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By Paul Johnson

A countrywide bestseller, this fantastic 4000 yr survey covers not just Jewish heritage yet he effect of Jewish genius and mind's eye at the global. by way of the writer of contemporary occasions: the realm From the Twenties to the Eighties.

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From Moses’ day onwards, and throughout their history, rationalism was a central element in Jewish belief. In a sense, it is the central element, for monotheism is itself a rationalization. If supernatural, unearthly power exists, how can it be, as it were, radiated from woods and springs, rivers and rocks? If the motions of the sun and moon and stars can be predicted and measured, and thus obey regular laws, how can they be the source of unnatural authority, since they too are plainly part of nature?

It became the fiery symbol of the religion’s puritan fundamentalists, the aspect they found most difficult to impose on the nation as a whole, the most obvious, visible difference between the Israelite religion and all others, and the dogma the rest of the world most resented, since it meant that strict israelites, and later Jews, could not honour their gods. It was closely linked not just to Israelite exclusiveness but to aggression, since they were told not merely to forswear images but destroy them: You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars, and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other God, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a Jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when you play the harlot after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and one invites you, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters play the harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods.

76 Not surprisingly, Jewish writers of antiquity endorsed this tradition of Moses as a leading architect of ancient culture. 79 The ancient writers were not merely convinced of Moses’ existence: they saw him as one of the formative figures of world history. But there was also a tendency among pagan writers, from the second half of the first millennium BC, to see Moses as a baleful figure, the creator of a form of religion which was strange, narrow, exclusive and anti-social. Moses is strongly associated with the very earliest stirrings of systematic anti-Semitism.

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