History of the Jews
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History of the Jews

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  802 ratings  ·  60 reviews

A national bestseller, this brilliant 4000 year survey covers not only Jewish history but he impact of Jewish genius and imagination on the world. By the author of Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Eighties.

ebook, 656 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1987)
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This history of the Jews is written through the ideas of a devout Christian who believes, i think wrongly, that Jesus intended to abandon Judaism in order to start a new religion . Yet, Johnson's own account of Jesus' ministry confirms that Jesus, a student and follower of Hillel, had as His mission the aim of getting Jews to practice what they preached

Before enlarging upon this perhaps controversial claim, we should consider Johnson's reasons for writing the 4000 year recorded history of the...more
Jeffrey Cohan
This book was written by one of the most prominent historians of the 20st Century, and as a best-seller in the late 80s, has certainly been read by a large number of non-Jews. But this book should be read by every Jew who lacks a full appreciation for what Judaism has contributed to modern civilization. And the vast majority of Jews fit that description.

It isn't so much what Johnson will teach you – it's how he says it, how he transmits the essence. To wit, here is part of his description of Mos...more
This was very well done. The author seemed to mainain his objectivity, although that is always up for debate, I guess. I found the ancient history and the modern history equally enjoyable, perhaps because I have some basic knowledge in these areas, but the middle history (1000-1800) was pretty much all new to me and helps complete the picture. I remember a plant from my childhood that we called a "Wandering Jew" and I finally understand the meaning of this phrase (if not why it is applied to tha...more
Regina Doman
Paul Johnson ... ah, this man is a treasure. The only thing I can think of that comes close to being as good as reading a book by Paul Johnson is reading a book by David McCullough -- and I read David McCullough mainly to console myself after having finished another book by Paul Johnson.

Johnson brings a relentlessly moral worldview to his various surveys of history, and he has just enough difference in temperament and worldview from me to keep me reading critically. I have come to look forward...more
The first three parts of the book were very interesting and I especially enjoyed learning about the prophets as actual people, as well as all the variety of Jewish sects that sprung up in antiquity. Where the book runs out of steam starts in the fourth part, when he starts to get bogged down by continuous listings of dates and cities of expulsions and pogroms. We get it, already! Listing dates and locations doesn't make for an interesting book. He also gets bogged down with listing all these peo...more
Rajiv Chopra
Oct 26, 2013 Rajiv Chopra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the Jews
Shelves: religion
This is an excellent book, and for anyone interested in learning about the Jews, this is an excellent book. Paul Johnson has covered the saga of the Jews in an admirable way. Having said that, it is a heavy read, and may require one or two re-readings after a space of time, to fully understand the book. This, I write from the perspective of an Asian who has read about the persecution of the Jews, but who's knowledge is sketchy.

The manner in which I approached the book also made it a bit confusin...more
This is not just a history of the Jews. It is a history of Western Civilization. It covers so much, it is at times overwhelming. It is hard to sum up one’s response to a book that covers nearly 5000 years and every major event in the West. I can do no better than quote Johnson from his Epilogue: “It seems to be the role of the Jews to focus and dramatize these common experiences of mankind, and to turn their particular fate into a universal moral” and “The Jews believed they were a special peopl...more
This caught me up on Biblical mumbo jumbo, the dawn of rabbinism, all the juicy violent tidbits about the Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms, French conspiracy theory, and Holocaust. Finally it updated my about the origins of Zionism, and helped my have a deeper understanding of the ongoing Arab/Israeli conflict. This book does seem to have a Jewish favoritism thing going on...yet it was written by a Christian. You sort of get to see the dilemma of the religion of Judaism, and the race of Jews...more
Paul Johnson has once again attempted a daunting task, and succeeded. Having previously read other comprehensive studies of Jewish history, this is the far superior comprehensive study on the market.
The opening chapter, Israelites, follows the Biblical narrative of the founders of the Hebrew nation, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon, and then later, at the time of Isaiah, the narrative changes from when the descendants of Abraham became known as Jews, rather than Israelites.
The chapters...more
Rafael da Silva
Um livro muito interessante. Conta a história do povo judeu desde os tempos bíblicos até a década de 1980. Seria mais interessante se tivesse uma edição complementar. Uma que falasse dos anos 2000 também.

Uma coisa que não gostei, mas não desmerece o livro, foi o claro posicionamento antiesquerda do autor. Nenhum intelectual da esquerda tem nenhuma qualidade. Não estou alegando que foram perfeitos, ninguém é, mas ficou claro que só foram ressaltados seus defeitos e ou posicionamentos que difiram...more
Gushing tribute to Judiasm and the Jewish experience. He covers 4 thousand years, hurtling through Abraham and Moses, the Torah, Judea and Israel, Babylonian captivity, the prophet and kings, the Temple, Jesus, the Maccabees, and the travails of the diaspora in Spain, especially under the inquisition, and on to central and eastern Europe, amongst the Poles and Russians, and the split between the poor Jews and the assimilated thinkers and traders, the court Jews. All leading to Hitler's holocaust...more
Genese Grill
This massively interesting and at times harrowing book changed my mind (and life). How can I have walked around and had opinions about things all these years without knowing all of this terrible and wonderful and complex history? Reading it was like having dark areas in my brain illuminated. I always like Paul Johnson, for his stodgy conservatism and his clarity of writing (his biography of Elizabeth I is my favorite of his books, second to his book on Modern Times..can't remember the title righ...more
Richard Block
Catholic Guilt?

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 Messi...more
It's a tough book to read. It's relatively well written, although I've seen better organized histories. Obviously it was something of a monumental task and getting it together in this form is impressive. It's just so depressing. Johnson tries his best to make it sound like we haven't spent the better part of four thousand years being treated as "sub-humans" or not human at all. Tries and fails, it must be said. A noble failure.

The major complaints I had: The ancient history section is a little s...more
Its one of those highly anecdotal, tart, opinionated, under-footnoted, rambling British style histories, like Owen Chadwick's Secularization of the European Mind, or Peter Brown on Augustine, or one of Thomas Cahill's popular books. I'm sure Johnson is way off at points (I don't know enough to know where). And he is way to sympathetic to his subject to be balanced. He's a neo-con politically, spending the early '80s with the American Enterprise Institute, hanging out with Zionist Jews like Irvin...more
Anna West
May 14, 2008 Anna West rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jews
I got it for Sid but then I didn't have a book so I've been reading it instead. there is no way he is going to get through it. This book is really interesting. It starts wih the first Jew, Abraham and traces from the Old Testament the lives of Jews all the way to present day. I thought it would be fascinating to have a copy of the bible nearby (I don't) to compare passages with those in the book, because it pretty much follows it chronologically.
That being said, I didn't even make it through a q...more
Aunque abiertamente pro-mercadolibre, es una de las más detenidas investigaciones que existen sobre el pueblo judío, pues trasciende los hábitos de la historia positivista-documental y entrecruza referencias con otras disciplinas como la arqueología, la antropología y la hermenéutica comparada; con la ventaja adicional de que, al ser una mirada externa y no antisemita, permite ver lo mismo la crueldad y supersticiones que han aparecido en el devenir de esta cultura que su ancestral racionalismo,...more
James Richardson
4000 years of Jewish History in 600 pages......... Huge focus on the last 200 years. I would prefer more on the biblical history especially in the time of Christ and the Jewish reaction and role in his crucifixion.
It's alright. Read it years and years ago, I think as a pre-teen, either ten or eleven or twelve. The usual tween best-seller stuff; you know, Twilight and Hunger Games and their ilk.
I devoured it a the time, and my memory tells me that I really enjoyed it. It was certainly accessible, and interesting. As for making claims to its accuracy and scholarship, I humbly demur. I was entirely uncritical of the book when I read it, as one would expect of naught but a callow youth at the time. It makes i...more
Paul Johnson is top-notch. A great, interesting historian. History of the Jews was extremely well researched. I hope to read it again.
First borrowed from the library and then purchased. Very readable. Great explanations of the experiences of the Israelites (BC times) when serving the state vs serving Yahweh, the necessity of the state when defending against neighboring and warring countries, the growth and codification of Jewishness during the Babylonian captivity and how that captivity was beneficial ...

Compared to other books I'm currently reading on same subject, this account is longer, wordier (but not offensively so), an...more
Amazingly great and thorough. Loving it
Good book to read extensive Jewish history
this book is so fascinating - especially the rise of 19th century leftist radicalism and the secular-jewish intelligentsia... however parts of the holocaust and WWII discussion are at odds with some things i read in "rise and fall of the 3rd reich" which makes me wonder about Johnson's objectivity. he also uses the word "adumbrate" about 300 times so you probably want to look that one up. i did but i promise never to use it. also, the closer i get to the end, the longer it seems to get... like a...more
Patrick Novak
Sep 04, 2007 Patrick Novak rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is the best religious book I have ever read.
The best book on human history I have ever read.
Shows the common history that all of our modern religions share and the struggle for power, deception and lunacy that is humanity in fighting for one religious view over others. No religion is right. We are all decedents from one ancestor and we owe it to others to respect other opinions and views and save humankind from repeating the mistakes of the past which we don't seem to be able to do. Good lu...more
I had for a long time wanted to learn more about the ancient Jews. Then I found this book on a bargain book table at the bookstore. It was almost exactly what I was looking for. Covering more than 3,000 years of history, as this book does, is a supremely impressive feat, and I greatly enjoyed learning more about the thinkers and ideas that have shaped modern Jews, I would have liked a little more about the ancient culture. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the Jewish peopl...more

Ranging from Abraham first steps out of Ur to contemporary Israel, you will find that every single chronological statement or explanation is the product of a very deep research, and this is what it makes this book so valuable
It is also very important to highlight that even though Johnson is not Jewish, this book is cited as a reference material by prominent Rabbies and recommended by many highly qualified Jewish websites as a classic for consultation
Mano Chil
An amazing book by Paul Johnson to understand and know what happened to the Jews after Jesus' times till the creation of modern Israel.
Feb 01, 2008 Irina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alexander
It's a wonderful book! I bought it before my trip to Israel as a comprehensive guide that would give me an insight to the country. It just happen to be so much more!
I would highly recommend it to anybody who loves history and would like to learn more about the correlation between biblical stories and the archeological findings; the history of Judaism, its law and tradition.
I have the ancient history of the Jews by Josephus, but haven't read it yet. Johnson's is comprehensive, and multifaceted, as all of his books are, talking about movements, thoughts and ideas that have shaped the rich and amazing history of this numerically small, but highly influential people through time. A great read for anyone!
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Paul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.

Paul Johnson has published over 40 books incl...more
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