Understand The Old Testament World
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Understand The Old Testament World

An Introductory study of the Old Testament World, Cultures and Practises
4.0 (1 rating)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
19 students enrolled
Created by Magda Sutherland
Last updated 1/2017
Current price: $10 Original price: $60 Discount: 83% off
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  • 4 hours on-demand video
  • 1 Supplemental Resource
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Recognize the importance of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural background
  • Identify the geographical area of the Old Testament and Biblical World
  • Grasp the meaning,implications, and practises of Idolatry
  • Understand the function of Temples, Cities, Priests, Sacrifices and Kings
  • Make better connections between The Old and The New Testament writings
  • Recognize the uniqueness of Israel's religion and World View in the surrounding cultural context
  • Evaluate the importance and power of a World View directing human existance
View Curriculum
  • Students do not need any specific academic qualifications or knowledge before doing this course

Do modern Christians still regard the Old Testament applicable today? Did God nullify the Law and Old Testament writings by replacing it with Jesus' teachings and the New Testament writings?

Understanding the Old Testament World  brings true meaning and significance to our faith, the New Testament writings, and the words of Jesus.

The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures were Jesus’, his disciples’ and Paul’s Bible. Jesus taught his disciples from these scriptures. Paul and the other New Testament authors wrote what we call ‘The New Testament’ from their knowledge and understanding of the ‘Old Testament’. The New Testament describes  Jesus’ life and message in light of the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus did not start a new religion, but  gave true meaning to the Old Testament scriptures, message and practices. He announced his mission to earth with some of the following statements:

Matthew 4:17 (NIV) 17  From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Mark 1:14-15 (NIV) 14  After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15  "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 

Matthew 4:23 (NIV) 23  Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

From these few references we can deduce that 'The Kingdom of God' was central to Jesus' thinking and ministry.

Jesus came to teach and explain the true meaning and significance of God’s Kingdom, an idea his audience was familiar with. The meaning and implications of  a ‘Kingdom’ were not new to them but originated and developed with human civilization  and history.

‘Kingdom’ in the ancient and Biblical Worlds, had direct connections with institutions like; idolatry, gods, temples, cities, priests, and kings. 

This course aims at uncovering these 'Kingdom' institution, implications, developments and their connection with Israel and their God.

This course is a broad introductory survey of the Old Testament World, its cultures and world view, uncovering the meaning of the ‘gods' kingdom’, shedding light on the Kingdom of Israel's God . 

We do not look at the Old Testament World cultures and literature through  magnifying glasses, dissecting every culture in detail, but through wide- angle lenses, trying to see the 'Big Picture' of the ancient and Biblical worlds. This course lays the foundation for all other in- depth  Bible studies concerning God and His Kingdom.

In this course we pay attention to:

  • The Old Testament World geography
  • Ancient and Old Testament  World views
  • The gods of the Old Testament World
  • Idolatry
  • Temples
  • Ancient cities and their connection to the 'god's kingdom'
  • Temple rituals, sacrifices, and functions
  • Priests, High Priests and Kings’ leadership roles

Israel did not live in their own separate world but engaged with other cultures  surrounding them. Understanding these cultures, their religion and World Views, will help us to understand the Old Testament history and writings.

This course consists  of 3, 5 hours video, including many maps, diagrams, illustrations, and images of the Old Testament World and its cultures.

At the end of this course students will:

  • Know more about the Biblical World geography
  • Have met some ancient gods
  • Understand idolatry better
  • Recognize temples’ significant role
  • Know more about ancient cities and their function
  • Understand temple rituals and sacrifices better
  • Know more about  the Priests and Kings’ roles 
  •  Recognize the value of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context
  • Identify connections between the Old and New Testament writings
  • Understand Jesus’ teachings better.

This course is for students who:

  • Wish to understand the Old Testament better
  • Want to see the ‘Big Picture’ of the Bible better
  • Enjoy learning about Bible history and cultures

This course is not for students who:

  • Regard the Old Testament redundant
  • Are not interested in history
  • Need an in depth knowledge of ancient cultures
  • Do not regard it important reading the Bible in its historical context


Please join us for a rich learning experience!


Who is the target audience?
  • Students who want to learn more about the historical and cultural background of the Bible
  • Students who are eager to explore the different cultural perspectives and practices of the Biblical world.
  • Students who enjoy doing independent research wider than Biblical writings
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Curriculum For This Course
29 Lectures
1 Lecture 05:58

This lecture introduces the course and explains the importance of understanding the Old Testament World's culture and history. Institutions such as temples, idols, sacrifices, cities and kings, have direct connections with the ancient  World View, culture and history, directly impacting the Bible story.

Preview 05:58
Abraham's World
4 Lectures 30:55

This lecture introduces the region and geography where most Old Testament history plays out, the Fertile Crescent. The geography of any region plays an important role in the way we see reality and determines our culture and history. The geography of the Fertile Crescent played an important role in the history and culture of the Biblical world.

The Fertile Crescent Geography

This lecture introduces students to the Fertile Crescent region called Mesopotamia. The civilization of Mesopotamia included nations such as the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians who played an important role in Bible and Israel's history.


In this lecture students meet the Fertile Crescent civilization creators, the Sumerians. Israel was part of this civilization which the Bible story and message constantly addresses. Israel's God urges His people to live a different life compared to this civilization. This ancient Sumerian civilization is also the foundation for much of the Western World.

Sumerians: Civilization Creators

In this lecture we reflect on the Biblical perspective of the important role humanity plays in the physical world. We also comment on the connection between the physical world and human spirituality.

The Power of Ideas
6 Lectures 39:47

This lecture defines a World View, describes its importance , and introduces the different components of any World View. Understanding the World View of a group of people explains their culture and history. Understanding the Sumerian World View explains many of the Old Testament cultural practices.

Defining a World View

In this lecture students learn how ancient civilizations described  the universe's composition. Our perception of the universe's composition plays an important role in how we view our role and function in the universe.

Preview 08:33

The lecture describes how the cosmos functioned according to the ancient World View. Human life and religion are closely integrated with our understanding of the cosmos' working.

Sumerian Cosmology or Cosmic Working

This lecture introduces students to Sumerian literature expressing their World View. This genre of literature is commonly known as 'Mythology'. Understanding ancient mythologies helps us to understand the Biblical world.

Sumerian Literature

This lecture describes the Sumerian Creation Story. A creation account expresses our belief in a Creator God which in turn determines how we live our lives. Comparing the Biblical Creation story with ancient creation stories emphasizes Israel's unique World View, described in the Bible.

Sumerian Cosmogony or Creation Story

This lecture compares the Biblical Creation Story with the Sumerian Creation story. This challenges our belief in and view of the authority of a Creator God and the way we live our lives as Christians.

Meet the 'gods'
3 Lectures 22:38

This lecture introduces us to the ancient worship of nature deities or gods. This ancient polytheistic worship  had a powerful impact on Bible history. Understanding this ancient worship will clarify much of the Old Testament practices and writings.

Sumerian Theology

This lecture describes the Sumerian's human creation story and the role humans play in the universe according to their view.

Sumerian Human Creation Story

This lecture reflects and comments in particular on the Sumerians' view of human value and  their role in the universe, comparing it to God's perspective of  humanity's role and value, described in the Bible.

From Heaven to Earth they came
5 Lectures 51:30

This lecture describes the origin and significance of idolatry. This explains why idolatry is seriously condemned by the Old Testament writers.

Lecture 15: Bodies for the gods

This lecture explains the meaning and function of ancient temples and their connection with idolatry. Understanding the symbolism of temples help us to understand the meaning and importance of Israel's Temple.

Lecture 16: Houses for the 'gods'

In this lecture we discuss the origin and significance of cities and their connection with idolatry and temples.

Lecture 17: Cities- Bastions of Civilization Part I

In this lecture we discuss two  more important Sumerian cities and their significant role in human history and development.

Lecture 18: Cities - Bastions of Civilization- Two more important cities.

In this lecture we briefly reflect on the Biblical perspective on idolatry, temples and cities.

Lecture 19: Reflection
Everything stands and falls on Leadership
7 Lectures 47:16

This lecture explains the important role of the Temple- Priest in the ancient and Biblical worlds. This sheds light on our role acting as God's Priests in the world.

Lecture 20: Born to Lead

This lecture describes the working of the Sumerian economy. This explains the connection between Israel's agriculture, their God and Temple described in the Bible.

Lecture 21: Sumerian economy

This lecture describes land- ownership in  ancient civilizations and religious practices. The Bible describes similar practices in Israel.

Lecture 22: Land- lease Agreements

This lecture describes the role of the High Priest and the King in Sumerian Civilization. Understanding these ancient temple-leadership roles help us to understand similar roles described in the Bible.

Lecture23: En and Lugal

In this lecture we look at the contributions of taxes, tributes and gifts to the temple-economy. These concepts are also prominently present in the Old testament.

Lecture 24: Taxes, Tributes and Gifts

This lecture explains the importance of temple rituals and sacrifices in ancient religions.This help us to understand similar practices by Israel. However in Israel's religion these practices  had different meaning, significance and implications.

Lecture 25: Temple Rituals and Sacrifices

In this lecture we discuss the Biblical perspective of temple rituals and sacrifices described in the Bible.

Lecture 26: Reflection
Long Live the King !
3 Lectures 30:54

In this lecture we explore the meaning and implications of the concept: 'Son of the gods'. This title appears prominently in the Bible particularly in the New Testament. This title is embodied in Jesus and has great meaning and significance for Israel and Christians.

Lecture 27: Son of the 'gods'

In this lecture students are briefly introduced to two important Mesopotamian kings who influenced Mesopotamian and human history significantly. The significance of kingship is an important theme in the Bible with significant implications for the life and ministry of Jesus.

New Beginnings

In this lecture we paint a broad picture of God's overall plan revealed in the Bible connecting the different entities we discussed in the course. The apt student will be able to see how these entities culminate in Jesus and His followers.

Lecture 29: The Big Picture Reflection
About the Instructor
Magda Sutherland
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1 Review
19 Students
1 Course
Bible Scholar and Teacher

I completed a Bachelor Degree of Science, majoring in Mathematics and Chemistry, at the University of Pretoria in 1984. At the same university, I completed a Postgraduate Higher Education Diploma in 1985. 

I taught and lectured at Secondary School and College levels for 10 years. During this time I attended the Vineyard School of Ministry (Lancaster California) where after I acted as church planter and pastor of two small congregations. My passion for understanding and teaching the Bible in its historical and cultural context motivated me towards further studies.

At the end of 2010 I completed a Bachelors Degree in Christian Studies from St Stephen's University. Presently I am enrolled at UNISA preparing for a Masters Degree in Old Testament Theology.

I developed this teaching platform, Biynah, from where I wish to share my passion for God's Word with students who wish to learn to understand the Bible better. I believe getting to know God through His Word is a life long journey  engaging with the Bible and many other historical texts.

The aim for studying the Bible is to uncover the true meaning of human life in God's Kingdom on earth here and now. The is the central message of the Bible and Jesus’ ministry.

I am married to Kobus, a true gift from God. We love spending time together and with our two young adult daughters. Besides studying, I enjoy different crafts, traveling, gardening, playing piano, keyboard, and entertaining friends. I believe everything we do is part of human life in God's kingdom, which can be enjoyed and should be done to the glory of God.