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The Bible for Historians, and History for Bible-Readers
on 26 May 2011
This superb edition comprises abridgements of Josephus' major works, "Jewish Antiquities" and "The Jewish War".
Josephus was a Jewish general with first-hand experience fighting against, and later for, the Romans in the 1st-century Holy Land. The translation is in lively and modern prose, and the abridgement is very well-chosen. Mr. Meier has done a superb job, and his own comments provide very useful context and additional information.
"Antiquities" is a comprehensive history of the Jewish people. It retells the Old Testament, including corroborating information from Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian authors. This retelling is short (200 pages) and very, very sharp indeed; with no tedious begattings and irrelevant poetry, it might be renamed "The Old Testament for Historians". Josephus then bridges the gap between New and Old, covering the historical information of the Apocrypha, and the Roman occupation. The history of the 1st Century Levant is very comprehensive, including a respectful mention of "a wise man called Jesus" whose "tribe of the Christians... has not disappeared to this day" (pp. 269-270).
"War" is extraordinarily exciting reading. The Roman war machine is brilliantly evoked, and the retelling packed with incident. Mr. Meier adds appropriate cautionary notes regarding the author's position and intentions, but this only adds to the appeal of the work.
The binding is luxurious, the maps and photographs of "National Geographic" standard, and the font is refreshingly large. An excellent book all round.