[Name Redacted]'s Reviews > Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity

Remains of the Jews by Andrew Jacobs
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's review
Jul 07, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: academia, war, society, religion, politics, philosophy, magic, history
Read from July 04 to 07, 2011

Final Impression: This author's meandering style is exhausting and difficult to follow, and he seems to use the subject matter in a purely perfunctory manner so that he can push his imperialism/post-colonial theory agenda. I retained almost nothing from this book. He uses a few genuinely interesting historical incidents, but only as an excuse to force their square pegs through the round hole of his methodology. A tremendous disappointment and an even bigger waste of a potentially fascinating topic.

Second Impression: At present a very disappointing work. The author essentially argues for abandoning all attempts at uncovering the true nature of Jewish/Christian discourse and interaction because the texts from either side may be riddled with rhetoric. As far as the author seems concerned, there are ultimately only two options for approaching the material which do not involve his own methodology and perspective: discarding the texts because they are rhetorical and therefore must be false; or accepting them wholeheartedly as verifiably historical accounts. The possibility of trying to discern historical fact which underlies and finds voice in the rhetoric is skirted by Jacobs, acknowledged but untouched, as though he is afraid such an approach would invalidate the utility of his own "post-colonial theory" readings. The few moments he spends glancing at this "discernment" approach are actually spent dismissing it because it could, by some people, be twisted into a "they were asking for it!" approach (a dismissal which makes about as much sense as the assertion that we should only teach the history of Christian anti-Judaism, and avoid all mention of historical pagan anti-Judaism, pagan anti-Christianism, and Jewish anti-Christianism). Most of what this author says seems to have very little to do with history and even less to do with religion -- it is more about finding ways to force his methodology into the study of the time period. He is essentially creating a triumphalist narrative for his own approaches and readings, and it feels largely masturbatory.

First Impression: I'm torn so far. The author/publisher wisely restrict themselves to footnotes, and so far those contain only references to texts; this is the good and proper way to author an academic text. The author also states in the Introduction that, despite being Jewish, his training is in patristics and so he feels he is insufficiently educated to use Jewish texts as part of his argument (something I wish Chilton & Neusner had acknowledged about the New Testament). I respect both of these decisions. However the text seems largely to be an attempt at shoehorning very modern understandings of imperialism, post-colonial theory and the like into the study of "Late Antiquity", which is always perilous and never productive. We'll see.

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07/06/2011 page 23
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