The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

A (belated) review of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) by Coursera and Emory University, The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future.

CouseraWe were told at the start that, it should take up around 4 to 6 hours of time in each week to complete the work set. It probably could be accomplished in that time but it is took me considerably longer. It’s not that Dr Jacob L Wright and Emory University underestimated the time needed or set too many assignments, it’s that the level of interest the course generated for me simply keeps my attention and makes me want to dive deeper into some of the inclusive and supplementary resources provided.

The discussion forums are mostly excellent for provoking further thought and ideas, some of the best prompts for a deeper look at various aspects had come from there. I did notice, though, a couple of times that some posts veered towards social media chat and argument, more than the topical discussion and debate. Fortunately the occurrences, that I spotted, were few and far between.

Dr Wright’s video lectures were clear and easy to follow as he doesn’t try and bring in too much esoteric language, except where it is unavoidable, and they are all professionally presented with optional sub-titles. He speaks simply but not simplistically. Many of the videos are well worth viewing for interest sake alone, even if you do not want to actively engage with the course.

Objectively I find it hard to say which videos were best but subjectively, my favourites are the interview with Doctoral Student Aubrey Buster, and the interviews with Dr Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, writer of an award winning commentary on the book of Ruth.

Along with the course and its own forums, a facebook group was also set up which proved to be an excellent resource for supplementary information, hints and tips and to get help when needed. It was good to see that Dr Wright, the course’s leader was also an active participant in the group. All in all, I had a great time being part of the course and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the the Bible, whether or not they are a believer.

My one gripe is not directed a the course but at Coursera. The online portal keeps serving me up with suggestions for ‘related’ courses, that bear no obvious connection to anything I’ve shown an interest in to date. Dont let this little niggle put you off, the quality and content of what was presented more than outweighs that. Give it a go, you might just surprise yourself.


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