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History of the Jews [Paperback]

Paul Johnson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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History of the Jews History of the Jews 4.4 out of 5 stars (18)
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Book Description

9 Nov 1998

In this critically acclaimed book, Paul Johnson delves deep into the 4,000-year history of the Jews: a race of awe-inspiring endurance, steadfast homogeneity and loyalty and, above all, the belief that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.

With exacting precision and enthusiasm, Paul Johnson has mapped the lives of these people from their early ancestors in the House of David, through great periods of creativity and enterprise, alienation in the ghettos, Adolf Hitler's obsession to obliterate the race, up until the present day.

This book is a powerful argument about the nature of Jewish genius, its strengths and contradictions, which brilliantly presents the entire Jewish phenomenon. It makes incisive though-provoking sense of the whole.

Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (9 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753805391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753805398
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,250,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A 4000-year history from the House of David until the 1980’s. Johnson’s enthusiasm and industry are, as usual, prodigious -- Sunday Times

Magisterial and eloquent -- Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A classic study of the Jews by a best selling author.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book definitely opened my eyes as to the deep and full history of the Jewish people. For the non-Jew, it was a very moving and disturbing book. It traces the development of the Jewish nation, from Abraham to Menachim Begin. What struck me most was the immensity of the tragedies that have followed the Jews throughout history, from the Diaspora to Hitler. Johnson details their story with sympathy, but not without noting their failings as well. I found it superb and I highly recommend it. It changed my view on Jewish history and the Jewish people completely.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As an Orthodox Jew, an "insider", I was absolutely (and positively) amazed to see an "outsider", like Mr. Johnson, penetrate through the layers of confusion and misunderstandings and really "gets it". In the words of Rabbi Berel Wein (a contemporary Jewish historian), "Mr. Johnson did a much better job than many secular Jewish historians". There are many things I disagree with in this book but more often then not I found myself nodding in agreement and underlining key sentences. All this is my commentary on the CONTENTS of the book, when it comes to lucidity, choice of words and philosophical depth, well... Brilliant is putting it mildly. This book is a must-read for Jews and non-Jews alike!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best single volume history available 16 Jan 2014
Paul Johnson has once again attempted a daunting task, and succeeded. Having previously read other comprehensive studies of Jewish history, this is the far superior comprehensive study on the market.
The opening chapter, Israelites, follows the Biblical narrative of the founders of the Hebrew nation, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon, and then later, at the time of Isaiah, the narrative changes from when the descendants of Abraham became known as Jews, rather than Israelites.
The chapters Cathedocracy and Ghetto follow the story of the Jewish people after the fall of Jerusalem and their attempts to find place in European society. What follows is the story of various expulsions, ranging from the 1492 expulsion from Spain, the persecution under the Spanish Inquisition, and how the general fortunes of the Jewish people could change intermittently, as their rights under their hosts could often be (and were) revoked.
The chapter Emancipation is a general study of Jewish progress in the modern era, with the various Jewish intellectual achievements of the age, such as Freud and Marx (though Johnson makes no attempt to hide his critical attitude toward Marx) and the various Jewish leaders and politicians of the age. Although Theodore Herzl is examined very well, perhaps more background on the founder of modern Zionism could have been given, though the work is more about the movement, rather than the individuals.
A particular strength of Johnson's study is the chapter Holocaust. While this may be very familiar ground for any student of modern history, Johnson has at least covered new ground for this reader. Johnson approaches the infamous crime with a particular question, why did it happen in Germany, the most educated and advanced country in the world?
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference and enjoyable read. 5 Aug 1998
By A Customer
Exceptionally well written and accessible. How does anyone encapsulate 4000 years of history - Johnson has managed it. At times provocative while still remaining informative. It's take on the early Christian era is distincly Judaic and for this period I would suggest refering to the compelling "THE Autobiography of Jesus of Nazareth..." by Richard Patton which stands outside Judaic AND Christian politics. For all that "A history of the Jews" is precisely that and answers many questions both for the Jew and Gentile. The more people can know about each others cultures, the less aggression there will be and this book is a prime example of the need for inter-cultural communication.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page-turner 26 Feb 1997
By A Customer
Historical surveys are usually anything but fascinating; Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews breaks the mold. Using an active voice and an upbeat pacing that lets you linger without getting stuck, this 600-page tome is a must-read for most people.
Indeed, all 1.2 billion Christians in the world and all 900 million Muslims owe their religious existence to Judaism, the first religion to pray to one god; the first religion to set up rules governing ethical and moral behavior; and the oldest organized and recorded religion in the world.
Most important, the book reviews in detail the persistent persecution Jews have suffered throughout history, without becoming emotionally overwrought. There's no need to. Persecution of the Jews has typically been so boldly sinister--whether it's the massacres of 1648, the Russian pogroms of the 19th century, or "The Final Solution" of the Holocaust--that the descriptions of these acts need no embellishment to highlight their horror.
If there's one message to take away from this book it is If such injustices can be perpetrated against the Jews, they can happen to any of us at any time. It rests in us--not laws, not government--to remain vigilant against hatred.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Catholic Guilt? 21 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul Johnson is nothing but thorough in his massive and well researched history of the Jews. Though he is clear and at pains to show the truth about Jewish history and to praise Jews throughout for their contributions to the world, one cannot escape the lack of 'mea culpa' in the Catholic role of persecution - he is after all, a leading Catholic writer. He also avoids Geza Vermes' conclusion that Jesus and his followers were indeed wholly Jewish, and not some self-appointed Messiah cult. It was Paul who created the fatal schism between followers of Jesus (Joshua, to give him his right name) and the more traditional Jewish disciples who took part in the events of his life and death. All the Gospels accepted by the Church were written by Paul's followers well after his split with the Jews, and became increasingly anti-Jewish after the First Revolt against Rome. That Johnson is ignorant of these facts is simply not possible.

With these caveats, I doubt anyone, Jew or Gentile, would not learn a great deal from this one volume. I know I did. Johnson is intelligent, clear eyed, and creates some wonderful insights into the facts. That Israel today is riven by the same tensions between the worldly (Saul) and the religious (Samuel)is one bold and largely true insight. Johnson is clearly full of praise for the Jews throughout, though he is not sparing in his adept analysis of Jewish self-hatred, as seen in Marx and many other characters. This is due to the astonishing persecution throughout the ages, and the internal fight between the worldly and religious. There is much to think about here and reflect.

Johnson is also unsparing about his views of tormented Israel and the role of the Arabs, Soviet Union and oil money in creating a topsy-turvy image of Zionism as racism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A1
It's so long ago that I can't remember whether I've rated it before not. It's so long ago that I can't remember whether I've rated it before not.
Published 5 months ago by R. D. Cutts
5.0 out of 5 stars 5000 years of history
It took me a year to read this and I am glad I did. I am a much more informed jewish person as a result! It starts slowly but comes to a momentous climax! Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. R. C. Golten
2.0 out of 5 stars Lies, Damn lies and statistics
Seems to me this is a classic case of the historian deciding what the truth is then seeking out only the facts and implications that support that proposition.
Published 18 months ago by P. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good work.
This book does not cover everything - but then no work on such a vast topic can.

What Paul Johnson does cover he does very well - both on history, and on theology,... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Paul Marks
4.0 out of 5 stars A FULL HISTORY
I have not finished reading this big ,all embracing, book but so far it promises what I wanted; a comprehensive review of Jewish history going to back to year one. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by lemon lloyd
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tribute to the Children of Israel
This review is dedicated to the Jewish Nation, reborn as a sovereign people, in the Land of Israel.
In this work Johnson undertakes a comprehensive study of the Jewish people... Read more
Published on 10 April 2012 by Gary Selikow
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly appreciated by both philo and anti-Semites
Paul Johnson is an overt philo-Semite in the book. A very useful attitude when writing a history of the Jews! Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2011 by Bogdan Hagiu
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragic history of God's people
In this magisterial work, Johnson chronicles the long and bitter path of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham. Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2005 by Pieter Uys
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragic history of God�s people
In this magisterial work, Johnson chronicles the long and bitter path of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham. Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2005 by Pieter Uys
1.0 out of 5 stars I wanted history, not polemic.
I was seeking a thorough and impartial history of the Jews and this was the wrong book. The author repeatedly states opinion as fact as he praises the Israelites and denigrates... Read more
Published on 11 July 1999
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