Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World [TTC Video]

Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World [TTC Video]
Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World [TTC Video] by Glenn S Holland
Course No 6340 | AVI, XviD, 640x432 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 48x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.02GB

How did people of ancient times cope with the overwhelming mysteries of the universe? The cycles of nature kept predictable time with the sun, moon, and stars; yet, without warning, crops failed, diseases struck, storms wreaked havoc, and empires fell.

In the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, they responded with a rich variety of religious beliefs that have provided some of Western civilization's most powerful texts: the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, the Greek epics of Homer, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and the New Testament, among many others. Composed largely of stories of human interaction with the divine, these narratives gave ordinary people a window into the unfathomable realm of the sacred.

People also responded with a complex array of religious rituals that survive in the archaeological remains of temples, cultic statues, funerary goods, and household devotional items—artifacts that are among the world's greatest cultural treasures.

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.

You will be introduced to religious traditions of a range of civilizations, including the ancient kingdom of Egypt; Mesopotamia; Syria-Palestine, including Israel and Judah; Minoan civilization on the island of Crete and the successive civilizations of the Greek mainland; and the city of Rome, whose empire dominated the Mediterranean world.

Ancient Roots of Our Culture

These civilizations provided the source of much of our own religious heritage, and each gave rise to a remarkable body of stories, beliefs, and traditions that have had wide-ranging and sometimes surprising influences. For example:

  • The Egyptian goddess Isis came closer to becoming the central deity of a worldwide religion than any other traditional god or goddess of the ancient Mediterranean world. In Christianity, Jesus' mother Mary was credited with many of the beneficent qualities of Isis, particularly mercy, and the special intercessory role for those who were her devotees.
  • The chief god of the Syro-Palestinian pantheon was 'El. In time his name became the generic word for any god. Many biblical names reflect this change, such as the Hebrew name Michael, which translates as one "who is like God."
  • Roman imperial soldiers were especially devoted to the god Mithras, who was born on December 25, the same date that later tradition assigned to the birth of Jesus. According to some accounts, Mithras was also born in the presence of shepherds.
  • Perhaps the best-known example of cross-cultural influence among ancient religions is an account of a devastating flood. It appears in the celebrated story of Noah in the Hebrew Bible, and also in Mesopotamian and Greek versions. Notably, in all these accounts, the survivors' first impulse after making landfall is to offer worship.

A Believer's Viewpoint

A distinguished professor of religious studies at Allegheny College, Dr. Holland brings both a historian's and a literary critic's perspective to this fascinating subject. His emphasis is not only on the rituals and mythology of a civilization's official religious culture, but also on the beliefs, practices, and yearnings of the common person. Professor Holland analyzes literary works as a way of seeing a religious culture from the inside, from a believer's point of view.

The course is presented in four parts of 12 lectures each:

Part I introduces the subject and addresses the fundamental question, "What is religion?" Professor Holland traces the development of religious practices from the earliest evidence in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras into the Neolithic era, the age that saw the beginnings of the first great Near Eastern civilizations. The first of these civilizations to be considered is Egypt.

Part II moves on to religious culture in ancient Mesopotamia, especially in the cities of Sumer and Babylon, and later Ashur and Nineveh. The concluding four lectures in this part introduce the religious cultures of Syria-Palestine, focusing on the Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Part III continues the study of religious culture in ancient Israel and Judah with lectures on prophecy, the Babylonian exile, and the problem of evil. Professor Holland then shifts to the study of Greek religious cultures, beginning with Minoan civilization on Crete and moving to the civilizations of Mycenae and Athens, as well as the Hellenistic culture established in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Part IV opens with a lecture on mystery religions of the East and introduces the study of Roman religion. This final part culminates with the Jesus movement and the eventual triumph of Christianity over traditional Roman religion. The concluding lecture considers the ways religious cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world are most foreign to our own, and the ways they have expressed the enduring religious yearnings of all humanity.

The Triumph of Monotheism

One recurring theme of the course is the contest among the three conceptions of the nature of the divine world:

  • Polytheism: In polytheistic religious cultures such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, innumerable gods are organized into a divine hierarchy, and each god is identified with a particular realm of concern. These gods interact much as human beings do, and are under the power of an impersonal force such as Fate.
  • Henotheism: A henotheistic system worships one god, usually a national god committed to its people's protection, although other gods are believed to exist. The worship of the Lord in Israel began as a henotheistic culture, based on a covenant by which Israel accepted the Lord as the only god Israel would serve and worship.
  • Monotheism: A monotheistic system accepts a single god, in complete control of the cosmos the god created, who is the absolute moral arbiter over creation and who is morally perfect.

Although monotheism is a sophisticated theological position, it is by no means a natural one. It runs counter both to the experience of nature and to society. Nature seems to reflect a combination of powers, some benevolent and some hostile, while human society requires an elaborate hierarchy of participants.

Nonetheless, monotheism has an inherent appeal that eventually prevailed over polytheistic religious cultures in the Mediterranean world. Why? Professor Holland sees several reasons, among them:

  • Traditional polytheistic religious cultures are limited because they envision the divine world on a human model.
  • The hierarchical arrangement of divinities in polytheism unavoidably directs attention to a relatively few major gods.
  • It is natural to wonder whether the gods care about individual worshipers.
  • Mediterranean religious culture ultimately demanded a single god as both divine patron and moral arbiter.

The ancient Mediterranean world experienced gradual change over the course of many centuries. The triumph of monotheism was slow in coming but profound in its impact because it offered a new relationship with the divine for most worshipers.

A monotheistic deity requires not only ritual worship, but also correct moral behavior. That single god oversees every aspect of life, and therefore every aspect of life becomes sacred. This concern with moral behavior and proper worship of a single god was offered by the Jesus movement and then later by Christianity.

Professor Holland also uses comparisons among the religious cultures to reveal what is unique about each, and which ideas, practices, and aspirations appear to be typical of all human religious communities.

Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World [TTC Video]

The Catholic Church: A History [TTC Video]

The Catholic Church: A History [TTC Video]
The Catholic Church: A History [TTC Video] by William R Cook
Course No 6640 | AVI, XviD, 656x432 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | 5.28GB

The Catholic Church. It began as a small band of supporters following the teachings of an itinerant preacher in an outpost of the Roman Empire. From there, the church expanded both its size and its importance in the grand scheme of Western history. Consider that the Catholic Church

  • steered Western civilization through historical events such as the fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and the Reformation;
  • influenced the political ideas and actions of powerful leaders in a variety of European nations;
  • made deep contributions to the Western philosophical tradition through the works of religious philosophers such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas;
  • funded and inspired the creation of fantastic works of religious art and literature, such as northern Europe's Gothic cathedrals, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, and Dante's Divine Comedy;
  • and much more.

Today, the church is the oldest continuously active organization on Earth and one of the most influential institutions in the world—a force capable of moving armies, inspiring saints, and shaping the lives of a billion members.

But how did this powerful institution develop out of the early church community—a loosely associated group of disciples who were inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus? Why do today's Catholics worship the way they do? How has this institution influenced world history far beyond the walls of its churches and monasteries?

In The Catholic Church: A History, you'll explore these and other questions as you follow the development of this important institution in 36 informative, fascinating lectures. With noted historian and Professor William R. Cook as your guide, you'll step into the world of the early church, hear tales of the martyrdom of the first Christian saints, witness the spread of Christendom across Europe, and learn about the origins of fundamental church institutions.

For Catholics, it's an enlightening and inspirational tale that deepens the meaning of faith. But the story is equally compelling for those outside the church. The history of the Catholic Church informs all Christian faiths, providing fascinating insights into the origins and development of a wide array of practices and beliefs.

The course also provides a unique and illuminating perspective on world history and politics as viewed through the lens of Catholic history. Throughout the course, Professor Cook delineates how broader historical events affected the development of the church, as well as how the church itself influenced the movement of history. Indeed, no understanding of Western civilization is complete without an understanding of this remarkable institution.

The Church from Ancient Times to Modern Days

Your journey begins as you travel back to the first years of the church, when Jesus's disciples and their many followers developed communities of faith where their beliefs flourished. Guided by Professor Cook, you delve into crucial early church documents, such as the letters of Paul, and gain an intriguing glimpse into the lives of these early believers.

From there, you'll witness the development and spread of this nascent religion into the far reaches of the Roman Empire and throughout the world. This comprehensive survey is an epic story that covers crucial developments in church history:

  • The formation and eventual unification of the early church
  • The conversion of the Roman Empire to Catholicism
  • The schism between the Roman faith and the Greek Orthodox Church
  • The flowering of monasteries across Europe
  • The Reformation, in which theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin questioned and eventually broke with the Catholic Church
  • The spread of Catholicism outside Europe by missionaries who accompanied explorers in the New World

As you explore this rich history, you also examine the place of the Catholic Church on the world stage. From the impact of the Christian Crusades on the development of international banking to the momentous struggles between monarchs of Europe and the medieval popes to the reforms of Vatican II, you see how the Catholic Church has played an integral role in world events, both shaping and responding to large-scale trends and developments.

The Many Faces of Catholicism

As you delve into this fascinating saga, you quickly see that the Catholic Church—"one holy catholic and apostolic Church," as it is called in the Nicene Creed, a key doctrine of the faith—actually takes many forms.

Beginning in the early centuries of the church, you trace the many variations of worship and belief that evolved as Christianity spread all over the Mediterranean. You encounter the Ebionites, who retained their Jewish customs and incorporated them into their Christian observances, as well as the Marcionites, who completely rejected Judaism and embraced an offshoot faith that replaced monotheism with a belief in twin gods of good and evil.

As church history progresses, you see how these and other forms of Christianity came into conflict again and again about the true faith, leading to the many councils and decrees that sought to unify the faith. You learn, for example, about how one of the fundamental beliefs of Catholicism—the idea that Jesus is both human and divine—was once a hotly debated topic, leading in the 4th and 5th centuries to councils that established beliefs that are the foundation of the church today.

You also witness how Catholic practice and faith have been transformed by the cultures and peoples it has touched. For example, you see how

  • missionaries made Christianity more acceptable to Germanic tribes in early medieval Europe by adapting local practices, such as the use of holy water, and by rechristening pagan holidays as Catholic saints' days;
  • the early Irish church had little contact with the rest of Europe, and so it developed its own practices, including a different date for Easter and a deeper emphasis on monasticism;
  • Christianity persisted in Japan despite widespread persecution, and these "secret" Japanese Christians developed their own canonical texts drawn from dimly recalled biblical stories, hymns, and liturgical practices blended with elements of Japanese culture and Buddhism.

Surprising Insights into the Catholic Church

As you review this fascinating history, you gain new insights into Catholicism and learn things about the Catholic Church you never expected—even if you're a lifelong member.

For example, you see how today's Catholic Church includes alternative forms of worship found in the often overlooked Eastern Catholic churches of eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India. You learn how these churches—while fully in communion with Rome—practice the faith in ways that are often surprising to mainstream Catholics, including the option of marriage for clergy and widely varying practices for presenting and sharing the bread and wine for communion.

You explore how today's Catholic Church differs from the faith of the original apostles and trace how the accepted doctrines of today's church were the result of long, passionate, and theologically complex debates.

Along the way, you encounter surprising facts and intriguing stories that bring this history to vivid life. For example, did you know:

  • The first Christians were all Jews, and there were debates as to whether Gentile followers had to convert to Judaism.
  • For the first centuries of the church, there was no single, accepted text for Christianity. Different communities adopted and often produced their own versions of scripture. It wasn't until A.D. 367 that the list of books we know as the New Testament was first recorded.
  • In the year 1046, there were three competing popes, each claiming authority over the church, and from 1309 to 1378, the pope resided not in Rome but in Avignon, France.
  • Although most people think of the early centuries of the church as a time of martyrdom, it has been estimated that the 20th century has seen more Catholic martyrs than any other century.

A Unique Perspective on Western History

In telling the story of the Catholic Church, Professor Cook offers more than simply a history of an important institution. Through his comprehensive approach and insightful analysis, Professor Cook deepens your understanding of the flow of events in the history of Western civilization as it was shaped by this one supremely influential organization.

With his expertise in European history generally, and especially in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation, Professor Cook offers a perspective that is informative and objective. A noted scholar and historian, he brings an unparalleled intellectual rigor to his presentation, balanced by a deep appreciation of the church's legacy and impact.

As you join him on this epic journey through Catholic history, you'll experience how this small gathering of faithful grew and changed in about three centuries to become one of the most powerful forces on the world stage—the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

The Catholic Church: A History [TTC Video]

The History of Science: 1700-1900 [TTC Video]

The History of Science: 1700-1900 [TTC Video]
The History of Science: 1700-1900 [TTC Video] by Frederick Gregory
Course No 1210 | AVI, AVC, 640x480 | AC3, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.08GB

In the period 1700-1900, kings and empires rose and fell, but science conquered all, taking the world by storm. Yet, as the 1700s began, the mysteries of the universe were pondered by "natural philosophers"—the term "scientist" didn't even exist until the mid 19th century—whose explanations couldn't help but be influenced by the religious thought and political and social contexts that shaped their world.

The radical ideas of the Enlightenment were especially important and influential. In this course you see how the work of these natural philosophers prepared the way for the more familiar world of science we recognize today.

Understand Two Centuries of Scientific Discoveries from an Unusually Qualified Professor

To navigate this complex a mix of social factors and scientific knowledge requires a teacher of very specialized background. Trained as both a mathematician and seminarian before receiving his doctorate as a scholar of scientific history, Professor Frederick Gregory brings an unusually apt perspective to the era covered by this course. It was a time when the Church's influences on science were often profound.

Dr. Gregory has organized the course around six main themes:

  • inquiries into the history of the cosmos
  • investigations into the realm of living things
  • the largely successful attempt to break away from occult explanations of chemical phenomena
  • the contrasting persistence of occult appeals in explaining natural phenomena
  • the proliferation of the number and kind of physical forces discovered and investigated, thereby opening up broad vistas for the future
  • the recurring theme of the relationship of God to nature.

In moving back and forth across two centuries, the lectures touch on many of the scientific disciplines we know today, including chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, paleontology, and others. And they often cover in detail famous experiments and discoveries in areas as divergent as electromagnetism, fossil analysis, and medicine.

Beyond Einstein: Familiar Names, and Some Surprises, Too

You will find names that leap out as familiar, like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, Max Planck, Antoine Lavoisier, and Albert Einstein.

And you'll meet some of the greatest names in the histories of non-scientific disciplines. These include thinkers as diverse as Immanuel Kant, Johann von Goethe, Herbert Spencer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Paine, to name but a few. All of them entered the fray to leave their mark on the annals of scientific inquiry.

But you'll also learn about others within this fledgling scientific community whom you may never have encountered before. Do you know about Nicolas Malebranche ... Jakob Moleschott ... Robert Chambers ... Abraham Werner ... William Whewell ... or a remarkable woman named Mary Somerville?

Though perhaps less familiar than the scientific minds with whom we have grown up, their roles in the developing history of science were equally important.

The Interaction of Science and Society

The discussions of scientific principles always show how science developed and how scientific inquiry influenced, and was influenced by, the culture of which it was a part. Any discussion of such influence, of course, must take into account the impact of religion.

The Church's precepts played a role in investigations in almost every area of natural science, from the mechanical laws that governed the behavior of the universe and the bodies within it to the debate over God's role in embryonic development.

You'll even learn about a ferocious debate over the possibility of extra-terrestrial life that had its roots in the 13th century.

The debate—which Professor Gregory dubs "The Extra-Terrestrial Life Fiasco"—ultimately involved Thomas Aquinas, the papacy (more than once), Thomas Paine, and the Master of Cambridge University's Trinity College.

Captivating Portraits of an Era and Its People

The debate is just one of many episodes that amplify the themes of the course and are simply fascinating in their own right, conveying a vivid portrait of an era and the people who helped shape it.

You'll learn how:

  • the already raging firestorm over the possibility of evolution led Darwin to delay publishing his own findings
  • the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was involved in coining the term, "scientist"
  • the self-educated daughter of a British naval officer became a major scientific authority in Victorian Britain.

This course will give you a multi-disciplined picture of science in its historical context as it explores the ideas that took the world by storm.

Beyond that obvious benefit, it will also allow you to enjoy a provocative and nuanced look into an era of excitement and exploration, as scientific thought changed and adapted to accommodate a radically changing world.

This history of science series beginning in the 18th century works very well on its own, and is also designed to follow chronologically from Professor Lawrence M. Principe's 36-lecture course on the history of the foundations of science, The History of Science: Antiquity to 1700.

The History of Science: 1700-1900 [TTC Video]

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