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Publisher's Summary

The New Testament is a fascinating book - the canonical root of Christian history and theology. Yet the book is also a paradox, because this single “book” is comprised of 27 different books by more than a dozen authors, each of whom has a different perspective and is responding to a different set of historical circumstances. How do you reconcile this diversity of voices into a single, unified belief system? And should you even try?

For a historian, the diversity of authors is not a challenge to be reckoned with, but rather an exciting opportunity. In the New Testament, we have 27 primary sources that offer a doorway to the extraordinary history of the early Christian communities. In these books, you can discover how:

  • Christian practices developed;
  • Conflicts of belief were debated and addressed;
  • The institution of the Church evolved; and
  • A man named Jesus of Nazareth was transformed into the Messiah.

Join Professor David Brakke, an award-winning Professor of History at The Ohio State University, for Understanding the New Testament. In these 24 eye-opening lectures, he takes you behind the scenes to study not only the text of the New Testament, but also the authors and the world in which it was created. You will explore Jewish lives under Roman occupation, reflect on the apocalyptic mood of the first and second centuries AD, witness the early Christians’ evangelism beyond the Jewish communities, and witness the birth of a faith that continues to shape our world today.

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

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What listeners say about Understanding the New Testament

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Struggling to finish

Can't tell if the author is relaying their own assessment of the New Testament or others' general interpretation (few references to other sources). Comes across confident that their conclusions are obvious even though I feel they are often a bit of a stretch to make without more supporting information. I'm struggling to decide if it's worth listening to any more of it. I would prefer a more objective presentation and critique of ideas, with more depth. Not one of the "Great Courses" in my opinion.

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Concise and Clear

Excellent course. Professor Brakke teaches the historical critical approach to the New Testament in a concise and clear manner. His delivery is professional and not at all pompous or arrogant, while at the same time not dumbed down too much. I expect anyone interested in history, philosophy, theology or religion will find something to enjoy in this lecture series.

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Really great

Not a perfect score because it wasn't perfect, but I couldn't say their was any major flaw.

The program really addresses the complexity of the new testament and was thoroughly enjoyable and insightful.

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Worthwhile. Get it

I'm not religious, but I started the gnosticism course by this author and ended up listening to it 4 times. Just picked up this course and finished it in a week. Solid author and content and I definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in early Christianity and how religions in general come into being.

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  • Mark
  • 2019-12-01

Familiar but Worthwhile

It’s tempting to complain that the material in this lecture series is already available in Bart Ehrman’s many courses for The Teaching Company, but Professor Brakke is such a genial and accomplished instructor that I found myself admiring his rehearsal of familiar New Testament historical criticism anyway. Believers may prefer Brakke’s less threatening take on the perspective, methods and findings of this particular brand of biblical scholarship, while skeptics will have their doubts confirmed by the many questions that are raised. To summarize: Brakke does a fine job explaining how Christianity emerged from a Jewish apocalyptic tradition and then evolved into the faith we know today when the end times failed to arrive – an evolution he traces through a close, critical reading of the books of the New Testament.

49 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-07-06

Great lectures, but a bad place to start

These lectures are highly informative and interesting, but the way that they are presented will make the topic very difficult to understand for newcomers. To me, the word "Understanding" in the title should imply a more beginner-friendly lecture, as it did in the previous "Understanding the Old Testament" course by The Great Courses, which I could easily follow despite having never read the text previously.

This course is presented almost in reverse chronological order -- it opens by recounting the events of the old testament, then skips straight to Paul's letters, which can be difficult to understand if you are not familiar with the Gospels. Also, the narrator skips around between books and never seems to use the book:chapter:verse format to refer to what he is talking about in the text. So, if you're trying to follow along with a Bible and highlighter in front of you, it may be difficult to take notes.

Overall, this course still gets 4 stars because my only complaint is that the title may be misleading to some listeners. If you are new to Christian scripture and history, I would recommend listening to the earlier Great Courses lecture series from 2013 simply titled "The New Testament" before this.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Claude
  • 2021-01-22

Christians run!

Written by people who do not in God as he revealed himself in Scripture. This is a human course that reverse man's methods above God's power. It is the last place one will find truth.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Roderic Rinehart
  • 2021-01-02

Really good overview of the New Testament

I have listened to close to 50 of the Great Courses going back to the 1990’s on cassette tape. I found this one to be a great representative of the quality I and you should expect from this company. Almost all of their courses are very worthy of your money and your time, and this is certainly one of them. This is a thematic overview of the New Testament, covering issues and uncertainties and controversies from a scholarly and moderate perspective. I felt no bent toward any denomination. It was narrated well, and I listened to it mostly at 1.3 speed. It sounded completely normal at 1.2 and 1.3 speed of that is of interest to you speed-listeners.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Jill Frye
  • 2021-12-20

mediocre

it is important to have a true Christian discuss these things. there is no understanding.

2 people found this helpful

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  • MCW68
  • 2021-07-16

Great summary of New Testament development

Professor Brakke reviews the development of the New Testament beginning with Saint Paul’s letters, the earliest of the 27 books of the New Testament. Brakke presents a historian’s perspective of scripture supported by nearly 6,000 manuscripts or manuscript fragments from the first century through current Bibles. We learn that not all books were written by the purported authors, and some copiers of early versions made changes as they made copies.

As Professor Brakke notes, most biblical historians study the Bible to understand the context in which the books were written, and are Christians themselves. Readers who are convinced the Bible should be taken literally, will probably discount the evidence presented here.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Abraao Ferraz
  • 2021-06-27

Impartial and objective

We can extract that christianity is the amalgamation of hellenized judaisn and greek philosophy. Great approach that pleases both christians and skeptics. Great performance!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jack the Poetry Ripper
  • 2022-04-19

Ugh

Nothing surprising or unknown to me here. And I think he's wrong on major issues like chronology. Whole Counsel of God covers this all better.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fred Fanning
  • 2020-07-28

Great Course on the New Testament

This overview of the New Testament had a lot of information from a historical perspective. I learned a lot and enjoyed listening.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Danny Jones
  • 2022-04-24

Not true!

This is not true and unscriptural,be careful because the book of Revelation gives several curses to anyone who adds or subtracts anything to the book of revelation