For anyone interested in understanding the profound effect Jesus had on the world, it’s important to realize that his actions and teachings didn’t emerge from a vacuum. Rather, they were the product of a fascinating dialogue with—and reaction to—the traditions, cultures, and historical developments of ancient Jewish beliefs. In fact, early Judaism and Jesus are two subjects so inextricably linked that one cannot arrive at a true understanding of Jesus without understanding the time in which he lived and taught.
Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What was he like? For more than 2,000 years, people and groups of varying convictions have pondered these questions and done their best to answer them. The significance of the subject is apparent. From the late Roman Empire all the way to our own time, no continuously existing institution or belief system has wielded as much influence as Christianity, no figure as much as Jesus.
In these 48 lectures, Professor Glenn S. Holland uses such textual and archaeological evidence to explore the religious cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world. He covers times from the earliest prehistoric indications of human religious practices to the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity in the 4th century A.D.
The figure of Jesus has tantalized both Christians and non-Christians who have sought definitive answers to questions about his words, his acts, and even his very existence. For most of the last 2,000 years, the search for those answers has begun with the Gospels, but the Gospels themselves raise puzzling questions about both Jesus and the religious movement within which these narratives were produced. They also provide sometimes bewilderingly diverse images of Jesus.