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Jesus and His Jewish Influences

Embark upon an in-depth investigation of the ancient world that Jesus was born into, and discover what effect it had upon his life and ministry in this course taught by an award-winning professor.
Jesus and His Jewish Influences is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 158.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely enthraling Dr Magness is a brilliant lecturer with an encyclopedic knowledge of her subject. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. She is easy to listen to. Hers is one of my favorite courses in the program. Christian, Jew or other, do not miss this.
Date published: 2023-12-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from USEFUL FOR CHRISTIANS Helpful material for Christians crops up throughout this series. Pretty well presented.
Date published: 2023-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jesus and His Jewish Influences I bought these DVD's a couple of years ago, and I just finished watching them for the second time. Professor Magness knows her subject well, and she is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge with others. I highly recommend this series of lectures.
Date published: 2023-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Info and well presented Second class with Prof Magness and I look forward to another one. She knows her 'stuff' and presents it very well. I like her review process which helps to 'lock the info' in my head.
Date published: 2023-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mis-Named But Usefull I liked the course especially the extended coverage of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the material on the key sects of the Jewish faith. There was a lot of material on the temple. In my opinion there was not enough material on Jesus to justify the title. Find a new name and it is a 5.
Date published: 2023-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great But Misnamed This is a great course on 2nd Temple Period Judaism, and I highly recommend it. However, it's clearly misnamed, as references to Jesus are not the focus, and almost seem thrown on as an after thought. I suspect this was probably something by Wondrium/Great Courses to try to market this course to a wider audience. However, if you're interested in understanding the historic context of the time of Jesus and the Apostles, this course still is a must watch.
Date published: 2022-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview; well-done. Just outstanding in every way. I’m not here attempting a comprehensive review of the course, but I do want to make a couple of points. In the last lecture, Dr. Magness, in her concluding remarks, said that she did not seek to either confirm or overthrow her listeners’ religious beliefs. In this she succeeded. Both Christians (myself included) and non-Christians had much to learn here, and the lecturer treated Jewish and Christian Scripture always with great respect, something at which other lecturers have failed. Several of my Christian friends here have complained that there wasn’t enough about Jesus here and that the title here was misleading. I disagree completely. The task here was to inform on the cultural and religious world into which Jesus was born and in which he grew up. Somewhat of an amateur religious scholar (I stress “amateur” – I am a professor, but I teach political science, not religion) myself, I learned so much. The lectures on the various Jewish sects – including the Pharisees and Essenes – were alone worth the price of the course. The presentation of the geopolitical situation at the time of Jesus was clear and helpful, and I received much insight and perspective – especially in the last two lectures – about Jesus’s practices and sayings in a way that did not “overthrow” my Christian faith. A long-time customer of the Great Courses who has purchased over 200 and completed about two-dozen (yes, I know; much more to do. Wait till I retire in 8 years!), this is only the second time I’ve reviewed one. I felt moved to do so because I find this one top-notch. Looking forward to watching Dr. Magness’s other course. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2022-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine Account of Pre and Post NT Jewish History I was quite happy with this course, though I might have felt differently had I not known that the title is somewhat misleading. The course is predominately focused on Jewish history, with some notable, though limited, attention on Jesus. That said, the content was what I was looking for. Professor Magness shed light on aspects and periods of Jewish history that I had not heard much about, such as the tension between Jews and Samaritans, and the history of the Herodian dynasty. Also, in relation to Jesus she made interesting observations about his similarity and differences from the Pharisees and the Essenes. As to the manner of presentation, I had the pleasant experience of feeling as though I was back in college.
Date published: 2022-12-11
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Follow an acclaimed archaeologist to unearth the roots of Jesus's actions and teachings within the traditions of early Judaism. This fascinating course approaches the subject from a historical, rather than scriptural, perspective; one rooted in ancient texts and archaeological discoveries. Discover hidden insights into how the tumultuous events of Jewish history shaped an individual whose legacy endures to this day.


Jodi Magness

I love sharing the excitement of archaeology with others.


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dr. Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.A. in Archaeology and History from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. For her engaging teaching, Professor Magness won the Archaeological Institute of America's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Her other honors include a Fulbright Lecturing Award from the United States-Israel Educational Foundation, and fellowships from institutions including the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A trained archaeologist with more than 20 years of field experience, Professor Magness has excavated throughout Israel and in Greece and has codirected excavations of the Roman siege works at Masada and a Roman fort at Yotvata. She is the author of numerous scholarly books on the archaeology of the Holy Land. Among them are The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which won the 2003 Biblical Archaeology Society's Award for Best Popular Book in Archaeology, and The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine, which won the Irene Levi-Sala Book Prize.

By This Professor

Jesus and His Jewish Influences
The Holy Land Revealed
Jesus and His Jewish Influences


Jesus and Judaism

01: Jesus and Judaism

Begin your fascinating historical adventure by developing a solid framework for your exploration of Jesus's Jewish influences. What was it like to be a Jew in the ancient world? What do we mean when we talk about Jewish temples? And how similar was ancient Judaism to other ancient religions....

30 min
Sacred Mountains and Law Giving in Judaism

02: Sacred Mountains and Law Giving in Judaism

In ancient Judaism, there was little distinction between religion and politics. In this lecture, explore the importance of the law (the Torah) in the Jewish religion. Then, draw some intriguing connections between the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai and Jesus's own Sermon on the Mount....

35 min
The United and Divided Israelite Kingdoms

03: The United and Divided Israelite Kingdoms

In this in-depth look at the kingdoms of David and Solomon, follow the transformation of 12 Israelite tribes into a monarchy that eventually crumbled over tensions regarding how to properly worship the God of Israel. Along the way, probe controversies that lie at the heart of modern scholarship's hottest debates....

31 min
The Destruction of Solomon's Temple

04: The Destruction of Solomon's Temple

How (and why) did the First Temple Period end? First, examine the reign of King Josiah, whose popular religious reforms reasserted the importance of Jerusalem's Temple. Then, investigate the Temple's traumatic destruction-and its relationship to Gospel accounts about the destruction of the Second Temple....

30 min
The Jewish and Samaritan Schism

05: The Jewish and Samaritan Schism

After the end of the Babylonian exile in 539 B.C., returning exiles began to reestablish themselves in Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah. This return would lead to a dramatic schism between Jews and Samaritans-one which, as you'll learn, would influence encounters with Samaritans in Jesus's own time....

36 min
The Jewish Diaspora and the Golden Rule

06: The Jewish Diaspora and the Golden Rule

What insights into the ancient Jewish diaspora communities can we glean from close readings of the Book of Tobit and the Book of Esther? What do these books say about holiness and the treatment of other people (the "golden rule" of Jesus's time)? Join the fascinating historical-literary debate....

28 min
Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews

07: Alexander the Great's Impact on the Jews

Alexander the Great's legendary visit to Jerusalem and Judea had a profound influence on the development of ancient Jewish traditions. Could the ancient warrior also have served as a model for the mythical Jesus? Professor Magness illuminates possible narrative parallels between these two iconic figures of Western history....

31 min
Jews and Greek Rule: The Heliodorus Affair

08: Jews and Greek Rule: The Heliodorus Affair

Investigate the strange episode known as the Heliodorus Affair. This power struggle between Jerusalem's elite families during the time of the Ptolemies and Seleucids became a key turning point in the history of Jews in Judea. We also see echoes of this conflict in Gospel accounts of taxation....

30 min
Desolating Sacrilege and the Maccabean Revolt

09: Desolating Sacrilege and the Maccabean Revolt

Follow the turbulent story of the Maccabean Revolt after the outlawing of Judaism under Antiochus IV. Then, examine how the Book of Daniel (written around the time of the revolt) dealt with the concept of "desolating sacrilege," and how this is repeated in Jesus's own prophesies about the destruction of the Temple....

29 min
Apocalyptic Works and the

10: Apocalyptic Works and the "Son of Man"

From 1 and 2 Maccabees to the Books of Daniel and Enoch, get a close reading of apocalyptic literary works composed in the aftermath of the Maccabean Revolt. Afterwards, Professor Magness probes possible meanings of the term "son of man" in both the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels....

32 min
Jesus's Jewish Lineage

11: Jesus's Jewish Lineage

Learn how the expansion of the Hasmonean Kingdom provides a sharp context for understanding the birth narratives of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The authors of these Gospels went to great lengths to establish Jesus's descent from David. The question is: Why?...

31 min
Was Jesus a Pharisee?

12: Was Jesus a Pharisee?

In this lecture, probe the rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees during the late Second Temple Period. You'll learn how the Pharisaic approach became dominant in Judaism, and you'll spend time investigating what the Gospels say about whether or not Jesus identified as a Pharisee....

30 min
Jewish Ritual Purity: The Sons of Light

13: Jewish Ritual Purity: The Sons of Light

Turn from the Pharisees to the Essenes, the sect associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the first of three lectures on this fascinating sect, focus on how a strict system of ritual purity was a fundamental part of everyday life at Qumran (the site where the Scrolls were found)....

28 min
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Earliest Hebrew Bible

14: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Earliest Hebrew Bible

Unpack the hidden meaning and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves-some of ancient history's most fascinating texts, which date back to the time of Jesus. Among the findings you'll explore here: early copies of the Hebrew Bible, fragments of a Greek translation of the Septuagint, and early biblical commentaries....

32 min
Was Jesus an Essene?

15: Was Jesus an Essene?

Most of what scholars know about the Essenes, and their apocalyptic outlook, comes from the ancient historians Josephus and Philo. After a deeper dive into who the Essenes were (and how Essene women lived), Professor Magness makes her case for why Jesus could not have been an Essene....

32 min
The Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint

16: The Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint

First, examine the "Letter of Aristeas," which describes translating the Torah into Greek. Then, meet Philo of Alexandria, whose writings (preserved by Christians) are based on an allegorical method of interpreting the Bible. Finally, using a passage from Isaiah, discover why Jews eventually came to reject the authority of the Septuagint translation....

32 min
The Reign of Herod the Great

17: The Reign of Herod the Great

What are the historical roots of the often-disputed Massacre of the Innocents reported in the Gospel of Matthew? Find out in this lecture on the reign of Herod the Great, a man notorious for killing members of his own family and best remembered for his biblical campaign of infanticide....

32 min
Pontius Pilate: A Roman Prefect

18: Pontius Pilate: A Roman Prefect

Following the death of Herod the Great, there began a period of direct Roman administration of Judea under prefects, the most famous of whom was Pontius Pilate, who would later oversee the trial of Jesus. Learn the historical backstory of both this figure and another contemporary of Jesus, Herod Antipas....

28 min
Anarchy in Judea

19: Anarchy in Judea

In the first half of this lecture, examine the growing anarchy that led to the First Jewish Revolt against Rome-including the rise of others who, like Jesus, claimed to be the messiah. Then, follow the story (as related by Josephus) of the trial and execution of Jesus's brother, James the Just....

30 min
Jesus's Prophecy: Jerusalem's Destruction

20: Jesus's Prophecy: Jerusalem's Destruction

The First Jewish Revolt against Rome culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Explore how this cataclysmic event had profound aftershocks for subsequent Jewish history-as well as early traditions surrounding Jesus (for example, the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" in the Gospel of Matthew)....

30 min
Flavius Josephus: Witness to 1st Century A.D .

21: Flavius Josephus: Witness to 1st Century A.D .

One cannot explore Jesus and his Jewish influences without understanding the life and works of Flavius Josephus, the ancient Jewish author who was a witness to the period during and after the life of Jesus. Here, learn how his fascinating historical writings complement what the Gospel authors relate....

27 min
Rabbinic Judaism's Traditions about Jesus

22: Rabbinic Judaism's Traditions about Jesus

What was Jewish life like after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.? How did the religion survive this trauma? With insights from various historical sources, chart the rise of Rabbinic Judaism-the literature of Jewish sages who portray Jesus as an illegitimate child and magician....

31 min
Jesus's Apocalyptic Outlook

23: Jesus's Apocalyptic Outlook

Join Professor Magness as she shares some of her own research into Jesus, comparing and contrasting his apocalyptic beliefs with those of the Qumran sect associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. As you'll discover, one cannot understand Jesus's exorcisms and healings without understanding the notion of apocalyptic purity....

29 min
Jesus's Teachings and Sayings in Context

24: Jesus's Teachings and Sayings in Context

Close out this insightful course with a pointed consideration of how selected passages from the Gospels can be better understood within their Jewish context. The three passages you explore involve the concept of Hell, Jesus's cleansing of the Temple, and John's account of Jesus's healing of a blind man....

31 min