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A History of the Jews

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,381 Ratings  ·  104 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.
Hardcover, 644 pages
Published January 1st 1987 by Harper & Row
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Stephen Dean-
I believe "History of the Jews" is still considered to be the definitive history of the Jews. It was recommended to me by several members of the…more
Dean-
I believe "History of the Jews" is still considered to be the definitive history of the Jews. It was recommended to me by several members of the Orthodox Jewish community as the most detailed and accurate account of the Jewish experience through history. I hope you will read this book and learn as much from it as I did from Johnson's amazing work. You won't be dissapointed. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Elaine
May 02, 2011 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
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
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Barnaby Thieme
I'm not really reviewing this book, I'm explaining why I abandoned it pretty early on. This book is not for me, and personally I feel it shouldn't be for anyone, but you can draw your own conclusions.

I abandoned this book when it became excruciatingly obvious that Johnson was cherry-picking historical arguments to find archaeological and historiographical support for Biblical events, and reducing more than a century of criticisms of this approach to Biblical archaeology to straw man caricatures
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Jeffrey Cohan
Dec 02, 2010 Jeffrey Cohan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism, history
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
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Kim
Jan 25, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael
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
Kaitlin Moore-Morley
An incredibly detailed yet comprehensive guide to the history of the Jews, starting with Genesis and heading up through the creation of Israel. It details these constant nomads experiences though the early possession of Israel, to the diaspora, to settling throughout Europe and the persecution that found them there. The creation of Israel i found particularly fascinating.

It's a long book, and there was a lot, I'll admit, I didn't absorb as much as I'd have liked but it's an excellent tool to le
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James
Jul 08, 2015 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why did I read this book? Not sure. I suppose I wanted to know more about Jewish history, which is probably the best reason for reading a Jewish history book. How do you talk about an entire religion and culture within the single volume of a book? You don't. Instead, you do your best to provide thoughtful summaries that serve as bookmarks for the reader, remind the reader to go back and find out more about the subject that appeals to him or her. Paul Johnson is a famous British historian who tur ...more
Regina Doman
May 09, 2012 Regina Doman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Goldy Kresch
Apr 02, 2016 Goldy Kresch rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a marvelous history - of a people who happen to share a name with mine but otherwise bear no resemblance to them. Johnson is a wonderful historian, but he clearly has never read the Talmud or Kabbalah. He writes of the rationalist and irrationalist strains of Judaism without realizing that Kabbalah - which he deems irrationalist- actually addresses some of philosophy's hardest questions and brilliantly refutes such notable philosophers like Aristotle and Spinoza. He assumes that the frin ...more
Rajiv Chopra
Oct 26, 2013 Rajiv Chopra rated it really liked it  ·  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
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Shawn
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
Erik
Jun 19, 2009 Erik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Carlos
May 14, 2015 Carlos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro bastante largo, pero a pesar de eso, no es lo suficiente para escribir acerca de toda la historia de una religión. Un gran historiador como Paul Johnson supo resumir todo esto en un solo libro (1 tomo). Uno se da cuenta que está influenciado desde el lado arqueológico y bíblico. Siempre es difícil explicar objetivamente el significado de una religión, pero Johnson lo hace a través de pruebas y hechos tácitos, lo más objetivamente posible.
Las primeras 3 partes son bastante interesantes,
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Renee
Oct 31, 2016 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of a minority of books that are more an experience than a narrative. I honestly feel awed. Nadia May narrates excellently.
Lior Lichai
Now, I have a confession to make before I begin my review. I did not finish this book. I could not finish this book. My rabbi asked me to go through the books they recommend as resources and see what I thought of them.

I think the publisher should be sued for false advertising. They described this book as a "history." It is not a history. It's a mix of Christian biblical literalism and thinly veiled Christian supersessionism. Very thinly veiled. At one point, he says, apparently with no self-awa
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Elizabeth
May 15, 2017 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever wonder why it's important to walk in another's shoes this completes the feat. Proud to be a member of the tribe. We are a force.
Stephanie Gordon
Super denso pero también muy interesante. 4,000 años de historia condensados en 600 páginas.
Justin Tapp

The only way to get through massive volume like this quickly is to listen to it, which is what I did. You can discount all the negative reviews that say "just read a Bible!" because biblical history is only the first 15% of this book. Most Protestants have never read Maccabees and are generally unaware of the history of Israel between Micah and Matthew, making it hard to understand the contextual backdrop of the Gospels. Johnson comes from the Catholic tradition and almost assumes the reader has
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Adrian
Jan 16, 2014 Adrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Don
May 22, 2017 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish
Basically what you would expect -- a very able historian giving us a 4,000 year history in 600 pages. As a narrative, the book would have worked better had Johnson been less focused on dates and devoted more time to some of the key figures of Jewish history. I also fault him for being too credulous when discussing biblical events and for not being more evenhanded when writing about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Scott Pierce
Amazing breadth of work by Johnson.

Purpose of Genesis was to develop the patriarchs in a moral context and also develop their relationship with God. Remarkable the role of women as well - Sarah and Rebecca, and later Naomi and Ruth.

The tribe of Israel came from Jacob's struggle with an angel.

The paradox of Judaism and the state of Israel - only God is absolute, not the state, but, without the state, Judaism is in peril.

Isaiah a remarkable prophet - from him we have "set thy house in order" "swor
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Adam Glantz
Paul Johnson's work adopts the perspective of "world history seen from the viewpoint of a learned and intelligent victim." This provides insight into the method to follow. In style, Johnson is sensitive, practically to a fault, and to contemporary readers this is most visible in his treatment of Zionism as a positive given, rather than a phenomenon to be debated. In substance, his work often emphasizes the lachrymose turns in a story that's well known for its tragic episodes. Overall, the book i ...more
Heather
Mar 10, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Rounding up from 3.5

There is a lot of information in this book. Some parts were really fascinating and informative. Other parts were a bit slow. It seemed like the focus was more on the place of Jews in society than on their beliefs. Other than a long section in the middle that seemed to place a lot of emphasis on Jewish mysticism, there wasn't a lot of time spent on how religious beliefs evolved or stayed the same over the centuries. I would have liked more of that. The focus instead was much m
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Richard Block
Sep 26, 2013 Richard Block rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Tom
Jul 13, 2013 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Jena
Nov 12, 2015 Jena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Todos conocemos alguna parte de la historia de los judíos por leer la Biblia --me refiero al Antiguo Testamento y no a los Evangelios--. pero pocos podemos ligar esa parte de la historia con lo que les sucedió en la Edad Media, en la Ilustración y más tarde en la Época Contemporánea --la nuestra--, en la cual el pueblo judío logra sus derechos de ciudadanía, que por siglos le fueron negados, y la adquisición de un territorio en Palestina donde establecerse. Por otra parte, nos instruye sobre el ...more
Genese Grill
Aug 19, 2013 Genese Grill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Misanagi
This was a very comprehensive recounting of 4000 years of Jewish history, from different perspectives and with a wonderful analysis of context, diversity, and religious views.

I had just some issues with the use of "race" as referring to the Jewish people in the prologue and first chapter of the book, and with the exclusion of the tabernacle and it's role from the text (which I think would have made some of the observations of the latter role of the Temple, different). Other than those two thing
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C
Dec 18, 2010 C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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“Indeed, there are recurrent hints in the Bible that the Israelites had feelings of guilt about taking the Canaanites’ land,147 a curious adumbration of Israeli twinges about homeless Palestinian Arabs in the late twentieth century. The Israelites, however, hid any remorse in the belief that the conquest was a pious act: it is ‘because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you’.” 1 likes
“Men like Maimonides and Nahmanides had never made the assumption, so characteristic of the Christian intelligentsia, that there is an absolute distinction between book-reading and book-writing on the one hand, and book-keeping on the other.” 1 likes
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