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Carta's Illustrated History of Jerusalem Paperback – January 10, 2006
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- Publisher : Abm Komers; 2nd edition (January 10, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 408 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9652206636
- ISBN-13 : 978-9652206633
- Item Weight : 1.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.61 x 9.09 x 0.98 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,723,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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While Ben-Dov's work is so good that my evangelical Christian college uses it in their graduate curriculum for Jerusalem studies, a few unmistakable prejudices should be addressed, and that is the aim of this review.
To begin: Disappointing in particular is Ben-Dov's treatment of two figures: Herod the Great and Jesus "son of Joseph" (Jesus Christ).
First, in his treatment of Herod the Great, Ben-Dov offers praise with no small degree of ferocity. He speaks glowingly of Herod, praising him as a leader and visionary. Yet, Caesar Augustus said of Herod the Great, that he'd rather be his pig than related to him, since Herod murdered his wives, even his sons, but only partially practiced Judaism when politics demanded - which also had to do with Herod's choice of a Hasmonean wife, since as an Idumean Herod was not accepted fully by his Jewish constituents. It seems Ben-Dov is to be faulted for his passion about Jerusalem and her former days of great glory and beauty, and his treatment of Herod would not merit much scholarly credibility (neither, as we will see below, does his treatment of Jesus of Nazareth). The reader searches in vain for a single negative statement about Herod in his many pages of treatment, only glowing meditation on his building campaigns. This seems too unreasonable. To teach that Herod was "a gifted ruler who administered his foreign and security policy wisely and was also successful in the economic sphere," is probably not how Herod's constituents would regard him, the man that ordered the killing of others while on his deathbed, according to Josephus, so that the world would be forced to mourn the day of his passing.
Secondly, while freely quoting from the Hebrew scriptures, Josephus, and other works of historical significance throughout his work, in his treatment of Jesus "son of Joseph" (Jesus Christ) Ben-Dov will not grant a single work witnessing to him, whether Christian or otherwise. This was somewhat disappointing, even considering Ben-Dov's Jewish interests. I fully anticipated more level treatment, particularly after reading the Preface which showed reasonable sensitivity toward all interested religions in Jerusalem. Josephus, more than once, mentions Jesus, and in positive light. As do numerous other sources outside Scripture. However, despite Ben-Dov quoting historians frequently, he treats Christianity in the isolated plane of his own historical understanding, and is simply content labeling Christianity a tradition, granting no rational basis for its foundation.
And this is his historical understanding of Jesus: Ben-Dov connects Jesus with insurrectionist activities in Galilee. Since Galileans were considered inferior by Jerusalem's aristocratic and ruling elites, they were given to thuggish tactics. While this is obviously opposed to Christian Orthodoxy, it is at least an academic pursuit into the life of Christ, and more than one scholar has tread that path. But these political interpretations always fail for a number of reasons, which I cannot hope to address here. So Ben-Dov's full portrait of Jesus is as a Jewish charismatic reformer shrouded in a culture of insurrectionist activity, whose disciples heralded as the Messiah in order to effect change in the corrupt ruling elites. Nowhere mentioned is Jesus' preaching of the kingdom of God, or his moral commandments, or distinguished ethical teaching, considered by most NT scholars to be the main thrust of Jesus' teaching.
Ben-Dov further claims early Christianity was mostly pagan (i.e. not Jewish). But the book of Acts reveals a thoroughly Jewish makeup of the church, virtually all the way through - and so much so that the church has to come together for counsel to discuss events relating to a single gentile's baptism into the church. Although Acts is a Christian resource, Suetonius, a Roman historian, reveals that the Jews in Rome were expelled for skirmishing about "Chrestus," considered by most scholars to be a reference to the Christ. This further evidences Christianity as a fuller expression of Judaism.
Further, Ben-Dov inaccurately calls Jerusalem "the center of Jesus' activity," which is a blunder. Jesus traveled all over, mostly in Galilee, and in Judea but outside of Jerusalem. The truth is really the opposite -- Jerusalem was the city Christ spent the least amount of his time in.
Although, kindly, Ben-Dov does grant some integrity to one or two of Christianity's traditional sites in Jerusalem.
In closing, it must be remembered that the book merits a high regard for its archaeological value, layout, and general knowledge of a vast and complex history. The sketches and maps are numerous and very helpful. The translation work is clear and accessible. The book is certainly useful, no doubt why my college chose it. But his poor handling of Christianity without any form of impartiality was surprising when juxtaposed to the fairer sections on Judaism and Islam. I could be mistaken but frequently throughout the volume I detected some degree of angst toward Christianity. In some places, and within the scope of only a page or two, Christian occupiers of Jerusalem were vilified and their architectural achievements ignored, but Arabian conquerors, given to the same tactics of the Dark Ages, were -- strangely -- praised, and their mosques and other structures warmly reflected upon. And this seemed to be a pattern all the way through, although there were times he could be critical of Islam.
But he knows Jerusalem like the back of his hand -- four stars.
Ben-Dov has brought comprehensive knowledge to the project. If you want one book that will give you an understanding of the history and geography of the city of Jerusalem, this is it.
Top reviews from other countries
It is basically a history of Jerusalem as it says on the cover.
It lacks authority; it just doesn't sound right and very lightweight.
Some of his comments raised eyebrows and cry out to be challenged: would David had named Solomon after a false god, for instance? Was the threshing floor of Araunah really a temple to a false god? How do we know that Araunah was the last king of Jebus? There does seemed to be a bit of an anti-Bible bias coming through.
Having said that, there were some interesting and informative comments etc. The thing that redeems this book are its illustrations, though some are dire and pointless. The reproduction of some is poor. Nevertheless, some are quite good.
To be honest, I would not bother to read it. It gains three stars - and that is perhaps being generous - simply on the strength of some of its illustrations.