Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Reference This was great for illuminating the texts. This course provided a good reference for these texts of the Bible.
Date published: 2020-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A little disappointing The professor is a good speaker and his presentation is well organized, but it lacks depth. He takes time to explain things that most people already know and does not explore subtleties. The lectures seem more appropriate for a high school audience than a college one.
Date published: 2020-10-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Like Sunday school if you don't know the Bible I was expecting a deep analysis of certain books of the Bible but got a relatively elementary presentation of the facts with a little perspective. I have numerous other courses which are great. This is the only course I would like to send back.
Date published: 2020-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully executed by masterful teacher I learned very much from this. I would like to have had a mentor like him.
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding presentation and content. The professor was great!
Date published: 2020-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Guide to read and understand the Bible I recently purchased my first Bible and when I started to read, it was clear that I needed some context and historical perspective. Professor Craig Koester's 36 lectures were essential in my readings and his perspectives were balanced. He encourages you to see all the sides to the story and leaves you to decide what interpretation works for you. I cannot recommend this lecture series more highly.
Date published: 2020-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bible Whole This course doesn’t simply review the whole Bible. As it shares insights on the vastly different biblical literature it also shows relationships - the Bible whole. One sees how the Bible has informed the arts through the centuries and asks questions of us today. If one wants to know how to read the Bible, this course is the perfect place to start.
Date published: 2020-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Lectures The professor is quite knowledgeable and interesting. I recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-06-01
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Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation
Course Trailer
The Bible as Dialogue
1: The Bible as Dialogue

Start your immersive journey into the books of the Old and New Testaments with this illuminating introductory lecture. By breaking down the Bible into its different books and narrative styles, you'll start to think of it not as a single book-but rather as a fascinating dialogue spanning centuries.

33 min
Creation and Chaos in Genesis
2: Creation and Chaos in Genesis

[Genesis 1-11] Travel back to biblical accounts of the dawn of time in Genesis and start to think critically about how its stories work as a narrative. By unpacking familiar tales from the book's first 11 chapters, you'll gain a fresh perspective on how God creates, destroys, confuses, and renews.Travel back to biblical accounts of the dawn of time in Genesis and start to think critically about ho...

31 min
Abraham, Sarah, and the Promise
3: Abraham, Sarah, and the Promise

[Genesis 12-25] Abraham's spiritual legacy is nothing short of profound-yet his story also includes some little-appreciated humor. Delve into the biblical text and consider how Israel's patriarch is portrayed in Genesis 12-25. How is the overarching theme of promises reflected in his relationships with Sarah, Isaac, and God? Get to know Abraham as both exemplary and short-sighted-a much more relat...

31 min
Jacob, Joseph, and Reconciliation
4: Jacob, Joseph, and Reconciliation

[Genesis 25-50] According to Professor Koester, the biblical stories of Jacob and Joseph are rooted in perennial themes of familial conflict and reconciliation. In this lecture, ponder the significance of disguises and dreams: how they propel the narrative forward and how they reflect the underlying mystery of God's will.

29 min
Moses and the Drama of the Exodus
5: Moses and the Drama of the Exodus

[Exodus 1-15] Both encouraging and threatening, Exodus 1 15 is one of the Bible's most thrilling stories. First, consider the story's literary setting (and its surprising humor). Then, discover its focus on two different forms of power: God's and pharaoh's. Finally, see how the events in Exodus have resonated throughout subsequent history.

30 min
Freedom and Law at Mount Sinai
6: Freedom and Law at Mount Sinai

[Exodus 16-40] What happens after an enslaved people are set free? How is freedom lived out? Continue exploring Exodus with chapters 16 40, in which ancient laws and ideas of freedom begin to take root. Along the way, you'll study different interpretations of "manna" and break down the different groupings of the Ten Commandments.

30 min
Israel's Wandering in the Wilderness
7: Israel's Wandering in the Wilderness

[Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy] Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy-three biblical books everyday readers find challenging to read and relate to their own lives. But with Professor Koester's insights, you'll come to see these books (with all their strange ancient rituals) as vital to a complete understanding of the Bible's narrative movement from Mount Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land.

30 min
Violence and Kindness in the Promised Land
8: Violence and Kindness in the Promised Land

[Joshua, Judges, Ruth] Turn now to Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, which challenge the idea of the Promised Land as a place of simple peace and prosperity. In comparing these three books, you'll witness disturbing accounts of violent conquest and explore the tragic consequences of that violence, and yet you'll also encounter remarkable instances of acceptance and welcome of foreigners.

30 min
Saul, the Tragic King
9: Saul, the Tragic King

[1 Samuel] Why is the story of King Saul, who united Israel's twelve tribes, one of the world's great tragedies? Find out in this lecture, which approaches 1 Samuel as a three-act drama recounting Saul's rise to power as Israel's first king-and the path of his tragic, Shakespearean downfall.

30 min
David and Nation Building
10: David and Nation Building

[2 Samuel] Go beyond the heroic portrayals of David in Western art to reveal the vibrant heart of the fascinating figure described in 2 Samuel. You'll read between the lines of David's early triumphs, his relationship with God, his infidelity and brutality, and the tragic shattering of relationships within his own family....

31 min
Solomon, a Study in Contradictions
11: Solomon, a Study in Contradictions

[1 Kings 1-11] Throughout the story of Solomon in 1 Kings, splendor and oppression go hand in hand. Were all the impressive results of Solomon's monarchy (including his iconic temple) worth the human suffering? Consider this perplexing question as you encounter a king who was both ruthless and wise.

30 min
Psalms: The Bible's Songbook
12: Psalms: The Bible's Songbook

[Psalms] Packed with poems, prayers, and song lyrics, the Bible's 150 psalms are an evocative blend of hope, despair, anger, and contemplation. Here, consider the four different types found in the book of Psalms: songs of praise, prayers for help, psalms of gratitude, and psalms expressing trust.

31 min
Biblical Wisdom Literature
13: Biblical Wisdom Literature

[Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job] Questions about the meaning of life abound in the Bible's books of wisdom literature: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Join Professor Koester as he unpacks each book's distinctive character and outlook, the answers it offers to life's questions (sometimes straightforward, sometimes nebulous), and its contribution to a fascinating dialogue on how to live.

31 min
Elijah, the Troubler of Israel
14: Elijah, the Troubler of Israel

[1 and 2 Kings] Continue on to 1 and 2 Kings and follow the story of the prophet Elijah. You'll examine his challenges to the god Baal, his flair for street theater, his tendency toward self-absorption, his earthly departure in a whirlwind, and, most important, his story's promise of a new beginning.

30 min
Justice and Love in Amos and Hosea
15: Justice and Love in Amos and Hosea

[Amos, Hosea] Discover how the prophets Amos and Hosea shattered the idea of spiritual indifference. First, learn how Amos portrayed a God committed to social justice and a society where people were treated decently. Then, learn Hosea's views on a rejected, angry God who wants to be reconciled with the people he loves.

31 min
Isaiah on Defiant Hope
16: Isaiah on Defiant Hope

[Isaiah] Go beyond the book of Isaiah's prophetic imagery to focus on the narrative's powerful, lasting visions of hope-and some of its disturbing passages on warfare and injustice. As you'll discover, these contradictions offer numerous challenges and rewards for the attentive reader who refuses to give in to despair.

31 min
Jeremiah on Anguish and Compassion
17: Jeremiah on Anguish and Compassion

[Jeremiah] The book of Jeremiah takes as its goal the reconciliation between God and Israel. How does the prophet hope to achieve this? Find out by studying Jeremiah's vision of national transformation in the context of the larger geopolitics of ancient Israel-and the collision point of love, anger, grief, and longing.

31 min
Babylonian Conquest and Exile
18: Babylonian Conquest and Exile

[2 Kings, Lamentations, Habakkuk] In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Explore the trauma of this cataclysmic moment through three biblical books: 2 Kings, which tries to explain the events of the loss of Jerusalem; Lamentations, which gives voice to the anger and grief of exile; and Habakkuk, which helps us come to terms with life's unanswered questions.

31 min
Ezekiel on Abandonment and Homecoming
19: Ezekiel on Abandonment and Homecoming

[Ezekiel] Experience the dislocation of the Babylonian Exile with a close reading of the book of Ezekiel's perspectives on abandonment and homecoming. You'll trace this movement from Chapters 1¬-32 (which castigate the people for abandoning God to idolatry) to Chapters 33-48 (which include stirring visions of renewal).

30 min
Jewish Identity and Rebuilding after Exile
20: Jewish Identity and Rebuilding after Exile

[Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah] What did it mean to be Jewish after the Babylonian Exile? Professor Koester examines biblical books that offer differing perspectives. On one end: Ezra and Nehemiah, which define Israel by the temple, Jewish law, and Jerusalem. On the other: Jonah, where Israel's identity is defined by the way it relates to the other peoples around it.

31 min
Esther, Daniel, and Life under Empire
21: Esther, Daniel, and Life under Empire

[Esther, Daniel] Delightful and playful, the books of Esther and Daniel tell stories of life under the Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek empires. Here, you'll learn how these two important biblical heroes respectively illustrate the value of human initiative and the call for resistance against injustice and oppression.

31 min
Resistance, Adaptation, and the Maccabees
22: Resistance, Adaptation, and the Maccabees

[1 Maccabees] Dive into Jewish life under Greek rule in the 2nd century BC in 1 Maccabees. View the struggle for Jewish independence as a dramatic story marked by the tension between resistance and adaptation. Also, consider the debate over whether or not this book truly belongs in the Bible.

31 min
Jesus as Messiah in Mark
23: Jesus as Messiah in Mark

[Mark 1-10] Begin your look the New Testament with the first of several lectures on the four gospels-the narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In Mark (which was likely the first to be written), you'll be reintroduced to the powerful story that continues to captivate people around the world.

32 min
Mark on the Crucifixion and Resurrection
24: Mark on the Crucifixion and Resurrection

[Mark 11-16] Continue examining the gospel of Mark, this time focusing on the infamous trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. Also, consider why this gospel ends so abruptly and how it suggests to readers the mystery of God's kingdom-and the role of suffering and sacrifice within it.

32 min
The Dynamics of Forgiveness in Matthew
25: The Dynamics of Forgiveness in Matthew

[Matthew] Learn how Matthew reshaped the story of Jesus in startling new ways, specifically with its ideas on forgiveness. Start by confronting Jesus's relationship to Israel's heritage. Then, read between the lines of the iconic Sermon on the Mount. Finally, examine the coexistence of faith and doubt during Jesus's resurrection.

31 min
Luke on a World Upside Down
26: Luke on a World Upside Down

[Luke] The gospel of Luke is home to some of the New Testament's best-loved passages. Here, Professor Koester asks you to consider the more subversive dimensions of Luke's narrative. How do the inaugural sermon at Nazareth and the parables of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son challenge established patterns? How do they demonstrate the values espoused by Jesus?

31 min
John on the Word Made Flesh
27: John on the Word Made Flesh

[John 1-12] In the first of two lectures on the gospel of John, probe the first 12 chapters of this book's poetic prose, which takes readers back to the dawn of time. What does it mean for Jesus to embody the word of God in the flesh? Consider possible answers in this most distinctive account of Jesus's life.

31 min
Self-Giving Love According to John
28: Self-Giving Love According to John

[John 13-21] If Jesus is the giver of life, how does his crucifixion fit into the New Testament's larger spiritual narrative? To consider this question, you'll have to find new ways to think about events like the Last Supper, the Farewell Discourses, the crucifixion itself, and the story of doubting Thomas.

31 min
The Early Church in Acts
29: The Early Church in Acts

[Acts 1-10] Turn to subsequent texts of the New Testament, which take up the struggle to understand Jesus and what it means to live by his message. The Acts of the Apostles, you'll find, is a fascinating narrative that shows the Christian community being transformed as it welcomed Jews, Greeks, and Romans.

32 min
Paul's Calling
30: Paul's Calling

[Acts 9-17] One of early Christianity's most controversial figures is Paul. In this look at the apostle's life and mission, you'll learn how to see his preaching as an extension of older biblical texts and an attempt to connect the new Christian faith to other belief systems and patterns of life.

31 min
Paul and the Roman Empire
31: Paul and the Roman Empire

[Acts 17-28, 1 Thessalonians] Paul's travels to cities like Corinth and Philippi, and his letters to the Christian communities there, offer a lens into the relationship between early Christianity and the Roman Empire. From conflicts between Jesus's kingship and Roman imperial rule to the events of Paul's imprisonment, consider some narrative and spiritual challenges faced by the writer of Acts.

31 min
Paul's Letters to a Community in Conflict
32: Paul's Letters to a Community in Conflict

[1 and 2 Corinthians] While in Ephesus, Paul wrote letters now known as 1 and 2 Corinthians to the Christian community of Corinth. Here, unpack the four major sections of these two iconic letters to a conflicted community, which offer insights into Paul's views on the cross, the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and reconciliation.

31 min
Freedom and the Law in Paul's Letters
33: Freedom and the Law in Paul's Letters

[Galatians, Romans] Continue your exploration of Paul's letters, this time by studying the correspondence he wrote to the Galatians and the Romans. In these letters, you'll find some of Paul's most provocative ideas about freedom and law-ideas that would play a profound role in shaping subsequent Christian communities.

31 min
Paul on Gender Roles and Slavery
34: Paul on Gender Roles and Slavery

[Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, 1 Timothy] What did Paul have to say about women and about slaves? We find different viewpoints in the letters known as Philippians, Philemon, Ephesians, and 1 Timothy. How do these texts relate social roles to Christian love? How might they reflect patterns of community life that were changing over time?

31 min
Letters for Sojourners
35: Letters for Sojourners

[Hebrews, James, 1 Peter] Paul wasn't the only letter writer in the New Testament. Join Professor Koester for a discussion of the books of Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter, which sought to comfort and inspire early Christian outsiders through keeping the faith, focusing on integrity, and questioning what it means to "belong."

30 min
Revelation's Vision of New Creation
36: Revelation's Vision of New Creation

[Revelation] Conclude the course with a lecture on perhaps the most evocative, unsettling, and yet hopeful book in the Bible: Revelation. After considering the narrative's vivid word pictures, dramatic plot, and unforgettable characters, you'll see how Revelation fits into a comprehensive, informed reading of the entire Bible.

34 min
Craig R. Koester

What I enjoy most is inviting people into a process of discovery. Asking good questions is central. Questions open paths to explore and enable people with differing views to engage the Christian tradition in meaningful ways.


Union Theological Seminary


Luther Seminary

About Craig R. Koester

Dr. Craig R. Koester is the Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary. He attended St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary, then earned his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York before returning to Luther Seminary to teach. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, a scholar-in-residence at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey, and a guest lecturer at universities in Europe and the United States. Professor Koester has written numerous articles and essays as well as the popular work Revelation and the End of All Things. He is also completing a major commentary on Revelation for Yale University Press, and he translated Revelation for the Common English Bible. Among his other writings are a landmark commentary on Hebrews and Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel. Professor Koester is known for interweaving the study of biblical texts with their impact on art, literature, and music. A frequent presenter at conferences in the United States and Europe, he has also appeared in series for popular audiences, such as The Life of Apostle Paul with travel writer Rick Steves.

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