I’m calling this a review, but I’m not sure that that is sufficient for all the things I am going to say. More likely, this will be an homage. And a deserved one.
Education can be inspirational and all of you know how much value I place on learning. This course wasn’t just learning, it was an experience. What do I mean by that? This.
I am a non-believer. I went into this class solely for the purpose of learning more about a document and its history than with any interest in any real spiritual intercourse and admittedly was worried that a professor of theology would see it as his goal to force an understanding of the Old Testament regarding religion only. I was pleasantly disabused of any such purpose from the first lecture. Dr. Jacob Wright of Emory University not only is a very good lecturer, he seems to understand that we as people are what are important, that the information that he can give us does not end in the realm of theism, but in the realm of what he calls “Peoplehood”.
In terms of the class structure there are videos, some discussion board questions, and a quiz every week. By far the most engaging, and I feel important, aspect of the course were his lectures. Always mesmerizing, always informative, not only was I able to put aside my prejudices (and I’ll admit, I had them) I was able to understand what life was like for the Biblical authors, the people of the period, and why the Bible is important. To all of us. Not because it’s a spiritual guidebook, but because it tells us about our own humanity. Dr. Wright’s enthusiasm is contagious. After spending a year of his own time, he has created a masterpiece that speaks to all walks of life. Fascinated as I was by the history and archaeology of the course, it was his final video that pulled me in and gave me a sense of what everything that I’d been watching and reading for the past six weeks had been for.
We are a people. All of us, globally. We all fear, cry, triumph, love, and wonder. If we can look at the devastation the Biblical authors suffered, such as the loss of nation, threats to their identity, poverty, and the demolishing of their Temple, we can see the connections. We can see that we as a people can come together rather than continuing to fight one another for no real purpose. We can engage in the same way that the Biblical authors did, and that is the message of Dr. Wright and his MOOC.
The class epitomizes his goal; not only does it educate us in a fascinating subject, the Bible, its inclusiveness embraces us as a people. Theists of all sorts will find wonder and value within the scriptural connections Dr. Wright emphasizes, but his masterstroke is to give non-believers a safe place to learn about perhaps the most important document in modern times and how it became what it is.
If you only were to take one MOOC, this would be the one I’d recommend. But beyond that, even if you have no interest in the Bible, history in general, or even in MOOCs at all, I urge you to join the class when it’s available again (which I’m hopeful that it will be), and at least listen to that last video that he has shared with us. The message is clear and it’s my hope that everyone is listening.
You can find the course here: