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Story of the Bible

Led by a renowned scholar, trace the development of biblical texts across millennia. You'll get invaluable insight into the remarkable and complicated process by which the Bible came into being.
Story of the Bible is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 80.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended for Serious Christians Although this course uses the term “Bible” in its title, it is actually the parallel stories of the Christian Bible and the Jewish scriptures (sometimes called Torah or TaNaK). This story does not address how the various components, called “books,” were written nor does it address their content but it does address how these books were assembled, ordered, and used throughout the millennia. It also addresses why the major Christian traditions have different collections. Finally, the course shows the impact of the printing press on how the Bible was viewed and also how the Enlightenment affects how the Bible is used in the modern and contemporary ages. I recommend this course to all serious Christians and to those interested in a deeper understanding of what Christians and Jews believe. I wish that The Great Courses (TGC) would offer a comparable course on Talmud for serious adherents of Jewish practice. Serious Christians should be interested in Talmud as well. I note that while TGC does not offer such a course on Talmud (as of 2024), it does offer a very good course on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Johnson is a highly regarded scholar and a very good lecturer. It was quite a coup for The Great Courses (TGC) to include him in its Pantheon of Professors. Dr. Johnson discusses the topic before him with an insider’s (i.e., Christian) perspective. He presents the consensus opinion although he will occasionally and briefly note where he disagrees with the consensus. His presentation is upbeat, moderately paced, and easy to follow. Although Dr. Johnson is a former Benedictine monk, he always treats the Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish topics with the greatest respect. The course guide is average by TGC standards. It averages about 4 pages per lecture, which is well below TGC average. It is written in sentence-outline format as opposed to narrative or bullet format. It has no graphics in the lecture section. It has an appendix with a timeline, an extensive glossary, biographical notes, and a bibliography. I used the video version. The audio version would have been just about as good. The course was published in 2006.
Date published: 2024-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very detailed info, didn't interject own opinions I watched the complete series with my 17 year old son. I found the detailed information to be excellent and the presentation to be engaging. The explanation of the evolution of the bible through the years was developed in a logical progression as our abilities to generate and copy documents evolved.
Date published: 2023-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview Enlightening series of lectures! Such a long and still evolving history. Thanks!
Date published: 2023-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I find the professor’s very knowledgeable and The presentation pleasant
Date published: 2023-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An objective historical review of the Bible Primary reason to listen/watch this lecture series: To get an objective presentation of the history of the Christian Bible as an historical object (i.e., a book), not as a source of religious or philosophical guidance. Primary reason to avoid this lecture series: You want a source of confirmation for your strongly held beliefs that the Bible/Christianity/Jesus is the greatest thing in history to happen to humans, or that it is the worst thing in history to happen to humans. If you want a lecture series that says that Jesus was real and the Bible is inerrant, or you want a series that says that the Bible is a bunch of mythical hooey, DON'T GET THIS COURSE. You won't find it here. The author has a very nice voice and relaxed speaking style, both of which makes listening to the lectures quite enjoyable. His objectivity is most appreciated. The history of the Bible as a book is presented by him without any bias, as best as I can tell. The author has not slanted his presentation to conform to any underlying message that is pro or against Christianity, Jesus, or the Bible. This observation may be rejected by those who see religion in a binary way: either you are for my belief (that it is true/false) or you are against it. The lecture topics are well discussed, and I found them to be most interesting and informative. I have read several books related to the Bible as an historical object. I can recommend this lecture series as the only source that one would need to learn about the history of the Bible. Well done and strongly recommended.
Date published: 2022-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough and Workmanlike - Great Course Prof. Johnson has once again offered a well-researched, carefully crafted, and articulately presented course. Although he qualifies at one point that each lecture could be a course within itself, Prof. Johnson delves deeply into this subject matter, in exacting detail, and anyone other than the most informed expert will come away having learned much new information about the Bible's formation. A terrific course. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2022-08-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good introduction to complexities On the whole, a good discussion of how complex the history of the Bible's transmission from ancient to modern times, including an effort to include the Jewish Bible and to treat it with respect. But I have to make a correction to the lecture on medieval Jewish interpretation. The lecturer got the relationship between the Jews of Spain and those of Babylonia reversed. Rav Amram Gaon (810-875), as his title indicates, was the head of an academy in Babylonia, and his Siddur was sent to Spain in response to a Spanish request for guidance on the proper sequence of prayers in the service. At that time, Jewish population of Europe was tiny in comparison to the Muslim world, and the Talmud was not readily available anywhere in Europe prior to the late 10th century, if not later. I recommend Harry Freedman's The Talmud: a Biography.
Date published: 2022-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Story of the Bible Story of the Bible is an interesting and informative history of the OT and the NT and how the Christian Bible developed. I have purchased many biblical lectures, Christian and other faiths. I find that the more I learn the less I know. Story of the Bible fills in many blanks in my quest to understand Christian love.
Date published: 2022-05-21
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Is the Bible a divinely inspired message, the work of human authors, or both? Translated and distributed all over the world, it bears the mark of the many cultures that have debated its meaning and prized its wisdom. In this course, Luke Timothy Johnson can illuminate for you the remarkable and complicated process by which this important book came into being.


Luke Timothy Johnson

I strive to make philosophy accessible and lovable to everyone. If everyone embraced philosophy, the world would be a much better place.


Emory University

Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Johnson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Yale University, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, an M.Div. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. A former Benedictine monk, Professor Johnson has taught at Yale Divinity School and Indiana University, where he received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, was elected a member of the Faculty Colloquium in Teaching, and won the Brown Derby Teaching Award and the Student Choice Award for teaching. At Emory University, he has twice received the On Eagle's Wings Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007 he received the Candler School of Theology Outstanding Service Award. His most recent award is the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity. Professor Johnson is the author of more than 20 books, including The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels and The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, which is widely used as a textbook. He has also published several hundred scholarly articles and reviews.

By This Professor

Great World Religions: Christianity
The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation
Telling the Story of a Book

01: Telling the Story of a Book

The Bible is a book of stories; but the Bible as a book has a fascinating story of its own. In this lecture, we review the Bible's powerful influence throughout Western history and begin to consider the complex process by which this important text was composed....

32 min
Making TaNaK

02: Making TaNaK

We explore the contents and early formation of the Hebrew Bible (or TaNaK, an acronym derived from three ancient compositions, Torah, Nebiim, and Ketubim), and trace how this collection of ancient compositions arose from a centuries-long process of oral and written tradition....

30 min
Forms of Jewish Scripture

03: Forms of Jewish Scripture

By the 1st century B.C.E., the Jewish Bible is both a unifying symbol and an emblem of Jewish diversity as communities across the Diaspora adopt different versions of scripture....

31 min
Birth of the Christian Bible

04: Birth of the Christian Bible

As the early Christian church takes shape, members of this new sect embrace the Greek translation of the Hebrew text and quickly develop their own sacred compositions....

31 min
Formation of Jewish and Christian Canons

05: Formation of Jewish and Christian Canons

During the first centuries of the Common Era, the Jewish and Christian faiths face a similar challenge: the need for a standardized version of scripture. For the Jews, this means confirming centuries of tradition; for the Christians, it is a longer and more contentious process....

30 min
Writing and Copying Manuscripts

06: Writing and Copying Manuscripts

Although the word Bible means "the book," it is anachronistic to call it a book before the 4th century C.E. In this lecture, we explore the techniques by which biblical manuscripts were created and copied prior to the advent of print....

30 min
Imperial Sponsorship and the Bible

07: Imperial Sponsorship and the Bible

When Constantine the Great converts to Christianity in the 4th century, the new faith becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire, an event that lifts the Christian Bible to the status of imperially sanctioned text and forever changes the relationship between Christians and Jews....

30 min
Texts and Translations-The Ancient East

08: Texts and Translations-The Ancient East

The earliest translations of the Christian Bible provide a tantalizing glimpse into cultures throughout the ancient world, including the Syriac and Coptic cultures, and in many cases provides the first instances of written texts in these ancient languages....

30 min
Old Latin and the Vulgate

09: Old Latin and the Vulgate

We examine the rise of Latin translation of the Bible, culminating in the Vulgate of St. Jerome in the 4th century, and learn how these translations underscored the growing divide between the Eastern and Western churches....

30 min
Other Ancient Versions

10: Other Ancient Versions

While many early worshipers read the Christian Bible in Greek and Latin, other translations spread to every corner of the empire, including Armenia, Georgia, Ethiopia, and Arabia. We'll learn how the project of translating the Bible often led to the creation of a written alphabet for these cultures....

28 min
Monasteries and Manuscripts

11: Monasteries and Manuscripts

Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries provide a stronghold for the production and preservation of biblical manuscripts. Monks' lives are deeply immersed in scripture, whether serving as manuscript copyists, performing the daily recitation of chants, or practicing the fine art of manuscript illumination....

29 min
Interpretation within Judaism

12: Interpretation within Judaism

Jews throughout the Diaspora continue to pursue their faith and debate the meaning of their sacred texts in strong communities of worship. This conversation appears in the development of the Talmud, a constantly evolving interpretation of how God's law should be observed, and in the work of great Jewish Bible scholars....

30 min
Interpretation in Medieval Christianity

13: Interpretation in Medieval Christianity

During the medieval period, Christianity is shaped largely by the Bible and its interpretations. "Reading the Bible" is a many-faceted experience; scripture is heard during Mass, chanted by monks, experienced in daily life through the sacraments and liturgical seasons, and (for a very few) read and interpreted directly....

31 min
The Renaissance, Printing, and the Bible

14: The Renaissance, Printing, and the Bible

With the invention of new printing technology, the Bible is more accessible to private readers. This innovation, coupled with a rebirth of interest in classical learning, leads scholars to challenge the dominance of the Latin Vulgate and develop new translations....

30 min
The Protestant Reformation and the Bible

15: The Protestant Reformation and the Bible

In breaking with the Catholic faith, Protestant reformer Martin Luther introduces a new emphasis on private reading and interpretation and a sole reliance on scripture as a guide for right living....

30 min
Translating the Bible into Modern Languages

16: Translating the Bible into Modern Languages

In the wake of the Reformation, countries across Europe forge new national and religious identities. The Bible is one of the chief battlegrounds for this struggle, as traditional texts are newly translated into vernacular languages and new canons of scripture are championed....

30 min
The First Efforts at Englishing the Bible

17: The First Efforts at Englishing the Bible

From the 14th century, translating the Bible into English appears as a way to challenge the Catholic Church and make scripture available to all. Early translators are persecuted as heretics, but "Englishing the Bible" also becomes a means for exerting political control....

30 min
The King James Version

18: The King James Version

In an attempt to standardize scripture-and, by extension, the religious and civic order in England-King James I marshals a team of scholars to produce an authoritative English text. The impact of the King James Bible is still felt today in English language and literature as well as in the church....

29 min
The Romance of Manuscripts

19: The Romance of Manuscripts

With the advent of printing, manuscripts fall into disuse until scholars begin to appreciate their historical and literary value. The result is an explosion of interest in rescuing these ancient manuscripts from oblivion....

30 min
Searching for the Critical Text

20: Searching for the Critical Text

This lecture reviews the remarkable efforts made to establish a "scholar's Bible," a critical edition synthesizing thousands of ancient manuscripts to provide a guide for readers....

31 min
The Historical-Critical Approach

21: The Historical-Critical Approach

Since the rise of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, we have seen an expansion of interest in the Bible as a historical document that provides a way to reconstruct the past....

31 min
The Bible in Contemporary Judaism

22: The Bible in Contemporary Judaism

In response to challenges of the modern world, Judaism reinterprets Jewish identity through the Reform movement, Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism, and Zionism. Cataclysmic events such as the Holocaust forever alter how modern Jews read ancient scripture....

30 min
Contemporary Christians and Their Bibles

23: Contemporary Christians and Their Bibles

While the Bible remains central to worship and theology in contemporary Christianity, it is also an arena for lively disputes. Modern Christians continue to debate the place of scripture in daily and civic life and strive for more accurate and appropriate translations of biblical texts....

30 min
The Bible's Story Continues

24: The Bible's Story Continues

The Bible has maintained its place for centuries as one of the most widely read compositions and continues to hold a special fascination for people all over the world. New technologies extend the Bible's influence even further, and translations of biblical stories into other media never fail to arouse interest and controversy....

31 min