Paul Johnson’s ‘History of the Jews’

Before studying history, E.H. Carr famously quipped, you must study the historian. Paul Johnson, a graduate of Oxford writes on politics, culture, religion and history for a variety of journals. He has published several well-received histories that tackled rather broad ranging subjects such as the history of the American people and, of course, the history of the Jews. As a younger man his political views tended to lean to the left, but he became more of a conservative as he aged and remains so today. In terms of religion, Johnson identifies as a Roman Catholic.

Part of proper note-taking on any serious reading demands that you engage in both a dialogue with your author and with other people. So I want you to begin developing a habit of taking notes on and asking question about serious literature, and then sharing your thoughts with others. This is a rather demanding and provocative text – it demands questioning and intense thinking.

I’d like you to comment on this post with a substantive response to your reading of the excerpt from Paul Johnson’s history. You may write anything as long as it  1) contains some serious thought, 2) comes from your reading of Johnson’s text, and, of course, 3) is not offensive. Please include your FIRST NAME and LAST INITIAL on your comment.

I have posted a shot of the first page of my own notes taken while reading Johnson to give you an idea of how I do it for myself.

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41 responses to “Paul Johnson’s ‘History of the Jews’

  1. Paul Johnson seems to infer that many aspects of Jewish culture and religion came directly from Sumerian civilization, and from the time that the Israelites were referred to as Habiru, which became Hebrew.
    -Sam S.

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  2. In the excerpt we read from A History of Jews I found it interesting how not only was the Jewish religion very similar to Christianity, but it was also started in the same sort of way. Also I didn’t realize how many events from the Old Testament show different parts of history even though they aren’t really that obvious. For instance I knew that there was a flood in 2700 BC and that we see that in the bible through the story of Noah’s Ark and on the other hand you have Hebron being the “first recorded acquisition of land” for the Jews. I thought to myself where is this in the bible? My question was quickly answered when the book talked about Abraham buying the Cave of Machpelah and it surrounding area so he could bury his dead wife, Sarah. A fairly obscure event like this is quite clearly explained in the bible which I would have otherwise quickly passed over without thinking twice.

    -Zach S.

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  3. substantive as in more specific?

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  4. I found it interesting that the Jewish scholars try to make Gods acts fit with their Jewish ethics. In the Bible, God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac to God on high. In the reading about the Jews history we see a comment about that very incident. I reads that the Jewish scholars are still trying to make this action acceptable in their judgment. I don’t understand why, when god is supposed to be the one who can’t be wrong and is all powerful, they are trying to make his action conform to THEIR beliefs as opposed to vice versa. This religion is about God and therefore shouldn’t his actions be correct in all ways and have Jews striving to copy them. Qualifying God’s action doesn’t seem to be the right answer to the problem. Not that I would like to see people threatening to sacrifice others for their faith, but I think there may be more to read into about God’s action in this passage.

    Carter T

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  5. I found it interesting that Johnson talks about how historians have interpreted the Bible (as a historical source) over many years. I thought he would just stick to how historians interpret the Bible now. Why would it be important to mention that the Bible has been interpreted in different ways over the years? My guess is that Johnson is trying to show that the current view of Biblical events (and his own interpretations) may not be entirely correct and that they might change over time based on what new historical/archaeological evidence is found.

    Jay S.

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  6. I found the place of morality in the text interesting. While morality was said to be often a supposition on actual historical events recorded and altered for religious purposes, there are also many instances where morality is not part of scripture. Why is morality superimposed on altered stories if not all are changed to fit the religious beliefs held at the actual time that the scripture was written? Stories like Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac seem counterintuitive, which does not seem to provide much help in teaching morals associated with religion. These counterintuitive stories actually seem to foster the belief that divine order trumps any sense of human values or morality, a way of thinking that can be seen a lot in the world today with radical religious groups as well as deep-seated religious beliefs based not on morals or individual consideration but on written, ‘sacred’ word alone. I think that through original Jewish scripture, without extra explanation, one might be able to better infer the assumptions and moral values that Jews of the time period held, but will less likely be able to infer the positions of those written about, because of the alterations to what is thought to be a cultural history without morals.

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  7. ~Sam S. -also the time it was actually posted was october 8, 8:17 pm

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    • Noted – thanks. The time-stamp here shows when I approve the comment for public viewing. And I enjoyed reading this comment much more than the first. Gives us all a better glimpse of your thoughts on the text. Thank you.

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  8. Griffin Shapiro

    I think the comments about the binding of Isaac that claim it is immoral and counter-intuitive are focusing too much on the fact that the sacrifice is a human. While this is an important detail, the reader must remember the context of the scripture. At the time, child sacrifice was fairly common, and it was more surprising that God would stop the sacrifice than it was that he would ask for it. The purpose of the passage is to demonstrate to the Jews that human sacrifice is not demanded by God, and rather is forbidden. I also found the most interesting part of the reading to be Johnson’s take on the idea that man is created in the image of God. The issue, of course, is that Judaism also teaches that God’s image is unimaginable. Johnson says that this idea’s purpose is to both establish the moral idea that man belongs to God, and that people are equal because they are all God’s people, which is a take on the writing I have not heard before and one that I find powerful and convincing.
    Griffin S

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  9. I found the excerpt a very interesting commentary on the power of abstract ideas. Near the beginning of the text Johnson wrote about how for nearly 4000 years Jews have competed with other cultures and religions for possession of this mostly unremarkable parcel of land. How, despite all the years and tribulations, there still exists in Judaism a very strong attachment to the land of Canaan. Although Canaan may have once been a meeting place of trade routes, for many years (ever since the end of Mesopotamian ascendancy) it has not been especially important. Yet the Jews still have a very strong calling to it; or perhaps more, the idea of it. The idea of a place given to them by God himself into their collective possession, a place that they regard as fundamentally their own– even though they have only for a few relatively short periods controlled it in the last 4000 years. Truly a testament to the power of ideas, and their power to endure.

    -Fred H.

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  10. I found Johnson’s comparison and contraction of the cosmogonies and cosmologies of the Jews and Mesopotamians.
    The cosmogonies of the Jews and Mesopotamians are remarkably similar; however, the cosmologies of the Jews and Mesopotamians are radically different.
    There is an abundance of similarities between the cosmogonies of the Jews and Mesopotamians. The Jews’ creation story takes seven days; the Mesopotamian cosmogony of the Enuma Elis is written on seven tablets. Marduk of the Sumerians made the sky with one half of Tiamat’s corpse; similarly, the Jewish God “made a dome to divide the water”, forming the sky. Marduk formed the stars in the sky; the Jewish God made stars appear bright in the sky. Marduk caused the moon to shine brightly in the night; the Jewish God made a light larger than the normal stars, the moon, “to rule over the night”. The list of similarities seems endless.
    The differences between the creation stories of the Jews and Mesopotamians lies directly in their cosmologies, why the universe or man was created. In the Enuma Elis, Marduk too khis own bone and blood and created man as servants made to appease the gods. In Genesis, the Jewish God made humans in the image of God.

    -Henry L

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  11. William Busching

    Johnson’s take on God’s theodicy really got me thinking. It seemed to me as though Johnson was claiming that God pushed his procrustean agenda on His people, demanding covenants as extreme as Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac in order to satisfy his thirst for power.

    However, other parts of the Bible portray God as a loving, benevolent ruler — one who had the best interests of his own people in mind (e.g. Jesus on the cross). Which God, then, is the actual one Jews/Christians believe in? Or is it the same God — could it be that Johnson’s interpretation is wrong, or does Yahweh just have colossal mood swings?

    Or is it none of the above? Perhaps we simply don’t know enough about the Judeo-Christian interpretation of God to give Johnson’s proposal a solid yea or nay (I vote nay — it is my belief that God was seeking to test Abraham, and perhaps convey an image of sacrifice/His mercy, which figures in prominently later in the Bible). Whichever it is, this article provides interesting food for thought and makes one contemplate a God so widely acknowledged in modern society. Or is He?

    ~William B.

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  12. I find it very interesting how there are a lot of events in the bible that historians and archeologists have discovered to be real. My favorite example of this is Noah’s ark (not because it was right at the beginning, but because it was quite in depth). Some other examples that I found interesting were some tomb ratings that were also seen in genesis. The freeing of slaves in Egypt was also in the bible and was proven true (last part of the second millennium BC). It really shows how the importance of archaeology and how it can change out view on religious texts. Many points in the bible were thought to be symbolic and now they are proved factual. It is also interesting how we discover these points from other religions and beliefs, showing that they could in part, cross in may ways.

    Just another short point: I find it cool how Johnson does not only write about his beliefs, but also uses a lot of points from other historians and refers to them collectively.

    Ω Liam K

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    • Posted 9 o’clock october 8th

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      • Acknowledged – the time stamp shows when the comment is approved. No worries – you’re posting was well before the deadline. I liked your point about the Flood story as it also crosses some of the terrain we’ve discussed in class concerning Enki and Utanapishtum and, of course, the Gilgamesh reference.

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  13. Through “A History of Jews,” I found the overlap in Sumerian/Babylonian Epic “Gilgamesh” (and other documents) and the Genesis bible story of Noah’s Arc on the great flood. Said to be “the first truly historical episode in the Bible… There can now be no doubt that some kind of huge inundation did occur in Mesopotamia.” In 1872, a section of the Late Assyrian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh which spoke about an ancient Sumerian ruler of Uruk. It treasured the memories of a great flood. Also in 1965, the British Museum discovered two more tablets mentioning the Flood, written in the Babylonian city of Sippar around the time of King Ammisaduqa. Through alluvial deposits, Archaeologists have also been able to prove the Great floods hapening. The story of Noah is the same story with different context in the tablets referring to the flood. Both stories have in common that a god wanted to kill human kind with a flood. In the Sumerian texts, Enki was able to reveal this plan to Ziusudra, “who built a boat and so survived.” Ziusudra was The king of the south Babylonian city Shuruppak. This figure was presented in the bible as Noah, and therefore the first Biblical person has been confirmed true. Along with evidence of the flood in Shuruppak, this helps not only show that the bible does have some historical evidence in it, but also the extreme similarities between ancient Sumer/Babylonian beleif system and the Bible.

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  14. What struck me was the extent to which Moses has influenced cultures throughout geography and time. I knew him only as a prophet in the old testament; however, I learned here about how the ancient Greeks allegedly based their writings off of his ideals, and there is speculation that he was not even a Jew at all. Moses’ influence was so great that he is even credited with having the greatest impact from a biblical figure on the ancient world so far including for inventing writing, which preceded Greek writing, being a wise man for the Greeks, inventing Government and machinery. It makes his existence more credible and it gives credence to the fact that he actually was an incredible man.

    –Jack F.

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  15. Stokley Voltmer

    I found it interesting that the historians have found a lot of evidence that corroborates a lot of the story’s in the bibles. Such as the stuff found on the Nuzi Tablets which support the story’s in the Old Testament with Abraham and his followers. But they historians also found evidence that does not corroborate the events of the bible such as the dates of the flood not lining up, and the tower of babel not actually being a ziggurat constructed by Ur Nammus tower that the people were trying to reach to the heavens with. I find this interesting because it provides you with a confused stance on the Old Testament and the bible in general, with some story’s proving the bible is true and some proving that it is false. There are a lot of interesting facts and corroborations that he talks about but for me to make up my mind either way I would have to have concrete proof that the bible is true or I would have to have concrete proof that it is false.

    Stokley V

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  16. One thing i found was very interesting was how he talked not only of the history of the Jews but how our historical interpretation of the bible has led us to discredit certain events from the bible as myth or legend and how this has affected our view of Jewish history. I also found interesting how he portrays his current take on the bible as not necessarily right but simply the most accurate historical interpretation of events as he can make with the resources he has. I think that Johnson believes that our views on the bible and the ways we interpret it are constantly changing, and maybe in twenty years the things he interprets from the bible as facts may be proved to be nothing but myths, so it is important so show what reasoning he uses to make conclusions and how these conclusions are related to Jewish history

    Jerry G

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  17. Matthew Kellenberg

    I found it interesting how while in the Sumerian creation story the gods’ actions were based off of their rage and desires for things that would help them, the Jewish God’s actions were made to make mankind learn a lesson. While the two stories are evidently very close, the stories have different importance over the course of the story. This is probably based off the fact that the Sumerian gods simply created the humans to be slaves while the Jewish God made humans in his own image.
    Matthew K.

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  18. The thing that interested me, as well as confused me the most was that the Jews stayed in the Israel area for over 4,000 years, while many greater empires rose and fell around them. The Hebrews were certainly not the most powerful of the nations that occupied that area, having been conquered by close to every single empire in that area, whether it was the Hellenes, the Romans, and the Ottomans. None of these empires could get any more than a fleeting grasp on the area, before their empire either fell, or faded back towards its more central area. I wondered that if it was the people’s sense of identity, and connection to the area through religion that kept them there, or if it is because there was no where else to go. My belief, after reading the packet, is that it was religion, and they felt a connection to the area because of their God

    10/9/14 7:08 PM

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  19. Christian Potter

    I think that Paul Johnson did a great job of breaking down the parts of the Bible discussed and making them almost navigable so that there was room for multiple interpretations of the text and not just one strictly literal understanding. He also did a great job of discussing how the events in the Bible reflect the Israelites as a people. I think it is important to understand who a certain people was and how they lived life, and Paul Johnson did a great job of explaining these things and explaining how they can be drawn from Biblical text, especially when not explicitly stated. In doing so, he compared the Israelites to the surrounding cultures, some of which came and went, like the Egyptians, Bedouins, Philistines, Phoenicians, and others. Another strong point of the text, which is related to my previous point, is how the Israelites are very distinguishable and unique compared to other culture. For example, things like the way their laws were written or the way they managed authority within their tribes set them apart from other civilizations of the time. This stuck out to me because some of those distinctions show why the Israelites were able to remain in the area for so long, and very importantly, why they are today a people whose entire history is recorded in a book.
    By far my favorite thing about reading this article is that, as a Christian, it gave me understandings of the Bible that I hadn’t known or thought of before. Paul Johnson did a great job of illustrating how Biblical accounts were compared to archaeological finds, accounts of other civilizations, and scientific possibilities. He also mentions a wide variety of interpretations, whether or not they seem probable. I greatly enjoy and chapel talks or sermons at church when some point is made that really reaffirms my faith and this text did some of that for me. For example, the Flood story seemed on the barely edge of possible for me. However, as proven as stated in Johnson’s work, the Sumerians had a similar story. Also, archaeologists have found patters in the soil of Mesopotamia that is consistent with a massive flood.
    Christian P

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  20. Jonathan Rufino

    I found the perspective that the Bible was written from both a moral and literal standpoint interesting. Many biblical events can be proven, but many others such as the story of the Garden of Eden cannot be rationally explained and were written to teach a moral lesson rather than narrate an actual event. I found this perspective interesting because I had heard that either the Bible was written to teach moral lessons or the events in the Bible actually took place, but never that both were true. In this reading, it is argued that the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch, were the more moral sections of the Bible while the other events were true (although exaggerated in some cases, such as that of the flood).

    Jonathan R

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  21. I personally find it interesting how we can compare the Hebrew genesis to the Sumerian creation story. We can see clear references in the Hebrew scripture from the Enuma Elis. In both we see a devastating flood that covers the earth. We have been able to prove scientifically and logically that this was a flood throughout Mesopotamia only and not the whole world. Also, the reasons for this flood are very similar. This specific example that the gods wanted to flood the “earth” to eliminate the sinful humans shows us the direct influence on the Hebrew culture from the Sumerian culture. However, we can also see differences between the Hebrew genesis and the Sumerian creation story. One example could be the purpose of mankinds existence. In the Enuma Elis, mankind is created to serve the gods and gods are considered to have a part in the universe. Whereas, in the Hebrew genesis, mankind is created to have their own part in the universe. This shows that although the Hebrew genesis may resemble the Sumerian creation story in a way, it does not entirely copy it as the Babylonians did.

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  22. One of the most interesting things in this passage for me is that the author was able to find many correlations between the Bible and other Historical sources. This seems unimpressive at first, but the fact that several of the stories, especially in Genesis and Exodus, line up with stories told by other countries is incredible, given that these books are usually taken to be figurative. (or so the author states) That a man built a boat to survive a big flood appears in the Bible and another religion hints that it did happen in the literal sense. The land purchase that Abraham made and the events of Exodus line up well with each other, giving serious evidence for a more literal interpretation of the bible.
    The author then goes on to talk about how the Jews moved forward and became more advanced. The Bible mentions the first land purchase in history, and the first person laughing in history. Their stable religion also causes their state to be stable, the author implies, and so I wonder if their monotheism helped them advance. They came up with a monetary system and complex law systems, too. The author quotes another Bible passage in which someone proposes to Moses to train people to judge what is right and wrong so he would not be alone. This makes me wonder if other foundations of our civilization come from the Bible or God himself, too.

    Kevin Q.

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  23. What I found interesting about the book, was that it is told from a historian. The only other piece of writing that I have read about the history of the Jews was the bible. I can infer that the people who wrote the bible were followers of God based on the time period in which it was written. Another difference about this piece of writing and the bible, is that the book was written to sell copies. Paul Johnson, the author, is trying to make money. In the bible however the main purpose is to teach. Finally on page 18 the author describes Abraham as just a man, which is true, but in the bible he depicted as more than just a man. God tells him he will be the father of Judaism, and that he will have as many descendants as stars in the sky.

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  24. Giacomo Mecagni

    In “A History of the Jews” the author, Paul Johnson, goes into very great detail explaining the history of the Israelites, using the Bible as a primary resource. For over 200 years the Bible has been subject to question as to whether or not it is a reliable historic resource. However Paul Johnson, very convincingly, explains how archeology and the study of historical artifacts and events make a very compelling case that the Bible has significant historical context for actual events and people. Take for example the great flood, it was mentioned in Genesis 6 multiple times, and scientists have discovered later on that there was undoubtably a flood in Mesopotamia of great proportion at the time period.

    While I was reading this I was very intrigued by the fact of how scholar’s opinion of the Bible as a historical resource changed after research proved some of the biblical events were actual historic events. It was also interesting to think of the Bible as an archeological guide. However Paul Johnson makes it very clear that while the Bible is a historical text, it is told from the perspective of the Jewish people and reflects their values and beliefs. The article devotes a lot of time demonstrating how the Jewish beliefs are depicted or described in the Bible. A main figure in the Bible is Abraham, and he is noted as the founder of the Hebrew religious culture. According to Paul Johnson he inaugurated what Johnson noted “two salient characteristics: the covenant with God and the donation of The Land.” The covenant with God was a “contract of obedience in return for special favor,” and was noted that it was the first time in history the existence of an ethical God bound by some kind of agreement with man. The donation of The Land was an idea about how god owned everything and man was only using what completely belonged to God. It created a somewhat leasing relationship between man and God over land and goods on Earth. These two characteristics define much of what is contained in the Bible and what is of relevance in the Bible.

    It was hard reading this article due to the density of contents. There were many historical details and references and that made me appreciate how much effort Paul Johnson put into his work. I found some parts very compelling whereas some parts were lost to detail. In the text they question whether the Bible can be used as a historical reference, but what I want to know is when characters which are seen in the Bible that are from Mesopotamia find their way into the different beliefs of the Sumerians and Babylonians from the Enuma Elis.

    Giacomo M.

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  25. I found Johnson’s comparison between two prominent Jewish figures, Abraham and Moses, intriguing. From the text I realized although Abraham was technically the key figure or ancestor of the Jewish race, both can be considered founders of it. This is because Moses was both a prophet and a leader for the Jews, and essentially transformed the race into a distinguishable people and nation. He was singlehandedly responsible for a huge amount of progression of the Jews, making himself out to be a “larger-then-life” type of figure. Because of his essentially legendary accomplishments and early contributions to Jewish Culture, I believe Moses can also be viewed as one of the founders of the race. This leaves a key question though: Which figure, Abraham the ancestor or Moses the founder of culture, has had more influence on both modern and ancient Jews alike? Based off Johnson’s text, I believe the answer to this is Moses as he made the first giant leap to making the Jewish people a distinctive race and people which has effected Jews ever since, while Abraham essentially just founded the race and nation, only having a minor influence on Jewish culture throughout the ages.

    – Kubair C.

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  26. I didn’t know how similar the history of Judaism is to the history of mankind from the standpoint of the Enuma Elis. In the passage it shows how in the story of the great flood from both the Jewish and Babylonian standpoint show that god(s) tell only one man to prepare for the flood.
    -Will B.

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  27. I found it very interesting that Paul Johnson stated that legendary characters such as Moses and Abraham are used to represent different tribes. This means that Moses and Abraham were just as substantial as Hercules and Achilles, in his mind. I still had trouble understanding one thing, however. I did not know if this was Paul Johnson’s inference or if this was a fact. If it was an inference, then why did Paul Johnson not call all the tribes by their given names. I gave it some thought, but I realized maybe these tribes did not have a name to begin with, so famous characters were needed to name their tribes. I am still looking into it.

    Alex K.

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  28. What I found interesting about Paul Johnson’s “A History of the Jews” was his comparison of different religions and people and their stories of creation. There is also a big emphasis on comparing the Bible, mainly Genesis, to other historical and religious works, and how each account is somewhat similar. In the Sumerian creation and Hebrew creation, there was a large flood that covered the earth, and it has been scientifically proven that there was some large flood of this sort in that time period. But, in the Enuma Elis, humans were created on Earth to serve their gods while in Genesis humans were created to prosper and love their God. Johnson also interestingly reveals an opinion that states that the Jews are the “only people in the world today who possess a historical record, however obscure in places, which allows them to trace their origins back into very remote times.” This is somewhat controversial because there are certainly other people who can trace their origins back to very distant times. Something else that was quite intriguing was his mentioning of how in Genesis there is attention devoted to women showing their leading role and emotional power, especially with Abraham’s wife Sarah, who is according to Johnson the “first person in history recorded as laughing.” He does also talk a great deal about Abraham and he describes him as a henotheist: “a believer in a sole God, attached to a particular people, who nonetheless recognized the attachment of other races to their own gods.” This was interesting to me because I’ve never thought about how within the Bible it would be represented that a figure like Abraham could have an impact on other religions with different beliefs and gods. Lastly, later on in the text, Johnson proclaims that the Egyptians were very skillful with their hands and their visual aspects, but intellectually they were not up to date with other civilizations’ concepts of the era. He also claims they had no true grasp of history, and their ideas of life and death were very different from the Mesopotamian cultures. Their beliefs were far more similar to the animistic religions of Africa. This struck me mostly because of how it showed that the Egyptians were still attached to their very old and cultural beliefs on the world even though many other cultures were making advancements in fields such as writing, whereas the Egyptians used their hieroglyphics. All in all, I think Johnson did a good job at showing how the History of the Jews intertwined with other peoples and religions.

    -Zack M

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  29. I thought that it was interesting how Paul Johnson only mentioned that the Jews can actually trace their lineage back to Abraham and Adam using their historical records, and not other people like the Greeks, who definitely valued who their parents/father was/were. Even though the book is about the Jews, it makes it sound like they were the only ones. I also thought it was interesting how the Bible (Genesis) kind of glossed over the matter of how the world and universe were created (cosmogony). Could Abraham and the not have come up with a satisfactory story to take the place of the Babylonians’ “Marduk orders everything into place” story? Or was it just not important to him? Mr. Johnson seems to think that the only reason that there were just a few sudden short creating moments was because it was relatable to the Big Bang theory, which Abraham could not have known about.

    Ben Lin

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  30. Paul Johnson’s analysis of Jewish animism, and its influence by Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture highlights the presence of religious figures such as priest-kings and events such as the massive flood that devastated Mesopotamian civilizations in c.2700 BC to reflect the idea that Hebrew culture is essentially a cocktail of Egyptian power, Mesopotamian animism, and Abraham’s steadfast monotheism.

    -Guyton H.

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  31. In Paul Johnson’s “A history of the Jews”, I found it very interesting that the Jewish religion has a very close relationship with the Sumerian religion, even though there are hundreds of years between the two. Johnson writes about how Genesis has stories that were also found in the Sumerian bible, but the stories had been modified to fit that specific culture’s ideals.
    For example, there are stories of a great flood that wiped out the whole world in both religions, and it has been proven that there really was a flood. This story being scientifically proven may change the way some people think about the Bible, because now there is proof that this might have happened and that Genesis is not just legends/myths.

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  32. In his passage, Paul Johnson explains the connection between the first 5 books of the Bible, specifically Genesis, to history. He mentions the similarities and differences

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  33. I apologize Dr. Shurmer. I did not realize how close the Enter key was to my finger.
    (cont.) between the portrayal of Ziusudra by the Jews and the person present in the story of Gilgamesh. I found this especially interesting as he also states that Noah is the first real man in Jewish history, since there is confirmation other than in religious text that a flood did indeed occur. He also mentions that Noah “is a moral figure, anchored firmly in the scheme of values in which the Book of Genesis identifies,” and that the Jewish story of the flood sees each event as containing a moral. The Gilgamesh story however simply recalls events without a greater moral. From this, it is clear that Jewish beliefs, especially those expressed in the Book of Genesis are based on other stories, but perceived in a way the Jews did.

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