Understanding the New Testament

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great value I appreciate the chronological order it is presented. It puts into perspective why the Pauline writings were not influenced by the gospels.
Date published: 2020-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tremendously informative! Loved all seminars I have always wanted to expand my knowledge and perspective. My career has taken me in one direction over last 35years but I have wanted to expand my foundation in areas my career focus has limited me. The depth and expanse of knowledge and insight these lectures provide are so much fun! I so appreciate the content and format. For this course, it has provided me a historical perspective of which I was not aware even as I practiced my faith over the years. Inspiring! I've already started a second course in US history. Fun to learn and relearn. I've recommended to others!!
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! Just started this course and am only ready for Lecture 3 but I am totally hooked. I enjoy the professor's manner and explanations and completely fascinated with the content of his lectures. My first of two courses I had signed up to take and am so happy with this first one that I signed up for two more. I did not know what to expect but hoping for this exact kind of experience.
Date published: 2020-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding the New Testament I'm part of a Bible study group currently studying the letters of Paul. This course has been very helpful in understanding both what Paul is trying to get across to his churches but also the important history behind it. This has been a real eyeopener!
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great to always know more about the New Testament I enjoy watching any course that seeks to help me broaden my understanding of the Bible. One aspect of this course that I really like is how it looks in the documents of the New Testament in chronological and historical order. It really made me see about how the ideas of the early Christain church first from the letters of St. Paul to the Gospels and finally the Revelations were brought together by different believers of Christians over time. This course I felt was really for the layperson, who wants a better historical understanding of the New Testament. It is not as in depth by Professor Ehrman’s course on the New Testament is, but it is just as informative. This courses help give me a greater understanding of what I believe and how I believe it.
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More questions If you view this looking for answers, you will be disappointed. It does provide some answers but we thing it raises more questions and stimulates more discussion. Would recommend this to anyone open minded.
Date published: 2020-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Look at the Book Really, really liked the course. I've read extensively the New Testament, but never looked at any of the books as a whole, let alone at the New Testament as a continuation of books. Quite a lot of learning when taken as a whole. Not sure my view of Jesus changed even when exploring the inconsistencies in the New Testament, there are several. My view of Paul did shift - I now see him as a person as well as a disciple. Wow, I'd recommend this course no matter your stand on the New Testament.
Date published: 2020-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspirational information This course exceeded my expectations in providing important information that is not included in regular Bible studies. The presentation provides insight into the history of early Christianity and the challenges of the early believers.
Date published: 2020-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Only as a Supplement Dr. Bakke approaches this course as a critical scholar/historian. He says, “Historians, however, don’t treat any text as infallible nor do we make arguments based on divine causation.” By precluding “divine causation,” he makes this a history course and *not* a religion course. He says that the Gospel writers did not worry about whether the events they described really happened. He says that stories of miracles are “products of the religious imagination.” A historical analysis can provide valuable insight into a religion or into a religious text, but that presumes a basic understanding of the religion. TGC does not offer much on what Christians themselves believe (as opposed to how critical scholars evaluate that belief), although courses by Luke Timothy Johnson might provide some such insight. This course does not teach what Christians believe; it teaches what historians think about what Christians believe. Jesus is viewed as the Great Prophet rather than as divine. The course says little about such central Christian topics as the problem of sin and the consequent issues of the Resurrection, atonement, justification, and sanctification. Instead it concentrates on speculations such as who wrote the Gospel according to Luke. Again, this course is valuable only in critiquing an understanding of Christian belief; it will only confuse someone who does not already have a basic understanding of that belief. Dr. Bakke depicts the Fourth Gospel (John) as anti-Semitic. I’m glad that TGC does not treat religious texts of other religions, such as the Koran of Islam or the Tanakh of Judaism, in the same way. Such treatment can impede rather than advance the understanding of a religion to which one does not already subscribe. Dr. Bakke’s presentation is nearly monotonic. I used the video presentation but the audio would have been just as good.
Date published: 2020-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating exploration of the New Testament I watched this course after reading the Bible in its entirety. David Brakke illuminates much that was murky to me. Rather than reviewing the books in the order in which they're presented in the New Testament, Brakke begins his exploration with the epistles of Paul which scholars believe to be the first books composed. Brakke spends a great deal of time on Paul before he moves on to the gospels and other books. I also watched Bart D. Ehrman's course simply titled "The New Testament." I would recommend watching both courses as Ehrman and Brakke emphasize different things. I especially appreciated Brakke's chronological approach as he was able to place each book of the New Testament in its proper historical context. For example, it is important to know that the Gospel of Mark was composed around the time of the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem. All in all, I would highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course One of the best of The Great Courses that I've viewed. Dr. Brakke's coverage of the subject is well-organized and clearly delivered. He added so much to my understanding of the New Testament. I would watch this course several times (and may yet do so) to solidify my understanding of the course material if I didn't have several other courses waiting to be viewed. Based on this one, I've purchased two more of Dr. Brakke's courses and am looking forward to them.
Date published: 2020-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Easy to listen to. Well worth my money. Have enjoyed it so far. Lots of good knowledge
Date published: 2020-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thoroughly enjoyed Understanding the New Testament and think that the course actually accomplished its goal of helping me "understand" the scripture, its varied messages and the contrasting eras in which each book was composed.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding the New Testament Exceptionally well thought out and presented. Nicely supported by beautiful artwork.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 21st Century explanation This series brings together the historic background and early development of Christianity. It is an excellent presentation for those wishing to better understand the books of the New Testament.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply put, this is the best course I have ever taken whether it be undergraduate or graduate school. I learned so very much; and, isn't that our purpose here-new knowledge?
Date published: 2020-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent professor! I love this series. Exactly what I needed to improve my understanding of the New Testament.
Date published: 2020-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding the New Testament Very insightful commentary on the historicity of the New Testament and its writers.
Date published: 2020-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Holy Land Revealed Starting with disk#1 I am now on disk#6. It is hard to stop watching because each lecture is so interesting and presented in such a manner that the lectures are seamless and presented like a "story." The professor "Jodi" is remarkable and though I have a Masters Degree, I would have to say that she is the "best of the best," I could listen to her all day. The material she presents is absolutely fantastic.
Date published: 2020-02-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Cliff's Notes There is nothing really wrong with the materials (I have not yet watched the video), but the level of instruction is shallow. Not recommended for anyone who already has a working knowledge of the
Date published: 2020-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoy the historical perspective The lecture series does not take away from what one believes in, just another way to gain knowledge of the Bible.
Date published: 2020-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Examining the Bible from different perspectives Another great course(s) on the Bible from TGC. I took both Understanding the Old Testament and Understanding the New Testament as a set. TGC has produced many courses on the Bible or parts of it. I have said before it is better to take the same course from two different professors than two course from one professor. Each professor brings their own view of the subject, examines different details than other professors, and examines the views of different scholars on the subject. This set enhances all the previous productions of TGC . It caused me to go back to some other productions of TGC I took previously to compare the comments and opinions. Each course fills in more details and more opinions. This set fits very nicely into TGC library of courses on the Bible. It is very well presented by both professors and provides more insight into the possible ways to interpret the Bible. One of the important aspects of these two courses is they lay out how different books, that were written at different times, address the interpretation of the Bible within the specific time and environment the author was writing. Over the many years that the books of both Old and New Testaments were written the audience changed . Various authors wrote to address the needs, issues, and opinions of specific populations.
Date published: 2020-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Product is very informativeand I have been humbled by the new information, just not sure it will not be toodeep or complex for my study classes/
Date published: 2020-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellant layout I love it and have gotten a greater understanding of the New Testament.
Date published: 2020-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding the Old Testament I ust purchased Understanding the Old testament and Understanding the New testament. The course are well presented. Video and accompanying course material are great.o
Date published: 2020-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from understanding the new testament I just received the DVD's in the mail, and watched the first lesson. really enjoyed the video can't wait to view the rest.
Date published: 2020-01-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Doesn't play on my mac It does not play on my mac but does work on my samsung 10 plus phone good thing I got the DVD to go with the course but then I'm stuck on the tv at home
Date published: 2020-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Explanation of the New Testament's Background Professor Brakke provides a very good explanation of things that are less than obvious when reading the books of the New Testament. Four stars instead of five because I think that the pace was a bit slow.
Date published: 2020-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well-done Intro; Religious Viewpoint This is a well-done introduction to the New Testament - and, for that matter, to Christianity. It covers the work at a basic level, summarizing much of it, and briefly discussing many of the most essential scholarly and historical insights and disagreements. The Course Overview on this web page is quite detailed and accurate, and worth looking at if you are unsure about taking the course. In contrast to "Understanding the Old Testament", appreciating this course requires little to no prior familiarity. In fact, it would make an excellent basis for a church Sunday School class, at about a ninth grade level. Also unlike a number of other Great Courses on religion, this one is clearly offered from within the religious viewpoint. The disagreements that are covered are solely among Christians; almost no outside criticisms are addressed. (For a different perspective, I highly recommend Bart Ehrman's excellent courses.) In fact, many lectures could double as sermons. And they often end, not with academic points, but with observations that could easily be imagined coming from a priest or minister. Examples: "That God will do, Paul says, and so all Israel will be saved." [Lecture 5]. "They too can be followers of Jesus, the suffering Son of Man." [Lecture 10]. And "Some Christians may have given up on the earliest Christians, that the kingdom of God is at hand, and people need to repent and get ready, but not this author. He gives a rousing defense of this traditional message: God is in charge of this world and its history, and at some point he will bring this world to an end, judge all people and give salvation to those who have faith in Him and Jesus." [Lecture 21]. I have one serious criticism. In Lecture 12, on the Gospel of Matthew, our professor makes it clear that Matthew's charge that the Jews killed Jesus is an inexcusable historical fiction which helped lead to millenia of often violent anti-Semitism. However, he then goes on to explain the reasons for Matthew's charge, and sounds (at least to me) very much like he is excusing him. He ends the lecture with "Matthew looks forward to a time when he hopes these separated communities - Jews and Gentiles, those who believe in Jesus and those who do not - will join together in worship of their shared God." (Full disclosure: I am not religious, but I very much respect religious beliefs and appreciate the good that religions and religious people have done in our world.) Professor Brakke is well-organized, and speaks clearly and to-the-point in a pleasant conversational tone. I found, however, that essentially every sentence sounded like every other, expressed in a nearly unvarying rhythm which sometimes made it difficult for me to maintain focus. The video helped with written texts of long quotations, but the audio would be fine as well. The Course Guidebook is quite complete and well written. So - I very much recommend this course as a basic introduction to, or review of, the New Testament. Be aware that it is taught from within a religious perspective.
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not what I was hoping for This is not a course for skeptics or atheists. This seems to be a course for people who want help interpreting the bible and understanding its content better. The professor seems to be careful not to say anything that a believing Christian would consider blasphemous. This course is not for me, and therefore I did not enjoy it. I wanted to hear not about what is in the bible, but what is behind the bible. How did it get authored and edited over time, by whom, and what were the reasons for taking things out? What about all of the irreconcilable inconsistencies within the new testament, such as the vastly differing accounts of the resurrection? What about the irreconcilable inconsistencies between the bible and external reality, such as the lack of any evidence that Jews were actually slaves in Egypt? That's the stuff I wanted to hear about, and it wasn't there. The professor is trying to be objective here, and unfortunately it makes his presentation boring. If he has opinions about the bible or about bible scholarship, he keeps them to himself.
Date published: 2020-01-20
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Understanding the New Testament
Course Trailer
The Paradox of the New Testament
1: The Paradox of the New Testament

The New Testament is comprised of 27 books by more than a dozen authors, yet it is also presented as a single, unified text. How do you resolve the paradox of one book versus many? In this opening lecture, see how historians view the New Testament and why they are excited by its diversity of voices.

31 min
The Jewish Origins of Christian Faith
2: The Jewish Origins of Christian Faith

Before delving into the New Testament, you first must look at ancient Judaism for context about the birth of Christianity. Here, explore key stories and themes of the Old Testament—including God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, as well as Jewish eschatology—to understand the world of Jesus of Nazareth.

31 min
1 Thessalonians and Paul’s Ministry
3: 1 Thessalonians and Paul’s Ministry

The New Testament includes many types of narrative, among them gospels, epistles, and revelations. In this first lecture on Paul’s epistles, you will reflect on the chronologically earliest book of the New Testament. Examine the structure of a Pauline letter, and find out what his mission of evangelism was all about.

29 min
The Salvation of Gentiles in Galatians
4: The Salvation of Gentiles in Galatians

Continue your study of Paul’s epistles with a detailed look at his letter to the Galatians. In it, he offers a scathing rebuke to a congregation he believes has backslid after his departure. Find out why he believed it was so important to establish faith in Jesus as the one and only quality that gets you into heaven.

30 min
Romans on God, Faith, and Israel
5: Romans on God, Faith, and Israel

Paul’s letter to the Romans is his theological masterpiece. Because he had never been to Rome, he wrote this letter to introduce himself and his teachings to lay the groundwork for his arrival. Unpack the key message of his theology—namely, that one is made righteous solely through faith in Jesus Christ.

29 min
Community Conflicts in 1–2 Corinthians
6: Community Conflicts in 1–2 Corinthians

In this first of two lectures about Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, you will consider one tension inherent to Christian congregations. In Paul’s theology, everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord, yet Corinth was a prosperous and diverse city. How did Paul reconcile economic, intellectual, and educational diversity with religious unity?

29 min
Worship and Leaders in Paul’s Congregations
7: Worship and Leaders in Paul’s Congregations

The two letters to the Corinthians give us great insight into Paul’s theology, but they also provide interesting historical evidence for how early Christian congregations operated. How did believers worship? Who were the church leaders? What were the roles for men and women? Find out what the letters tell us about the community.

30 min
Paul’s Theology on Slavery and Christ
8: Paul’s Theology on Slavery and Christ

Although Paul’s letters to Philemon and to the Philippians are very different, they have two important things in common. Paul wrote them both from prison, and they each concern slavery. Gain insight into Paul’s views around imprisonment, as well as his ideas about Christ’s humanity and divinity.

31 min
Adapting Paul’s Teachings to New Situations
9: Adapting Paul’s Teachings to New Situations

Not all of Paul’s letters were composed by the apostle himself. The three “Deutero-Pauline” letters (2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians) likely date to the years after Paul’s death. In content, they seek to reassure readers that a series of events must occur before the end times arrive and that faith in Christ is all that is necessary for salvation in the present.

31 min
Jesus as the Suffering Son of Man in Mark
10: Jesus as the Suffering Son of Man in Mark

Shift your attention from Paul’s epistles to the gospels, starting with the Gospel According to Mark. After reviewing what historians know about the author and the book’s composition, Professor Brakke surveys the time of Jesus’ ministry and death and explicates the key themes of Mark’s gospel.

30 min
Jesus as the New Moses in Matthew
11: Jesus as the New Moses in Matthew

The unknown Christian who wrote the gospel now called Matthew presents a different theological portrait of Jesus and his ministry than Mark. Whereas Jesus in Mark is a mysterious figure, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. In this lecture, compare the two gospels and what scholars believe about their composition.

30 min
The Church in the Gospel of Matthew
12: The Church in the Gospel of Matthew

Continue your study of the Gospel of Matthew, which gives us the only mention of the word “church” in all of the four gospels. Consider Matthew’s interest in forming and leading the church, and reflect on the conflict, in Matthew, between the Jesus who teaches Jewish law and the Jesus who critiques Jewish leaders.

29 min
Luke and Acts on God’s History of Salvation
13: Luke and Acts on God’s History of Salvation

The Gospel of Luke is the first book in a two-volume work, the second being the book of Acts. Luke presents himself as a historian, so consider the two-volume Luke-Acts as a historical work. Who were Luke’s sources? What story does he want to tell? How and why does his story unfold?

30 min
Luke’s Inclusive Message
14: Luke’s Inclusive Message

The grand narrative in the books Luke through Acts spans 60 years and presents a unified narrative of early Christian history. In this second lecture on Luke, look at the people and parables presented in his history—particularly the women, both named and anonymous, he writes about. Encounter a truly expansive, inclusive vision for Christianity.

29 min
The Apostles and Church in Luke and Acts
15: The Apostles and Church in Luke and Acts

Because Luke was writing as a historian, probably between the years A.D. 90 and A.D. 120, he didn’t merely re-create the past. Rather, Luke has a perspective on the history he tells. Unpack his vision of early Christian history and consider what message he is sending to his readers. Compare that message to the earlier “Gospel according to Mark.”

31 min
Jesus as the Divine Word in John
16: Jesus as the Divine Word in John

The “Gospel according to John” is an anomaly, set apart from the other three “Synoptic Gospels.” Although the basic story of Jesus remains the same, running from the ministry of John the Baptist to the death and resurrection of Jesus, John’s gospel contains more philosophy and has been called a more “spiritual” gospel.

31 min
Jesus and the Jews in the Gospel of John
17: Jesus and the Jews in the Gospel of John

In addition to its spiritual philosophy, the Gospel of John also contains troubling rhetoric around Jews and Judaism. Investigate the reasons behind John’s depiction of the Jews and why it is so negative. See why John’s portrayal of Jesus has made this gospel both an object of theological controversy and a source of deep spirituality.

30 min
The Community of John after the Gospel
18: The Community of John after the Gospel

What happened when an early Christian community began to fall apart? Disagreements over theology, challenges to church leadership, or disintegration of the group altogether were common, and the letters of John tackle these problems head-on. Delve into early efforts to unify a fractured church.

29 min
In Search of the Historical Jesus
19: In Search of the Historical Jesus

The “Historical Jesus” refers to the man named Jesus of Nazareth as opposed to the Christ we find in the gospels—a challenge for historians given that the gospels are our primary sources. Trace the development of biblical scholarship and research after the Renaissance and Enlightenment, when scholars began to think critically about the man named Jesus.

30 min
Interpreting Abraham in Hebrews and James
20: Interpreting Abraham in Hebrews and James

You might think of Abraham as belonging to the Old Testament, but he plays a mighty role in the writings of the New Testament. In the book of Hebrews, Abraham appears as a model of faith, whereas, in James he is an object of controversy over how people are saved—by faith alone or by faith and works.

31 min
Churches in Crisis in 1–2 Peter and Jude
21: Churches in Crisis in 1–2 Peter and Jude

Along with James and the three letters of John, 1-2 Peter and Jude are known as the “catholic” or general epistles because they are addressed to multiple congregations, or Christians, in general. See what these most recent books of the New Testament tell us about a mature and growing religious movement.

31 min
New Leaders in the Pastoral Epistles
22: New Leaders in the Pastoral Epistles

Paul’s first and second letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus form a special group of epistles because they were written not to congregations but to church pastors, offering advice for how individual leaders ought to conduct themselves and guide their congregations. Together, they help us explore the development of an independent, organized religion.

31 min
Revelation: Envisioning God’s Reality
23: Revelation: Envisioning God’s Reality

The book of Revelation presents a complex; symbolic; and, at times, even bizarre vision of the present day and the future. In this lecture, Professor Brakke outlines why the Romans persecuted the Christians before turning to the content of Christ’s revelation to John. Dive into this fascinating, challenging book.

32 min
The Quest for Unity in the New Testament
24: The Quest for Unity in the New Testament

In this final lecture, revisit the paradox between the New Testament’s diversity and unity, a single text comprised of 27 different books. See how theologians and scholars over the years have tackled this paradox. Examples include the Christian leaders Irenaeus, Origen, and Martin Luther, as well as modern historical researchers.

33 min
David Brakke

What the people we will study would want us to do is to read their texts, to consider with open minds what they teach us, and-just possibly-to pursue our own quests for the truth about God and ourselves-that is, to seek our own gnosis.


Yale University


The Ohio State University

About David Brakke

Professor David Brakke is the Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University. He taught for 19 years in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Professor Brakke has published extensively on the history and literature of ancient Christianity, especially Egyptian Christianity, early monasticism, the formation of the biblical canon, and Gnosticism. His books include The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity; Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity; and Introduction to Christianity, with Mary Jo Weaver. He has co-edited six volumes of scholarly essays and contributed nearly 40 articles to professional journals and volumes. From 2005 to 2015, he served as editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.

At Indiana University, Professor Brakke received recognition for his teaching and research, including the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. He has held several important fellowships, including ones from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is currently preparing a revised edition of Bentley Layton's The Gnostic Scriptures.

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