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Learner Reviews & Feedback for The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future by Emory University

279 ratings

About the Course

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....

Top reviews


Aug 19, 2020

The course develops ways of considering the Hebrew Bible that empowers a believer in another faith tradition with a greater scope to look beyond assumptions about literal truths and polemic tropes.


Oct 11, 2016

It's a very good course if you want to know how the bible came into being, events that happened from the very beginning and how the bible continues to remain and be read even today. Wonderful!

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1 - 25 of 95 Reviews for The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

By Senup S

Apr 23, 2021

This course was very good. Learnt a lot and the whole experience have inspired me to pursue further study in Bible. Thanks Dr Jacob Wright. You are amazing gift of God!

By Darcy M

Oct 25, 2020

A fascinating course. I am a total beginner, so I did not attempt to take part in the Discussion Forums, although I still might at some point in the future. However, I did watch all of the lectures, take all of the quizzes and, in addition, I did read Prof. Wright's book on David and Caleb. It is quite a lot of information to absorb, however I do actually plan to read more of the course materials and maybe also some of the books by some of the academics and theologians whom he interviewed. Prof. Wright is clearly very passionate about his topic and he is also a very good teacher. I loved his clarity, his broad mindedness and also his erudition. I also loved the fact that he has designed this course to be accessible to a diverse range of students, both in terms of one's level of experience with biblical texts and also in terms of one's religious upbringing and beliefs. For instance, I was raised Episcopalian and tend toward agnosticism, but nonetheless do have a real interest in and curiosity about the Bible. Prof. Wright is in no way doctrinaire, but rather presents the material and his own interpretations of it as food for further thought. Covid is raging, so I have now taken several courses on Coursera simply in order to stay sane. So far, this is the one that has been the best taught and the most interesting.

By Rabbi M F

May 17, 2019

This is, by far, the best and most interesting course I have taken to date, and I have multiple graduate degrees and seminary coursework under my belt. I have been wanting and waiting for a complete interdisciplinary approach for decades, and finally, this is it!

Thank you, Professor Wright! If only I could take more courses from you!

By robert

Feb 3, 2019

A deeply thought provoking and challenging course that exceeded my expectations, chiefly, by the way it helped me connect the ancient past with the present.

By juliana l

May 6, 2017

As a person who is considering a Christ centered career, it is nice to see and study the history of the bible and know more deeply why it is the way it is. Even reading the recourse information has answered questions I had, and as I finish the class I hope to learn a LOT more.

By Fiona M M

Apr 2, 2017

I enjoyed this class and was amazed by how the Bible came about and the fact that it survived 2.5 millennia. I will be reading the Bible with a new understanding because of this course. I wish there were additional courses on the Bible on Coursera.

By Luiz C M d R

Feb 16, 2020

Participating in this course I was able to develop a way of interpreting the Bible of a historical-sociological character that enables the understanding of its literary-theological value as a pedagogical instrument whose use becomes fundamental for the construction of identity ethical-religious, economic-social and political-legal of the nation after the process of destructuring imposed by the Assyrian-Babylonian subjugation, which relegates the people of Israel to exile and deconstructs the material and symbolic references of their existence as such. In this way, the process of identity disintegration to which the people of Israel are relegated becomes the very condition of their existence as such to the extent that biblical authors institute an interpretation of the reality that turns exile and political-military defeat into assumptions of the choice of the Hebrews to participate in the covenant established with the patriarch Abraham and whose terms determine the relationship of God with his descendants, demanding, then, the construction of a pan-Israelite identity, namely, an identity capable of covering all family groups that, in a state of dispersion throughout the diaspora, lose the ethical-religious and economic-social bonds that make up a nation and need to restore them through the concept of God, known as Yahweh , is the only historical-cultural legacy that has the possibility of restoring the collective consciousness of the nation.

By Dubravka J

Jan 13, 2021

I enjoyed this course very much: informative and detailed.

I wish that that the multiple choice questions in quizzes were either structured differently or that we were shown the answers at some point after passing the test. I passed some quizzes with 80%, but I still do not know what the right answers were for some of those questions (I never got them right: at one point, I was obviously picking wrong combinations of the answers out of 4. I still don't know what I should have picked, i.e., what was the right answer. That was frustrating.)

My suggestion: after the student passes the quiz, show the answers/explanations to the quiz, so that we can learn from those that we never got right (in multiple choice questions). I wish I knew what I got wrong.

Thank you.

By Jessica B

Jul 14, 2020

Eyeopening, exciting and engaging.

As a Reform Jew, I study Torah every week. But this course has given me a new perspective on my people's sacred texts. I now see the Tanach, not only as delivering moral and political instruction, but quite differently, as a curriculum for survival. I really think Professor Wright is an amazing teacher and researcher of the Hebrew Bible. I hope he will do another class, perhaps focusing on one or two texts, and analyzing closely how they are pedagogical in nature. Thank you, Professor Wright.


Jun 28, 2020

In my opinion Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political future is a fantastic course. If you are a believer or an atheist this course will definitely help you to read Bible from a political perspective which is completely different from the conventional way of looking at Bible as a religious or holy text only.

By Muhammad A

Aug 20, 2020

The course develops ways of considering the Hebrew Bible that empowers a believer in another faith tradition with a greater scope to look beyond assumptions about literal truths and polemic tropes.

By Cecilia S

Oct 12, 2016

It's a very good course if you want to know how the bible came into being, events that happened from the very beginning and how the bible continues to remain and be read even today. Wonderful!

By Diane T

Jun 25, 2022

Excellent course. Professor Wright integrated alot of material. The discussions with other professors were an amazing reference point, and uniquely valuable when reflecting on the course.

By Daniel V S J

Nov 16, 2019

Excellent course, providing a broad background of the historical Bible, as deep as you care to go and a good companion to the various Bible studies I've taken.

By Qin L

Sep 20, 2016

Compared to lectures offered by various seminaries, Professor Wright has organized the course in a way that has included both biblical sources and extra-biblical sources which are not permitted by seminaries. The part I love the most is the interviews by Professor Wright with leading scholars of different expertise.

It is not hard to tell the effort the professor has exerted to put the course together. I would love to take more courses from Professor Wright regarding OT and relevant areas and am wondering how I can access them.

By Qintra A

Sep 13, 2020

Amazing course! I am a Muslim from Pakistan and I was fascinated by the course outlines so I decided to enroll in it. Professor Wright is a terrific teacher, every module was so enlightening and I truly discovered and unearthed a lot about biblical studies. I love how he used different setups and locations to teach us, and how he brought different guest speakers with varying expertises. I have rarely seen teachers like him! The quizzes were really well-made, and truly tested our concepts. Highly recommended!

By Andrea P

Apr 27, 2016

Really interesting thesis about the impetus behind the formation of the Hebrew Bible. Makes a convincing case by linking the historical, geographical, archaeological, and textual evidence. Great lectures and guest lectures. Also provides a case for why studying the bible is important even for secular humanists and atheists. Includes really interesting ideas about the genesis (pun intended) of modern conceptions of nations and states.

By Jacqueline W

Jan 1, 2017

As a casual participant with a general interest I found this course to be enlightening - it helped me ground the fragments that I had already learned here and there about the Bible in historical, social, geographic (in particular) and political contexts and thus weave those fragments into a narrative that makes sense to me. This JW thanks Emory's JW!

By Jesús A G

Aug 22, 2017

Este curso representa una buena manera de introducirse en los estudios bíblicos. El único problema que le he visto es que a muchos vídeos que no están subtitulados al castellano, y en otros, la calidad de la traducción de los subtítulos no es muy buena. Pero en términos generales es un magnífico curso, y el profesor lo orienta de forma muy amena.

By Julie K

Mar 5, 2021

So much information presented with different perspective from my Protestant upbringing. It was very interesting, intriguing, and challenging. The interviews are fantastic! I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants a broader understanding of the significance and relevance of a book that has endured for centuries.

By Hugo O C R

May 28, 2016

This course is an excellent way of going about the history of Israel/Judah from a political perspective. It also presents many archeological evidences and compared them to the Bible. The discussions are quite interesting and multidisciplinary and the professor is really has a very practical approach.

By George C

Mar 20, 2020

I am very impressed by the completely different perspective of approaching the Hebrew Bible, completely different from the way I learned in Romania. I am a graduate of theology, a master in Hebrew culture, and this perspective will be of real benefit to me. Thank you from all my heart.

By mary h

Aug 21, 2018

Professor Wright TRULY "knows his stuff." I am sure that he is brilliant and in the videos you can just see his brain racing ahead of his speech. One senses that there is so much more he wishes he could convey to his students in the limited amount of time. Very interesting course.


May 26, 2020

Professor Wright is an inspirational teacher and a superb scholar. This course motivated me to pursue additional knowledge in this area.

I did not take the course for credit. I complete the course although the Coursera website mistakenly indicates otherwise.

By A.J. T

Feb 1, 2019

Awesome, awesome, awesome course. There is a wealth of information contained in this course, the way the course is presented conducive to learning, and the professor goes out of his way in explaining things very easy to understand terms. Highly recommended.