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Jews, God and History by Max I. Dimont

Jews, God and History (1962)

by Max I. Dimont

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I have had this book a long time, and recently rediscovered it on my bookshelf. I think I bought it at a thrift store. It is a used paperback in poor condition; the back cover is missing, but I don't know if any of the pages are lost. The index ends with the Vs, and it is possible that there was originally more. Seems like the word "Yiddish" would have been included.

I started reading it because I have been curious about the history of the Jewish people since Biblical times. Now I am still in the Biblical era in my reading, and am unhappy. The author conjectures things that are contrary to Scripture. Sometimes I'm tempted to skip over until after the Roman destruction of the Temple, but I probably will continue as I am doing.
  FancyHorse | Jun 10, 2014 |
A comprehensive history of the Jewish people, which views that history as a part of world history rather than as an isolated narrative. It clarifies much of the early history of Israel/Judea, putting the Bible stories I learned as a child into the world-historical context that I have since adopted. The book also discusses Jewish religious belief and practice over the centuries in an accessible manner. Finally, it is an enjoyable book to read. ( )
  annbury | May 25, 2011 |
[This review also appears on FingerFlow.com, a site for review and discussion of creative works.]

Jews, God and History is a phenomenal work which undertakes the difficult and tedious task of presenting the 4,000 year history of the Jewish people. Instead of presenting this history from an insulated point of view, author Max I. Dimont shows the history of the Jews in the context of the entire world; in the vast tapestry of human history on this planet, the Jewish people are shown to be a strand that makes its way through every corner of the fabric.

Dimont immediately draws the attention of the reader in his introduction, musing about how such a small population of people have had such influence on the greater world. Some of the most influential people in history were Jews: Moses, Jesus, Paul, Baruch Spinoza, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein. Two of the largest world religions, Christianity and Islam, grew out of Judaism. The Jews introduced to the world the concepts of monotheism, prayer, church, redemption, universal education and charity. Perhaps the most interesting idea that Dimont brings up in his introduction is the age of the Jewish civilization; whereas all the other pagan civilizations that existed at the time have long since disappeared, the Jews are still around today. Dimont goes on to say,

"The Chinese, Hindu, and Egyptian peoples are the only ones living today who are as old as the Jewish people. But these three civilizations had only one main cultural period, and their impact on succeeding civilizations has not been great. They contained neither the seeds for their own rebirth nor the seeds for the birth of other civilizations. Unlike the Jews, they were not driven out of their countries, nor did they face the problem of survival in alien lands. The Greeks and the Romans are the only other nations which have influenced the history of Western man as profoundly as the Jews. But the people who now dwell in Greece and Italy are not the same as those who dwelt in ancient Hellas and Rome."

Needless to say, these facts makes the reader wonder "what is so special about the Jews?" and Dimont makes his best effort to answer this question in the most scholarly way possible, even explaining eight different theories on interpreting history and how they apply to the Jewish people.

Although Dimont uses the Bible as a source for his telling of early Jewish history, he makes it clear that he is approaching the material from a secular standpoint. On the subject of Abraham having a vision from God, Dimont states that the most important part of the encounter is not if God actually appeared to Abraham or if Abraham dreamed up the whole thing; what matters is that Abraham decided that he had a covenant with God, and his descendants continued to have that covenant. Dimont stresses that this point so important that Jewish history is built on it: the covenant that the Jews believed they had with God gave them the will to survive as Jews, which is a main reason why the Jewish people didn't simply disappear into the many civilizations they lived in throughout history.

In the chapters where he describes the Jewish religion, Dimont really shines. He explains the beliefs, rituals and scholarship in a way that is both accurate and accessible to people completely new to the material. It is in these chapters that he describes a crucial moment in Jewish history: the shifting of the religion from sacrificial rituals in the temple to prayer, scholarship and the expansion of morality and justice. These changes were instrumental in the preservation of the Jewish people; without being near their temple and their High Priests, the Jews might have simply given up on their religion while in foreign lands (a fate that occurred to most of the pagan civilizations of the time).

I've learned so many fascinating things from this book that I want to go on and on about: the exchange of ideas between the Jews and the Greeks, the Jewish Reformation Movement, the vital role of Jewish people in medieval society, the Jewish influence on both capitalism and communism, etc. This book is crammed with information, but Dimont's lucid writing style and occasional injection of dry humor and wit definitely made this book much easier to read than your typical history tome. For both Jews and non-Jews alike, I think this book is a must-read if you have any interest in world history. ( )
1 vote megacoupe | Aug 6, 2008 |
The best Jewish History book I have read. ( )
  aces | Feb 10, 2008 |
I have read this book several times over the years, and keep coming back to it. As a historical account of the Jews throughout the ages, and the impact that they and their ideas have had on civilization, it is really excellent. It is written for the "layperson," not necessarily for the serious scholar, and so the writing is very accessible, even humorous at times.
Although the Jews are the "heroes" of the book, Dimont does not gloss over many of the less-than-stellar events in their history. He also attempts to report factually, without devolving into arguements on belief that are unwinnable. His focus is on the facts of history; at one point I believe he states something along the lines of "It doesn't matter if you believe Abraham spoke to G-d, aliens from another world, or dreamt it all up himself; the fact remains that people followed him, and that is the important thing."
I found the book both entertaining and educational, and will be keeping it in my library for many future re-readings. ( )
  Meijhen | Jun 14, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Max I. Dimontprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dimont, EthelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451529405, Mass Market Paperback)

From ancient Palestine through Europe and Asia, to America and modern Israel, Max I. Dimont shows how the saga of the Jews is interwoven with the story of virtually every nation on earth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Presents a comprehensive history of the survival of the Jewish people over thousands of years and examines how their civilization and culture has endured near annihilation and wars and how they have contributed to the spiritual and intellectual growth of virtually every nation on Earth.… (more)

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