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on 12 June 1998
Max Dimont's talent is comparable to that of the late Will Durant. He manages to give an accurate sketch of Judaic history with enough flavour to make it "come alive" for the non-historian. As a Jew, I found that Dimont the scholar is factual and respectful of the subject matter while adding much-needed levity in key moments. Highly recommended, especially for the bibliography.
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on 20 March 2014
I bought this mistakenly thinking that it would be a detailed and balanced assessment of the contribution that Jews have brought to world history. At one level it works - there are many genuine nuggets of real interest and insight to be unearthed between its pages. Unfortunately there is more than a little dross and a far from subtle bias with more than a few incredulous liberties taken with real history to try to support claims that just do not work. Overall a bit of a disappointment - the three stars are for the nugggets alone.
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This popular history of the Jewish people succeeds in bringing the four thousand year saga alive for the general reader. The author observes that even though the furniture of the West may be Greek, the house of Western civilization is Jewish. One of the questions examined in this book is: How did the Jewish people survive the disappearance of every civilization in which they lived? The following six eras are discussed in the Preface: the Pagan World, Greco-Roman civilization, Diaspora, Islam, European Middle Ages and the Modern Age. Dimont accepts the psychoanalytic, philosophical and existentialist interpretation of history that holds that ideas motivate mankind and shape history.

Part One: The Portable God, explores the age of paganism, the origin of the Hebrews and of monotheism and the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, until the coming of the Greeks and the clash of Greek and Hebrew culture. In Part Two: Age Of The Apikorsim, he looks at the survival of Jewish culture and religion under the Greeks, the Roman take-over of the land, the destruction of Jerusalem and the various Jewish revolts until the final banishment from the Holy Land.

Part 3: Moses, Christ and Caesar investigates the birth of Christianity as a Jewish sect, how the religions were separated during the aforementioned wars and revolts and the spread and ultimate triumph of Christianity in Europe. The next section, Invisible World Of The Talmud, explains how Judaism and Jewish identity were preserved in the diaspora by means of Talmudic learning.

In Part 5: Mohammed, Allah and Jehovah, the author covers the rise of Islam and the Arab expansion, the golden era of Jewish scholarship and the end of that period with the Mongol invasion of the Middle East and the Christian reconquest of Spain, whilst the following, The Prince And The Yellow Star, considers the Middle Ages, Crusades, Renaissance and Reformation. It also examines the role of the Jewish people in the feudal age and the origin of Kabalah.

Part 7: On The Horns Of Modern Isms, chronicles the emancipation from the ghetto to the enlightenment when Jews started occupying important positions and became intellectual leaders in Europe. This section looks at Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the United States, Nazism and finally, Zionism and the birth of the State of Israel. In the last part: Cultural Mosaic, Dimont attempts an historical explanation of the incredible survival of this miracle nation.

In his view, the first 2000 years represent that third of the Torah and Talmud which concerns priesthood and sacrifice that preserved the Hebrews from paganism. The second 2000 years had to do with that third of the Torah and Talmud that preserved ethnic identity through ritual while spreading Biblical ideas of humanism. He speculates that the last one third now remains, that part that deals with universal concepts of The justice, morality and ethics.

There is an extensive bibliography divided into various sections and an index. Although here and there certain observations in the text have become a little outdated since publication, Jews, God and History remains a magisterial work and a gripping read inhabited by fascinating ideas, personalities, events and historical facts. The style is engaging and accessible throughout. I also recommend A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson and WorldPerfect: The Jewish Impact on Civilization by Ken Spiro.
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This popular history of the Jewish people succeeds in bringing the four thousand year saga alive for the general reader. The author observes that even though the furniture of the West may be Greek, the house of Western civilization is Jewish. One of the questions examined in this book is: How did the Jewish people survive the disappearance of every civilization in which they lived? The following six eras are discussed in the Preface: the Pagan World, Greco-Roman civilization, Diaspora, Islam, European Middle Ages and the Modern Age. Dimont accepts the psychoanalytic, philosophical and existentialist interpretation of history that holds that ideas motivate mankind and shape history.

Part One: The Portable God, explores the age of paganism, the origin of the Hebrews and of monotheism and the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, until the coming of the Greeks and the clash of Greek and Hebrew culture. In Part Two: Age Of The Apikorsim, he looks at the survival of Jewish culture and religion under the Greeks, the Roman take-over of the land, the destruction of Jerusalem and the various Jewish revolts until the final banishment from the Holy Land.

Part 3: Moses, Christ and Caesar, investigates the birth of Christianity as a Jewish sect, how the religions were separated during the aforementioned wars and revolts and the spread and ultimate triumph of Christianity in Europe. The next section, Invisible World Of The Talmud, explains how Judaism and Jewish identity were preserved in the Diaspora by means of Talmudic learning.

In Part 5: Mohammed, Allah and Jehovah, the author covers the rise of Islam and the Arab expansion, the golden era of Jewish scholarship and the end of that period with the Mongol invasion of the Middle East and the Christian reconquest of Spain, whilst the following, The Prince And The Yellow Star, considers the Middle Ages, Crusades, Renaissance and Reformation. It also examines the role of the Jewish people in the feudal age and the origin of Kabalah.

Part 7: On The Horns Of Modern Isms, chronicles the emancipation from the ghetto to the enlightenment when Jews started occupying important positions and became intellectual leaders in Europe. This section looks at Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the United States, Nazism and finally, Zionism and the birth of the State of Israel. In the last part: Cultural Mosaic, Dimont attempts an historical explanation of the incredible survival of this miracle nation.

In his view, the first 2000 years represent that third of the Torah and Talmud which concerns priesthood and sacrifice that preserved the Hebrews from paganism. The second 2000 years had to do with that third of the Torah and Talmud that preserved ethnic identity through ritual while spreading Biblical ideas of humanism. He speculates that the last one third now remains, that part that deals with universal concepts of justice, morality and ethics.

There is an extensive bibliography divided into various sections and an index. Although here and there certain observations in the text have become a little outdated since publication, Jews, God and History remains a magisterial work and an absorbing read inhabited by fascinating ideas, personalities, events and historical facts. The style is engaging and accessible throughout. I also recommend A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson and WorldPerfect: The Jewish Impact on Civilization by Ken Spiro.
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on 25 April 1998
This is a good, accurate book. For those with little knowledge of the subject, it is a good start; however, it oversimplifies and overgeneralizes in many areas. I would suggest that a reader of this book supplements his background with more detailed studies of the various topics.
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on 27 June 1998
Of all the Jewish histories I have read, Jews, God & History best describes the survival of not only the Jewish race and religion, but the actual idea of being Jewish. To paraphrase Joseph Heller in God Knows -- If God chose to flood the world again, Jews would learn to breath under water. This is the idea behind Max Dimont's wonderful little history (although Mr. Heller wrote God Knows after Mr. Dimont's book -- but as they say, "great minds think alike"). Read, learn and enjoy this masterpiece of Jewish history.
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on 27 March 2007
Some reviewers have quibbled about this book glossing over detail and supplements being needed. I say nonsense to this, the book does not pretend to be anything else than a popular history of the Jewish people. As the advert says, "it does exactly what it says on the tin". If you want an academic study then you will not be reading this book. What do you expect in 571 pages. The book includes bibliography,and appendix anyway !

However, without a doubt, the late Max Dimont has a great gift as a popular communicator and the book is a highly enjoyable read, in fact I would say it is unusual to read a history book as a rapid 'page turner' which this book is.

For the non academic this book is excellent.
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on 7 June 2013
Always wondering why the Jews have been persecuted throughout history I purchased the kindle edition of this book and found it to be very informative, well written and a really good read. I would recommend it to anyone with any interest in this topic irrespective of their own religious persuasion.
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on 23 August 1998
Topically organized as well as chronological, this is a good introductory history. Like all general audience works, it is bound to gloss over issues that are in debate and like, much modern Jewish history, the development of modern Israel and Zionism is sanitized. Still, this is probably one of the best popular works around and quite a pleasant read.
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on 22 August 2012
As a non-Jew with little previous knowledge of their history, I found this book to be incredibly informative and certainly provided a deep insight into Jewish history over the last 2000 years or so. Obviously, one has to trust in the accuracy and honesty of the author in this depiction of the Jewish nation, but it does give a fairly broad picture and although there may be some occasional bias on the part of the author, it nonetheless does offer a pretty candid exploration of Jewishness through the ages and into modern times - nothing much appears to have been left out. My only criticisms would be that it sometimes waffles on a bit and does wander around timeline-wise. In conclusion, if you have an interest in gaining an understanding of the history of the Jewish people, I can certainly recommend this book.
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