The Old Testament

The Old Testament
Course Trailer
In the Beginning
1: In the Beginning

What are the diverse issues, critical methods, and approaches that can play a role in biblical interpretation? How do they shed light on the chapter where God says "let there be light"?

32 min
Adam and Eve
2: Adam and Eve

This lecture follows Genesis selectively, episode by episode, to highlight its status as a foundational narrative, its complexity, the possible order of its composition, its ancient Near Eastern connections, and the questions it raises.

31 min
Murder, Flood, Dispersion
3: Murder, Flood, Dispersion

This lecture investigates the major themes of Genesis by analyzing the stories of Cain and Abel, Noah's Flood, the Tower of Babel, and more.

31 min
Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar
4: Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar

Here we meet Abraham-faithful hero, morally ambiguous trickster, and patriarch-first briefly via historical investigation, and then through a close reading of Genesis 12:10-20.

30 min
Isaac
5: Isaac

The accounts of Abraham's son Isaac and daughter-in-law Rebecca (Genesis 21-24) provide the opportunity to introduce the method of biblical study known as "source criticism" as well as to demonstrate its limitations.

31 min
The Jacob Saga
6: The Jacob Saga

The story of Isaac's sons Jacob and Esau (beginning in Genesis 25) provides an example of the insights that can be gleaned from "form criticism." This approach attends carefully to metaphor, double meaning, narrative voice, physical descriptions, handling of motivation, and use of dialogue.

29 min
Folklore Analysis and Type Scenes
7: Folklore Analysis and Type Scenes

Source and form criticism can help us understand common biblical plot lines, or "type scenes." Type-scene analysis, a method pioneered by folklorists, reveals narrative art and teaches about community heroes and values. Here we focus on betrothal scenes.

30 min
Moses and Exodus
8: Moses and Exodus

Combining folklore, morality, theology and, perhaps, historical memory, Exodus 1-15 offers quick-witted women, a reluctant hero, and a mysterious deity. This lecture introduces "text criticism" while discussing slavery in Egypt, Moses' infancy and commission, and the Exodus itself.

31 min
The God of Israel
9: The God of Israel

More than an account of the liberation of Hebrew slaves, the opening chapters of Exodus also provide insight into the name of the deity and the sources employed in the Pentateuch's composition.

30 min
Covenant and Law, Part I
10: Covenant and Law, Part I

Knowing the forms that legal contracts could take in the ancient Near East helps us understand the character of the covenants that the deity makes with the people (through Moses), and with individuals such as Noah, Abraham, and David.

30 min
Covenant and Law, Part II
11: Covenant and Law, Part II

Likely products of centuries of development, the Torah's laws concerning diet, farming, and sexual practices mark the covenant community as a holy people. Scholars still debate the laws' origin, symbolic meaning, and implementation.

31 min
The "Conquest"
12: The "Conquest"

With this lecture we move to Joshua, the first prophetic book. After looking briefly at the account of Moses' death and the function of "holy war," we address Joshua through three major explanations for Israel's presence in Canaan: conquest, immigration, and internal revolt.

30 min
The Book of Judges, Part I
13: The Book of Judges, Part I

In essence a large type scene of apostasy, punishment, repentance, and rescue, Judges ultimately spirals into idolatry, rape, and near genocide. Yet this deep tragedy is leavened by high comedy, which this lecture introduces even as it raises historical, theological, and moral questions.

29 min
The Book of Judges, Part II
14: The Book of Judges, Part II

Returning to Gideon's son Abimelech and then introducing the tragic judges of Jephthah and Samson, this lecture unveils the increasing instability of the judge as political leader and the descent of Israel's tribal confederation into moral and political chaos.

30 min
Samuel and Saul
15: Samuel and Saul

This lecture begins with Samuel, who represents the transition from charismatic leader to prophet, and then turns to the tragedy of King Saul to reveal the benefits and liabilities of monarchy.

28 min
King David
16: King David

What is David's status in history? How does the complex story of his relationship with Bathsheba combine the personal and political while revealing his charm, his ruthlessness, and his faith?

30 min
From King Solomon to Preclassical Prophecy
17: From King Solomon to Preclassical Prophecy

Biblical prophets were known less for predicting the future than for communicating divine will, usually through poetry, and often in debate with kings and priests. This lecture focuses on the "preclassical" (nonwriting) prophets, particularly Elijah.

31 min
The Prophets and the Fall of the North
18: The Prophets and the Fall of the North

Amos and Hosea, the first two classical prophets whose words are preserved in the canon, offer poetic critiques of the government of Israel, the priesthood, and the rich. What followed from their warnings about both personal behavior and political machinations?

31 min
The Southern Kingdom
19: The Southern Kingdom

What was the context in which the major prophet Isaiah issues his oracles? How did the Southern Kingdom of Israel respond under its kings Hezekiah and Josiah?

28 min
Babylonian Exile
20: Babylonian Exile

This lecture begins on the eve of the Exile, with the prophetic warnings of Jeremiah. It introduces the prophecies, narratives, and law by which the Judean exiles maintained their identity.

31 min
Restoration and Theocracy
21: Restoration and Theocracy

What did the exiles find on their return from Babylon? How did these conditions lead to the breakdown of classical prophecy and an increasing concern with assimilation and intermarriage?

31 min
Wisdom Literature
22: Wisdom Literature

Since the "Sumerian Job" of the 4th century B.C.E., authors have attempted to make sense of the world and our place in it. Biblical contributions to such "wisdom literature" range from the optimistic Song of Songs to the practical proverbs and the pessimistic Ecclesiastes. But the most famous, and most controversial, is the Book of Job.

31 min
Life in the Diaspora
23: Life in the Diaspora

The Babylonian Exile gave rise to the Diaspora ("dispersion") of the Judeans, now known as Jews. New questions of identity arose. The court tales of Esther and Daniel, like those of Joseph and Moses, gave answers at once humorous, macabre, and profound.

31 min
Apocalyptic Literature
24: Apocalyptic Literature

What are the literary devices and sociological origins of apocalyptic writing? How are these typified by the Old Testament's only full-blown apocalyptic account (Daniel 7-12)? We conclude with a few comments on messianic speculation and future hope.

31 min
Amy-Jill Levine

The study of the Bible is a simply marvelous endeavor, and each time it's approached, students will see new things. I'm continuing to see new things.

ALMA MATER

Duke University

INSTITUTION

Vanderbilt University

About Amy-Jill Levine

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and the College of Arts and Sciences. She is also Affiliated Professor at the Woolf Institute, Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Dr. Levine earned her B.A. with high honors in English and Religion at Smith College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. Professor Levine's numerous books, articles, and essays address such topics as Second-Temple Judaism, Christian origins, Jewish-Christian relations, and biblical women. She has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Association for Jewish Studies. A widely sought-after speaker and favorite at the Chautauqua Institution, she has given hundreds of talks on biblical topics to both academic and nonacademic audiences, including church, synagogue, and community groups throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Her awards include grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

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