Harvard Bible edX Course ‘Early Christianity: The Letters Of Paul’ Draws 22,000 Students From 180 Countries– And Counting

Harvard professor Laura Nasrallah’s edX online course “Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul,” has been called the largest and most concentrated scholarly discussion of Biblical studies in history, according to edX.

Nasrallah told The Huffington Post via email, “The day the course launched was astonishing—like drinking from a fire hose. The edX discussion threads couldn’t handle the amount of people who were commenting, and crashed and slowed down. More people participated on Poetry Genius that day than ever before—the apostle Paul beat out Beyonce!”

edX is a massive online open course (MOOC) platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. It’s a non-profit that delivers university-level course material to a global audience for free. Harvard currently offers 21 courses through edX, and other universities with content on the platform include MIT, University of California Berkeley, McGill University, Rice University, Wellesley, Cornell University, Peking University, Caltech, IIT Bombay, The University of Hong Kong, and many more.

“Early Christianity” began just last week, and currently boasts a registration statistic of 22,000 students from 180 countries, according to information from edX. So far, 14,343 students have accessed the course software, spending a cumulative total of 2,822 hours in the course (approximately 201 days) where it’s possible to annotate text using the Poetry Genius website, view video lectures, and complete exercises. Forum activity has reached over 22,000 posts, and is increasing every day, while scores of students have recorded video introductions to get to know their far-flung classmates.

The course explores the content of Paul’s letters in the context of the Roman Empire, as well as the impact that they have on today’s world. According to the syllabus, “The letters of Paul are the earliest texts in the Christian scriptures, written by a Jew at a time when the word ‘Christian’ hadn’t yet been coined. What is the religious and political context into which they emerged? How were they first interpreted? How and why do they make such an enormous impact in Christian communities and in politics today?”

Nasrallah told The Huffington Post that she’s been impressed with the respectful and intelligent academic interaction going on in the discussion boards. “Religion in general and biblical studies in particular can lead to people feeling uncomfortable or upset at others’ opinions,” she said. “But I haven’t found this in the Early Christianity: Letters of Paul course module. For example, one ‘conversation’ I read was between a self-proclaimed atheist and someone who self-identified as a born-again Christian. . . and the discussion was thoughtful and respectful although they differed in interpretation!”

Along with Dr. Laura Nasrallah, four Harvard doctoral candidates make up the teaching staff for the course. How does such a small team address the needs of such a large student body? Nasrallah told The Huffington Post, “We respond as much as possible to individual comments and “conversations” between students on edX discussion threads, on Facebook, and on Poetry Genius, and we provide a weekly summary of trends and responses to questions. We are also beginning to provide a list and our commentary on exemplary posts or conversations, so that students have models.”

Though it’s possible to receive a certificate of completion for the course, it is not possible to receive credit from Harvard. Nonetheless, the intellectual challenge presented by “Letters of Paul,” completely without charge, is a valuable academic opportunity in and of itself.

38 thoughts on “Harvard Bible edX Course ‘Early Christianity: The Letters Of Paul’ Draws 22,000 Students From 180 Countries– And Counting

  1. “Nasrallah told The Huffington Post that she’s been impressed with the respectful and intelligent academic interaction going on in the discussion boards. …..the discussion was thoughtful and respectful although they differed in interpretation!”

    Sounds like Signposts.

  2. This TEACHER (and Course Team) get FIVE Stars ! It is a very hard course, with 20 Hours a week of HW, but also very rewarding. Highly recommended.

    Dr. Laura Nasrallah @ Harvard on ‘Letters of Paul’ (HDS 1544.1x)

    Harvard (EdX and Laura) offers a FREE college course on NT Epistles, Pauline Theology.  It’s multi-lingual, in English and Spanish, but it requires a good computer, a printer, and high-speed internet. A MOCC is available to anyone, anywhere, at any-time.  Her lectures are available 24×7, with five 9’s of uptime.  That’s at least 99.9 % of the time. The computer Gurus of Boston manage the delivery, Laura provides the content.

    Where did she come from ?  She’s a Harvard Professor, a solid teacher. She’s contributes to educational Free-ware, FREE instruction at the Click of a Mouse. If you reach Yahoo, you will be in her Lecture Room at Harvard. Then learn and enjoy.

    This course was Joy and fun. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you take this course, make sure you’re IN the first day or First week of class. If not, you can quickly fall behind. Stay caught up on your Homework. Don’t make her get that virtual ‘Wooden Ruler’ out of her Desk drawer !

    The student body in 1544 is superb. You study with Champions, industrial heavy-weights from every nation, every occupation. The older (and retired) students in class is a huge plus. Build your own network of elite advisors who have retired from nearly every occupation. What they Post in Chat Sessions is phenomenal. The international Flavor of this course is superb.

    Who is Laura Nasrallah ? 

    “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” of modern Distance Learning, higher education, and MOOC assemblies. Prof Nasrallah is the face of God’s international redeeming Love, speaking with the lips of Harvard, and the voice of Princeton. She does this in an exquisite and luxurious way. She’s delightful and entertaining.

    Laura has a Joy and enthusiasm sharing her Subject. She takes us 2,000 years back in time to the Publishing and Manufacturing (engineering) process of Letter Writing (and ideals) of the First Century. She includes lifestyles, Labor and Management, Philosophy, History, Marriage, and Religion. This truck load of blessings comes packaged in just one Lady Princeton Tiger. Roar !

    Laura dumps an ocean of rich wisdom into your lap. How can we use these insights into Wisdom, and Paul’s Jewish ethics of right and wrong, good and bad ? It can only be used in 4 parts of your Life. That is, in – Relationships (at home and at community); at work (a Career, Occupation), in Material Assets (Finance, Money), and Health (Healing, Wholeness, Holistic living). So, the application of what Laura presents can only change and transform your entire LIFE !

    The content. If you’re looking for some New Age, whacky, way out ideas – Stay away. She is straight edge, conservative, and charismatic in a refreshing way. She understands mainline denominations, and stays in the middle of the road. I was not disappointed. I expected to learn more about God, Life, marriage, health, and how to excel in the workplace. That’s what I got.

    Laura is an emerging Rock-Star in the (digital Gospel) MOOC format.  She’s a contemporary of authors and Televangelists like Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, Janet Parshall, and Mother Angelica.  They built on earlier success of- Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson, Anne Dutton, and Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Therese, St Catherine, Joan of Arc. 

    Jesus of Nazareth spent most of His life within a 100 Mile radius of Nazareth and Jerusalem. He wore a robe and sandals, taught face to face, and walked from Town to town. Dr. Laura relentlessly proclaims her message Non-stop, 24×7, around the world, as students Logon. Laura spreads the Good News around the clock at the speed of Light ! “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)

    If you’re hungry to discover what’s inside of your Bible, register and logon. If you want to be become strong and prosperous in every aspect of your life – Dive in !

    Donato en Saint Louis (HKN)

  3. She’s a contemporary of authors and Televangelists like Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, Janet Parshall, and Mother Angelica. They built on earlier success of- Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson, Anne Dutton, and Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Therese, St Catherine, Joan of Arc.

    Now there’s a collection of names.

    Joyce Meyer built on the success of St Therese, St Catherine and Joan of Arc? Really?

    Televangelists scour the countryside whipping up support not for a rebellion though. More to line their own coffers.

    Hopefully the lectures are better than the hubris in the that statement.

  4. For those of us scared off by comparing a serious scholar to Joyce Meyer

    Laura Nasrallah

    Laura Nasrallah, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity

    Nasrallah’s research and teaching bring together New Testament and early Christian literature with the archaeological remains of the Mediterranean world. She also investigates how these texts make an impact in religious communities and in politics today. Her books include An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity, Christian Responses to Roman Art and Architecture: The Second-Century Church Amid the Spaces of Empire, and two co-edited volumes, Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies and From Roman to Early Christian Thessalonikē: Studies in Religion and Archaeology. She’s currently at work on a commentary on 1 Corinthians and a book titled Archaeology and the Letters of Paul. Her awards include a Henry Luce III Fellowship in Theology and a fellowship from the American Association of University Women.

  5. For Centuries, in many churches, women were not allowed to teach. Even today, in churches around the world, women are not allowed to Teach or Preach. Think of the Arab states, in Africa, or Islam. So, the bravery, faith, and courage of all those women is great, not to be minimized.

  6. Joyce Meyer is doing outreach. She is thought-provoking, and makes people think and wonder about God and the Bible. Based on the comments above, she is doing just that. So, Joyce is achieving the success of her project, by being mentioned on this page, broadcast to the whole world.

  7. And she’s still asking for donations for her pocket, sorry, her ministry.

    She’s laughing all the way to the bank because of clowns like you.

    Give your money to ministries who actually need it and do something useful for the world.

    It’s a disgrace to mention televangelists in the same breath as the saints.

  8. I think Joyce’s testimony is great and she says lots of great stuff that helps people.

    But I will never understand how big charismatic ministries can justify such lavish spending and waste of money.

    I also don’t understand why people are asked to volunteer their time and give sacrificially when money is spent so ridiculously. If people are happy to give and volounteer and buy her books while understanding the salaries and moneys spent then that’s their business.
    But I just don’t understand it. Why anyone would spend so much on furniture etc is beyond me.

    And it amazes me that ministers can use money that way.


  9. Send your money to ministries that need it.

    Meyer doesn’t, she’ll just use your money to buy a painting, some jet fuel or electricity on one of her holiday houses.

    I think you should be ashamed for comparing Meyer to Joan of Arc.

    As for .Aimee Semple McPherson

    When will we ever learn?

  10. Aimee was an amazing woman.
    That song is trash and not worth listening to.

    There were a lot of controversies about her, but nothing conclusively proven.

    But even if she had an affair at one time as the song and some allege, what’s your point.

    Next will you sing hidee hidee hoo about David and Bathsheba?

    You’d have to be the most depressing nasty guy on the internet Bones.

    I don’t know how you put up with yourself.

  11. She certainly set the scene for the ones to follow her.

    A charlatan who lived opulently, staged her own disappearance and overdosed on sleeping tablets.

  12. The Truth and Reality (of what is being maligned above) can be found at these Hot links.


    Beth Moore at

    Kay Arthur at http://precept.org/

    Contemporary Authors with Prof Laura Nasrallah at http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.com/


    Janet Parshall at http://www.moodyradio.org/janetparshallcommentary/

    Beverly Lahaye at http://www.cwfa.org/

    Comely Blonde Bombshell and Cutie – Gloria Copeland at http://www.kcm.org/


    For the mocker (scoffer) above, there is a big shipment of LOVE on order to arrive at your doorstep any day now.

    Thanks for the sensational advertisement (Plug) for this great Women Bible Teachers who are reaching millions with the Gospel of love and grace.

  13. I find her a fascinating character. It’s true she lived opulently.
    Not everyone thinks she was a charlatan.
    The kidnapping story sounds suspicious, but in the end nothing was proven so I can’t say either way.
    As for the sleeping pills, that wasn’t ruled as a deliberate suicide, but even if it was I’m surprised you would attack her over that. Some people suffer bouts of depression. Her first husband died on the mission field and her third husband played around.

    There are many flawed people who make bad decisions. I’m one of them.

    But I think that song is just vivacious and unnecessary.

  14. She did some playing around as well.

    Nothing fascinating about her.

    Just another Kathyrn Kuhlman. Not quite sure why she didn’t make the list.

    These people who have supposed healing ministries are unable to heal themselves nor their families.

  15. What Bones implies is bad about Women of great Faith. Aimee was the Founder of the Four Square Church. She introduced MULTI-Media as a method of Evangelism, very effective. Now, colleges offer a College Major (degree) on Multi-Media. So, Aimee was 50 Years ahead of her time.

    Some people slandered and mocked John the Baptist, and then Jesus, out of envy and jealousy. But they were good, and the critics were wrong. So let it be known to the world that the materials published by Joyce Meyer are authentic, and edifying.

    To slam someone and criticize is negative, ugly. To lift up and edify takes work and deliberate effort. To anyone who slanders a Woman of Faith, there’s risk that you can blaspheme God, His servants, or the works done by them. Ascribing good deeds as bad can be labeled as Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The end of where those people go is mapped in Revelation Chapters 20-22. It’s also mentioned in the one Page Book called ‘the Slanderer,” or the “Transducer.” That one page is a summary of what the religions of the World think of slander. The mocker above shows she never met these people, nor the followers who were blessed (enriched) by their Gospel Ministry. If they did, they would not talk this way. I don’t have any close friends who are Jews or Muslims. Even so, they worship the God of Abraham. As a result, I have nothing bad to say about the God-fearing Jews and Muslims of the World. They fear the God of Abraham, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. So do Christians, and some Buddhists, and some Hindus.

  16. She introduced MULTI-Media as a method of Evangelism, very effective.

    Yep it’s her fault we have and have had Creflo Dollar, Swaggart, Oral Roberts, the Bakkers, Schuller pandering their wares on TV. You make it seem that producing crappy TV shows selling wares, cunningly disguised as Christianity, is a good thing.

    In Australia we’ve had real women of God who actually help the community without feathering their own nest like Saint Mary Mackillop or Caroline Chisholm.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber is the real deal.

    Read about her. What you see is what you get with her.

    And she actually pastors a church, instead of trying to be a celebrity.


    I’m surprised you didn’t include Mother Teresa, Kathryn Kuhlman or Paula White in your list.

  17. Slander is telling the truth (or some exaggeration) about someone in a way to make them look bad, or to embarrass them. To slander someone who is mute (or cannot defend themselves) is mean and cruel. To use slander or defamation of a church leader who has already passed is not good. From our Arab and Islamic neighbors around the world on such behavior.

    From the Holy Quran – Surat 104

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

    104:1  Woe to every slanderer, defamer !
    104:2  Who amasses wealth and counts it —
    104:3  He thinks that his wealth will make him abide.
    104:4  Nay, he will certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster;
    104:5  And what will make thee realize what the crushing disaster is ?
    104:6  It is the Fire kindled by Allah,
    104:7  Which rises over the hearts.
    104:8  Surely it is closed in on them,
    104:9  In extended columns.

    As opposed to those who are spoken of in the last chapter as believing, doing good and enjoining truth and patience, we have here a description of those who, instead of doing any permanent good, amass wealth, and instead of enjoining truth, slander others. Hence, the name of the Chapter (Al-Humazah, or) ‘The Slanderer,’ occurring in the first verse. One of the earliest revelations. The slanderers and defamers are condemned here with particular reference to the opponents, who started their persecution of the Holy servants. Just as goodness and patience are combined in the previous chapter as two qualities which are the foundations on which human character are built, the amassing of wealth and defaming others are combined here as the two evils which lead ultimately to disaster. I find this a good summary of (a Topic) that’s spread over 1,000 Pages in the Catholic Bible, in condensed form.

  18. Aaah the old I’ ll use a holy text to end debate trick.

    Ok so I’ve been condemned by the koran and the Bible for pointing out the obvious.

    Both books are more about humans and their wish for revenge then God.

  19. Besides televangelists are the equivalent of dodgy used car salesmen. Their product is defective and they rip you off.

    It is they who slander Christ.

  20. I think you’ve overstepped yourself Bones – not sure why you introduced ASMcP into the conversation – but this has nothing to do with the thread. Calm ya farm!

  21. “She did some playing around as well.”
    Well I don’t know if that’s been proven. But so did king David, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King.

    “Nothing fascinating about her.”
    Really? Most American historians find her very interesting and significant even if they disagree with her theology and believe the rumors. You can’t deny her place in American religious, media and women’s history.

    “These people who have supposed healing ministries are unable to heal themselves nor their families.”

    I believe that Peter and Paul healed the sick. I think there were probably people they prayed for who didn’t recover. I don’t know any healing evangelists who claim to be able to heal everyone. And we all die

    There are also teachers who can’t spell, psychiatrists with depression and flawed personalities, priests who molest, popes who fathered children, pop singers who sang about love and peace who hated people, and marriage experts who got divorced.

    Life’s interesting.

    If you want to say that certain people are bad you’ll find evidence.

    Write a scathing attack on mother Theresa while your at it.

    If you were at the crucifixion you would have had a great time mocking Jesus and his followers.

    You need to brighten up

  22. “For those of us scared off by comparing a serious scholar to Joyce Meyer”

    haha I don’t think many people think Joyce Meyer is a serious scholar. Joyce herself wouldn’t either.

    But she says some good things, and most of the things that most of us need to be better husbands, wives, employees etc are simple things like how to control your anger, and forgiving others. As a person who was molested for years by her own father, I think she has good stuff to say from a unique perspective

    But I’m like you. There is a lot of money going to her and family members, and it’s incredible to me. Though, I haven’t given her any money, and nobody is forcing anyone. Admission to her meetings is free.

    It’s remarkable that when I was a kid Australians used to accuse Billy Graham of being in it for the money.

    I think you should listen to her a little Bones. You could do it for free, and some of what she says would make you a much nicer person. Unless you really like being the Grouch on Signposts Street.

  23. Did a Bible study of hers once.

    For the life of us, none of us could get out of the verses the nonsense she did.

  24. RECONCILIATION OFFER from Latin / Hispanic Brothers to BONES

    First, I enjoyed some of Bones Posts, including Maria Skobstova. Thanks, Bones.

    2nd. I’d encourage you to take the FREE Course from Harvard, in one of 2 ways. Free to Audit, and just learn. No HW needed. Or, earn a Certificate from Harvard Edx if you do the HW.

    3rd, Many people in America feel like Bones on these issues. In some workplaces, 4 out of 5 people feel like Bones does. She’s expressing how many people feel on Religion.

    4th. The Oxymoron. FREE College courses at Princeton, Harvard ? Are there Soft-rocks, or Sanitary Landfills ? Earning a Cert from a MOOC Class requires accomplishing the HW sessions. Some schools use many Quizzes, or open book Exams. Other colleges use essays, or a lot of writing. I sympathize with Bones. Apparently, Bones may have been ripped off in the past. For the List of Modern Evangelists Noted above, they Publish TONS of new material every year. It was selling Books at one time. Now it is a CD or DVD package (for $29.95). So, let’s all say a prayer for Bones, to not be bitter.

    5th – On Oral Roberts, he published many Books, also built a solid (renown) Christian College, ORU. They’re making graduates, scholars, Teachers, Pastors. I work with someone who went to ORU. He says that place if Golden, no regrets for going there.

    6th. Bragging Rights in the MOOC, Free Ed Universe. I heard MIT put all of it’s classes FREE, online. But Cal Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford are attempting to do similar feats, posting FREE College courses online. What’s the result ? Competition ! So far, M.I.T. Leads the pack. In a couple years, there’s no telling what TOP 10 Colleges will Top the List. Since Harvard has jumped into the Ring, Harvard has some tricks of their own. How do they gain ? They get to BRAG – “We were here first.” That’s FREE advertising for them all over the world, especially to the Billions of smart people in India, Asia, and China, who end up there to earn a Master’s degree. Let’s have Peace, Bones. A Truce . . .

    PS – We respectfully agree to disagree.

  25. The more I read what was posted by Bones, the more I sympathize with Bones. They’re expressing the sadness of the Human experience, growing pains, disappointments in Life. In a sense, we have to pray for Bones, and love them. Why ? God made them, and loves them as much as anyone else. As much as Celebrities, Rock Stars, Brittany Spears, President Obama, etc . . .

  26. Yes. Come walk in my shoes.

    Feel what it’s like not to worship people or lift people up because of their bank balance.

    Good to see Beverley Lahaye follows her lunatic husband in promoting wholesome family values like attacking gays.

    Is there anything heroic about attacking homosexuals?

    To be free.

    I’m not quite sure what Joyce Meyer’s site has to do with this.

    The point of course is that these are all somehow women heroes of the faith.

    Well Meyer isn’t given that she couldn’t even prophecy her bodyguard was screwing around and was plotting his family’s death.

    Yet she can spot a migraine and sore back from 200m away.

    There’s nothing heroic about televangelists in the ilk of Paula White, Copeland, Kuhlman, Meyer.

    Prostitutes are more heroic.

    They don’t screw as many people out of their money.

    To say that the female equivalents of TD Jakes or Joel Oral Roberts are as heroic as Dietrich Bonhoeffer or MLK because they write books about the Bible and swindle people out of money is pretty stupid.

    That’s probably an American thing.

  27. Bones keeps talking about Money. The course Review of 1544.1x on Letters of Paul is not about making money or profit. It’s about the joy of life, the Spirit, abundant life, love, and hope. The course at Harvard is free, and worthwhile.

  28. Who keeps talking about money?

    Oh it’s the heroes of the faith.

    Let’s steal from the poor to finance my gold toilet.

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