratings)

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Summary

The Old Testament - written in ancient Israel by many different authors over the course of a thousand years - has had more meaning to more people than any other book the world has known. Its influence, whether you consider it scripture or literature, is evident everywhere in our culture, from medieval mystery plays to modern novels, art, music, theater, film, and dance. What can this work teach us about those who wrote it? About the people we once were? And can new academic understanding also speak to faith? As Professor Levine observes: "The Old Testament is endlessly fascinating because it offers everything to explore: myth, saga, and history; tragedy, comedy, and farce; economics and politics; literature and poetry of surpassing beauty; court intrigue and prophetic morality; heavenly miracles and sometimes heavenly silence; questions of theodicy; answers that satisfy and answers that may not; destruction and rebuilding; despair and hope."

In a series of 24 lively lectures, she takes you down all of these avenues, exploring selected passages from the texts known as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, and the Tanakh, revealing how fresh research and findings from scholars of archaeology, cross-cultural studies, and comparative religion can deepen your understanding.

And though the focus of her lectures is on historical and literary issues, Professor Levine does not shy away from issues of religious concern, maintaining that the goal of an academic course is not to undermine religious faith, but to use that academic knowledge as a new source of insight into the writings that form a believer's spiritual bedrock.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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

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  • Jonathan
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 29-10-14

Engaging and Interesting but Drags in Places

I was very unsure about choosing this course because the reviews on the Great Courses web site (strongly recommended for details of content) are very mixed indeed. Having listened to it I think that this is because devout Christians/Jews would find some of the comments and style sacriligious. For such people I would recommend the course The World of Biblical Israel (also Great Courses) as an alternative. (In fact I would say that that is a better course anyway). That course goes through the Bible with a focus on everyday life in Biblical times, while this course has a more literary focus. I found the material interesting overall and there are some very interesting parts, e.g. about Saul, David and Solomon. But some of it dragged, e.g. a very drawn out discussion of the Covenant. The lecturer is lively and full of personality -- not quite five stars for performance, but nearly. So it was engaging and easy to listen to, but would have benefitted from a bit of editting.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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superb overview of the old testament, in context

puts the old testament in its historical and literary context, joining up the stories whilst maintaining the mystery, without explicit belief or non belief.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic!

I loved the style of this lecturer , I could (and did!) listen to her for hours and hours! I hope she does more Great Courses. I learned a lot, it’s a fascinating subject, entertainingly presented.

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Very informative. Great insights.

Not only excellent content, it is read by the professor herself with engaging narration. Could not stop listening.

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Excellent course

One of the best Great Courses out there, in my opinion. Professor Levine's approach is very balanced.

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not bad but

Is there anything you would change about this book?

the book is rather simplistic and lets god off with a pass on many of the more distasteful(to modern eyes at least) aspects of the bible

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

not really applicable

What about Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s performance did you like?

was good and confident although she did stutter or mispronounce some words or phrases

Was The Old Testament worth the listening time?

yes it was,it gave a good insight into some of the aspects of the bible,especially where it crosses cultures+religions eg gilgamesh+noah

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • JB
  • 04-03-16

More please

I'm found the course very informative, interested to hear more! I was fascinated throughout. The speaker ls voice and words were clear, and she explained concepts and stories well.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacobus
  • 14-12-13

A critical but inspiring 'walk thru the' Bible

I am intrigued by the name of the course 'The Old Testament' as Prof. Amy-Jill Levine herself is Jewish. One would've expected a course name such as 'The Hebrew Bible.' But Prof. Levine is one of those scholars who has a very open-minded approach. If I didn't know, I wouldn't have guessed that she is not a Christian scholar. In this course she takes you through almost every aspect of the Old Testament or Tanach or Hebrew Bible, whatever you want to call it. In her lectures she also has a sensitivity for the New Testament and I think this enriches her presentation so much more.

The course consists out of 24 jam packed lectures. Lectures 1-6 focus mainly on the Book of Genesis through which she introduces the various critical approaches of studying the Bible while giving the listener a feeling of the content of the book. I thought lecture 7 "Folklore Analysis and Types Scenes" were a highlight. (If you have listened to Prof. Gary Rendsburg's lecture series 'The Book of Genesis' you might be pleasantly surprised how these two courses complement each other.)

Lectures 8-11 deals with the rest of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). I found her explanation of various laws and why they are the way they are very interesting. She was able to keep my attention through what might seem very boring to some indeed.

Lectures 12-14 deals with the books of Judges and Josua and the conquest of the land. He take on the various judges was refreshing, especially how she interpreted Samson. (It is approached mainly narratively and reminds me a lot of Tammi J Schneider's commentary on Judges in the 'Berit Olam' commentary series.)

Lectures 15-17 deals with the kings of Israel focussing especially on Saul, David and Solomon. The highlight here was her treatment of the story of David and Batsheba. She ends with the earlier prophets.

Lectures 18-21 deals with prophecy, the fall of the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), the exile and restoration. You will be introduced to Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a book like Ruth.

The last three lectures (22-24) deals with Wisdom literature, Song of Songs, Job and Ecclesiastes; the books of the Diaspora, Esther and Daniel and the apocalyptic part of the book of Daniel.

It is quite extensive. Prof. Levine is able to deal with almost all of the important issues in the current scholarly study of the Old Testament.

Her style and enthusiasm for the subject matter keeps the course vivid and easy to follow (that said, you must have at least an inkling of the content of the Old Testament as this is not a crash course in its content.) Unfortunately Audible do not provide any study guide in PDF format for the Great Courses series.

I recommend this course to those who what to get a grip on the Old Testament and want to understand it better. It is an excellent course covering A LOT of information.

84 of 86 people found this review helpful

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  • Erin
  • 18-04-14

New appreciation for the Old Testament

What made the experience of listening to The Old Testament the most enjoyable?

The Old Testament has been a part of my life for more than 40 years, but Professor Levine has brought new meanings and significance to those old, familiar stories I thought I knew very well. Among other things, I enjoyed her exploration of Semitic culture and law, her emphasis on ancient literary tropes and how they lend meaning to the stories, and the way she delves into the stories of minor characters we don't hear much about in church. Her lectures are lively, funny, and illuminating. I highly recommend this course for people interested in Biblical studies, ancient history and culture, or literary criticism. Great listen!

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlie
  • 26-02-14

Really glad I listened to this course

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'd highly recommend this book. The Old Testament is one of those books that one really should seek to understand, whether or not it has anything to do with your own personal faith (or lack thereof).

What did you like best about this story?

It is a very foundational book for a large portion of the earth's people. It is so intimately present in so much of western literature and thought that a person living in the west should really try to understand this work at some level.

What about Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s performance did you like?

The approach followed by the professor is very analytical, but not the least bit cold. She is trying to place the various stories along the historical timeline, and glean insight into the various authors and what the culture was going through at the various times and how this influenced the writing by various techniques. Very interesting parallels are revealed between for example the creation myth in the OT vs. the creation myths of other cultures at about the same time period.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No... nothing like that. This book was more of an intellectual thing than emotional. For me at least it was. I suppose it would be that way for most listeners.

Any additional comments?

Listened to it twice so far, and definitely plan to go back to listen again.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • JC Taiwan
  • 30-09-15

Masterful delivery by a terrific lecturer...

What did you love best about The Old Testament?

Dr. Levine delivered the material with a clear love of the subject and has reached conclusions that while at the time may have challenged her faith have ultimately made it stronger.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Old Testament?

Listening to Levine in not so many words refer to certain figures of the Old Testament as jerks.

Which scene was your favorite?

Her lecture on the book of Esther as a farce / tragedy with the implication that if you can't see this then you're blind.

Any additional comments?

I found that Levine has strengthened my Christian faith as opposed to her very Jewish arguments undermining it. She helped me to see the OT as not a series of literal historical events but as a variety of literary styles either towards a particular purpose whether it be polemical, poetic or allegorical in nature,

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • johnjoy1
  • 11-04-16

magnificent

I truly loved this Old Testament. the author was amazing I learned so much and I'm so thankful

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-10-16

Misleading Title Replete with Sarcasm & Mockery

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Amy-Jill Levine?

Certainly from the Great Courses, and certainly not from Amy Levine.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something that accurately reflects the title of the book.

Have you listened to any of Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Never thank God.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Old Testament?

1. The continual references to other myths put in the text to further her agenda (and besides isn't the Old Testament complicated enough without embarking on a continual compare/contrast?).2. Her continual promotion of the feminist agenda (this is fine, but state it in the title. And for the record, if you are going to offer a critical reading it would be nice to play contrarian with other points as well, to be fair, not just the ones that promote your agenda).3. The mockery and sarcasm. I am ok with some very strong critiques of a variety of subject matter, but do it objectively and without the ridicule please. If you don't like the stuff, don't read it and certainly don't lecture and profit from it.

Any additional comments?

As an professor I try to remain objective. I am fine with remarkably critical readings from different perspectives on a variety of topics; however, Dr. Levine was not objective. This resulted in lectures replete with feminist criticism of the topic, mockery of other people's interpretations and a serious insinuation that the content of the Old Testament was "inspired" by other mythologies.I didn't expect a religious/theological commentary based on other reviews. I was, however, expecting a rigorous academic commentary, but was sadly disappointed. I continued to listen, assuming that there may be some tidbits useful to pursue or raise over coffee with other academics. But I could not stand the constant references to other mythological systems (which complicated and already complicated topic), the promotion of her feminist views (mocking King Solomon for his wives, called Samson "stupid", etc) and the open mockery of other scholars' interpretations.According to her Wikipedia page: "A self-described "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt[...]". And she is Professor of New Testament Studies. Modern identifies are complicated. I get it. And critiques have their place. I get that too. But find an appropriate forum and air out your political, social and religious agenda to maintain some semblance of objectivity and do not pass it off as the truth in a work called the "Old Testament". It is a disservice to academic, readers and the Great Courses.For the religiously minded, I would recommend Sacred Texts or Cultural Literacy for Religion. Both are excellent, and while not being theological per se, do refrain from the mockery and promotion of personal agendas.And in my attempt to remain objective, her voice and speaking style was well-seasoned. Hence the four stars for performance.

18 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel J. Macarro
  • 30-10-14

Great general overview of the Old Testament

What did you love best about The Old Testament?

Prof. Levine rightly states the study of religion is not just theology - it requires a bit of everything and she indeed includes everything. From looking at the history of the composition as a piece of literature, looking at the recorded history of the neighboring peoples of the region, analyzing the narratives as folklore, recurring archetypes, the Hebrew language, and so much more!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Old Testament?

I have listened to many Great Courses and I have heard many lecturers deliver very funny lines, but she made a joke about an ancient near east law code that allowed parents to kill their children who disobeyed and I actually heard one of the producers audibly laugh!

What does Professor Amy-Jill Levine bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This only exists in audio form

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, 30 minutes is a perfect time to allot to one lecture, it fits exactly on my drive to and from work. However, like any lecture in college, listening to too many in a row can start to get tedious, even for the seriously interested layman.

Any additional comments?

This is one of the older ones back when the Great Courses was still the Teaching Company, so it occasionally sounds of for a split second, as if it was copied from an old tape that got distorted.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Leonard
  • 11-04-16

Misleading

This isn't a lecture on the Old Testament, but an apology for the Old Testament on account of it's treatment of women.

It's really weird listening to the attempt of twisting a ~3000 year old society accepting of slavery, into one which also happens to agree with feminism

In short, I'm not religious but highly curious and interested in religious text, and wanted to learn about the mighty, merciless, frightening God of the Old Testament which has impacted our world so much.
This doesn't seem to be it

17 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Chase
  • 26-05-16

Not For Christian Believers

What disappointed you about The Old Testament?

From the very beginning of the lecture series she makes it very clear that she thinks the bible is nothing more than plagiarized mythology. I am half way through the course and I will not be finishing it.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes, I have tried other (secular) courses and have enjoyed them.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael Yokitis
  • 04-11-16

Know What You Want Before Purchasing

What disappointed you about The Old Testament?

I was hoping to learn more about the OT to help build my faith, i became suspicious after hearing her talk in the first few chapters about OT "myths". The final straw was when she mentioned that many believe that King David never really existed and "I think i count myself among them".

You decide yourself if this is the direction you're looking for in an OT study.

24 of 36 people found this review helpful