Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
on 21 September 2013
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. Haven't Jews suffered enough? This is the question asked by the pious Jews who see Israel as man's presumptions over-stepping Gods -no, there is more to come. Though written in 1987, this book has enough bite to be relevant today, and if you have the time, patience and resolve, reading it is well worth while.