To support our site, Class Central may be compensated by some course providers.

The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

All-Time Top 50

Emory University via Coursera

students interested
  • Provider Coursera
  • Subject Religion
  • $ Cost Free Online Course (Audit)
  • Session Upcoming
  • Language English
  • Certificate Paid Certificate Available
  • Effort 2-4 hours a week
  • Start Date
  • Duration 6 weeks long

Taken this course? Share your experience with other students. Write review

Sign up to Coursera courses for free Learn how

With its walls razed to ground by Babylon’s armies, Jerusalem joined a long line of ancient vanquished cities—from Ur and Nineveh and Persepolis to Babylon itself. While some recovered from the destruction, others did not. But none responded to political catastrophe by fashioning the kind of elaborate and enduring monument to their own downfall that we find in the Bible. Most conquered populations viewed their subjugation as a source of shame. They consigned it to oblivion, opting instead to extol the golden ages of the past. The biblical authors in contrast reacted to loss by composing extensive writings that acknowledge collective failure, reflect deeply upon its causes, and discover thereby a ground for collective hope.

Working through colorful biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, and drawing on an array of comparative examples, the course illustrates the thoroughgoing manner with which biblical authors responded to defeat by advancing a demotic agenda that places the community at the center. The aim of the biblical authors was to create a nation, and they sought to realize this goal via a shared text, which includes stories and songs, wisdom and laws. This corpus of writings belongs, without a doubt, to humanity’s greatest achievements. Whereas the great civilizations of the Near East invested their energies and resources into monuments of stone that could be destroyed by invading armies, the biblical authors left a literary legacy that has been intensively studied until the present day. More important, these authors’ visionary response to defeat brought to light a radical new wisdom: the notion that a people is greater than the state which governs it, and that a community can survive collapse when all of its members can claim a piece of the pie and therefore have a reason to take an active part in its collective life.

Taught by

Jacob Wright

Class Central Charts

Related Courses

Reviews for Coursera's The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
4.9 Based on 33 reviews

  • 5 stars 91%
  • 4 stars 9%
  • 3 star 0%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 star 0%

Did you take this course? Share your experience with other students.

Write a review
  • 1
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
awgonnerman completed this course.
This was the best MOOC I've taken so far. Dr. Wright clearly put a lot of effort into preparing his lectures as well as additional interviews with scholars. Aside from the required reading he also provided a wealth of extra content to enrich the learning experience for those motivated to know more. I did a full review on my blog (http://www.adamgonnerman.com/2014/07/course-review-bibles-prehistory-purpose.html), and here are the key takeaways for me as described there:

"Imagine everything you know about 20th century western history (U.S. and Europe in particular) being throw…
5 people found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
David A
4.0 2 years ago
by David completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
Taking the course broadened my vision for how to deal with the Biblical material, freed me from slavish adherence to and rebellion against the text, and got me to think about a lot of things.

I wouldn't recommend this course to people wanting to verify what they thought they learned in Sunday school, or the reasons why they have thrown it all away. It is for people who are sincere believers, sincere doubters or confirmed skeptics.

One finds ways to accept and believe, and ways to doubt and understand.

The instructor's manner of dealing with his materia…
4 people found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I was very impressed with the depth of the subject offered, but equally impressed by the user-friendly way in which it was delivered. It says something about the importance if having a knowledgable figure leading the course, albeit in a modern ‘chalk and talk’ way — too often in education we are given pap when it is food for the heart, mind and soul that is needed. i am only sorry that,mdue to circumstances, I was not able to get to listen to all the lectures.

I would like to thank everyone involved for a very stimulating,minformative and challenging course.

Again, thanks!
2 people found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I really enjoyed this MOOC. The coursework, while a little demanding at the start, is well-structured and well- paced. Doctor Jacob L Wright is a very fine teacher and evokes enthusiasm in his students. He had a clear presence in the forums and on social media during the MOOC. Most of all he brought an air of civility and grace that had a very positive influence.
2 people found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Wolfgang K
5.0 4 years ago
Wolfgang completed this course.
This course provides a fresh non-divinity approach to the Bible. Dr Wright is a whirlwind of a teacher. Recommended also for non-believers who want to get acquainted with one of the most influential books of the world.
1 person found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Dawn G
5.0 a year ago
Dawn completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
This was the most well organized, pleasantly formatted, and enjoyable MOOC I have experienced. Not too easy, not too hard, but just right.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Interesting subject matter delivered in easily managed chunks by a very supportive lecturer
1 person found
this review helpful
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Useful and interesting class, help us to understand whyen and how bible was build, and and why it became the most important 'book' in the world.

I am not a believer, and I always asked myself why most sucessful and powerful civilizations, like Egypt or Babylon, or Roman, or several others, even Greece with eternal and marvelous literary and philosophical 'books' couldnt produce such an important and influent odyssey..... How can a people with an history of defeats create such a work?
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Susan completed this course.
This class was Fabulous! Prof Jacob L. Wright is brilliant, he was able to serve us the meat of the subject, yet keep it accessible for those of us accustomed to soft foods. At no time did I feel as though these ideas and concepts were out of reach for me, and that is due to his genius as a teacher. If there were other courses taught by Jacob I would be all in.

Five stars, Ten diamonds!
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
My first MOOC, and it set the bar for all future courses I will take. Challenging, inspirational, controversial, thought provoking..the class was this and more.

Prof Wright is amazing in his ability to make students want to know more about the "world's best selling book".

Thank you Emory U, Coursera, and Prof Wright for making this amazing class available for free!
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Great class with great interaction and investment to the topic. Regardless of your religious views, you will find yourself digging and digging and digging into the Bible more and more because of Prof Wright's depth and knowledge of the topic. The greatest class I have seen online in Biblical prehistory. This class is a must take for all walks of life.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Estrelita completed this course.
It's an excellent start on a journey with no end. What I found most beneficial is that it made me want to know more. There is no real termination date, the course sets you off to look at so many angles.

As it was my first MOOC, I'm glad I chose the right one. I must add that Professor Jacob L. Wright is an excellent choice to lead the way.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Laura completed this course.
This was my first MOOC, and I loved it! The lectures were amazing, as were the supplemental interviews with world-reknowned scholars. The free access to articles from scholarly journals was an unexpected bonus. The coursework stretched me to think outside the box and see things from a new point of view. Excellent class. Highly recommend it!
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Carmen P
5.0 5 months ago
by Carmen partially completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
It's a highly stimulating course, very well paced and explained, and which opened to me a new, amazing way of looking at the Bible, in no way less profound than those I was used to because of the explanation involved.

Unfortunately, I was not able to finish it at the moment, but I intend to resume it as soon as possible.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I can't say enough good things about this class. The lectures are excellent, informative and interesting. The discussion groups and Facebook pages are so helpful. It has been a lot of fun. There is plenty of extra material to keep the fun going for many months. The professor, Jacob L. Wright is the best.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Jackie completed this course.
This is a course that really works. The best MOOC I have ever taken. All aspects first class. Absolutely first rate tutor, excellent material well presented - all working well together with no tech problems. A fantastic example of MOOC at its very best. I wish I could take it again.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
It is a fantastic course, I recommend this course. Have been a student of the Bible for years, but this course sheds new light and make you look at things differently. Also, Dr. Wright is a very interesting scholar and provides a wonderful reading list.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Five stars. Fabulous class. Before taking it I had no appreciation or interest in the Bible, considering it barbaric theistic propaganda. Now I'm reading it. Good job and thank you Dr, Wright.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Brilliant professor who has great insights and is very responsive to students' comments; this is by far the best MOOC I've taken yet.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
Anonymous
5.0 4 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
I felt that this was an excellent class from the lectures to the recommended material. I learned a lot that I never knew before.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
  • 1

Class Central

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.