Item description for A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson...
Overview Spans four thousand years of Jewish history, detailing the Jews as a people, Judaism, Jewish ideas and culture, and Israel's history, providing a sweeping account of Jewish philosophy, history, ethics, and politics
Publishers Description A national bestseller, this brilliant 4000 year survey covers not only Jewish history but he impact of Jewish genius and imagination on the world. By the author of Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Eighties.
Citations And Professional Reviews A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 882
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1993 page 716
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1998 page 686
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 695
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More About Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson is the author of the bestselling books "Napoleon: A Penguin Life "and "Churchill, " among others. He writes a monthly column for "Forbes "and has also written for "The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, "and many other publications. He lives in London.
Reviews - What do customers think about A History of the Jews?
Disappointing..... Feb 10, 2008
This is a superbly written resource. No doubt about that. But that is really all it is. I'm not sure why Johnson bothered to write it. There is nothing new here. No insights that offer a clearer perspective on Jewish history. Its approach derives entirely from the mindset of the intellectual High Church establishment, so Paul Johnson is careful not to judge, not to offend, but also not to stick his neck out. As to the meaning behind the amazing Judaic phenomena - who knows what that is? This great historian apparently isn't concerned. But then again he is a professed "Christian" so maybe he feels the answers are self-evident.
Received expeditiously! Dec 7, 2007
The book arrived quickly and in excellent condition -- no damage in shipping. I Am delighted to add this to my personal reference library,and to recommend it as good resource material for the classes I teach.
A History of the Jews Sep 2, 2007
Paul Johnson's `History of the Jews' is a well written, entertaining, and informative 4000-year history of the Jewish people. Coming in at just under 600 pages, it is exhaustive, and thus an exhausting read. Johnson makes no secret of his deep admiration for the Jews-he is a Christian who feels religiously in debt to them-and thus the entire book is written from a highly philo-Semitic perspective. The book is arranged chronologically into the following seven sections:
Part One: Israelites Part Two: Judaism Part Three: Cathedocracy Part Four: Ghetto Part Five: Emancipation Part Six: Holocaust Part Seven: Zion
In the Prologue, Johnson writes; "At a very early stage in their collective existence they believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot. They worked out their role in immense detail. They clung to it with heroic persistence in the face of savage suffering. Many of them believe it still. Others transmuted it into Promethean endeavors to raise our condition by purely human means."
Now this seems to be an accurate appraisal of the essence of Judaism, and a worldview with which Johnson agrees. He clearly believes that the Jews are God's gift to mankind and they, the enlightened ones, are here to lead the gentiles along the path to righteousness. He believes the Jews hold a "special genius" that the rest of us apparently don't. He cites their numerous contributions throughout the ages, starting with the concept of ethical monotheism, and continuing on with an "endless continuum of patient study, fruitful industry" and an untiring commitment to bettering the human condition. Of course there is some truth to the Jew's consistent intellectual proficiency, but it should be obvious that this grandiose, self-appointed scheme is inherently antagonistic and thus anti-Semitism is an inevitable result.
Although Johnson tends to downplay it at times, the book documents how Jewish actions and attitudes have played a major part in anti-Semitism since ancient times. He describes how even the ancient Greeks and Egyptians had their share of anti-Semitism due to the aloofness and subversion of this peculiar people. Of course there are and always has been irrational extremists who take anti-Semitism to a different level, but as they say, there is (at least) a grain of truth in all stereotypes, and anti-Semitism is no different. I found Johnson's handling of the anti-Semitism topic to be somewhat puzzling though. On several occasions, he comes out and describes exactly how Jewish actions led to anti-Semitism, and then turns around and writes the anti-Semites off as irrational bigots. That being said, he does document some of the more irrational incarnations of anti-Semitism, most notably the superstitious variety of Christian medieval Europe. It seems to me that throughout the ages, anti-Semitism has been a turbulent mishmash of the rational and irrational, part natural reaction to Jewish behaviors, and part memetic superstition that is passed on from one generation to the next.
As he goes through the different time periods, Johnson creates mini biographies of some of the most prominent Jews throughout history. Abraham, Moses, Maimonides, Spinoza, Disraeli, Marx, and Rothschild-among others-are all covered. I found his take on Marx to be especially interesting. Johnson claims that Marx's anti-Semitism was the foundation of communism. Indeed, Marx was virulently anti-Semitic-a self-hating Jew if you will-and Johnson argues that it was Marx's association of Jews with bourgeois capitalism that led him to his desire to crush capitalistic society. Then in his typical paradoxical style, he admits that Marx was a typical Jew in the sense that he was rabbinical, messianic, and apocalyptic. Indeed, he admits that there is something inherent in the Jewish character that lends itself toward radical movements such as communism.
The remaining sections were generally very good, although he does engage in a fair amount of speculation, and at times comes across as very anti-Gentile. Especially when it comes to the Germans and the Holocaust, where his analysis seems to be along the line of Goldhagen, i.e. "The German people knew about and acquiesced in the genocide." Though when it comes to his people, the Brits, Johnson can't seem to refrain from telling the reader what a good friend to the Jews they have always been. I actually found this more amusing than anything, but I digress.
My criticisms aside, I did find this to be a very scholarly and enjoyable work. Although I took off a star for Johnson's tendentiousness, I can't deny that he is a great scholar and talented writer. This is a thorough and engrossing history of the Jewish people from ancient times until the present, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to Jew or Gentile alike.
A History of the Jews Jul 5, 2007
A History of the Jews is an excellent book to read and study. As a Christian it helps me to understand reading and studying the bible more clearly. I have always enjoyed history and I personally recommend this book.
entertaining but unreliable Mar 1, 2007
I managed to read less than a half and all the way I had very strong sensation the author is not really familiar with the subject, he is making mistakes very characteristic for non-professional, amateur attitude. As if he doesn't really care about adhering to the reliable sources because he's got some really interesting and important tale to tell.