Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication [TTC Video]
03 May 2016, 17:33
Course No 6593 | MKV, AVC, 710x480 | AAC, 64 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 7.33GB
In the first centuries after Christ, there was no "official" New Testament. Instead, early Christians read and fervently followed a wide variety of Scriptures—many more than we have today.
Relying on these writings, Christians held beliefs that today would be considered bizarre. Some believed that there were two, 12, or as many as 30 gods. Some thought that a malicious deity, rather than the true God, created the world. Some maintained that Christ's death and resurrection had nothing to do with salvation while others insisted that Christ never really died at all.
What did these "other" Scriptures say? Do they exist today? How could such outlandish ideas ever be considered Christian? If such beliefs were once common, why do they no longer exist? These are just a few of the many provocative questions that arise from Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication.
The Struggle Within Christianity
"This is a highly educational trip into the confusion that often existed in the early church and how the church moved from there to the point of a consistent creed," writes Harold McFarland, editor of Midwest Book Review. Professor Bart D. Ehrman, who has recorded The Historical Jesus and The New Testament for The Teaching Company, returns to lend his expert guidance as you follow scholars' efforts to recover knowledge of early Christian groups that lost the struggle for converts, and simply disappeared.
This course focuses on the remarkable fact that many of the struggles of early Christians were not against pagans or other nonbelievers but against other Christians. Professor Ehrman will introduce you to these groups.
The Ebionites were Jewish Christians who followed Jewish laws but accepted Jesus as the Messiah without believing he was divine.
The Marcionites rejected Judaism completely to the extent that they believed that the God of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus were two separate Gods.
And the Gnostics believed that there was one true God but that there were also many other deities. In addition, they thought salvation came not from Christ's death and resurrection but from secret knowledge, or gnosis, of who one really was, where one came from, and how one could return to the heavenly home.
Surprising "Other" Gospels, and a Remarkable Archaeological Find
The fascinating heart of this course is its exploration of the Scriptures that were read and considered authoritative by these Christian sects. Many now are either known or believed to be "pseudepigrapha"—forgeries written in the names of famous apostles.
Whatever their origins, these documents can be viewed as lost versions of the New Testament. They provide a fascinating opportunity to study little known and sometimes controversial Scriptures that might have become part of the Bible.
The Gnostic Gospel of Truth is one of the most powerful and moving expositions of the joy of salvation to survive from Christian antiquity. Ironically, its views are diametrically opposed to those that dominate Christian belief today.
The Infancy Gospels, such as the Proto-Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, describe events leading up to Jesus' birth and during his young childhood. Scholars are unsure whether they were meant to be taken seriously or merely served as entertaining fictions about a period of Christ's life for which other Scriptures provide little or no information.
The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, unlike the book of Acts that is in the New Testament, focus on the lives and exploits of individual apostles. They provide legendary, imaginative, and entertaining accounts of the activities of Jesus' closest followers.
Among the Scriptures you will study are two that have gained a measure of notoriety. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas is the one Gospel outside the New Testament that has caused the greatest stir among scholars and public alike. Purporting to be written by the twin brother of Jesus, it consists of 114 secret sayings of Jesus that are the keys to eternal life.
Could this be related to the sources from which the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written? Or is it a Gnostic Scripture that was drafted later? Professor Ehrman weighs in with his and other scholars' best guesses.
Even more tantalizing, perhaps, is The Secret Gospel of Mark. Evidence for this remarkable document—a possible second Gospel by Mark, written specifically for the spiritual elite—was discovered by a highly respected authority on Christian antiquity, Morton Smith.
Smith's discovery may truly be an astonishing find. Then again, it may be an amazing feat of forgery. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the letter has been locked away in a library in Jerusalem and is unavailable for analysis by other scholars.
In these lectures you will also hear about a remarkable archaeological event: the discovery in 1945 of a treasure trove of missing Gnostic Scriptures at Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian village near the city of Luxor.
Consisting of 13 leather-bound volumes unearthed in an ancient grave by Bedouin camel drivers (the full story, which you will hear, resembles the plot of a bestselling adventure novel), the Nag Hammadi Library, as it came to be known, was a watershed event in the search for lost Christianities.
It proved to be an invaluable collection of original writings by Gnostic Christians. Scholars had known many of these only through references in written attacks against the Gnostics by such church fathers as Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 200) and Hippolytus of Rome (c. A.D. 200). As you will discover, the library verified much that had been known about Gnosticism but also revealed significant misconceptions.
Are There Forgeries in the New Testament?
But: If all of these Christian Scriptures existed, how was the New Testament we now know put together and approved?
Who decided which books should be included? On what grounds?
How do we know that those who selected the final books got it right? If many of these writings were forgeries, how can we be sure that forgeries weren't included in the New Testament?
These are questions that naturally arise from the search for lost Christianities, and which make it such a new and appealing subject to study.
30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World [TTC Video]
02 May 2016, 05:31
Course No 7820 | WMV, 2000 kbps, 640x360 | WMA, 128 kbps | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 15.31GB
When people think of the masterpieces of art, painters such as Gauguin or Picasso might spring to mind. But thousands of years before these modern masters put brush to canvas, artists from all over the ancient world, from France to Egypt to South America, created a trove of masterpieces—artwork stunning for its opulence, its realism, its utility, and its visual drama.
Art is one of the highest forms of human expression, and studying the history of ancient art, as with studying later works, gives us a way to more fully understand ourselves today. A comparative look at the masterpieces of the ancient world reveals a marvelous diversity of styles, themes, subjects, and media, but it also offers us a glimpse of the universal truths and values of humanity across the ages. Even among radically different cultures, you still see common themes—including expressions of rulership, fertility, and religion and spirituality.
30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World offers you what few art history courses do, even in our top universities—a broad and comprehensive survey of art in the ancient world. Over the course of 36 fascinating lectures, Professor Diana Krumholz McDonald, an expert in ancient art history and an esteemed lecturer and scholar, takes you on a grand journey around the world to see some of the greatest works of art ever created and to explore the cultures that made them. Whether it’s a textbook standard or a little-known gem, this is art with a purpose, created not for art’s sake, but with a clear function in mind. You’ll delight in learning about such works as
- the realistic paintings inside the caves of Chauvet, France;
- the Uruk Vase and the development of narrative art in Mesopotamia;
- the erotic and terrifying “Queen of the Night” relief from ancient Babylon;
- the treasures from King Tut’s tomb and other Egyptian wonders;
- the mesmerizing and expressive sculpture “Laocoön”;
- the ancient relics and monuments to the Buddha in India and Java; and
- the colossal Olmec heads with their extraordinary emotional power.
Along the way, Professor McDonald is an able guide who brings these masterpieces to life with stories, insights, and interpretations that will open an entire new world for you.
Many Cultures, Universal Truths
The beauty of 30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World is that it takes you all around the globe, from Europe and the Middle East to Asia and the Americas. You’ll revisit familiar cultural touchstones, such as the Greek Olympic Games or the Roman Republic, and you’ll encounter unfamiliar—even terrifying—rituals such as human sacrifice in the mysterious Aztec and Moche societies. The artwork these cultures produced ranges from decorative earspools to massive architectural wonders, from skillfully woven textiles and masterfully wrought pottery to stunningly expressive sculptures and paintings.
For all this variety, though, common themes emerge and connect us in our shared humanity—not merely among ancient societies, but between the ancients and our world today. In this extraordinary journey, you’ll encounter breathtaking paintings, sculptures, reliefs, textiles, and architectural triumphs from around the globe and created across thousands of years, and you’ll study what binds them together—and the lessons they offer us today.
Survival & Fertility: Nothing else matters if our basic needs are not met. It makes sense, then, that so much artistic expression in the ancient world focuses on our security. Masterpieces such as these highlight the importance of this theme throughout the ancient world:
- “Ram Caught in a Thicket,” from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, highlights fertility of the land, which is necessary for human survival.
- Aphrodite of Knidos, the first female nude sculpture, shows reverence for the goddess of sexual love and fertility in ancient Greece.
- Chinese bronze vessels were used for ritual sacrifices to communicate with ancestral spirits and secure their protection and generosity.
Dominance, Rulership, & Warfare: How does a king control his kingdom? Visual propaganda is a nearly universal way for rulers to inspire devotion and intimidate potential threats, both from within and without. For example:
- In Mesopotamia, the Standard of Ur shows two complementary sides of kingship—warrior and provider. Rulers must defend and provide for their people.
- In Persia, the Achaemenid kings built grand cities such as Persepolis as expressions of their power.
- In Rome, the Column of Trajan tells a story of Roman warfare, with Trajan as the towering conqueror.
Religion & Spirituality: So much art through the ages has focused on the soul and the afterlife, and ancient societies were the first to develop and cultivate this spiritual approach. Not only does ancient artwork affirm our common humanity, but masterpieces such as these provide an important glimpse into the cultures that created them:
- The grand Egyptian tombs and funerary rites were a way for kings—including the famous Tutankhamun—to achieve immortality.
- The Great Stupa at Sanchi supposedly houses some of the ashes of the Buddha. Pilgrims came from far and wide to pay their respects and, in the process, learned the path toward an enlightened life.
- On his sarcophagus, the Maya king Pakal the Great was portrayed as the reborn maize god, an important key to understanding the myths and religion of the Maya.
What Makes a Masterpiece?
Size. Technique. Beauty. Complexity. Whatever your criteria, the objects you’ll study in this course are some of the world’s truly great masterpieces. Professor McDonald gives you an overview of the cultural context of these works and explains what makes each piece important, outstanding, and beautiful. Each masterpiece has a story to tell, and this course is your key for uncovering these stories. How did each piece function in its culture? What can it tell us about the people of its time and place? Why does the piece matter to us today?
Some of the works you’ll study are easily recognizable—for instance, King Tut’s mask, the Parthenon, and the Aztec calendar stone. But others are strange and enigmatic. For each masterpiece, Professor McDonald provides you with the necessary context and unlocks the hidden story behind each object. She also delves into the techniques employed by some of the greatest artists of all time to help you understand the art’s creation and to enhance your appreciation. Among other things, you’ll learn about
- verisimilitude in 30,000-year-old cave paintings, which challenges us to rethink our notion of “primitive” art;
- the optical illusions built into the architecture of the Mesopotamian ziggurats;
- contrapposto, torsion, and the development of motion in Greek sculpture; and
- the astounding skill and labor behind the Andean textiles.
One of the most interesting features you’ll discover about ancient art is the development of abstraction in ancient Andean art. Today we think of abstraction as modern, as a 20th-century phenomenon, but in the early centuries of the Common Era, the Andean civilizations painted abstract designs on their pottery and wove abstract geometric shapes in their textiles.
The Perfect Guide for a Comparative Course
Perhaps no other course offers you such a wide and deep survey of ancient art. And Professor McDonald is the ideal art historian to take us on this journey around the world. As a specialist in ancient art history and as one who lived in Southeast Asia and has traveled around the world, she has personally seen the objects she describes, and she is able to pepper her stories with personal examples that bring the material to life. What’s more, she draws surprising connections between objects created independently by cultures on opposite sides of the world. And the stunning works of art in the course, along with 3-D reconstructions and the professor’s demonstrations, enhance your aesthetic appreciation.
This course is such a rare treat—the chance to reflect on such questions as, How did ancient people live and survive? What drives our impulse to create art? Why do these objects resonate so strongly with us over thousands of years? With striking visuals and a sense of excitement in every lecture, 30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World is a powerful testament to the power of art in the human experience.
Classical Mythology [TTC Video]
18 April 2016, 02:15
Course No 243 | AVI, XviD, 560x416 | MP3@128 kbps | 24x30 mins | 2.25GB
From Athena to Zeus, the characters and stories of classical mythology have been both unforgettable and profoundly influential. They have inspired and shaped everything from great art and literature, to our notions of sexuality and gender roles, to the themes of popular films and TV shows.
Classical Mythology is an introduction to the primary characters and most important stories of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Among those you will study are the accounts of the creation of the world in Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses; the gods Zeus, Apollo, Demeter, Persephone, Hermes, Dionysos, and Aphrodite; the Greek Heroes, Theseus and Heracles (Hercules in the Roman version); and the most famous of all classical myths, the Trojan War.
How Should We Study Mythology?
Professor Elizabeth Vandiver anchors her presentation in some basics. What is a myth? Which societies use myths? What are some of the problems inherent in studying classical mythology? She also discusses the most influential 19th- and 20th-century thinking about myth's nature and function, including the psychological theories of Freud and Jung and the metaphysical approach of Joseph Campbell.
You consider the relationship between mythology and culture. What are the implications of the myth of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades—as recounted in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter—for the Greek view of life and death, marriage and gender roles?
What are the origins of classical mythology? Professor Vandiver examines similarities between the Theogony and Mesopotamian creation myths and considers the possible influences that the prehistoric Greek cultures, the Minoans and Mycenaeans, may have had on classical mythology.
She also cautions you about the dangers of probing for distant origins. For example, there is little evidence, as many today believe, that a prehistoric "mother goddess" lies at the heart of mythology. This notion may simply be wishful thinking—a modern myth about ancient myth.
In addition, Professor Vandiver explores the challenges we face in studying mythology—which is rooted in oral tradition and pre-literate society—through the literary works that recount them. How do we disentangle the original myth from its portrayal in Aeschylus's The Oresteia, or Sophocles's Oedipus the King? The more renowned the author, the more difficult this task becomes.
From the "Truth" of the Minotaur to Ovid's Impact on Shakespeare
Professor Vandiver's approach makes classical mythology fresh, absorbing, and often surprising. The many such topics you will consider include:
- The fact that most scholars see significant flaws in the work of Joseph Campbell, one of the best-known and most popular theorists of myth. They believe he makes a variety of assumptions—that myth has a spiritual meaning, or that certain narrative elements are the same in all cultures—that he fails to support, or that are highly questionable.
- The differences between the classical notion of the gods and our concepts of what gods, or God, should be. The ancient gods did not create the universe or earth, were not omniscient or omnipotent, were not consistently good, and did not even care much about humanity.
- The absence of a well-defined belief in the afterlife in Greek mythology and religion. In general, it was the opposite of what we believe: both less important and less pleasant than this life.
- The small kernel of truth, as represented in the "bull-leaping" fresco of Knossos, that may lie at the heart of the myth of the Minotaur, the half-man, half bull-like monster.
- Chronological inconsistencies in mythology. For example, in the story of Theseus, characters interact who in other stories did not even live at the same time.
- The way various mythological depictions of females—the Amazons, the myth of Medea, and such monsters as Medusa and Scyllare—present Greek males' anxiety about women's power, particularly their sexual power. This theme is embodied in Medea's name, which means both "genitals" and "clever plans."
- The Romans' near wholesale "borrowing" of Greek mythology, in the context of their ambivalent view of Greek culture. They considered the Greeks to be better artists, poets, and rhetoricians than they were, but also saw them as decadent, "soft," and treacherous.
- The extensive influence of Ovid's Metamorphoses on the works of William Shakespeare. Because of this relationship, Ovid has had an incalculable effect on English literature.
In her final lecture, Professor Vandiver surveys aspects of the enormous influence that classical mythology has had, and still exerts, on Western Civilization. She offers her opinions as to why this is the case. She also demonstrates that the ancient gods, monsters, and heroes are very much alive and active today in contemporary beliefs in UFOs and visits from extraterrestrials and in popular entertainment such as Star Trek and films such as the Road Warrior and the Terminatorseries.