- Paperback: 656 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st US edition (September 14, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060915331
- ISBN-13: 978-0060915339
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 262 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
A History of the Jews Paperback – September 14, 1988
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Paul Johnson says that writing A History of the Jews was like writing a history of the world "seen from the viewpoint of a learned and intelligent victim." Johnson's history begins with the Bible and ends with the establishment of the State of Israel. Throughout, Johnson's history is driven by a philosophical interest: "The Jews," he writes, "stand right at the centre of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a purpose. Does their own history suggest that such attempts are worth making? Or does it reveal their essential futility?" Johnson's history is lucid, thorough, and--as one would expect of almost any project with such a broad scope--a little wrong-headed. By the end of the book, readers will be grateful for Johnson's questioning of the Jews' confidence in their cosmic significance. However, readers may also be a little annoyed by his energetic inquiries as to whether this significance was man-made or providentially provided. Either way, it's a given: for a historian of Israel, this should adequately settle the question. Johnson's 600-page history is probably the best we've got by a living gentile--which is no small accomplishment at all. --Michael Joseph Gross
"A marvelous book . . . This is history: richly textured, provocative and wise." -- -- The Plain Dealer
"A tour de force...A remarkable achievement." -- -- Aruthur Hertzberg, The New York Times Book Review
"An absorbing, provocativem well-writen, often moving book, an insightful and impassioned blend of history and myth, story and interpretation." -- -- Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor
"An extraordinary amount of useful information." -- -- New York Review of Books
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 80%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I have a point of disagreement with the author. He describes in Jesus' life a point where Jesus "stopped being a Jew". I disagree. Jesus never stopped considering himself a Jew. This thinking occurred well after his death, and is something many educated Christians reject. They acknowledge Jesus' Jewishness.
comics, and many brilliant physicians, to name a few areas where the Jewish people excelled through hard word and belief in their own genius and talents. Highly recommended author and topic.
There were 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide as of 2010. Jews number 13.5 million at this juncture, but a major thesis of this work is precisely that what has always been a tiny religious community numerically has exerted influence far beyond its numbers. One reason, of course, is that all three traditions look to Abraham as a type of father in faith. A more nuanced reason is that the identities of Christianity and Islam have been [and continue to be] shaped by Jewish example, in ways that both are reluctant to acknowledge and have at times actually fought to suppress.
Johnson explains the demographics of the Middle East that produced Abraham, a historical being whose unique insight into the all powerful and single nature of one supreme deity begot the dominant structure of faith for much of the world. His brief analysis of the Hebrew Scripture canon is brilliant, and he underscores two critical points usually overlooked. The first is his observation that the "Diaspora" or scattering of the Jews began much earlier than the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It began, in fact, in 538 B.C.E when Cyrus released the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. Not everyone went home, and many went elsewhere to cultivate a synagogue model of faith life instead of the temple/priesthood.
Why this division? The answer rests in Johnson's analysis of Isaiah, specifically the third portion or "Trito-Isaiah" written during and after the Babylonian exile. Isaiah, in this treatment, becomes the father of the modern individual conscience. Practically speaking, Trito-Isaiah marked the end of kingly political identity and priestly power. The observance of the Torah or Law was no longer "everybody's responsibility" but became "my responsibility." Such a theology inspired "The Suffering Servant" [Isaiah 53] and the consequent belief that exemplary holiness and humility was Israel's gift toward which the world would eventually come and receive. [Isaiah 60, proclaimed in Christian Churches on the Feast of the Epiphany]
The destruction of Jerusalem finally rendered the Jewish people to a state of absolute homelessness that in many ways survives to this day. As people of the Book, Jews maintained throughout their history a religious cosmology that made isolation a virtue as they maintained small community/synagogue based life around much of the known world. Pagans, as a rule, saw Jewish separateness as a type of snobbery that invited antagonism. The enmity of Christians was of a different sort, the hatred of men for those who were who were once dear brothers and shared a common faith bloodline.
Johnson observes that Jews have had to live at the whim or mercy of local or regional governments, which of necessity facilitated the skill of accommodation and the ability to transfer belongings quickly in the face of persecution and exile, often in the form of jewelry, precious metals, and later in cash and commodities; hence the association of Jews with "money changing." Thus the genesis of slurs of dissembling and money-lending took root, among countless others. Always a numerical and religious minority, and cursed in the Christian scriptures, so to speak, Jews became convenient scapegoats during times of plagues and disasters. With the notable exception of England, and later the American colonies, life for Jews was hard and demeaning. Johnson traces the development of the Jewish ghetto, the extreme segregation from Christian life in Europe's major cities.
Given its reverence of sacred books and orthodox commentary, Judaism was for much of its history unscientific and did not seek major philosophical exchanges with its neighbors. Only Moses Maimonides [1135-1204] attempted to engage Judaism in any sort of extracurricular dialogue. This isolation would be harder to maintain with the advent of the Enlightenment, which prompted the one true schism of Jewish theology: the struggle to maintain historical continuity and purity [the Orthodox way] versus the logic of dialogue and expansive exchange with the modern world [the Reformed way]. The eruption of Jewish genius into modern day business [e.g., the House of Rothschild] and scholarship [Leibniz, Marx, Freud, Einstein] was a mixed blessing for Jews, as anti-Semitic paranoia over supposed Jewish dominance fueled the European atmosphere for the horror of Hitler's Final Solution.
Despite his professional objectivity, Johnson himself marvels at the depth of personal faith in the countless victims of Nazi death camps. They died, he reports, in the confidence that their grim fates were in some mysterious way God's plan for his chosen ones to become that "light to the nations" proclaimed in Isaiah 60. The post-War response of intensified Zionism and the establishment of modern day Israel have created new sufferings for the Jewish conscience. Having lived for over two millennia as suffering servants, the demands of statehood and national security--including responsibility for an atomic arsenal--have sorely tested Isaiah's vision of faith with the previously discarded Davidic-Solomon paradigm of strength.
It is most unfortunate that present Arab-Israeli political conflicts have distracted outsiders from the majestic history of Jewish faith. In a curious way Jews have lived what Christians profess: Christ's model of the Suffering Servant bearing the sins of the world. Is it this embarrassing fact that has poisoned Christianity to the degree that as late as the 1960's the Catholic liturgy referred to Jews as "perfidious?" Is Christian-Jewish dialogue today a matter of redressing old wrongs, or a matter of Christianity finding itself?
What a profound and enlightening read this was! Other than the Bible this is the only history of the Jews I have read. Most of what I know about the Jews, outside of personal contact, is really from these two sources.
Johnson did a great job on this book. Like all his stuff it is well researched and presented in a way that any educated person can follow and comprehend. I would say his writing style is more informative than entertaining, but not dull. You may not agree with his points of view but they are always rational and presented with the facts to back them up.
But the topic is the Jews, and what a topic it is! If you have any interest in world history, political history, economic history, social history, or religious history, you really need to read a history of the Jews because they have been pioneers and prime movers in all of it for thousands of years! Johnson's account is a good one to turn to. He is a credited and respected historian and he is very readable without being condescending. Probably among the most enlightening books I have read, highly recommend it.