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Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  181 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
James Carroll’s urgent, masterly Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the ways in which the ancient city became a transcendent fantasy that ignites religious fervor unlike anywhere else on earth. That fervor animates American history as much as it does the Middle East, in the present as deeply as in the past. In Carroll’s provocative reading of the deep past, the Bible came into ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 9th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jan 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Despite what its title suggests, this is not primarily a book about Jerusalem, in either that city's historical reality or its ideological valence. It is a history of violence among Christians, Muslims, and Jews, narrated to cast sacrifice and salvation as theological villains. In its mode as popular history, this is a rousing read, ably told with an eye for detail. When doing popular theology, it was, to me at least, bluntly offensive.

I have not read Constantine's Sword, but its many readers te
I selected this book because I thought it might give me some historical and cultural background on Jerusalem. But, I quickly learned that it was much, much more than that. Not only does Carroll touch on Jerusalem's history, the book explores what he calls "Jerusalem fever" and how Jerusalem has come to symbolize and define so much of what has and is happening in America, the Middle East and Europe.

One reviewer said that the book "brims with splendid insights." I agree. Any book that begins with
Sarah Finch
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not a history book per se. Rather, this is an extended meditation on history, like the written version of a graduate-level theology seminar. A former Catholic priest, Carroll tracks Jerusalem and the ripples that have emanated from it throughout history. Not content to simply dwell on Abraham and Jesus and Umar and Saladin and Yitzhak Rabin, he also examines how the IDEA of Jerusalem has affected everyone from Christopher Columbus to Woodrow Wilson. He does not ask easy questions, and he ...more
Mar 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Religious history buffs
Unfortunately, I listened to this on Audio CD in the car and was unable to take even cursory notes so what follows is a list of impressions it made upon me and "things" that stuck in my mind.

* As a whole, the book looks at the relationship between violence and religion. Carroll argues that religious practice developed because humans had to reconcile the necessity of violence (if only in killing animals to live) with the pangs of conscience that arose within them. That need to sacralize violence
Andrew Marr
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem was the outcry of Jeremiah in his Lamentations, and of Jesus when he was rejected by the leadership in in the holy city. James Carroll’s searingly excellent book is an extension of this outcry with historical, theological and spiritual depth.
This book is not so much a history of Jerusalem as a history of the idea of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of the imagination. The history of the city itself, of course is deeply affected by the ideas and imagination projected on it, almost a
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-a-copy
Wow. First of all, this is one heck of an amazing history book. James Carroll captures about four millennia in just over 300 pages, and he does it with rich language, great examples, edifying passages from other scholars, and a sane and consistent voice. Second of all, I am DARN PROUD of myself for committing to this difficult subject and making it all the way through. I learned so much. I know I will return to this text many times in my life, and I am glad I took the time to take notes; subsequ ...more
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it

The beginning almost derailed me -- it's a book group pick, so I dug deep to keep going.

I am now midstream and it's flowing with fewer whirlpools of confusion, now that I have moved into an area of history a bit more familiar to me than the ancient biblical era where the book began.

More thoughts later.
Daniel Kukwa
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Incredibly dense (this is a read that takes time), but also incredibly fascinating & disturbing in equal measure. If you're looking for a thesis that truly captures the violent moral ambiguity of the human race, then this is the book to read.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was drawn to read about the story of Jerusalem after seeing the very good Ridley Scott film, "Kingdom of Heaven", about the fragile peace which existed between the Second and Third Crusades in the twelfth century. Scott had created a masterwork in the art of interjecting a heroic fictional character into historical times, and creating a believable interplay between the star character and famous people, in this movie as in his earlier "Gladiator." "Kingdom of Heaven", centered on Jerusalem, has ...more
Jamie VW
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Don't be confused by the title - this is not a history of Jerusalem, it is a work of theology, communal psychology and the strains of violence embedded in the Abrahamic faiths that has created religious mythology that brings us to today's versions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

I'm biased because I took the class at Brandeis that was, in its essence, this book taught by James Carroll - but he is truly the theologian, albeit an unusual one who may not like that term applied to him, that I fe
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians especially those interested in Jerusalem
Recommended to Dee by: It was self-inflicted. Ouch!
There was a lot of information covered in this book. Although it was interesting it went on a bit too long. Anyone who wants a history lesson on just about everything and how it goes back to the city on the hill this is the book for you. The book started "In the beginning," (cave paintings) and covered just about everything and everyone up to our present day. Good religion vs. bad religion. Included: Separation of church and state, the crusades, pilgrims and puritans and even witch hunts, the ho ...more
Cameron Bower
My favourite non-fiction book I have read. I found the entire book very interesting and informative and throughly enjoyed reading all of it. At first I had my doubts about it when I disagreed with something James said about Monotheism being more inclusive then the pagan religions. He mentions that he is a catholic and both quotes and has a praise from Raza Aslan ( a man I do not trust or agree with) , but I realized I was mistaken to judge the books credibility based on those three things althou ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Basically just a history text book, this book has its interesting moments (especially early on when describing the ancient history of the titular city), but in my opinion Carroll lends too much creedance to his own theory that the desire for three major religions to occupy the city has influenced every important religious, political and military decision of the last 2,000 years.

Carroll does succeed in making clear why Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe they should be in control of the city
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
James Carroll is an extraordinary writer and columnist. This book is not a simple review of Jerusalem's history. Rather, Carroll looks at Jerusalem, the place and the idea, within the context of anthropological understandings of the development of religion and the Abrahamic faiths, and varied contradictions that developed in the foundations of those faiths. He goes beyond the historical city and looks at the metaphor of the new Jerusalem that the Puritans and others have sought to found in the n ...more
Cy Yang
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Reading this book for me was a challenging task. I might have been lured by the subtitle of the book, "How the ancient city ignited our modern world." The author describes the subject of this book (God’s oneness spawned Judaism, Jesus movement and Muslim. Human bipolarity became enmity, more savagely into war, by appeals to God) in a different way than I expected, too deep and profound, not plain sentences and focusing too much on not what I wanted to know. But I’d like to give a big credit to t ...more
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This interesting book follows the development of the earthly physical Jerusalem and the metaphysical Jerusalem and the way they intertwine and diverge within a developing history of religion. Those two themes have intersected history many times, over eons, and influenced the development of our modern world and its collisions with violence. Carroll understands the development of humans as a species bound be evolution and struggling toward a spiritual ethic at odds with the hunter. He does leave o ...more
On Point
Hear what James Carroll had to say about his "Jerusalem, Jerusalem":

We interviewed James Carroll, who years ago, as a young Catholic priest, spent an important season in Jerusalem. After touring its holy sites and seeing its relics, Carroll left the priesthood. But he could never shake Jerusalem - its power for peace and war, the sublime and the bloody, over thousands of years. It has the power to pull us back and to push us forward. In this book he’s tracing how a place
John Spalding
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Where would America be - what would it be - were it not for the contributions of the Jewish people? I've heard much on the subject but decided to check into it myself.

This book is an excellent "beginner's guide" as it takes the reader back a few thousand years and brings us to the present day. My first take was, wow these people have been shit on for millennia, but here they are, intact. That's impressive.

I'm not finished with it...halfway through...but you can call this Catholic-raised skepti
Apr 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Disappointed in this title.

Maybe it's my own fault for not understanding, but from the title, I expected more about the fascinating history of what arguably is the holiest city in the world. Instead, "Jerusalem" serves as a metaphorical backdrop for the author to weave into anthropology, sociology and religion ruminations. Deep thoughts for which way too many words are expended.

Miffed, as I was expecting more in the vein of some of Carroll's previous works -- particularly Constantine's Sword and
Lynda Kraar
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
On purpose I never read reviews before I read a book. So I hope this sounds fresh to you, gentle reader. Simply, this book is the conversation we all have in our heads as we wind our way down the streets of Jerusalem. It's the conversation in our heads once we have had a connection with Jerusalem and then find ourselves away from it for a length of time. Jerusalem the city is a temporal and spiritual struggle, well articulated in this book. The author is clearly in the midst of the struggle. I h ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There were a few times when I wondered where the author was headed with his theology. However, on balance (and he was once a Catholic priest) I give him great credit for telling this story in the way he has. The sweep of history that he puts the reader through is not exhaustive, but I should have to have hard copy standing by in order to offer a cogent critique. There is likely plenty here to give evangelical Christians pause; but the same could be said for Jews and Muslims.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Good history covering the three religions that have claimed Jerusalem as theirs but dense theology at times. Carroll asserts that violence has been carried out in the name of religion since its inception, and that we need to examine our apocalyptic assumptions closely, allow for the criticism of religion (fundamentalism take note), and assert the primal law of the three monotheisms, which is that the primal law is love.
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it
was this book really about Jerusalem? the last chapter fights to even put the word into the text. not that it was a bad book, but i thought it often reached way to far a field to tie something back to Jerusalem. also was a bit overload with mr carroll's religious views on peace, war, roman/jewish blame, etc. which again weren't badly presented, but the book skipped over hundreds if not thousands of years of on the ground what was up in Jerusalem which is what i was hoping for find more of.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think that James Carroll is one of the most important analyst/writers of our time. It is nearly impossible to think of Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine) without immense frustration, and it seems nearly impossible to understand on what basis competing claims are made. This book answered some of my questions...and he is a brilliant writer.
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Intense reading - excellent and apparently well researched overview of the 3,000 year history leading up to the present conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for the HOLY CITY. Discusses the AMERICAN influence - our view of ourselves as God's chosen "City on the Hill" and the effect of Manifest Destiny and our Missionary zeal toward setting the scene for the FINAL CONFLICT.....
Instead of history about Jerusalem, got long rambling mess of a book focusing on the nature of religions and violence. I suppose that may be my fault for not reading the subtitle thoroughly, but oh well. The book in itself was still somewhat interesting.

As for the city itself, I may read Montefiore's new book, which is due to be released in October of this year.
Well worth the while of anyone interested in the historical background of today’s Middle Eastern conflict.

Full review on The Stanford Daily website.
Michael E.
Nov 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
Could not finish. This book isn't really "history", but rather a collection of suppositions and subjective opinions. There were too many places where the author put forth an unsubstantiated hypothesis forward as if it were proven fact.
Cindie Harp
I learned a lot of things, just like I did from Constantine's Sword. THis one did not engage me like that one, maybe because I am more interested in Ancient Israel than how the Jerusalem paradigm has shaped the modern world. Still worth the ride
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed how James Carroll demonstrated the impact on Western history, thinking, and beliefs to the actual place, history, and idea of Jerusalem. His conclusion and thoughts on good vs. bad religion we're little more fuzzy. Overall, a very informative read.
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James Carroll was born in Chicago and raised in Washington, D.C. He has been a civil rights worker, an antiwar activist, and a community organizer in Washington and New York. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University. Carroll left the priesthood to become a novelist and playwright. He lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshal ...more
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