Regina Doman's Reviews > A History of the Jews

A History of the Jews by Paul  Johnson
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May 09, 2012

it was amazing

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 to the slightly stressful but invigorating feeling of synapses being burned anew through my grey matter that comes over me when reading a Paul Johnson history.

This book was no exception. I read it last summer on vacation, and it was the best part of the vacation (which was a pleasant vacation!) mainly for the constant food for conversation which it gave me. I don't know if those who vacationed with me will share my enthusiasm for this book, but I very much enjoyed communicating my intellectual euphoria to them while I read it.

Becoming more deeply informed of the history of the Jewish people cannot but be an unpleasant experience for any reader of a serious Christian persuasion. Paul Johnson himself is a Catholic, but he, as usual, uses no whitewash when it comes to appraising the failures of his historical co-religionists. Johnson is fair, but unrelenting. What brought warmth to the book was his obvious admiration for the Jewish people, which I share.

Reading this book was in many ways like reading a secret history of the human race. Perhaps that's an unfortunate allusion, since the Jews have been the victims of more malicious conspiracy theories than any other group in human history. But still the notion persists: this was an inspiring and hopeful book because the secrets it told were GOOD secrets, secrets of unnoticed genius, unthanked charity, unremarked heroism.

It drove me to ponder my own fascination with the Jewish people, and I think for me it ties into my ongoing search for the face of God. If these are the Lord's chosen people, then is it too much to believe that these are the people who best reflect the qualities He personally enjoys? The dazzling intellect, the cleverness, the playfulness, and above all the gut-wrenching persistence and courage of so many of the Jewish people seems to trace a faint shadow of His personality on history. Have you never associated these characteristics with Jews? Then you don't know many Jews, either personally or in history. Which means you really, really need to read this book.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 9, 2012 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by booklady (new)

booklady Thank you Regina for that most delightful review! I'm just getting ready to start Johnson's History of Christianity and now I'm very excited!


message 2: by Annmarie (new)

Annmarie Chaim Potok's The Wanderings is also a very good resource on the subject of Jewish history, although he is a secular Jew and it is written from that perspective.


message 3: by Jorge (new)

Jorge Costales Couldn't agree more in the McCullough comparison


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