"Improve your biblical literacy and re-encounter the New Testament as a great repository of literary genius. This is the promise of Professor Amy-Jill Levine's vivid portraits of the cast of characters in the New Testament. While most of the figures treated are real, historical people, at least two (the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan) are fictional protagonists in stories told by Jesus within Luke's Gospel. Some figures are famous. Others, such as the Syro-Phoenician woman who must turn Jesus' own words back upon him to gain the healing of her daughter, are not so famous but deserve to be better remembered. Christianity's Founding Generation Our Great Figures include Jesus himself as well as: A bullheaded fisherman from Galilee A highly educated tentmaker from Tarsus Several politically unaware magi, martyrs, Roman army officers, bad rulers, and the prophets who run afoul of them One enigmatic betrayer A number of strong and interesting women (including the unnamed Samaritan, a Canaanite mother, Martha the homeowner and her sister Mary, and a repentant sinner who anoints Jesus). Representing the models of Old Testament piety are the elderly couple Elizabeth and Zechariah. The story of their son, John the Baptist, moves us immediately into the dangerous world of the 1st century, where messianic fervor was on the rise and popular prophets knew their lives were in danger. You encounter Jesus' friends, the contemplative Mary and the vocal Martha, as well as their brother Lazarus. You join conversations with: Jesus' interlocutors: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman The centurion with a paralyzed son The desperate Canaanite mother with a demon-possessed daughter. You explore the stories of the Apostles Peter and Thomas, James and John, Mary Magdalene (who becomes known as the Apostle to the Apostles), and Judas Iscariot-from the times they spent with Jesus to their post-canonical fates. From the early years of the church, you meet James, ""the brother of the Lord,"" and Stephen, the first martyr. You explore how much we really know about: The centurions who represent Rome's military presence Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect who orders Jesus crucified The four generations of the Herodian royal family who appear in the pages of the New Testament. As for Paul the Apostle, Professor Levine investigates both his presentation in Acts of the Apostles and what can be determined about him from his own letters. How Jesus Was Perceived-Then and Later Concerning Jesus, one lecture is devoted to how he might have been perceived by those who knew him personally. Then Professor Levine concludes with the development of Christology: how the ""anointed one"" was understood as a participant in the work of creation, as a new Adam, a perfect sacrifice, a suffering servant, the second part of the Trinity, and even a lactating mother. Unlike primarily historical introductions to the Bible, including The Teaching Company's The Old Testament and The New Testament, these lectures frequently raise issues of religious interest. The point of this exploration is not to inculcate any theology, let alone any particular religious world-view. Rather, it seeks to read the ancient texts anew to discover what they really say and how they were interpreted by both the secular culture and the faithful church. How Well Do You Really Know the Bible? You may think you already know all the great stories of the Bible. But often they are misted over by centuries of common misperceptions frequently repeated. To take the most well-known example, it is common today to regard the snake in the Garden of Eden as Satan and to see the disobedience of Adam and Eve as resulting in Original Sin. Yet the Genesis story mentions neither Satan nor sin. Now, by taking a fresh look through the eyes of Professor Levine, you rediscover the Great Figures of the New Testament. You learn anew from the fascinating cast of characters in the greatest story ever told. Writes Harold McFarland, Regional Editor at Midwest Book Review: ""In Great Figures of the New Testament Professor Amy-Jill Levine of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School does an excellent job of bringing several individuals to life. Not only does she discuss well-known individuals such as Pontius Pilate, James, and Philip but also important groups and individuals who are not specified by name such as the Centurions, the woman at the well, the shepherds, and others. Professor Levine deftly discusses details of the person from the perspectives of the Biblical stories, culture, literary criticism, how the church has viewed the person through history, and how artists and worshippers have viewed them. Probably one of the most fascinating aspects of the course is how she brings their personalities to life based on how they spoke, acted, or reacted within the confines of their culture. ""Professor Levine includes some analysis of literary types such as noting the parallel between Jesus' father Joseph going to Egypt and Joseph, Jacob's son going to Egypt. This opens up even more interesting aspects in the lives of the figures. ""Some of the many figures discussed include Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, the Samaritan woman, Pharisees and Sadducees, Thomas, James, John, Judas Iscariot, Stephen, Philip, Paul, and Jesus. ""This is a great piece of work and sure to enlighten anyone wishing to gain a more thorough understanding of these great figures. As usual with The Teaching Company products, this is a very highly recommended purchase."""