Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely ambitious- by far, 7 Aug 2013
This review is from: Jerusalem: The Biography (Kindle Edition)
The sheer breadth of Montefiore's writings is quite astounding. For the research he must have read voraciously.
If there is one common denominator to his interests, it must lie in the love of complex machiavellian internecine family relationships for which Jewish history around Jerusalem and Rome offers fertile ground for his analytical techniques, as he has amply demonstrated in his tsarist Russian works. The intricacies of detail needed to do historical justice to the subject in a near 600 page work makes tough reading and at times Montefiore seems to be merely regurgitating chunks of Josephus, Suetonius and other Greek and Roman writers. On other occasions he adds his own magical flair for bringing historical episodes to life.
However, in numerous passages the author's assumptions become presumptive and sometimes simply inaccurate. For instance he lists King Solomon's assets of palaces, stables, and thousands of chariots, his fleet at Ezion Geber (near Eilat), whereas there is absolutely no archaeological remains of Solomon's supposed vast empire. These biblical descriptions he uses are almost certainly based on Egyptian experience and memory. Annoyingly Montefiore persists in referring to Palestine, at times when no such place existed. He very briefly refers to the `Essenes' and then rather glibly, says `they feature in many crackpot theories about the origins of Christianity,....'and `that Jesus may have been inspired by their hostility to the Temple and by their apocalyptic scenarios.' This view completely underrates modern scholarship that ascribes many passages in the New Testament to Essene writings, as well as rituals, and beliefs. In fact the previous Pope has written and spoken about his belief that `Jesus partook of the Last Supper according to Essene rites.' The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran has a great deal of evidence that both John the Baptist and Jesus were members of the Essene movement and therefore that it had a huge ongoing impact on Christianity.
Such is the nature of the trawl through the centuries that detailed discussion of the book's contents would take a book in itself. This vast historical compilation may well satisfy academic interest, but for the lay reader it is a fierce challenge. In many ways I found the generous number of illustrations and fascinating photographs more interesting than the text.
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