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Publisher's Summary

The Old Testament is one of the foundational texts of Western civilization, and is among the most impactful and widely read books in world history. In 24 enthralling lectures, Professor Miller guides you through a core selection of the major books of the Old Testament, inviting you to probe their meaning and relevance in incisive and thought-provoking commentary. Among the books of the Old Testament, you’ll explore:

  • Genesis: Uncover fascinating features of the Old Testament’s opening, such as how the events of the first week of creation form an elaborate pattern, expressing the complex order of the universe; and how the text does not lay primary blame for “the fall” on the woman, Eve;   
  • Deuteronomistic History: Study the epic history of the people of Israel in the Promised Land; follow the story of the Israelites’ disobedience to God, and its tragic consequences;  
  • The Prophets: Through the dramatic stories of the prophets, take account of the challenges faced by those who sought to actualize God’s plan for humanity;  
  • The Books of Ruth and Esther: Among notable women in the Old Testament, explore two stories of women who are doubly at risk, and who prevail through loyalty, resourcefulness, and integrity; and
  • Daniel and the Apocalyptic: In the Book of Daniel, encounter the genre of apocalyptic literature - revelation initiated by God - and contemplate the figure of “the Son of Man,” a promised redeemer.

Throughout the lectures, Professor Miller offers a wealth of perspectives on how to approach the texts. You’ll assess the role of translation in the understanding of the texts, studying the meanings of key Hebrew words; you’ll also look in depth at the history, dating, and writing of the texts, and you’ll study their literary and linguistic features, noting how they achieve their impact on the reader.

In Understanding the Old Testament, you’ll take a revelatory look at this epically impactful document, finding its deeper historical and religious meanings, as well as its sublime literary treasures.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2019 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Understanding the Old Testament

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This is not what I was hoping for...

Based on reviews, I expected a scholarly discourse on the texts that were compiled to form the Old Testament. No doubt Robert Miller is a scholar, but he is also clearly an apologist, promoting only scholarship that justifies modern Catholic doctrine. I heard enough of that as a kid. A scholarly discourse of texts this ancient should leave lots of room for uncertainty, and a discussion of different interpretations (without always the need to select the one most convenient for Catholic dogma) would really have been interesting.

82 people found this helpful

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Radical (in a good way)

This is an excellent course. Professor Miller strips away centuries of tradition and offers what to my ears is a fresh and persuasive interpretation of the Old Testament. His approach to the text is interdisciplinary, combining history, anthropology, structural analysis, literary criticism and linguistics. His conclusions are often surprising but are always well-supported with evidence. In Lecture 4, for example, his novel reading of Genesis 3 (The snake isn’t a snake! Eve’s not to blame! There’s dark humour and puns! How angry was God?) is presented so forcefully that even if you don’t accept it, you’ll still be impressed by the scholarship. Highly recommended.

44 people found this helpful

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  • 01-17-20

Great recap for an agnostic

This course is full of fascinating little linguistic tidbits lost in translation of the Bible (e.g. who came up with the name Jehovah? Was the snake in Genesis really a dragon? Satan just means “the accuser”?!) I never felt that the lecturer was preaching, which was great. I would have liked a bit more context on how the Old Testament is interpreted by religions today, but with 12 hours of audio I really couldn’t ask for more with one credit.

29 people found this helpful

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dissapointed

ok I did not listen to it all but I wanted a book to learn about the Bible more. after the narrator said BCE I stopped. if you can't use BC and AD in a Bible study something is wrong.

26 people found this helpful

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Literary Look

Looking at the Old Testament as a literary aspect was not only intriguing, but exciting at times. You can hear the passion in the professor's voice during the lecture. The professor has great insight into the time of writing, characters in history, and religions of the day. The Bible we have today may have literary errors, but in context is infallible, which is evident to one who has studied the Old Testament for themselves and then heard the lectures.

23 people found this helpful

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Not an Overview, Too Literary

I got this after listening to some new testament great courses as I wanted to learn more about the old testament as well. However, this was very specific to certain books of the old testament and very focused on the literary context. I was hoping for more understanding of the history and the old testament in that context.

The professor sounded extremely knowledgeable and informed. I did hear some interesting things, but overall, it was a disappointment.

11 people found this helpful

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Too much shouting

It sounds like the professor is talking in a hall to a big audience without a microphone, therefore he is like shouting. With time it becomes annoying. Furthermore the speech is quite monotonous in comparison to other Great Courses, so sometimes it's hard to get involved in it. Also these lectures are quite difficult and the listening isn't easy. However, it is still a great way to learn more about Old Testament

9 people found this helpful

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An exceptional analysis

Should be required of all people who base their lives and those of others on mythical texts thousands of years old.

8 people found this helpful

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outstanding review of the old testament

i am a believer. i have no idea if the author is. that is because he gave a great even handed review of the old testament. i grew in my knowledge and understanding of the old testament. i will listen to this again.

6 people found this helpful

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The More You Know!

There is a lot that I don't understand from the old testament and these lectures helped me answer a lot of questions.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Alan Myers
  • 06-17-20

interesting and helpful, but I wanted more...

Before we start, reviews of this sort of text are clearer when we know where the reviewer is coming from; I’m an atheist reading the bible in lockdown 2020. I thought this book would help me in understanding the OT better (it’s in the title!).

What I liked about this book was:
the way it approached major books one at a time.

The constant reference to and clarification of the Hebrew wording was also useful in many places.

The main thing I learnt from this was the use of Hebrew poetry structures such as repetition, and how they are used to point at and develop meaning, by sudden changes in these repetitions.

The performance is up beat throughout, and never lets you drop attention.

What I didn’t like was;
the performance was so upbeat that the guy was often seemingly catching his breath throughout, which took a bit of getting used to.

The focus on individual books meant that themes are restricted; you don’t get much cross-referencing. Given that many books have the same theme (the Israelites were granted favours for a covenant, then broke the covenant, leading to loss of favours until a leader could drag them back on course) means it gets repetitive and I often had to actually look at the app to find out which book was being discussed.

My most problematic issue and the reason for the 3 stars overall was the absence of discussion about the interplay between the OT and the NT: which bits did Christianity pick up on, reject or have to reinterpret. Maybe this is my fault, it’s a book about the OT after all.

So.. 5 stars for a book that would help you on reading for the first time or reviewing individual books of the OT.
2 stars for a wholistic view of themes in the OT
Don’t buy this book if you are looking for deeper understandings of the dynamic between Christianity and Judaism: an OT reader would be a better title...

15 people found this helpful

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  • Felis Silvestris Felix
  • 03-12-20

Brilliant!

If I could give this audiobook more stars, I would. The lectures are fascinating! The background information provided is always relevant to the text being discussed, without becoming overbearing; each lecture is conducted methodically, with references to other text and sources, presenting alternative interpretations and various arguments. I loved it that Prof. Miller doesn't shy away from providing what he deems to be the most sensible interpretation as well. He sounds passionate about the subject and this approach not only prevents the lectures from becoming a dry, academic discussion, but also provides enough information for the listener to either develop their own opinion or dig deeper into the subject.

In many ways, this is an introduction to the Old Testament that I have been looking for for the last 20 years or so. I will be definitely going back to this audiobook several times and will recommend it to anyone who wants to find out more about the Old Testament.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Norman
  • 06-24-21

Superb

I loved every second of it. He has the perfect balance. Great intellectual insight.
The last lecture is the best. Magnificent

2 people found this helpful

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  • Duncan Delaporte
  • 03-23-21

The Creation Myth of God.

Scholarly but not simple to follow.Complexity deciphered.
I have a healthy respect for the Book but now appreciate that the texts are a History but based on previous myths and histories,mostly oral traditions.
A revelation was the Dragon slayer metaphor..for the whole text and analysis.The Leviathan from the sea,a depth that personifies evil and the devil.I came to the conclusion that God is defined as a metaphor by the Old Testament , and is personified by being the abstract opposite of the Dragon myth..
Very interested in the Hindu myths precedent that established way before this written book the myths.It is like all religions and faiths just Hun beings mostly paternalistic head of family males or elites just making sense of things they cannot understand.

Anyway ,Prof.OK but should seperate his analysis the textual from historical and not leave me to figure it out.Detracted from.real interpretations in my view.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mary
  • 07-25-22

Insightful and challenging

I don't consider myself a beginner when it comes to Bibke studies - I have read the whole Bible on several occasions, certain books more times than I can count, studied classical languages and can still read the Vulgate comfortably. The Septuagint, I'd need some help, and I'm lost with the Hebrew. However, I am extremely familiar with the text in various translations and languages. I'm not saying this to brag, just to say that I was not expecting this to so radically change my understanding of the OT.

And it really did change my understanding - from the Ten Words not being so much commandments as Laws and Warnings (so, you literally *cannot* take the Lord's name in vain - if you invoke Him, even casually, something will come of it whether you will it or not) to how cheerful and hopeful the Book of Lame tattoos actually is - I have found multiple reasons to reread the books and test my understanding. I listened to this for free but am going to have to buy it and listen again, taking notes. One of the best listens on Audible.

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  • Michael
  • 07-18-22

Not uncomfortable for an atheist

As a complete atheist I was just interested to see what it was all about. I had no interest in becoming religious and still don't but I'm always up for learning about other people.

I was a bit nervous that this would be too "preachy" for me and was prepared to delete and not come back the moment it got so. To my surprise, and to the lecturer's credit, it did not go that way for one second. In fact, to the contrary, having just completed the course I couldn't say with confidence whether the lecturer is even religious himself (i think he probably is but he could just be really interested in the bible).

Generally interesting, if not memorable, and as always with these courses I knew I was in the hands of an expert. I don't feel like I can remember much, like I have of previous courses (most recently the excellent course on ancient Egypt) and I won't be going round boasting of my biblical knowledge. But well worth a listen for a relatively short course.

I hope this review helps anyone who is similarly interested but not interested in being preached to.

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  • david blowers
  • 06-28-22

Fascinating and inspiring

So many insights into the meaning and significance of the Old Testament text from this easily accessible, yet detailed literary approach.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-27-22

Incredible

I really enjoyed the soul-refreshing Word of God!!! Thanks to the author for the wonderful explanation!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-05-22

Absolutely fantastic

I really don't have anything bad to say about this, but the slightly weird music between sections caught me off guard at first haha.

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  • M.Martin
  • 03-21-22

Interesting listen

I bought this to listen to at bedtime, but it was really interesting so I ended up listening to it rather than falling asleep. Im not into the bible, but it was intriguing to find out the double meaning of the words and why things were written as they were. Makes you wonder why people take it so literally as the professor explains that it was there to be interpreted as the writer was capturing the stories as well as adding spin to explain the issues of the day around him. Fascinating listen and I found myself digging out my bible which I've not looked at in over 20 years as I have a new perspective on it. Recommended listen if you are befuddled/put off by the religious bumpf that usually comes from trying to read it.

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  • Abby Zensea
  • 07-30-22

Fascinating course

Prof. Miller makes his lectures interesting, engaging, at times funny for beginners and for people well versed in the OT. I loved the use of music for the Psalms.

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  • jason b
  • 12-18-20

excellent

well recommended, perhaps leans a little to heavy on textual criticism, but worth the listen for some great insights.

.