A History of the Jews (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Paul Johnson is a British Christian writer, a journalist, and one of the most prolific historians of recent years. Among his major books are Modern Times (1983) and A History of Christianity (1976), both sweeping syntheses. Given the monumental histories of the Jews that have appeared in the last hundred years, the question could be asked whether a new synthesis of Jewish history was necessary, and whether a Christian historian could bring new insights to bear on it. The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. This major work is replete with refreshing insights, broad unifying themes, and striking historical illustrations.
While acknowledging his debt to the major works of Jewish history, Johnson provides four compelling personal reasons for embarking on his work. First, he came to realize the debt that Christianity owed to Judaism, while realizing that the Jews continued to develop their history and religion after the rise of Christianity, a fact to which many Christians remained oblivious. Second, the sheer span, drama, and excitement of the Jewish story captivated him. Third, he set out to explain the miracle of how the Jews obstinately retained their identity while adapting to and greatly affecting the world around them. Finally, he concluded that the Jews stood at the center of man’s quest to give life a meaning, a purpose, and a dignity.
Much of the exhilaration this book offers seems to arise from the need of a...
(The entire section is 2297 words.)
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