Bar-Ilan University Renews Massive Open Online Bible Course

Dr. Nili Samet, Lecturer in Shamir Bible Department of Bar-Ilan University

This week a popular Bar-Ilan University Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Bible returns to the world stage.

Offered by the Zalman Shamir Department of Bible, The Bible in Light of the Ancient Near East is an introduction to the Bible set against the background of the rich archaeological findings from the Ancient Near East. The goal of the nine-week course is to introduce students to the fascinating world of Israel’s neighboring civilizations in biblical times, and to offer a comparative study that examines the relationship between the Bible and these civilizations.

The nine-week course will also provide a new understanding of the ancient Near Eastern context of such central biblical themes and genres as creation traditions, flood stories, the Tower of Babel story, law literature, prophecy and wisdom. The professionally-produced course combines videos filmed at the British Museum, images of many relevant findings, and a variety of online activities.

Since first being offered a year-and-a-half ago, 6,000 students from around the world have taken the course. Among them: ten participants from Egypt, four from Iran, three from Saudi Arabia and seven from Iraq.

The MOOC is taught by Dr. Nili Samet, who teaches Bible and Assyriology in the Shamir Bible Department. A member of the Bar-Ilan faculty since 2011, her research interests include the study of the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern context, Biblical and Mesopotamian Wisdom and Lamentation literature, Sumerian language and culture, and Biblical Hebrew. Dr. Samet has received numerous honors, including the Alon Fellowship for Outstanding Young Researchers and the Harry Starr Fellowship at Harvard University.

The course was produced as part of an innovative program of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, together with Digital Israel, as part of the effort to make Israeli academia accessible to the interested public around the world. It is presented via edX, an online learning and MOOC provider founded by Harvard University and MIT that offers high-quality courses from the world’s leading universities and institutions to learners around the globe. The Zalman Shamir Department of Bible at Bar-Ilan University is the largest of its kind in the world devoted to the study of the Hebrew Bible.

This article was written by Hanna Levi Julian and published in the JewishPress.

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