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

280 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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76 - 95 of 95 Reviews for The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

By Rodrigo A R O

Aug 20, 2018

muy bueno

By Luz-Elena C

Aug 1, 2017

Best one!

By Augustine B L

Jan 30, 2017


By Ross M

Jul 26, 2019

The most detailed MOOC I have ever seen. Very high quality videos, presentation and content. I like the fact that there are many links to explore and do futher learning.

Some of the transcription is a little ropey/plain wrong and you have to google what you think you've heard to get the word/name etc. And there are the odd fragments where a question is asked and then it goes off on a tangent and you're not quite sure if you did actually get the answer but otherwise a really, really good course and excellent instructor.

By Carolyn S

Jul 14, 2020

I just completed The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose and Political Future which was fascinating and informative. Dr. Wright's book "David" was helpful and enlightening. However, I did not expect the amount of reading involved in the module reading section; I do intend to go back and read some of the papers that I was not able to read at the time. This course has definitely encouraged me to explore further into this subject. Thank you for allowing me to participate. Carolyn Smith

By Anette O

Nov 12, 2020

Only suggestions are that due to many foreign words used by Prof Wright and his guests, I suggest the transcriptions should be updated to include the foreign words and correct spellings which unfortunately is not always up to standard.

Overall an interesting course which, despite having troubles with some of the foreign (Jewish words mainly) words, I can recommend the course. Personally I have learned a lot.

By Guido P

Jul 23, 2020

Excellent course, the only comment I would like to add is just let the interviewed develop more deeply their comments. Nevertheless, it is a very touching and well-prepared course. Astonishing extra material to keep on studying.

Thanks and keep on going

By Mary R

Apr 30, 2021

This is a fascinating course. I needed an approach to the Bible and this was key. Of all the interviews I like Prof. O'Connor's the best. She's a fabulous teacher.

By Robyn B

Oct 13, 2016

I found the background given for the writing of the bible very interesting and gave me a whole new perspective on Hebrew Scriptures.

By Patrice D

Dec 16, 2021

Cours intéressant. Dommage que la traduction soit très approximative.

By Alice Z

Jan 21, 2019

Well done basic history tweaked towards the Hebrew Bible veracity.

By daniel k a

May 5, 2022

Great Biblical course, with insightful presentation.

By Paulus C

Jan 9, 2018

Good and cncise historical background for me,

By b s

Dec 22, 2023

a good secular view of the hebrew bible.

By Joy S

Jan 7, 2017

Very complex and tedious subject.

By Peter B

Nov 16, 2021

Professor has approached the subject with an apparent preconception that the Bible writers are revisionist in their writings. When he states, "I and many other scholars believe" such and such claims, he is telling me I should take the word of people in academia that share his beliefs, and not listen to those who state the Biblical writings are inspired. I felt I was being talked down to, just like when a person says, "I don't vote for that political party, because everyone knows they lie, cheat, steal, eat donuts,..." Also, when the interviews are done, the professor seems far too concerned with talking over the invited guest in an effort to steer the conversation in one particular path. Asking questions and then trying to answer them himself, not showing respect to learned people in their fields of study, is rude and uninformative.

By Willem v D

Jan 2, 2021

Text transcripts were not really optimized, and that was lacking some overall quality therefore.

By Jon J

Nov 24, 2020

Very self serving course. Interesting subject matter, but have to pay in order to submit very basic questions. Lots of interviews with other academics and lots of name dropping.

Don’t waste your time.

By Maria I R

Jan 25, 2021

I think the course is too technical and it does not match its purpose. We see professor knows a lot but it is not good for the understanding of the course. I am quiting right now.

By Leanne H

Aug 10, 2016

Can't actually be done as a free course, like others on the site; you have to pay just to get a quiz grade.