The History and Archaeology of the Bible

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Emphasis on religion not history I quit after 4 lectures because I felt that the speaker was excessively focused on why he thinks the bible stories might be relevant or true rather than presenting in-depth historical analysis. Being a filmmaker and best-selling author, I think he dumbs down the material for a general audience. This series is not up to the standard of any of the rest of the lectures I've listened to
Date published: 2021-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from First Impressions I am still watching the course and have finished the first two lectures. I am enjoying it. But I wanted to make this observation before I forget and then later will come back to write further about the course. Dr. Isbouts said in the beginning of lecture one that the Dead Sea scrolls were written between 20 BCE to 60 CE. BUT most scholars say they were written between 250 B.C.E. and 60 C.E. . . .even scholars who have presented here on TGC have said so! So that is the first item which I disagree with. Having said that, I very much enjoy the photographs, images and videos that are interspersed with the teacher's lectures . I am a visual learner and just listening to a person speak at a lecturn is boring. So this course is initially very intriguing.
Date published: 2021-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lectures. Pr Isbouts connects the most importants passages of the Bible with recent archeological discoveries and untangle Myths and realities. A must for somebody who like Galileo wants to learn more about the world we live in and the myths that surround us.
Date published: 2021-01-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Fact or Fiction The course provided good pictures and maps, but that was really its only redeeming feature. It would be refreshing to find a Bible speaker to actually believe the Bible as inspired. This is not for conservative Christians.
Date published: 2021-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and informative! This is one of the best discussions of the Bible, I have ever heard. Prof. Isbouts does an excellent job of explaining the historical connections to the Bible. His pictures and graphics make the lectures come to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Thank you Professor Isbouts!
Date published: 2021-01-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Did not follow the text, I was disappointed the title seemed to suggest this would be focused on correlations of archeology and the bible, But simply tried to subvert the text as Myth and tie it to other cultures.
Date published: 2021-01-10
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The History and Archaeology of the Bible
Course Trailer
The World of Genesis
1: The World of Genesis

Consider the nature and scope of biblical archaeology, as it explores the intersection between biblical tradition and the historical record. Observe how the book of Genesis uses the legends of earlier faith traditions to make its case for the existence of a single God. Note archaeological evidence for a great flood in ancient times, and its possible connection to the biblical story of Noah.

30 min
The Tower of Babel
2: The Tower of Babel

Explore the symbolism of the tower and pyramid in ancient architecture, beginning with the famous Egyptian step pyramid at Saqqara. Learn about the Mesopotamian ziggurat, a tower-like structure composed of receding platforms, and its role in religious life and ritual. Discover parallels between the building of ziggurats and the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis.

26 min
The Journeys of Abraham
3: The Journeys of Abraham

Trace the life of Abraham, the iconic father of three faiths, from his origins in the Mesopotamian city of Ur. Witness how Abraham followed the call of God in traveling to Canaan (Palestine) to found a new nation. Take account of historical evidence related to the events of Abraham’s journey, and follow the narrative of Abraham’s search for an heir to his clan and to God’s covenant.

28 min
Joseph in Egypt
4: Joseph in Egypt

Uncover archaeological traces of Abraham’s descendants, beginning with the tragic events surrounding Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and how their clan was forced to leave Canaan. Learn the extraordinary story of Joseph’s bondage in Egypt, and his eventual reversal of fortune. See what the historical context tells us about the plausibility of Joseph’s rise to become the grand vizier to the Pharaoh.

27 min
The Story of Moses
5: The Story of Moses

Examine parallels between the history of ancient Egypt and the book of Exodus. Observe historical evidence that the Hebrews living in Egypt were forced into slave labor for the Pharaoh. See how the biblical story of Moses correlates with earlier legends and Theban history, and how the event of the Burning Bush is connected with a physical location and the life of the prophet Muhammad.

28 min
The Mystery of the Exodus
6: The Mystery of the Exodus

Grasp how the biblical story of the turning of the Nile to blood and the plagues of flies, locusts, and hailstorms brought by God may have been inspired by actual events within Egypt’s ecosystem. Then follow the exact route of the Exodus, and study historical perspectives on Moses’s parting of the waters, the rain of bread from heaven, and other key features of the Israelites’s journey.

32 min
The Settlement in the Promised Land
7: The Settlement in the Promised Land

In the Book of Joshua, learn how Joshua succeeded Moses as a military commander, and note what archaeological evidence tells us about the heroic saga of Joshua’s conquests. Then witness the rise of the Philistines as a military force and their aggression against both the Egyptians and the Canaanites. Study evidence that the Israelites settled in the highlands of Canaan during these conflicts.

29 min
The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy
8: The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy

This lecture traces the transformation of the Israelite tribes into the beginnings of a nation. Study how the tribes spread across Canaan, where they suffered constant threats from armed enemies, as archaeology shows. See how the tribes coalesced around a supreme commander, making Saul the first Israelite king. Follow the rise of David as a military hero and ultimately successor to Saul.

24 min
The Kingdom of David
9: The Kingdom of David

Explore the momentous period of David’s kingship, beginning with his selection of Jerusalem as the Israelite capital, and examine excavation evidence at ancient sites that relate to the story. Chart the dramatic events within the house of David: the story of David and Bathsheba, the tragedy of Absalom, and the struggle over succession that led to the anointing of David’s son Solomon as king.

26 min
The Temple of Solomon
10: The Temple of Solomon

Follow the arc of Solomon’s life, as he reorganizes his kingdom and develops trade, making the kingdom wealthy and powerful. Examine archaeological finds that may be traceable to Solomon’s reign. Then learn about the design and building of Solomon’s magnificent Temple, based in the architectural form of a Greek “megaron.” Witness the fortunes of the temple and the trials of Solomon’s rule.

29 min
The Northern Kingdom of Israel
11: The Northern Kingdom of Israel

After Solomon’s reign, grasp how the kingdom of Israel divided into a Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Observe how the Northern Kingdom became dominant under the powerful King Omri, creator of the capital of Samaria, excavated in the early 20th century. Learn of the divisive rule and tragic fate of Omri’s son, Ahab, and how the kingdom fell to aggression by the Assyrian Empire.

25 min
The Rise of Assyria
12: The Rise of Assyria

In the 9th century BCE, Assyria emerged as a near-invincible military power. Trace the motives behind their major wars of conquest, and view the majestic bas-reliefs that recount the empire’s triumphs. See how new military technology drove their conquests, and how the empire continued to expand, forcing mass deportations of the peoples held in captivity. Assess the Assyrians’ contributions to astronomy.

22 min
The Rise and Fall of Judah
13: The Rise and Fall of Judah

Now delve into the history of the second Hebrew nation, Judah. Track the expansion of Judah under its early kings, and note how Judah and Babylon suffered as vassals of the Assyrians. Examine the historical record of their ill-fated rebellion against Assyrian rule. Then witness how Judah again challenged the Assyrians, whose successors, the Babylonians, dealt a death blow to the kingdom.

27 min
The Persian Era
14: The Persian Era

During their Babylonian exile, learn how the Israelites became a distinct community in religious terms. Then follow the rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. Grasp the singular character of Cyrus’s rule, as he built fair trade and raised the quality of life for all within his realm, allowing full religious freedom for subjected peoples and restoring their religious shrines.

26 min
The Empire of Alexander the Great
15: The Empire of Alexander the Great

The two biblical books of the Maccabees recount the Greek period in Judea (Judah). Trace the process by which the vast influence of Greek culture, called Hellenism, reached Judea. In the wake of Alexander’s short-lived empire, learn how the Judeans came under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies, an era which led to the creation of synagogues and the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.

26 min
Judea in the Early Roman Empire
16: Judea in the Early Roman Empire

Rome played a pivotal role in the development of both Judaism and Christianity. Study Rome’s social and political structure, and witness its rapid ascent to become a major empire, a time when Judean society became fragmented into the factions of the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. Follow the resulting tensions within Judea, and how the kingdom eventually fell to the Romans.

29 min
The Kingdom of Herod the Great
17: The Kingdom of Herod the Great

Track the events through which Herod became the Roman ruler of Galilee following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Note how Herod secured his kingdom, and visit key sites from the period, including Scythopolis and Herod’s great city of Sebaste. Take account of how Herod ruled, forestalling rebellion by offering employment, repressing dissent, and expanding the Second Temple.

26 min
The World of the Gospels
18: The World of the Gospels

Learn how accounts of Jesus’s life spread through oral tradition following his death, forming source material for the Gospels along with early Christian writings. Examine the question of who wrote the Gospels, and how they originated in Christian communities that sought scripture and liturgy for their worship. Note the key differences between the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

27 min
The Birth of Jesus
19: The Birth of Jesus

Consider how both prophesy and miraculous signs figured in the birth of Jesus, and why it was essential that Jesus be born in Bethlehem. Grasp the tensions within the story related to Mary’s immaculate conception. Note how Matthew and Luke explained the journey to Bethlehem, and the ways in which their Gospels serve to frame Jesus’s birth with a divine purpose.

27 min
Young Jesus
20: Young Jesus

In a departure from traditional assumptions about Jesus’s youth, examine evidence suggesting that Joseph and Jesus were actually farmers. Learn of the strife and violence that consumed Galilee at this time, surrounding bloody peasant revolts against Rome, events that would undoubtedly have impacted Jesus’s family. Also consider where Jesus may have learned the Torah and become a rabbi.

27 min
Jesus and John the Baptist
21: Jesus and John the Baptist

Take the measure of the dissident figure of John the Baptist, who preached in the wake of repression and violence against the Judeans by the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. Learn about John’s role as an apocalyptic prophet, and grasp Jesus’s motives in seeking John and being baptized by him. See how John came into conflict with the Roman authorities, leading to his death at the behest of Salome.

31 min
The Ministry of Jesus
22: The Ministry of Jesus

Study three phases of Jesus’s ministry, as he cast a wider and wider net with his message. Take account of Jesus’s role as a healer, and of his central vision of the Kingdom of Heaven as social change. See how his ministry responded to the humanitarian crisis of brutal taxation and dispossession of the Judeans, and how, in its final phase, he determined to take his message to Jerusalem.

33 min
The Passover Events in Jerusalem
23: The Passover Events in Jerusalem

Travel in detail into the highly charged events of Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem. Grasp why Jesus reacted with anger to the presence of moneychangers in the Temple, and why his actions led the Temple’s high priest to seek his death. Visit the palace likely to be the place where Jesus was tried by Pontius Pilate, and follow the highly unusual sequence leading to Jesus’s Condemnation to Crucifixion.

31 min
The Rise of Christianity
24: The Rise of Christianity

Observe the process through which the Christian movement gathered force in the decades following Jesus’s death. Learn how Paul undertook three missionary journeys across the Mediterranean world, finding particular receptiveness among Gentiles. Note how Christianity’s message of universal redemption resonated with many in the Roman world, ultimately becoming the sole religion of the Empire.

33 min
Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Over thousands of years the Bible was shaped by some of the most powerful empires in human history.


Leiden University


Fielding Graduate University

About Jean-Pierre Isbouts

Jean-Pierre Isbouts is a National Geographic Historian and a member of the Doctoral Faculty in the School of Leadership Studies at Fielding Graduate University. He earned his DLitt at Leiden University.

In 2014, Professor Isbouts evaluated a recently discovered canvas in Geneva, Switzerland, which he believes is Leonardo da Vinci’s first version of the Mona Lisa, prompting several publications on the subject. In 2017, he discovered that da Vinci and his workshop produced a second version of da Vinci’s famous Last Supper fresco, and he traced the work to a remote abbey in Belgium. As a musicologist, he has produced recordings by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and other ensembles and soloists.

Professor Isbouts is an award-winning filmmaker and best-selling author who gained worldwide renown with his book The Biblical World. His books on biblical history include In the Footsteps of JesusWho’s Who in the Bible, The Story of Christianity, and Archaeology of the Bible. He has also coauthored several books on art with Christopher Heath Brown, including Young Leonardo, The da Vinci Legacy, and The Dalí Legacy. His films include Van Gogh Revisited with Leonard Nimoy; Walt: The Man behind the Myth with Dick Van Dyke; Inside the Cold War with David Frost; and The “Mona Lisa” Myth with Morgan Freeman. His website is 

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