She's set herself a big, convoluted, task here. The first lecture consists entirely of definitions of terms that we misunderstand when we project our notions into the past. A couple of examples: "temple" -- the literal dwelling place of a god and "monotheism and monolatry" -- the later is the worship of one god while accepting the existence of other deities, a commonplace in the older Hebrew writings. This helps, but Magness is striving so hard to overcome accreted assumptions -- certainly Christian ones but I suspect also contemporary Jewish ones -- that the result sometimes feels like a series of disjointed leaps through millennia of Jewish history. Perhaps that's nature of a short survey course.
Yet I've learned much I hadn't before appreciated.
- Who knew that a scholar can make a case that Jewish mythologizing of the very real flash-in-the-pan Greek conqueror Alexander the Great who overran Palestine in 332BC paved the way for the notion of a divine man/god? The scholar Ory Amitay argues
- I'm familiar of course with Gospel asides such as "Can anything good come out of Nazareth [Gailiee]? (John 1:46) What I'd never taken in -- maybe someone had told me but I missed it -- was that Galilee had only been part of the Jewish/Judean world for a short time.
Jesus wasn't just a country bumpkin -- he was one with a suspicious ancestry. Hence the elaborate birth narratives.
- Magness is at her most enlightening discussing the ascetic Essenes, the Jewish sect that lived at Qumran and left the "Dead Sea Scrolls" manuscripts in caves there. She is emphatic in her view that Jesus could not have been an Essene, although his followers shared some similar apocalyptic expectations and also sometimes held their goods in common.
Oh -- and John the Baptist wasn't an Essene either. They'd have found his diet of locusts and honey quite repellent.
All quotes here are from the .pdf with accompanies the audio of this course.