Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman

Our recent trip to Israel piqued my interest in reading more about the country. One of the books recommended to us by our guide was Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman.

When you read the New Testament you are aware that the power and influence of Rome surrounded Jesus, the disciples, Paul and the early church. But a trip around Israel, with numerous Roman ruins and relics, makes the Roman presence very real.

At 624 pages, Rome and Jerusalem is not light reading--in both senses of that adjective! So I am glad that I read it on my IPad instead of in hardcover.

Goodman covers the period between the  first and fourth centuries A.D. The destruction of the temple and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in 70 AD is, of course, the focus of the book. For most of the period prior to the destruction of the temple Rome allowed the Jews much religious freedom because they respected the antiquity of their religion. Why this relatively benevolent attitude changed is attributed by Goodman to the foundational differences between Roman and Jewish culture, religion and practices.

Comparing and contrasting Roman and Jewish lifestyles, politics, identities, communities and perspectives, Goodman reveals the distinct and unreconcilable differences between these two civilizations that ultimately led to the destruction of the ancient Jewish state. The author makes a persuasive case for his theory that the origins of anti-semitism can be found in the Roman response to this clash and the attempt to wipe out the Jewish nation.

I found the book fascinating and informative and recommend it to anyone with an interest in the world where Jesus lived and in which His church formed and grew. It certainly has enriched my understanding of the New Testament.

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