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Understanding the Old Testament

Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Summary

The Old Testament is one of the foundational texts of Western civilization, and is among the most impactful and widely read books in world history. In 24 enthralling lectures, Professor Miller guides you through a core selection of the major books of the Old Testament, inviting you to probe their meaning and relevance in incisive and thought-provoking commentary. Among the books of the Old Testament, you’ll explore:

  • Genesis: Uncover fascinating features of the Old Testament’s opening, such as how the events of the first week of creation form an elaborate pattern, expressing the complex order of the universe; and how the text does not lay primary blame for “the fall” on the woman, Eve;   
  • Deuteronomistic History: Study the epic history of the people of Israel in the Promised Land; follow the story of the Israelites’ disobedience to God, and its tragic consequences;  
  • The Prophets: Through the dramatic stories of the prophets, take account of the challenges faced by those who sought to actualize God’s plan for humanity;  
  • The Books of Ruth and Esther: Among notable women in the Old Testament, explore two stories of women who are doubly at risk, and who prevail through loyalty, resourcefulness, and integrity; and
  • Daniel and the Apocalyptic: In the Book of Daniel, encounter the genre of apocalyptic literature - revelation initiated by God - and contemplate the figure of “the Son of Man,” a promised redeemer.

Throughout the lectures, Professor Miller offers a wealth of perspectives on how to approach the texts. You’ll assess the role of translation in the understanding of the texts, studying the meanings of key Hebrew words; you’ll also look in depth at the history, dating, and writing of the texts, and you’ll study their literary and linguistic features, noting how they achieve their impact on the reader.

In Understanding the Old Testament, you’ll take a revelatory look at this epically impactful document, finding its deeper historical and religious meanings, as well as its sublime literary treasures.

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

©2019 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2019 The Great Courses

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    3 out of 5 stars

interesting and helpful, but I wanted more...

Before we start, reviews of this sort of text are clearer when we know where the reviewer is coming from; I’m an atheist reading the bible in lockdown 2020. I thought this book would help me in understanding the OT better (it’s in the title!). What I liked about this book was: the way it approached major books one at a time. The constant reference to and clarification of the Hebrew wording was also useful in many places. The main thing I learnt from this was the use of Hebrew poetry structures such as repetition, and how they are used to point at and develop meaning, by sudden changes in these repetitions. The performance is up beat throughout, and never lets you drop attention. What I didn’t like was; the performance was so upbeat that the guy was often seemingly catching his breath throughout, which took a bit of getting used to. The focus on individual books meant that themes are restricted; you don’t get much cross-referencing. Given that many books have the same theme (the Israelites were granted favours for a covenant, then broke the covenant, leading to loss of favours until a leader could drag them back on course) means it gets repetitive and I often had to actually look at the app to find out which book was being discussed. My most problematic issue and the reason for the 3 stars overall was the absence of discussion about the interplay between the OT and the NT: which bits did Christianity pick up on, reject or have to reinterpret. Maybe this is my fault, it’s a book about the OT after all. So.. 5 stars for a book that would help you on reading for the first time or reviewing individual books of the OT. 2 stars for a wholistic view of themes in the OT Don’t buy this book if you are looking for deeper understandings of the dynamic between Christianity and Judaism: an OT reader would be a better title...

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant!

If I could give this audiobook more stars, I would. The lectures are fascinating! The background information provided is always relevant to the text being discussed, without becoming overbearing; each lecture is conducted methodically, with references to other text and sources, presenting alternative interpretations and various arguments. I loved it that Prof. Miller doesn't shy away from providing what he deems to be the most sensible interpretation as well. He sounds passionate about the subject and this approach not only prevents the lectures from becoming a dry, academic discussion, but also provides enough information for the listener to either develop their own opinion or dig deeper into the subject. In many ways, this is an introduction to the Old Testament that I have been looking for for the last 20 years or so. I will be definitely going back to this audiobook several times and will recommend it to anyone who wants to find out more about the Old Testament.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 07-12-19

Radical (in a good way)

This is an excellent course. Professor Miller strips away centuries of tradition and offers what to my ears is a fresh and persuasive interpretation of the Old Testament. His approach to the text is interdisciplinary, combining history, anthropology, structural analysis, literary criticism and linguistics. His conclusions are often surprising but are always well-supported with evidence. In Lecture 4, for example, his novel reading of Genesis 3 (The snake isn’t a snake! Eve’s not to blame! There’s dark humour and puns! How angry was God?) is presented so forcefully that even if you don’t accept it, you’ll still be impressed by the scholarship. Highly recommended.

26 people found this helpful

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  • A person healing
  • 09-05-20

This is not what I was hoping for...

Based on reviews, I expected a scholarly discourse on the texts that were compiled to form the Old Testament. No doubt Robert Miller is a scholar, but he is also clearly an apologist, promoting only scholarship that justifies modern Catholic doctrine. I heard enough of that as a kid. A scholarly discourse of texts this ancient should leave lots of room for uncertainty, and a discussion of different interpretations (without always the need to select the one most convenient for Catholic dogma) would really have been interesting.

18 people found this helpful

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  • L
  • 17-01-20

Great recap for an agnostic

This course is full of fascinating little linguistic tidbits lost in translation of the Bible (e.g. who came up with the name Jehovah? Was the snake in Genesis really a dragon? Satan just means “the accuser”?!) I never felt that the lecturer was preaching, which was great. I would have liked a bit more context on how the Old Testament is interpreted by religions today, but with 12 hours of audio I really couldn’t ask for more with one credit.

15 people found this helpful

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  • BMay
  • 29-12-19

Literary Look

Looking at the Old Testament as a literary aspect was not only intriguing, but exciting at times. You can hear the passion in the professor's voice during the lecture. The professor has great insight into the time of writing, characters in history, and religions of the day. The Bible we have today may have literary errors, but in context is infallible, which is evident to one who has studied the Old Testament for themselves and then heard the lectures.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Spacey8Crys
  • 16-07-20

The More You Know!

There is a lot that I don't understand from the old testament and these lectures helped me answer a lot of questions.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Cliente de Kindle
  • 04-05-20

Too much shouting

It sounds like the professor is talking in a hall to a big audience without a microphone, therefore he is like shouting. With time it becomes annoying. Furthermore the speech is quite monotonous in comparison to other Great Courses, so sometimes it's hard to get involved in it. Also these lectures are quite difficult and the listening isn't easy. However, it is still a great way to learn more about Old Testament

5 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph Officer
  • 08-08-20

dissapointed

ok I did not listen to it all but I wanted a book to learn about the Bible more. after the narrator said BCE I stopped. if you can't use BC and AD in a Bible study something is wrong.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Fred Fanning
  • 29-05-20

Knowledgeable

I really liked this course. It provided a lot of information in an easy to listen to format.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Patrick Underwood
  • 22-05-20

very enjoyable

helped me understand the OT a lot more than on my own. these are great courses

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ashley
  • 10-08-20

very insightful!

scholarly and religiously insightful. I listened at 2.15X speed and I devoured this over a few days! will re-isten.

1 person found this helpful