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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent!
This is no mere rehashing of the history of Jerusalem. It dives into the very souls of all those who have possessed it. It is an intensely deep read; every paragraph leaves you with something to think about. This book is not for casual enjoyment. Some may question their own beliefs afterwards, others may have a light turn on, but for the truly intelligent this book will...
Published on February 19, 2011 by Brett Farrell

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was left a bit confused.
To begin my review, I would not recommend this book as a casual read OR as a history book on Jerusalem. There's an agenda here, but for the life of me I could not figure it out. I compare all writing on Jerusalem to Karen Armstrong's master work "Jerusalem" -- which I think is the definitive work on the history of the city. Carroll has written a good book and I DID...
Published on May 26, 2011 by Daniel B. Slocum


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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent!, February 19, 2011
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This is no mere rehashing of the history of Jerusalem. It dives into the very souls of all those who have possessed it. It is an intensely deep read; every paragraph leaves you with something to think about. This book is not for casual enjoyment. Some may question their own beliefs afterwards, others may have a light turn on, but for the truly intelligent this book will answer questions with more questions. This book has become a prize possession for me and I will not likely lend it lightly. It is not for the closed minded or the willfully blind.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly compelling, June 21, 2011
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I expected a dry history of Jerusalem. What I got exceeded my expectations. I am reminded of my favorite college history professor who lectured without notes, weaving a tapestry of the interconnected influences in Western Civilization. This author weaves a history of the idea of Jerusalem - what it has meant to Jews, Christians and Moslems - and how that idea influenced the world as we know it today with all its violence.

One may not agree with Carroll's thesis of sacred violence, but his presentation of evidence is compelling and thought-provoking. I admired the author's frankness about his own Christian point of view, yet he fiercely follows the logic of his thesis regardless. This book is dense with far-reaching ideas in every paragraph and one that you will want to read more than once. The author's explorations are wide-ranging, including the three monotheisms, world politics, psychology, nuclear weapons, not to mention the future of the planet itself. I highly recommend.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jerusalem, Jerusalem, May 17, 2011
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James Carroll is his remarkable best with this sobering, yet hopeful, book about how violence becomes interwoven in religion and politics. He uses the city of Jerusalem - the origin of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - to trace both literally and symbolically the flow of violence in the world even today.

He draws upon the insights of two men who have enriched our understanding of violence - Rene Girard and Gil Bailie. In particular, these two men have clarified the role of sacrificial killing and the role of the victim in recurring violence.

The sobering aspect of "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" brings home the reality that violence is escaping our control and threatening our human existence. The hopeful aspect of "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" is its call to wake up and change before it is too late.

The first step in waking up is to understand how heavenly Jerusalem defines our twenty-first century imagination. An understanding of James Carroll's insights provides this for its readers.

The book is not for the faint of heart!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Eternally Burning Crucible .., May 12, 2012
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James Carroll explores the past, present and future of the city of Jerusalem from the perspectives of religion and violence. He ties together ideas in a manner that few authors could match. His depth and breadth of knowledge is astonishing. This is a well researched book with multiple footnotes in each chapter that clarify and support the deep thoughts conveyed. Through serendipity, fate, or God's plan, all the major religions have a claim to the prime real estate in this Holy City. In ancient and present times, Jews, Muslims and Christians each had control over the city. James Carroll provides insights into how religion, sacrifice and violence are related. He starts from the beginning: from the hypothesis that life began from an explosion: the explosion of an atom, from a single point the universe has been expanding outward into infinity ever since, notice that this initial event itself is rather violent.

The paradox of violence is, that it is often used to justify and and explain its use to bring about peace. The author expands on this concept in myriads of ways pertaining to Jerusalem. Carrol tells us, ancient man went from finding food, to gathering, and then hunting and eventually killing both animals and each other. Human sacrifice became an acceptable ritual in religous rites, and then how animals became the substitute for human sacrifice and lastly, to the Christian concept that one human being, Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save all of mankind. John Carroll provides unique insights into human behavior, religion and the historical changes that have occured during different eras in the city of Jerusalem. It is very difficult to convey in a brief paragraph the cadence of words and ideas which John Carroll so eloquently describes which keeps the reader mesmerized and wanting to read more and more.

The Roman rule over Jerusalem and the havoc they wreaked, the historical changes brought about in the lives of Jews is explored. The author further describes the historical diaspora of Jews throughout Europe as time marched on. Especially insightful are his chapters on how Muslims came to rule Jerusalem and then how the Crusaders entered the scene and brought about entirely different results, but violence seemed to be the core behavior employed. Then again, at times peace prevailed. The importance of the Temple in Jerusalem to Jews and the Dome of the Rock to Islam is explained magnificently. John Carroll weaves together complex thoughts and ideas from the ancient past to the present including how there was a near nuclear Armagedon in 1973 in Israel when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria and Golda Meir gave the orders of the arming of the "Temple Weapons". Moscow was not going to sit on the sidelines and watch as the United States helped arm Israel to fight its attackers. The Soviet Union sent nuclear subs to the Meditarranean and it is now known, "Moscow had provided nuclear warheads for the Soviet Scud missle brigades stationed in Egypt" (page 283). It is also an amazing fete how John Carroll weaves into this most fascinating book, the history of the founding of the United States and even the American Civil War - all acts of violence which led to changes in the world and the presence of the United States on the world scene and the dispersal of the values for which it stands. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was left a bit confused., May 26, 2011
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To begin my review, I would not recommend this book as a casual read OR as a history book on Jerusalem. There's an agenda here, but for the life of me I could not figure it out. I compare all writing on Jerusalem to Karen Armstrong's master work "Jerusalem" -- which I think is the definitive work on the history of the city. Carroll has written a good book and I DID learn some new facts about the history of Jerusalem, but I would start with Armstrong's work and then read this for further study.

I've read some of the other reviews and I don't agree that this book is an anti-religious book, still I do not find the clear agenda. I think if, in a foreword or introduction, that had been explained, I would have enjoyed the experience much more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not light beach reading material, July 19, 2011
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I was fascinated by the history of Jerusalem in James Carrol's book and how he draws comparisons between the different faiths who call Jerusalem their Holy Land. This is not an easy book to get through, definately not light reading that one takes to the beach. But with a rich ancient history and Mr Carrol gets to the soul of the city. His book allowed me to understand more completely why this city is the source of such contention.
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46 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James Carroll Is Not a Secular Humanist!, March 11, 2011
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Before I bought a copy of James Carroll's new book JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM: HOW THE ANCIENT CITY IGNITED OUR MODERN WORLD (2011), I had read the customer review about it by K. Franklin of Minnesota. She is impatient with Carroll's critical views of religion. As a result, she characterizes him as a secularist humanist like Richard Dawkins. But Carroll is not a secular humanist. On the contrary, he is a theistic humanist. He claims to be a practicing Catholic and has even published a book titled PRACTICING CATHOLIC (2009).

In his new book Carroll discusses the history of the three monotheistic religions. The chapters are organized in roughly chronological order from ancient times down to the present time. As the title of the book suggests, he centers much of his discussion on the geographic place known as Jerusalem, on the one hand, and, on the other, on the idealization of Jerusalem. The idealization of Jerusalem can be found in ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic tradition about the end of the world as we know it. The idealization of Jerusalem can also be found in John Winthrop's famous expression about a city on a hill. As Carroll points out, Winthrop was echoing the Gospel of Matthew 5:14, where Jesus is portrayed as saying, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." As Carroll shows, the apocalyptic thought-world was alive and well in the Cold War.

Carroll interweaves memories and reflections about his own personal life-story into the larger narrative that he constructs. In other books Carroll has also interwoven autobiographical material into the larger narrative that he constructs, most notably in CONSTANTINE'S SWORD (2001) and HOUSE OF WAR (2006).In those two books and in his new book, Carroll is at times critical of the historical events that he is recounting.

I've heard it said that one's research is an I-search, a search for one's own personal identity. I've also heard it said that writing something involves the author in writing an autobiography, so that all written texts can be understood as the autobiography of the author. In these three books Carroll does both these things in a self-conscious and self-reflective way: He self-consciously writes an autobiography of the author as he searches for his own identity.

In a revealing passage Carroll says, "The prospect of nuclear war, felt as real and imminent as I came of age in the early 1960s, was my opening to the religious conviction that still defines me." Like Carroll, I also lived through the Cuban missile crisis, and like many other Americans my age and older, I have been keenly aware of the threat of possible nuclear war and annihilation. However, unlike Carroll, this awareness did not evoke in me a religious conviction, defining or otherwise. Nevertheless, I take him at his word when he says that the prospect of nuclear war did evoke in him the religious conviction that defines him to this day. The prospect of nuclear war impressed upon him the transience of this life and seemed to him to point beyond this life to the other life of the afterlife as envisioned in the Catholic tradition of thought.

Later on, with the help of books about the historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan and Paula Fredriksen, Carroll came to understand that the historical Jesus was preaching a message of non-violent resistance to the Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland. From this understanding of Jesus's commitment to non-violence, Carroll came to be more and more concerned about violence and about the apocalyptic thought-world that seems dedicated to violence, which is what he details in his new book.
As both Crossan and Fredriksen suggest, Pontius Pilate probably ordered the crucifixion of the historical Jesus at the time of the Passover festival in Jerusalem as a crowd control measure. In this view, the charge "King of the Jews" advertised the Roman empire's zero-tolerance policy regarding supposed kings around whom a rebellion might be staged. The charge was a way to mock both Jesus and any people in the crowd who might have staged a disturbance around him. In light of Pontius Pilate's track record for brutality, any disturbance at the Passover in Jerusalem would have resulted in armed soldiers killing a good number of unarmed Jews. Evidently, the crucifixion of Jesus served the purpose of preventing any disturbance. Crowd control.

However, over the decades after his crucifixion, the followers of Jesus reflected on his crucifixion and constructed an elaborate way of understanding it. They drew on hints about the Suffering Servant of God in Second Isaiah. Over the decades his followers came to understand his death as dying for the sins of the world. In this way they turned the story of his crucifixion into a story of sacred violence.

Crucifixion = violence.

Dying for the sins of the world = sacred violence.

Of course their story about his dying for the sins of the world also blasphemed God, because they imagined that God would require the death of Jesus as a sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the world.

If I were God, I would not be happy with those followers of Jesus who constructed this account about his dying for the sins of the world, because those storytellers are not making me (God) look real good. On the contrary, they made me look small and vindictive, instead of making me (God) look big and magnanimous. However, in the spirit of being big and magnanimous, I (God) might overlook their blasphemy against me. After all, they do not know what they are doing.

I (Thomas J. Farrell) have belabored this point to forewarn you that Carroll really is strongly critical of the ur-story of Christianity. For understandable reasons, Carroll stops well short of spelling out explicitly that Jesus did not die for the sins of the world. Instead, Carroll silently leaves it up to the readers to figure this out for themselves. In any event, his new book will probably not be everybody's cup of tea.

In any event, I am not entirely happy with Carroll's discussion of the sacrifice of animals by the ancient Hebrews. The slaughter of animals obviously involves violence toward the animals, because they are killed. In the ancient world both the monotheistic Hebrews and their polytheistic neighbors for miles around turned the slaughtering of animals for food into rituals to be performed by priests. Ancient people understood that they were taking an animal's life. Ancient people had such reverence for animal life that they felt compelled to turn the slaughtering of the animal into a ritual and to invoke their God or gods.

When meat-eating Americans today eat meat, how many of them ever give a thought about the animal whose life was given up so that they could eat this meat?

As is well known, ancient peoples also had ritual celebrations at the time of harvest, when living crops gave up their lives as they were harvested. In addition, ancient people, both monotheistic and polytheistic, had rituals performed by priests that involved crops, instead of animals. Those rituals conducted by priests were also referred to as sacrifices.

If you think that I am exaggerating the sense of life that ancient people had, then you may need to think again about this. Aristotle famously discusses how vegetative life has a vegetative soul (the Greek term he uses can be transliterated as "psuche" or "psyche"). He also thought that infra-human animals had an animal soul and that humans as rational animals had a rational soul. By soul, he means life-form or life-principle. If Aristotle's way of referring to the vegetative soul, the infra-human animal soul, and the rational soul of human animals sounds animistic to you, then his way of speaking sounds animistic to you.

But my point is that ancient people did sense that they themselves were living life-forms, that crops were living life-forms before they were harvested, and that infra-human animals were living life-forms before they died or were slaughtered by humans for meat to eat.

One common denominator in the various kinds of ancient harvest rituals and animal rituals that were referred to as sacrifices involved invoking God or the gods, usually with the assistance of a priest.

Have you ever read the Homeric epic known as the ILIAD? Do you remember how King Agamemnon famously offended the priest of the god Apollo? When Agamemnon at long last came to his senses, do you remember how Odysseus was dispatched with animals to make sacrifices to make amends for Agamemnon's offense? Those animals were not incinerated in their entirety. The animals were slaughtered and sacrificed to the god Apollo. But the edible parts of the animals were eaten as food. Odysseus and his men helped eat the edible parts of the sacrificed animals. The inedible parts of the animal were incinerated. However, at times, the choice cuts of edible meat from the animal were incinerated, sacrificed to the god(s).

Back to the invocation of God or the gods. Through the invocation of God or the gods, the people who participated in the ritual sacrifice of animals or crops joined in spirit with the priest who voiced the invocation. In this way the participants drew close to God or the gods. We Americans today still do this kind of thing in various ritual settings where we have an invocation to God.

Next step. This kind of voiced invocation where a group joins in spirit in the invocation can give the participants a sense of being joined together with God or the gods, and of being joined together with the other participants. Apart from invoking God or the gods, we can experience this kind of togetherness in a group sing-along. I belabor this point so that I can connect my way of understanding the ritual process of sacrifices in the ancient world with Carroll's way of referring to God (Carroll is clearly a monotheist).

Carroll connects the idea of experiencing God in this life with the experience of oneness, the experience of being one with God (and perhaps with other people as well). So think about what Carroll is saying. When I experience a sense of oneness with one other human person, I may also experience at the same time and for the same reason a sense of being one with God in this life. In the Christian tradition of thought, this kind of experience of oneness with another person has long been referred to as agape love. In the twentieth century the Jewish scholar Martin Buber famously referred to this kind of experience as an I-thou encounter.

Now, my understanding of the historical Jesus is that he was a local do-gooder who somehow managed to get himself crucified at the time of the Passover festival in Jerusalem. But he was not crucified for being a do-gooder. The Roman empire did not crucify people for being do-gooders. But he was crucified under the trumped-up of being "King of the Jews."

But I say he was a local do-gooder who excelled at what Buber refers to as I-thou encounters.

The historical Jesus excelled at I-thou encounters to such an extent that he was bringing Jews who were, figuratively speaking, stinking dead because they felt oppressed by the inroads of the Roman empire in their traditional way of life, back to life.

Following the crucifixion of Jesus, his followers who had been brought back to life as the result of I-thou encounters with him were able to maintain the extraordinary sense of life that they had experienced as a result of I-thou encounters with Jesus, and were able to transmit this extraordinary sense of life to new recruits through I-thou encounters with the new recruits. This kind of transmission of extraordinary life through I-thou encounters continued at least through the time when an anonymous author constructed the Gospel of John, which critical biblical scholars see as the last of the four canonical gospels to be constructed.

That's the good news. (Pun intended.)

The bad news is that the followers of Jesus fell into unresolvable arguments with their fellow Jews, which tragically carried over into sharp recriminations against their fellow Jews in the canonical gospels.

Neither the followers of Jesus nor their fellow Jews understood what Martin Buber understood and articulated in his famous book I AND THOU (1923). As a result, the followers of Jesus had enormous difficulty in explaining how they had come to develop the extraordinary sense of life that they were experiencing. To their fellow Jews who were not experiencing this extraordinary sense of life, the followers of Jesus were making outlandish and to them incomprehensible claims.

On the one hand, the followers of Jesus were able to transmit their extraordinary sense of life to new recruits through I-thou encounters.

On the other hand, the followers of Jesus were not able to transmit their extraordinary sense of life to many of their fellow Jews through I-thou encounters with them. Why not? Your guess is as good as mine.

In any event, the two groups fell into mutual recriminations against one another. As is well known, the followers of Jesus recorded some of their recriminations against their fellow Jews in the canonical gospels. From gospel passages that were probably written by Jewish followers of Jesus unfolded the tragic history of Christian anti-Semitism that Carroll wrote about in his book CONSTANTINE'S SWORD (2001).

As Carroll points out, through the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Roman Catholic Church issued a long-overdue official document exonerating the Jews of any collective guilt in the death of Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI recently received media coverage for repeating this long-overdue exoneration of the Jews for the death of Jesus.

In his new book Carroll centers his attention on how religious-type people have often invoked killing other people in God's name. This is part of what Carroll means by sacred violence (i.e., violence carried out in the name of God).

Instead of endorsing further examples of sacred violence, Carroll would prefer to see us humans endorse the principle of non-violence, as the historical Jesus in effect did. In theory, I would not object to endorsing the principle of non-violence. However, your guess is as good as mine as to how many Americans today might be willing to do this.

In his most recent book THE GREATEST PRAYER: REDISCOVERING THE REVOLUTIONARY MESSAGE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER (2010), Crossan suggests that one way to proceed to move from what Carroll refers to as sacred violence to a position of non-violence toward the world would be to understand the apocalyptic tradition of thought metaphorically, instead of understanding the imagery literally. In the literal interpretation of apocalyptic imagery, there will be a lot of dead people at the end-time, because God will decisively intervene and kill off all the unjust people in the world and establish justice in the world at long last. That would be sacred violence big time. But what if God really prefers non-violence?

But what if we were to understand apocalyptic imagery about the end-time metaphorically? We'd probably stop expecting to see the external world change. There are not suddenly going to be a lot of dead people around us. But a metaphorical understanding of the imagery would move the transformation away from the external world outside us to the internal world inside us.

In the imagery of the end-time, the end-time will involve heaven on earth, or earth on heaven. In plain English, the kingdom of God come on earth. If we were to understand this imagery metaphorically, then we would understand it as pointing to a transformation inside us, not to a transformation outside us.

The historical Jesus probably did experience a transformation of some kind. As a result of the transformation he probably experienced, we can think of his life before he had experienced the transformation and his life after he had experienced it. In short, his life before his active ministry began, and his life after his active ministry began. But what about the transformation? Was it a slow and gradual process, or was it startling and fast process? We do not know. The imagery of Paul's transformation on the road to Damascus appears at first blush to represent a fast and decisive transformation. But we are told that after the experience on the road to Damascus, Paul devoted a number of years to reflecting on the meaning of his experience before he started his active ministry.

In any event, it is safe to say that both James Carroll and John Dominic Crossan have devoted many years of their lives to reflecting on the meaning of Christian scripture and Western cultural history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars God, Glory, and Gore - the biography of sacred violence.”, June 13, 2013
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This review is from: Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World (Hardcover)
The author is an ordained Catholic priest and still a practicing Catholic from what I gather. His deep knowledge of Christianity, and religion in general, helped my understanding of the historical religious overtones that play such a major role in our political lives.

He has a sound grip of the facts, and I would say that he got them right 85% of the time, notwithstanding his perspective is well worth contemplating.

He writes really well, and the foot notes accompany each chapter are a treasure trove on their own right.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography of a very famous city, April 17, 2014
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fascinating work on this most famous city; the author knows his material and shows it from the city's early emergence to its present
status. Regardless of one's faith or lack of it, the book is worth reading to better understand its prominence today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING AND NECESSARY, January 15, 2013
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This review is from: Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World (Hardcover)
One of the jacket's reviewers made the comment that EVERYONE should have to read this, and I quite agree! Carroll is a consumate historian and an artist with the English language.
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Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World by James Carroll (Hardcover - March 9, 2011)
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